Actions

Work Header

Cocktails and Cheese

Chapter Text


Cocktails & Cheese

Cullen and Alistair - A Modern Day AU

Chapter 1

A Chance Meeting


 

Alistair Theirin loved to be around people. He was naturally good with them; making them feel relaxed and comfortable enough to share their deepest regrets and darkest desires with him. It was a gift of his that worked well with his chosen profession.

Tending bar in downtown Denerim allowed for him to be surrounded by all manner of interesting and exciting people. He was happy to be the center of attention and was well liked for his trade, however, he was utterly lonely. He spent his nights listening to other people’s problems and helping them drown their sorrows. He was a cheap therapist that they could come too to make themselves feel better, but it was always about them. For all of their fawning and attention, no one but his best friends; Lana and her wife, Leliana, ever seriously asked about Alistair. As he went through the motions--night after night--same customers, same stories, same ‘interested’ smile plastered on his face, he kept his own hopes and fears safely hidden away behind his enigmatic smile and almost never-ending, charming banter.

Content in his trade; he never felt that he needed anything more. The bar was his home, his refuge, and source of comfort. With trays of food and good conversation, he made it his goal to make his customers feel the same. He firmly believed that a bartender could make the best tasting drink ever, but if their service didn’t make the guest feel special, then the drink itself wouldn’t taste as good.** It was a philosophy that Alistair lived by; and one that seemed to be working quite well for him.

When he opened the business--eight years ago--he never imagined that it would be so successful. It had been a fantastical idea that came to him; one night over drinks with his dearest friends and roommates. The three of them made it work; playing on each of their strengths. They fell into their new roles seamlessly, as if these were the parts they were always meant to play: Alistair tended bar, Lana hired the wait-staff, and Leliana managed the musicians. They all enjoyed their work and were very good at what they did, but even so, there was a longing deep in Alistair’s heart that he couldn’t put his finger on.

~*~

Commander, Cullen Rutherford was happiest when he was helping people. A former Templar--turned detective--driven by duty, spending most of his time either buried in paperwork or out working in the field. He’s quiet and reserved and though he spent long hours, fighting for the little guy; when he retired for the day, he was always alone in his small-but-functional, apartment. His work was rewarding; his personal life, however, was all about Chinese take-out, going to the gym, and lonely nights drinking by himself, only to wake up in the morning to do it all over again. Reports, investigations, and being on a first name basis with the people at Mr. Chen’s on the corner, were the extent of his life. He knew he needed something more, but as of yet, the Maker hadn’t revealed to him what it was that was missing from his life.

The Commander had been working on a particularly frustrating case that was going nowhere. He was used to working difficult cases, but something about this assignment was leaving him particularly drained. His most recent lead left him aggravated. Instead of getting into his Jeep to head home, he found himself wandering downtown Denerim, trying to clear his head and figure out what rock to look under next. His ambling feet brought him to an unfamiliar street. Curious about the new scenery--and starting to lament skipping dinner--he decided to wander through the rapidly dimming light to see if he could find a place to get a bite to eat.

With hands deep in the pockets of his long overcoat to fend off the early spring chill, he walked through the mist, down the newly discovered street. A non-descript door suddenly opened, letting out sounds of laughter and a warm golden light which illuminated a dwarven couple staggering out into the cool night air. They were tipsy, laughing, and completely oblivious to the fact that they had nearly run into the tall, imposing man walking along the sidewalk.

Arm in arm, the duo stumbled down the street and around the corner. Cullen watched them disappear, then glanced up at the faded sign hung overhead. He chuckled at the tongue in cheek name of the place, but thought it sounded as good a place as any to grab a drink, if not a meal.

Taking a deep breath, he grabbed the handle of the door and opened it wide, letting the sound and warmth wash over him. Walking into unfamiliar bars at night, was not something he would normally do, but after the week that he’d had, the Commander didn’t feel like drinking alone. He wanted to be around people, even if he wasn’t part of their laughter and camaraderie.

Stepping inside, he paused to take in his new surroundings. It wasn’t terribly crowded, but held just over a dozen people in small diverse groups around the room. Two couples were playing pool in the back. An unoccupied dart board was set up on the far wall immediately to the right of the front door. Three tables sat in the middle of the room in front of a stage, two of those tables were occupied.

On the stage stood a lone woman with red hair, cropped at an even length near her ears. Her voice was more beautiful than a nightingale's; soothing and pure. She played a strange sort of guitar… a lute, if he remembered correctly. Though the customers appeared to be enjoying her music, she seemed to be singing for the pure joy of the music itself.

Weaving deftly amongst the tables was a petite, elven waitress who also seemed to be enjoying what she was doing. No taller than five feet in height, with brown hair pulled back into a ponytail and wisps framing her bronze face on either side, she smiled as if there were nowhere else in Thedas she would rather be. She wore a flowing, blue cotton dress, a black apron tied around her waist, comfortable shoes, and the most radiant smile as she shimmied from table to table taking and delivering orders.

There was a small group of women standing at the bar along the left wall talking with the bartender. The bar top itself was a deep mahogany, which matched the warm color of the walls. It stretched almost the entire length of the left side of the room, but instead of connecting to the entrance wall, it curved; providing for some more secluded seating, away from everyone else.

The fixtures were all dark patina’d brass, which only enhanced the warm glow of the lights that they held. As a whole, the room felt welcoming and inviting. Not having experienced that feeling in quite some time, Cullen made up his mind to stay; if only for one drink.

He made his way towards the end of the bar closest to the entrance, where it curved to meet the wall. It was a perfect strategic location. His body tucked into the left corner of the room as one entered, he could see everything… and everyone, including the front door. The location suited him very well.

Cullen watched with interest as the barkeep talked and laughed animatedly with his customers. He was fairly tall, slender, and well-muscled; more wiry than bulky though, with red hair that shot from the top of his head in short spikes as if that were all it was capable of doing. His voice carried to him smooth as honey and the three women at the counter seemed completely enamored by the man’s boyish charm. It was his smile, however, that really drew the detective’s attention. He read warmth and caring in its attentiveness with a hint of longing buried deep underneath.

The part of him that loved to understand people, pondered briefly what someone who seemed so happy could be hiding in that sad tinged smile. He also noticed that the women didn’t seem to notice anything amiss as whatever he was hiding, was well concealed beneath his friendly banter. The Commander concluded that whatever it was that the barkeep was longing for, was either so deeply ingrained that he wasn’t aware it was there… or perhaps that he himself… worked too much and really shouldn’t analyze every person that he came across.

Shaking his head, Cullen decided that he was off the clock and would just enjoy this new experience as much as possible. He wasn’t here to read people or to dissect their hidden secrets, no matter how well camouflaged and thusly intriguing they appeared to be. Removing his coat, he draped it over his chair, sat back and relaxed into this new, warm environment. The intriguing man, with the magnetic smile, delivered the drinks to the ladies and turned towards his end of the bar, changing his life forever.

~*~

Alistair just finished ‘suggesting’ to the couple that were all over each other; that they should take their arduous adventures back to their apartment instead of putting on a show for his whole bar to see. Thankfully, they had left without issue. He was fulfilling another order at the bar when the door opened once again.

Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed a rather tall and imposing, lone figure enter and pause as if to take in the whole room, before heading towards the curved end of the bar. It was the side of the room that no one ever really sat in, though it boasted a view of the entire pub. It was dark and secluded, but still accessible. The fact that the man in the long overcoat sat in the spot that he himself would have chosen to gain the best defensible overview of the pub, had his interest peaked. As he finished serving drinks to the ladies at the bar, he turned towards the newest guest and paused at the sight before him.

The stranger had removed his coat and underneath was dressed in a charcoal grey suit with a white button down shirt which was unfastened at the collar. He wore a deep red tie with diagonal gold pinstripes, loosened to match his opened buttons. Even though he was seated, the new arrival was taller than Alistair had initially estimated, maybe even as tall as his own six foot frame, but easily broader in the shoulders. He had curly, wheat-blonde hair, slicked back and almost straightened yet disheveled like he’d been running his fingers through it. There was a scowl that darkened his features, a small scar bisecting his top lip on the right side which was turned down in contemplation. His eyes were scanning the room, taking in everyone and everything surrounding him. He seemed, unsure yet curious.

Interesting.

Realizing that he had stopped dead in his tracks, Alistair reminded himself to relax and continued towards the striking man that had just graced his bar with his presence.

Tonight may be looking up after all.

As Alistair approached, he noticed two things: first, he saw the stranger’s eyes watching him with a hungry intensity, next, he noticed a lightening of said gentleman’s scowl as he drew closer. Wearing his most friendly, welcoming smile--which wasn’t that difficult as he was genuinely intrigued by this new handsome face that had just walked into his world--Alistair leaned into the newcomer at the end of the bar.

“What’s your pleasure?” He said to the intriguing stranger who watched him approach with the most amazing amber colored eyes.

Cullen blinked and stared dumbly at the bartender who had just taken his breath away with a mere smile. He knew that he’d been asked a question, but it was as if he spoke another language. His mind registered the voice; it was like a refreshing rain after a particularly desiccated summer, but he couldn’t place the words. Blinking again through the haze, he cleared his throat and asked, “I’m sorry… you said?”

Alistair leaned in closer, leaning his elbow on the counter. Finding a boldness he’d long forgotten he possessed, he rephrased his question, “A drink? What would you like? I’d give you your usual, but considering this is your first time here--and I am not a mind reader, like little Lana over there,” he indicated the tiny waitress. “You’ll have to help me out a little.” His grin grew with his courage, “Give me time though, and I will have your pleasures memorized and offered up upon your arrival in the future.”

Alistair felt strangely emboldened by the striking man before him. There was something about the handsome man that drew him in, like a moth to a flame. He prayed the feeling might be mutual. He’d have to remember to ask Lana later. If she’d be willing to share that is. She rarely was.

Cullen was completely unprepared for the feelings that were washing over him.

Is this incredibly winsome man actually flirting with me?

Shaking his head, he dismissed the thought as unlikely; believing instead that the bartender was just really good at what he did. Finding the man’s smile disarming yet friendly, however, he allowed himself to relax and decided to enjoy the eye-candy before him while having a drink to finish off his night.

He managed to stutter out a simple, “Scotch… or Whiskey on the rocks.” Then added as an afterthought, “Johnny Walker--Black if you’ve got it?”

Cullen watched as the bartender smiled in understanding and walked off to fill his drink order. He wasn’t paying attention to what was being poured as his attention was distracted by the particular way that his ass moved in those well-fitting jeans.

Pull it together Rutherford, you’re going to creep this guy out if you keep on with your ogling. You don’t even know his name. Do people ask bartenders names? Should I? Would that be weird? Will he even remember me after I leave tonight? One face of many that he sees, I’m sure I’ll be quickly forgotten. Would he even be interested?

As he was having his own inner dialogue, the petite waitress--that the bartender had named ‘Lana’--stopped at his elbow and whispered, “Relax. He’s been waiting for you longer than even he realizes.” And with that cryptic statement, she wandered off again.

Strange.

Alistair turned just as Lana was walking away from their newest guest whose eyes were following her in disbelief.

Uh oh, what’d she just say to him? Maker, please don’t let her be doing that creepy thing she does again!

Finishing his silent plea, he vowed to ask her about what that was all about later. Bringing over the freshly poured drink, he confessed, “I do have Black, but try this instead. I don’t mean to pry into your business, but you look like you could use something… better to take the edge off your day.”

Cullen chuckled but mumbled mostly to himself, “You have no idea.”

Taking a sip, Cullen closed his eyes at the smooth burn as it went down his throat. He let out a low moan without meaning to and heard the bartender chuckle.

“Black is good, but only Blue Reserve goes down that smoothly.” Alistair was talking, but he was etching that indecently arousing sound into his memory.

What I wouldn’t do to be the cause of that moan under more... private surroundings.

Alistair heard Lana giggle which brought him out of his reverie. He tossed a bar towel at her which she deftly snatched out of the air, draped it over her arm, and continued on about her work as if nothing unusual had just happened.

Cullen’s eyes grew wide as he stared into his glass. Fully aware that the cost of the Blue Reserve was usually well above his pay grade.

Alistair reassured him when he caught the look of dismay, “This one’s on the house, friend. Like I said, you look like you could use it. What’s your name?”

Taking another sip, he nodded his head in thanks before swallowing and answering with a small smile, “Cullen. You?”

Alistair beamed down at him and pointed dramatically to the sign above the bar that read, ‘Alistair’s House of Whine and Cheese’. Then he said with a slight bow, “I’m Alistair, welcome to my humble establishment.”

Cullen chuckled at the name, “Wine and cheese? Did I order the wrong drink then?”

Used to this response, Alistair reached beneath the bar and produced a tray containing crackers, pretzels, and at least three different kinds of cheeses. Setting it in front of Cullen and exaggerating the H, he over-enunciated, “Wh...ine and Cheese. A place for people to come in, relax, socialize, and occasionally whine about their problems. I happen to have a gift for gab, or so I’ve been told. Though in all honesty, I spend more time listening than talking myself.” Noticing a tall Qunari approaching the bar, Alistair excused himself. “Ah… duty calls. Take a moment to enjoy; I’ll be right back.” He indicated the drink and tray of food sitting before his newest guest, as he turned to serve his other guests.

Cullen watched as Alistair poured the drinks; paying particular attention to the way his shoulders rolled under the thin cotton of his t-shirt, muscles undulating as he shook one martini after another into their waiting glasses. Cullen picked at his food and hid his face behind another swig of scotch as his mind wandered:

Oh how I’d love to run my hands over those shoulders, wrap him in my arms, hold him tightly against my chest, feeling his body heat mix with my own, inhale the light spiciness of his cologne as I breathe him in while I lean in to kiss that tender spot just under and behind his ear…

“~Breathe~” he heard whispered in a strangely familiar voice at his elbow, bringing him out of his daydream.

Realizing that he had, in fact, been holding his breath, he turned to question the woman as to how she seemed to be so aware of his inner thoughts, but she was already walking away giggling. This seemed to draw Alistair’s attention, who turned and was now smiling brightly at him.

Crap! He caught me staring!

Cullen felt his face flush, so he looked down into his drink and took another sip to try to drown out his embarrassment and pull himself together.

Way to go Rutherford. The first handsome face that’s caught your interest in over a decade and you’re going to scare him away if you’re not careful.

Still, he couldn’t help but steal glances here and there when he was relatively sure that Alistair was otherwise occupied.

Maker’s breath but he is beautiful!

Those honey-brown eyes had already begun to melt the ice covering his heart, leaving behind an ache so profound that Cullen pondered how it could still be beating. For so long now his work had ruled over everything. His duty always came first, but this… maybe it was time to do something for himself. He’d been alone for longer than he cared to remember. But doubt still plagued his soul. Could this handsome man possibly be interested in someone as duty bound and broken as he felt most days? He knew it would take more than just one drink to build up the kind of courage he would need to ask.

Having finished up with his other customers, Alistair was now free to return to his conversation with Cullen. Turning back, he noticed that he seemed to be brooding over his now-empty glass with a myriad of emotions ghosting across his face. His heart almost broke with the pain he saw there. He wanted to fix it for him, ease his troubles and make all that anguish go away. Alistair was pretty sure that he caught him staring at him a little while ago, but now he was staring studiously anywhere but at him.

Did my flirting offend him somehow?

A chair scraped the floor off to his left, pulling him out of his own thoughts. Lana was looking at him and in answer to his worry, she was shaking her head ‘no’. Then she jerked her head in Cullen’s direction which usually meant that it was time to put his ‘bartending’ skills to use. He was here to listen after all. Pouring his guest another drink, he approached the now dour faced man.

Reaching out, Alistair removed the empty glass from Cullen’s grasp, their fingers brushing lightly against each other before he could replace it with a fresh drink. He thought he heard Cullen’s small gasp when their skin touched. Alistair knew exactly how he felt as that single touch sent a shock through his whole body as well.

What in the Makers holy name is happening to me?

Leaning against the bar once again, Alistair asked the questions he’d asked thousands of times before, but this was the first one he’d ever actually cared hearing the answers to. “So… what brings you into my fine establishment on a Tuesday night? New in town?” Looking over at Lana, he saw her shaking her head, ‘no’ again.

Cullen didn’t miss the softening of Alistair’s voice as he spoke, how it changed from the airs he’d seen him weaving with his other customers. Now it was more… personal? He also didn’t miss the jolt as their fingers touched when he brought him another drink. Taking a tentative sip, expecting it to be the Black he’d originally ordered, Cullen was once again surprised to have the smoother, gentler Blue in his glass. Taking a deep breath, Cullen decided then and there that he really didn’t have anything to lose, so he began to open up a little to the man he was inexplicably drawn to.

“Work. My work brought me to this part of town. That’s not uncommon, however, it frequently does.” His voice took on a note of frustration. “Tonight I was wandering, trying to come up with new angles for a case that I’m working on when I realized that I had never explored this particular street before. As I reached your door, a couple of your patrons stumbled out in front of me which caused me to stop and look around. I daresay I came upon your pub quite by accident.”

Thank the Maker!

Finding a little more courage from his second drink, Cullen added quietly before taking another sip, “Now I’m very glad I did.”

Alistair noticed that Lana was now behind the bar taking over for him so he could stay and talk with Cullen.

I will have to find some way to thank her for that later.

She nodded in acknowledgement to his thoughts as he pulled up a stool and poured himself a drink to settle into talking to this gorgeous man before him.

“Case? So, that makes you…” Alistair baited him for an answer.

“A detective, though please don’t hold that against me.” he ventured a crooked smile at Alistair who chuckled.

“So I take it your case isn’t going well?” Alistair was leading the conversation, but the more he got the man to talk, the more interesting he was to him. Not just easy on the eyes interesting, but good for the soul interesting as well.

Cullen shook his head, “Not really. A bunch of dead ends and empty leads. I’ll figure it out eventually though, I usually do. Unfortunately, not all of my cases end in a happily ever after.”

Concerned, he asked, “I take it with this one, you’re not expecting one?”

“I can’t go into details, so please don’t ask for them,” Cullen said in gentle warning. “But no, at this point I don’t. It’s a hazard of the job, I’m afraid. Those unfortunate endings usually leave me drinking at home, alone. Now that I’ve found this place though,”

…and you, Maker you’re like a dream come true!

 “perhaps I will have another destination to wh-ine away my sorrows.” Cullen ventured another small smile and a quick wink at the man who had pulled up a chair to sit and chat with him for a while.

Alistair chuckled softly, “Drinking alone is never as satisfying as when you’re with good company. You are welcome here, anytime.” He clinked his own glass against Cullen’s for good measure before taking a sip.

The two men smiled at each other for a moment, lost in each other’s gazes when Cullen cleared his throat and asked tentatively, “So... what about you?”

“Me?” Alistair asked hesitantly.

“You.” Cullen elaborated, “Watching you interact with your customers, you smile and banter, but…if I may say so, you seem a little… I don’t know, sad too. What does a”

...incredibly gorgeous

successful man, who owns his own bar, have to be unhappy about?”

Shit! How much of that actually came out of my mouth? Careful Rutherford!

Alistair was taken aback. First, no one ever asked about him or seemed to care what was going on in his life, with the exception of Lana and Leliana of course. And secondly, this stranger actually seemed genuinely interested.

Taking another sip from his glass, he said with a genuine smile, “And here I thought you were in the area to investigate a different case. Am I being interrogated, Detective?”

“Commander.” Cullen corrected him automatically.

“Pardon?”

“My rank… it’s actually… Commander, but that’s beside the point and you’re deflecting.”

Alistair looked up and saw that Cullen was smirking at him. That was certainly a good look for him. Grinning, he said. “So I am. So I am. I will admit to rarely having anyone ask over my own well-being, not and actually mean it anyway. That might take some time getting used to.”

Cullen murmured into his drink, “I’ve got nothing but time.”

Lana wandered up and observed, “My, my. Two men, both used to asking the questions; neither prepared to give answers… whatever shall you do?” She laughed good naturedly, as she wandered off again.

Cullen watched her leave once again and said, “that's… a bit disconcerting, maybe she should be a detective.”

“No, no, no! Baaad Idea.” Alistair actually looked mortified at the thought. “Lana's an empath as well as telepathic. She feels the emotions of those around her. Working in an environment where people have bad things happen all the time would tear her apart from the inside. Trust me… we’ve been there. Well not there exactly, but… similar. Her being a detective would be… very bad.” Lana actually shuddered from her place at the other end of the bar.

Alistair continued. “You get used to her quirks after a while. When you've been together as long as we have, you rarely even notice them anymore. Plus, she’s usually more discrete than this, tonight she seems to be busting my chops more than usual.” He looked over at the waitress in contemplation of her odd behavior then stuck his tongue out at her as she waved innocently back at them. Turning back to his guest, he continued, “Or she see’s something in you that makes her more comfortable to be herself. That’s not a bad option either. Most likely… it’s a little of both.”

“Together? So you’re...” Cullen felt a little crushed that this amazing man might be already spoken for.

Alistair quickly jumped in, “No! Nothing like that!” Alistair reassured him. “Maker's breath, Leliana would kill me if I ever so much as made eyes at her wife.” To illustrate the point, he pointed to the musician who had finished her set and had come up next to the waitress behind the bar. Lana was taking the opportunity to show Cullen exactly who it was she belonged with.

Cullen quickly looked away and blushed into his own drink.

Alistair decided to throw out another hint towards this adorably blushing man, “Besides, she's not exactly… my type.”

Cullen nodded and somehow, finding his courage, asked, “So, are you… seeing anyone?”

“Nope, nope, just me, my bar and my ridiculous love of cheese… You?” Alistair returned the question, daring to hope.

“No. Just married to my work.” Cullen was looking into Alistair’s eyes as he spoke and watched as they lit up with their own smile.

“Good to know.” Alistair grinned a bit breathlessly. They gazed at each other for several long moments before Alistair cleared his throat and focused back on his drink. Damn those eyes were something else, if he wasn’t careful, they would be the end of him actually having functioning brain cells.

Breaking the silence, Cullen ventured again, realizing that Alistair had never answered his question from earlier, “I’m sorry if my asking over you caused you any discomfort. I may not be psychic like Lana, but I am trained to see what’s just below the surface. Sometimes it’s nice to have someone else listen for once.” He took a drink while watching Alistair watch him, “I am… not unwilling, should you decide you want to talk.”

“Thank you. I will certainly keep that in mind. Though I can’t honestly say that I have anything tangible to be ‘unhappy’ about. How ‘bout I think on it and get back to you.”

“Is that an invitation to return?” Cullen asked hopefully.

“Well… this is a public establishment.” Alistair grinned at him and winked, “But… yes. I would very much like it if you did.”

Finishing his second drink, Cullen grinned back, “I will certainly do that then.” Looking at his watch, he groaned then grumbled, declaring, “Six o’clock comes way too early, I should probably get going and let you get back to your other customers.”

Cullen reached for his wallet to pay for his drinks, but Alistair wouldn’t allow it. “Nope, none of that. I told you it was on me and I meant it.” Alistair winked at the Commander whose hand had paused before returning his wallet to his inner coat pocket.

“Very well. Then you also have my thanks.” Cullen smiled at him then said, “I hope to see you again, Alistair.”

“It was a pleasure to meet you, Cullen.” Alistair told his new favorite customer as he donned his coat and headed for the door.

Before he stepped outside, Cullen thought he heard Lana say something to Alistair who responded laughingly, “Oh Hush you! Mind your own business!"

Heading back towards where he parked his Jeep, Cullen had a genuine smile on his face for the first time in he couldn’t remember how long. He looked once more over his shoulder at the sign with the giant wheel of cheese on it and a wine glass in its center. He knew for a fact that he would be back. Probably sooner than he should be, but the tug on his heart already told him that he wouldn’t be able to stay away for long.



Alistairs Sign cleaned up

 

Alistair’s sign painted by my dear friend: Melissa Meader!

 

 

Chapter Text


Cocktails & Cheese

Cullen and Alistair - A Modern Day AU

Chapter 2

Some Friendly Encouragement Part 1


 Cullen’s monotonous schedule took on a whole new routine after that first evening at Alistair’s. Slowly becoming one of their Tuesday/Thursday night regulars, he would finish his shift, hop in his Jeep, and head downtown to visit with his new friends while he wound down from the day's stresses. The mellow atmosphere was enjoyable, the music was pleasant: the bard’s lilting voice imbedding soothing refrains into his subconscious. Lana and Leliana were always friendly and warm, but ultimately, it was the owner’s easy banter that kept drawing him back in.  

The smile that lit up Alistair’s face when Cullen walked in, would lift his heart even after the most trying day. Their conversations were friendly and relaxed, even playful. There was something about the way he would lean into the bar while they talked that made Cullen feel like he was someone important. Not, ‘Commander’ important, that he was already used to; just… important.

A part of him knew that it was a bartender’s job to make people feel welcome and comfortable. He witnessed Alistair sharing that same smile with other patrons who came in, yet he didn’t care. Cullen came back--night after night--to fill that hole in his life he only recently acknowledged. Somehow, Alistair could make it feel like he was happier to see Cullen than all the others. It didn’t matter that he probably didn’t return Cullen’s growing infatuation. As long as he didn’t cross the line of propriety, Cullen could come in, relax, and pretend for an evening that he was somebody to someone.

~*~

One Friday, almost two months into this new routine, Cullen received a text message from his best friend in Minrathous.

 [15:30]

Dorian: Are you busy?

Cullen:  No more than usual.

Dorian:  Work is bringing me your way next week. Have space for a wayward vagabond for a couple of nights?

Cullen:  Of course, are you ready for the rematch?

Dorian:  Are you so eager to lose to me again?

Cullen:  At last tally, you were down four games, Mage.

Dorian:  Well then, it’s past time for you to lose, Templar.

Cullen:  You’re on! When will you be arriving?

Dorian:  Tuesday.

[15:45]

Dorian: Cullen?

Cullen: Sorry, um. Do you still have your key?

Dorian: You busy on a case?

Cullen: Not exactly…

Dorian: Hot date?

[15:50]

Cullen: …Well I… 

Dorian:  Venhedis! What haven’t you told me?

Dorian:  Why am I the last to know?

Dorian:  Who’s the lucky guy?

Dorian:  How’d you meet?

Dorian:  Is he as handsome as I am?

Dorian:  Never mind that, no one looks this good.

Dorian:  Dammit Man! Answer me!

[15:53]

Cullen:  It’s not like that… I just…

Dorian:  Oh ho! I see! Haven’t built up the nerve to make your move yet, huh?

Cullen:  You know me too well. I don’t… actually know if he’s interested.

Dorian:  You need a strong dose of confidence to nudge you along and a fabulous judge of character! Good thing I’m coming to visit!

Cullen:  You’re incorrigible.

Dorian:  You’re Welcome. So, where will I find you on Tuesday?

Cullen:  I’ll find you. What time is your train arriving?

[16:10]

Cullen:  Dorian?

Dorian:  Sorry had to check, I come in at eight p.m.

Cullen:  Okay, I’ll pick you up at the station.

Dorian:  Don’t be late!

Cullen:  Yes, dear.

Setting his phone down, Cullen sighed. He usually enjoyed his visits with Dorian, they were few and far between lately. But something told him that his friend from Tevinter was going to be more trouble than he was worth this trip. Still, he wouldn’t be in until eight o’clock, which meant that he would still have time for a quick trip to Alistair’s on his way to the train station. That thought alone, brought a smile to his face.  

~*~

Cullen waited--impatiently--to be able to go back to Alistair’s again. The Thursday to Tuesday wait was getting more and more difficult for him. On more than one occasion, he even pondered going in on one of his off days, just to fill the gap. But he couldn’t bring himself to break out of his routine. The anticipation drove him; and by the time Tuesday rolled around again, he was positively giddy and unable to wait for his shift to end so he could go see that charming man again.

He almost felt guilty for the little infatuation he let himself indulge in. He was convinced that, as long as he kept to a predictable schedule, he wouldn’t cross any lines or upset the comfortable balance they’d come to enjoy. It’d been too long since Cullen felt any spark for anyone. Whether this went anywhere or not, he was content to just enjoy it. Whatever this was… or wasn’t; it was enough.

This particular Tuesday, Cullen was happily sitting at the bar enjoying his Blue. Alistair still refused to give him anything less and stubbornly refused payment no matter how hard Cullen tried. He even attempted challenging Alistair; the winner gets to pay the tab. They played pool, cards, and even thumb wrestled; but Alistair always managed to win. The one time Cullen beat him at darts, Lana came up behind them and split his bullseye with one throw of a dart. She announced that since she won, he still wouldn’t be allowed to pay. As tiny as she was, Cullen new better than to cross her. To allay the costs to the bar itself, Cullen limited himself to one drink per visit.

Knowing that he didn’t have much time, with Dorian arriving in just over an hour, Cullen was determined to enjoy as much of it as possible. It was a fairly quiet night. Lana was currently taking a break, sitting on the edge of the stage drinking in every note of her wife’s beautiful voice. Cullen enjoyed seeing how happy the two women were together. He was convinced, that if ever there was a couple made for each other, it was Lana and Leliana Surana.

Looking over at Alistair with barely concealed longing, he wondered if he could ever be so lucky. The object of his hidden affection was currently delivering drinks to the only other patron in the place. Sighing quietly to himself, Cullen pondered how he would explain his change in routine for the night. Would it seem strange to them that Dorian was coming to stay with him for a couple of days? Would that information even matter? He certainly didn’t want to give off the wrong idea.

His biggest fear currently was that Alistair would think he and Dorian were in a relationship, but he didn’t know exactly why that thought bothered him. It’s not as if they’d ever discussed becoming more than what they were. The only time the subject of their relationship status was discussed, was on the day they met. That was almost eight weeks ago, for all he knew, Alistair was already seeing someone else.   

You worry too much Rutherford, you know that there is nothing between you and Alistair any more than there is between you and Dorian. It’s just a comfortable friendship and your one-way infatuation. He won’t care one way or another.

Shaking his head to clear the negative thoughts, Cullen checked his watch to make sure that he wouldn’t be late picking up his friend.

“Someplace you’d rather be tonight?” Alistair asked with a smirk, having successfully snuck up on the distracted detective.

Cullen smiled sheepishly at being startled, “No... Not exactly.” Taking a breath, he decided that it was as good a time as any to bring up the subject of him leaving early, “A friend is coming into town tonight. I’m supposed to pick them up at the train station at eight and I shouldn't be late or I'll never hear the end of it. I still have about an hour before I need to leave though.”

Unsure of what to make of that information, Alistair tried to ignore the tightening in his chest and decided to inquire further, “A… good friend?”

So distracted by the turn of their conversation, Alistair barely registered the door opening or the entrance of a new customer. He was normally very good at greeting everyone as they came in; now, he was only dimly aware that Lana had said ‘Hello and Welcome’ in his mind’s absence.

Cullen shifted uncomfortably on his stool, “I suppose. We’ve known each other for years.” Pausing for a moment, he decided that all information was better than half-truths that could easily be misinterpreted, “He’s a doctor from Tevinter. We met about 10 years ago… under some pretty stressful circumstances. Though his main office is in Minrathous, he has a second clinic here in Denerim and comes to town a few times per year to check on it and to do research. Since he’s not here that often, he usually just crashes on my couch when he’s in town.”

Alistair wasn’t sure what to make of this new information. Only vaguely aware of a new shadow approaching them slowly, all he could think of was that Cullen would have another man staying with him. He didn’t know why that bothered him so much. Cullen even said that the visitor sleeps on the couch when he stays, but Alistair’s head was spinning at the prospect of something more.

“He?” Alistair finally managed to say, sounding far too strangled for his liking.

The shadow in his peripheral vision came into focus directly behind and to the right of the handsome Commander. There, stood a tall, slender man, wearing a cape-like-coat draped over one shoulder. He had dark, mocha colored skin, black hair, piercing brown eyes and a mustache that he appeared to spend way too much time preening. The new face smiled brightly at him, though Alistair’s eyes zeroed in on his left hand which was laying--much too comfortably--on Cullen’s shoulder; rubbing it affectionately. Cullen stiffened at the initial contact, but did not pull away, his eyes trained studiously on the glass in his hands.

Before he had time to fully process what was happening, the new arrival reached his right hand towards Alistair and offered, “That ‘he’ you were discussing, must be me! Please allow me to introduce myself; I am Dorian of House Pavus, most recently from Minrathous. I am a distinguished Doctor of Psychology at the University of Tevinter and as my friend mentioned, I also have a clinic here in Denerim. Before you ask, because how could you not? My area of expertise is: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders and their subsequent success at re-integrating into society. I’m sure you must have heard of me and my fantastic research breakthroughs, they really are quite something!” He said the last, patting then squeezing Cullen’s shoulder, looking at him with nothing short of fondness before looking back at Alistair, “And who might you be?”

Shaking his hand hesitantly, Alistair responded with a tight lipped smile, “My name is Alistair, welcome to my pub.”

Cullen’s head dropped down on his arms on top of the bar. Grumbling something unintelligible, he gripped tightly to his half empty glass.

“What was that Amatus?” Dorian smirked at his obviously uncomfortable friend.

Alistair’s head snapped back to Dorian at the familiar term of endearment.

Amatus? Shit! That means there is… something between them. There goes any chance I may have had.

Alistair sighed sadly to himself, but was determined to be happy for his friend.

Growling into his arms, Cullen mumbled louder to Dorian, “I thought you weren’t getting here until eight.”

Dorian grinned unabashedly, “Funny thing that… I lied. I am known to do that from time to time.”

Looking at Alistair with his hand still on Cullen’s shoulder, Dorian began to rub small circles that Alistair couldn't keep his eyes off of. “His Lieutenant was kind enough to tell me where the dear, Commander has been whiling away his off hours lately since he was so hesitant to pick me up this evening. I simply had to see for myself what was so important that he would feel the need to make me wait.” Dorian smiled, looking Alistair up and down, “Now I see what all the fuss was about.”

Feeling like Dorian was undressing him with his eyes, Alistair’s smile faded completely.

How dare this cocky ass saunter in here and stake claim to my… my what? My… nothing. Calm down Al… let it go. The least you can be is happy for Cullen.

Shaking his head to clear the rush of emotions washing over and confusing him: disappointment, sadness, heartbreak; Alistair tried to regain his figurative footing. The man across from him, that he’d been harboring a secret crush on, seemed to be already taken. Had he missed that conversation somewhere? Was this new? An old fling come to call?

He called him… Amatus. Doesn’t that mean… love?

Lana rose from her perch on the stage to approach Alistair at the bar. Gathering glasses on the way to give her an excuse to grab his attention and hopefully get him to relax. He’d missed her usual cues to look at her so she could assuage his fears. With his focus finally on her, she smiled encouragingly and shook her head minutely to let Alistair know that his fears were unfounded. She passed over the glasses with a gentle touch on his hand before backing away hoping that he would keep her in sight so she could help him should he need it.

Alistair knew Lana was there to encourage him, he trusted her to always have his back. But in her coming over, he’d missed part of the exchange between Dorian and Cullen, who was still face down on the bar. As Alistair approached, he saw a beet red, Cullen finally look up from his arms to acknowledge the tall man standing next to him.

“How has Bull put up with you all these years?” He grumbled.

Dorian responded with a devious grin, “He’s just lucky I guess. Can’t get enough of my devilish charm and rapier wit!”

Looking between the two men, Alistair asked blandly, “Bull is?”

Looking apologetically at Alistair, Cullen responded before Dorian could open his mouth again to make his night even worse. “Bull is his husband.” He wanted Alistair to know, beyond anything else, that his friend was already taken and in no way romantically involved with him.

Relief and the return of hope began to wash through Alistair as Dorian described his spouse, “Huge, handsome Qunari, puts up with my shit beautifully, if I do say so myself. Granted, he’s also very…”

Cullen chimed in, “Possessive?”

Laughing, Dorian nodded, “I was going to say, cautious over my ability to literally charm the pants off of anybody.” He directed his next statement towards Alistair, “The only person I get permission to come visit is this surly one here. He’s too duty bound and ruled by honor to tarnish my sterling reputation or pose any sort of a threat to my… devoted husband.”

Cullen groaned audibly as he finished his drink, wishing there was more in the glass than what was currently there.

Looking at Cullen once again, Dorian inquired, “Hey, how many of those have you had? I hope you’re still ok to drive, you know I never learned how.”

“Apparently not enough to find you being here amusing. And I’m fine to drive, I’d never let you drive my Jeep anyway.” He smiled at Alistair as he passed him his empty glass, “Looks like my time is up sooner than I thought it would be tonight. See you Thursday?” Cullen quirked a crooked smile hopefully.

That smile alone eased Alistair’s heart and the gentle brush of their fingers, lingering a tad longer than they needed to as he had passed him the glass, sent the usual tingles through his body.

Shaking off the last of his dread and content once again with the knowledge that Cullen would be back to see him, he responded with a chuckle, “I look forward to it.” As an afterthought, he turned to the doctor, “It was nice to meet you, Dorian. Will you be joining him on Thursday as well?”

Cullen quickly responded, “No! Not if I can help it.” Then looked pointedly at Dorian, “He will be busy with his research. Won’t you.”

Dorian pouted dramatically, “You never take me anywhere fun!”

“It’s your husband's job to cater to your whims, not mine.” Cullen bantered back easily.

“Truthfully, I only have tomorrow and Thursday morning to complete my research. There are some tomes at the University and Chantry which I don’t have back home that I need to look into. I will be returning to the train station Thursday night.”

Cullen looked at Dorian and nodded, “Short trip this time?”

“Yes, Bull gets into trouble if I leave him for too long.”

Cullen grinned with relief at his friend, “Problem solved then.”

Grabbing his coat, he held the door for Dorian while he cast one last look at Alistair. Waving his goodbye, Cullen stepped out into the night.

So used to his friend’s lack of personal boundaries, Cullen didn’t flinch as Dorian threaded their arms together while they walked towards the Jeep. Neither was he smiling any longer however, as the annoyance of his friend’s intrusion washed over him.

Squeezing Cullen’s arm, Dorian began to tease him, “He’s… very handsome.”

“Oh come on Dorian, you know you didn’t have to come all the way down here to embarrass me like that!”

“You know you wouldn’t have brought me down to meet him yourself. How would I ever have seen your sexy little redhead otherwise?”

Approaching the Jeep, Cullen noticed Dorian’s bag already in the back seat, “I thought you looked like you were traveling a little light. What happened to my wards? Why do I even bother locking this thing?”

Chuckling, Dorian offered, “The wards are only there to keep out people and things that mean you harm, not me my dear. Why would I set wards to keep myself out? What a silly thought!” He smiled smugly to his friend.

