Cocktails & Cheese
Cullen and Alistair - A Modern Day AU
Some Friendly Encouragement Part 2
Alistair leaned against the bar with his chin resting in the palm of his hand. His gaze fixed on the spot where Cullen usually sat. It was easy to picture him there, even in his absence; so predictable was he in his quirky mannerisms and regular routines.
Oh, if only it were Thursday.
Cullen would walk through the door and pause to look the room over. His eyes always rested on each customer as he scanned, making it obvious that he was getting a read on the room. Immediately after his initial overview, his gaze traveled first to Leliana on her stage, then to Lana with the same smile and nod of hello before finally seeking out Alistair behind the bar. The way his eyes would light up to match his smile, when they finally locked gazes, made Alistair feel like he’d been the prize Cullen sought all along; like he’d saved the best for last.
Don’t be silly Alistair. He’s just another customer, looking to unwind at the end of the day. So what, if he gives you butterflies and makes your knee’s weak, that doesn’t mean he feels the same way. And yet…
There’s something about the way his shoulders always relax as he eases into his seat, almost like he’s found comfort, just by being here. The fact that he established a regular routine, adding a stop by the pub for a few hours, a couple times per week…
Could there be something there? Could he be coming in just to see me? Could I be so lucky?
Shaking his head, Alistair tried to dismiss that line of thinking. The anticipation that built up between Cullen’s visits, was starting to get the better of him. It wasn’t healthy to feel drawn to someone so quickly; especially a customer.
They’d fallen into a comfortable dance, around each other, their banter flowed freely; it felt right, relaxed… natural. The newness of it all was like coming home after a long mission, coming up for air, or finally being awake after a lifetime of dreaming.
You’re such a sap Al! This has to be all in your head, Cullen has given no real indication that he feels the same way. He’s just a friend; no more, no less. Accept it for what it is and let the rest go. It’ll be easier for you in the long run. What would he see in you anyway… you’re a bartender… and he’s…
Alistair sighed heavily, catching himself reaching for the high end bottle of Johnny Walker, preparing to pour Cullen’s drink. Lost in his fantasy and inner dialogue, he’d forgotten that today wasn’t a day that Cullen would be coming in.
It was Wednesday. The bar was slower than usual with only a few patrons having already come and gone. Slow nights like this left Alistair with far too much time on his hands to dwell in his own head.
Placing the bottle back on the shelf, he felt Lana come up behind him and lay her cheek against the side of his arm. Sparing her a tight lipped smile, he leaned into her touch for comfort.
“Wednesdays aren’t your favorite day I take it?”
Alistair responded sarcastically, “Gee, you must be psychic!”
Lana chuckled, “I don’t have to see that handsome detective in your head to know that you’re mooning over the fact that he won’t be in tonight. Even Leliana has said something about the way you’re behaving.”
Sighing wistfully, Alistair bowed his head, “I’m sorry, I can’t help it.”
“When are you going to do something about it, Ali?” Lana asked curiously.
He bit back, “Why won’t you tell me what you two talk about, huh? Why won’t you tell me what you hear in his head?” Alistair was only half serious in his query, he knew her too well to think that she’d share something so personal on someone else’s behalf. He respected that about her but it didn’t stop him from wanting to whine about it.
She responded sternly, “You know why Alistair.”
Giving her his biggest, saddest puppy eyes, he begged dramatically, “Lana, please?” He was just playing with her now, using the distraction to get his mind off of Cullen.
She wasn’t budging, “No Alistair. His thoughts are his own and though he doesn’t seem to take offense at my unintentional eavesdropping, I will not take advantage of that! Not even for you.”
Alistair stuck his tongue out at her, “Spoil sport! Not even a hint? A teeny tiny little one?” He began whimpering like a hurt mabari.
Laughing while pushing him away, she asked, “What are you so worried about?”
Alistair took a deep breath before unleashing his worries on her, “What if he’s not interested? What if he laughs at me? What if he’s angry? What if, when I admit my feelings, that ruins the friendship we’ve just started? Lana, I’ve never felt like this before. Ever! The last thing I want to do is ruin it before it can even get started.” He knew he was whining again, but he didn’t care. It’s not like he could keep it from her anyway.
Leliana joined them behind the bar, “Lana, I think our dear Alistair… is in love!”
