Cocktails & Cheese
Cullen and Alistair - A Modern Day AU
Secrets and Salvation Part 5
They paused in the foyer to remove their shoes before heading over to the sofa. Ready to accept whatever it was Cullen wanted to talk to him about, Alistair sat quietly, staring down at his hands.
Sitting next to Alistair, Cullen pulled an object out of his pocket and snapped a quick picture of it with his phone. Smiling smugly, he held the photograph of Kieran out for Alistair.
Looking up in surprise, Alistair’s hand shook as he reached for the picture of his son. “Cullen, you... could have done that with Morrigan and given it back to her.” A question on his tongue as to why he didn’t.
Cullen’s smile softened, “I could have… but then, I wouldn’t have been able to give it to you, now would I?”
Choking back a sob, Alistair managed a quiet, “Thank you…” as he stared at his son’s face for the very first time. Letting his tears silently fall, he took in his appearance: black hair, like his mother’s, light brown eyes--or were they light grey--It was hard to tell from the picture--and pale skin dotted with freckles. He looked serious, but with a childlike gleam in his eyes that sparkled with intelligence and… something else.
“He looks like her,” Alistair managed after a while.
Wrapping one arm around his shoulders, Cullen pointed out, “He looks like you too. I can see you in the way he quirks his mouth, the point of his nose, and that mischievous little glint in his eye.” He kissed Alistair’s temple affectionately.
Looking humbled, Alistair said, “You didn’t have to do this you know.”
“I wanted to. I believe that you should be able to know your son. I’ve seen no evidence to suggest that you would be anything less than an amazing father. Therefore, no reason for her to keep him from you.” Cullen said vehemently, before addressing the picture itself, “Besides, we may need a tangible link to track him before this is over. A photograph or personal item works best. If it’s not within Lana or Morrigan’s abilities, I can always bring Dorian in to track him--with your permission of course--he’s done it for me in the past.”
“I’d have to ask Lana, but if it were in Morrigan’s repertoire, don’t you think she’d be out there tracking him herself?”
“Most likely.” He conceded, “Though her skills may be dampened by her emotions here.” Cullen nibbled on his bottom lip while he pondered what his next step would be.
“It’s possible, I suppose. And no, I don’t mind you bringing in Dorian if you think it will help. I just want to find him.” Alistair bowed his head frowning as he let his mind wander.
I want to meet him, find out who he is, what he likes, hold him. Will he let me hug him? Will he scoff and turn me away? He’s only ten, surely that’s not old enough for her to have completely turned him against me. I want to be the father to him that I never had. Please Maker, let me get the chance to make it all up to him! Let us find him and bring him home safe!
Cullen interrupted Alistair’s dark thoughts, “Lana was able to locate me with little more than my name and occupation, do you think she’ll be able to help?”
Alistair’s phone chimed in his pocket:
Lana: Stop with the negative, Ali. We will find him and he will be all right. Tell Cullen that I’m not sure how much I’ll be able to help with tracking, though. I cannot use a personal object to find him; my method is… less precise.
Lana: When I was searching for him, I stood outside two other precincts before I ‘heard’ him inside the one by the Chantry. I’m sorry hun, maybe bringing Dorian in would be better?
Sighing, Alistair showed Cullen the messages from Lana.
“Well that was… timely.” Cullen chuckled, then addressed the room at large. “Thanks Lana.”
Lana: Anytime! Let me know what I can do to help. Take your time up there, Leli and I have this just fine for now. You can come down when you two have gotten… re-acquainted ;)
Alistair: lol - thanks Lana. I owe ya… again.
Lana: No worries, Hun. There are only a few regulars here anyway.
Lana: And Alistair… try not to freak out and push Cullen away again. He loves you. We all do, and we only want to help. We’ve got this… we’ll find him… together. We have faced far worse with less to go on.
Alistair: Thanks, Luv. What would I ever do without you?