“Your intent to sabotage me tonight should have been enough to set them off.” Cullen gruffed before changing the subject as they climbed in, “Why have you never learned how to drive Dorian?”  

“I’ve never had to. Growing up, we always had servants who drove us, and in a city like Minrathous, public transportation is everywhere. I can get wherever I want to go at any hour of the day. And if that fails, I have other unorthodox modes of transportation for getting around to my more common haunts.” Dorian wiggled his fingers at Cullen who chuckled at his antics. A comfortable silence fell over the car as they traveled towards the other side of town.

Knowing it would come up eventually, Cullen opted to rip off the bandage and face the music now, “Well? Go ahead and let me have it.”

“Whatever do you mean?” Dorian responded with mock innocence.

“I know you’re about to impart your infinite wisdom on me, so you might as well get it out of your system sooner rather than later.” He dreaded the inevitable, but Cullen always preferred to face things head on.

Laughing, Dorian consented, “Weeeellll… He is easy on the eyes.”

Cheeks tinged pink, Cullen grinned as he drove, “I think so.”

“I noticed that you didn’t pay for your drink.”

Cullen shrugged and admitted, “I’ve tried, believe me. He… never lets me.”

Nodding his approval, Dorian continued, “That’s a good sign. You go there a lot I take it? I never pictured you a bar fly.”

Taking a breath, Cullen began, “I’ve never had a reason to hang out in bars before. They’re usually too loud and impersonal. When I discovered Alistair’s, I found it neither loud nor impersonal.” Cullen smiled to himself remembering his many encounters with the handsome bartender, “I’ve been going every Tuesday and Thursday ever since.”

Dorian laughed good naturedly, “You do like your schedules. So… Redhead huh? You know Bull is going to be so jealous. I can’t wait to tell him!”

Blushing profusely, Cullen lamented, “You two aren’t going to let me live this down are you?”

“What… and miss out on all that adorable blushing you do?” Cullen shook his head to try to clear his embarrassment as Dorian continued, “So tell dear ol’ Doctor Dorian how he can help you get the boy.”

Suddenly serious, Cullen responded, “I don’t need your help, Dorian. I’m doing just fine.”

Dorian laughed, “Oh are you? Do you have his number yet?”

Cullen hesitated a moment before responding, “Well… not exactly.”

“What’s his family name?” Dorian inquired.

“Uh…” Cullen hedged.

“Have you kissed him yet?”

“Maker Dorian, leave it alone!” Cullen was getting irritated. “I told you, I’m fine!” He said heatedly.

Dorian turned and stared intently at his friend driving. Watching quietly for a moment, he noticed that Cullen gripped the steering wheel a little too tightly, worrying away at the leather covering, and his cheeks were redder than he’d ever seen them before. “Well, well, well, I never thought I’d see the day. Cullen Rutherford is falling in love.” Dorian’s voice became serious, but was still tinged with amusement and an overlay of affection.

“What? I am not! How could I… we haven’t even…” Cullen sputtered.

Dorian asked gently, “Does he make you feel like you’re the most important person in the room?”

Cullen sighed as he thought about it, “Always. But that doesn’t mean anything, he’s a bartender, that’s what he does for everybody.”

“And when you touch, do you feel it like lightning down to your toes?” Dorian spoke from the heart--from experience.

Taking a shuddering breath, Cullen responded, “I... do. Every time.”

“When you are away from him, do you feel the pull to be with him to the point of distraction?”

Cullen gulped, unable to verbally respond, he just nodded. Excitement and fear emanating from him.

“I only have one more question for you, my friend. Before I ask it though, I need you to know that here, with me, you are safe. Are you ready for my question?”

Shaking his head, Cullen delayed their conversation, “Give me a moment, we’re almost home.” He was used to his ex-therapist’s gentle lead-ups and knew that he wouldn’t like whatever it was Dorian was about to ask. Cullen pulled into his parking spot and turned off the Jeep.

Knowing that he’d done his best to limit the danger, Cullen allowed Dorian to ask his question, trusting him implicitly, “Ok, what did you want to ask?”

Nodding his approval of Cullen’s safety measures, he began carefully, “If said that you could never see him again, how does that make you feel?” The doctor finished his question in a whisper. He knew that the answer could potentially cause Cullen genuine pain which could in turn trigger one of Cullen’s flashbacks. He watched and waited as the distress passed over his friend’s features.

Cullen tightened his grip on the steering wheel as his breathing came in gasps.

Trying to calm himself as he’d been trained, he began to focus on his breathing--slow, deep, deliberate. As he regained control, he answered honestly, “Sssick to my stomach, my head… hurts, and it’s hard… to breathe. My chest is tight and my extremities are beginning to tingle. There’s spots…” He waved vaguely in front of his eyes, indicating it was effecting his vision, suddenly grateful that he had the foresight to stop the Jeep before letting Dorian ask his question.  

Stroking his shoulder, Dorian tried to soothe Cullen’s anxiety, “Breathe, my friend. I’m not going to keep you from him. You are safe here, calm… in complete control. Breathe. That’s it. You are doing so good. Stay with me.” Dorian’s soothing cadence helped to ground Cullen as he encouraged him to focus back on their discussion at hand.

“I am sorry to put you through that and now I must be the bearer of further bad news. Or, as I see it, the bearer of good news, my friend. It is quite plain to see that you… are falling in love with that charming redhead and by that visceral reaction, I’d say that you are falling hard.”

Letting his chin hit his chest, Cullen slumped in his seat and whispered, “What am I going to do Dorian?”

“Do? What do you mean? This is a good thing, a glorious thing!”

“Dorian, he’s gorgeous! He’s funny, he makes me smile even after the toughest days at work. He’s all I ever think about. He’s all I’ve ever wanted… and more!” Cullen’s voice was tinged with panic.

Continuing to stroke his shoulder, Dorian asked, “So? What’s the problem?”

“I... don’t know how to do this. I’m totally out of my league here.” Cullen’s panic came back in full force as he began to hyperventilate.

Dorian slid back into his doctor voice, “Cullen, listen to me. I need you to focus, calm down, and breathe!”

Taking several deep, cleansing breaths, Cullen calmed himself enough to admit, “That’s what Lana’s always telling me.”

“Oh? Who’s Lana? Should I be jealous that you’re seeing another therapist on the side?”

Shaking his head, Cullen explained, “She’s the waitress at Alistair’s; and you haven’t been my official counselor in the better part of a decade.” He reminded his friend.

“So, I take it this, Lana, knows how you feel about Alistair?”

Cullen shrugged, “We’ve never really talked about it. She just… Lana is… has… certain abilities.”

“Oh? Do tell!” Dorian perked up with interest.

“She’s a reader, for lack of a better term. She can read people’s thoughts and emotions, though she doesn’t seem able to project them back. Not that I’ve seen anyway, she usually responds verbally when she has picked up something from me.”

Dorian gasped, “You just let her in? I would expect you of all people to shield yourself from that.” He seemed appalled yet intrigued by this little revelation.

“Normally, I would. But there’s something about her that puts me at ease, she seems... familiar and safe, though I’ve never been able to put my finger on why.

“Maybe it’s because she works for the man you’re secretly drooling over. And he is quite tasty, I can see your attraction.”

“I thought you liked your men… larger… with horns.”

“Mmmm… I do love my Bull; that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate a more petite figure here and there.”

Cullen snorted, “I wouldn’t necessarily consider Alistair… petite.”

“Compared to Bull?”

“Compared to Bull… I look small!”

“My point exactly! So, tell me more about Lana. With your past, I would expect you to walk a little more cautiously around someone with that type of… access to your mind. Yet, you didn’t seem on guard at all when I came in.”

“I don’t feel like I’m in danger there. In the beginning, some of her insights, would take me by surprise, but I’ve never sensed anything malevolent from Lana. I get the feeling that her abilities are both a gift and a curse, so she actively tries to respect others’ privacy by keeping her own shields up. From what I’ve gathered, she doesn’t like to intrude any more than we want her eavesdropping. If it were anyone else… if she treated her ability any differently… it’s hard to say how I would react.”

“I have a pretty good idea. It took you quite a while to trust me in the beginning.”

“Yes, but I was a hot mess when I was first assigned to you.”


“That you were! But look how far you’ve come! A romantic interest within sights, a skilled empath in your vicinity, and yet, you still looked comfortable, calm, and relaxed when I first saw you sitting at the bar tonight. You are definitely not the same man that I met ten years ago.”

“You’re lucky you’re alive! I was not so trustful of mages when we met.”

Dorian laughed, “That is an understatement! Unfortunately, you had cause and I was patient, look how far we’ve come.” He smiled with genuine affection before asking, “So does Lana share my penchant for things of the arcane? I don’t think I’ve met a physic or empath yet that didn’t have at least some magical ability.”

“I suspect as much, though her energy feels very different than yours and I’ve yet to see her manipulate the forces that surround her. Mostly she just teases me, she’s always coming by and reminding me to breathe when I’ve gotten lost in one fantasy or another regarding Alistair.”

“Oh?… he takes your breath away as well? And frequently, by the sound of it. You may be more far gone than I had originally thought.” Dorian clicked his tongue at his friend. “So… new friends and a hot man, when are you going to ask him out?”

Cullen groaned audibly, “I don’t know, Dorian, I’m a complete mess! Why would someone so… perfect want to go out with someone like me?”

“No one’s perfect, Cullen. Everyone has baggage; things in their past they’d rather forget about.”

“I don’t know if I can do this. I’m just not ready. I like hanging out with all of them, and yes, he’s easy on the eyes. But I just… maybe we should just be friends.”

Clapping him on the shoulder, the once-therapist informed Cullen, “Psh… from what I’ve seen so far, you are more than ready! And it’s a good thing I’m here. I think you and Alistair are already past that ‘just friends’ stage. The way you look at him and the way he looks at you…”

“You can’t be serious.”

“Oh, I am serious. You just need to admit the obvious.”

“And what is that?”

“That you’ve got it bad for this… Alistair.”

Cullen whispered to himself, “I do. I really do.”

Congratulating his friend, Dorian said, “Good, good. Now that that’s out of the way, you need to accept the fact that Alistair is interested in you as well.”

“I don’t know about that Dorian; he treats all of his customers like he treats me. He’s just... that nice to everyone.”

“You didn’t notice the look he gave me when I put my hand on your shoulder, did you?”

Cullen looked up confused.

“My friend, if looks could kill, you’d be calling Bull right now and having to explain the awkward circumstances.”

Cullen chuckled at the thought, shaking his head in disbelief.

Dorian asked sadly, “You truly don’t see it do you?”

“See what?” Cullen managed to look more confused than before.

“My friend, when you finally find the nerve to kiss him, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.”

Cullen hummed to himself thinking about kissing those lips. It wasn’t a new fantasy. He’d been dreaming about kissing them since the first day he stumbled into the bar.

“Was it good?” Dorian asked with a smirk on his face; interrupting Cullen’s thoughts.

“Hmm? What’s that?”

Laughing out loud, Dorian declared, “Whatever fantasy that was that caused your tongue to flick across your lips like that! Makes me wish Bull was here with me. We’d have to take over your room again, of course.”

Appalled, Cullen exclaimed, “You broke my bed the last time! The next time you bring him with you, you’re staying in a hotel!”

“We replaced it!”

“That’s not the point!”

“The point is; you should do something about it. In all the time I’ve known you, how many times have you….”

Taken aback, Cullen all but squeaked with indignance, “That’s none of your business!”

“You haven’t… have you?” Dorian touched his shoulder again in comfort and understanding.

“You know why I can’t Dorian.” Cullen growled out in a defeated whisper.

“Are you still having flashbacks?”

Shaking his head, no, Cullen then shrugged and said, “Not as often, but every once in a while something catches me by surprise. I don’t want to hurt anyone… especially him. I wouldn’t be able to forgive myself.”

Dorian reassured him, “I think you need to give yourself more credit. Besides, did you see the muscles under that tight t-shirt of his? I bet there is more to your charming bartender than just a guy that likes to work out. He could probably hold his own against you.”

Cullen had in fact noticed, countless times. “You’re just trying to get me to let him know that I’m interested.”

Dorian smirked, “You won't know until you try.”

Wistfully, Cullen lamented, “You mean, I can’t just continue to go in twice a week and enjoy the view?”

Dorian laughed, “You could… it is a very nice view. But let me tell you from experience, having a partner is infinitely better than using your hand.”

Cullen snorted in laughter, “You’re bad! And I have had actual sexual experiences, thank you very much, I am well aware of the differences.”

“Where? At the Pearl?” Dorian referred to the brothel in the seedier part of Denerim.

Cullen looked mortified, “Maker NO! You know I couldn’t take on something like that so lightly.”

“So… When?” Dorian looked on with genuine curiosity as this was something Cullen never spoke of.

“There was... a fellow Templar. We went through training together and got lucky enough to be stationed at our first post together as well. We were… close, but it never felt like this. We grew up together, so it began with just experimenting and… grew from there.” Cullen spoke quietly of his past, touching on memories that had been long buried.

Dorian was almost afraid to ask, “What… happened to him?”

Cullen shrugged. “I got transferred. Last I heard, he had received permission from the chantry to marry and now has three kids.”

Resting a hand on his friend’s shoulder, he whispered, “I’m sorry.”

Smiling with acceptance, Cullen countered, “Don’t be. He’s happy and I… had my own trials to endure. I am thankful that I didn’t have to drag anyone else through that with me and I’m grateful that he wasn’t there for it… He wouldn’t have survived. No one else did, but me.” He shook his head trying to clear away the memories.

Dorian was surprised that Cullen had mentioned that particular part of his past. It was something few knew about; something he never spoke of outside of their old sessions together. Focusing instead on the ex-lover, he asked, “You cared for him?”

He smiled sadly before admitting, “I did. I probably always will. But that was a lifetime ago.” Sitting for a moment in contemplation, Cullen made a conscious decision, “I think I would like to move on from all of that now.”

Dorian almost cheered, “It’s about time!” He wrapped one arm around his friend in a lopsided hug, “So, should we turn your car back on and head back to the bar then?”

Cullen laughed while correcting his friend, “It’s a Jeep Dorian, not a car. Are you trying to get out of that chess match? Afraid you’re going to lose?”

“Car, Jeep, what’s the difference?” Dorian said flippantly, “And there is nothing that a Pavus fears!”

Getting out of the Jeep and grabbing his friend’s bag, Cullen teased, “Except maybe clashing clothes or muddy shoes.”

Looking horrified, Dorian gasped before replying, “Perish the thought!”

Chapter Text


Cocktails & Cheese

Cullen and Alistair - A Modern Day AU

Chapter 3

Some Friendly Encouragement Part 2


 Wednesday

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.

Was it?

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.

 ~*~

Thursday

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.

Oh great!

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.

Chapter Text


Cocktails & Cheese

Cullen and Alistair - A Modern Day AU

Chapter 4

Wild Weekends


The mission Thursday went off without a hitch. Cullen’s team surrounded the warehouse on the docks; the occupants unaware that their hideout had been compromised. It was standard, break down the door, neutralize the threat, and save the girl, procedure. Or would be, if there were such a thing. 

After two months of being held captive, the woman was malnourished, filthy, and had a few bruises, but was thankfully otherwise unharmed. A ransom demand was never made in return for her safety, which left Cullen’s team confused as to the reasoning behind her capture and extended captivity.

Only Cullen knew the horrific truth. When his team saw the unusual sigils painted around the old warehouse, they wrote off the group as sick and disturbed; probably keeping her for their own twisted pleasures. It was an awful prospect, but nowhere near the reality of what she truly faced.

If the Commander had told his team that they were up against blood-mages, hell bent on summoning a demon with the blood of the young mother, they probably wouldn’t have believed him. Thankfully, he didn’t have to. He’d been with his team long enough that they trusted him implicitly; he called the shots, they followed orders, it was that simple. Most of the time, Cullen didn’t need to filter his information, their cases usually dealt with regular people committing regular crimes. But occasionally, like this night, Cullen’s extra abilities came in handy.

Blood-mages… Why did it have to be, blood-mages?

Cullen could only speculate as to which Demon they were intending on summoning, as they thankfully arrived before the specified time of the event. With the full moon only two days away, he’d been racing against the clock to put together all the pieces. Any slower, and he would have been too late!

Eight mages dead, but sadly, the master escaped. The medics took the victim to the hospital to clean her up and give her a full evaluation before releasing her to her family. That was one phone call that Cullen actually enjoyed making. Her family was beyond grateful. These were the nights that made his job completely worth it.

Saying a silent prayer of thanks to Andraste, Cullen felt content that he’d done his job to the fullest extent of his capabilities. He’d won this one. He couldn’t win them all, but he would take the small victories as they came.

It was almost two am by the time he finished cleaning up at the crime scene. It was too late to visit Alistair, but after the success of the evening, his heart was full of hope and he decided that perhaps… it might be time.

~*~

Cullen spent Friday, finalizing the paperwork from the night before. This was one of the longest cases he’d worked in years and one of the most memorable. The fact that he was able to save the life of the victim definitely helped, but the real reason he would always remember this case had to do with Alistair. This was the case ultimately responsible for Cullen stumbling across that unfamiliar street, which lead him into that quirky pub, where he met the man of his dreams, two months prior. He would always be thankful for that break in his normal routine.

Leaving the office at the end of the day, Cullen walked the short distance to his apartment. With a last minute change in plans, he climbed into his Jeep, instead of heading upstairs. Still riding high from the success of the night before, he decided to once again break from his routine and celebrate with a drink downtown. He’d missed his usual Thursday visit, and after his talks with Dorian, he didn’t want to wait until Tuesday to see Alistair again.  

Never having been in on a weekend before, Cullen was wholly unprepared for the difference in atmosphere the place held. It was louder for one--more crowded. Instead of Leliana up on stage, there was a full band; making it impossible for any sort of conversation. The music was upbeat and the three tables that usually sat in the center of the room, had been removed to make way for a very full dance floor.

Once he recovered from his initial shock, Cullen was both relieved and pleased to see that his usual spot at the bar was vacant; granting him a glorious view of his favorite bartender. Taking his seat in the corner, Cullen drank in the new look of a much more animated, Alistair. Instead of his usual black on black uniform, he wore a tight fitting white t-shirt which showed off the tightly corded muscles, barely contained within the thin fabric. The word Alistair’s was printed prominently in a wine colored arc across the deliciousness that was his back and shoulders.

Andraste preserve me, what have I gotten myself into?

Cullen’s mouth suddenly went dry from want. He fought to tear his eyes from the working muscles trapped painfully within the form-fitting fabric; while attempting to quell his own rapidly thickening erection, currently straining against the confines of his slacks.

You’re in public Rutherford, calm down!

Cullen admonished himself, thankful that he hadn’t yet seen Lana. The poor girl would most likely be blushing from his current train of thought, if she could even hear in a crowd like this.

Blinking slowly to regain his composure, Cullen’s mutinous eyes zeroed in on the much tighter black jeans that Alistair was wearing as his hips gyrated provocatively to the music.

Sweet Maker’s ass, I’m in trouble!

All Cullen could do was gape in awe at how beautiful the man was; how fluidly his body moved to the music as he deftly poured drinks for his customers. And the pouring itself was certainly a sight to behold! For one thing, it was much flashier than it had been during any of his earlier visits. He watched transfixed as Alistair danced from customer to customer, pouring drinks, with an extra flourish; spinning, twirling, tossing bottles into the air, and catching them on their descent directly over the intended glasses.

As his initial surprise began to ebb, Cullen noticed that there was a second mixologist--wearing a matching outfit--serving customers at the far end of the bar. It definitely wasn’t Lana, but a lithe elven male, not much taller than the waitress; with long blonde hair, delicate pointed ears and mischievous eyes. He had a ‘come hither’ smile and tattoo that swirled down the left side of his face, but instead of making him seem hardened, it only added to the softness of his skin.

Cullen’s chest tightened as he watched the two working in tandem. They looked so easy and familiar with each other, like they’d been doing this for years--perhaps they had been. Their movements similar, both meant to be provocative and enticing as they played off each other for the benefit of their audience. Their enigmatic smiles winning the crowd over with barely any effort as they tossed their bottles into the air, juggling the liquor without spilling a drop.

The newest mixologist began to head his way while Alistair was busy pouring his latest drink. Cullen watched as Alistair looked up suddenly, caught the elf’s hand, and spun him off in the opposite direction. Grabbing the drink, with his face beaming like it was Satinalia, Alistair danced his way and deftly placed the drink in front of Cullen with panache.

Leaping his ass fully up onto the bar top, Alistair leaned closer to Cullen so he could be heard over the din of the room. “Welcome to our Wild Weekends! I won’t be able to chat much, but I hope you enjoy the show!”

Cullen thought he may have imagined it, but he swore it felt like Alistair's lips brushed his cheek, before he leapt off the bar and back into the limelight. The other bartender raised a questioning look as Alistair re-entered their dance. Sparing Cullen a smile and quick wink, he grabbed the next bottle and tossed it in the air for Alistair to catch.

Cullen sat and watched the show with a smile on his face and a warm tingle on his cheek. Whether he meant to kiss him or it was an accident of proximity, the contact sent shivers through Cullen’s body. He enjoyed watching this new and energetic Alistair playing his audience to its full extent, but when Cullen finished his drink, he decided it was time for him to head out.

Waving a silent goodbye to his favorite eye candy, Cullen grabbed his coat and stepped outside.

Once the door closed behind him, he savored the silence of the night in stark contrast to the clamor from within. Hearing a jingling of keys from off to his left, Cullen watched as two vaguely familiar, female shapes approached--arm in arm. Smiling in recognition, he waited patiently for them to get within earshot before greeting them, “So he does give you the night off occasionally!”

Lana and Leliana grinned at Cullen in surprise.

“Friday’s and Saturday’s are um… difficult for me,” Lana explained. “I don’t usually work them, though I will for special occasions… or to help Alistair out when he needs me to. They have too many people; too many emotions; they’re too... loud.” Lana tapped the side of her head as she shuddered.

Cullen nodded in sympathy.

“I’m surprised to see you here on a Friday, Commander; breaking your usual schedule!” Leliana clicked her tongue jokingly, “And now you are leaving early; it looks not to be quite to your taste either. No?”

“It is a bit much for me, though I will admit to enjoying the show.” Cullen thought about Alistair’s body moving provocatively behind the bar and his mind unwittingly took him to the brush of lips across his cheek. Dipping his head to hide his rapidly flushing cheeks, he tried to refocus, “Is it always like that on weekends?”

“Only on those two days, the rest are what you’ve already become familiar with.” Trying hard to suppress her smile at Cullen’s excitement, Lana secretly cheered Alistair for finding his courage to kiss him. It was a sneaky kiss, to be sure, but it was a start.

Curious, Leliana chimed in with her lilting accent, “So, what do you think of our dear Zevran? He gets quite a lot of attention when he works. So many come just to see him.”

“Is Zevran… the other bartender? I... didn’t actually get to meet him. They were so busy. I didn’t want to bother them, so I just watched while enjoying my drink.”

“From your little perch in the corner?” Leliana giggled.

Cullen chuckled, they’d teased him over his favorite spot many times and he always had the same argument, “I don’t know why no one else ever sits there, it’s the best seat in the house. It allows me to see the whole room without my back being exposed.”

“We used to wonder about it as well, but now I like to believe that spot was just waiting for you.” Lana smiled encouragingly at him.

Leliana continued to tease him, “I think Alistair would physically remove anyone else should they attempt to occupy your seat now. You’ve quickly won over the only assigned seat in the house. Welcome to our little family.” She grinned affectionately at the Commander.

Cullen bowed his head as a tinge of pink touched his cheeks once again. Thinking of the way Alistair and Zevran moved together, he asked hesitantly, “How long have they been… dancing like that?”

Alistair said that he wasn’t seeing anyone when we first met, but that was a couple of months ago and those two seemed to move so well together, perhaps things have changed?

“Creators no!” Lana choked over his internal question, “We have known Zevran for over a decade. He’s flirty, overly self-confident, and the customers find him attractive. In contrast, Alistair is earnest and full of boyish, playful charm. Between the two of them, their antics fulfill many customer’s quiet fantasies, so they play it up on nights like these. They may dance well together, while twirling bottles to entertain the customers, but so far, Zevran has yet to peak Alistair’s interest even a little bit.” Lana rested her hand gently on Cullen’s arm before continuing, “Trust me, I would know.”

Leliana giggled, “Not that Zevran hasn’t tried. When we first met him, he used to get Alistair so tongue tied and flustered. Our poor, talkative friend was frequently left quite speechless.”

“And blushing,” Lana added, “there is always blushing when Zevran starts hitting on you. He has a knack for saying exactly what you wish he wouldn’t. But he does have a good heart.” Both girls giggled at some past shared memory.

Cullen was growing slightly concerned, “So I take it… Zevran hits on a lot of people?”

“If they breathe and are capable of speech, he’s probably hit on them. I'm surprised you got out of there unscathed. You got lucky, yes?” Leliana helpfully offered.

Lana nudged Leliana with her elbow, “Or Alistair protected him.”

Cullen nodded, remembering Alistair twirling Zevran away from him. “So… what you’re saying is, Fridays and Saturdays really are not good nights for me to come visiting?”

Lana nodded then offered, “Why don’t you come back on Sunday? The bar will certainly be quieter and Alistair will be… less restricted. If you don’t have any other plans that is.”

Cullen was pondering the offer, so he missed Leliana looking sharply at Lana whose smile seemed to convey a definite, ‘trust me.’

Refocusing, he ventured a grateful smile and said, “Thank you. I think I will. See you Sunday then. Goodnight, ladies,” he nodded to them both before heading off toward his Jeep.

~*~

Leliana watched Cullen round the corner at the end of the street before asking quietly, “What are you doing? You know Alistair doesn’t work on Sundays!”

“It’s been months Lel. Though they are getting closer, if we wait for them to get over their own self-doubt and insecurities, we’ll be waiting for months more. This way, Alistair won’t have work to hide behind, Cullen won’t be able to use the excuse that Alistair treats him just like he treats everyone else, and there won’t be that damn bar between them.” Lana explained exasperated, “Besides, they both want each other! If you could hear how their thoughts dance around it… It reminds me of us actually--when we first got together.” Standing on her toes, she kissed her bard sweetly on the lips.

“Yes, but you had the advantage there.” Leliana smirked.

Lana grinned mischievously, “You didn’t know that back then. I had to play a little hard to get.” Leaning in, Lana stole another kiss, never tiring of how perfect their lips felt together.

Returning her wife’s tender adorations, Leliana wrapped her arms around her and sighed heavily. Placing their foreheads together, she asked concerned, “Do you... worry that he’ll remember? Do you think he will ever recognize us for who we are?”

Lana took her own deep breath and let it out slowly--resting her head on her true love’s shoulder, she lamented, “I don’t know Lel. He hasn’t yet, but that doesn’t mean something won’t trigger the memory sometime in the future.”

“He’s come so far since then, I would hate to jeopardize his healing by bringing up the past. Though, I don’t want to ruin our friendship either. Do you think he’ll be mad at us for keeping this from him?” Leliana worried.

Lana sighed, “I hope not. It’s not like we caused the issue in the first place… but it’s hard to tell. He tries really hard not to think of anything surrounding that time.”

“What about Alistair? Have you told him yet that you and I have met Cullen before?” Leliana asked with no small amount of hesitation.

Shaking her head, Lana admitted, “Not yet, I need to though. But first things first. We need to get them together--two pieces made whole--then we can work on the confessions and admissions.”

~*~

Alistair was dancing on air Friday when he saw Cullen come in. He wished he had more time to talk with him, but he would have to be content to just catch glances of him here and there while working behind the counter with Zevran. Finishing up their current round of juggled drinks, Alistair was finally able to pour the Commander his usual. As he turned to bring it over, he saw Zevran already headed that way.

Not this time Casanova!

He grabbed the slippery little elf and spun him off in the other direction. To Zevran’s credit, he twirled off spectacularly and continued serving the other side of the bar in Alistair’s absence.

Fully enjoying the energy of the evening, Alistair leapt onto the bar to greet Cullen; and in a brazen act of boldness, lightly kissed his cheek on his way back down.

Maker’s breath he smells so good!

Savoring the taste of the luscious Commander, Alistair’s tongue flicked across his lips after his back was to the object of his desire. Zevran must have witnessed him licking his lips because Alistair got that look that said there would be lewed comments later--most likely at his expense.

Alistair was disappointed to see Cullen leave so soon after he finished his drink. He was hoping that he would stick around long enough for the crowd to die down so they could visit. There hadn’t been time to dwell on it until after they closed for the night, but by then, his self-doubt had reared its ugly head again. It left him questioning why exactly Cullen left so early. 

Should I not have kissed him?

He worried that his playful antics had put him off. In a moment of weakness, Alistair decided to ask Zevran what he thought, “Hey Zev?”

“Si, amore mio.” Zev, responded with that same ‘you want to fuck me’ smirk that he always wore.

“Do you remember the guy at the far end of the bar?”

“Tall, blonde, eyes that were drinking you in like you were the last drop of water in all of Thedas? That one?” Zevran certainly didn’t mince words.

Alistair coughed, “Uh, yeah - that one… I suppose. Though I don’t know how accurate your assessment of his ogling me is. He’s one of my weeknight regulars. Did he… say anything to you before he left?”

“No, I was on my best behavior, so I did not converse with him at all. I assumed by the way that you spun me away from him that you already staked your claim. A very nice claim--I might add-- though a little too yours for me to dare to interfere. Unless of course, you’d like to invite me in for a threesome! No? Ah well, a guy can dream can’t he?” Zevran chuckled at his own brand of humor. “Does tall, light, and dreamy have a name?”

Ignoring the proposition, Alistair blushed at Zevran’s description, “Cullen. Though I daresay, it’s not a stake I’ve officially claimed… yet. Not that it gives you permission to try yourself.” He warned the little elven sex-magnet. “Nor am I sure that he would be interested like that.” Alistair was feeling the doubt heavily in his chest.

“Ah but that look upon your eyes, you have fantasized about it, no? I would say, by the look in his, that he probably has too, more than once.” Trying to cheer up his friend, Zevran smirked openly, “Maybe he’ll be back tomorrow. If it would help, I could lure him into the stockroom and tie him up for you to have your way with him!”

Alistair shook his head, blushing at the images Zevran's offer provided. “No thanks Zev, I appreciate the thought, though. See you tomorrow.”

“You sure you don’t want me to show you those Antivan massage techniques? They could come in handy, should you and your… Cullen ever find yourselves naked and alone.”

“Ugh, Zevran!” Alistair’s face was beat red as he ushered Zevran out the door, laughing.


*Translations 

Si, amore mio = Yes, my love

Chapter Text

 


Cocktails & Cheese

Cullen and Alistair - A Modern Day AU

Chapter 5

First Date


Sunday arrived and Cullen’s body was thrumming with excitement. He was no longer able to deny the true intent behind his frequent visits to the pub, after all but admitting his intentions to the girls on Friday night.

Not like I could hide anything from Lana anyway.

Normally, he would feel mortified at the prospect of others knowing about his infatuation with the irresistible, Alistair; but there was something about Lana and Leliana that set him at ease. They were closer to Alistair than anyone else, knew him better than anyone else, and even they were encouraging Cullen to proceed.

If they think I have a chance, I would be crazy to argue!

Not wanting to seem too eager, Cullen decided to wait until late afternoon before heading over. That left him with too much time on his hands, and not enough chores to do, to pass the time. His apartment was clean, laundry put away, movie collection neatly organized, and his guns were cleaned and oiled. Looking around his apartment, then at his watch, Cullen realized that he’d only burned a couple of hours.

Sighing heavily, he grabbing the duffel-bag with his workout gear in it and headed for the door to find more things to distract himself. Stopping by the precinct first, he entered his office for a quick once over. Only a few files littered his desk, so he quickly put them away then pulled his old sword from its place of honor on the wall, behind his desk.

There was a time when his sword was a part of him; an extension of his arm. It was the first thing he touched in the morning and the last item he cared for before bed. A Templar’s sword was sacred and now Cullen’s was little more than a ceremonial piece to adorn his office.

Running his fingers over the smooth edge of the blade, he spoke fondly, “You served me well once, it wouldn’t do to let you fall to disuse and disrepair.”

It had been several weeks since he’d given his sword the attention it deserved. Not that he used it much lately, the police force preferring fire arms to melee weaponry; but occasionally, Cullen would strap it on and wear it, concealed beneath his long overcoat. It felt as natural on his hip as the shoulder holster that he always wore to work.

Pulling the cleaning kit from inside his desk, he opened the supple leather roll to lay across the surface. The sharpening stones, oil, cleaning cloths, and leather wax he would need to care for his sword, were all stored neatly inside their individualized pouches. With practiced ease, Cullen went about cleaning, sharpening, and oiling his blade. He gave special attention to conditioning the leather grip and oiling the scabbard, before placing them, once again, on their display.

Packing away his supplies, Cullen took a last look around the office before locking up and heading out to find more distractions.

Only three more hours before I can go see him...

Cullen stopped, mid-sidewalk and laughed at himself.

Damn it, Rutherford! Even on days you don’t have a schedule, you give yourself one. No wonder everyone’s always teasing you.

Shouldering his bag, he walked the short distance to his local gym. On any given day, he could easily burn several hours at the place. He loved working out: cardio, bags, forms, weights; anything to lose himself in that zone of focus and calm. Today, however, he just couldn’t concentrate. He was too excited, so after only forty-five minutes, he gave up and went home.

Cullen showered and took extra care to smooth out his unruly curls before dressing for the evening. Choosing his leather jacket instead of his usual duster, he decided that he’d waited long enough and gave himself permission to head downtown early.

The anticipation was all consuming. The way his heart sped up every time their fingers touched and the way Alistair’s smile made him forget to breathe, usually left Cullen reeling. He thoroughly enjoyed flirting with Alistair these last couple months. In the beginning, it was tentative and playful; as they got to know each other better, it became a natural extension of their banter.

Now, he was finally able to admit that he was falling for this man and he was falling hard. He’d tried to ignore and pretend it didn’t exist, but a little part of him kept whispering that he would never know if this could be more, unless he tried.

I may have to actually thank Dorian for that. Maker, there will be no living with him after this, if he’s right. I hope he’s right!

Parking his Jeep in the public garage at the end of the block, he walked the short distance to the pub, hoping to calm his nerves. Stopping right outside, he took a deep breath then opened the door.

Breathing a sigh of relief, he found it much quieter than his last visit had been. Looking around, he was relieved to see that the place had been returned to its usual calm ambiance. There were several customers in attendance: some playing pool, others darts, and still others sitting around, enjoying their drinks.

This is more like it!

He saw Leliana grinning at him from the stage and Lana’s knowing smile from behind the bar. What he wanted to see most, however, was nowhere to be seen.

Where is Alistair?

Leliana moved to stand behind the bar as Lana came out to greet Cullen with two drinks in hand.

She beckoned him to follow as she headed into the back, “You’re earlier than I expected, Commander. Nervous?”

“Do I even need to answer that?” He smiled sheepishly, looking towards the floor.

Lana shook her head, but her smile was reassuring, “I hoped you’d come back today. Ali’s been a bear since I told him that we ran into you outside Friday night.”

“Why would that bother him?”

Lana chuckled while she skirted around boxes, deftly holding the glasses so they wouldn't spill, “We may have mentioned that we warned you against coming back on Saturday or during his Wild Weekends in general. He wasn’t very pleased that we put a limit on your visits. You’d think we just shot his mabari.”

“He has a mabari?” Cullen was only partially listening as he followed Lana; still wondering where she was leading him.

“He did once, they were nigh inseparable, though I’ll let him tell you about her. I will say, the story does not have a happy ending, though, and he still misses her dearly.” She sighed heavily before adding, “We all do.”

Lana led Cullen through the rest of the storeroom in silence. She stopped before an exit door located at the bottom of a stairwell. Pointing to the door in front of her, she said, “This door locks automatically when you leave. It will let you out into the alley, on the south-side of the pub. Alistair… is upstairs.” She handed him the two drinks she’d been carrying and began to walk off.

“What do you mean upstairs?”

She laughed, “Just go; he won’t be disappointed to see you and he’s going to need that drink as well, so don’t down them both before you get up there to calm your own nerves.”

Cullen shook his head at how well that woman read him. He’d only briefly considered drinking both drinks then escaping through the back door, but it was only a fleeting thought; not one he’d ever follow. He was here with a purpose, to see if maybe there could be something more between Alistair and himself.

What is Alistair doing up these stairs? Why isn’t he in the bar with the girls? What’s with the drinks? What’s that woman got up her sleeve? Why am I so bloody nervous? C’mon Rutherford… you’re not going to find out unless you start up those stairs. Breathe damnit!

Taking that breath, he navigated the dark stairwell slowly. When he reached the top, he paused, shifted both drinks to one hand and knocked on the door. As he waited, Cullen noticed a rhythmic clanking of metal-on-metal. It was even and consistent, never pausing, and was accompanied by the distinct rumblings of Alistair’s voice.

Weights? No wait, that’s not the sound of weights… where have I heard that sound before?

Cullen waited a minute before knocking again. His heart raced as the clanking finally stopped, a distinct thump followed, and the grumbling from inside grew louder as Alistair got closer to the door.

~*~  

Alistair was trying hard to burn off his pent up energy. He’d been working out for over an hour trying to calm down, but it wasn’t helping. Exercise wasn’t what he was craving, yet he didn’t have Cullen’s number to try to make other arrangements on their one mutual day off. He didn’t know where he lived and, because it was a weekend, dropping by all the precincts in Denerim to figure out which one he worked at, wouldn’t be very helpful either.

He wouldn’t think you’re desperate or anything if you did that, Al! Might be a good way to get yourself arrested for harassment though!

All of this left Alistair crazy to see Cullen, yet frustrated because he didn’t have a respectable means to find him.

And what of the kiss? Maker, he tasted so good! But was that why he left so early? Did I drive him away? Should I… apologize? If he’s not interested… I’m sure I could be content to just be his friend. I don’t want to lose that!

At least that’s what he told himself.

Damn Lana and her blasted morals on sharing what she knows!

He understood on principle. But knowing how Cullen felt would make things so much easier for him. For them?

Oh if only we could be a ‘them’!

Alistair just wanted to know… well in all honesty, he wanted to know everything: how he liked his coffee, what he smelled like after a shower, how he tasted, what he liked to do in his spare time, did he have a favorite movie, what would it be like to really kiss him. Ok so yeah, it wasn’t really fair to expect all that information from her. He knew that her ‘talents’ didn’t work that way. But still, the man was driving him crazy and the only time he’d ever spent with him had been downstairs and that posed its own restrictions.