Alistair’s eyes widened with panic. “Shhh, Leli! Keep it down!”
She chuckled, “No one’s even in here Alistair, who’s going to hear?”
Looking around, he said in a conspiratorial whisper, “He could come in!”
“It’s Wednesday, Alistair, you should know by now that he sticks to his schedule. He won’t be coming in, no matter how hard you wish it.”
Sighing in defeat, he admitted, “I know. Doesn’t keep me from wishing it though. And that is purely beside the point.”
Leliana poked him in the ribs as she laid it out for him, “The point being… that you Alistair Theirin; fearless slayer of darkspawn and demons… are afraid!”
Alistair laid his head down on the bar and whimpered, “Lana, please make her stop!”
Lana laughed lightly but her only response was to rub Alistair’s back to reassuringly.
The relentless bard continued, “You are too afraid to put your heart on the line; to admit to yourself that you’ve fallen helplessly in love with our strapping, Commander.”
Groaning, Alistair countered, “So what if I have? What if I am? It’s not as if my feelings are reciprocated.”
“Oh Alistair. We wouldn’t push you so much if we didn’t think he wasn’t interested too.” Leliana said soothingly.
Lana finally chimed back in, “We want you to find the happiness we know you deserve, Ali. Have we ever steered you wrong?”
“Weeelll… there was that one time with Morrigan.” Alistair reminded her, “I’m still waiting for that to come back and bite me in the ass.”
Lana sighed her apology, “And we are both alive today because of it. Alistair you know I am eternally grateful to you for that night!”
“As am I.” Leliana reached over to take her wife’s hand.
Throwing one arm around each of them, Alistair hugged them both to him before admitting reluctantly, “I know. And only for the two of you, would I… consider… doing it again. It’s just…” He shuddered.
Leliana finished his thought with a giggle, “It’s just... that she’s not your tall, handsome police detective with those piercing eyes and crooked smile with that little scar upon his lip?”
Lana’s giggle joined in, “Ooh Lel, Alistair really likes that scar… you should see the kinds of things he fantasizes about doing to that scar…”
Alistair groaned again. Taking off his apron, he threw it at Lana playfully. “Whatever happened to keeping the sanctity of people's thoughts to yourself, huh?”
“But you make it so much fun to tease you!” She hung his apron on its appropriate hook before finishing her thought, “And it’s just Leliana, you know she can see how you drool over him, the same as anyone else. It’s not as if your big crush is a secret or anything!”
“Ugh! I need to go… take a cold shower or something. You two don’t mind closing up do you? K-thanks!” Alistair began to walk off.
Leliana teased, “Hey Alistair… What if he comes in?”
He disappeared into the backroom, but hollered back so they could hear him, “Like you said… it’s Wednesday.” Suddenly, Alistair’s head popped back around the corner. With a wink and his hand held up to his ear like a telephone, he said, “But if he does come in… Call me!”
The girls laughed at his antics before Leliana looked at Lana pointedly, “Go talk with him. He may need more of a nudge… and a word of caution, like we talked about. Best if it comes from you, m’love.”
“How much do you think I should tell him?”
“He doesn’t need everything, that’s Cullen’s place to tell him anyway. Just… tell him to go slow with our dear Commander. I think that will be enough for now.”
Kissing her wife swiftly, Lana raced to catch up with her best friend. He was almost to the bottom of his stairs when she called out, “Alistair?”
“Yeeessss?” He sing-songed as he turned to meet her eyes.
“I wanted to talk to you. Do you have a moment?” All manner of their previous play gone, she now looked nervous.
Alistair looked around the empty back room, “Well… we’re alone? Now is as good a time as any to talk.”
Beginning to fidget, Lana started with, “Alistair… I wanted to make sure that when you and Cullen do finally… admit your feelings for each other…”
Alistair rolled his eyes before she could finish and tried to walk off.
Grabbing his arm, she turned him around to face her, “Stop it Ali, this is serious!”
“Ok fine, fine. What is it? And who says I’m going to admit my feelings to him anyway?”
“It’s only a matter of time and you know it! You couldn’t even focus on the bar tonight, so wrapped up in thinking about his amber eyes, the quirk of his smile and how he makes you feel like…”
“I know; I know - I get the picture. He’s very distracting to me, what’s your point."
