[ Master Post ]
Title: Rhapsody in Ass Major – Chapter 362
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Anders ♂, Bethany Hawke ♀, Varania ♀, Paivel ♂, Gytha ♀, Theron Mahariel ♂, Artemis Hawke ♂, Fenris ♂, Cormac Hawke ♂
Rating: T (L2 N0 S0 V0 D0)
Warnings: Discussions of hot Hawke-on-Hawke action, implied groping
Notes: Conversations with Bethany, who knows and sees all things.
The noises from behind the next door were reaching a point Anders recognised, by the time he stepped out into the hall, and he didn’t expect it would take much longer for someone in that room to come looking for him. It certainly wouldn’t take much longer for someone in that room to come. He leaned on the rail and stared down into the party below, wondering if Anton had dragged Cullen into a closet, yet. That seemed to be a theme, with them, closets. One closet in particular, from what he’d heard.
A sudden squeak of laughter from a little closer than he was expecting got him to look less out and more down — and hidden in the corner by the stairs, behind some decorative trees, he spotted Varania and that older Dalesman, from earlier. It certainly looked like they were having a good time — a constantly shifting tangle of hands and loosened clothing. He wondered if he shouldn’t point out that there were convenient closets that might provide slightly more privacy and a few Orlesian coats to ruin, but then realised that would deprive him of the show. They were much cuter than he’d ever been, really. But, it was like Howe said. He was beautiful garbage. More of an erotic nightmare than a sweet, romantic dream.
Anders wasn’t surprised when a Hawke in a codpiece joined him at the railing, though this particular Hawke was unexpected. Bethany peered over the railing and smirked down at the entwined couple. "They really are cute together, aren’t they? Almost sickening."
"Honestly, I just want to see how they manoeuvre around that halla," Anders replied. From the wince he caught on Varania’s face, followed by muffled laughter, he assumed they were still working out those logistics.
"At least it’s not a varterral," Bethany said with mock seriousness. A loud noise from the other room caught her attention, and Bethany glanced at the door, one elegant eyebrow raised. "Ah. Is that where my brothers ran off to?"
"One of your brothers. I just finished getting misused by another. Apparently it’s ‘appreciate Fenris’s lyrium’ day. Justice is thrilled. I can’t get my codpiece to sit right." Anders re-settled the griffon for what must’ve been the hundredth time. "Cormac ran off with Natia and Gytha. I expect one of them will be looking for me, shortly, if only to make the bleeding stop." He paused. "What makes you think they’d both be together, with Cormac making noises like that? Doubly so if I’m not in there with them? I think Artie’d faint, before Cormac got quite … there." He winced at a particularly raw scream. "Very messy. Also, your brothers. You been reading too much Page Six again?"
"I think they’ve been reading too much Page Six." Bethany chuckled, quietly, offering Anders her glass. "I caught them snogging in the library, earlier. Cormac said Artie was drunk. Artie didn’t say anything at all. But, I know the way Artie looks at him. It’s been almost twenty years. Did you really not know?"
"Twenty years—? How long have you been looking? Are you even old enough to have noticed it twenty years ago?" Anders laughed and took a swig from the glass before handing it back.
"Maybe it’s only fifteen, but Artie’s been mooning forever. Used to watch Cormac like Cormac watched that guy from the next farm. Gary? Something." Bethany shrugged and took a sip, eyeing the halla speculatively. "But, you know, if they’re happy? Good for them. They deserve it. We’ve all been through so much."
Anders couldn’t argue with that. The way those two were, shakes and screams, it was a wonder no one else had caught them, and it was a good thing Bethany had only caught them snogging. "I wouldn’t mention it to Carver, though," he said, though Bethany clearly already knew better.
"Of course not," Bethany said, batting her eyelashes innocently. "Not unless I want him to have nightmares."
"Or to punch Cormac," Anders sighed.
The door behind them creaked open, and a dwarven face peeked around the door. "Warden," Gytha said with the utmost poise, "may we borrow you?"
"Any time and any place, Gytha," Anders said. "You know that."
Gytha scoffed. "Keep your Pillar in your codpiece, Anders. That’s not the kind of service we’re looking for."
"Are you sure?" Anders teased, following Gytha into the room. "I can multitask."
Bethany watched Anders follow the dwarf back into Cormac’s room. It was a good thing Cormac had Anders looking after him, especially since their father had died, and there were no other healers of any merit in the family. She turned back to watch the elves below, just in time to be backed into by another elf.
"Oh, sorry. I got lost." Theron looked totally turned around. "How do you live in this place? It’s a maze… I was just looking for a place to take a tinkle. Next time I’m just going to water the garden! At least I can see that from here."
"Still looking?" Bethany asked.
"No, no. Bodhan got me there. I just got lost getting back. I think this is back. Is that— oh, thank the Creators, those are stairs." Theron sighed and leaned against the rail. "So, did I hear Anders a minute ago?"
"You did. He’s gone to clean up my brother’s mess. Did you need him for something?" Bethany swirled the little bit of wine left in her glass.