When Cullen surprised him by coming in Friday night, the bar was slammed and Alistair couldn’t give him more than his usual drink and a smile or two. He didn’t dare abandon Zevran on a night like that. High on the taste of the Commander’s skin on his lips, he’d finally decided that he was going to go for it and, at the very least, ask for his number. But by the time things started to die down enough for him to ask, Cullen was already gone.

When Lana came in the next morning, she admitted to running into Cullen as he was leaving the night before. She’d told him that Fridays and Saturdays were their busiest nights and probably not the best nights for him to come calling. Alistair was disappointed; there was a part of him that knew the loud crowd probably wasn’t his thing, but he was still hoping Cullen would come back again that night. He probably took it out on his best friend, a little more than he should have.

All day Saturday, Lana tried to talk to him, to sooth him. Each time, Alistair got more aggravated and short with her. He kept thinking that she could have told Cullen to come in early before the rush, or even better, to come back on Sunday! But all he heard was Lana telling Cullen to stay away and now he probably wouldn’t see him again until Tuesday. If he came back at all.

The more time that passed left Alistair feeling more and more insecure about that tentative kiss he’d placed on his cheek. It was driving him mad not knowing, and fearing the worst, that his lack of decorum had actually driven Cullen away.

Why didn’t I get his phone number so I could at least call and see if he’s still talking to me?

Sunday came and Alistair was left to his own devices. Lana and Leliana both tried to cheer him up or talk him down several times already and he’d finally just told them to leave him alone.

Setting his weights aside, he needed a more intense distraction. Grabbing the bar for his salmon ladder, he hooked it into place and began the steadying rhythm for his climb. Pull-up, using the momentum of his swing to ‘jump’ with the bar to the next ledge, rinse repeat. He’d made it to the top when he heard a knock on his door. Assuming it was the girls back to bug him again, he grumbled loudly, “I told you to leave me alone!” He didn’t stop or miss a beat as he began his descent down the ladder.

As he worked his way back up a second time, he heard another knock. Sighing heavily, he dropped to the floor, threw his towel around his neck, and marched over prepared to tell the girls--loudly and finally--to just… go away!

The sight that greeted him when he jerked open the door was the last one he’d expected to find on his doorstep, and yet, his greatest wish come true. His eyes adjusted from looking to where he expected one of the much shorter women to be standing and they completely enjoyed drinking in the sight before him on their way up. Cullen; wearing jeans, a tight fitting, black t-shirt, and a dark-brown, leather jacket, stood in front of him holding two drinks and smiling the sweetest crooked smile he’d ever seen. His gorgeous eyes drifted down Alistair’s body and back up again, never losing their spark of interest as Alistair realized just how undressed he really was.

~*~

As the door flew open, Cullen was blessed with the sight of a very delicious looking, sweaty Alistair: barefoot, wearing only dark blue, loose, workout shorts hung low on his hips and--Andraste preserve him--nothing else but a towel draped around his neck.

Drawn in by the freckles spattered across Alistair’s chest, he noticed several scars that he longed to ask about, but decided to tuck them away for later. Instead, Cullen drank in his well-defined muscles, still twitching from his workout. Each ridge and valley called to Cullen to touch, explore, caress, taste.

Sweet maker, I thought he was gorgeous before!

It took effort to drag his eyes back up from the alluring hip bones and soft curly red hair just below his naval; pulling his attention where it needn’t be. He forced his eyes back up and noticed that Alistair’s scowl was quickly melting away, leaving a pleasantly surprised expression in its place.

Alistair sputtered for a moment, clearly unprepared for his visitor. “Cullen! I uh. I am so sorry. I thought you were the girls again. They’ve been particularly vexing lately. No one else usually comes up here.” He seemed to realize that he was standing there rambling before he said, “Where are my manners, please come in.”

Cullen grinned at Alistair and handed him one of the drinks as he stepped just past him into the foyer. “Here, Lana said that you would need this,” he said by way of greeting then watched transfixed as Alistair threw the amber liquid back in one gulp. Watching his throat work as he swallowed, he found himself wanting to follow along with his tongue, tasting the saltiness as his mouth traveled over every inch of his exposed neck… chest… lower... Shaking his head to clear it, Cullen took a sip of his own drink to still his rambling fantasy.

“She wasn’t wrong.” Alistair set his empty glass down on the sideboard. Looking down at himself, he addressed the state of undress that he was currently in. “I uh… It’s been that kind of a day. I was trying to … well, distract myself actually, but it really wasn’t working. I uhh. I mean, what— um...? Was there… something you needed?”

Maker! Way to be suave, Al?

Shaking his head ‘no’, Cullen smiled ruefully, “I think Lana is trying to make up for the fact that I missed my usual Thursday visit and you were too busy on Friday for us to… talk. Either that or she didn’t want me lurking in my corner downstairs. I didn’t realize you lived above the bar.” He looked around tentatively.

“Pretty impressive commute, huh? Some days the traffic is pure hell, but I manage.” Alistair chuckled. “Did you want to...? Were you…?” He sighed and tried to put his thoughts into words, “I’m glad that you’re here, though had I known you were coming, I might have cleaned myself up a bit first. Would you mind… hanging out for a bit while I get myself showered and more presentable?”

Sweet Andraste, he is adorable all flustered and stuttering like that. Perhaps Dorian and Lana were right and he does feel for me the same as I do for him.

Feeling a little more confident, Cullen let his eyes drift over Alistair’s mostly exposed form before saying, “Don’t cover up on my account, but if you’d prefer a quick shower, I have no plans to leave anytime soon. Unless, of course, you ask me to.”

“No! Please stay,” he said hurriedly. “After… we could go back downstairs, if you’d like… or… maybe… would you like to watch a movie up here?” Alistair asked hopefully letting the offer hang in the air.

“A movie sounds great; I would like that.”

Alistair’s eyes lit up and he smiled excitedly, “Then please come in, take off your coat and make yourself at home. I… uh try to keep shoes here by the front door as well, so if you don’t mind...” Alistair indicated the shoe rack across the entryway where they were standing.” Not that I’m particularly ‘anti-shoes’, I just… hate sweeping and mopping.” He grinned sheepishly at his unexpected guest.

Cullen nodded his understanding and set his glass down next to Alistair’s to begin taking off his coat and shoes.

Indicating the tray on the credenza, which already held a wallet, some spare change, a set of keys, and a cellphone, Alistair also offered, “I usually just throw my keys and things down there as well. Might as well get comfortable since you’ve promised to stay long enough to watch a movie with me.” He grinned up into the Cullen’s eyes. Standing face to face for the first time--without a bar between them--he noticed that Cullen was slightly shorter than himself.

Cullen chuckled, “Anything else you’d like me to take off before you get back?”

Damn it Rutherford! Did you just say that out loud? Maybe you spent too much time with Dorian when he was here.

Instead of balking at Cullen’s brazenness, Alistair smiled, pondering the possibilities. Remembering Lana’s warning, he instead replied, “Mmmm tempting, but no that will do.”

For now!

“Other than the shoes, the rest were just suggestions to make you more comfortable.” Alistair eyed his delicious guest. “Oh and before I forget, my movie selection is on the back side of the entertainment center. I’ll let you pick something out for us to watch while I’m um… getting cleaned up. I won’t be long.”

Cullen heard Alistair muttering under his breath as he hurried away. Something about not being sure if he wanted to kill Lana or kiss her for her meddling.

Chuckling to himself, Cullen finished taking off his shoes and jacket before taking a preliminary glance around the loft. It was simple and clean; a large open room which incorporated the kitchen, a huge workout area, and a home entertainment area all in one. There were two doors in the room, one he had just come through and the other, Alistair just disappeared into which most likely held his bedroom and bathroom.

Finishing his initial inspection, he returned to the entrance to--get comfortable--as Alistair had instructed him. Divested of his wallet and keys, Cullen looked down at his phone and--with a hopeful smile--switched it to silent, before setting it down. He grabbed his drink and with some time to kill, figured he might as well look around.

Walking past the kitchen that covered most of the right wall and the home entertainment area on his left, Cullen decided to go inspect the workout equipment first. A large thick sparing mat covered a twenty square foot area on the far side of the room. The wall that it rested up against boasted a floor to ceiling mirror that equaled the twenty-foot wide mat. On the left side of the mat, near a large bay window, was an all-in-one weight gym, makiwara board, heavy punching bag, three--fully stocked--equipment stands, workbench, and a salmon ladder with the crossbar left three rungs up.

Holy Andraste, did I interrupt him on the ladder? If the cadence he was maintaining is any indicator, that’s… really impressive. Maker, I’d love to see that!

Cullen gulped audibly as his inner monologue ran away with his imagination.

This place is better equipped than my own gym and certainly more private!

Cullen tried not to imagine the two of them working up a sweat together on that mat… in front of that mirror.

Repressing a groan, he turned his attention back toward the equipment stands. One held five-to-fifty pound sets of dumbbells, a set of medicine balls, and several different kettle balls. The next one held a plethora of weapons ranging from fighting staffs and wooden swords to a wide variety of more exotic martial arts weapons. The last stand held towels, bottles of water, resistance bands, rolled up mats and an exercise ball; all meticulously organized.

Cullen was very impressed with the diversity and quality of the equipment as well as the care in which it all seemed to be kept. The workbench seemed to house several sharpening stones and the kinds of oils that Cullen would use to care for his Templar armor and sword.

Alistair is intriguing me more and more. Can I really be this lucky?

Next, Cullen wandered over to the entertainment center in the middle of the large space and began looking through Alistair’s movie options. He was happy to see they had very similar tastes. He chose two of his favorites and decided to let Alistair pick from them.

The first option was set in space; a young boy caught up in a rebellion against an evil empire. They could watch just one movie or the whole series, Alistair had them all. The other he selected, was the first season of a TV show about a teenage girl who was destined by fate to save the world from vampires. Alistair had all seven seasons, though Cullen thought it best to start at the beginning.

Whichever Alistair chose, Cullen would be happy. These were two of his personal favorites, he’d seen them so many times that he could enjoy them again, or ignore them without regret should other… options become available.

Setting the movies down next to the TV, Cullen wandered over to look out the window to see what kind of a view Alistair had. Taking a sip from his drink, he looked out and was amazed at the sight before him; the evening sunlight glinting off the tumultuous waters of the Amaranthine Sea. It was breathtaking and helped to calm the nerves that had been plaguing him all day. He was really here. Alistair hadn’t sent him away and--Maker willing-- Cullen would retain the courage to find out if Alistair's nervous stuttering had anything to do with why his own heart was currently racing.

Gazing out at the water, sipping what was left of his drink, Cullen heard the door open behind him. Without turning from the window’s offering, he set his empty glass on the windowsill and crossed his arms over his chest, “You have an amazing view from up here.” His voice was calm and even, conflicting with the fact that he could hear his heartbeat in his ears and his mouth was suddenly dry from nerves. Unable to turn around yet to face his heart’s desire, he continued to stare out the window while he waited for Alistair’s response.

Alistair whispered to himself, “I certainly do from where I’m standing.” He stopped in the doorway and stared at the man leaning casually against the windowsill, looking out towards the bay. Cullen had removed his jacket and shoes, his form fitting cotton shirt hugged every delicious muscle concealed beneath it. Having become used to seeing Cullen in the suits he’d arrive in after work; seeing him for the first time, outside of his ‘Commander’ persona--took his breath away.

He teased as he slowly approached from behind. “You know; you are about as easy to sneak up on as Lana. Takes a little of the fun out of it.” Alistair’s banter was a cover for his own nervousness as he inched his way forward. It also allowed him time to fully drink in the shoulders, arms, and back of the man he’d been dreaming about all day.

Maker’s breath he’s gorgeous! Will he let me… touch him?

Alistair’s fingers twitched at his sides--longing to do just that.

Cullen chuckled, “You can blame my line of work for that. I am trained to be aware of my surroundings after all.”

And right now I am so painfully aware of you.

Cullen paused in contemplation before admitting ruefully, “You know, it was Lana that had me come back tonight. She told me when I left on Friday that you would be more… accessible today. She neglected to tell me that it was your day off. I didn’t mean to… I mean… I hope that I’m not intruding.”

Alistair was quick to soothe him, “You are not intruding at all. And despite all my grumbling about her today, I am grateful she set this up. I usually have Sundays and Mondays off, so she was technically right when she told you that I would be more free to spend time with you.” Alistair stopped directly behind Cullen, a hair’s breadth away from touching this man’s beautifully sculpted shoulders when he added softly, “I’ve been wanting to… I mean… I hope you don’t mind that I...”

Taking a deep breath, to steady his nerves, Alistair reached up and hesitantly stroked his hands over Cullen’s shoulders and down his back. He heard Cullen sigh then almost purr in appreciation. Feeling more confident, since his caresses weren’t immediately rebuffed, Alistair wrapped his arms around Cullen’s waist and ran his hands over his well-toned abs, pulling him against his own body. Relaxing from relief and feeling grounded from their first embrace, Alistair let himself enjoy the moment.

Cullen's hands joined with his, fingers interlaced, he leaned back and nearly melted into Alistair’s chest. Closing his eyes from the view outside, he savored the touch of the man behind him. “I… don’t mind, at all. In fact, I had been hoping… Lana said that you might… feel the same way I do… but I wasn’t sure If I should believe her.” He leaned his head back onto Alistair’s shoulder and brushed his cheek with his own. Feeling Alistair’s arms tighten around him, Cullen asked tentatively, “Her… ‘gift’. How much does she share with you about what she… hears?”

Alistair’s voice was low and husky next to Cullen’s ear, “Lana’s usually very discrete with specifics. She knows she doesn’t belong in other people’s heads, but sometimes the thoughts we think, especially the ones that have strong feelings behind them, come to her anyway. She’s unable to filter them out.”

Rubbing his fingertips over the backs of Alistair’s hands, Cullen wanted to draw the conversation out longer. The sound of his voice and feel of his breath next to his ear sent shivers through Cullen’s body--or perhaps that was the arms currently wrapped around him, “So, what has she told you regarding my thoughts about you?”

“Frustratingly little, I’m afraid.” Alistair laughed, “She let me know that our… thoughts about each other have been um…” Alistair chuckled to cover his own embarrassment, “rather similar. But like you, I was unsure if I should believe her. I should probably know better by now.”

Blushing, Cullen bowed his head and marveled at their hands clasped so perfectly together. “The thoughts I have--while watching you work--would probably make most people very… uncomfortable.”

Noticing the skin of Cullen’s ears turning that endearing shade of red, Alistair grinned, “Thankfully my complexion is already fairly flushed, in the dim light of the bar, I can hide it pretty well. You on the other hand…” He turned Cullen so he could gaze into his eyes. “... are adorable when you blush.”

Cullen got his first look at this beautiful man, post shower. His hair was wet and spiked up from towel drying. His workout shorts had been replaced with a pair of dark-grey, cotton pajama pants and a loose fitting, blue t-shirt. And he smelled…

Maker--he smells so good. Like soap and spice and...

Reaching up, Cullen cupped Alistair’s face while drowning in those honeyed eyes.

Unable--or unwilling--to hold back any longer, Cullen closed the distance and gently pressed his lips to Alistair’s. He’d been dreaming about kissing those lips for so long, and the reality was far sweeter than he’d ever imagined. Soft, tender, beautiful. He felt rather than heard, Alistair hum his approval against his lips. Reluctantly breaking from their kiss, Cullen rested his forehead against Alistair’s. Eyes still closed--breathless, he whispered, “I’ve wanted to do that since the day I met you. Did Lana ever tell you that?”

Taking a steadying breath of his own, Alistair shook his head, “Sadly no, or I might have offered to sate your curiosity sooner.”

He looked at Alistair incredulously, “While at work?”

Alistair grinned unabashedly. “Hey, it’s my bar, who’s gonna fire me?”

They both laughed while losing themselves in each other’s eyes, marveling at how comfortable this felt; arms wrapped around one another, breathing each other’s air. Perfect, comfortable… home.

Remembering the brush of lips from Friday night, Cullen smiled wistfully, touching his cheek. Curiosity getting the better of him, he had to ask, “so… Friday when I came in… I thought I felt you… did I imagine you kissing me?”

Leaning forward, Alistair whispered, “You mean here?” before placing his lips more firmly over the area that he’d barely brushed over, two nights before.

“Mm-hmm” Cullen hummed in response.

Alistair smiled sheepishly before explaining, “As you might have noticed, Fridays and Saturdays here boast a very different energy. Zev and I had already been flipping bottles for a couple of hours when I finally saw you sitting there. I was so surprised, that in the heat of the moment, I… simply couldn’t resist.”

Alistair’s eyes turned serious, “I was worried when you left so early, that it was because I’d upset you with that kiss. That was part of what I was trying to distract myself from with my workout, the fear that I’d never get a chance to apologize, or find out if my feelings were reciprocated.” He finished, looking deep into Cullen’s eyes, his soul; hope and amazement written clearly on his face.

“Please don’t apologize. I dare say, it’s what carried me through the last two days and up your stairs tonight. I’d hoped that I didn’t imagine it, because that would mean that you might actually...” leaning in, he tasted Alistair’s lips again before finishing, “want this as well.”

Cullen smiled as he trailed kisses along Alistair’s cheek, savoring the little sounds of pleasure he was pulling from him. He still couldn’t believe that he was here, nor that Lana would keep to herself the details of the graphic fantasies he certainly projected while watching Alistair work. Noting the full body quiver as he nipped at Alistair’s ear, Cullen tucked that information away for later before whispering huskily, “Are you sure she didn’t even give you a hint of the things I thought about while watching you?”

More curious than ever about the details of said fantasies, while doing his best to behave, Alistair tried to focused his attention on Cullen’s tender kisses. At the tentative touch of tongue on his lips, Alistair granted him entrance and immediately moaned with pleasure at how good he tasted.

Coming up for air, Alistair answered the statement he’d almost gotten distracted from, “Trust me, if she had, I wouldn’t have waited so long. Lana’s not like that. Though apparently she and Leliana aren’t above a little nudging now and then. I wish she would have nudged a bit harder though. We might have been here weeks ago if she had.” He grinned thankfully at their current situation being all because they were pushed by the two women downstairs.

“Perhaps she did, in her own way. Only we were too hung up on our own ‘stuff’ to follow such gentle direction. I can appreciate her not abusing her gifts though, it’s nice to know that she didn’t give away all of the secret fantasies I’ve enjoyed while watching you.” Cullen blushed while his eyes smoldered at the man in his arms. “I have half a mind to thank her actually.”

Alistair nodded in agreement and laughed, “You’re right--and you probably just did. She still likes to hear stuff like that verbally though. I don’t know, maybe we should send her a cheese tray or something to express our gratitude.” he teased.

Alistair continued, “Oh and I should probably warn you. Along with her sage advice, Lana did threaten me when it came to you.”

“She threatened you? I don’t believe it!” Cullen chuckled at the thought of the tiny woman threatening a man at least a foot taller than her.

“Oh, it’s true! That little elf threatened me not to screw this up by rushing us too fast. First, I’m not moving fast enough for her and even before I’d gotten the nerve to let you know I was interested, she tells me that once I do that I need to take it slow with you.”

Alistair grinned playfully as he mocked Lana’s orders, “For your information, we are supposed to cherish these first moments together and not jump into bed immediately.” His hands had their own mind however, as he gently caressed the man in his arms. He couldn’t get enough, couldn’t touch enough, wasn’t close enough.

“So Lana can be pretty intimidating I take it?” Cullen breathed out between their kisses.

Alistair actually shuddered, “She can be scarier than you might well imagine.”

“I can imagine pretty scary. But still…Lana?” Cullen nipped at Alistair’s lip playfully then following it up with a deep kiss.

“You have no idea.” Alistair warned, “When she gives an order, it’s almost always followed.”

Curious, Cullen had to ask between more kisses down Alistair’s throat, “And do you… intend to follow… this order?”

Shuddering, Alistair couldn’t help but moan with pleasure, “We probably should… after all, I would… hate to chance ruining something so incredible.” Alistair lamented the validity of her request.

Cullen nodded in agreement of Lana’s orders, of Alistair’s fears echoing his own, “Perhaps we should listen to her… maybe … as a thank you.” Cullen said half-heartedly, his kisses coming more urgently. Growling low in his throat, he admitted, “Maker, help me, but you’re not making it easy though.”

Alistair grunted his frustrated agreement between his own impassioned kisses, “She’d only just come up here to interrupt us anyway. I’ll agree to be a good boy tonight if you will.” He leaned in and licked at Cullen’s ear before whispering, “Though I reserve the right to reassess… on a moment by moment basis.” To drive his point home, he kissed him fully and pressed their bodies firmly together, their erections giving away their mutual state of arousal. Moaning, groaning, mewling into each other’s mouths as their kisses deepened.

They nodded in agreement while their hands, mouths, and bodies told a completely different story. As their hands roamed frantically, cupping, caressing, exploring; their kisses became even more heated. Alistair began to doubt that he would be able to wait after all. This man was here--now--and clearly as interested as he. As if summoned from his deepest desire, Cullen appeared on his doorstep--drinks in hand--looking far more delicious than anyone had a right to be.

Just as he was thinking about removing Cullen’s shirt to feast on the skin underneath, there was a quick rapping on the door, bringing both men back to the moment.

Panting and groaning, Alistair pulled away without breaking eye-contact; his pupils, dilated with desire, “Yeah, yeah I know - now go away and leave us be!”

“You know I can hear your thoughts better than your words! Creators, you two are both so damn loud! Remember what I told you, Ali.” Warned Lana, not unkindly, from behind the door.

Grinning hugely now, Alistair’s hands still roamed freely over Cullen’s shoulders and back, though their urgency had dissipated some. He managed to respond with a snarky, “Yes Mother!” to Lana’s disappearing footfalls.

He rested his forehead against Cullen’s to catch his breath, “Well, it looks like I was right about her interrupting us, so perhaps we should… actually behave… for now. I really don’t want you to leave just yet though, so… movie? Popcorn? Drinks on the sofa?”

Cullen was holding back his own laughter at Lana’s timely interruption, “It sounds wonderful, as long as I don't have to let you go, I’ll be happy with whatever you suggest. I promise to behave… Commander’s honor.” Cullen winked at Alistair then pulled him in for one last, chaste kiss before releasing him to prep the movie.  

~*~

Alistair lay on the oversized sofa with Cullen resting quietly in his arms. His face happy and content in sleep, which brought a smile to Alistair’s heart. They were wrapped tightly around each other with Cullen’s cheek laying lightly against Alistair’s chest and their legs intertwined. He gazed down at the man in his arms, drinking in how perfect he was. He couldn't believe how this day turned out. What started out as frustrating, turned into one of the most wonderful evenings he could ever remember experiencing.

Once they resigned themselves to ‘behave’, they made popcorn, poured their drinks, and settled into a comfortable evening watching the movie first before putting in the TV show. They talked, joked with each other, playfully tossed popcorn to see who could catch more, and generally quoted the same lines. The movie turned out to be a mutual favorite and Alistair nearly squealed when he saw the show Cullen had selected to follow it up. He definitely approved.

Always touching, occasionally kissing, they were both fully at ease passing the evening in each other’s company. They eventually settled into laying on the couch to watch several episodes of the TV show. Alistair brought out a pillow for them to share to be more comfortable. As they lay there together, they spent more time gazing into each other's eyes than actually watching the show. After a while, Cullen's lids grew heavy and Alistair didn't have the heart to wake him.

Laying there with their arms wrapped around each other, he enjoyed watching Cullen as he slept. Reflecting upon their evening together, Alistair smiled to himself as he brushed errant curls from Cullen’s forehead so he could place tender kisses in their place.

Alistair shifted slightly lower down the length of the sofa as his own head began to nod. Cullen growled in his sleep and rolled over, pulling Alistair’s arms tightly around him pinning them together, back now firmly pressed to chest.

Chuckling quietly, Alistair reassured him, “Don't worry, my sweet man, I don't plan on letting you go anytime soon… or… ever.”

Laying his head on the pillow that they shared, Alistair allowed himself to drift off to sleep, fully at peace, and heart happy.

Chapter Text


Cocktails & Cheese

Cullen and Alistair - A Modern Day AU

Chapter 6

The Timely Escape


Cullen sat at his desk staring blankly at the report in front of him. His mind far away; still wrapped in Alistair’s incredible embrace. They stayed up late: the TV, no more than a backdrop for the intensity of what was blooming between them. It was powerful--the pull they felt towards each other--like nothing either of them ever experienced before. 

As the night wore on, they fell into a comfortable silence; laying together on the oversized sofa. On his back with Alistair pressed close to his side--his head resting comfortably on Cullen’s shoulder--their legs intertwined, allowing for both of their tall bodies to fit the furniture. They lay there, lost to soft caresses and fond gazes; basking in the newness of their shared affections. Comfortable, content, and completely at ease; Cullen didn’t even remember falling asleep.

He woke, held securely in place by Alistair’s arms, spooned tightly to his chest with the steady stream of breath tickling the back of his neck. The sun--peeking through the wall of windows--spoke of how late he was going to be to work. He needed to head home so he could shower and change, but even with that hanging over his head, it still took effort to pull himself from the warmth and connection he felt there with Alistair.

Sighing with contentment, Cullen loved how perfectly they slotted together. Blinking away his surprise, he realized that after only one night’s sleep in Alistair’s arms, he felt more relaxed and at peace than he could ever remember feeling before.

Damn Mondays!

Work was the last place he wanted to be, especially when Alistair had another day off and felt so incredible pressed up against him. Slowly and reluctantly, he extracted himself from those incredible arms. Hearing the pitiful whimper of protest, he smiled knowingly.

I know exactly how you feel. What I wouldn’t give to be able to stay here with you all day!

Pulling the afghan from the top of the sofa, Cullen tucked it around Alistair then went in search of something to leave a note with. Finding paper and pen, he wrote simply:

 

       Thank you for an incredible evening. Though, I never
intended on imposing on you for the whole night, I will admit to
thoroughly enjoying waking up in your arms this morning.
Enjoy your day off. My day will be spent working, with
thoughts of you to carry me through.
                                   
                                      Yours,
                                        
                                          Cullen

After brushing his lips softly across Alistair’s brow, he left the note on the table, slipped into his shoes, grabbed his belongings from the credenza, then slipped quietly out the door.

The stairwell was dark, with only the glow of the EXIT sign to light the way. Feeling along the wall, Cullen found his way to the door at the bottom of the stairs with little trouble. Letting himself out, he said a quiet thank you to Lana for showing him the alternative exit the night before. Shivering from the early morning chill, Cullen realized that he’d left his jacket upstairs, hanging on the coatrack.

Maker’s breath, talk about being distracted! Well… at least that will give me a good excuse to come back sooner rather than later.  


 

A knock on the office door brought Cullen out of his reverie.

“Yes?” he responded, then nodded to his Lieutenant as he tentatively poked his head in.

“A package just arrived for you, Commander.”

“A package, Rylen?”

“Yes, sir. The box isn’t labeled and the messenger who delivered it wasn’t very forthcoming with her knowledge of its contents. It isn’t ticking or anything though and it is really light. Would you like me to make sure it’s safe before I bring it in, sir?”

Cullen pondered the request. The fact that his Lieutenant was worried, spoke volumes about how rare it was for him to receive visitors or correspondences at work. He wasn’t aware of anyone being unhappy with him enough to send threatening packages though.

Curiosity getting the better of him, Cullen decided to take the chance, “No, that’s all right. Go ahead and bring it in.”

Rylen returned with a three inch square by twelve-inch-long, rectangular box, wrapped in plain brown paper. The lettering on top simply read:

                        Commander Cullen Rutherford

Turning it over and seeing that there were no other markings, Cullen looked up at Rylen and shrugged. Peeling off the paper revealed a simple white box with royal blue ribbon held in place by a silver embossed sticker. The image imprinted on the silvery foil was a wheel of cheese with a glass of wine positioned directly in the middle of it; it was a relief of the same logo that adorned the outside of Alistair’s bar.  

“It’s ok, Lieutenant, there is no danger here.” His mind pulled him back to the loft as he studied the box; running his fingers over the ridges of the logo. Cullen was so distracted by his thoughts that he missed the sound of his office door clicking shut and the soft footsteps that returned to the front of his desk.

Rylen cleared his throat, “Permission to speak freely sir?”

“Yes? What is it?” Cullen noted the concern on his lieutenant’s face, setting the unopened box aside, he gave him his full attention.

“Is… everything all right, sir? You seem to be… well frankly, you seem to be acting differently this morning.”

Cullen quirked an eyebrow, “How do you mean?”

“First of all, you… you’re usually here and working diligently when everyone else shows up for their shifts.”

“Am I in trouble for not showing up for work on time?” The slight quirk of his lip, the only indicator that he wasn’t serious.

“No um… No, sir, not at all. But you see…”

“You’ll have to be a little more detailed than that, Rylen. C’mon dazzle me, what’s so different about me this morning?” Cullen leaned back in his chair with his hands clasped behind his head as he waited for his second to gather his thoughts.

Cullen enjoyed watching Rylen’s uncomfortable shifting from side to side as he tried to figure out how to proceed. As his mentor, Cullen had been working closely with Rylen on assessing situations and compiling data to make realistic conclusions. Because they spent so much time together, poor Rylen was exposed to more of Cullen’s unique brand of humor than anyone else in the office.

I probably shouldn’t enjoy razzing him this much… but damn, he makes it so easy sometimes!

Rylen stuttered, “W…What I mean, sir… you seem to be uh, h…happier than normal.”

“Happier.” Cullen deadpanned. “So you’re worried because I’m in a good mood?”

Clearly agitated, Rylen was wondering if it might have been safer to not say anything at all. “No, sir. Well, actually… You see… you’ve been smiling, sir.”

“Smiling.”

“Yes, sir, you don’t usually smile much at all. You were also late... and you're never late.” He was wringing his hands as he rushed through the information he’d gathered.

“I set my own hours, Rylen, how can I be late?”

“Well, yes, that’s true. But you run like clockwork; on the days that you come into the office, you’re always here by seven forty-five to greet the eight am shift as we come in. On the days that you work in the field, you always call in by nine.”

“And today?”

“You arrived at nine fifteen, sir…. and… you brought donuts.” Rylen was looking everywhere else but at his boss. Cullen knew his voice had remained stagnant, but he could no longer hide the smirk that was growing on his face. If his Lieutenant looked at him directly, he would have noticed that he was being fucked with.

“Donuts are bad?” Cullen queried. “Like… swooping?”

“Well not exactly, sir, but combined with you being late and…” Rylen lowered his voice, “When you went to refill your coffee, sir, I could have sworn that I heard you… humming.”

“Humming is clearly unnatural, perhaps I need to be sent in for a psych eval?”

“Unnatural for you, sir, but…” He finally looked up and saw that Cullen was grinning at him. “Damnit, sir! Why do you do that to me?”

“Because it’s fun and you’re so easy to rile up. So… let me have the rest of your deductions. You’re a smart man, Rylen, what’s going on with me that’s so different?”

Clearly relieved, Rylen didn’t bother commenting on his boss’ affinity with messing with him, “I don’t believe you need a psych eval, sir. But when I came in this morning to tell you about your package delivery, I noticed that you haven’t made a dent in your reports, which--late or not--you would normally be almost done with by now. And speaking of the package… if I didn’t know any better, that look on your face when you were touching the seal… looked almost wistful.”

“Your point, Lieutenant?”

“All of that leads me to wonder--not that it’s my place to ask--but… have you uh... met someone, Commander Cullen?”

Clearing his throat, Cullen ticked his protégés findings off on his fingers, “So based on: my tardiness, willingness to share baked goods, having a catchy tune stuck in my head, lack of focus on my work, and the unusual delivery of personal mail… you've come to the conclusion that I’ve somehow found myself enamored with someone. Am I to understand that I have also become an object of gossip within the office?”

Rylen reassured him quickly, “No, sir! Not that I’ve heard, anyway. But you’ve been teaching me to notice things that seem out of the ordinary and, well, your behavior today has definitely been… different… for you…sir.” He paused for a moment in contemplation before deciding that it was ok to finish his thought, “If you have met someone, I just want you to know that I am… happy for you. Again, not that it’s my place to say, but you spend too much time alone.”

Cullen raised his eyebrows at his Lieutenant’s last statement, but held his tongue. Rylen caught the tail end of the look and amended his statement, “I will also do my best to squash any such rumors or gossip pertaining to your personal life should they spring up.”

Cullen ran both hands down his face while groaning audibly before responding. “It’s ok Rylen. I have--in fact--met someone, and I would thank you for your discretion on this matter. I like to keep my personal life… private, and I know how fast gossip can spread around here.”

Pulling the box back in front of him again, Cullen gazed down at it with curious smile while continuing, “I would regret it even more, however, should there be nothing for you lot to gossip about. Thank you for your concern, Rylen. And not a bad little bit of detective work there. Dismissed.”

Rylen smiled gratefully with a nod and let himself out.

Taking a deep breath, Cullen removed the ribbon from the box and lifted the lid. Laying just inside, was a small glass vase and a single red rose in its early stages of bloom.

There was also a small note card with neat script matching that on the outer wrapping: 

 

                        You may impose on me anytime! 

                                                Always,

                                                      -Alistair

Smiling to himself, Cullen put water in the tiny vase and set it on the left side of his desk, near his computer; Close enough that he could enjoy it, but hidden to most visitor’s prying eyes.

Cullen knew he was falling hard for Alistair. Last night only cemented how truly lost his heart was. Dorian and Rylen were right, he was a mess--distracted and out of his element--all he could think about was Alistair. He needed to pull himself together and focus.   

Unable to concentrate, he thought perhaps sharing his current euphoria might help him get back on track. Picking up his phone he sent out a text.

[10:45]

Cullen:           You were right.

Dorian:          Amatus? I am frequently right, but what, pray tell, am I right about on this glorious Monday morning.

Cullen:           I was… pleasantly surprised. Though my focus today is completely shot to hell.

Dorian:          …!!!... Congratulations my dear friend! And the ‘being distracted’ will pass in time. With luck, however, that warm, full feeling in your heart--will stay forever.

Cullen:           I just wanted to say, thank you.

Dorian:          For?

Cullen:           Giving me the push I needed. For helping me get over my own hang-ups.

Dorian:          That is what therapists do my friend, and if I may say so, I am one of the best.

Cullen:          

Dorian:          So, have you gotten his number yet?

Cullen:           Crap! No, I… got distracted.

Dorian:          ha, ha, ha--well, some things certainly never change. I expect a full report on my desk in the morning, ser Knight. And don’t leave out any of the steamy fun bits!

Cullen:           Sorry, no report. Go make your own ‘steamy fun bits’ with Bull.

Dorian:          Spoil sport. Gotta go, heading into a lecture.

Cullen:           Giving or receiving?

Dorian:          You know I have no preference… though Bull prefers to give.

Cullen:           Ugh Dorian, I don’t need those details!

Dorian:          Enjoy your day, Commander!

Cullen:           You as well, Doctor.

Cullen smiled as he set his phone down, no nearer to wanting to do his work than he was before.


 

One o’clock rolled around and Cullen still sat staring at his undented stack of reports. He’d spent the majority of the day either watching the clock tick painfully by or looking at his rose whose soft petals, reminded him of Alistair's lips.

Only a few more hours until I can safely slip out of here! But, what then?

His heart was yearning to go back to Alistair’s. He could always use retrieving his jacket, as an excuse, but a part of him was convinced that he wouldn’t need one anymore. It was enough to just want to see him again. To touch and hold…

Maker’s breath, Rutherford, pull it together!

No sooner had the words run through his mind that he was remembering Alistair’s kisses from the night before. Gently running his fingertips over his own lips, he was shocked out of his reverie by a quick knock on the door.

“Enter!” He commanded, happy for the distraction.

Rylen came in quickly and closed the door immediately behind him. He looked wide eyed, harried, and unsure of where to start.

“Yes? What is it?” Cullen prompted.

“There’s a… gentleman outside who says he wishes to speak to you about a case, sir. He says that something priceless has been stolen.”

“I don’t generally deal with petty theft Rylen. You know that.”

“I do, sir, but he specifically asked for you and is insistent that no one else will do.”

Cullen argued, “Absolutely not, just because someone has heard my name doesn’t mean I have to go personally help them find every stray kitten that’s gone missing! Tell them to…”

Rylen was shaking his head in panic at Cullen’s tirade and finally interrupted, “He’s a Theirin, sir.”

“Theirin? You mean the family that put Denerim on the map?”

“Yes, sir! That family. The one with all the businesses and money! The one that could make or break this precinct with a mere word to the Commissioner or Mayor. I think... you need to at least talk to him, sir, for all our sakes.”

Cullen groaned and ran his fingers through his hair. He hated playing politics, but his Lieutenant was right. If his presence was specifically requested by that particular family, it was his job to at least talk to the man and figure out how he could help him. As he began to put some semblance of order back into his desk, Cullen acquiesced, “Very well, Rylen, show Mr. Theirin in and we’ll see if I can’t find his missing ‘precious’”. The note of disdain in his voice was hard to miss.

Cullen knew of the family by name, but he generally ignored the hype and tabloid stories. This meant that he wouldn’t be able to pick any of them out of a lineup were they right in front of him. Whatever he expected to come waltzing in with the family name, Theirin, the man that entered his office, took him completely by surprise.

Cullen’s breath caught as Alistair walked through the door wearing the leather jacket that he’d forgotten in his rush to leave that morning. Any other clue of familiarity was wiped clean before Rylen entered on his heels. Alistair quickly turned his most winning smile on the Lieutenant, “Thank you so much for procuring the famous Commander for me, I know he is a busy, busy man, but this object is so precious to me that simply no one else would do.” Cullen thought Rylen was about to swoon as Alistair shook his hand before ushering him out the door and locking it. He wouldn't have blamed him, he’d been on the receiving end of that same smile and knew exactly how it could pluck the breath right from his lungs.

Reclining in his chair, Cullen watched with amusement as Alistair visibly relaxed once Rylen was gone. Looking around the room, Alistair grinned triumphantly as he observed, “Hmm, private office… no open blinds… Convenient.”

“Privacy is paramount when interviewing potential witnesses.” Cullen couldn’t help but smile at the man who just successfully forced his way into a Commander’s office of the local precinct while hardly batting an eyelash. Unable to help himself, he had to ask, “Theirin, huh? I don’t remember seeing that name on the sign above your door. Come to think of it, don’t most Theirin owned businesses have a plaque somewhere on them stating that they’re family owned? You know, you might get more customers if you used it more often.”

