Here you go, the second of our two Carver ficlets for today—this is for myjusticecake, who’s feeling kinda crummy right now and who said she wanted to see Carver impersonating Fenris for Merrill. Hopefully this bit of fluffy silliness cheers you right up, sweet thing!
Previous drabble: Masks II: Cold Stares and Winks
“I am not a slave!” Carver roars, curling his lip.
Merrill laughs, and it sounds like music.
“I am not an elf!” she mock-growls.
Carver mimes swigging from a wine bottle. “I am not an alcoholic!”
Merrill scowls dramatically, but she can’t hold the moue against her insistent giggles. “I am not a sourpuss!”
Tallis leans into Garrett’s shoulder. “What are they doing?”
“Flirting.” He rolls his eyes. “I think.”
“I am not a mustache!”
“I am not a potato!”
“Kids.” Tallis shrugs at Garrett. “I am not a griffon!” she shouts.
Merrill and Carver fall silent.
One of the hunters they pass holds his foil by the blade, as if it were a scepter. Carver tells his brother not to bother correcting him, but Garrett just can’t help himself, of course. He strides up to the man and gives him a quick lesson on proper grip technique—as if the entire world were his drawing room, as if he weren’t a Fereldan apostate in enemy territory, as if he knew anything about holding a damn sword in the first place.
But that’s Garrett for you. Nobility suits him like an old dressing gown, one worn in the elbows and fraying at the hem. His brother was born a Viscount, with the rest of the world merely his subjects.
What bothers Carver most, though, is the look on Merrill’s face as Garrett does it.
Garrett grabs Carver by the elbow. “Well, so what do you think?”
“You’ll have to be more specific,” Carver says in a low voice, even though he knows exactly what—or who—his brother is referring to. He just wants to hear Garrett say it—in fact needs it, because for as long as Carver can remember, his brother has never asked his opinion on anything or anyone. Ever.
“You know. Her.” He nods at Tallis, who at that moment is attempting to show Merrill how to throw a dagger. Tallis hurls a dagger into a nearby pine; the blade wobbles to and fro from the force of impact. Merrill nods. She lets her arm fly. Her knife bumps, pommel first, into Tallis’s.
Tallis doubles over in laughter, and Carver glares at her. “She’s kind of a pain.”
“So are you,” Garrett says, smirking.
Carver shrugs. “At least I can see why you two get along so well.” He turns to face his brother. “Although I hazard she smells a bit better than your usual fare.”
The smile on Garrett’s lips evaporates. “I don’t know what you mean.”
“No? Perhaps you would if she glowed a little? Maybe I should tell her to paint some cracks on her skin.”
Garrett inspects his fingernails with as much relish as he might a hurlock spittoon. “You’re a right ass, Carver.”
Carver falls silent as a group of hunters passes, grousing loudly about wyverns roosting in the trees. He waits until they’re out of earshot before turning back to his grim-faced brother.
“So how is Anders? Have you two picked out matching staves yet?”
“Carver,” Garrett says in a low, threatening voice. “Not in front of the fops.”
Carver chuckles. “Why not? A pet apostate— quite the prize. I bet they’d all just line up to get your advice on how to accomplish it themselves.”
With a vile, knowing look toward Merrill, Garrett leans in close, “Brother, if you want tips, all you have to do is ask.”
Carver flushes and punches his brother on the arm, taking more satisfaction than he should when Garrett winces and, when he thinks Carver isn’t looking, surreptitiously rubs the spot.
“I’m surprised you didn’t bring him, actually,” Carver says at length.
Garrett’s eyes have grown sad, weary. He starts to spin his staff between his fingers.
“I tried,” he says in a ragged voice. “Maker knows he could use the fresh air, and a break from his work. But he didn’t want to leave his—“ Garrett pauses, his gaze lingering on the upright sword on Carver’s breastplate, “—patients. At the clinic.”
Carver pretends not to notice the deep grooves that have appeared around Garrett’s eyes, and how his brother’s fingers have stopped their idle work. “Don’t know why all those people go to him instead of us,” he says. “We have spirit healers in the Gallows that do charity cases. No abominations necessary.”
Garrett casts a dubious look at his brother. “Carver, these people eat bread made of sawdust. How in Thedas would they afford the barge fee?”
Carver’s cheeks flush and prickle. “I’m just saying.”
“Seems you’ve forgotten a lot about what it means to be poor.”
“So have you.” Carver pats his brother’s belly before he can squirm away. “Fatso.”
“I am not a moth-eaten scarf!”
“I am not a pirate ship!”
“I am not a cummerbund!”
“I am not a field of turnips!”
“Alright. That’s enough, you two.” With a flick of his wrist, Garrett pulses them with a quick telekinetic burst, not powerful enough to hurt, but forceful enough to stun. “It stopped being funny fifty times ago.”