"I don’t know that I’d say ‘need’, really, but the curiosity is killing me. Artemis talks about him. My wife talks about him." Theron shrugged, following Bethany’s gaze with his eyes. So, that was where Paivel had disappeared to, the sneaky old goat. "Looks like that halla is getting luckier than I am tonight."
No sooner had he spoken than the floor started to rumble, a fine tremor that most of the guests ignored, but that had Theron’s ears perking up.
"I guess the halla’s not the only one," Theron said, looking around for the epicentre of the earthquakes. "And he didn’t invite me. I’m terribly hurt. Terribly."
"I’m sure he will make it up to you," Bethany said. She didn’t smile, but the amusement was plain in her eyes. "And I believe he’s in the room behind you, if that’s what you’re looking for. Not that you should go in," she added, when Theron turned eagerly. "If Artie’s with his husband, that is a fast way to get yourself killed."
Theron pouted but waited with her. He didn’t have to wait long, for Artemis and Fenris stumbled out of the bedroom minutes later, hair rumpled and codpieces askew. The grin froze on Artie’s face when he saw his sister was just outside.
"Fenris!" Bethany smiled brightly and raised her voice a bit. "Why don’t you and Theron go downstairs and check on your sister." The sound of shuffling and elbows knocking into walls could be heard from below. "I’m sure she’s having a lovely time, but you know how these parties get. I just need to talk to my brother for a moment."
Artemis looked nothing short of terrified, his grip on Fenris’s hand almost tight enough to bruise. Fenris looked curiously down at their hands, then up at his husband. This was, he suspected, related to why he’d found Artie drinking so heavily. Pressing a kiss to Artemis’s knuckles, Fenris pulled his hand free, smiling at the desperate look Artie gave him.
"Oooh. Scary sibling conversations." Theron patted Artie on the shoulder as he passed, and looked back at Bethany. "Please don’t break him. I spent my whole life looking for a replacement, and there’s not one."
"Sometimes I wonder why he married me, and not you," Fenris muttered, following Theron down the stairs.
"Obviously, because I’d already been swept away by a rampaging scoundrel with very pretty eyes." Theron grinned. "And when we find your sister, please don’t kill Paivel. We’ve already lost the Keeper, this year. I can’t handle any more political upheaval."
"Is there a reason I would kill Paivel? What do you know that I don’t…"
Bethany waited until the voices faded, before she held out her hands to her brother, inviting him to take them. "Did you tell him, then? Does he know that’s not just you being drunk? Because if you haven’t, I really think you should. I think he’d surprise you." She smiled knowingly.
Artemis blinked at his sister, waiting for her to elaborate, but she merely stared back. Did Artie tell whom what? Which drunken thing was she referring to? Well. Okay, he knew which drunken thing, but. His mind raced with questions, and he reminded himself to breathe. "Who?" he finally asked. "Fenris? Theron?" Cormac? "What?"
Bethany chuckled and squeezed her brother’s hands. "Artie, relax," she said. "You look like you’re going to pass out. I meant, have you told Cormac how you feel?"
"Feel?" Artemis repeated. Breathe. Right. "Cormac?"
"I mean aside from the way you were feeling him earlier," Bethany teased. "With both hands."
A strangled sound caught in Artemis’s throat and died there. "I… I don’t…"
"Breathe, Artie. Maker’s sake. I know. I’ve known for a long time." She cupped Artemis’s face between her hands.
Those were words Artemis had been afraid of. He squeezed his eyes shut. "How did you figure it out?" he asked.
"I’ve seen the way you watch him. You never paid me much mind, when we were young — you were both so much older, maybe you didn’t think I’d see. But, that boy from over the fence — the one whose brothers kept bulls — I saw how Cormac looked at him. And you always looked at Cormac almost the same way, but only when you thought he wasn’t looking. Like he was a bag of sweets from one of the Northern traders." Bethany chuckled again, tugging at a lock of Artie’s hair, before she tucked it behind his ear. "And I know he looks at you like both moons and all the stars shine out of your ass. He always has, as long as I can remember. Do you know how much he loves you? More than all the rest of us, and I don’t say it to be cruel. He cares quite a bit for us, and we care quite a bit for you, but … not like he does for you." She let that sink in a bit. "So, if you haven’t, I think you should let him know. I really don’t think he’d be upset. It might ease his mind to know what you’ve been all bent up about."
Artemis stared at her chin, words sticking in his throat before he could work them free. "He knows," he admitted. "He… We…" He paused, unsure how much he should confess, how much Bethy needed — or wanted — to know. "We were drunk one night, and it sort of… spilled out." Which was more or less true, if vague. "That night, after we helped Feynriel — that somniari we told you about. I was angry with Fenris, and…" Artemis swallowed, chewing his lips.
Bethany’s eyebrows rose. "While you were with Anders? Oh my." Her smile turned wicked, and she could feel Artie’s cheeks heat under her palms.
"It wasn’t…! Er…" He felt like Bethany’s hands were the only thing holding him up. His baby sister. "Are you going to punch Cormac now too?"