Alistair shuddered at the thought and held his hands out--palms up--in apology. Taking a deep breath, he began to explain, “I am the bastard son of a family that has a long arm and an even longer legacy. I was never meant to be and was hidden away in the chantry orphanage until circumstances allowed for me to be acknowledged. I am the black sheep of the family, if you will. I would never use the name to try to drum up business, I’d rather my customers make their choice out of curiosity or word of mouth, not because it’s somehow attached to a family I barely know.” He looked a little sheepish as he finished his diatribe, “I’m sorry, it’s a… bit of a touchy subject for me”.

Cullen tried to soothe the tension, “No need to apologize, I suspect we both still have a lot to learn about each other. I can be a very patient man when I need to be. And for you, I’ve got all the time in the world.” He smiled affectionately.

Alistair relaxed, “I wouldn’t have even used my family name to get in here if your Lieutenant wasn’t so stubbornly protective of you and your privacy.”

“Rylan's a good man.” Cullen’s smile never wavered as he watched Alistair inch closer as they talked. “So tell me about this item that was stolen from you? Or was that all part of your clever plan to sneak in here to see me?”

Alistair rounded the corner of the desk, “Oh no, no, Commander, that part is very much true. You see… I had an incredibly amazing evening last night. I’m talking fairytale worthy; birds chirping and singing along as I danced on air, experience. Yet, when I woke up this morning, I felt like something vital to me was missing.”

Cullen’s mind did laps trying to figure out what Alistair was referring to. The fairytale evening, he got. He felt the same way. But everything was in its place when he left…

Standing directly in front of Cullen, Alistair placed a hand on each of the chair’s armrests, effectively pinning him in place. Leaning in for a tender, chaste kiss, Alistair whispered against his lips, “You, my dear, Commander, seem to have stolen my heart when I wasn’t looking.”

Reminding himself to breathe, he placed his hands on Alistair’s hips and pulled him down onto his lap. Once seated, Cullen wrapped his arms around his waist, kissing him deeply and passionately. After coming up for air, he responded to his accusation, “Well then, I guess we are both guilty, as a piece of me has been missing all day and it wasn’t until you walked through my door, that I felt whole again.”

They savored the moment; quietly holding each other with their foreheads touching, breathing in tandem. The chair squeaked, making Alistair break the silence, “So how do you plan on explaining to the powers that be, that you and I managed to break your office chair? I can’t imagine it holding us for long.”

Cullen chuckled at the thought, “It’s holding fine--so far--and at the moment, I don’t really want to let you go. Should the chair decide to break, we’ll just have to get really creative with our storytelling.” Stealing a quick kiss, Cullen admitted, “I’ve missed you today, you know.”

Alistair relaxed further into Cullen’s embrace, wrapping both arms around his neck and holding him tight to him. “I’ve missed you too. This isn’t as comfortable as the sofa last night, but it will do for now. I am very thankful your office is so private, this might be awkward should any of your officers walk in.”

“I wasn’t imagining you locking the door when you came in, was I? You probably have Rylen wondering if he should be worried about you attacking me… protective as he is.”

Alistair grinned mischievously, “Why yes, I did. Convenient that you had a lock for me to latch. It gave me a moment to calm my nerves actually. And that speaks well of you, that your guys like you enough to want to protect you.”

“It’s a mutual arrangement. We look out for each other.” He returned Alistair’s grin, “So what has you so nervous? Surely not me!”

“Well, it's not as if I make a habit of barging into police stations, demanding to speak to the man in charge. I'm actually surprised it worked.” Alistair chuckled in spite of himself.

“I'm sure you have a very good reason for coming down here,” Running his nose up the side of Alistair’s neck he placed a soft kiss upon his jaw before whispering, “Though you could give me any reason at all and I’d still be happy just to see you.”

“So you’re saying that I’m not interrupting anything important?” He looked pointedly at the mountain of paperwork that still needed to be dealt with and chuckled. His smile grew as his eyes landed on the rose sitting on the corner of the desk. “I see you got my gift. I hope you didn’t find it… too cheesy.” Alistair managed to look a little worried.

“I did, and I love it actually. Thank you. If it wasn’t ‘cheesy’ then I wouldn’t have believed it was really from you.” Cullen chuckled.

Relief seemed to wash over Alistair’s face as Cullen admitted, “In all honesty, I’ve been pretty useless here today.” Running his hands languidly up and down Alistair’s back he elaborated, “I’ve been rather distracted you see. It’s made it a bit difficult to concentrate on my work.” He ventured in to taste Alistair’s lips again, “All I’ve been able to think about is you and how much I thoroughly enjoyed last night. I’ve been lamenting not getting your number or even your last name so I could call and hear your voice. Something I plan on remedying today.”

“You probably could have used your vast resources here to track down one wayward owner of a cheesy pub downtown. How many Alistair’s could there be?”

“There’s only one Alistair that I care about.” He kissed him tenderly then added, “I probably could have, but if I’d used the resources at hand, the rumors surely would have run rampant.”

“It sounds like there should be more to that statement?”

“My Lieutenant has deduced, by my odd behavior today, that I am currently smitten with someone; can you believe it?” His lips sought Alistair’s again, he couldn’t get enough.

“Say it isn't so!” Alistair chuckled, returning the affections.

“Totally unbelievable, I know.”

“And how did he come to that conclusion? Is he a detective too?”

Cullen shook his head, “Not by rank, he’s still in training. He is very observant, however.”

“Do the... rumors pose a problem for you?” Alistair asked, worrying over how public Cullen would want their relationship to be.   

“Not at all, they're a good team, but I prefer to keep at least the steamy details to ourselves.” Cullen responded with a gentle smile, which made Alistair release the breath he didn’t realize he’d been holding.

“Steamy details… I like the sound of that, actually.”

Losing himself in Alistair’s eyes, he gripped him tighter and pulled him in for a searing kiss. The passion from the night before, laying just under the surface, made it easy for them to lose themselves in tongues, teeth, and lips battling for dominance. Breaking away reluctantly, Cullen asked breathlessly, “You didn't happen to bring Lana with you did you? Are we safe from the mother hen?”

Gasping for breath, Alistair tried to chuckle, “Mother hen? She's going to love that one! And no, she's back at the bar.” He ran his fingers gently down the side of Cullen’s cheek before continuing, “The girls run it on Sunday's and Monday's for me. She was here earlier though, my own personal delivery gal. I had no idea which precinct you worked at, so her uh, ‘gifts’ came in handy.

“I don’t remember giving out my family name either. How’d you manage to address the box?”

Alistair blushed while looking away, “Apparently, you often use your last name when you’re admonishing yourself.” He tapped his own head to illustrate his meaning as he looked back into Cullen’s eyes.

Cullen looked at Alistair in horror which was answered with a chuckle. “Now, now, you know she didn’t give me any details. Believe me, I’ve tried to get them out of her. She did say it was pretty adorable though… and I have to agree.” He leaned in for another kiss before continuing. “I was having similar issues trying to focus today. I’d been attempting to distract myself by counting inventory this morning when I sent Lana out to deliver your rose. When she got back I had counted the same box, four times, and still couldn’t retain how many bottles were inside. So I completely understand the, ‘feeling useless’ at work, thing. Lana laughed at our mutual pining then suggested we both escape for a while… to, ‘get it out of our system’, she said.”

“The same Lana from last night who was trying to get us to slow down and not rush into things? I thought she wanted us to just enjoy each other for a while first.”

“I did… rather enjoy you, but perhaps not to the full extent that my body craves. And it seems she’s had a change of heart. Maybe she’s plucked something out of our brains that has assured her that neither one of us are out to hurt the other. Maybe she knows something else that she’s not sharing, but she was quick to shoo me away today. Her exact words were, ‘Just go… find your Knight-Commander…”

“I am no longer a Knight-Commander,” Cullen responded automatically.

Surprised, Alistair questioned, “You were a Knight-Commander? So you were...”

“A Templar, yes. I resigned from my post several years ago. The ‘why’… I prefer to save for another time. But it was my previous rank that allowed me to keep the ‘Commander’ at least, for my current position, instead of the traditional, Captain.”

“Do you still have the skirt?” Alistair’s eyes lit up with excitement.

Cullen laughed, “It wasn’t a skirt, it was part of the mantle and uniform.”

Alistair grinned from ear to ear, “Can I try it on?”

Rolling his eyes at the excitement he saw in Alistair’s, he countered, “Maybe someday, but you have to promise to dance the Remigold in it for me.”

“Ok, but for your eyes only,” Alistair winked.

“You were saying?” Cullen was trying hard not to let his laughter carry him away.

“What? Oh yes… you know it’s actually funnier now. I wonder if she… hmmm… Anyway, where was I? Lana said… ‘Go find your Knight-Commander in shining armor, get him out of your system so you can think straight again.’ Though I willingly agreed with the first part, I fear that it will be a very long time before I will ever feel like I’ve had enough of you. And I can’t imagine ever getting you fully out of my system.”

Alistair leaned in to whisper, “I promise not to make a habit of intruding on you here at work, but, just for today…” He looked around conspiratorially before continuing, “Do you want to get out of here?”

Cullen listened, enraptured by Alistair’s voice. His sudden appearance, gave him the excuse he needed to leave the office for the day. He looked briefly at the mountain of paperwork, then back at Alistair before replying, “I would like that. Give me a moment, then I’m yours.”

Pulling him down for one last kiss before releasing Alistair from his lap. Cullen straightened his clothes, fixed his tie, and ran his fingers through his hair to make sure he was fully presentable. Unlocking the door, he let Alistair out saying deliberately, “Let me brief my Lieutenant, Mr. Theirin, then we can go take a look at the scene of the crime.”

“Thank you, Commander.” Alistair played along beautifully, “I truly appreciate your attention to this matter.

“Rylen?” Cullen beckoned him into the office; closing the door behind them.

“Is it serious sir?”

Cullen took a moment to think before making the decision to tell Rylen the truth. He sighed wistfully while looking through the wall into the corner of the outer office where he knew Alistair to be waiting for him, “I truly hope so.”

Rylen looked confused, “No, sir, I meant the item that was…” then did a double take. “Wait! What? You’re saying...” He looked at Cullen’s sheepish expression to where he’d been staring. “You’re dating a Theirin? That... Theirin? Wow, sir, when you finally dive into the dating pool, you go all in!”

Cullen blushed lightly, “So it would seem. Until a few moments ago, I wasn’t even aware that he belonged to the Theirin family. That part… hadn’t come up yet.”

Rylen smiled, “That would explain your earlier reluctance to meet with him. I take it you feel differently now?”

“Hmmm, very much so. I don’t think either one of us were actually looking for… whatever this is we’ve begun. And as for the case, it seems it was a thinly veiled excuse to come see me today. Apparently he’s been just as useless at work as I have been here.” Cullen looked pointedly at his pile of reports.

“Don’t worry, sir; your secret is safe with me for as long as you want it to be.” Rylen grinned at his Commander. Then looking at the pile of reports on the table, he offered, “If you’d like, I could go through your reports for you. I can at least get through the minor issues and buy you some time to uh… go investigate this new case? In fact--if I may also offer--I think you may need to take tomorrow as well… for field work, of course. Just to make sure you’ve thoroughly exhausted all of your options and research. The Theirin’s are a very influential family, after all. We wouldn’t want them to think that we’re taking their case lightly.”

Cullen looked at his Lieutenant and paused a moment before nodding gratefully. “Thank you Rylan, I owe you one. I will see you… the day after tomorrow.”

“And I will talk to you tomorrow at nine, when you check in.” Rylen gently reminded him of his schedule, to keep up appearances. He’d been nudging Cullen--for a while now--to take some time off, and was pleased that he’d managed to find a good excuse for him to do so.

With a smile of gratitude, Cullen grabbed his coat and went to catch up with his date for the afternoon.

 ~*~

Alistair was waiting by the door when Cullen and his Lieutenant exited the office. It was all he could do to hide his smile as they approached. His heart fluttered in his chest at the mere sight of Cullen in his suit and long trench-coat, looking every bit the detective that his role entailed. All he needed was the hat… he filed that bit of information away for another day.

Watching Cullen and his Lieutenant, Alistair was suddenly nervous. They’d talked many times at the bar and last night in his apartment was amazing, but this felt… different. They wouldn’t be at his pub or safely tucked inside Cullen’s office or Alistair’s loft; they would be out in public, on display.

Will he want to keep our relationship a secret? Will he be as willing as I am to let the world know?

Cullen spoke first as they reached Alistair, “Rylen here will be holding down the fort in my absence. There is much paperwork to file to be able to uphold your family’s illustrious reputation. It will all be done… discretely, of course.”

Rylen piped up, “Not to worry sir, we’ve got your number should we need you”. Then added in a whisper so only they could hear, “But I will do my best not to... uh... interrupt.” Then louder again, “Good luck with your investigation, sirs. And, Mr. Theirin, don’t worry, if anyone could be trusted with the care of your ‘stolen’ item, our Commander here can.”

Cullen rolled his eyes but said clearly, “Thank you Rylan, that will be all.”

Alistair felt relieved after the exchange with Rylen. Perhaps he wouldn’t be so secretive about their relationship after all.

Chapter Text


Cocktails & Cheese

Cullen and Alistair - A Modern Day AU

Chapter 7

Just a Walk in the Park 


 

Exiting the building, Cullen and Alistair turned North towards the park. Their hands crammed deep in their pockets, more from nerves than to stave off a chill. It was early summer and the warmth from the late afternoon sun, negated their need for coats.

Rubbing the back of his neck, Cullen decided to break the silence, “It’s a… nice day.”

Pulled from his thoughts, Alistair couldn’t help but smile, “What? I… uh… yes, yes it is…” Grinning sheepishly, he leaned over and playfully bumped their shoulders together, “Now that I’ve got you by my side, it is anyway.”

Cullen bumped Alistair back as he eyed him appreciatively.

Sweet Andraste, he looks positively delectable in my leather!

“Nice jacket, by the way.” He couldn’t resist the compliment.

“Looks good on me huh? But that’s not the best part.” Grabbing the collar, he pulled the lapels up to his nose and inhaled deeply, “It smells like you too. I’m not sure if that’s helped or hindered my concentration today, but it has kept me smiling since I put it on.”

Cullen was struck by how incredibly handsome Alistair looked at the moment. Not that he wasn’t always easy on the eyes… but there was something different, and it wasn’t just the leather. Maybe it was the sun shining through his hair, framing his freckles in a red halo. Perhaps, it was the eye crinkling grin that was currently lighting up Alistair’s face while still clutching the lapels of his jacket. He looked happy--truly happy--and the pure unadulterated candidness of the moment sent Cullen’s mind off on its own little adventure.

He wanted nothing more than to lean in and place a kiss on those lips that he now knew--all too well--were velvety smooth and tasted like heaven. Propriety held him back. They were in public, not in the more secluded bar or in his office.

Would Alistair even want that?

Generally speaking, no one cared anymore what gender your partner was, what color their skin was, or what shape their ears were. Bigotry of all kinds was still around, but it was no longer common and usually only heard around the uneducated or downtrodden. Some people, it seemed, would always try to make themselves feel better by putting others down. That wasn’t what was holding him back, however. Cullen was a public figure, well known and--for the most part--well liked. But his position held a high profile weight to it that wouldn’t go unnoticed and damnit… Alistair was a Theirin, if that name alone didn’t scream, ‘write ludicrous tabloid articles about me’ he didn’t know what would. The two of them together? That was perfect fodder for the bottom feeders of Thedas.

Alistair didn’t publicly flaunt his heritage. He said himself, that he wouldn’t list the family name anywhere on his building; so maybe he didn’t want such a public relationship. It’s possible that he purposefully avoided the limelight as well. If Cullen’s job wasn’t so high profile--and if he wasn’t already well known for his dramatic exit from the Chantry--he would prefer to avoid it all too.

Why does this have to be so damn complicated? Maybe… it doesn’t!

Cullen began to lean in to steal a kiss, but once again, thought better of it until he could figure out where Alistair stood on the topic. Instead, he looked down at his shoes, smiling bashfully.

Shit, I don’t want to mess this up, but damn!... He is perfect and I don’t care what other people think. Perhaps… he won’t either? I need to find some way to ask.

It took Cullen a moment to refocus back on what Alistair was saying.

“…almost as good as being in your arms… Well, no… actually… what am I saying? Nothing is quite that good. Have I mentioned how much I thoroughly enjoyed last night? No? Yes? On a scale of one to ten, I would give it an eleven!”

Cullen watched with fondness as Alistair rambled nervously. Shaking his head at how silly, two grown-ass men could be around each other, he couldn’t help but chuckle.

He’s completely adorable! Even after last night, we’re both still bumbling and unsure. We definitely need to get over this.

Alistair’s voice trailed off as he realized that Cullen was watching him with silent amusement.

Crap! I’m rambling again - way to go Al!

Unsure of how to proceed, he began to drop his hands uncomfortably from the collar back towards his pockets. His face looking anywhere but at Cullen, cheeks flushed with embarrassment.

Noticing the change in Alistair’s demeanor, Cullen caught his wrist on its descent. Locking eyes with Alistair, he cautiously slid their hands together, intertwining their fingers, praying that Alistair wouldn’t pull away.

He didn’t pull away.  

This is a good start.

Alistair hummed his approval--his body relaxing at the contact--then smiled in gratitude.

Squeezing gently, Cullen asked, “You don’t mind do you?”

Bringing their threaded fingers to his lips, Alistair kissed Cullen’s knuckles before responding, “Not at all. This is…  nice… comfortable… easy... calming. Sometimes, when I’m nervous, my mouth runs away leaving my brain far behind. So…thank you.” 

“My pleasure… and, I’m glad that... I had worried that… well, it doesn’t matter now.” Looking down at their hands, Cullen smiled and admitted with obvious relief, “My mind was running its own laps and… I’m glad that you’re not afraid to be seen out in public with me. It’s not as if we could maintain some sort of anonymity, this is likely to go public you know.”

Alistair shrugged, “It’s amazing how your thoughts echo mine... and we didn’t even need Lana here to coach us through it!” Alistair leaned in cautiously and placed a light peck on Cullen’s cheek, “In all honesty… I don’t care who might see us together or what anyone else thinks of us. It’s been too long since I’ve had anyone special in my life and never anyone who makes me feel the way that you do. The only other opinion I care about on the matter… is yours, and I don’t want to presume that you feel the same way.”

Alistair’s sincerity touched Cullen deeply. They’d only managed to walk a couple of blocks and were still within full view of the precinct when Cullen cupped the back of Alistair’s neck and gently pulled him in for that kiss he’d been deliberating over.

Reluctantly breaking away with heavily lidded eyes, Alistair whispered breathlessly, “You do realize that they can probably still see us from your work, right?”

Cullen kissed him again before reassuring him, “Let them talk. You are far more important to me than any rumors they might spread and they can say nothing that could harm us. I feel no need to hide you or how I feel about you. Rylan already knows and the rest will know in time. I may not be forthcoming regarding my personal life with my coworkers, but I would never deny what this is either.”

“And what is this exactly?” Alistair asked as he swayed in Cullen’s arms.

“This, my dear…” He claimed Alistair’s lips a third time for emphasis, “is pure… fucking… magic.”

Alistair wrapped his arms around Cullen, holding him tightly, while burying his face in his neck. They held each other close--in the middle of the sidewalk--for all the world to see. He knew exactly how Cullen felt. This thing between them was a force that transcended explanation. It was perfect, new, and beyond anything he ever thought possible for himself.

This, right here, is absolutely worth cherishing and nurturing!

Realizing that there would be repercussions for that admission, he groaned inwardly.

Damnit! Lana’s right. She’s gonna be so smug about this.

Outwardly he nearly swooned, “You say the sweetest things to me.” Alistair said while caressing Cullen’s cheek before chastely kissing the scar on his lip. Winking, he threaded their fingers together again and pulled Cullen along, continuing towards the park.

Leading him towards the koi pond in the middle of the Zen garden, Alistair turned to face Cullen as they came to the edge of the gently rippling water. “I hope you don’t mind, but I’ve taken the liberty of arranging a late lunch for us.” He glanced at his watch before adding, “although, we have a bit longer to wait before it will be ready. Have you eaten?”

“No, I haven’t, and I don’t mind at all.” He quirked an eyebrow in amusement before adding, “I will admit to being curious about something, however. How long have you been planning on abducting me from work?”

Alistair drew Cullen onto the wooden bridge over the water before answering, “You’ve been visiting me at work for months now. I thought it only fair to return the favor. Only… until last night, I wasn’t confident that my… interests would be returned.”

Cullen shook his head, “You mean I wasn’t being obvious?” he asked with a grin. “Coming in regularly, only ordering one drink, yet sitting for hours, watching you work?”

“I figured you were only drinking one, because I kept giving you the good stuff.”

“Well, it’s not like you ever let me pay; and don’t think I didn’t notice when you increased the amount in my glass from two fingers to three when I stopped ordering that second drink.” Cullen chuckled, “But no, I was busy taking it all in and I didn’t want to risk forgetting or missing something important; trying my best to enjoy your company without putting you off. I was worried that you might find my attention… creepy.” He smiled bashfully, “I couldn't stay away though. At first, I wouldn’t admit--even to myself--why I was there so often. But one day I gave up my pretenses... I admitted that I really just wanted to see you.”

Cullen studiously watched the fish swim beneath them while he ran his thumb affectionately across Alistair's knuckles. Flushing lightly, he realized that he just admitted more than what he meant too.

Alistair smiled at him. “I didn’t find your presence creepy at all. In fact, though seeing you at the bar was a bit distracting, the nights that you weren’t there were even more so. Every time the door opened, I would look up, hoping to see you come in, only to be disappointed when it wasn’t you. The fact that you run on a fairly regular schedule did help with my anticipation after a while.” Alistair chuckled, “That’s probably what made Friday so… unreal. You never come in on Fridays and then there you were, sitting in your usual spot, looking so damn inviting--if a little shell-shocked. Soo… what did you think of our Wild Weekends?”

“In all honesty, it was a bit… overwhelming for me. I may be a little like Lana in that respect.” Cullen ducked his head in embarrassment before glancing back up again, “I will say, however, that I really enjoyed watching you dance.” He grinned at Alistair, “I’ve never seen anyone move like that. It was… pretty impressive and quite provocative. Have you ever dropped a bottle?”

Alistair laughed, “I did in the beginning, but I haven’t in a while. Granted, when you came in Friday, I nearly broke my streak.” He shook his head ruefully, “When you walked through the door, Zevran had just tossed one up for me. I was so surprised at seeing you, that I nearly missed it. I may not have caught it with my usual flare, but I did manage to keep it from hitting the ground.” Alistair cringed at the thought.

Cullen chuckled at the look of horror on Alistair’s face, “Would it have been that bad?”

Groaning, he reluctantly admitted, “We have an agreement at the bar… whoever drops a bottle… gets auctioned off to the highest bidder.” Alistair’s face lit up with embarrassment.

“Auctioned off?”

“Yes… The proceeds get donated to a local charity which is decided by the crowd.”

“That doesn’t sound so bad, supporting the local community and all that. What is it exactly that they’re bidding for?”

Alistair dipped his chin deep to his chest and coughed, “A kiss.”

Placing a finger under Alistair’s chin, Cullen tipped it up to look into his eyes, “I would have happily bid for that honor.” He leaned in for a quick kiss then pulled back smiling at the relief written plainly on Alistair’s face. “So… how long has it been since either of you dropped one?”

“Oh, Zevran drops one about once a month… just for fun. I haven’t dropped one in almost two years.”

“Do I need to add Fridays and Saturdays to my schedule so that I can defend your honor should the… unthinkable happen?” Cullen smirked.

Flushing more than Cullen for once, Alistair tried to let him off the hook, “How about… I try really hard not to drop a bottle. But just in case, maybe we should clock how fast you can make it to the pub--on the off chance that I do miss one in the future.”

“Um…” Cullen cleared his throat nervously, “I can make it in twenty minutes with end of the day traffic, but it only takes me seven to make it home at the end of the night.” He grinned at Alistair, who started laughing.

“Right… of course you already know, it’s not as if you’re an incredibly observant detective or anything.”

Running his fingers tenderly down Alistair’s cheek, Cullen admitted, “More like… I just couldn’t wait to see you after work… then at the end of the day, I found myself back home way before I wanted to be.”

Alistair smiled with affectionate humor, “So… if I am going to drop a bottle, I’ll make sure to wait until after rush hour so that my knight in shining armor can come rescue me.”

“Exactly!” Cullen said, pulling Alistair in and kissing him soundly, before reaching into his pocket for his cellphone. “We should… probably exchange numbers though… just in case.”

“Probably not a bad idea.” Alistair took Cullen’s phone and putting in his number, sent himself a text.

[14:45]

Unknown:     Cullen’s number, don’t fuck this up! xoxo

Glancing at the text Alistair sent from his phone, Cullen laughed as he pocketed the device, “You are damn adorable… and I honestly don’t think you can… fuck this up that is.” The smile that lit up Alistair’s face was totally worth it. “Thank you for the number, now maybe Dorian will get off my case about it.” Winking at Alistair he said, “I’m sorry if his visit bothered you at all. As best friend’s go, he’s a good guy, but he was more of a pain in the ass this trip than normal.”

“How so?”

“He spent most of this visit giving me shit.” Cullen chuckled again. “Absolutely relentless. Hopefully now, he will back off.”

“What was he onto you about?

Cullen ran his fingers through his hair, “You mostly.” He smiled sheepishly, “Dorian and I have known each other for the better part of ten years. When I met him, I was going through a really rough time and he was… well… he was my therapist, to be honest.”

“A little Florence Nightingale effect?” Alistair teased lightly.

“No! No, never. Please know that there has never been anything like that between Dorian and I. He and Bull have been together for as long as I’ve known them and, though Dorian can be a bit…”

“Flirtatious?” Alistair chimed in helpfully.

“That’s one way of putting it.” Cullen chuckled before continuing, “Though he may be a bit flirtatious with everyone, he is fully devoted to his husband. Who, by the way, has a thing for redheads; so you might want to be careful… should Dorian bring him to town.”

“Is Bull as bad as Dorian?” Alistair asked, thinking about Dorian’s swagger.

“Different, very different. Seeing those two together is like watching oil and water try to mix. But somehow they do it… and they do it well. I’ve always been a little envious of what the two of them have. When I first met Lana and Leliana, I saw the same thing in them. It just is… as it’s meant to be. They fit. You know what I mean?”

Alistair said breathlessly, “Yeah… I… think I do.” Pausing a moment, he lost himself in Cullen’s eyes before blinking a few times to regain focus, “Sorry… You were saying? About Dorian giving you grief?”

Bringing himself back to the topic, Cullen directed his gaze back to the koi swimming serenely in the pond, “In all the time that we’ve been friends… Dorian has never known me to be interested in anyone. So when he said he was coming to town and I hesitated in offering to pick him up, he took it upon himself to investigate.”

Alistair crunched some quick numbers in his head.

Ten years? He’s been alone for at least ten years? Not that I’m much better, but damn!

“Why did you hesitate this trip as opposed to his past visits?” Alistair was genuinely curious.

Cullen admitted with a shy smile, “Last time he was in town… I didn’t have someplace else I’d rather be… it was Tuesday after all.” He squeezed Alistair’s hand for emphasis before continuing. “Dorian has never liked being left in the dark, and since I wouldn’t give him any details about you, he decided to take it upon himself to surprise me, just to meet the person who finally caught my eye. I still owe Rylen one for telling him where to find me,” he huffed a quick laugh before continuing. “He spent half his visit razzing me over not having your number; and the other half, trying to convince me that I should just go in there and sweep you off your feet.”

“So are you planning on telling him that I’ve been thoroughly swept?” Alistair grinned unabashedly.

Unable to meet his eyes, Cullen blushed, “He uh… already knows.”

Cupping Cullen’s face, Alistair placed a kiss upon each cheek, before leaning in to taste his lips again. “Good! I’d hate for him to come to the conclusion that I wasn’t somehow keeping you happy.”

“Why?” Cullen asked suspiciously. “What exactly did he tell you when he came in to see you. I only asked him to pass on that I was working and wouldn’t be in.”

Alistair shrugged, “Nothing terrible. I assume he’s just worried about you and wanted to make sure I was going to treat you right.”

“But we hadn’t even…”

“Yeah, I know. I was a little confused at the time, myself. Apparently our friends had a better idea than we did that this was happening.” Alistair indicated the two of them together. “I suppose that’s why they’re our best friends. They know us better than we know ourselves.”

“They?... You mean Lana too?”

“Yeah, Lana too. The insufferable elf, who can’t seem to mind her own business.” He laughed affectionately then sighed happily, “I can’t thank her enough.”

“I’m right there with you. It’s nice to know we have people like that at our backs, though their concerns are unwarranted. There is nothing I wouldn’t do to keep you happy, healthy, and safe.”

Alistair pulled Cullen in for another full bodied hug, holding him close and enjoying their embrace. He thought about Cullen’s words, ‘wanting to keep him safe.’ Last Thursday, that’s all he’d thought about after Dorian left; wanting him to be safe in the line of duty. Wanting him to come back to him.

Pulling away, Cullen could tell that Alistair had something on his mind, “What is it? What’s wrong?”

Alistair sighed, “I was just thinking about Thursday.”

“Did Dorian say anything else to you that I should know about?” Cullen inquired, ready to head to Tevinter to wring a certain mage’s neck, Bull or no Bull.

“No, not really. I wasn’t thinking of his visit at all actually. In fact, I am grateful that he came in to let me know you were working late. I’d begun to worry when you didn’t show up at your usual time.”

“I am sorry for not coming in. Believe me, I would rather have been there with you.”

“It wasn’t that you didn’t come in. Knowing that you were working was all I needed to put that to rest.” Alistair took a steeling breath, “Learning that you were going out onto some kind of a raid, it made me… really think about what it is that you do. What you might face. I mean… I know what you do, I know it can be dangerous and I know that you’re trained to take care of yourself. But… that was the first time it ever occurred to me that there was the possibility of you not coming back. It was that thought… when I hadn’t even let you know that you actually meant something to me yet, that…” Looking away, he wasn’t exactly sure how to continue putting those fears into words or even if he should.

Cullen leaned his forehead against Alistair’s, “I am sorry, I didn’t mean to cause you to worry. Thankfully, raids like that don’t come about too often. This one… this case was important to me for several reasons. Helping people is the part of my job that makes it all worth it… but this case was more than that… it was the culmination of two months of hard work.” He paused for a moment after emphasizing the time frame then quirked a smile before continuing, “This was what I was working on when I found my way into your pub, that very first night.”

Alistair remembered, “The one that you didn’t expect to have a happy outcome for at the time?”

Nodding, Cullen continued, most of it was already in the papers anyway, so it wasn’t exactly classified, “A woman was taken from her home--from her family--she left behind a husband… and a baby. No one knew what happened to her. Some even believed she ran away. But I had a feeling… I knew she was in more danger than anyone was willing to admit. Thursday, my team and I managed to find her and return her to her family. The group of…” He hesitated, nearly slipping up and revealing the truth of her captors. Instead, he went with the term used in the local papers, “The group of… thugs that had taken her, did not survive the encounter. Their boss, however, managed to escape. I don’t expect him to be returning anytime soon, though, I will continue my search for him.”

Alistair gasped, pulling Cullen in--he held him close. As a Warden, he knew the horrors that were out there. He suspected that the boss Cullen sought, was more than he appeared and secretly hoped Cullen wouldn’t succeed in finding him. He prayed that Cullen would never have to come up against anything that he, himself, was specifically trained for; fighting the horrors that occasionally crossed the veil. As much as Alistair hated secrets, he wished more than anything to protect Cullen from the gut-wrenching reality of what’s really out there.

Those without the sight typically wrote these attackers off as people hopped up on PCP or some other enhancing substance. These people moved too fast for anyone else to see where or how they caused damage to their victims--or so it was believed. The reality was far worse. Demons, dark mages, and darkspawn could all take life and to the un-awakened eye, it would seem a horribly violent crime. Claw marks appeared to be slashes from a blade. Scorched flesh from magefire, written off as household accidents or sadistic murders. Even though the horrors went by different names, the outcome was usually the same; loss of life that could have been prevented, if the right defenders were present. The Grey Wardens were those defenders; trained to fight and take on what the mundane population couldn’t comprehend. But their numbers were too few--they couldn’t be everywhere they were needed and Alistair was… retired. Sort of.

He knew that there were rumors of awakened Templars that would occasionally join forces with the Wardens when the situations warranted it. However, they were rare and Alistair himself had never encountered any, nor did he have an idea how to identify such a Templar. He prayed that Cullen wasn’t one, if only to shelter him from the truth.

Bringing himself out of his macabre musing, Alistair attempted to lighten the mood, “I am glad you weren’t hurt. I know it’s probably silly but… I was worried, all the same.”

Cullen caressed Alistair’s shoulders and back reassuringly. He knew the reality of what he faced on Thursday. He also knew that it was something he wouldn’t be able to fully share with anyone. In the heat of battle, he’d had no thoughts other than to protect and to serve. The reality of his foe haunted him that night--not enough to bring back the full force of his nightmares, but enough to cause him to wake up covered in sweat… remembering. For the first time in over a decade, he knew there was someone else to whom his well-being counted. That his absence might somehow pain Alistair, brought a mix of emotions that Cullen wasn’t entirely prepared for.

Taking a deep breath, Cullen pulled Alistair even closer, wanting to share the reality, but knowing in his heart, that he couldn’t. “You have no idea… I…”  He interrupted himself from seeking that solace, electing instead to give reassurance, “Alistair, I… wish I’d been able to let you know that I was safe. I will from now on, I promise you.”

Placated for the moment, Alistair kissed Cullen’s nose then winked at him. Not wanting to end their conversation with Cullen’s apology, he tried a different tactic, “Now, I don’t want you worrying about making me worry the next time you have a job to do, Commander,” he lectured. “Distractions can be deadly. Just keep yourself safe and come back to me, that’s all I ask.”

Smiling, Cullen acquiesced, “I think I can handle that.” Watching the way Alistair smiled at him while they talked reminded him of something else from that first visit to the pub. Changing the subject completely, he asked, “Do you remember that first night I came into the bar? I said that I sensed an underlying sadness in you?”

Alistair nodded, unsure of where that was going, “I do. I said I would tell you when I figured out what it was, but I haven’t thought about it since. Why?”

“It’s not there anymore.” Cullen responded smugly.

Alistair thought for a moment while letting that sink in, then laughed in understanding, “So I guess that means you’re good for me?”

Cullen chuckled at that, “I certainly hope so.”

Looking down at his watch as the Chantry bells called the hour, Alistair smiled while tugging Cullen along, “Come on, it’s time.”

Cullen quirked an eyebrow, “Time for?”

Alistair’s grin grew with excitement and he laughed, “Something suitably cheesy!”

Chapter Text


Cocktails & Cheese

Cullen and Alistair - A Modern Day AU

Chapter 8

Private Picnic


Cullen allowed Alistair to pull him along excitedly, wondering all the while where they were off to. He couldn’t help but chuckle as the Chantry came into view and he realized that’s where they were headed.

With a devious little wiggle of his eyebrows, Alistair led him up the stairs. Stopping at the closed doors, he winked at Cullen before schooling his features to one of somber piety. Opening the doors together, they stepped inside.

In the small vestibule, a white-haired Mother, bent with age, greeted Alistair by name, “Welcome back Ali; everything is as you requested.” She looked from Cullen to Alistair with a knowing smile before offering, “Andraste’s blessings upon you both.”

Alistair bowed his head reverently before suddenly grinning and scooping the little Mother up into a hug. He kissed her cheek and said with jovial affection, “Thank you, Mother Natalie, you know you’ve always been my favorite.” He set the tittering Mother back down with a wink before dragging an amused Cullen off into the nearest alcove.

Once inside, Cullen watched Alistair run his hands over the smooth mahogany wood. “Looking for something?” He asked with amusement.

“I know it’s around here… a ha!” Alistair’s fingers pressed down into the wall which emitted a faint click. He looked over his shoulder in triumph as the whole panel opened before them. “Right this way, if you please!” Alistair bowed dramatically, while ushering Cullen through the portal.

As he proceeded through the doorway, Cullen found himself in a sparsely decorated room. The only furniture was a small table and chair on one side and a comfortable looking, white settee on the other. In the middle of the space was a beautifully constructed, spiral staircase made of marble and iron which led to a room above. On the far side of the room, stood another nondescript door. Hearing Alistair approach from behind, he said with awe, “I’ve been inside this chantry many times and I had no idea, it held such secrets.”

“You’ve seen nothing yet.” Alistair chuckled, taking Cullen’s hand, he led him to the opposite door. Pausing, with his back still to Cullen, he took a deep breath and peeked over his shoulder, “Do you… trust me?”

“Of course I do.” Cullen answered without hesitation.

Turning around, Alistair let go of his hand and with a shy grin, reached into his pocket and produced a black blindfold. “I don’t want to spoil the surprise too quickly.” He mimed covering Cullen’s eyes with the strip of silk, “May I?”

With a breathy moan, it was Cullen’s turn to smirk deviously, “Now you really have me intrigued. Blindfolds in the Chantry? You naughty, naughty boy.”

Alistair laughed, “If I remember correctly, you were quite on board with Lana’s plan of not rushing us physically. I can assure you, my initial intent was innocent.” He swallowed audibly before continuing, “but with that look you just gave me; I may, in fact, have to keep this for later.”

“Hey, I was only following orders. It took all of my willpower to keep my hands off you last night.” Placing one hand on Alistair’s waist, he stepped closer, chuckling at the memory, “The sentiment was not entirely untrue though, I would hate to do anything to risk ruining this.” Cullen reached up and ran the fingers of his other hand tenderly down Alistair’s cheek.

Closing his eyes, Alistair leaned into the touch, “It’s good to know I wasn't the only one struggling.” Wrapping his arms around Cullen, he pulled him in for a lingering kiss.

Breaking from their embrace, Alistair reached up and tied the silk securely over Cullen’s eyes. “Mmmm… There you go distracting me again,” He admonished breathlessly, securing the knot. “Shall we?”

Cullen nodded then felt Alistair take both of his hands. Feather-light lips gently grazed his own before he was led forward through the door and out into the open air.

He followed Alistair’s direction—trusting him completely. He had no idea where they were going, only that they were once again outside. The soft spongy ground underfoot felt like grass and he couldn’t place the familiar scent in the air. It was flowery, sweet, and not at all unpleasant. He was led around several twists and turns before Alistair finally pulled him to a stop and dropped both of his hands.

Without voice or touch to guide him, Cullen stood perfectly still; waiting patiently. After a few moments, he felt those incredible hands drift across his back, then wrap around him from behind.

He shivered at the touch then felt Alistair’s breath next to his ear, “Are you ready?”

His mouth suddenly dry, Cullen could only nod his assent.

Alistair reached up and untied the blindfold.