“My point is… that when you do decide to tell him how you feel; I want you two to… take it slow. Ok? He’s had a rough past. He’s scarred. His heart is not easily won over and… I just don’t want either of you to get hurt.”
“Lana! You of all people should know me better than that. I wouldn’t! He’s… It’s just…” He sighed heavily as he searched for the right words.
“You both deserve to be happy, Alistair; I want this for you. I really do. I just want to make sure that you don’t screw this up either. Promise me, you’ll take it slow… until you’re both sure. Ok?”
Sighing, he said, “Lana I’m not even convinced that he’s as interested in me as I am in him. Why are you even bothering with this?”
Looking at her toes, she deliberated before supplying, “Alistair, you both… think… the same things about each other.” She finished in a rush, afraid of what she just admitted.
Alistair stopped and stared at Lana, his jaw hanging open in disbelief.
Did she just… share?
“I want you to promise me that you won’t rush things. Please, Alistair. I know he’s important to you and I know I shouldn’t say anything, but you are to him as well. Please… just take it slow, cherish your first moments together and whatever you do, don’t immediately jump into bed with him! Don’t rush him!” She really looked worried.
Picking up his jaw, Alistair began again, “Ok, saying I believe you. That he is as interested in me as I am in him. Why should we… hold back our affections?” Just the thought of having Cullen in his arms made his knees weak. He couldn’t imagine it being anything short of amazing.
Putting on her big-girl, scary face, Lana threatened, “Because if you screw this up Alistair, so help me… with the Creators as my witness, I will… I’ll...” unable to think of anything suitable to say, she narrowed her eyes at the much taller man and wiggled her fingers ‘suggestively’ at him.
Alistair gulped. He got the picture. “Fine, fine… you win--big mean mage. There you go threatening me again. You’re always threatening me,” he said indignantly.
“Usually, it keeps you out of trouble and you know it!”
“Yeah, yeah, fine… you win.” He leaned in and gave her a quick hug and kiss on the forehead before turning on his heel and heading up the stairs giggling happily. His heart filled with hope.
Maybe… if she’s right… next time I see him I’ll...
Lana blushed at his rambling thoughts as she made her way back in to the bar. She loved that big lug. Their relationship was much different than the one she shared with her wife, but she still wanted for him what they’d found together; love and happiness. That was definitely a possibility with Cullen, if only they’d get over themselves and admit their feelings. Watching them dance around each other was getting exhausting.
Leliana was right, a little nudging was in order.
Cullen was pacing his office as the clock drew close to noon; his whole body positively humming with excitement. The answer to his case had been staring right at him and this morning, it had all--finally--clicked into place.
This was it!
He’d discovered the location of the woman who disappeared two months prior. If his information was correct, she was still alive, though her time was running out.
His squad was currently suiting up to go after her kidnappers and--Maker willing--they would get there before anything else happened to her. The problem was, it was Thursday and this mission would probably take him late into the night.
Duty always came first, so he had no doubt or regret about his priorities this day. However, he had two previous engagements that he wouldn’t be able to fulfill because of it. He may have forsaken some of his vows to the chantry--he was no longer a Templar after all--but in his heart, he knew that he would always be there to help those in need, as long as he was able.
Dialing Dorian’s number, he made a decision.
Dorian answered, “Yes, Amatus?”
Without missing a beat, Cullen responded, “You know Bull hates it when you call me that!”
“He really does, but the makeup sex we have after arguing about it is totally worth it!” Dorian laughed, “I’m assuming you’re not calling to talk about my intimate relations with my husband, however. What can this humble mage do for you today?”
Cullen hesitated, “Listen Dorian, I’m not going to be able to take you to the station tonight.”
“Oh? Finally asked your yummy redhead out on a date, have you?”
“No actually, I won’t be able to go to Alistair’s either.” Cullen said a bit dejectedly.
Growing serious, Dorian asked, “What’s going on?”
“The case I’ve been working on… has just been blown wide open. My team is gearing up now and this probably won’t end quickly. I’m sorry I won’t be able to see you off tonight. Will you be all right getting back to the train?” Cullen asked.