Lana: You’d be miserable.
Alistair: Yeah… yeah, I would.
Alistair set his phone down and turned toward Cullen, sighing heavily, “I’m glad that you’re here. These last two weeks have been awful without you, I’ve been a complete wreck, I never should have--”
“Shhh,” Cullen wrapped his arms around Alistair and pulled him in. “I’m here now. We’ll find him, I promise you.”
“So… what happens next?” Alistair looked down at the picture in his hands, his shoulders drooping.
“Tonight, I’m going to head on over to the library, since that was the last place Kieran was accounted for. I need to check out the floor he was studying on as well as the grounds outside to see if maybe there’s some hint as to where he might have gone.
“Doesn’t it close at nine?” Alistair’s eyes never left the image of Kieran in his hand.
Cullen nodded, checking his watch, “I can always go back to check out the inside during operating hours, if I don’t make it there before closing. I want to at least look around to get a feel for what might have happened. Once I’m done there, I’ll go to the office to get a head start on things before I meet with Morrigan in the morning.”
Finally tearing his gaze from the photo, Alistair looked up, his eyes glistening with unshed tears, “Can I be there when you meet with her?”
“No, my love. I’m sorry.” Cullen ran his fingers through Alistair’s hair, “Don’t look at me that way. I promise to fill you in after. There is major dissention between you two that will just get in the way were I to question her with you present.”
Alistair nodded in understanding. He may not like it, but what Cullen said was true. Feeling the weight of everything on his shoulders, Alistair collapsed into Cullen’s embrace. Exhaustion, fear, and frustration, all expressed in the sobs wracking his body. Cullen just held him tight, soothing as best he could.
When he pulled himself together again, Alistair admitted tearfully, “Maker, I’m such a mess. I have never even met this little piece of me and I feel like he’s been ripped from my heart. I feel so… helpless.”
“I know, love, but you are far from helpless. We’ll find him. I promise you.” Wiping the tears from his cheeks, Cullen pulled Alistair back into his arms.
“Thank you.” Alistair breathed as he clung to Cullen.
“For coming tonight, for loving me--despite me treating you so badly--for understanding, and for… just being you. I have missed you so damn much.”
“I’ve missed you too. More than I can say, though I’m sure Rylen would be happy to tell you about how ‘cranky’ I’ve been lately without you.” Cullen chuckled, “It’s going to cost me at least two weeks’ worth of donuts just to make up for it.”
Alistair sniggered, “Lana probably wouldn’t say anything, but I’m sure Leliana would be happy to share stories of my, how did she put it? ‘Waspishness’ lately as well.”
Eyes landing on Alistair’s lips, Cullen’s fingers caressed his splotchy cheeks, “Or perhaps, we could just skip past the reminiscing part and move forward.” He leaned in and tasted the lips he’d been dreaming about, craving. “Mmm, I have missed your kisses, holding you, waking in your arms. I’ve missed--you.” Each declaration punctuated by ever deepening kisses.
Foreheads resting together, sitting in silence, they held each other close, neither wanting to let go. After a while, Cullen extracted himself from Alistair’s arms with a sigh, “I would love nothing more than to crawl into bed and fall asleep in your arms right now, but I believe you need to get back to work and I should go start looking for your son.”
Alistair was torn, he wanted to find Kieran, but now that he had Cullen back in his arms, he really didn’t want to let him go. “Can I come see you after I get off tonight? I don’t really want to sleep alone.”
“You can come see me anytime you want to, my love.”
“Except tomorrow at ten a.m.?”
Cullen laughed, “Except then.”
“Will you still be at the office when I get off work?” Alistair asked.
“Most likely. I’ll see if Rylen will come in so I can bounce some ideas off him.”
“Are you sure that’s… wise? We’re likely to encounter some things that will be pretty hard to explain. Morrigan for one, she’s never really been one to ‘hide’ her use of magic.”