Blinking from the sudden bright light, Cullen took in his surroundings. They were in a flower garden. Some he recognized: roses, jasmine, royal elfroot, lavender and crystal grace, plus others he wasn’t so sure about. They were in an inner courtyard within the Chantry. Under an ancient maple tree was a large quilted blanket with a feast spread out on it: breads, cheeses, meats, fruit, and a bottle of champagne nestled in a bucket of ice.

Turning to look at Alistair, he hoped his expression conveyed all of the awe and appreciation he felt, “You did all this? For me? But I…”

Alistair placed a finger over his lips silencing any further protests. “I wanted to do something special for you… to show you, how much you've come to mean to me. Do you… like it?”

Cullen kissed him deeply before replying, “Like it? I love it! No one has ever done anything like this for me. Thank you so much!”

Excited to investigate all the wonders laid out before them, Cullen walked over to the blanket, removing his coat along the way. “Would you like me to pour? Or would you like to do the honors.” He indicated the glistening bottle with a wink as he made himself comfortable on the blanket next to the champagne tray.

Enjoying Cullen’s enthusiasm, Alistair made himself comfortable as well, “I’ll let you pour this time, however, before you do…” He opened the lid to the basket and brought out a small container of strawberries and a paring knife. Slicing a berry in two, he popped one half into the bottom of each glass and placed the items back into the basket.

Opening the bottle, Cullen poured the bubbling treat while he mused, “First a rose delivered to my office, now a picnic complete with strawberries and champagne. My dearest Alistair, could it be that you are a hopeless romantic?”

They clinked their glasses together then took their first sips, gazes locked on each other in cautious adoration.

Setting his glass back on the tray, Alistair plucked another strawberry from the basket and brought it to Cullen’s waiting lips, “Hopeful… hopeful romantic.”

Setting his own glass down next to Alistair's, Cullen opened his mouth and savored the sweet tartness of the juicy berry. Closing his eyes to swallow, he licked his lips then gave a reverent warning, “Be very careful, Mr. Theirin, you will spoil me.”

Eyes still closed, Cullen felt Alistair crawl closer to him on the blanket. He wanted this man more than he’d ever wanted anyone. Propriety be damned, waiting seemed like someone else’s ill-conceived plan—maybe it was.

Why are we waiting?

Turning his head, his mouth found Alistair’s and his hands pulled at him insistently. The champagne and lunch forgotten; just out of range of their movements.

He melted into the kiss and rolled so Alistair was pinned beneath him. Breathless and excited, they lost themselves in the garden. Hands explored the chorded muscles on each other’s backs and arms; fingers ran freely through one another’s hair. Their mouths stayed busy as well--nipping, kissing, licking…tasting--any exposed skin was fair game.

Cullen knew that there was some reason they shouldn’t be doing this—here and now—but for the life of him, he couldn’t think of what it might be. This felt right, they felt so very right and he didn’t want to wait anymore.

Damn Lana and her recommendation.

Grinding their still clothed bodies together—moaning and writhing—wrapped in each other. In the distance, a tolling could be heard: faint, yet insistent. The sound grew louder and more distracting until—panting for breath—the two broke apart, realization of their surroundings making them pause. They may be in a semi-private garden, but they were still in the Chantry; one of the Brothers, Mothers, or Sisters could happen by at any time.

Flushing profusely, from a mix of embarrassment and ardor, Cullen tried to speak, but his words caught in his throat. “I’m sorry, that was… I shouldn’t have… Maker’s breath, you do the most wonderful things to me…” he finally managed.

“I know I'd like to.” Alistair grinned from his position beneath him, savoring the warmth and weight of Cullen’s body.

“I'm certain I would very much like you to, but perhaps… someplace more private?” Cullen looked around hesitantly, while attempting to tamp down his desire.

“You're not making it easy for me. All of your deliciousness currently has me pinned to the ground.” Alistair grinned as his hands traveled over Cullen’s tight ass.

Looking down at their bodies, Cullen marveled, “Mmmm… so I do.” Sliding the full length of his obvious erection one last time over Alistair’s equally swollen cock, Cullen leaned in for a contrastingly chaste kiss before sitting up.

Alistair lay dazed for a moment, whimpering then sighing with disappointment as he adjusted himself in his now too-tight jeans. Regaining his composure, he asked cheekily, “Hmm, was that a threat?”

“No, my dear, that was a promise: to pick this back up again later when we have a little more… privacy.”

Alistair grinned, “I will hold you to that. Now before we get carried away again, perhaps we should eat something before all of this gets cold, or warm... or whatever?”

Cullen plucked a grape from the small bowl of fruit and fed it tenderly to Alistair then followed it up with another kiss. “As you wish,” he whispered fervently.

The two settled into their lunch, laughing, joking, and talking about whatever came to mind. Their conversations were frequently interrupted by quiet moments where they’d gaze into each other’s eyes, or lean in for tender kisses. Finishing the last of their meal, they cleaned up what was left and laid back on the blanket to watch the clouds overhead. Their hands gently clasped together, they were comfortable in their quiet contemplations for several long moments.

Cullen looked over at Alistair staring up into the heavens. He loved the gentle smile that so frequently reached his eyes. Rolling to his side, he propped his head up with his hand and asked, “What are you thinking about?”

“Oh you know, the usual: my favorite types of cheeses; that cloud over there looks like a griffon in flight; if I remembered to order more rum; what did I ever do to deserve someone like you?” Alistair rolled over to match Cullen’s position, their hands once again finding each other between them.

“Like me? I’m nobody special.”

Alistair inched closer and—wrapping an arm around Cullen’s waist—pulled him to his chest, kissing him sweetly. “You are to me. I’ve never felt anything like this before. There I was, minding my own business, and then there you were smiling at me, making me believe I could have more than I had ever hoped to before. You make me feel wanted and special and… I don’t know, just alive I guess.”

Cullen smiled back at Alistair, “I know what you mean. I never thought I could feel like this: whole, complete, hell… even happy. I’ve served most of my life, fought for causes outside my own, and never really thought much for my personal happiness. Rylen tells me I am as predictable as clockwork, yet something drew me into your pub that first night, pulling me out of my usual, monotonous routine. I’ve been thanking the Maker every day ever since.”

Overwhelmed by their mutual admissions, they fell together; kisses sweet, Cullen’s hand cupping Alistair’s face, Alistair’s wrapping around Cullen’s waist, holding them tightly together. Unsure of who moaned first, the sounds brought them out of their amorous embrace. Alistair broke first and laughed, Cullen followed soon after, resting his face on Alistair’s shoulder as their giggles subsided.

“Damn… I feel like a teenager all over again. You make it very difficult to behave myself. So now it’s up to you to distract me. What should we talk about?”

“We can talk about… how much I enjoy kissing you, how soft your lips are, and what other things I’d like to…”

“Not helping!”

Alistair laughed, “Ok, Ok - you win… for now. I wouldn’t mind picking up that conversation again later though.” He winked.

“We’ll see. But for now… ask me something. What do you want to know?” Cullen looked at him expectantly.

“Fine! You’re so damn pushy!”

Cullen grinned unabashedly and waited.

“Ok, so why don’t you tell me about your time here in the Chantry? Tell me about the life of a cute little Cullen Rutherford growing up within these walls. Why did we never meet? You’re what… a year younger than I am? I know the trainees don’t usually mingle with the other kids here, but I like to think that I would have remembered you—especially working drills in the courtyard… shirtless… sweaty. Mmm.” Alistair smirked while licking his lips as he checked out Cullen’s body with a little too much emphasis.

“Hey! We’re supposed to be behaving!” Cullen pushed Alistair’s shoulder, causing him to fall onto his back with an indignant squeak, leaving them both laughing again.

Enjoying the playfulness, Cullen caught his breath and addressed Alistair’s questions, “I’m sure I would have remembered you too, but sadly, I didn’t train at this Chantry. I only transferred here ten years ago and then served for two more before I… retired from service.” Cullen lay back down to stare up at the clouds, his fingers still firmly intertwined with Alistair’s, “I’m from Honnleath originally and was older than most when I was finally allowed to start my training. At thirteen, I had to work hard to make-up for that lost time.”

“Thirteen? Why did you join so late?”

“I always knew that I wanted to be a Templar. My parents… took longer to accept that it wasn’t just a passing phase. I remember going to the Chantry whenever I had a spare moment, to watch them train—topless and sweaty, as you said—though, I didn’t take much notice of that at the time.” Cullen winked at Alistair before continuing, “I wasn’t permitted to practice with them officially—without my parent’s consent—but there were a few that humored my many questions and even left out copies of the Chant of Light, so I could practice.”

Cullen’s smile turned mournful, “There was a time when I believed there was no higher calling. That serving the Maker would be worth every sacrifice. I wanted nothing more.” He continued with a humorless chuckle, “When I was finally permitted to join, I was very dedicated. I put everything into my studies and my training. Not only did I catch up to my peers, I rose through their ranks rather quickly.”

Cullen closed his eyes as his tone darkened, “After so many battles and trials though, I began to see that not all I had been led to believe was true. I became disillusioned. I lost the joy that I once felt wearing the mantle. It eventually occurred to me that I was meant to walk a different path. I do still believe in the core tenants; I believe in the love of the Maker and his Bride, but I no longer have faith in the institution itself. Once I reached that point, I knew it was time to leave.” Cullen drew a shaky breath and let it out slowly, opening his eyes to stare back up at the clouds.

Alistair read the pain in Cullen’s eyes as he looked up to the heavens. Wanting nothing more than to replace that hurt with their earlier light banter, he decided to shift the conversation, “I hear that some Templars take certain vows when they become full members. Did you ever take such vows?”

“I took the same vows that everyone else did,” said Cullen seriously. “I pledged my life to Andraste and the Maker. I vowed to watch over and care for those who might need it and defend others who were unable to defend themselves. I did my best to serve with faith and humility.” He cocked his head in question, wondering what exactly Alistair was asking.

“Don’t some Templars also… take vows of celibacy?”

Cullen’s crooked smile began to surface. He realized where this was leading, but wasn’t yet ready to take the bait, “Some do… Others choose to marry, with permission from the Chantry of course”.

“And did you?”

Shaking his head, he replied, “No, I… never got married.” He managed to keep from laughing as he dragged it out as long as he could.

Maker, he’s more fun to mess with than Rylen!

“So then… you took the vows?” Alistair was starting to look a little panicked.

Cullen broke and laughed a joyful, full bellied, laugh, “No, Alistair, I never took such vows. If you’re worried about getting struck by lightning for corrupting my untainted soul, you’re safe I promise you.” He kissed Alistair sweetly, but pulled back before things could get heated again.

Alistair grinned, happy to have brought such a beautiful sound out of this usually reserved man. Hugging him gently, he whispered in Cullen’s ear, “Good to know.”

Shivering from the amount of promise in those three little words, Cullen directed their conversation to a safer topic, “So… your turn: how is it that you are so familiar with the Clergy here? You mentioned being raised in the orphanage? You’re a Theirin...” Cullen left that thought hanging.

“I did… and I am, but my mother, was not.” Alistair sat up, looked around, and tried to gather his thoughts. “I was brought here as a baby. My mother wasn’t able to raise me on her own; her work and frequent travels were too dangerous to take a child along.” Alistair paused a moment, “While we’re on the topic of her, I should probably let you know… my mother… wasn’t human.”

Cullen raised an eyebrow in interest. “Not human? And yet… you look very human, so that means… she was an elf?”

“Always the detective.” Alistair chuckled, then looked down nervously, “That doesn’t bother you, does it?”

Cullen shook his head, “Not at all. I suppose I can see how that might have made raising you by herself difficult.” He eyed Alistair’s ears with renewed interest, “I’ve never had an elven partner before... or even a half-elven one. It does makes me wonder… is it true what they say?”

“That you should never lick a lamppost in winter? Yes, most definitely an unwise decision.” Alistair joked, trying to dodge what he knew was coming next.

Leaning closer, Cullen blew a stream of air across Alistair’s ear and reveled in the full body shudder he got in response.

Playfully pushing Cullen away, Alistair shivered again before responding, “Now you… you just leave my ears out of this. Behave yourself!”

Cullen’s pupils dilated with that little revelation, “Yes, dear. I will obey that order… for now. I will definitely be revisiting that little treasure later though.” Cullen’s eyes smoldered with mischief.

Alistair groaned, “Sweet maker, what have I done?” Shaking his head to clear it, he tried to find his train of thought, “We were… uh, discussing my mother?”

“You said that she traveled a lot and that her work was dangerous. But I’m assuming it wasn’t because of the shape of her ears. What exactly did she do?”

Alistair paused for a beat. The topic of his mother rarely came up, so he wasn’t sure how to broach the topic of her unusual profession. It is one of legend—literally. People don’t realize that Wardens still exist, or ever really did. They are fairy tale heroes. Stories told to comfort small children from their nightmares. There aren’t many people—without the sight—that even know that there is a real need for them. Alistair decided to test the waters, to see where Cullen stood on the belief issue. He’d decide after that exactly how much to tell him.

Well, here goes nothing.

“She was… a Grey Warden.” Alistair ventured a glance, half expecting a joke or disbelief to be evident on Cullen’s face. Neither expression emerged.

Cullen sucked in a breath in surprise—in fear—his body went rigid as his own memories threatened to overwhelm him.

Shit! Shit! Shit! Hold it together, Rutherford, you’re not there anymore. Focus!... Breathe!... Damnit!!

Trying to maintain his place in the present, he held onto that one sliver of hope from long ago; the Warden that saved him. He never understood why he was the one who survived. He never believed himself worthy. All he saw were precious lives tortured… taken before their time to sate some madman’s psychotic agenda.

Initially, the horrors from that night completely broke him. He was barely coherent; forced to relive his terror from that awful ordeal over and over in his head. Slowly—and with the help of Dorian—he began to remember a single ray of hope in all the darkness he’d suffered. There was a group responsible for saving his life. They didn’t stick around long enough for him to fully recover. One blurry image stood out more than the others; an elven female, in blue and white armor with the Warden’s griffin emblazoned across her chest and a staff upon her back. Her voice—soothing and reassuring—had helped to pull him from the darkness; her magic, healed the damage that’d been done to his body. It was her image that became his beacon, the sole link to reality that he tethered to whenever he felt panic try to overtake him.

Using that visual anchor, he pulled his focus back to the present.

Alistair’s mother was a Warden and an elf. Could she have been the same Warden that saved me all those years ago? He keeps speaking of her as if she’s no longer with us. Maybe I’ve missed my chance.

Cullen always wanted to find and thank the ones responsible for saving his life, but until now, never had a means to locate them.

I wonder if there might be a chance that I could find one of the others that were there… to… thank them for this gift? I wonder if they were all Wardens, or if it was only her. Could Alistair know? Would he help me find out?

Alistair’s heart fell as he heard Cullen gasp and watched the conflicting emotions dance across face. He watched the internal battle as Cullen fought to bring his focus back to their conversation. “You’re familiar with them I take it?” Answering his own question, when Cullen’s only answer was wide-unseeing eyes, he said quietly, “Very familiar by the look on your face.”

Two pieces of information slid together in his head: the first was Cullen telling him that Dorian had been his counselor when they met, the second was Dorian’s area of expertise—PTSD and reintegrating into society.

Well… shit.

Cullen could only nod while trying to shake the shadow of a memory drifting through his vision. He did his best to ignore—or forget—the fact that he could see; immersing himself in mundane crimes instead of those from the other side of the veil. Occasionally they overlapped—like last Thursday—but that wasn’t the norm. Now, Alistair seemed to also be aware. That was unexpected and yet perhaps, not entirely a bad thing.

Hesitantly, Alistair continued, hoping that his banter would help Cullen through his internal battle, “Only people who are awakened have cause to get that look.” Squeezing Cullen’s hand, he rubbed a soothing circle on it with his thumb. “We’ve seen too much to ignore the truth, we know that this world isn’t as safe as they would have us believe.” Alistair looked around the sanctuary, trying to think of a way to reassure Cullen, “We are safe here, in this garden, if that helps.”

Cullen nodded again, pulling himself fully back into the present. He managed a weak, but real, smile. Proud of himself for not fully succumbing to his past—as he once might have. He decided to tell Alistair at least part of the story behind his reaction. The rest would come in due time, he hoped to hear the rest of Alistair’s tale first though.

“Would you like me to continue? Or shall we change the subject.” Alistair offered to Cullen, who still seemed to be trying to shake the blanket of shadows that hovered over him.

Cullen shook his head and squeezed Alistair’s hand, encouraging him to continue, “I’m ok; I’m just not used to other people knowing what I know or having seen what I've been… unfortunate enough to witness. You took me by surprise is all. Please continue. I… do want to know more about you.”

I want to know everything about you!

Alistair smiled sadly and cautioned him, “Be careful what you wish for.”

Maker’s breath, if only hearing the name ‘Grey Warden’ spooked him so badly, what will he think when he finds out the rest?

Squeezing Cullen’s hand, Alistair continued with his telling. “Traditionally, the Wardens are a secretive bunch.” He laughed quietly to himself, “So much so that they are associated with myth and legend; like a fairytale story.”

“The Grey Wardens are far from make believe.” Cullen argued Alistair’s last statement. Seeing an opening, he tried to explain, “I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for them. They are… everything the stories say, yet so much more, because those stories are absolutely—frighteningly—true.” There were notes of appreciation and reverence in his voice as Cullen defended the Wardens.

Alistair nodded in agreement, his eyes softened to the pain he saw in Cullen’s expression. He said quietly, “There’s a story there that I would love to hear.”

Shaking his head, Cullen sadly declined, “Not today. I’m sorry. I don’t want to dwell on so much darkness when I have so much light right here in front of me.” He ran his finger tenderly down Alistair’s cheek, “I will though, I promise you, I’m just… not quite ready.” He sighed as the truth left him. He wasn’t ready, but he would be soon… for him.

Please understand how hard this is for me!

Nodding his understanding, he smiled in reassurance, “I will be here when you are.” Alistair placed a gentle kiss upon Cullen’s brow.

Emboldened by Cullen’s apparent appreciation of the Wardens, Alistair took a breath to continue as he offered up more information, “I am probably stating the obvious at this point, but I’d rather be clear rather than leave something this important to assumptions: I have also been awakened. I suppose that may make some things easier down the road. I will be better able to understand you, when you are ready to share. And you already being aware, will save me having to hide or creatively explain certain things about me as well.”

“For her part, I agree with your mother. Taking you along on any of their missions wouldn’t have been the best idea.”

Alistair nodded in agreement, “I was only a couple of months old when my mother brought me here. When her missions allowed it, she would visit. I never saw her more than once a year and she always had her partner, Duncan with her. I don’t think there was anything romantic between them, but all the same, they felt like family to each other.” Alistair paused in realization and stifled a giggle at the truth of his next statement, “Not unlike Lana and I, I suppose.” He shook his head wondering at how he hadn’t seen that before.

“She would occasionally send me letters: in the beginning, they were small notes of affection that were read to me by the Mothers and Sisters. As I grew older, and learned to read for myself, her letters became more detailed. On my tenth naming day, my mother wasn't able to come, but I received a package containing a locket and a letter explaining the circumstances regarding my… well… regarding me actually; how I came to live in the orphanage even though I had two living parents. I understood—I tried to anyway—but it didn’t make it easier. She was…” He grinned remembering, “She was something else: tiny, even for an elf, I passed her in height even before I hit double digits. She had short mousy hair that was so dark, it could have been black, and the largest, most beautiful green eyes. I’m told she was serious and stern most of the time—she rarely let anyone in—but I only saw affection and kindness when I saw her.”

Alistair smiled as he reflected fondly, “When she’d come to visit, we would talk and laugh. She never stayed long, but the time she could spare... well those were some of the happiest days I can remember growing up. Later on, Duncan told me that she was most like herself on their visits to see me. He said that those were the rare moments when she would let her guard down.”

Alistair looked into Cullen’s eyes, then beyond his shoulder into his own past as his smile faltered, “When I turned 16, Duncan showed up alone. On that visit, he looked so sad and broken. He… asked to speak to me privately.” Alistair paused and took a deep breath, “That’s when I found out that my mother didn’t survive her most recent mission into the fade.”

Cullen wrapped Alistair in his arms, “I am so sorry Alistair.” He whispered in his ear, holding him close.

On one hand, Alistair wanted to protect Cullen from whatever horrors flashed before his eyes when he’d originally brought them up. On the other, he really hated secrets. It was the one thing about the Wardens that he always struggled with. He understood that they needed to be kept hidden from the general populace, the things they faced would fracture the brain of a regular person. It was ironic really, most of those people owed the Warden’s their lives, and they didn’t even know it.

Making up his mind, Alistair smiled gratefully before continuing, “Thank you. I… know it was a long time ago, but being here always reminds me of her and the time we never got to have together. You know, she was planning on coming to collect me when I turned eighteen... to begin my training as a Warden.”

Cullen looked at Alistair with new interest and no small amount of surprise, “You were going to be a Grey Warden?”

“I was… I am… I did actually... Join, that is. On my birthday, Duncan came back and offered me what my mother no longer could. As an adult, I wasn’t permitted to stay at the orphanage any longer and I had dreamt for so long about being a Warden; it felt like a natural progression.

“But… you own a bar? How can you be a Warden and carry on a full time job like that?”

“Let’s just say that you’re not the only one to have retired from service,” Alistair said with a small smile.

“People don’t usually just get up and leave the Wardens; isn’t that a lifetime career choice?”

“You mean like joining the Templars?” Alistair countered, bumping shoulders with Cullen playfully, before continuing, “I am still bound to keep their secrets. Though with you being one of the rare, awakened Templars—ex or otherwise—I suppose you are exempt from me having to keep all of my secrets from you.” Grinning sheepishly, Alistair laid his forehead on Cullen’s shoulder for a moment before admitting, “I really don’t like secrets.”

Pulling back, he smiled contently into Cullen’s eyes. “It’s amazing to me, as I learn more and more about you, how well suited we seem to be.” He leaned in for a chaste kiss.

“I’m glad you think so too.” Cullen agreed wholeheartedly.

Alistair sighed with the weight of his next admission. “For the time being, I am free to work as I choose, but… there may come a time when I am called to fight again; though I hope that day doesn’t come anytime soon.”

Cullen didn't like the idea of Alistair running headlong into danger, though he frequently did that himself. Realizing that there was a large piece of the puzzle still missing, he ventured, “That still seems easier than it should be, is there something you’re leaving out?”

Alistair smiled at the detective shining through the man before him, “Very perceptive, Commander. It was another gift from my mother—and Duncan too, I suppose—or, rather, the same gift. The locket she gave me was actually a symbol of her rank and title within the order. She was well reputed with the Wardens before she died and left a request for clemency, should my life take me on a different path. Duncan was there—is still there—to back up the request and I was released from my… uh… immediate contract.”

“Since she died before you joined, it sounds as if you weren’t going to have a choice to begin with. A Warden’s child already knows some of their secrets so must be bound to the same life to keep them?” Cullen surmised with concern, “So planning your exit strategy was a blessing in disguise.”

“Yes, it was.” Alistair sighed with some regret. “As I said, my mother was grooming me to come join her and had been for many years. Our plan to fight together never came to fruition, though the path was already paved for me when she died. Duncan gave me the choice, I was never forced, but at the time, I couldn’t see myself doing anything else. He was pretty broken up after my mother died. I believe he needed me as much as I needed him. He needed a distraction from the loss and I needed to follow in her footsteps. To try to be the Warden she always wanted me to be.” He smiled softly then sighed sadly, “There came a point though, that I was grateful for the ability to leave, for more than one reason.”

“So you managed to leave and you came back to Denerim?”

“I did. I came back here to start over about eight years ago. It was, in all honesty, a little more complicated than that, but for now, as you said, I’d rather discuss the light in front of me instead of dwelling on darker times. We will though, I really don’t like keeping things hidden, especially from you, but some of these secrets aren’t mine to share.”

Cullen nodded in understanding. “So where was your father in all of this?” Distaste rolled off his tongue.

“My uh… sperm donor, already inherited the family legacy when I was born, he had the perfect son and perfect wife. His ‘dalliance’ with my mother was never meant to come to light. He wanted to keep me a secret to protect the precious family name. He might have also been protecting his wife’s feelings. The way I understand it, she was the one that requested for me to be raised in the Chantry. I was twenty when his wife passed away and my father finally stepped up to acknowledged me as his. The media had a field day with it, let me tell you.”

Alistair smirked mischievously before continuing, “When I came back here, I received my trust fund and the bar’s building as gift to assuage his guilt. I don’t really have much contact with him, though I get along with my half-brother, Cailan, well enough. He stops by for a drink—from time to time—just to say hi.”

A thought occurred to Cullen, “Do any of them possess the sight too?”

“That's a very good question and I'm not entirely sure of the answer. I've occasionally wondered about the circumstances that threw my parents together, but have never asked my father for his side to fill in the gaps my mother left out… Maybe Duncan knows.”

Cullen nodded, “So what about Mother Natalie? I’ve been around the Chantry most of my life, but I’ve never seen that kind of affection come from any of the Clergy before.” Cullen chuckled remembering Alistair’s playfulness and the patient affection that glinted in the Mother’s eyes.

Alistair laughed, happy to be changing the subject, “I was a bit of a prankster growing up—if you can imagine—I got into all sorts of trouble. Nothing menacing mind you, but jokes and pranks to get people to smile. They can be so serious around here, y’know? Since I wasn’t to be put up for adoption, there were a few Mothers who sort of… adopted me themselves and took me under their wings. They protected me and made me feel like this was my actual ‘home’. If I could claim a true family, it would be the ladies here. Mother Natalie more so than any of the others. She’s the only one that knows my full story. She’s the only one that I know… that is also awakened.”

“Some people are blessed with family at birth, some have to make their own. Regardless of either, ‘home’ is where you place your heart.” Cullen laid his hand over the center of Alistair’s chest and leaned in for a kiss.

“Now who’s being romantic?” Alistair teased Cullen. Looking up he noticed the sun had started to descend, casting late afternoon shadows around the garden, “We better head out soon, the old biddies like to come out here in the evenings to vent about their day. No one needs to hear that.”

Cullen chuckled, “You learned that from experience?”

“Actually, yes!” Alistair tipped his head back and laughed, “I got trapped hiding in the bushes in that far corner.” He pointed, then continued, “I’d skipped my classes one day and just when I was about to head back in for the evening meal, the sisters came out and began to talk about all the kids that drove them crazy. I heard some things about me that no-one ever needs to know! I was trapped. It was three hours later before I could break free. Missed dinner and everything. It was a mistake I never made again.” He winked at Cullen, “I found other places to hide instead.”

Laughing together, they began to pick up after themselves. Alistair folded the blanket and set it on top of the basket, “I was told to leave everything here when we finished. I think Mother Natalie just wants to make sure I ate my vegetables; she doesn’t need to know that I fed them all to you.” He winked conspiratorially, then led Cullen back the way they’d come in.

Emerging from the hidden alcove, they startled a squat, salt and pepper haired, chantry Mother. She squealed, “Oh dear Ali, you gave my old heart a start!” Catching her breath, she glanced knowingly at their hands clasped together, “Are you behaving yourself, child?”

“Who me? Never!” He grinned mischievously.

She smiled indulgently. “Some things never change, dear,” she tisked, patting him on the cheek. “It’s good to see you again.”

“You too, Mother Beatrice.”

As they headed for the door, Cullen suddenly stopped before crossing the threshold, “I’m sorry. I… can’t leave just yet. It’s…”

Alistair smiled understandingly, “Oh right! I’m so sorry. Believe me, I’ve spent enough time here to know better. Templars always check in with their boss before they leave.” Pointing his finger towards the heavens, he winked.

Cullen hesitated.

“Go on. I promise to be here when you get back.” Alistair kissed him on the cheek and released his hand.

Smiling gratefully for Alistair’s understanding, he turned and made his way up the center aisle.

Alistair watched as Cullen made his procession to the altar and knelt before the statue of Andraste.

Mother Natalie approached and threaded her arm through Alistair's before whispering, “You are looking well my dear. Happier than I have ever seen you. Mischievous as always, but never glowing as you are today. He is good to you?”

“He is. More than I ever thought I deserved.” He covered her hand with his own and smiled wistfully while observing Cullen in his prayers.

“You never gave yourself enough credit, child. Your heart is true and good; you deserve nothing less in return.” She watched Cullen light a candle at the altar as he finished his prayers, “He moves like a Templar.” She noted.

“Former Knight-Commander…”

“Cullen Rutherford?” she asked before Alistair could finish his statement.

“How did you—?”

She looked at Alistair with her all-knowing and insufferably adorable smile, “He is also a good man. Troubled and hurt by his past, but a heart very much like yours. His transition out of the chantry made some waves, but I always respected his courage. He is well known here, if not by sight, by reputation.”

Cullen approached Alistair and the Mother who had greeted them when they arrived. He felt more at peace than he’d been in a long time. He nodded, “Mother.”

“Knight-Commander,” she responded.

He stiffened at the title. Taking a deep breath, he sighed, “Not any longer I’m afraid.”

“Nonsense. Your heart has always spoken true of the Chantry, it was we that failed you, child.” She placed Alistair’s hand back into Cullen’s. “Hopefully, now you can find the peace you deserve. Alistair has been my charge for many years and it pleases me to see the two of you so content together. May I offer the Maker’s Benediction and Blessing?”

Cullen relaxed again and looked somewhat relieved, “I would never turn down the Maker’s Blessing, Mother; you have my gratitude.” He bowed his head and Alistair followed suit.

 

 

Blessed are they who stand before

the corrupt and the wicked and do not falter.

Blessed are the peacekeepers, the champions of the just. *1

 

Blessed are the righteous, the lights in the shadow.

In their blood, the Maker's will is written. *2

 

 In Andraste’s name

 I call upon the Maker to watch over his children and creations.

 Watch over their path O’Maker, give them light in darkness. *3

 

Blessings upon you Alistair and Cullen

in the name of Andraste and the Maker above.

May the chant of light carry your names to the ears of our Lord. *4

 

Raising his head at the end of the blessing, Cullen looked at Alistair who was gazing back at him with pure adoration.

Alistair’s smile turned mischievous as he looked back at the Mother, “Well, that one was… different.”

She smiled up at them both and said, “It's the Templar’s blessing, dear.” She stepped closer and said more quietly, “You have fought your own battles and have seen more than most should ever witness. I feel no shame in offering the Holy Warrior’s blessing to you as well.”

Alistair nodded, “Two non-Templars getting the Templar’s Blessing. Should I be worried that lightning will strike?” he looked around, pretending to be nervous. “You won’t get into trouble will you?”

The Mother tittered, “No more than I’ve ever gotten into trouble over your antics, child.”

Alistair laughed, his mischievous smile turned affectionate, “Thank you for everything, Natalie. What would I ever do without you?”

“For starters, you would have spent more time in the kitchens peeling potatoes or perhaps cleaning the bathrooms with toothbrushes for all the trouble you used to get into.” 

“See? I’m good for you! I keep you young and on your toes!” He kissed her forehead before leading Cullen out the door, hand clasped firmly in his own.


*1           Benedictions 4:10

*2           Benedictions 4:11

*3           Blessing from Chantry Sister in Lothering from DA: Origins.

*4           Blessing from Chantry Sister in Ostagar from DA: Origins / Modified.

 

 

Chapter Text


Cocktails & Cheese

Cullen and Alistair - A Modern Day AU

Chapter 9

Welcome Home


Meandering through the park holding hands, Cullen smiled at Alistair, “Thank you for rescuing me from work today and for arranging the picnic. I don’t remember the last time I had such an enjoyable afternoon.” 

“I’m glad you’re having a good time. I thought maybe I’d overdone it. Lana likes to tell me I worry too much.” He shrugged as he laughed at himself.

Cullen turned to face Alistair. Reaching up, he cupped his cheek and ran his thumb over those luscious lips. Placing their foreheads together, he said softly, “Lana’s right, in this case at least. Today has been… perfect. I woke up in your arms, you sent me a rose, then infiltrated my work, and whisked me away. Just knowing that you were thinking about me enough to plan something like that makes me feel…” He gave a soft sigh as he searched for the words. “I’ve never had anyone care enough to go out of their way for me like that before.”

Kissing him on the nose, Cullen noticed the flush to Alistair’s cheeks. “Now who’s adorable when they blush.”

“And without even the dim light of the pub to hide behind either. Whatever shall I do?” Alistair’s eyes drifted to Cullen’s lips before flicking back up again.

“I can think of a few things.” Cullen winked lasciviously, “So, do you have any plans for this evening?”

Alistair shook his head, excitement beginning to thrum through him. “My schedule is clear for the rest of the day. Do you have something you’d like to do?”

Cullen smiled suggestively at Alistair, “I don’t live far from here. My morning commute isn’t nearly as impressive as yours, but I’m only about three blocks from the precinct. Would you… care to seek out some of that privacy we were lacking earlier?”

“Are you suggesting what I… hope you’re suggesting?” Alistair’s breath hitched with anticipation.

Cullen grinned with a mix of mischief and desire in his eyes. His voice dropped to a husky baritone, “Well, there’s no one there to interrupt us. But, if you’d like to continue to behave… we could always… play chess.”

Alistair closed the remaining gap, pressing their bodies together before responding, “My dear Knight, are you strategically maneuvering me into position, so you can make your move?”

“Bet I can mate your King in less than ten moves.”

“You are a bad, bad man.” Alistair leaned in and placed a chaste kiss on Cullen’s scar. “I’m game if you are.” He looked up, locking eyes with Cullen.

The shared gaze lasted several moments longer than it needed to; desire written plainly in their eyes and the tightly wound posture of their bodies. Shaking off their haze, they talked while they walked with a purpose with Cullen leading the way. The light banter, a flimsy attempt at distraction from the palpable excitement between them.

Cullen slowed their pace as they approached a little old man sweeping the front walk of the local Chinese restaurant.  

Warm brown eyes looked up from their task as they approached. Glancing down at their clasped hands then back up again, his face lit up, “Hello, Cullen! Is this your boy-friend? I can get your table ready if you’d like.” He bowed his head briefly before turning to head inside.

Cullen stopped him with a gentle touch on the shoulder, “No, thank you, Mr. Chen. We’ve just come from a late lunch, perhaps another time?” He smiled at Alistair then back at the restaurant owner, “Mr. Chen, I’d like you to meet Alistair. Alistair, this is Mr. Chen.”

Shifting his broom into his left hand, he shook Alistair’s with his right, the smile never leaving his eyes.

After releasing his hand, Alistair bowed with respect and greeted him in perfect Mandarin, “Ni hao, Chen shifu.”

Mr. Chen grinned broadly then bowed, returning the greeting, “Ni hao, xianshang Alistair.”

Alistair switched to the common tongue, “Cullen has told me how much he enjoys the food here. I look forward to trying it someday soon.”

Cullen glanced--impressed--at Alistair, who seemed to be full of surprises today.

Mr. Chen beamed at the compliment, “You are not hungry now, but you will need to eat later! Are you heading to Cullen’s? I can bring you dinner tonight.”

“Really, Mr. Chen, you don’t have to go through the trouble,” Cullen tried to dissuade him.

“It is no trouble for my favorite customer. Don’t I always take care of you? How does a seven-thirty delivery sound?” Mr. Chen leveled a stern face at them before he broke into another smile.

Realizing, he wasn’t going to change his mind, Cullen just smiled and nodded, “Thank you, sir.”

“Now, don’t stand around here talking to an old man. You looked to be in a hurry before I stopped you. Go... Go!”

Alistair and Cullen laughed as Mr. Chen shooed them on their way.

As they waited at the corner for the light to change, Cullen chuckled, “Well I guess that’s settled, you’re staying for dinner; Mr. Chen’s orders.”

Alistair leaned in close and whispered, “As long as I get dessert first.” He winked salaciously at Cullen.

“You are evil--and incredibly tempting,” purred Cullen.

“We could always run.” Alistair suggested helpfully as they crossed the street, “How much farther is it?”

“Not far,” Cullen said as they came to the first building on the new block. He opened the door and led Alistair towards the stairs. With his current state of arousal, the thought of being alone in the elevator, might make him abandon his own beliefs in propriety. He didn’t care that people saw them holding hands or their brief moments of open affection; the raw desire he was feeling, however, surely would have them both naked in that tiny box before it reached his floor. It was better to just keep moving.

Three flights up, Cullen released Alistair’s hand to fumble for his keys. Opening his door, he let Alistair in first, then quickly turned to lock it behind them. Once the bolt slid home, a hand gripped his shoulder and spun him around, slamming him forcibly against the door.

Alistair’s lips pressed insistently against Cullen’s, begging for entrance. Lips, tongue, teeth, hands; all starving for more. Jackets hit the floor; keys, wallets, phones, may have been put somewhere safely. As Alistair worked Cullen’s tie loose, Cullen backed Alistair towards the bedroom. Their hands roaming, groping, tearing at clothes; impatient with their inability to get them off instantaneously.

Alistair’s shirt was ripped over his head revealing sweet freckled flesh. It wasn’t enough. Cullen’s button down shirt was only partially undone when he gave up and pulled it over his head--tie and all. Shoes were stepped out of on the way, belt, slacks, jeans, small clothes, all in a trail towards their goal.

Alistair hit something soft and was pitched back onto the bed with Cullen climbing up after him. Animalistic hunger burning in their eyes. Inching up the mattress, the desire driving them back; pray and hunter. But who was to devour whom?

As Alistair’s head hit a pillow, Cullen ground down into hot, naked flesh. Both bodies ached for more. His teeth and tongue found Alistair’s sensitive ears causing him to buck up into him. They moaned at the sweet friction--rutting for purchase--they needed so much more than their current position allowed.

Growling, Alistair rolled Cullen over and pressed their bodies even tighter together. He bit at Cullen’s nipples then licked to soothe the sharp sting as Cullen crooned with pleasure at the contrast. Grinding their erections sloppily together, they found each other’s mouths, waiting, wanting, hungry. Thrusting tongues, dancing together for dominance. Cullen flat on his back, Alistair poised above, ready to stake his claim.

Pausing--panting with desire--Alistair looked down at their nakedness and licked his lips with anticipation. Reaching between them, he wrapped his long fingers around Cullen’s cock and squeezed. It was thicker than his own, beautiful in its heft.

Letting go of control, Cullen’s head rolled back against the pillow, a low moan of pleasure escaping his lips. He knew he wanted to return the favor, there was so much of Alistair that he wanted to touch, feel, taste. But at present, he was enjoying his surrender. Lost to the sensation of his length being expertly stroked, he found his ability to form coherent thought failing. He was acutely aware of his need to retaliate, but currently couldn’t get his body to obey any of his commands.

Fuck, this feels so good! To let go. To let him take control, but I want...

