Jun 292016

[ Master Post ]
Title: Assing it Up – Chapter 11
Co-Conspirator: TumblrMaverikLoki
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Anton Hawke , Carver Hawke , Cullen , Samson , Alain
Rating: T (L2 N0 S0 V0 D0)
Warnings: A few colourful turns of phrase, sparring,
Notes: Anton gets a letter he's been waiting for. Cullen gives an explanation he's been putting off.

Anton sorted through the letters on his desk. More nobles objecting to the reconstruction of the Alienage, complaints about the conditions in Lowtown — he'd have to talk to Varric about that, another threat of invasion from Starkhaven — that would go to Bethany, invitations to events across the Marches, a delightful little note from Cullen, and… he recognised the handwriting on the last rag-paper envelope immediately. He'd seen it on enough half-finished drafts left lying around the house. The name, though, was different. That one he opened.

Greetings from the banks of the Lattenfluss!

Jan Kasselmann, here, writing to confirm the purchase of several shares of the Maharian Quarry, locally known as the 'Bone Pit'. (What a dreadful name, but Tevinter…what can you do?) As I am once again home and have my accounts at the ready, we can complete this transaction, as recorded. I await your final word on the subject, Lord Amell.

It wasn't the first rather presumptive offer on the mine, but it was the first he recognised, and he shook out the envelope, to find three pressed buttercup blossoms in the bottom. This was the one he'd been waiting for. Tonight, he'd begin the paperwork to send quarterly shares of the mine's profits to the bank in Kassel. For the moment, though, he just took a few deep breaths. His brother and Anders were safe.

Carver rolled his shoulders and adjusted his grip on the shield for the third time in as many minutes. "I hate these things," he muttered, more to the world at large than to Alain, who offered him a sympathetic look. "It just keeps getting in the way."

"That's rather the point of shields, isn't it?" Alain said, shyly teasing. "To get in the way of things?"

There was no heat in Carver's answering glare, and he bent his knees, sword angled up, as he got into a ready position. "Not when it gets in my way, it's not!" This was all Aveline's fault, really. Carver had been perfectly content in his shield-less existence until she'd humiliated him in front of his class last week. He had been in favour of some light sparring with her. He hadn't been in favour of having his sword knocked out of his hands and a shield bashed into his nose.

"Ready?" Alain asked, an ice spell at his fingertips, which glowed a ghostly blue.

Carver rolled his shoulders one more time. "Yes, yes, get on with it."

Samson leaned on the shoulder of one of the training dummies, watching the two spar, watching Carver eat spell after spell. "You know, maybe I could help, but I guess you don't need an old man like me telling you how to do that, now that you've got your feathers and all," he grumbled, in Carver's general direction.

"Or, I don't know, you could stop being a sulky prick and show me," Carver shot back, as Alain's ice spell splashed up and caught him in the face.

"Shit!" Alain cursed, warming his hands and brushing the ice off. "Are you all right? I didn't get you in the eye, did I?"

"No, no, it's fine." Carver waved him off, shaking the last of the slush out of the ends of his hair. "I just got a little distracted by grandpa whiny-pants over there. You going to help me out, Samson, or are you just going to stand around preening like you're cock of the walk?"

"Preening?" Samson drawled. "Lowly old me?" Still, there was the barest swagger in his step as he approached, meeting Carver's scowl with a thin smile. "Your problem, Knight-Corporal, is that you're holding the shield like you're anticipating a sword coming at you. Now, last I checked, Alain here didn't even own a sword." He tipped a look at Alain, who shrugged and nodded. "Look alive, Corporal. Shield up." Grudgingly, Carver bent his knees again, this time angling his shield between him and Samson. "So, you shouldn't be focusing on one point of contact." Samson gave Carver's shield one hard poke of his finger. "You need to focus on an area and disperse what you can, dodge what you can't, and pray for everything else."

"Yes, yes, thank you for the lecture," Carver groused. "Are you going to actually show me, or are you just going to keep poking me in strategic places?"

Samson rolled his eyes and, taking hold of the edge of Carver's shield, tipped it at an angle. "Tilt it down, and stay behind it, smart-ass. The shield is curved for a reason. Let it do its work. Alain."

Alain straightened. "Yes, ser?"

Samson backed out of the way. "Give it another go."

Alain glanced at Carver, who shrugged and nodded. "All right. Um. Let me know if I hit you, ser." Ice sprang to his fingers again, and Alain gave Carver a few seconds to prepare before throwing it at the shield.