"Why would I punch him?" Bethany actually laughed, this time, the sound ringing off the wall beside them. "I’m happy for you. You deserve to be happy, and he does, too. And if there’s something I’m pretty sure I saw, before I interrupted, it was at least contentment. I was so worried you’d never say anything, and he’d spend his life sneaking you your heart’s desires under the table. You know that’s what that was, growing up, don’t you? He’d slip Anton a few silver, and whatever it was you’d been staring at all week would show up in the house, because he just wanted you to be happy. I always thought it was sweet — mum and dad would fight about you, well, about all three of us, but mum always came back to you, and then Cormac would be there to look out for you. Did you wake up at all, those times he came down and yelled at mum? Because he did, you know. Told her she’d wake you. Told her she didn’t deserve you. Dad made him go back upstairs — said he’d heard wrong and it was nothing to worry about, and they’d keep it down. I always thought one day I’d marry a man who treated me like Cormac treated you. Instead, I’m to be wedded to a weak prince, so I can rule his city in his name. Ah… I was so optimistic once, but this is better for all of us."
Artie’s throat felt raw, his eyes misting as she spoke. He muttered a curse under his breath, wiping his eyes with the heel of his hand. He’d known. A part of him had known. The peppermint sweets he’d been eyeing, the halla toy whose fur had felt soothing under twitchy fingers. Little things, simple things, the kind that fill a child’s life, none of which he ever asked for. Cormac had been spoiling him even then.
And the shouting… that Artie remembered too well.
"Hey." Bethany’s voice and her light tug on his hair drew him back into the moment. "I just want you both to be happy. If I ever torment you, it’s out of love." She tugged Artemis down so she could kiss his cheek, and Artie wrapped his arms around her, squeezing her tight against him. His baby sister. Sometimes he forgot she wasn’t the impish little girl with the flyaway hair any more. "And you are welcome to try Sebastian’s sausage, if you like, since I know he’s offered it."
Artemis muffled his horrified laugh against her shoulder. "Is this what you mean by the tormenting?"
"No, no, the tormenting is the part where if you do, I insist you tell me what it’s like and if he’s any good with it." Bethany cackled into the space between his shoulder and her face.
"And this is what I love about the Hawkes." Anders’s voice came from behind them, the only warning before his arms wrapped around both Artemis and Bethany. "Always so cuddly. And warm. And adorable."
Cormac cackled, shooing the ladies ahead of him, so he could close the door. "Anders, what did I tell you about touching my sister?"
Anders straightened up so fast he made himself dizzy, wobbling precipitously as he staggered back from the Hawkes he’d been hugging. "But, your brother’s here, too! I couldn’t just hug one Hawke!"
"The bold Warden falls at last to my charms!" Bethany cackled like the villainous sorceress in one of the children’s festival plays, from when they were young.
"Alas!" Anders cried, dramatically, leaning to the side until his head was just above Bethany’s shoulder. "She has me! I am done for!"
"Bloody right you are. Keep that on, and I’m letting the dog sleep on your side of the bed," Cormac teased.
"No worse than any night you’ve had cabbage salad," Anders reminded him with a sniff.
"Oh, shut up, both of you," Artemis laughed. Still hugging Bethany with one arm, he reached out with the other and dragged Cormac into the hug.
Cormac let himself be manhandled. "Sorry, ladies, it’s a family moment!"
Anders met Gytha’s glance. "There’s nothing like a sausage party to bring family together," he drawled. Not that he would know, but then ‘sausage party’ wasn’t something he’d tried. "Should I fetch your brothers before Carver punches something out of envy?"
"For your sake, I wouldn’t interrupt Anton," Bethany said, her voice all but buried under her brothers’ bulk. Slowly, she managed to extricate herself, leaving Cormac and Artie still touching as she drew back, smoothing out her shirt. "And I really should check on my darling idiot of a fiancé, while he is still a drunken darling idiot."
"Don’t worry," said Anders. "The worst thing he would do is Artie, and Artie’s right here."
Artemis groaned, resting his forehead on Cormac’s shoulder.
"Hey, hey, what do you mean ‘worst’? I’d think Artie’s a step up from most of what’s still down there." Cormac leaned to the side, glancing over the balcony rail, just in time to see Theron step between Fenris and Paivel. "Ah, Bethy? Would you please go teach Fenris how to have a sister? I think he’s about to do something regrettable."
"I have enough regrets for all of us, tonight," Anders sighed, adjusting his codpiece again.
"I’m still amazed you’re not a virgin," Gytha scoffed, "speaking of regrets."
"Oh, I’ve seen proof he’s not." Natia shook her head. "And I’m pretty sure only one person there regretted it."
"You!?" Gytha asked, looking a little surprised.
"Oh, no. I wasn’t… no. I was just there." Natia shuddered. "Wardens. Everything you’ve heard? It’s all true."
Artemis quirked an eyebrow but didn’t ask. He could probably guess part of it anyway. "Bethy, perhaps I should join you to make sure my darling husband doesn’t murder anyone, if we’re concerned about him and sisters."
"Should I be offended you think of sisters as a probable cause for murders?" Bethany asked, taking Artemis’s arm.
"You should be flattered," Artemis replied. "We both know it’s true."