Breathe,” he thought he heard as he felt Alistair’s hot, wet mouth nibbling on his ear. The feeling of this man’s weight on top of him, his erection being expertly caressed and manipulated, with Alistair’s tongue on his neck and ear; it was almost too much. Finally gasping for air, the ability to think filtered back in. Alistair was making him feel so damn good and he wanted to reciprocate. Reaching for Alistair’s cock, he gave it a firm tug.

Inhaling suddenly with a hiss, Alistair paused only a moment before sliding eagerly into the grip constricting around him.

Sweet Maker, this is really happening.

Thrusting into each other’s fists, Cullen used his hand to deftly stroke the longer length, rubbing the precum over its sensitive tip.

Batting away Alistair’s hand, Cullen wrapped his fingers around both of their shafts, holding the sensitive undersides together.

Bracing against his elbows now bracketing Cullen’s head, Alistair focused on thrusting; long, languid strokes with perfect pressure to chase their release. Their tongues danced with the rhythm of their movements. Arching, moaning, grinding, they were quickly reaching the apex of their desires.

Cullen was close; Alistair was closer. “Cullen I…”

“Maker, please don’t stop!” Cullen begged. Releasing their cocks, he gripped Alistair’s ass and pulled him hard against his body.

Two… three more thrusts had Alistair mewling his release. Thrusting through, his seed soothed and lubricated Cullen’s heated flesh. Four… five more thrusts and Cullen was following suit with a throaty moan, Alistair’s name on his lips.

Panting through their sated kisses, they began to recover from the intense coupling. Suddenly Alistair caught his lover’s eye and began to giggle which made Cullen follow suit. Holding tightly onto one another, their joyful laughter was punctuated with more kisses and gentle caresses.

Cullen recovered first, “Welcome to my home.” He said with mock seriousness.

Alistair kissed him fully, deeply. “That was… quite the welcome. I’m sure your apartment is lovely, but sadly, I don’t think any of it registered on our way through.”

“It’s still early yet, there will be plenty of time.” He kissed Alistair again. Moaning his approval into his mouth, Cullen pulled back and added. “Mmmm, that was intense and wonderful and… better than any of my fantasies, watching you all those hours at work.”

“I wholeheartedly agree. I can’t wait to see what we do for an encore! As you said, it is still early and we may need to work up an appetite for whatever, Mr. Chen will be bringing us at seven-thirty.”

Cullen rolled Alistair over onto his back. “I think we can definitely handle that.” Looking down at the state of their bodies, Cullen laughed again before adding between kisses. “We… are a wonderfully… sticky… mess.” He tasted his lips one more time before sitting up, “Stay put, I will be right back.”

Alistair acquiesced cheekily, “As you command, sir.” Then tucked his hands up behind his head as Cullen got up and padded through the walkthrough, double-closet into a connecting bathroom. He heard the water turn on and run for a minute before it was accompanied by splashing. A few moments later, Cullen emerged freshly cleaned with a fluffy white towel in one hand and a small wet cloth in the other.

“Don’t move.” Cullen commanded.

“Yes, dear.” Alistair began, then hissed when the hot, wet cloth came in contact with his overly sensitive, dick. Cullen was very thorough as he gently cleaned Alistair’s body. Finished with the washing, he dried him off before setting the towels on the nightstand. Pulling the sheet over the top of them, he lay his head on Alistair’s shoulder and draped an arm and leg across his body.

“May I move yet, Commander?” 

Cullen chuckled, “Hmm, as long as I get to stay in your arms while we nap, you can move wherever you want.”

They shared sated smiles and more kisses as they wrapped their arms around each other.

“Now this… is perfect.” Alistair whispered as he gently caressed Cullen’s back and shoulders while Cullen ran his fingers through the downy-soft hair on his chest.

“Mm-hmm,” Cullen agreed, fighting his own euphoria induced slumber. Feeling Alistair’s lips brush his brow, he hugged him gently before they both gave in, and sleep claimed them.

~*~

Cullen slowly became aware of the gentle rise and fall of Alistair’s chest as his head rested comfortably on it. Glancing down at their modestly covered frames, he could just make out the outline of Alistair’s well-toned body beneath the sheet. Every inch of him was beautiful. Lifting his head slightly, he let his eyes drink in the sight of his sculpted abs and chest. Though he had the pleasure of seeing him--post workout--the night before, being this close was something completely different. His face relaxed in sleep, Alistair still managed to look happy and content. 

I put that look there.

Feeling the gentle stirrings of desire, Cullen smiled to himself. Not wanting to waste a moment more of their time together, he lifted his body over Alistair’s supine form.

Alistair woke to feather light kisses across his chest. A lazy tongue caressing one of his nipples caused him to moan. He smiled sleepily as he gazed into Cullen’s eyes, then pulled him up to meet his lips.

“Look who’s finally awake.”

“You’re grinning; should I be worried?” Alistair asked as he ran his fingers through Cullen’s curls.

“I’ve woken up in your arms twice in one day. I think that warrants a few errant smiles.” Cullen admitted, “If we’re not careful, I could get used to this.”

Alistair smiled sweetly at Cullen, whose own smile was turning more devious.

“Now with that look, I’m definitely worried. No rest for the weary?”

“Are you?... Weary? Because I’d really like to tempt you with more intimate adventures. I do currently have you all to myself after all.” Cullen ran his hands down Alistair’s sides to just under the sheet at his hips, “You can’t expect me to be completely done with this delicious body yet. There is so much more that I want to…” Cullen trailed wet kisses down Alistair’s body and across his luscious skin to finish that train of thought.

“Maker’s breath!” Alistair moaned as Cullen found his rapidly rising heat with his soft lips.

Cullen answered by running his tongue in a languid circle around the tip then blowing a soft stream of air over the wet skin. “You were saying?” He chuckled softly then parted his lips and engulfed Alistair’s prick with his hot, wet mouth.

“You are not playing fair.” Alistair said between gasps.

“Oh? Was I supposed to be? And more to the point…” He paused to lick a long, slow stripe from base back up to the tip, “would you like me to stop?” Cullen’s eyes twinkled with mischief.

“Andraste bless me, please don't… that feels...oooohh.”

Cullen hummed his approval of the inarticulate praise.

Maker, I’d do this forever just to keep hearing those sounds from him.

Their first encounter was so passionate and animalistic, he wanted to slow down and take his time exploring, learning, and worshiping the man below him. Cradling Alistair’s cock in his hand, he suctioned his lips against the thick underside vein and followed it the full length of his shaft. Encircling the sensitive head, he parted his lips again and took Alistair back inside, sucking him as deep into his throat as he could manage.

Reaching down, Alistair combed his fingers through Cullen’s hair. Gripping tight, he fought his body’s desire to thrust upward. Cullen wasn’t making it easy. Alistair tried to reach more than Cullen’s head and shoulders, but couldn't. The things he was doing to him were making his head swim, he wanted to reciprocate. Shaking his head from side to side, he finally declared, “Damnit Cullen, you’re going to be the death of me. I need… I want… please, let me taste you too.” He begged.

Smirking, Cullen released him, “How can I ever refuse you anything? Where do you want me?” he asked devilishly.

Alistair sat up, kissing Cullen passionately, then repositioned himself on his back, across the bed, with his head dangling over the edge.

“Ah, I see.” Cullen said with an approving grin. Standing at the side of the bed, the height of it lined up perfectly to allow Alistair’s mouth access to Cullen’s already leaking erection.

Running his hands up the muscles of Cullen’s thighs, Alistair sighed at the amazing sight before him. Cupping his balls in one hand, he used the other to direct Cullen’s cock towards his lips where he licked the moisture from the tip before opening his mouth to take him in. The positioning of his head allowed for Cullen’s considerable size to be sheathed, all the way to the hilt.

“Sweet Maker!” Cullen swore when he felt Alistair hum his own approval. The vibrations themselves nearly undoing him, right then and there.

Cullen hissed, “Now who’s not playing fair!” He didn’t pull away, though he redoubled his efforts on the beautiful dick before him. He let Alistair set the pace by the pull and push of his hands on his hips and ass; a pace he mimicked with his own hands and mouth.

They took it slow, wanting to savor this new experience; tasting, stroking, caressing. Bodies writhing slowly, deliciously, carefully; Cullen didn’t want to hurt Alistair who was positioned so beautifully below him. Hands and tongues, teeth and lips, the two worked at each other like they’d been lovers for years and not just hours.

As Cullen felt himself getting closer to climax, he licked his own finger, coating it in saliva and placed it at Alistair’s opening. He asked permission for entrance by rubbing a circle around the puckered flesh. Alistair opened his legs wider in invitation while moaning his anticipation. Cullen slicked up his finger again, then took Alistair back into his mouth while he gently pressed into that tight sphincter to his first knuckle.

Alistair jerked, his cock thrusting deeper than Cullen was expecting causing him to gag. They both froze; holding perfectly still as they regained control. As calm settled back over him, Cullen pressed his finger into the second knuckle as Alistair sighed around the cock in his mouth. Their moans filled the room as they resumed their oral adorations.

Finally sliding his finger all the way in, Cullen turned and crooked it up to hit that sweet spot within his lover, causing him to lose all semblance of control. Alistair bucked up into Cullen’s waiting mouth as his own cock was being expertly worked over. Neither would last much longer. Stroking the bundle of nerves inside Alistair, he felt the muscles begin to constrict. Cullen moaned into his own climax as Alistair rode out his, shuddering and swallowing for all he was worth.

Panting, breathless, basking, Alistair released him and declared, “Sweet maker, that was…”

“That was fucking amazing is what that was.” Cullen groaned as he carefully climbed off of Alistair and collapsed face down onto the bed.

“What did you just do to me?” Alistair asked incredulously, his head swimming and body still convulsing from the aftershocks.

Lifting his head, Cullen asked, “You mean you’ve never?”

“No, I mean, yes, but it’s never felt like that! That was… incredible.” Alistair flipped around so that he was now facing the same direction as Cullen. Kissing him between the shoulder blades, he slowly worked his way up Cullen’s spine. “You are… incredible.”

Cullen rolled over, “I could say the same thing about you.” He pulled Alistair gently down onto his chest and kissed him deeply. Tasting each other on their tongues, they shared and savored the experience and basked in their afterglow.

“I know that I said you were spoiling me earlier, but, oh Maker! The things you do to me!” Cullen declared. “You make me feel… “

“I completely agree.” Alistair said, leaning in to claim his lips again.

Their kisses and conversation were cut short by a quiet rapping on the front door. Cullen looked at the clock before groaning, “It’s seven thirty, that’s probably Mr. Chen. Think I should put something on before I shock the poor guy into a heart attack?” He chuckled as he shakily got up off the bed and opened his closet for something to wear. Tossing a pair of pajama pants over to Alistair with a wink, Cullen quickly donned a pair of shorts and headed towards the entrance.


Ni Hao Chen Shifu - Hello Mr. Chen

Ni Hao Alistair Xianshang - Hello Alistair, Sir

Chapter Text


Cocktails & Cheese

Cullen and Alistair - A Modern Day AU

Chapter 10

Dinner and a Movie


Cullen opened the front door expecting Mr. Chen, but instead found a proper room-service cart with a simple notecard on the top.

Mr. Cullen, enjoy your supper with your boy-friend.

Happy looks good on you. I assume he’s the cause.

I will pick up the cart tomorrow at 8am.

No charge. No arguments. Enjoy!

                                               

~Mr. Chen

With an amused chuckle, Cullen wheeled the cart inside. Looking up, he found Alistair leaning casually against the bedroom doorframe; the pajama bottoms he’d loaned him hanging tantalizingly low on his slimmer hips. “You know; it should be a crime to stand there looking so delicious in my pants.”

“I could get used to having full access to your pants,” Alistair’s eyes drifted down Cullen’s shirtless body before looking back up with a smirk. “Thank you for the loan, by the way, these are definitely more comfortable to lounge about in.”

Cullen hummed his agreement, “They will also be easier to get off you again later,” he grinned salaciously.

“You are insatiable.” Alistair bantered back playfully.

Cullen wiggled his eyebrows as he accepted the accusation. “I don’t actually remember your pants coming off in the first place--or mine for that matter--it was quicker to just give you new ones.” He stifled a laugh while looking around at the carnage their entrance had left.

Alistair followed Cullen’s gaze, snorting in amazement, “What we did to your apartment is pretty impressive considering how little time we spent in this room on our way through. I don’t remember any of this. I suppose that says something about our state of mind when we arrived.”

“Our attentions were definitely elsewhere. Perhaps we should, gather some of this up before we eat?” Leaving the cart, Cullen started to collect some of the garments closest to the door.

Alistair began collecting the scattered items nearer to the bedroom. Laughing together as they worked, they met in the middle and kissed around the armloads of clothing.

Alistair beamed, “It was totally worth it!”

Cullen’s eyes twinkled, “I absolutely agree.”

Scanning the room for a place to put their items, Cullen wandered over to the armchair, “Let’s just set them here for now.” Dumping his armload of clothes, he added, “We can always sort through them later.”  

Alistair added his to the pile. “Good, cause I’m famished and whatever is on that cart smells delicious!”

“Worked up a bit of an appetite, did you? Cullen smirked as he approached the table.

“That was the plan wasn’t it?”

“That it was.” Cullen paused as he noticed the small pile of items on their eating surface, “Well, at least we were coherent enough to save all this from collateral damage on our rampage through.” He noted that their keys, cellphones, and wallets were all safe. He also noticed his sidearm safely stowed with the rest of the ‘important’ items.

Picking everything up to move off the table, Cullen mused, “You’ve been disarming me since the day we met, but I have to admit to having no clue when you actually removed my weapon. Or did I do it?” He chuckled, “And what happened to my shoulder holster? I didn’t see it with the items we gathered.” Cullen looked around, wanting to keep the set together. Giving up, he checked to make sure that the chamber was clear, then inspected the magazine and secured the safety before taking it to his room to put away.

Alistair enjoyed the look of bewilderment on Cullen’s face, “I'm sorry--I don’t know what happened to it. As I said, coming through this room was a complete blur for me. Perhaps we should hire a real detective to find it for you?”

Cullen chuckled as he returned to the room, “Oh, ha-ha, there you go making disparaging comments because I let some bartender distract me to the point of losing my weapon.”

Some bartender huh?” Alistair wrapped his arms around Cullen. Locking his wrists, he held them tightly together--chest to chest. “I’ll have you know; I’m not just some bartender. I am the bartender.” His lips were so close to Cullen’s he could feel the energy radiating off of them.

“Mmmm,” Cullen hummed as he wrapped his arms around Alistair’s waist and claimed those lips for his own before whispering, “My bartender.”

“I like the sound of that.” Alistair replied breathlessly before glancing over at the cart with their supper on it, “Is it normal for you to get full room service settings from Mr. Chen?”

Taking a good long look at the layout of the cart, Cullen shook his head, “No, usually I get an old box with takeout containers in it. You must have made quite the impression. Where did you learn to speak Mandarin anyway?”

Alistair shrugged, as if it were no big deal at all, “I have trained with many martial arts masters around the world. Some of them wouldn’t work with you unless you spoke to them in their native tongue. I can’t say I’m fluent, but I can get by with the basics when I need to.” He chuckled lightly before adding, “All I said was hello to him, though; I don’t think that was enough to warrant full service delivery.”

Cullen reluctantly released Alistair from his embrace and marveled at the whole setup. The cart came complete with ceramic plates, silverware, and metal lids covering each dish.

“There’s enough food here to feed six people!” Alistair exclaimed as he started lifting each lid. “Steamed rice, vegetable chow mein, crispy sesame beef, orange chicken, Oooh eggrolls! Fortune cookies and--of course--green tea to drink. Where does he think we’re supposed to put it all?”

Reaching into the bottom of the cart, Cullen pulled out the takeout containers he was used to seeing. “Looks like in the fridge, he left us empty containers for what we don’t eat.”

Having cleared the surface of their hastily discarded items, the duo began to set the table then sat down to enjoy their meal.

Curiosity getting the better of him, Alistair asked while they ate, “What happened with your Lieutenant before we left the precinct? When I came in, he was all ‘business as usual’, but by the time we were leaving, he was part of the conspiracy for me to steal you away.” Alistair chuckled around a bite of food. “I wish I was a fly on the wall during your little private meeting.”

“Well… remember how I told you earlier that Rylen spent part of the morning attempting to deduce my current relationship status?”

“And what exactly is your current relationship status?” Alistair baited him with a grin.

Cullen opened his mouth then closed it again as he took in Alistair’s question. Finally, a smile lit up his face as he decided to stick with raw honesty for his reply, “Well, I wasn’t exactly ‘on the market’ to begin with. I wasn’t even remotely looking when we first met. After the last couple of days though, I have to say that I’m still not ‘on the market’. I have everything that I desire… right here.” He reached out, gently brushing his fingers down Alistair’s cheek.

Swallowing back the sudden rush of emotion, Alistair responded, “That was uh… a really good answer. I might have to borrow that one myself.” He interlaced their fingers together before continuing, “I apologize, I got you off track… you were saying about Rylen?”

“Yes. Anyway. Shortly after I made it to work, he was able to deduce from my unusual behavior, that I’d met someone.” A tinge of pink touched his cheeks as he continued, “Then my delivery--a little while later--pretty much sealed that into hard evidence. When I saw how flustered Rylen became to have an actual Theirin come in demanding to speak with me… I decided to see what he would do with all the cards laid out on the table.”

Alistair rolled his eyes at the idea of being famous. “Poor guy. How’d he take it? I mean, he seemed amicable enough when you two came out to join me, but I’d hate for it to affect your working relationship.”

“It’s fine. He’s fine. Rylen’s a good man and was very happy for me. For… us. Maybe even a little too happy. He offered to work on my reports and then kicked me out for the rest of the day. Oh--and tomorrow too. I am not to return to the office until Wednesday morning. So... how much of that do I get to keep you for? When do you have to be back at work?” Cullen winked suggestively.

Alistair’s eyes lit up with the news, “Normally I would open tomorrow at three, but let me see what I can do.” He stood to retrieve his phone; then dialed the pub.

Lana answered cheerily over a fair amount of noise in the background. “Alistair’s!”

“Hey Lana, sounds busy tonight.”

“Not terribly, but Isabela just got back into town so she’s here with some of her crew. You know how they can get. Um Ali… are you naked?” Lewd cheering suddenly erupted in the background.

“No! I’m wearing pants.” He looked quickly, just to make sure.

“Alistair--those aren’t your pants,” Lana giggled and someone else made kissy noises, most likely Isabela.

“Details, details!”

“So, is he out of your system then?”

Taking Cullen’s hand, he answered with conviction, “Not by a longshot.”

“I’m so happy to hear it. And it’s about time too, I was beginning to think you two would never get together!”

“Yeah, yeah--I know. And we have you to thank for our current state of bliss.” He responded sarcastically while winking at Cullen. “Listen Lana, I'm calling because…”

“Hold that thought.” She stopped him mid-sentence and covered the mouthpiece of the phone. He heard a muffled, “Hey Bela, Alistair’s a bit… indisposed and won’t be coming home tonight. You up for covering his shift tomorrow?” There was more conversation and giggles in the background before Lana spoke back into the receiver, “You’re all set, we’ve got you covered here!”

“Thank you Lana, and thank Bela for me too. I owe you both for this.”

“You don’t owe me anything and I’d be careful about offering Bela a boon.” Lana cautioned him chuckling. “Go enjoy yourselves. Oh and Alistair?”

“Yes?”

“Be prepared to share some of the juicy details when you come back. You know Bela won’t let you off the hook without them.”

“Oooh, can’t wait.” Alistair said sarcastically. “Bye luv, see you Wednesday.”

He hung up the phone and grinned, “Well look at that, seems that I’m all yours tomorrow too.”

“You never actually asked her for the day off. Was that a demonstration of more of her skills? How far is her reach exactly?”

“For anyone else, she needs to be much closer. We’ve known each other so long, just being on the phone together grants her the connection she needs to be just a little bit disturbing.” Alistair laughed before adding, “You get used to it after a while. At least--I have. I’m not fond of secrets anyway, so having her around kind of eliminates the use of them. I hope… I hope it doesn’t bother you?” Alistair asked tentatively.

“It’s definitely taking some getting used to, but no, it doesn’t bother me. If she were anyone else--or treated it differently--it might, but so far, she’s only used her powers for good.” Cullen winked before offering him a fortune cookie. They’d both eaten their fill, which barely dented what Mr. Chen had brought them.

“I’m not sure I need to read my fortune,” Alistair said while looking at his cookie. “I already have everything I want, right here.”

“Humor me,” Cullen grinned. “Mr. Chen’s cookies are right up there with Lana’s gifts--borderline creepy in their accuracy.” Cullen Chuckled, “Usually, mine tell me that I work too hard or that I need to break from routine to find true happiness. I’m curious what he has in store for me tonight since I’ve actually listened to what they’ve said recently.” He grinned and cracked open his cookie.

Alistair chuckled while breaking into his own, “Well? What do the fabulous fortunes of Mr. Chen have to say to you tonight?”

Cullen stared down at the little slip of paper while he mindlessly chewed his cookie, “‘Follow your heart and your dreams will come true.’ Well there you go, mine goes without saying. I followed my heart and here you are--my dream come true.”

Cullen leaned over and kissed Alistair’s flushed cheek. “So… how ‘bout yours? What wisdom does the cookie grant you?”

“Hmmm. ‘Pleasures await you by the sea.’” Alistair pondered for a moment what that could mean.

Cullen started laughing which made Alistair raise an eyebrow in question, “Ok, what’s so funny? Other than the view from my loft, I haven’t been to the sea in ages.”

“My family owns a cottage by the beach, just south of Denerim. I haven’t been there in years, so I think I’m long overdue for a trip. It may appease the demands of the cookie; would you like to accompany me?” Cullen’s eyes twinkled with excitement.

“How can I refuse the orders of dear Mr. Chen?” Alistair winked, “Besides, now I’m really curious about the pleasures that are awaiting me.”

Cullen stood up and pulled Alistair up into his waiting embrace, “I’m sure we can think of something to do to fulfill the prophecy.” He chased those words with a passionate kiss.

Reluctantly parting from those lips, Cullen said, “Let me make sure that it’s free before we finalize our plans though. My sister manages it for the family; this will only take a moment.” Thinking about it, he amended, “Ok, this is my sister. I hope it will only take a moment.”

Cullen picked up his phone and dialed.

“Hi Mia.” He said when she answered.

“Sweet Andraste! Cullen? Is that you? What’s wrong? What’s happened? Are you ok?”

Cullen laughed, “Nothing’s wrong Mia, why would you think…?”

“Because you never call! Why else would you be dialing my number unless something happened to you.”

“If something had happened to me, would I actually be calling?” he countered.

“Well no; I suppose not,” she admitted ruefully. “There has to be a reason though.”

“You mean I can’t just call to talk to my big sister?”

“Not and have me really believe that it’s you. Out with it!”

Laughing again, Cullen said, “Fine, you win.”

“I usually do! Especially at chess. You really are a sore loser,” she teased him.

“We’re not playing chess now and I seem to remember winning the last couple of matches.”

Mia actually harrumphed good naturedly  before asking, “So, what can I do for you little brother?”

“I was hoping I could use the beach house?”

“You haven’t been there in ages! You know it’s yours whenever you want it. When are you planning on going?” She inquired.

“Tomorrow actually, if no one else has claim to it. I know it’s short notice.”

There was a brief pause on the other line before she answered, “No, tomorrow’s fine. Do you still have your key? And is there any special reason you want it now?”

“Well, you’re always telling me that I work too hard, so I’ve taken the day off. I thought I could go up and relax a bit. And yes, I still have my key.”

“What aren’t you telling me Cullen? Are you… are you bringing someone with you?” She asked excitedly as the possibility hit her.

Smiling over at Alistair, he replied, “mmmaybe.”

There were squeals from the other side of the phone followed by the sound of a baby crying. “Crap! Cullen, I woke up Emma! Hold on a minute.”

He leaned in and kissed Alistair while he waited for Mia to come back to the phone.

Picking back up her end, she bantered, “Sweet Maker, I never thought I’d see the day! Of course you can have the cabin! So… are you going to tell me about him?”

“Him?” He sputtered.

“Oh c’mon Cullen, you may not have ever brought anyone special home to meet us, but don’t forget, I used to watch over you while you watched the Templar’s train. Only the men ever truly caught your eye. It wouldn't matter either way though, you know I only want you to be happy. Sooo… will you tell me?”

“No.” he said simply.

Mia made a very unladylike noise on the other end.

“Are you pouting?” Cullen chuckled.

“No? You’re not going to give me any information at all?” she said exasperatedly.

He’s sitting right here, so no, Mia, I’m not going to tell you all about him while he’s right in front of me.” Cullen winked at Alistair who was grinning back at him.

“That means you’ll tell me later! I will hold you to that, little brother.”

Cullen groaned and said, “Thanks for the use of the cabin Mia, I appreciate it.”

“Anything for you. Love you!”

“Love you too. Take care.”

Cullen smiled as he hung up the phone. “We are all set for tomorrow. I don’t dare wonder what that will cost me later though.”

Alistair laughed, “I take it you and your sister get along well?”

“Of my siblings, I’m closest with Mia. She’s the oldest, so she gets along with everyone.”

Alistair asked, “You have more than one?”

“There are four of us total: Mia, then me, I have one younger brother, Branson, and our youngest sister is Rosalie.” Cullen smiled as he remembered them all fondly. “I haven’t seen any of them but Mia for years. We all sort of went our separate ways as adults, but Mia’s always been there to hold us together.”

As they finished discussing Cullen’s family, they washed their dishes and packed a few things to take with them the next day. When everything was dried and stored back on the cart, Cullen suggested they head into the living room for a movie. “I picked out the last two we watched, I think it’s your turn to choose,” Cullen pointed to the cabinet where he kept his collection. “Would you like a drink?”

“A drink would be fabulous, thank you.” Alistair grinned while he wandered over to look at the movies.

“You’ll have to forgive my poor selection of Scotch; I’m fresh out of Blue, will Black do?”

Alistair chuckled, “Black is just fine, if you want Blue though… I know a guy…”

Cullen laughed, “I think I know the same guy and I drink enough of his Blue as it is. He spoils me.”

“Well, how else was he supposed to let you know he was interested?”

“Hmm… the rose and picnic were pretty good hints.” Cullen offered.

“Dessert was pretty fantastic as well.” Alistair added then announced, “Hey, you know, we have a lot of the same movies?”

“I noticed that too. Great minds must think alike.” Cullen brought out the drinks while Alistair offered up a light comedy for them to watch.

They snuggled up on the sectional together. It wasn’t as large and comfortable as Alistair’s sofa, but they made due as best they could. Sometime in the middle of the movie, Alistair’s breathing slowed to a relaxed and even cadence, his head resting at an odd angle on Cullen’s bare chest.

Gazing affectionately at Alistair’s sleeping form, Cullen didn’t dare move--or move him--for fear of waking him. Instead, he lay there, supporting Alistair’s head as best he could in their current awkward position.

The Maker has truly blessed me to have something so wonderful come into my life. I don’t know what I ever did to deserve this, but I certainly don’t want to let this--or him--go.

Heart full and happy, Cullen ran his fingers through Alistair’s soft spiky hair. Unable to focus on the movie, he watched his new lover sleep while some of his favorite verses from the Chant of Light ran through his head. They spoke of love and devotion, reaping what you sow, and the Maker bringing light into your life when you least expect it.1 

After a while, Alistair began to take note of the soothing rumble of Cullen’s voice as he slowly woke up. The words were familiar, broken only by periodic kisses to the top of his head. It took him awhile to place the Canticle as one that Mother Natalie used to soothe him with when he was sick or upset. It wasn’t a commonly recited passage, most proselytes preferred the fire and brimstone verses that held them in check with fear of retribution. No, this one spoke of the devotion of the Maker towards his children and the rewards he promised to his most devout. It taught that love and kindness would be rewarded, and praised those that dedicated their lives to helping others.

Warmth radiated through him as he contemplated the implications of Cullen whispering these particular prayers between kisses. He wished he could stay like this forever, but the crick in his neck demanded that he move from his current position. Trying to roll over to get more comfortable, Cullen tightened his grip, preventing the completion of his roll. Giving in with a chuckle, Alistair relaxed back into Cullen’s arms.

Finishing his current verse, Cullen asked, “Where do you think you’re going?”

“I wasn’t going anywhere, just trying to reposition so I can work the kink out of my neck.” Alistair smiled up at Cullen, then reached up to brush a soft kiss across his lips. “I like that Canticle by the way, it’s always been one of my favorites. Though I am surprised that there is someone else out there familiar enough with it to recite it from memory.”

Cullen chuckled and relaxed his grip so Alistair could finish rolling over. Chest to chest, he placed a quick kiss to the side of Alistair’s neck, “I thought that looked a little uncomfortable, but I couldn’t bring myself to wake you. Call me selfish, I was really enjoying just sitting here with you in my arms. And that Canticle has always been my favorite as well, it’s a shame that it isn’t more widely used.”

Cullen ran his hands up and down Alistair's back. “I can help you with the knot if you’d like?” He proceeded to gently rub the spasming muscles then paused when he couldn’t get the right angle, “On second thought, this would be easier with you on the bed.”

Alistair feigned being scandalized, “Why Cullen… what exactly are you suggesting?”

“I am only trying to relieve the tension in your neck, my dear.” He responded innocently, kissing him on the nose. “The fun can happen after if you’d like.” Cullen smirked as he pulled Alistair up his body to kiss him before finally releasing him from his arms.

With a contented sigh, Alistair rose from Cullen’s warmth and shuffled to the bedroom. Grabbing a pillow for under his chest and another for his head, he laid face down to give Cullen better access to the pinched muscles in his neck.  

Grabbing some oil out of the nightstand, Cullen straddled Alistair’s hips then sat down carefully on his thighs. As he drank in the tightly corded muscles of his back, Cullen began his work in earnest. Starting with his shoulders and neck, he kneaded and rubbed through tight muscles, trying to help ease his discomfort.

Alistair moaned into the pillow causing Cullen to chuckle, “Like that, do you?”

“I will give you a lifetime to stop,” Alistair mumbled while breathing into the pleasure and pain; reveling in the way his muscles gave way to those incredibly strong and talented hands.

Zevran's been offering to teach me Antivan massage techniques for years, I wonder if it would be anything like this? Maybe I should learn, so I can one day return this delicious favor. Then again… this is Zevran, that might be very dangerous. I may just have to resign myself to trial and error. Oh damn!

Cullen expertly worked the muscles in Alistair’s shoulders and neck until the knot finally released, leaving Alistair pliable once again. As he was reaching for more oil, Alistair pushed up onto his arms, attempting to roll over beneath him. Pushing him back down onto the pillows, Cullen pinned him in place and purred into his ear, “I wasn’t done yet.”

Alistair’s answering chuckle was quickly replaced by more moans as Cullen began to work his way down his shoulder and arm, shaking it periodically to make sure he was relaxed. Finally making his way to his hand, he methodically worked out all the tension in his palm and each finger before returning to the other shoulder to repeat the process. He was certainly being thorough as he lavished attention on each muscle group while he worked through them all. Finished with his shoulders and arms, Cullen returned his attention to Alistair’s back and began to work his way down, caressing and kneading out every bit of tension he came to. His touch was absolutely perfect, turning Alistair to a boneless heap beneath him.

Cullen took his time appreciating the feel of the skin below him: every freckle and scar, burned into his memory, savoring every moan and sigh of pleasure as he continued working through those well-toned  muscles.

Reaching the small of Alistair’s back, he came to a roadblock. “Hmm,” Cullen pondered while running his fingers along the inside of the waistband to the borrowed pajama bottoms. “If you would allow me to remove these, I can continue the massage down your legs.”

Alistair helpfully raised his hips, allowing the removal of the offending obstruction and granting permission for him to continue.

Sliding the soft cotton off Alistair’s hips, he deposited them off the end of the bed. Taking a moment to fully appreciated the view, Cullen reverantly ran his hands over the well-muscled, beautiful ass before him, earning him a delicious sigh. Smiling to himself, he returned to the task at hand.

Cullen may have spent a little extra time massaging each glorious cheek and he may have used a little too much oil, causing it to drip down between Alistair’s legs, but still, Cullen kept his motions painfully professional. It didn’t matter how many times Alistair arched his ass into Cullen’s hands or how he spread his legs slightly farther apart than they really needed to be, Cullen wouldn’t be distracted from his work. Even when Alistair’s moans turned to whimpers of unrequited desire, Cullen wasn’t ready to give in to those urges yet. All of Alistair’s--not so subtle--requests for more, were making it increasingly more difficult for Cullen to concentrate, though he wouldn’t be deterred.

He painstakingly worked his way down each leg until he reached Alistair’s feet. Working the muscles in the bottoms of each and finally forcing him to uncurl his toes, Cullen whispered with a voice thick with desire, “Now… it’s time to turn over.”

Alistair moaned something unintelligible into the pillow.

“I can’t very well finish the job if you don’t roll over.” Cullen urged.

Alistair whimpered, but obeyed, though he kept the pillow firmly over his face as he rolled.

Cullen hummed in approval as he took in the sight of the full front of Alistair’s amazing body and completely erect penis, “You truly are a sight to behold. Every inch of you is beautiful and I don’t want to neglect any of it.”


The feeling of Cullen’s incredibly strong hands was nothing like he’d ever felt. He brushed the line of erotic while still remaining terribly--painfully--professional. Never breaking the barrier of appropriate for a massage, but Oh, Alistair wanted him to. His hands his mouth, his everything. Alistair wanted to be touched, fucked and sucked by him and he didn’t care in what order. He just wanted… him. 

As Cullen took his time with his backside, feet and each one of his toes, Alistair had hoped that he’d finally get some release, but it seemed Cullen had other plans. He was told to roll over, but he knew what doing so would reveal. He was so hard that it hurt. The touch of the coverlet against him was helping some, but it wasn’t what he needed. It wasn't what he craved.

Cullen urged him to roll over again and this time, Alistair couldn’t say no. Hiding his face in the pillow that had been stifling his moans, Alistair rolled and took the pillow with him, securely fastened in his teeth as he bit down on the downy soft fabric. He heard Cullen’s hopeful sigh as his erection was revealed and other than a few choice words of approval and appreciation, Cullen seemed to have his mind set on finishing the job he had started. Cullen stayed true to his massage.

This is such delicious torture! 

He felt the bed shift as Cullen exited the side, then heard the gentle rustle of fabric and something hitting the floor as his footsteps carried him around to the foot of the bed. There was a soft dip in the mattress as Cullen sat down again, positioning himself between Alistair’s feet, he took one into his hands.

His left foot was massaged followed by the right. Cullen left his legs slightly bent and spread wider than they had been. Those incredible hands continued to work their way up both of Alistair’s legs, thighs, and then over his hips and around his cock… avoiding it completely. Burning with frustration--with desire--Alistair whimpered and growled as those beautiful hands left him wanting more.

Feeling only Cullen’s hands, was driving Alistair mad with want and desire. They continued to caress his abdomen and chest while any motion Alistair made to move his legs closer, or arch to find contact with more, was deftly dodged.

Alistair lay there, with his face still buried by the pillow. Cullen oiled up and rubbed almost every spot on his body except where he desired it most. It was exquisite but left him craving--oh so much more. He felt Cullen finish the massage and then gently slide his fingertips back down his chest and abs, then… nothing. He was gone.

Alistair couldn’t stand it anymore, “Cullen... please… touch me!” he begged.

“I have been touching you, have I forgotten something?” Came the painfully calm response from somewhere above him.

Alistair groaned into the pillow then moaned in appreciation when he finally felt Cullen’s grip encircle his shaft.

“Sweet Andraste. How did you get so worked up when all I was doing was removing knots from your muscles?”

“I think you forgot one,” Came the breathless reply.

Alistair’s hips bucked when he felt more oil poured directly onto the tip of his overly engorged erection. It was cold, but quickly warmed to his heated flesh. Cullen stroked the oil slowly down his length and over his testicles, letting more oil drip slowly down between his legs. Cullen’s fingers caressing, coating, chasing the oil, making sure that he didn’t miss a bit of skin. Finally reaching Alistair’s tight hole, Cullen slowly slid one finger inside followed soon by a second, coating his entrance completely, before withdrawing once again.

Alistair felt the absence of Cullen’s fingers painfully. One minute he was there, teasing him with what he desired most and then… Slowly he became aware of heat above him but still not touching his aching flesh. The pillow was removed from over his face and replaced with a tender kiss upon his lips.

“Alistair,” whispered Cullen. “Look at me.”

Opening his eyes, he couldn’t help but think, Maker he is gorgeous!

“Tell me what you need. Tell me what you want,” breathed Cullen between kisses. “Tell me what I can do to satisfy that look of longing in your eyes.”

Alistair pulled Cullen in, kissing him hungrily, savoring the feel of their skin finally pressed together. He finally managed to plead, “I want… you… inside me.”

Cullen moaned throatily with his own need as he lined himself up. He wanted this so badly, but he needed to know that Alistair wanted it too. Rubbing the head of his cock along the tight opening, he felt Alistair tremble beneath him in anticipation. Penetrating through the tight outer muscle, Cullen moaned as he worked himself slowly inside--inch by heavenly inch. Stretching him slowly--carefully--they both sighed with the contact, the connection, their union. No longer separate, happily one and completely content.

Once he was fully seated inside, Cullen paused to catch his breath--to allow Alistair time to adjust and relax.

Maker’s breath, he feels so amazing, he is… absolutely perfect.

Opening his eyes, he found Alistair looking back at him with pure adoration written on his face. Lost in each other’s souls, Cullen began to slowly move. Savoring the moans and whimpers, lips seeking lips, hands caressing, bodies writhing. Keeping full contact with Alistair’s rigid cock trapped between them, the two began to lose themselves to their passions.

The animalistic desire that had taken over their first encounter was threatening to take over again. Growling, Cullen wrapped his arms around Alistair, pulling him up to meet his hips. He felt Alistair clinging to him, matching him thrust for delicious thrust. Slamming into his lover again and again, his climax began to surface.

Cullen knew Alistair was getting close and--Maker bless him--so was he. He wanted to watch Alistair’s face as he came, but it was taking all of his control to stay focused and not lose it too soon.

“Come for me, Alistair! You feel so fucking amazing!”

Cullen shifted his hips slightly, fully taking away Alistair’s ability to do anything but succumb to his desires. His body was reacting beautifully to the pounding as Cullen repeatedly hit his prostate.