“Don’t you worry about me, Commander. I’m a big boy and can find my way on my own.” Dorian paused briefly before offering, “Would you… like me to stop by the bar to let Alistair know that you won’t be in as well? You did tell him that you’d be back tonight, we wouldn’t want him to worry his pretty little head over you.”
Cullen chuckled, “I would appreciate that; thanks Dorian... But… please, be tactful.”
Dorian sounded hurt, “Who me? I am always the pillar of tact and decency!”
Laughing, Cullen said, “Thank you Dorian, for everything. I will let you know how things go tonight and with Alistair as well… should they progress.”
“You mean when they progress. Oooh, I can’t wait for all the steamy details!”
Groaning at his friend, Cullen hung up the phone.
He donned his armored vest, protective gear, and loaded himself up with all of his weapons and extra ammo. This was what he was trained for. This was what he was good at. Here, he had confidence in spades. He only wished that the same confidence would carry over into his affections for Alistair. He would think about that later, for now, there was a life to save.
Later Thursday Night
Alistair had himself convinced that tonight would be the night. After speaking with the girls, he was finally ready to accept that maybe it was time to take a chance and see if his feelings were reciprocated. He was excited and nervous. Five-thirty couldn’t come soon enough.
Six o’clock came and went and still there was no Cullen. Alistair was starting to fret. He was never this late. Looking over at Lana, all she could do was shrug at her friend and smile her encouragement.
Alistair’s thoughts began to turn dark around seven-thirty. Maybe he was mistaken. He began to fear that the enigmatic doctor with the fabulous mustache might have actually, how did he put it? Charmed the pants off his Commander.
Grumbling to himself, he thought--not for the first time--that he wished he had Cullen’s number so he could call him, to see if he was ok. Every time the door opened, Alistair would perk up as he hoped the tall, curly haired, object of his desire would come in. Sadly, every time the door opened tonight, he was disappointed.
At eight o’clock, the door opened again, but instead of the Commander, Dorian walked in and headed straight for him.
Trying to hide his own disappointment, he put on his usual smile and greeted Cullen’s ‘friend’.
“Welcome back, Dorian, I thought you were heading home tonight.” Alistair was actually proud of himself for keeping his voice as even and friendly as it sounded. “Would you like a drink?”
“Sadly no, I can’t stay. I am on my way to the train, but needed to stop in here to deliver a message first.” Dorian looked around for the first time, taking in the decor. “You know; I can see why he likes coming here. This place really is nice… comfortable.” Dorian said with appreciation.
Alistair hesitated only a moment before responding, “Uh… thank you? You said you had a message for me?” His heart almost couldn’t take the suspense.
“Ah yes. Our dear Commander has been pulled away on a case and regrets to inform you that he will be unable to fulfill his previous intention of entertaining your company this evening.” Dorian said formally before adding with a smirk, “He rarely deviates from his precious schedules, you know, and I didn’t want you to worry.”
Alistair was both relieved and a little concerned, “Is he… walking into danger?”
“Do not worry; Cullen is very well trained for what he is walking into. I am sure he will be back in to see you next Tuesday as per his usual schedule.” Dorian smiled at the concern written on Alistair’s face as he turned to head back towards the door. Stopping with his hand on the handle, he glanced over his shoulder and said with sincerity, “Be good to him; will you? I don’t have many people I can count as friends. I would hate to think I’d have to come back here to defend his honor.”
Then he was gone and Alistair was left stunned. He looked at Lana who was beaming back at him with that all too familiar, ‘I told you so’ look on her face.
Why is everyone threatening me regarding Cullen? It’s not like I want to hurt him. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
Alistair grinned to himself as he purposefully created lurid fantasies in his head of the things he wanted to do to Cullen. He was so specific with the details that he was sure even Zevran would have been proud of him. Grinning smugly at the little elf who was now blushing across the room, he went about taking care of his other customers.
Take that woman! I know you can’t stay out of my head, so I might as well get some enjoyment out of it!
Laughing with a lighter heart, he resigned himself to a Cullen free evening. Sending a quiet prayer to the Maker to watch over Cullen as he worked, Alistair hoped beyond hope that he would stay safe. They had some unfinished business to attend to, and after his encounters with both Lana then Dorian, he really wanted to get a chance to see where this thing between them could go. It was Thursday, that gave him five more days to work on his courage.