Carver braced himself, shield angled down, and ducked his head behind the shield, wincing at the impact of ice that never came. Cold air chilled his toes through his boots and ice shards clattered to the cobblestones, but no sharps edges hit him. Carver waited for the bite of cold to stop before peering cautiously over his shield. "Huh." That trick wouldn't help him against Aveline, but really he — or should be — more focused on training recruits. Templar recruits.

"Look at that," drawled Samson. "Looks like I've still got some use after all."

As the older templar left, Carver rolled his eyes at his back. "Is he always like this?" he asked Alain.

"Er." Alain shook his head. "I don't really know him very well, but… from what I've seen? Yes, yes, he is."

By the time Samson made it back to his bunk, that night, Cullen was waiting for him, looking strangely grim.

"Put down your helmet. We're going for a bit of a walk," Cullen ordered, picking up a box from the bedside table.

"Regretting your decision to bring me back?" Samson grumbled, hanging up his helmet. "I was wondering how long that would take."

Cullen flipped open the box, as they walked back out of the room, and offered the contents to Samson. "Cheese pies. And no, I'm not regretting it. I'm worried about you."

"That's ridiculous. What are you worried about?" Samson scoffed, helping himself to one of the fried pies. "Mmm. Peach. Good choice."

"See, I was paying attention all those years ago." Cullen clanked an elbow against Samson's side. "But, Raleigh, you're sick. I know you were getting your lyrium somewhere, after Commander Crazy threw you out, and I think the quality was off. It's not the same stuff we get here. And I kept thinking you'd get better, once we got you back on the good stuff, but have you looked at yourself, lately? You look like you lost a fight with a darkspawn. I'm worried. You're sick. Tell me what you need."

Samson took his time eating his cheese pie, leaving Cullen holding his breath as he waited for a response. "You're jumping to a lot of conclusions there, Commander," he said, licking the last few crumbs off his fingers. "Not least of which that this is something you can fix, assuming there's something that needs fixing. I spent years trying to keep my head down, Cullen, after fighting for the very changes that got you promoted." Cullen tried not to wince at that. "Shit like that takes its toll. You're not gonna fix it in a few months, even with the good stuff."

"So you're saying that, with more time, you—"

"I'm saying not to bother, Cullen." Samson picked up another cheese pie, looking as unbothered as if they were simply discussing the weather. "So is this why?"

Cullen's brow knit. "Why what?"

"Why you promoted those kids above me. Because you're 'worried'?" Samson stuffed the rest of the pie into his mouth. "Nah, don't answer that," he said, mouth still full and spraying a few crumbs. "I wouldn't promote me either."

"Honestly, that's exactly it. You look like shit, Raleigh. I've seen you when you're healthy, and this isn't it. I'd have bumped you up, but I'm afraid the extra responsibility would kill you, and not metaphorically." Cullen shook his head. "I like you. We were friends, before all this shit, and I'd like to think we could be again. And as your friend, I'm not going to do that to you. For what it's worth, if you get better before you lose your mind, I've got Knight-Lieutenant's feathers with your name on them."

"Before I lose my mind…" Samson laughed. "You sure I haven't already?"

"Have you seen Roderick? Yes, I'm sure. We're having this conversation. You can't be lyrium mad, yet." Cullen shook the box. "Have another pie. They're the good ones, from that place in Hightown that makes the duchess cakes I like."

"I don't know if there's a better," Samson sighed, taking another pie. "I don't even know if coming back was the right decision, but by the Maker, it's vindicating. Just rubbing it in people's faces that I was right all along."

"Well, you were." Cullen looked away, embarrassed. "I didn't see it then."

"The only thing you could see then was that your armour wasn't going to save you from the demons," Samson replied around a fresh bite of pie. "And tell me, did you ever get better? I see all this. You're the Commander, now, but did you?"

'Better' was a relative term by its nature, Cullen supposed. "Better than I was?" he asked with a crooked smile. "Yes. I am better, in that sense." He fiddled with the box in his hands, considered taking another pie and thought better of it for the moment. "I still see them sometimes, at night when I dream. I'll wake up, and for one horrible moment, I'll think I'm still there, that my life here, in Kirkwall, with Anton has all been a demon-induced dream. But then I look around and see where I am, sometimes with a dog sitting on my face, and I remember. I married into quite the magey family, it turns out, and… as horrifying as that revelation was at the time, I think it helped. It's hard to believe that mages aren't people or are hosts for demons when your family is full of them."

"No, indeed, from what I've seen, that family comes with its own sort of nonsense." Samson nudged Cullen with one armoured elbow, and his smile finally had less of a self-deprecating edge. He still didn't look healthy, not by a long shot, but in this light, he looked better. Cullen wished, then, that Anders were still around. Maybe he'd know how to fix this.

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