Cullen’s vision began to blur. Hold on just a little bit longer. He thrust a couple more times, erratic and jerky, before he went rigid. Buried to the hilt in Alistair’s ass, he could feel the muscles begin to constrict around his cock as he was pulsating inside of him. Alistair’s face was an image that would forever be imbedded in Cullen’s memory. Beautiful. Pure. His. The epitome of perfect rapture.

Their kisses continued long after their bodies stopped shuddering. Their tongues speaking affections that words could never quite capture. Their breathing eventually calmed and Cullen slowly withdrew his length.

They lay wrapped together a few moments more before Alistair broke the silence of their afterglow, “Cullen, you are… that was… Sweet Maker, I… am a lucky, lucky man. What did I ever do to deserve you?”

“I’ve been asking myself the same thing. I could stay like this forever, but I should probably offer to at least get you cleaned up again before we drift off to sleep.” He stifled a yawn before offering, “Or perhaps a shower?”

“A shower sounds perfect, though I’m not ready to let you go just yet. Care to join me?”

Stealing another kiss, Cullen purred, “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Legs still shaking, they headed for the bathroom. Alistair turned on the dual shower heads as Cullen retrieved two fluffy towels from the linen closet. Hanging them on the towel warmer, they stepped under the steaming water together.

Their bodies never lost contact as they washed each other. Caressing, kissing, holding one another close with whispered affections as the hot water washed away the last vestiges of their lovemaking.

Turning off the faucets, Cullen reached for a now-warm towel and wrapped it around Alistair, pulling him to his chest. Kissing him gently, he smiled into the honeyed eyes of the man in his arms.

Alistair yawned and dropped his head onto Cullen’s shoulder, “Mmmm now who’s spoiling whom, my dear.” He reached for the other towel on the rack and draped it over Cullen’s shoulders, wrapping them both in a warm, soft cocoon.

They held each other quietly for a few moments more, savoring the closeness and their connection. Not needing to say anything more, lost in each other’s eyes and arms, they hung up their towels and climbed back into bed; Cullen lying spooned within Alistair’s loving embrace.

As sleep began to claim him, Alistair whispered drowsily into his Cullen’s ear, “Mmm… sweet dreams.”

Responding sleepily, completely sated and safe in Alistair’s arms, Cullen returned, “Nothing can be sweeter than being here with you. Thank you for an absolutely perfect day.”


1 To my knowledge, these Canticle verses don’t actually exist. But they should damnit! 

Chapter Text


Cocktails & Cheese

Cullen and Alistair - A Modern Day AU

Chapter 11

A Very Good Morning 


Alistair woke slowly in the dimly lit room, with Cullen snuggled securely in his arms. The amazing shape of his ass, perfectly cradled Alistair’s already erect penis. Not being able to resist, he kissed the soft skin of Cullen's shoulder and smiled at the memories of the last twenty-four hours: the serious ones, the playful ones, the ones blanketed in desire.

Especially the ones blanketed in desire.

Alistair hugged Cullen closer to his chest which thrust his cock more firmly against the hardened muscles of his ass.

Maker's breath, he feels so good. This man evokes such feelings of lust and longing in me. He is strong, handsome, attentive, fun, caring, and everything that I didn’t realize I was missing in my life.

While his thoughts wandered, Alistair’s hips, hands, and lips developed a mind of their own. Hearing soft moaning from Cullen, Alistair stilled.

Crap! I didn’t mean to wake him!

Cullen reached for Alistair’s hand which had been playing with the little path of curly blond hair, just below his navel. Guiding gently, he lowered it towards his own painful erection.

“You…” he paused with a moan as Alistair firmly squeezed his shaft, “See what you started. How would you like to finishing this?” he inquired while grinding back against Alistair’s cock. He knew what he was craving, feeling the heavy weight of Alistair’s length currently nestled in the crook of his ass.

Fuck, I want him inside me!

Continuing to stroke Cullen, Alistair savored another delicious groan followed by more grinding against his own excitement. “It appears that our bodies have already decided for us.” Alistair whispered between kisses peppered along Cullen’s shoulder. “I can't seem to get enough of you. I don’t believe it’s possible. I want you every way I can have you and then I think… I’ll want to start over at the top of the list so we can do it all again.” His hips mindlessly rutted against Cullen, granting neither of them what they desired most.

“Alistair, stop teasing me.” Cullen chided while passing him the oil. “Don’t make me beg.”

“Not this time at least.”

“Mmm… I like the idea that there will be many more.” Cullen began, then stifled a gasp as Alistair’s long, lubricated fingers found their way back around his dick.  

After copiously coating both of their erections, Alistair applied the excess slowly and liberally to Cullen’s tight opening. The anticipation eliciting wanton moans from each of them. Feeling Cullen begin to relax for entrance, he circled his fingers around the heated flesh, earning him a delicious sigh of approval.

“Yes… Maker, Yes!” Cullen prayed for more.

Replacing his fingers with the head of his cock, Alistair worked his way in, slowly—tenderly—amidst sounds of their shameless desire.

They made love, on their sides; rocking in unison. Alistair’s hand working away at Cullen’s length in time with his own languid thrusts. Cullen’s hand guiding Alistair’s hips where he wanted them, gently pushing and pulling, seeking the contact and closeness of his lover’s skin as he was filled completely. They came together quietly amidst whispers of adoration and appreciation. One in heart, body, and soul; their union sensual, sleepy, satisfying.

Withdrawing reluctantly, Alistair reached for the towel on the nightstand, only to find that Cullen had already used it to catch his ejaculate before it could hit the sheets. Hmm efficient. Alistair approved with a chuckle. Now nobody has to sleep in the wet-spot.

After he finished cleaning himself up, Cullen rolled over to wipe down Alistair. With a sleepy-sated smile, he dropped the towel off the side of the bed and pulled Alistair in for a kiss. “You do realize that it’s only four a.m. don’t you?”

“Tell that to our bodies. They don’t seem to care what time it is.” Alistair kissed Cullen tenderly before resting his head on his shoulder.

Wrapped in a state of mutual bliss, they dropped off back to sleep, arms around one another and legs intertwined.

Alistair woke to a soft, insistent buzzing from his phone. Glancing at the time before checking his texts, he noticed that it was half past seven in the morning. The intruding offender was Lana.

[07:30]

Lana:  Hey Alistair, open up!

Alistair:  Lana? Where are you?

Lana:  Outside! Your breakfast is getting cold.

Alistair looked over at Cullen who was sleeping with one arm thrown up and over his eyes. He mumbled something unintelligible and rolled over before stilling once again.

Looking back at his phone, Alistair chuckled softly before responding to the text.

[07:32]

Alistair:  Ok, ok - keep your pants on!

Lana:  Speaking of… you might want to put some on, Bela’s with me.

He groaned quietly but rolled out of bed and slipped back into the jammies Cullen loaned him the day before.

Stopping at the still unopened door, Alistair ran his fingers through his sleep and sex tousled hair.

Lana teased from the other side, “You’re beautiful already, hurry up.”

Shaking his head, he opened the door with something between a glower and a sheepish smile on his face. He took in the three women crowding the doorway, each holding breakfasty smelling packages… and coffee. “What in Thedas are you doing here this early? What are you doing here at all? I thought the point of me getting the day off was to spend it with him and not you lot.” His smile returned in full at the memories from the last two days.

“Um… Alistair? I don’t need all the details, thank you.” Lana interrupted his thoughts, her cheeks flushed.

Bela perked up. “Oooh - I do! What details? Look how red he’s turning! I think I definitely want those details now.”

Giggling, Leliana came to his defense, “Bela, behave! This is a good thing for our dear Alistair, no? He is always watching over us and taking care of us. It’s sweet that he has someone to uh… take care of him now.”

“Maker’s breath, you are incorrigible!” He whispered to them, still trying to keep quiet and not wake Cullen.

Isabela quietly went into the kitchen and started rummaging around for dishes and mugs. Alistair was about to protest—this not being his apartment—but she brought them back to the little table quietly and quicker than he could gather his sluggish thoughts on the matter. Alistair just stood there agape as the girls started unpacking eggs, bacon, sausage, biscuits, hash-browns, and the most delicious smelling gravy. Is there bacon in that too? His stomach began to rumble as he stood transfixed.

He had his arms crossed over his chest and one eyebrow raised in surprise and bewilderment when he heard a noise behind him. Turning to look, he found Cullen stopped dead in the doorway, one hand wiping the sleep from his eyes, the other running through those beautifully unruly curls. He was staring at the three women laying out a feast on his meager table.

Cullen’s gaze switched to Alistair’s and softened as his lover seemed to look as confused and surprised as he was.

Man, am I glad I stopped to put my shorts on before investigating the reason for me waking up alone.

Lana smiled, attempting to ease the tension, “Good Morning Cullen, Nice curls! How come we never see your curls when you come into the bar?”

Finding his voice, he ignored the question, “Um… Good morning, ladies?” He smiled sheepishly at Leliana and Lana then stopped at the third woman who was eyeing him up and down appreciatively and not at all subtly.

Dark skin, raven black hair tied back in a bandanna, gold jewelry hanging from her ears, wrists, and neck. The new addition was wearing tight fitting leggings, thigh high boots with heels making her taller than Leliana, but not nearly as tall as Alistair. Her white blouse showed off her overflowing cleavage which she seemed all too keen on sharing.

Lana, reading his confusion, offered up the introduction, “Cullen, this is Isabela. Bela, this is Cullen.” She directed her next comment pointedly at the buxom pirate. “And remember, we talked about you behaving.”

Completely ignoring her, Isabela sauntered up to Cullen and held out her hand, grinning wolfishly. He shook it and noticed that they were rough and calloused; not what he was expecting from the rest of her appearance.

“I have a sailor’s hands I’m afraid—the only part of me that isn’t soft and supple.” She jutted her hip out for emphasis and took a deep breath, increasing the size of her already ample bosom.

Cullen coughed and sputtered. Removing his hand from hers, he reached up and rubbed the back of his neck with it, then looked around for Alistair who seemed way too far away.

Andraste’s tits, this one’s just like Zevran!

Lana covered a snicker with a cough as Isabela turned to ask, “Leliana, how come you ladies never told me how yummy Alistair’s Commander was?”

Blushing profusely, Cullen inched his way closer to Alistair who seemed all too eager to meet him in the middle. Placing his hand inside Alistair’s, he found comfort enough to calm his reactions as she continued her assessment of his virility, in full lurid detail.

As she began to ask Alistair for permission to borrow said Commander—for a week or two every year—Alistair finally had enough. “Bela!” he said in warning while wrapping his arm around Cullen’s waist. “I may appreciate you covering my shift tonight, but make no mistake - I have no intentions of sharing.” Cullen turned away to hide the blush darkening his cheeks, before resigning himself to Alistair’s possessive hug.

Laying a gentle kiss against Alistair's scruffy cheek, they smiled at each other before turning back to face the girls.

Lana poured two cups of coffee and handed one to each of them. “I apologize; Bela’s libido is connected to her mouth and it tends to run away with her. But don’t worry, Leli and I have yet to succumb to her wiles and she’s been trying for as long as we’ve known her.” Smiling up at Cullen she offered, “You do get used to it after a while.”

Gratefully accepting the drink, he took a tentative sip before responding, “That seems to be a phrase that comes up often with your group of friends.” Cullen smiled at Lana with affection and understanding.

Turning to the other two, Lana began to usher them out the door, “We were only to deliver breakfast so that they could keep up their strength.” Turning to Bela she admonished, “Not to offer up new ways to deplete them.”

After the other two exited the apartment, Lana looked back apologetically. She approached once again and, raising up on her toes, she pulled both men down individually so that she could place a kiss on each of their cheeks. “You boys have fun today. Enjoy your breakfast.” She said before turning on her heels to head out the door

Alistair walked with her. “Thank you for breakfast. Though, you know you didn’t have to.”

She dipped her head sheepishly. “I did… actually. It’s the payment that Bela demanded for covering your shift tonight; she wanted to meet Cullen. Breakfast is my olive branch for the intrusion. I honestly didn’t think she’d go that far with her flirting. I am sorry, hun.”

“We’ll recover, I’m sure.” Alistair reassured her. “Any parting words of wisdom, oh mighty one?” He teased.

She grinned at her best friend. Looking at Cullen over Alistair’s shoulder, then back at Alistair, she winked and whispered, “I could tell you what he thinks of your ass in those pants, but it’s currently written plainly on his face. Go enjoy your day off, luv. You deserve it.” He watched as she left and descended the stairs.

Alistair turned to look at Cullen, whose face was once again flushed, his nose buried in his cup of coffee. Grinning, he bolted the door and went back to kiss those adorably pink cheeks.

He set his coffee cup down with a happy sigh. “I was having the most wonderful dream, snuggled up in bed with this amazing man before I was so rudely interrupted by my cell phone this morning.”

“Mmm I think I was having a similar dream. And yet, you’re still here.” Setting his own cup on the table, Cullen wrapped his arms around Alistair and pulled him in close. “Last night, yesterday… all of it, has been nothing short of perfect. I keep wondering if I may be dreaming. But my dreams are never this good.”

Alistair kissed him sweetly. “Should I pinch you—so you know you’re not dreaming?”

“No, but I’ll take another one of those kisses… Just to be sure.” Cullen grinned, content before claiming Alistair’s lips again.

Losing himself momentarily in Cullen’s lips, Alistair ran his fingers through the soft curls, currently free of styling products. “I have to agree with Lana—you do have nice curls; why tame them?”

“My ‘nice curls,’ as you call them, get to be a distraction at work. I’ve always done my best to not stand out. I was taught, as a Templar, to minimize all things that made me unique; our uniforms all matched and, as my curls have a mind of their own, I was encouraged to keep them slicked back to better blend in with my garrison.”

“And yet the moment you walked into my pub, you stood out in my mind.” Alistair continued to comb through those incredibly soft curls.

Enjoying the feeling of fingers in his hair, Cullen breathed, “Well, you won’t mind if I let my hair down only for you then.”

“Not at all. We can’t have you distracting the masses with your gorgeous looks; and that just leaves more of you for me to keep to myself.”

“Hmmm, you did tell Isabela that you had no interest in sharing me.” Cullen grinned. He wasn’t upset in the least by this.

Looking over at the breakfast spread out on the table, Cullen admitted, “I think I may even be able to forgive the girls their intrusion this morning. That smells amazing!”

Alistair noticed the time. “It’s almost eight, we should probably put Mr. Chen’s cart out first before we tuck in.”

In agreement, they finished stowing the now clean dishes from the night before, back on the cart. Cullen added a note that simply said:

    Mr. Chen,

Thank you for your generosity.

Everything was delicious and perfect!

                  ~Cullen & Alistair

Placing the note on top of the cart, he rolled it back outside his door where he’d found it the night before.

~*~

After they finished their breakfast and cleaned up their dishes, Cullen checked his watch and noticed that it was almost nine o’clock. “I need to check in with Rylen, then we can get ready to head out.”

Alistair quirked an eyebrow and asked cheekily, “I thought you said he’d already given you the day off?”

Cullen grinned. “He did. As much as my Lieutenant is able to approve my schedule anyway. I am ‘working in the field today’ and I always call in at nine sharp when I work in the field.”

“Like clockwork?” Alistair winked.

Chuckling, Cullen said, “Oh hush, if I don’t stick to my schedule, my team thinks that something is wrong. They proved that yesterday when I was late for work.”

Alistair gasped in mock horror, “You were late? The scandal!”

“Well I was having a difficult time extracting myself from someone's incredible embrace after I had already overslept. Add to that the fact that it takes me longer to get into work from your place than it does from mine.” Cullen grinned at Alistair. “The odds were not in my favor for making it on time.”

“We may have to actually set you an alarm in the future.” He winked.

“Is that an offer?” Cullen asked.

“Mmmaybe? Would you take me up on it?”

“Only if we don’t have to sleep on the couch every time.” Cullen grinned.

Alistair feigned innocence, “But… how else will I be able to guarantee that you’d be stuck to me all night?”

Cullen wrapped himself around Alistair, kissing him deeply, before admitting, “I don’t think you have anything to worry about, I can’t seem to keep my hands off of you.”

Cullen chided, “Now you've made me late… again.” He softened the admonishment with a crooked grin that was mirrored in the twinkling of his eyes. Chuckling, he auto-dialed his Lieutenant, with Alistair still in his arms. “Good morning, Rylen.”

“Good morning Sir—you’re late.”

Cullen swore he could hear Rylen's smirk from this end of the phone. Or, perhaps it was Alistair chuckling as he did evil things to his neck using his tongue and teeth while he was trying to concentrate. Either way, this was going to be a difficult conversation to keep focused on.

Cullen countered, “Hey, I’m checking in, aren’t I?”

“I was wondering if you were going to when the clock struck three past the hour, sir.” Rylen sounded amused.

“Well, I would have been on schedule, but I had to take the time to explain why I need to call you in the first place.” He tried to keep his voice steady, despite Alistair’s distracting activities. “Come to think of it, perhaps you two are conspiring to tarnish my sterling reputation.”

Rylen helpfully added, “Or break you out of your mold, sir.”

Alistair’s hands were now roaming Cullen’s body, their clear intent, to distract him from his phone call. Cullen whispered, “Hey stop that!” and tried to stifle a giggle.

“I’m sorry, sir? Are you… giggling?” Rylen was openly chuckling now.

“What? No! I don't… giggle!” He said indignantly while trying to pull away from—or deflect—Alistair's roaming hands. Cullen cleared his throat and glared at Alistair. “So, anything to report, Rylen?”

“Not a thing sir. It’s been eerily quiet ‘round these parts.” He said with an exaggerated, southern drawl.

Cullen laughed at Rylen’s playful antics. “Glad to hear it. Let’s hope it stays that way, as I may be out of cell range today.”

Rylen queried, once again serious, “Why’s that, Commander?”

“We’re heading south of Denerim to spend the day at the beach. My family’s vacation home number is on file, should there be an emergency.” Cullen began to rub the fingers of his free hand over Alistair's ear in retaliation, causing him to still in his arms and shudder at his touch.”

“Good for you, sir, we’ll hold down the fort in your absence. See you in the morning?” Rylen asked for confirmation.

Cullen reassured him, “I’ll be there.” His hand continued to work the sensitive ridge of Alistair’s ear, keeping him quiet and compliant for the rest of his call.

As an afterthought, Rylen said, “Oh and, sir… you might want to bring donuts.”

“Why’s that?” Cullen asked, curious.

“It’s called bribery, sir. You don't want people to know that you've been giggling, do you?” he teased.

Cullen groaned at his Lieutenant. “As you say, Rylen. See you in the morning.”

“Don't be late sir!” Rylen laughed as he hung up.

Cullen released Alistair’s ear and wrapped both of his arms around the mischievous man, pinning him to his chest. “Thought that was funny, did you?” He staked his claim to Alistair’s luscious lips.

Recovering from the stimulation of his ear and Cullen’s amazing kisses, Alistair took a shuddering breath before responding, “Not necessarily funny… but definitely enjoyable.” Alistair kissed his way up Cullen’s neck and nipped at his ear. “I could continue further if you’d like, pay you back for abusing your power over me.”

Cullen chuckled. “At least now I know the secret to keeping you at my mercy. And that little stunt of yours? I have already filed it away for later.”

Alistair teased, “Oooh, is that a threat?”

“That… my darling man, is a promise. Now, before you distract me further…”

“Oh, so you find me distracting, do you?” Alistair positively purred in his arms.

“Incredibly… and you know it.”

“Yes, I do, but it’s only fair…”

“You’re doing it again.” Cullen chided, then leaned in and kissed those tender lips with every ounce of affection he could muster.

Pulling away—his focus shattered, Alistair asked, “Did I? I uh… What were you saying?”

Grinning, Cullen gently reminded him, “We were about to get dressed so we could go enjoy the pleasures that the sea has waiting for us.”

Finally submitting, Alistair grinned with excitement ready to enjoy their day together. “Stop by my place on the way so I can change and grab a few things?”

“As you wish.”

Chapter Text


Cocktails & Cheese

Cullen and Alistair - A Modern Day AU

Chapter 12

A Day at the Beach - Part 1


 

Alistair retrieved his clothes and dressed while Cullen went to change for their day at the beach. He was carefully draping the suit pieces over the back of the chair when Cullen came back into the room carrying two towels, a blanket, and a duffel bag.

“Hmm, that’s a shame.” Cullen pouted as he watched Alistair try to make some order out of what was left of the pile of clothes.

Looking up with a confused smile, Alistair asked, “What’s a shame?”

“You’re dressed,” Cullen admitted sadly.

“That was the general plan, wasn’t it?”

Cullen put the items he was carrying on the couch and wrapped his arms around Alistair before elaborating, “But, you’ve managed to cover up all of my favorite parts.” Cullen began kissing Alistair’s shoulder, working his way in toward his neck.

“And what parts are those?” Alistair gasped. 

“Hmm… I haven’t decided yet. That may require further investigation.” His kisses found their way to Alistair’s mouth before he pulled back with a contented smile. “Many more hours of investigation, I think.”

Cullen returned to peppering kisses over Alistair's neck while his hands roamed freely.

Trying to pull out of Cullen’s arms, Alistair protested weakly, “Hey now, you were the one insisting that we get ready to leave.”

“But then you covered up!” Cullen reiterated his previous complaint while sticking out his bottom lip. His eyes glinted with mischievousness as he pulled Alistair to his chest and ran his hands up the inside of his shirt. “I was enjoying the view.”

“You can enjoy the view with my clothes on.”

“It’s not the same.” Cullen’s tongue found its way to Alistair’s clavicle, causing him to groan. “Maker, you taste so fucking good.”

Alistair’s feeble attempts at breaking free were being thwarted at every turn. “Aren’t…” He moaned, cleared his throat, and tried again, “Aren’t… we going to the beach?” He pushed weakly at Cullen’s chest, only to have him nip at his jaw and his arms clench tighter around his torso.

One hand gradually worked its way down Alistair’s back. Finding the hard lines of his ass, Cullen squeezed, grinding his rapidly rising erection against the course denim on Alistair’s hip. “Were we?” He nuzzled into Alistair’s neck, breathing him in and began to kiss his way back up toward those delicious ears.

Quicker than Cullen thought possible, Alistair spun out of his grasp and stood directly behind him. Both of his arms now wrapped firmly around Cullen’s, effectively pinning them to his sides.

“Tsk, tsk, you naughty boy,” whispered Alistair as they both panted to catch their breath. “If I let you at my ears again this morning, we will never get out of your apartment. We don’t want to go against sweet Mr. Chen’s orders, now do we?”

Although he knew Wardens had augmented reflexes, Cullen was startled by just how quick Alistair was. One second, Alistair was trapped; the next, he’d reversed their situation—impressive, considering Cullen’s strength and training.

Still blinking from surprise, Cullen couldn’t help but laugh. As Alistair loosened his grip, Cullen turned in his arms. He cupped Alistair’s face gently in his hands and pulled him in for an apologetic kiss. “Fine, we’ll wait for later.” he smiled.

Alistair raised one eyebrow. “You promise to behave?”

“I don’t know; that was really hot and it might be fun to see you move like that again. But perhaps… I’ll wait until we’re at the beach. I will have more room to retaliate without the risk of destroying my living room in the process.”

Calling a temporary truce, they finished packing up their things, grabbed the duffel bag, and headed out to the parking garage.

~*~

When Cullen stopped at the back of his vehicle, Alistair began to laugh, “You drive… a Jeep Commander! That is—that’s kinda perfect for you actually… Commander…” Alistair winked as he circled the Jeep, letting his fingers glide over the dust-free, black paint and rugged accessory package. “Completely blacked out too: black rims, tinted windows, and tail-lights, not an ounce of chrome. Is this the 4.7 liter V8?” Alistair asked with genuine interest.

“5.7 liter Hemi.” Cullen blushed lightly as he opened the passenger door for Alistair. Climbing into the black cloth interior, he elaborated, “When I was transferred to Denerim, Mia decided I was close enough to visit her regularly. Therefore, I needed a vehicle. My promotion to ‘Commander’ came later, but the coincidence is not lost on anyone.”

 Cullen's Jeep CommanderRear View of Cullen's Jeep Commander

Less than ten minutes later, they arrived at Alistair’s bar so he could change and grab extra clothes. Cullen wanted to park in his usual spot and accompany him up, but

Alistair assured him this would be quicker. So Cullen waited, contemplating their last two days together.

Lost to his thoughts, he didn’t see Alistair return and reach for the Jeep’s door until it was too late. A jolt of electricity arced from the handle to Alistair’s hand.

“Hey!” He yelped indignantly, pulling his hand back on reflex.

Mortified that his wandering mind caused him to forget about his wards, Cullen quickly drained their energy before reaching across and opening the door for Alistair.

“I… am… so… sorry,” he apologized looking mortified. “It’s uh… warded.” Cullen began by way of explanation. “Normally you wouldn’t be affected by them unless of course you meant me harm.” He ventured a tentative smile at the memory of Alistair touching his Jeep without issue before they got in. “When I’m inside with the engine running, however, it powers up automatically. No one can get in unless I… unlock it.”

Alistair tossed his bag into the back seat and climbed in chuckling and shaking the tingle out of his hand. “So I see! And here I thought you were just being a gentleman while opening the door for me earlier.”

Cullen admitted ruefully, “I would open doors for you anyway. Are you… ok?” He asked hesitantly, taking Alistair’s affected hand in his own and rubbing his fingers before kissing them.

“I’m fine, really. It just surprised me is all.” He tried to placate Cullen, “Trust me, I’ve suffered worse and now I know better.” He winked before sitting back in his seat to put on his seat-belt.

Grateful for Alistair’s ease and forgiveness, Cullen put the Jeep in gear to continue on their way.

After a few moments of travel, Alistair broke the silence, “So... how do you unlock them exactly?”

“My wards?”

Alistair nodded, then realized Cullen’s attention was on the road. “Yes, your wards. Do you have a fancy button? Is that a new-fangled type of theft deterrent I should look into?”

Cullen chuckled. “No fancy buttons. And certainly not your everyday ADT™ system.” He flexed his fingers on the steering wheel while he figured out how to proceed. “How much do you know of a Templar’s abilities?”

“Probably not as much as I should, judging by your wards,” Alistair joked. “Did you set them?”

Cullen laughed. “No, I am no mage. I have Dorian to thank for the wards.” Cullen groaned as he realized that he’d just outed his friend. Unable to take it back, he decided to bait Alistair to see if he’d confirm his suspicions about Lana. “Having a mage as a best friend has its benefits, wouldn’t you agree?”

“Lana wouldn't…” Alistair caught himself. His eyes wide with surprise before he narrowed them at a grinning Cullen.

“How did you...?” Alistair shook his head and laughed. “Never mind, I probably shouldn’t even ask. Yes, it has some benefits. Though I don’t believe Lana’s abilities cover lightning based alarm systems, I will have to ask her though.”

Cullen snickered. “I don’t suppose being healed by touching someone’s belongings would be much of a deterrent would it?”

Alistair looked at him surprised. “No, I don’t suppose it would. I’d probably just end up with people rubbing up against my car for all the warm tinglies it gave them.” They both laughed at the visual. “So how do you know so much about her magic. She is usually very careful about not using it unless absolutely necessary.”

“She’s an empath, that much you admitted to me on the day we met. Though initially, I wasn’t sure if you were pulling my leg or not.” Cullen smiled at the memory. “She’s proven her psychic abilities true enough. As for making the deduction for her special flavor of magic, it wasn’t a difficult stretch. Empaths either make incredible healers or sadistic mass murderers. And since Lana shies away from things causing pain, that left… healer.”

“You’re kind of scary as a detective, you know that?” Alistair squeezed his hand affectionately.

Shrugging, Cullen admitted, “My penchant for observation is what led me towards my current job after leaving the order. It just felt… natural. Which brings us back around to my original question. It will be easier for me to answer how I ‘unlock’ my wards if I know how much you know already.”

Nodding in agreement, Alistair began, “When I was just a boy, the recruiting Templars would come around and regale us with stories about their abilities as holy warriors. They professed to being blessed by the Maker to defend all of Thedas.” Alistair chuckled at the ‘larger than life’ propaganda speeches they were given as children. “The Sisters used to threaten us by saying they’d get one of the Templars to smite us if we didn’t behave. Regardless of all the threats and posturing, I’ve yet to see a Templar exhibit anything more than brute force. Skillfully placed force, mind you, but nothing… exceptional.”

Cullen shook his head at the familiar stories and chuckled. “That sounds about standard. What about as a Warden? Did you learn anything different there, other than some existed with the sight?”

“When I became a Warden, I studied their basic combat techniques and learned about their preferred weapon combinations.”

“I’m sensing a theme there with you. Is there a fighting style out there that you haven’t studied yet?”

Alistair pondered for a moment before offering, “Underwater, mermaid wrestling?”

“You’re slacking.”

“I know; it’s terrible. I’ll get right on that.”

Cullen chuckled, enjoying their playful banter, but wanting to get them back on topic. He squeezed Alistair’s hand. “You were saying?”

“We were in camp one night when Duncan joined us accompanied by a few older Wardens. We spent most of that night sitting around swapping stories. Eventually, one of them started talking about a battle he fought beside a couple of--what he called-- True-Templars.” Alistair glanced to his left to see if there was any reaction, but Cullen's gaze was fixed on the road.

“The Warden that night said he'd never seen anything like it; these impressive warriors put us to shame. At the time, I scoffed at the concept.” Alistair snorted, then looked Cullen up and down. “After meeting you though…” he licked his lips and Cullen snorted.

“Hey! None of that! I’m driving… and you’re talking. What did he tell you about them?”

Alistair laughed. “He said that they were—of course—awakened; possessing true-sight. He also said that they could counter magic—or was it absorb it?” Alistair became lost in the memory, explaining with excitement and wonder, the tale that the old Warden regaled them with that night.

“During that battle, one of the Templars was disarmed, but continued to fight as if he still carried a sword; tearing through the darkspawn without pause. He slashed, blocked, and parried without the need of an actual weapon or physical contact. He said it was almost like magic, but different. Like a force of nature surrounded the Templar, bending to his will. At the time, I thought it was just the old Warden pulling my leg. As the youngest in the group, it was pretty common for them to fuck with me on a regular basis. But I take it, since you’re not scoffing, that he spoke the truth?”

Cullen nodded. “He did.”

“So... can you?” Alistair was positively humming with excitement at the prospect.

Smiling sheepishly, he nodded. “I can show you if you’d like.”

“What, like here? Now? Won’t we need more space? Like an open field or my dojo and you… not to be driving?”

“It’s not necessary for this demonstration, though we can explore our… talents more later if you’d prefer.” Cullen winked, then turned his head back to the road. “Hold your hand out about four inches above mine.” Cullen released his hand from where he’d been holding it and laid his—palm up—on the center console. Focused on the road, he appeared to be relaxed and calm, just waiting for Alistair to hold his hand again.

“I don’t think I want to play this game, my dear, your Jeep has already bitten me today.” He chuckled as he tentatively obeyed by trying to bring his hand down to within the required four inches of Cullen’s. He never got that close. About six inches up, he hit a barrier.

“Okay, that’s pretty fantastic, but how does that translate? How does it apply to being a Templar?” Alistair asked curious, still probing around the area surrounding Cullen’s hand that he couldn’t get to.

In response, Alistair felt a pressure slowly pushing his hand farther away from his goal before it disappeared altogether and he was able to place his hand back in Cullen’s again.

“That is my own… energy if you will. Or rather, the Maker’s gift, that true-Templar’s wield.” Cullen smiled almost sadly as he explained his gifts. “We learn to harness it, focus it, and redirect it to serve us. I can expand it to use as a shield or hone it to use as a weapon, though I still prefer a physical sword or my gun. In its most extreme use, I can blast it from my body with an incredible force, which is what a true smite actually is: a blast so intense that everything surrounding you either goes flying or shatters as your energy lashes out at them. It can be… truly terrifying.”

Caressing Cullen’s hand in both of his, Alistair asked, “If you have control over it, how can you be afraid of it?”

“You know that feeling… when you’re angry or hurt and suddenly you can do more than normal? That adrenaline-pumping, gut-wrenching, fight-or-flight feeling?”

“Yes?”

“Now, imagine that power intensified exponentially. Think about your most desperate battle and how close to panicking you felt as everything started to unravel. That much power wielded that close to being out of control. A smite can’t pick and choose who it’s targeting, it will take out everyone and everything around you, like a grenade, only you’re the last one standing and you feel utterly drained in the aftermath. It’s terrifying knowing that I have... that at my disposal,” Cullen admitted.

Alistair nodded his understanding. “So you’d only use it as a last resort. Got it. But you said that energy can also be honed and directed as a shield, like a mage’s? That sounds useful.”

Cullen nodded. “It can be, but it is different than a mage’s. I could easily take away the magic feeding their shield and use it to power my own, but they would be unable to similarly affect my shield.”

“How does that work exactly?”

“It’s difficult to explain.” Cullen paused. “Just as I can manipulate the Maker’s energy, I can feel the energy that mages gather to unleash a spell and I can drain that energy from them so their spells don’t work. Like a siphon.”

“Where does it go?”

“I can channel it into the ground and release it, or I can use it to enhance my own fighting and defenses.” Cullen chuckled. “Occasionally during training, we would get into trouble for boosting our holy powers. Apparently, it’s frowned upon to use someone else’s energy to enhance the gifts we are given from the Maker.” Cullen winked.

Alistair gasped in mock surprise. “Sweet, devoted, Cullen Rutherford getting into trouble for abusing his powers? Say it isn’t so!”

He laughed out loud. “We didn’t spend all our time memorizing Canticles and sitting in meditative prayer. We did have fun sometimes, too.”

“So without mages in the Templar order, how did you practice?” Alistair wondered.

“We used specially designed magical orbs. They constantly refill with energy and it was our task to keep it empty, or nearly empty. During our final vigil, we were tasked with keeping it drained for 3 days or we would fail and have to start again.”

Three days? I guess that meant you had to stay awake to focus the whole time?”

Cullen nodded. “Yes, they refilled rather quickly, so even taking short naps would hinder your success. Especially since that wasn’t the only task.”

“What else did you have to do?” asked Alistair.

Cullen looked at him skeptically. “If I told you that, I’d have to kill you—and I’d rather not do that.”

“Ha. Okay.” Alistair shrugged. “So… the draining of energy… that’s how your Jeep’s wards are disabled?”

“You are correct. Dorian has the Jeep warded with a refillable energy, just like my orbs were during training, only these ones are lightning based. If I am not inside of it, there is an added layer to the ward that reads your intent. If someone were to just want to throw their bag inside or open the door to get in, there would be no repercussion. Now, if the intent was theft or vandalism, they’d get hit with an arc similar to what you felt, only it gets stronger each time the perpetrator tries to get in until they are rendered unconscious.”

“That sounds pretty effective and explains why I was able to touch the outside before.”

“Exactly.” Cullen smiled at Alistair’s quick understanding. He found it refreshing to have a conversation with this much candor. It was a rarity in his lifetime.

Alistair chewed over what he’d just learned about Cullen’s abilities as well as the magically protected Jeep that he drove. “So, are there many Templars with these gifts?”

“We are less common, but I wouldn’t say that an awakened Templar is extremely rare. I trained with five other Templars who had the sight.

“Out of how many recruits?”

“Sixty-five. I wasn’t totally alone in my training.” Cullen offered before touching back on Alistair’s original query, “As you surmised, regular Templars are basically incredibly skilled warriors of faith. Their skills are based on discipline, tenacity, and regimented training. True-Templars, are the elite force behind the Templars. We are just as devoted to our faith and training, but our awakened abilities give us that added edge where we might need it.”

Alistair was intrigued. “So can you actually counter magic, or just drain it?”

Cullen blushed. “I… can only drain it and use its source to enhance my own skills. For example, I can’t use the energy I pulled from the Jeep to direct an arc of lightning at you. I can only use that energy to help my own abilities, increase my stamina, or even help me ignore pain for a short while. It doesn't actually heal me, but it is very helpful in keeping mages from casting, which gives me time to recover.”

Cullen thought for a minute in silence, weighing the concept of their shared awareness. Knowing how Alistair felt about secrets, he decided that he needed to be fully honest with Alistair about everything that happened at Thursday night’s raid.

Cullen began hesitantly, “I should probably tell you.” He paused trying to think of how to phrase his admission, “One thing I enjoy about my job, is that the crimes I face are usually very… mundane and boring. I don’t often get much opportunity to use my abilities other than with my wards. I know how you feel about secrets, and I also don’t want any between us. So I’d like to tell you about what really happened last week.”

Alistair's head snapped in his direction and his eyes got wide. “The raid?”

“When we spoke about it last, you were worried about me. You were probably right to be, there were more of them than expected, though we still managed to come out okay. I didn’t know that you would understand then, so I didn’t tell you exactly what we faced.”

“How many of you were truly prepared?” Alistair asked, concern written plainly on his face.

“My team is well trained, but only I fully understood what it was that we faced. They are trained to follow my lead without question and usually that is enough. I am thankful that none of them got hurt.”

“Do I want to know what it was you were up against?”

“Probably not.” Cullen paused. “But, I don’t want to keep anything from you. You already know that my job is dangerous. I don’t think it would be beneficial to either of us to downplay how dangerous it can actually be.” He took a deep breath, “Thursday had us walking into a den of blood mages. There were eight total—they’re all dead now—plus their master who, as you already know, got away.”

“Andraste’s Flaming Knickers! Nine nefarious blood mages and only one aware enough to handle it!” Alistair was incensed. “Cullen do you know what blood mages are capable of? You could have been taken over. They could get inside your head and use you and your abilities against your men!” Alistair’s eyes were wide with the potential horror.

“And yet, through the odds, I’m still here and my men are fine. You did catch the part where I am able to negate their casting ability didn’t you?” Cullen was patiently calm and tried to sound reassuring.

“Yes, but still. Nine to one?! You could have missed one! And it only takes one to turn into an abomination, then magic sucking-abilities or not…”

Cullen snorted. “You weren’t complaining about my ‘magical sucking’ abilities yesterday, my dear.”

Alistair opened and closed his mouth a few times before finally reigning in his fear driven anger. “Okay you’ve got me there.” He smirked. “I’m sorry for overreacting. But I’ve only just found you, I’d hate to lose you so soon to odds like that.”

Cullen squeezed Alistair’s hand reassuringly. “I do appreciate you worrying over my safety. That’s… new for me. Trust me, I’m not all that keen on this ending so soon either. But it’s not as if I have that kind of backup at my disposal—”

Alistair interrupted, “You do now.”

Cullen blushed—his train of thought derailed. “Well, honestly, everything turned out fine. I was dealing with mages, not darkspawn.”

Alistair looked at him seriously. “Should you finally track down the master, or know that you’ll be walking in on anything like that again, be it mages, darkspawn, demons, whatever; will you please take me with you so you at least have someone who’s aware that has your back?”