Cullen paused for a moment as if he was mulling something over, “Rylen and I have always made a good team. He is exceptional at what he does. Just having him there, even if he doesn’t see exactly what it is he’s trying to find, he’s able to express it enough that I can usually see past the veil to unearth whatever it is we’re searching for.” Cullen sighed heavily. “In truth, though, I fear that he is close to awakening on his own.”
“He’s kind of old to be gaining his sight naturally, isn’t he?”
“It’s not common, but has been known to happen. I wouldn’t want him to have to go through that without someone there to ease the transition.”
“Wouldn’t it be easier to just… wake him yourself? That is something Templars do isn’t it?” Alistair offered.
Cullen nodded, “Usually it happens during adolescence, when our minds are still malleable to the world around us. Being older, convincing Rylen of the truth might be more difficult without fracturing his mind. I’ve thought about it, though, but I don't know if I want to do that to him. He’s getting married next summer and has his whole life ahead of him. I’d hate to darken it by making him see the things that we see.”
“How did your sight get awakened? If you don't mind my asking. I’ve been able to ‘see’ for as long as I can remember, but I’m not sure if that’s because my mother was a Warden, a mage, an elf, or some combination of the three. I’m told that the sight is usually awakened by coming into contact with the ‘other’ side; usually some traumatic event, so I’ll understand if you aren’t yet comfortable discussing it.” Alistair looked down at his feet unsure how to proceed, he’d wondered in the past, but never found the opportunity to ask and now wasn’t so sure he should have.
Smiling reassuringly, Cullen sat back on the sofa, pulling Alistair with him. “Being awakened was part of my training. A prayer to the Maker and a touch of holy energy right here,” he placed his fingertip in the center of Alistair’s forehead. “Those whose inner eye was opened, got special training in addition to their regular lessons. Those that didn’t pass, never knew that there was anything different. To them, it was just another blessing the chantry bestowed on us. The idea was that if you could bear witness to magic, you could counter it. If you couldn’t, then why waste the time on it?”
“I see, and the extra training had to do with the orbs we spoke of before?”
“That was part of it, yes. There was certainly more to it and more research as well. Enough to make my eyes glaze over and for me to start wishing to see darkspawn creeping out of the walls just so I could get out of class.” He chuckled ruefully. “I can’t imagine being a child with this ability, I have nightmares enough now. How did you endure it?”
“I wasn’t alone.” Alistair shrugged, “I always felt safe in the Chantry. Maybe it was just Mother Natalie, I dunno. She was always there to talk me through my nightmares, to help me understand both sides of the veil. Even though I knew of the horrors out there, I always felt like, as long as I was with her, I was safe.”
Alistair and Cullen bantered for another half an hour, just holding each other close and reconnecting after a so long apart. As their conversation died down, they both sighed heavily, knowing that they both had jobs to do.
“I suppose; I should be heading out. I need to contact Rylen and Dorian then head over to the library to see what I can find.”
Alistair nodded his agreement, “I should probably go give the girls a hand anyway. I’ll see you at your office after I close this place down for the night.”
Cullen took Alistair’s face in his hands and kissed him, pouring all of the love he felt for him into the action. “I look forward to it.”
Reluctantly pulling away from their embrace, Cullen stole one last kiss before they began their descent down the stairs, towards the main room of the pub.
Alistair took his place behind the counter as Cullen headed for the door. Before he could reach it, he heard Lana call out, “Cullen?”
He turned and was surprised to find her wrapping her arms around his waist and laying her head on his chest. He hugged her back gently and asked, “What this for?”
“For being here for him. For wanting to help. I’m… sorry I didn’t call sooner.”
Cullen smiled at Lana, “I’m not sure either one of us would have been ready before tonight. You know him better than anyone though, so I will always trust your judgement.”
“Anytime.” He looked up to find Leliana with a bemused expression on her face before bidding them both farewell and heading out the door.