Carver and Merrill look at each other. She grins at him.
“I am not a grumpy force mage!” She suddenly cries.
As Carver clutches his aching belly in laughter, he thinks he sees Garrett fight back a chuckle too.
They’re attacked by odd, twisted creatures that spew from the ground like the rats in Gamlen’s shack. They chitter and swarm and are altogether hideous. Ghastlings, Tallis calls them, and Carver thinks he’s never heard a more fitting name.
“Just think,” Tallis says, wiping her dagger on one of the creatures, “if you were a Grey Warden, you could deal with cuddly bugs like these every day.”
Carver shudders. “Maker preserve us.”
Garrett quirks an eyebrow, stares at his brother as if he were a strange plant. “Since when did you get religious, Carver?”
Carver shrugs. “Since when do you get a taste for elven women?”
Garrett makes sure that Carver is looking at him before he responds.
“A man has needs,” he says with a small, cruel smirk.
Garrett nudges his brother forward. “Go on.”
“I’m not touching it,” Carver snarls. “You touch it.”
“No way. You touch it.” Garrett prods him in the back of the knee with his staff.
“You’re the mage. Creepy altars are your thing.”
“Well, you’re the Templar. If something comes after us, you’re the only one of us with a suit of armor.”
“I’m not touching it.”
“Yes you are.”
“No I’m not.”
“Yes you are.”
They stare at each other for a long moment, and then finally, Carver rolls his eyes. “Maker, you are such an ass sometimes.”
He walks over to the altar and splays his hand on the mossy marble.
The ground shakes, and everywhere is an unearthly roar; what appears to be the tallest, juiciest Arcane Horror they’ve ever seen suddenly materializes in the clearing, along with several of its undead fellows.
“Maker’s balls, Carver,” Garrett sighs. “Why do you always have to touch these things?”
Tallis coos at the sick puppy, and Carver realizes she can’t be all bad.
Then she starts lilting in baby talk, and he thinks maybe she is.
“You seem well. You know. Considering.”
Merrill cocks her head like a bird. “Considering what?”
Carver can’t look at her. “The riots.”
“Oh. That.” Her voice is low, wistful. “I haven’t been back yet. Varric says it still isn’t safe.”
“Why should you be sorry?” Carver can’t bring himself to answer. “I don’t have anything they can break, and I don’t have anything to steal—nothing they could easily take, anyway.” She smiles like she’s told a joke, but Carver doesn’t get it. “Haw—your brother has been taking good care of me. I’ve been staying at his estate, you know. He saved me.”
“So I heard,” Carver murmurs. “He and Anders.”
“Oh no, it was mostly him. Anders was only lookout.” she says, her voice lilting and dreamy. “You should have seen it. He burst through the door and everything.”
Carver hides his grimace by crouching down and painstakingly brushing some dirt off his boot. As his gauntlet scrubs the toe, the metal squeals. He winces.
“What I can’t figure out is how he knew they were coming,” she says softly. “We only just made it out of the alienage before the Templars came. He must have such connections.”
Carver says nothing, but inside he roils with an anger more violent, more vivid than he has ever felt before toward anyone or anything. But for once, he’s not sure exactly who he’s mad at.
“I like it at your brother’s place,” she continues. “Sandal keeps me company, and your mother—oh, she just tells the best stories about you and—Garrett.” When she says the name, her cheeks turn pink. “Although Leandra seems to believe I need to eat more. So she cooks too many pies and pretends that she did it all by accident.”
Carver chuckles, simultaneously delighted and jealous. “That’s Mother for you.”
“It’s delightful. She’s not like Marethari at all. She’s such a great fun to be around.” Merrill smiles softly at him. “I can see where you get it.”
Instantly Carver blushes.
“Oh—uh, well.” He swallows and scratches at the back of his neck. “You too. Um, no, I mean, you’re fun too. To be with. Er—not with with. Uh.”
“Carver, are you alright? Oh, I’ve missed something dirty again, haven’t I?”
“What? No. No. You haven’t,” he sputters. “Not dirty, I promise.”
“Good.” She gives him a sidelong glance. “Because you probably shouldn’t be saying dirty things to me anymore—not now that you have a girlfriend.”
He thinks her voice sounds colder than usual, but he can’t be sure.
When his brother sticks his hand in the pile of wyvern shit, it is all Carver can do to restrain himself from kicking his brother – and his smug new girlfriend – the rest of the way in.
“I am not a Templar!” Garrett suddenly calls out.
“I am not a blood mage!” Tallis answers.
“He thinks he’s so funny,” grumbles Carver.
Merrill lightly rests one hand on his forearm. “Actually, Carver,” she says, her gaze warm but serious, “He sort of is.”