Sebastian blinked against the firelight as he stepped into the Hanged Man. The place was crowded and the reek of beer rose up from the place like the stench of a swamp. Shouting and laughter created such a din he could almost feel the sound of it.
"I don't think I should be here, Hawke," he said, hesitating in the doorway.
Hawke gave him a look. "You what? We've had a long day and I meant what I said: it's high time you got to know the others better. And it's warm inside, if nothing else. Surely the Maker can't begrudge you that."
Norah sauntered past on her rounds; Sebastian's gaze slipped down her cleavage. He cleared his throat, face flaming, and looked back to Hawke. "I, ah, I really ought to get back to the Chantry."
He began to back out, but Hawke grabbed him by the front of his armor and dragged him inside. "Oh no you don't. It's too late, anyway. You've already set foot in the house of sin. No escaping now; you'll just have to confess to Elthina in the morning and hit yourself or pray to the Maker or whatever it is you do."
Hawke steered him towards a table in the corner, where Varric, Fenris, Merrill and Isabela already sat. "Hawke!" Varric said, and then his eyebrows raised as he saw Hawke's companion. "And the Choir Boy! To what do we owe the honor of your presence, your Grace?" He reached over and dragged a chair over, offering to Sebastian with a dramatic gesture.
"I did not realize the Chantry approved of drinking and gambling," Fenris said, as Sebastian began to sit.
Sebastian hastily reversed his course. "Hawke only said-- It was warm-- and outside… Cold--"
"Awww," Isabela purred, leaning over in a way that displayed all her attributes to full effect. "He's so adorable when he blushes, Hawke."
"Sit," Hawke said, reaching over and pressing Sebastian down into the seat. Sebastian's protests fell on deaf ears. "Aveline sends her apologies. Date night with Donnic."
"How sweet," Merrill said, while Isabela made gagging noises. Merrill went on, blithely, "So are we playing Diamondback tonight? I hope so? I've been studying up on it." She practically sparkled, for a blood mage. "I might actually win, this time! It's so exciting!"
"Don't worry, Daisy," Varric said, patting her hand. "No matter what, you'll still beat Anders."
"Hey!" Anders set down a tray full of brimming tankards, hard enough that they sloshed their contents over their sides. Varric made a noise of protest that Anders ignored. "First you make me your waitress and then you demean my Diamondback skills!"
Varric laughed. "Maybe if you show more tits, Blondie, I'll reconsider."
Anders narrowed his eyes. He turned, and Sebastian found himself face to face with the mage. "And-- you're in my chair. This night just gets better and better."
Fenris looked coolly at Anders. "When I asked for wine, this was not my expectation."
"Ha, ha." Ander's scowl deepened.
Sebastian started to rise. "I'll just g--"
Hawke glowered at Sebastian from across the table. Sebastian swallowed. "Never mind."
Varric shrugged. "Why don't you play him for the chair, Blondie?"
Isabela smirked. "Oh, this will be good. The Choir Boy and the chronic loser."
"Hey!" Anders protested, while Sebastian said,
"I really don't think I should--"
"I don't always lose," Anders said, cutting him off.
Varric smothered a grin. "Uh-huh. Who's dealing?"
"I'll do it," Isabela said, pulling a deck of cards from somewhere in her cleavage.
Sebastian began to hastily pray. Someone shoved a tankard of ale towards him. Ale sloshed over the lip, splashing his hand and startling him in the midst of "and guide me from temptation."
"I can't," he said, weakly, staring into the full tankard. It smelled like a good home brew, strong and hoppy and dark. He remembered the last time he'd drunk--just before his parents sent him off to the Chantry. The good bitter-dark taste of it on his tongue, the dizzy grip of it on his hot blood, the serving wench in a dark corner, dress hiked up round her waist…
Anders saved him, snatching the tankard away. "That's mine, thank you."
"Maker bless you," Sebastian breathed, earning an odd look from the mage.
Isabela dealt five cards in front of him, and five in the corner of the table nearest Anders. "I suppose I'll have to explain the rules to you, Choir Boy…?"
Sebastian shook his head. "I really can't…"
"You'll each take turns drawing a card off the--"
"I know how to play," Sebastian said, slightly impatiently.
"Oh?" Isabela said, arching her eyebrows.
"Oh?" Hawke, Varric and Fenris echoed.
"I was a worldly boy, a wild thing in my youth. A sh--"
"--Shame to your parents yes, we've heard." Hawke drank. "So prove it."
"Fine, I'll go first," Anders said, picking up his cards, drawing one off the deck and tossing another to the table.
Sebastian reached for his cards, hesitating.
"If you don't play," Isabela said, somewhat crossly, "I'll declare Anders the winner and you'll be the laughing stock of Kirkwall because nobody has ever lost to Anders."
"That isn't true!" Anders protested.
"Who have you beat?"
"Laughing stock of Kirkwall," Isabela repeated, ominously. "Shame to your parents. The Templars will be speaking of it for weeks! Mages will laugh to hear of the humiliation of the Chantry!"
Sebastian hastily took up his cards. Elthina would forgive him, surely. He was defending her reputation, after all. He drew a card, and discarded.
Anders began to look concerned.
They went five rounds of drawing with no Angel of Death, and then another three. Anders was beginning to sweat. Sebastian drank absently from the cup in front of him. Their corner of the tavern was oddly silent. Sebastian drew again, holding his breath; he flipped the card to see not the Angel, but a card that gave him five of a kind. He barely repressed a smile, and laid his unwanted card on the table.
Anders had a vaguely panicked look as he drew another card.
Isabela crowed: "We have the Angel of Death, messere! Show your hands!"
"Oooh!" Varric winced as Sebastian and Anders presented. "So close, Blondie, so close!"
"But--I had a full house!"
"Five of a kind," Sebastian said, tapping his cards, triumphant. "You'll stand tonight, mage! And I--" Sebastian caught himself, flushing. "What am I saying? I should be going-- you can have the seat--and I--"
Varric threw an arm around his shoulders. "We're just about to start a round of Diamondback. And we need at least four players."
"You've already got to flog yourself," Hawke said, agreeably. "Might as well go all in."
"I can flog you later on, if you like." Isabela grinned.
"You could always donate your winnings to the Chantry," Merrill said, cheerily. "Why, just the other day I heard some of the sisters saying how much they needed to make repairs on the Chantry roof… Surely your Maker would be happy if you paid for a new roof?"
"You--you're all extremely wicked!" Sebastian blurted. He looked around at their half-amused, half-irritated faces, and then reached for the cards. "I'll deal this time. I don't trust a one of you."
They laughed, all of them, even Anders, and they played Diamondback into the night; and Sebastian promised himself he'd pray plenty in the morning.