Cullen shrugged noncommittally, wondering how he’d be able to explain bringing his boyfriend along in his reports, “I will try. I cannot promise more than that.”

Alistair did not find that response satisfactory, but he couldn’t seem to stay upset. He wasn’t actually mad at him, anyway—only scared. But even he rarely went into battle alone. Alistair usually had Lana at his back at the very least, if not Leliana, Zevran, or Duncan too. Biding his time, he rode for a short while in silence then began to look around at his surroundings with interest as Cullen pulled off the main road.

~*~

 The narrow private road wound its way through the trees and eventually changed from pavement to dirt and began to climb. As they came to a stop at the bottom of an incline Alistair thought much too steep to climb, he arched an eyebrow at Cullen. “You can’t be serious!”

Cullen’s ear to ear grin was laced with boyish excitement. “What? Aren’t you brave enough, Warden?”

“Boys and their toys!” Alistair laughed, “bring it on! Show me what the all-powerful Commander can do with his mighty Jeep.”  

Shifting into FWD, Cullen put it in low and nearly cackled with glee as they began the climb, “Up, up, and away!”

They both laughed with unbridled exhilaration as the Jeep fought for traction as it climbed the precipitous path. As they reached the crest, Cullen confessed, “I suppose we could have gone up the main drive. It’s longer, but not nearly as fun.” He winked as he pulled up behind a beautiful two-story house surrounded by trees.

Alistair chuckled. “I thought you were taking me to the beach, this looks like a house in the middle of the woods.”

Cutting the engine, Cullen grinned and pulled his shirt over his head as he jumped out. “There’s beach, don’t worry.”

Alistair followed suit, losing his own shirt, he met Cullen in front of the Jeep. “I’m not sure I believe you.” He wrapped his arms around Cullen’s waist, pulling him in for a quick kiss. Looking around, Alistair admitted, “I have to hand it to you though, beach or no, it is beautiful here.”

“It certainly is,” Cullen softly echoed, his fingers running through Alistair’s hair. He knew he was already lost, they were in one of the most picturesque places in all of Thedas and all he could do was appreciate Alistair’s hard lines, soft lips, and sculpted muscles.

Maker, he’s gorgeous!

Cullen cupped Alistair’s cheek and placed a chaste kiss on the corner of his mouth. “I’m glad you decided to come with me today.”

“I’m glad we managed to get the whole day off together. But, I almost feel like we’re doing something… scandalous!” Alistair leaned in conspiratorially. “like we ditched school and it’s only a matter of time before they find us and haul us back!”

“Did you do that a lot growing up?”

Alistair shrugged one shoulder and chuckled. “Just don’t go asking Mother Natalie about it, I’m sure she’d have plenty of stories to tell you. Might ruin your image of me.”

“I can’t imagine anything ever doing that.” Cullen looked around the back of the house and suddenly grinned. “Come on, we’re wasting time. I still have to show you the best part!” He began to lead Alistair towards the front of the house.

“What? Is there a kiddie pool we’re going to pretend is the beach?” Alistair looked around as they rounded the corner. There did, in fact, appear to be a normal driveway leading up to the front of the house as well as a detached garage that had a second floor above it off to the east.

That wasn’t where Alistair was being led, however, or one of them might have noticed a car parked neatly in said garage. He found himself moving towards a copse of trees that were just slightly below the wrap-around veranda of the cottage.

Heading for an opening in the trees, Cullen watched as Alistair took in the view.

Stopping in his tracks, his mouth fell open in surprise and his eyes lit up with pure excitement at the secluded half-moon shaped, private beach. They stood at the top of a cliff with sturdy metal stairs built into it, zig-zagging their way down to the white sands and crystal blue waters below.

“Maker’s breath, this is beautiful. It’s a private little paradise.” His gaze drifted over the gorgeous scene once more, before falling into amber eyes of the man responsible for the current fluttering of his heart.

Pulling Alistair into his arms, Cullen kissed him softly before laying their foreheads together. “I’m glad you like it. I don’t come here nearly as often as I should, but perhaps now, I may have a reason to.” Claiming his lips for more tender kisses, he was unaware of the shadow looming in the entryway to the house.

“Well, well, well—little brother,” a female voice intoned from up on the porch.

Cullen stiffened in his lover’s arms. His eyes grew wide as he slowly turned towards the house to find his sister standing with her arms crossed over her chest, tapping her foot like their mother used to do.

Mia Hart, his elder by two years; stood frowning down at him. There was a definite family resemblance, though Mia’s curls were a dark brown and her ringlets were much longer than her brother’s. She wore a simple red sundress over a swimsuit and sandals, with an apron over the top as if they had interrupted her in the kitchen. There may have been a frown upon her face, but her hazel-green eyes sparkled with kindness and affection.

Pulling from their embrace, but still holding Alistair’s hand, Cullen tugged him over to the porch to meet his sister. As they got closer, Mia’s ‘stern’ look split into a huge grin.

Cullen dropped Alistair’s hand and quickly closed the gap between them. Scooping her off the porch and swinging her around, the two siblings laughed in each other’s arms.

Smacking her brother on the shoulder, Mia’s laughter turned to good natured scolding, “Put me down, you big overgrown brute! I’m not a sack of rice.”

Setting her down, Cullen gave her another hug before pulling her over towards Alistair who was standing amused at the sibling’s actions. Cullen wrapped one arm around him before beginning the introductions, “Mia, I would like you to meet Alistair. Alistair, this is my much older sister, Mia.” Mia nudged Cullen in the ribs as she approached Alistair, refusing his proffered hand, she gave him a hug instead.

“It is truly a pleasure to meet you, Alistair. I would like to tell you that Cullen has told me all about you, but apparently they didn’t teach him manners in the Chantry. Apparently they didn’t teach him to write, text, or otherwise stay in contact with his family regarding his relationship status either.” She smiled in jest at Alistair then pulled back, punching her brother in the arm on her way by.

Cullen feigned injury, “OOOh ouch, I’m wounded! You big meanie!” He chuckled at his sister. “So, Mia, why exactly are you here? You didn’t mention anything last night about coming today.”

She grinned deviously. “Well, it’s not every day that I get a call from my long lost brother, letting me know where he’s going to be so I could ambush him. How could I miss my chance to see this face?” She grabbed both his cheeks with one hand and squeezed them together making a most undignified expression on the Commander’s normally serious face. “I simply had to come see for myself who could convince my brother to skip work and come relax at the beach for the day. I see now the who and by the smile in my brother’s eyes, I’d say that you’ve been good for him.” She smiled sweetly at Alistair as she released her brother's face, patting him twice more on the cheek for good measure.

“You know where I usually am, Mia.” Cullen rubbed his face where she’d squeezed it.

His sister rolled her eyes before responding, “Yes, but I’d rather not bring the kids to the precinct to see their uncle Cullen. “

Cullen’s eyes lit up with excitement. “They’re here? I haven't seen them since before Emma was born.”

She leveled her gaze at her brother. “That was over four months ago, you boob! You're lucky you're their favorite uncle or they might get mad at you for staying away so long. The boys are down on the beach with their father and the baby is in the house taking a nap.”

Cullen looked appropriately chastised. “I'm sorry I haven't been to see you since she was born, Mia. I can't wait to meet her.”

“Well, you made her wait to meet you, so it won't kill you to wait until she wakes up. Then you can give her your blessing. Don't think you're getting out of it just because you're not a Templar anymore either.” Mia responded while winking at her brother.

“It would be my honor, Mia, you know that.” Cullen responded with a softness in his eyes that Alistair noticed appeared whenever he mentioned his sister or her kids.

“Alistair, why don’t you follow Mia inside. She won’t bite much, honest. I’ll go grab our bags and meet you in a second.”

Alistair nodded in response and followed Mia into the house.

Cullen grabbed their bags and shirts from inside the Jeep and went to join the duo in the house. As he entered the main room, he saw Alistair laying on a blanket on the floor.

He was having a very involved conversation with a baby in a pink-sundress. Alistair was chatting away with her while she had a firm grip on his finger, looking up at him as if he were the most interesting person on the planet. Cullen wholeheartedly agreed.

He looked into the kitchen where Mia was preparing enough food to feed the whole Chantry and then some. She smiled sweetly at her brother then down at Alistair looking slightly amused.

Hearing his approach, Alistair looked up and grinned at Cullen. Winking, he said, “Beware Sir Knight! This one must have magical powers. There I was, minding my own business and the next thing I knew, I was down here on the floor entranced and unable to break from her spell.” He looked back at the baby. “What’s that? Oh yes, Emma, your uncle Cullen is very brave. He could protect you from the fiercest dragons or the scariest darkspawn. Not that you need much protecting with those powers of yours. Would you like to meet him?”

Alistair put his ear close to her little cherub lips pretending to listen. “Your wish is my command, fair princess.” Alistair intimated a question to Mia, ‘May I?’ She nodded to him with a huge smile on her face, never deviating from her food preparation.

He carefully picked up the tiny pink angel and, rising gracefully to his feet, presented her to her uncle. “Emma Rose, I have the infinite pleasure to present to you the Mighty Commander, Cullen Rutherford.”

Mia interrupted, “Stanton.”

“Pardon?”

“Cullen Stanton Rutherford,” she interjected helpfully.

Smiling, Alistair cleared his throat and continued, “Ahhh - the plot thickens…. Ahem. My most humble apologies, your grace. May I present to you the Mighty Commander, Cullen Stanton Rutherford of the King’s army in Denerim. Former Knight-Commander of her Holiness Andraste herself. Pledged to defend the downtrodden and protect the innocent all the while maintaining that fabulous curly hair. You may call him… Uncle Cullen… y’know, when you’re able to finally speak, that is.” With a bow and a flourish, Alistair deposited the pink drooling bundle into her Uncle's waiting arms.

“Now how am I supposed to follow up that introduction?” Cullen grinned at Alistair before looking deep into the sweet eyes of his newest family member.

“It is a pleasure to meet you, your highness, I hope my reputation doesn’t precede me overmuch. Though I usually believe the pomp and ceremony a bit unnecessary, for you I feel compelled to indulge in a certain… decorum.” Cullen marveled at the blonde ringlets just forming on her tiny little head before tenderly placing a sweet kiss upon her forehead. He inhaled her scent then opened his eyes to find his sister and Alistair watching him with matching smirks on their faces.

Mia came to his rescue first, “I get it. Baby smell. There’s nothing else like it.”

Cullen agreed, “It’s pure innocence and hope. Not yet touched or corrupted by anything bad in the world.” Cullen adjusted his little niece in his arms, holding her gently against his bare chest.

“Would you mind, doing her blessing before we head down to the beach?” Mia asked tentatively. “I don’t know when we’ll get a chance to corner you again, and you are absolutely not getting out of it.”

“I wouldn’t dream of it, Mia. I’ve used my Maker-given gifts for many things over the years, but none are as important to me as the blessings I can bestow upon our family.” He sighed dreamily as he gazed at the sweet innocence in his arms. “It’s the one thing that makes everything else I’ve had to endure… bearable.”

A quiet sadness passed between the siblings, but nothing more was said on the topic.

Alistair wasn’t worried, he knew there was a story there and someday, he would be privy to it. Today was a day for blessings however, so he watched Cullen find a place to sit, his adoring gaze never leaving Emma’s face.

Taking a seat in one of the chairs just off the kitchen, Cullen laid his niece upon his legs. Her head lay on his knees and her feet rested lightly upon his torso. Cullen placed his first two fingers against each part mentioned as he blessed his newest family member.

In the Maker’s name, I bless this beautiful baby girl

Hear her name, O’Maker, for she is your daughter, your light

Emma Rose Hart

May your feet walk only on paths which lead to love

May your hands be gentle to yourself and those who care for you

May your voice sing with joy at the wonders that surround you

May your heart be loving, giving, and kind

May your eyes see the beauty in all things around you

May your ears hear what is good and true

May your mind be full of hope and forgiveness

And in all things

May the Maker’s light guide, protect, and bring you comfort

 

I bestow these blessings upon you, Emma Rose Hart

in the name of Andraste and the Maker above

May the Chant of Light carry your name

to the ears of our Lord, so that he may watch over you. *1

Cullen finished his blessing by kissing the middle of Emma’s forehead then picking her back up again into his arms. He whispered into her tiny little ear with his eyes reverently closed. “Beyond any blessing that I can bestow upon you, sweet girl, know that you are loved and cherished and will always have a home within our family and within my heart.”

Holding his niece close to his chest, he opened his eyes to see Alistair and Mia watching him. Mia had tears trickling softly down her cheeks and Alistair was gently rubbing her back while handing her a tissue. The look upon Alistair’s face was filled with pure adoration and gentle kindness.

Breaking the silence, Alistair said quietly, “I promise not to tell Mother Natalie how well you do that. She’d have you do every blessing that came by the Chantry whether you wanted to or not. She can be very persuasive that way, you know.”

Finished drying her tears, Mia blew her nose before adding, “That’s why only Cullen is allowed to bless my babies. From anyone else, they would just be words.” She smiled at her brother affectionately then went back to the sink to wash up again so she could resume her food preparation.

Following Mia’s lead, Alistair washed his hands, found a knife, and began slicing away at a block of cheese as she cut up more fruit for the basket.

Cullen blushed and chuckled as he continued to hold and snuggle his niece. “It never fails, where there’s cheese, Alistair will be there.” Before he could say anything further, he was rewarded with a bit of cheese popped into his mouth followed by a light kiss.

“Oh hush, you know I can’t resist my favorite food.” Alistair grinned as he happily sliced away in the kitchen.

Chuckling as they finished packing up the basket, Cullen asked Mia, “Is all of this going down to the beach?”

“You try feeding three grown men and two growing boys on less than that.” She laughed at the absurdity. “It’s actually a good thing you two showed up when you did, you can carry the brunt of it for me while I bring Emma down in a bit.”

Cullen pouted dramatically. “Aww - and here I was hoping to… OUCH!” He looked down at the little angel turned beastie in his arms. One of her tiny fists had a handful of his chest hair—that was no longer attached to his body—in it.

“On second thought, here, you carry her and I’ll carry the basket." He pried her tiny fingers open to dust his hair from them, then passed her gently to his sister, stealing one last kiss before giving her up completely.

Cullen placed an affectionate kiss on his sister’s forehead. “She is beautiful Mia, you did good.”

She smiled up at her brother giving him a one armed hug. “You two can head down at any time, I’m going to change Emma and grab a few more things before heading to the water. Oh and Alistair?”

Alistair looked at her quizzically.

Mia grinned. “The sunblock is in the bathroom, do put some on before you burn to a crisp out there.”

“Yes, mother!” Alistair laughed good naturedly.

Taking his hand, Cullen pulled Alistair towards the back of the house. “C’mon, I’ll show you where she keeps it.”

Alistair chuckled. “It looks like we’re fated to always be surrounded by mother hens.”

Entering the large bathroom, Cullen closed the door behind them for privacy. “Well, this is not what I was expecting when I invited you out here. I uh… hope you don’t mind…”

Alistair wrapped his arms tenderly around Cullen’s waist, pulling him to his chest. “I don’t mind at all. Your sister is great, Emma is precious, and they’re your family… It’s actually nice to see this other side of you.”

Cullen brushed his fingers lightly over Alistair’s jawline, then wrapping his hand behind his head, pulled him the rest of the way in for a kiss. “You are too good to be true, you know that?”

With mischievousness in his eyes, Alistair chuckled. “I want you to remember you said that when we eventually hit some proverbial speed-bumps, okay?”

“It’s a deal,” Cullen said, as he grabbed the sunblock out of the medicine cabinet and turned Alistair around, kissing both of his shoulders and then his neck. He started to slowly rub the lotion in, reveling in how delicious he felt beneath his fingers.

Alistair hummed in appreciation. “Mmm - you are giving me flashbacks to last night; or was that this morning?” He giggled, “I’m not sure your sister needs to hear us in here. I like her, I’d like for her not to be put off by me quite so quickly.”

Cullen admitted, “I can’t help it. I love the feel of your skin next to mine.”

“Next to, underneath, on top of.”

Cullen wrapped his arms around Alistair from behind. “Yes… all of the above. I can’t seem to get enough.”

Thoroughly enjoying the feeling of his lover’s touch, but knowing they needed to reign it in, Alistair turned in Cullen’s arms and kissed him fully before saying, “I’ll make a deal with you. We behave here today, get through this little impromptu visit with your family and tonight, when we get back to your place…” He paused, passionately claiming his lips while running his hands possessively over the curves of Cullen’s ass. “We can pick this back up again.”

Returning the kisses, Cullen acquiesced, “Mmm I think I can live with that. But you have to let me keep you for the whole night. I dare say, I’m getting rather fond of sleeping with you in my arms.”

“We don’t seem to be getting much sleep though,” Alistair reminded him.

Grinning deviously, Cullen chuckled. “I know.” They kissed again—full of promises for later—then finished applying their sunscreen.

Grabbing their towels and the basket full of food, they took off to head down to the beach to join the rest of the family.


 *1           Blessing from Chantry Sister in Ostagar from DA: Origins / Modified.

Chapter Text

Cocktails & Cheese

Cullen and Alistair - A Modern Day AU

Chapter 13

A Day at the Beach - Part 2


 

Reaching the bottom of the steps that led down to the beach, Alistair gently tapped Cullen on the shoulder, “Uh, Cullen?”

 

“Hmmm?”

 

“You might want to hand me the basket.” Alistair warned, staring into the distance.

 

“Why’s that?”

 

“It appears that the natives are attacking.” He pointed dramatically.

 

Cullen turned and spotted two boys running in their direction followed further down the beach, by their father. Quickly passing the basket to Alistair, he turned to meet his foes on the sand.

 

The larger of the two was in the lead, so Cullen dropped his stance to meet him head on. Cullen swept Stanton up into his arms, flung him over his shoulder, and began to tickle his feet.

 

He spoke excitedly and quickly between fits of giggles, “Uncle Cullen! We’ve been waiting for you!”

 

Cullen laughed, “So I see!”

 

The younger brother finally caught up and tangled himself around Cullen’s legs, “Gotcha! Now you can’t move!”

 

“Oh no! I’m trapped! Whatever shall I do?” Cullen glanced at Alistair who was laughing at their antics.

 

The boys’ father was the last to arrive, slightly winded but grinning fondly at Cullen. They were the same height, but Mia’s husband appeared older by several years. He had a shaggy mop of salt and pepper hair and few days growth of matching stubble. His skin was tanned from long hours working in the sun and his eyes held a gentle kindness in the laugh lines framing them. “It’s good to see you Cullen, I’m glad you made it out today, Mia’s been so excited since you called last night.”

 

Cullen pulled his brother-in-law for a quick hug, “It’s good to see you, Sam. I can imagine her turning your house upside-down for this little ambush. You didn’t have to cancel anything important for this did you?”

 

“Nah, the kids are on summer vacation, so I’ve hired some extra help on the ranch to allow me to spend more time with them. But of course, Mia has been filling that up with a ‘honey-do’ list as long as your arm.” They both laughed knowingly. “In truth, this is more fun than cleaning out the garage anyway, so maybe I should thank you for this little distraction.”

 

He looked at Alistair a little sheepishly, “Though it seems we may have crashed your little party. Mia didn’t say you’d be bringing anyone with you. He offered his hand to Alistair, “Hi, I’m Samuel… I belong to Mia.”

 

“Alistair, it’s a pleasure to meet you. I uh… belong to Cullen.” He grinned then looked at the basket in his hands, “Mia sent down snacks, or lunch, or maybe provisions for the next 3 days? I’m not sure.”

 

Sam took the basket from Alistair laughing, “She does like to feed the masses. Come on, I’ll show you where we’ve set up for the day.”

 

Cullen was still burdened with both boys as they followed Sam down the beach and around a little outcrop of rocks. Their day camp consisted of several large beach blankets and a single umbrella. Off to one side was a large tub containing an assortment of balls, a couple of play swords, flying disks, and sand excavation tools.

 

Once they were settled, Cullen continued with the introductions, “Alistair, this little darkspawn is Jasper.” He indicated the smallest boy with brown hair, bright hazel eyes, and a happy smile.

 

Returning the smile, Alistair shook his hand, “Well hello, Jasper, it is a pleasure to make your acquaintance,” he said formally.

 

Flopping the older boy off his shoulder and onto the blanket, Cullen grunted with mock effort, “And this strapping young lad, is Stanton.”

 

Alistair reached out and shook his hand, greeting him in kind. Stanton had sandy blonde hair, deep blue eyes, and appeared to be the more serious of the two. Alistair looked over at Cullen in question. “Stanton huh?”

 

Sam answered for him, “Yes, Mia’s a bit sentimental, wanted to name our first born after her long lost brother. And she claims to not play favorites.” he said good naturedly.

 

Stanton chimed in, “I’ve been practicing, Uncle! Everything you showed me about sword work... and my footing is getting better too!” The young man turned to Alistair and announced proudly, “I’m going to be a Templar like my Uncle was!”

 

Cullen’s eyes grew a little sad, but he smiled at the sweet innocence of his nephew, “Andraste herself would be proud to have you serve her.” He ruffled the young man’s hair, “Why don't you grab the swords and get a space ready for us to practice, you can show me how much you’ve improved.”

 

“Yes, uncle!” Stanton grabbed the two practice swords then ran off, his brother and father following to help him prepare.

 

Alistair watched them go, “You have a pretty fantastic family.”

 

“Thank you. They seem to like you as well.”

 

Alistair watched the boys use the swords to draw lines in the sand as Sam put flags in the four corners for their makeshift sparing ring. He chewed his lip a moment before asking, “How old are they?”

 

“Sam is forty-five. I know what you’re thinking, he’s all grizzled and grey but he really is only six years older than Mia.” Cullen finished with a conspiratorial whisper, “He’s been grey for as long as I’ve known him, I think Mia has that effect on people, we might want to be careful.”

 

Alistair laughed playfully, smacking Cullen on the shoulder, “I was asking about the boys, not their father.”

 

“Well you know… some people like their men… older.” Cullen winked.

 

Alistair placed his hands on Cullen’s hips, kissing him tenderly, “I’m quite fond of the one I have, thank you.”

 

“Well, in that case…” Cullen leaned in for another kiss before draping one arm over Alistair’s shoulder and facing his nephews again. “Jasper is seven.”

 

Alistair nodded then let his eyes drift to the older brother. “And Stanton?”

 

“He turned ten last winter.” Cullen heard an almost imperceptible sigh. “Hey, what’s wrong?” He cupped Alistair’s cheek, searching for answers in his eyes.

 

Quickly stuffing his sadness, he answered, “Nothing... well, nothing urgent anyway,” he forced a small smile. “I promise we can discuss it later.” He wrapped an arm around Cullen’s waist and sealed that promise with a soft kiss.

 

Hearing giggling, Cullen and Alistair parted and turned to greet Jasper who was running towards them. Grabbing Alistair’s hand, the young man started tugging him towards the cliff wall where a few small caves were hidden. Alistair threw a quick glance over his shoulder--grinning--as he was tugged unceremoniously away.

 

“C’mon! They’re going to be busy hitting each other with swords. I wanna show you all the shells I’ve found today!” Jasper was vibrating with excitement at the prospect of having Alistair all to himself.

~*~

 

Cullen chuckled as he walked over to the ring where Sam was watching Stanton move effortlessly through his practice forms. Grabbing the spare sword, Cullen fell into step next to his nephew. Picking up in the middle of the complicated string of movements, they completed the synchronized exercise together.

 

Holding their last stance for a moment longer than necessary, Cullen stood and circled his nephew, checking for any imperfections in the way he was holding himself or his sword. Correcting only the angle of Stanton’s back foot, but deeming everything else acceptable, Cullen released him from position.

 

He waited as his nephew moved from the forward lunge he’d been holding, to parade rest before speaking, “You have been practicing. Most boys who enter their training will be coming in with none of this knowledge or skill. You will certainly have more of a head start than I did when I joined.” Cullen paused, thinking about how hard it was for him to catch up in the beginning. “You will have an advantage over them, but does that make you better?”

 

“No, uncle. We are a team, we work together, and we are only as strong as our weakest member… Sir.” He remembered to tack on at the end.

 

Cullen nodded, “You are more than a team. They will be your family. You look out for each other, not only out of a sense of duty, but because… that’s what families do. You teach those that don’t yet know, you help those that are struggling, you model behaviors you want others to follow. Humility, trust, faith, devotion, obedience, loyalty, dedication, and a desire to serve the Maker and his bride--these things bind you together, these tenants will become your whole life. Your duty.”

 

Stanton bobbed his head once in acknowledgement, a solemn, determined expression on his face. His lip trembled momentarily, if Cullen hadn’t been watching, he might have missed it. “Is there something you’d like to say, young Templar?”

 

“If… if they are to be my family, does that mean I have to give up…” unable to finish his sentence, his eyes darted to his father but then shot straight ahead where they were supposed to be.

 

Cullen took a knee before Stanton and placed his hands on his hips smiling reassuringly, “You do not have to give up one family to gain another. Your training will be at the Chantry, mere blocks away from my home and work. I will have access to visit you as often as I am able. Your parents will be able to visit you on selected weekends as well. And between you and me, the more you write to your mother, the happier she will be.” He winked at his nephew, earning him a small giggle in return.

 

“Mama has already threatened me not to be like you in that regard.” The grin that lit up his face then made it all worth it.

 

Cullen laughed, “I don’t think she’ll ever let me hear the end of how poor I am at checking in with her. You’d think she was my mother instead of my sister. So… what would you like to work on next? Your form was well executed; I can tell you’ve been putting a lot of work into this.”

 

Sam laughed from the sideline, “Every spare moment the boy has, he’s practicing--and some not so spare ones. Hell, the other day, I caught him pretending the bucket of chicken feed was his sword. Somehow he managed to still get his chores done, not exactly how I would have done them, but I don’t think the chickens minded wading through his footwork to get to their scratch.”

 

Stanton grinned sheepishly at his feet as they shared in the laugh. “I’d like to spar next, if that’s ok. Jasper tries to help me and dad does too, but…”

 

“But neither one of us can beat him,” Sam interjected. “I think the boy needs an actual challenge.”

 

Standing to his full height, Cullen took his place at the center of the mat, “Sparring, it is! Sam, you care to moderate for us?”

~*~

 

While Cullen was busy instructing Stanton, Alistair was focused on Jasper who had taken him to a little outcropping in one of the cliff’s walls. It wasn’t deep enough to be considered a cave, but it did provide shade and cover from the day’s warm sun. The delightful young man was talking nonstop about his shells and how this one had a vein of pink in it and this other one still had a piece of the creature in it that once lived inside. They were all really quite lovely so Alistair was momentarily surprised when the young man switched gears on him.

 

“Would you like to build a sandcastle with me?”

 

Alistair grinned at the excited expression on Jasper’s face, “I would love to, what kind should we build? How tall? How grand?”

 

Jasper admitted bashfully, “Well… I don’t actually want to build a castle at all. I want to build Theirin Tower! Like the one in Denerim. It’s HUGE!!! Have you seen it?”

 

Alistair was struck for a moment before he smiled and nodded, “I have. Have you ever been inside of it?” They started building the foundation of the unique shaped building that decorated downtown Denerim as they talked.

 

“No. Have you?”

 

Looking around to make sure they were alone, Alistair whispered, “Can you keep a secret?”

 

Jasper nodded slowly, suddenly very serious.

 

“I have actually been inside of it--many times.”

 

Eyes suddenly wide, Jasper asked incredulously, “Really? What’s it like?”

 

As they worked, Alistair described the grandeur and opulence that permeated the inside of the most famous building in Denerim. Jasper asked questions, seeking very specific details; the maturity level of which impressed Alistair. As reluctant as he usually was to claim familial ties to the Theirin line, Alistair thought that this might be a place where his family connection might be of actual benefit to someone.

 

While they were putting the finishing touches on the top penthouse floors, Jasper asked, “How did you get to see the inside? Mama says that only rich or important people get to go in there.”

 

Grinning conspiratorially, Alistair whispered, “Well, here’s another secret for you.” He paused for dramatic effect. “My name is Alistair... Theirin”.

 

Jasper’s eyes got big, then grew even bigger with understanding and awe! “Really?” He almost shouted in his excitement!

 

Alistair tried to calm him from shouting so loud, “Shhh, it’s true. My father is Maric and my half-brother is Cailan Theirin.”

 

Jasper sat pondering what he was just told. Looking perplexed, he finally asked, “How can you have only half of a brother? Is the other half… sister?”

 

Alistair laughed, “No—he and I have different mothers. But because we share the same father, we are called, half-brothers.”

 

“So do you live in the tower with your half… brother and father?” Jasper asked curious.

 

“No—I live in a loft not far from there though.”

 

Jasper’s eyes lit up with a sudden idea, “Do you think you could sneak me in so I could see it? The tower, I mean?!! I’d really like to see it! I want to build buildings like that when I grow up! I’m going to be a famous architect you know.”

 

“I might actually be able to arrange that. We won’t need to sneak you in though, but we will need to discuss it with your uncle and parents first.”

 

His little face fell. “Oh, but if we ask them, then they’ll know that you’re a Theirin too; it won’t be a secret anymore.”

 

Alistair ruffled Jasper’s hair, “It’s ok; your uncle already knows and I’m sure you and I can come up with something else to keep secret about. Do you by chance… like cheese?”

 

Excited, Jasper exclaimed loudly, “I love cheese!”

 

They continued to banter as they worked--decorating the tower with the shells that Jasper so carefully collected. Looking wistfully over at the sparring ring, Alistair smiled to himself as he watched Cullen over exaggerate a fall to the sand; granting Stanton victory in battle.”

 

Jasper suddenly asked, breaking his reverie, “Are you going to marry my uncle?”

 

Alistair coughed, then offered noncommittally, “That’s a big question. We haven’t been together for very long and it’s not something we’ve actually talked about.”

 

“But you love him, I can tell.” Jasper said sagely.

 

Alistair looked from Cullen, to his little matchmaker, and back again.

 

Do I?

 

Aloud he asked, How can you tell?”

 

“You look at him the way my dad looks at my mom.” His smug little smile was all knowing.

 

“Hmm... and your parents have been together a long time, I take it?”

 

“All my life!” Jasper grinned with pride.

 

“Well, that certainly sounds serious and I’m flattered that you see similarities between your uncle and I and your parents. I can only hope we’ll be so happy together after such a long and fulfilling relationship.”

 

“So… you should marry him.” Jasper finished his advice for the day, “That way, you could be my uncle too!”

 

Alistair chuckled, “I’m glad you approve. And maybe we will--someday. We’ll just have to wait and see.” He watched with appreciation the grace in which Cullen moved as he picked himself up off the sand, passed the swords to Sam who was heading back towards their day camp, and grabbed Stanton, flinging him over his shoulder as if he weighed nothing.

 

Joining Alistair and Jasper, Cullen noted their matching mischievous grins, “You two look guilty of something. Alistair, what are you up to? Getting into trouble again? Trying to corrupt my nephew perhaps? Mother Natalie did warn me about this, you know she would not approve.”

 

Alistair feigned innocence but his smile was bright and his cheeks redder than normal, “Why Commander, so quick to judge? What happened to innocent until proven guilty?”

 

Setting Stanton down on his feet, he quirked an eyebrow, “I don’t know, the evidence seems to be stacked against you. So… out with it. What kind of nefarious scheming are you dragging my nephew into?”

 

Jasper and Alistair looked at each other and grinned before turning their focus back to Cullen.

 

“Actually if you must know, I am the innocent party, young Jasper here seems to have grand plans for your future and was just filling me in on my part in them. We may need to watch out for this one.” Alistair chuckled. “He’s way too observant for his own good.”

 

Jasper turned to Alistair, clearly betrayed, “Traitor!” He shouted, then proceeded to tackle him to the ground, tickling his ribs in retaliation.

 

Cullen and Stanton were laughing at Alistair who was on his back flailing under the tickling of the ferocious seven-year-old.

 

Turning to his nephew, Cullen asked, “What do you think young Templar, should we give aid? Or shall we stand here and watch the traitor get what’s coming to him?”

 

Alistair gasped for air from where he writhed on the sand, “Ooh, hey!—Stop it!—That tickles! Sir knights, please!” He begged, “Only you can vanquish this vile tickle beast. For I have not the strength or brave tenacity that you have! Oh--Heroes of Thedas, what would Andraste think of your apathy towards those in dire need!”

 

Hearing Andraste’s name being invoked, Stanton stepped forward to play along, “Never fear, I am here to uphold the honor of the order!” He reached in and grabbed his brother by the waist, hauling him off of his victim.

 

Grinning, Cullen reached down and grabbed Alistair’s hand pulling him up into his arms. He asked with mock-concern, “Are you hurt, fine sir?”

 

Alistair shook his head, “I am well enough thank you, though I fear what would have happened, had you two not come to my aid!”

 

The four of them dissolved into joyful laughter. Stanton set his brother back down on his feet, while Cullen had yet to release his charge. Smiling at Alistair, Cullen gave him a quick kiss on the cheek, which resulted in more giggling from the boys.

 

“Think that’s funny do you?” Cullen laughed with the boys who were obviously enjoying their game. “What do you think Alistair? Think we should let them get away with giggling at us like that?”

 

“No, I dare say--that’s a dunking offense,” Alistair deadpanned.

 

Cullen smiled wickedly at his nephews, “I quite agree.”

 

They took a sudden step forward towards the littles--threatening to chase them. The boys turned on their heels and ran screaming in the opposite direction.

 

Stealing a quick moment to themselves, Cullen pulled Alistair into his arms, “You look like you’re having fun.”

 

“I am, actually. I think we both may have needed a day like today. Thank you for bringing me.” He leaned in and kissed him lightly. “So… shall we give chase?”

 

Cullen smiled, “I would love to.”

 

They reached the spot on the sand where the boys were currently hiding behind their father just as Mia and little Emma joined them. Before they could try begging their mother for clemency, Alistair scooped up Jasper and Cullen grabbed Stanton then they both ran for the water amidst happy screams and giggles.

 

The four of them played in the water for a full half an hour; splashing, dunking, launching the younger two into the air to see how big of a splash they could make as they came back down again. Fully wet, covered in sand, and laughing whole heartedly, the quartet finally emerged from the water to flop breathlessly onto the blankets.

 

Mia laughed, “Have you boys gotten all the wild wiggles out of your system yet? Are you ready for some lunch?” She smiled knowingly at her husband after glancing at her brother and his boyfriend.

 

Alistair was enjoying the feeling of fingers running through his hair, as he lay there with his head in Cullen’s lap. At her mention of food, he gazed up at Cullen and asked, “Did she say cheese?”

 

Cullen chuckled, “Perhaps you’ve been away from work too long. Your lack of cheese is making you delirious.”

 

As she passed out food to everyone, Mia asked, “What is it that you do Alistair? Do you work for the Police too? I thought their thing was donuts, not cheese.” She teased her brother while tossing him their sandwiches.

 

Alistair smiled at the notion, “No ma’am, I own a little place downtown called Alistair’s House of Whine and Cheese.” He took a bite of his sandwich and moaned at how good it tasted.

 

“Is it a restaurant then? That would explain you jumping in so comfortably in the kitchen today.”

 

He finished his bite, while shaking his head, “No, just a quaint little pub. Everyone who comes in is offered a tray of cheese and other nibbles. It’s my hope that a little light sustenance at the end of a hard day, will bring their souls comfort as they whine away their problems.” He chuckled then continued, “It’s certainly nothing extravagant, but it’s little things like that which set my pub apart from all the rest.”

 

“So... how did you two meet? Cullen’s never been the type to hang out in bars; and you don’t seem the type to spend your time in trouble with the law. Or am I wrong?” Mia asked, a note of teasing in her voice.

 

Grinning affectionately down at Alistair, Cullen answered, “I may hang out at a certain bar more often than you might think. I still don’t overindulge in drink; the view itself is intoxicating enough.”

 

Alistair blushed at Cullen’s complement, “We only met three months ago. There I was minding my own business, when in came this handsome stranger. Now, I’m not usually in the habit of hitting on my customers, but this one in particular, caught my eye.”

 

Mia asked, “Three months?” She looked pointedly at her brother, “You’ve been seeing him for three months and I’m only just now meeting him?”

 

“Not exactly!” Cullen defended, “It took us awhile to uh… figure out that the attraction was mutual.”

 

“Yeah, and don’t forget the not so subtle nudgings from our best friends.” Alistair laughed self-deprecatingly. “Apparently we were both woefully out of practice.”  

 

“So you’ve met Dorian, then?” she asked with a chuckle. “I daresay, I’d love to know what you thought of him. Did you get to meet Bull too?”

 

“I didn’t get to meet Bull, but I have had the pleasure of meeting the infamous Dorian.” Alistair laughed while slipping a grape into Cullen’s mouth.

 

Mia smiled as they unconsciously fed each other. She had never before seen her brother so relaxed and free with his affections with anyone other than family. He was always so guarded, it made her happy to see him letting someone else in past his usual stoic exterior.

 

“We met quite by accident.” Cullen shared, “I was working a rough case downtown, following one dead end lead after another and was at a loss on which rock to turn over next. I found myself wandering the streets trying to burn off my frustration when I came across this place I’d never seen before. I’d skipped dinner so I decided to step inside to get a drink--if not food--before heading home. It was pure happenstance that pulled me through his door that night--not that I’m complaining at all.” He gently stroked his fingers down the side of Alistair’s cheek as he lost himself in his eyes, forgetting their audience momentarily.

 

Mia grinned at her brother who seemed to be at peace for the first time in years, “Well, whatever pushed you through that door, I’m glad that it did. You haven’t looked so happy since the day our parents finally agreed to let you join the Templars for training.”

 

Cullen smiled, gazing at Alistair. Whatever they were about to say was interrupted by a very excited seven-year-old.

 

He jumped up as he remembered, “He’s a real Theirin, mama! He said he could get me in to see the Theirin tower in Denerim.” Jasper paused and looked between his parents and uncle. “He said it would have to be ok with you first though.”

 

Mia raised an eyebrow, but otherwise said nothing about his lineage. She smiled at her youngest son and wiped a bit of sand off his cheek. “Jasper has been building things since he was first able to grasp a block.” She looked at Alistair with cautious hope, “If you can somehow get him in to see what it looks like on the inside, I would be silly not to grant him the opportunity. When you can find the time, of course.”

 

Cullen offered, “Maybe we could make a day of it and tour both the Chantry and Theirin Tower?” He looked to Alistair who was nodding and smiling his agreement before turning back to Mia. “Stanton can see where his training will take place and Jasper will get to see two beautiful historical buildings.”

 

Stanton asked, “Can we see your pub too?”

 

Alistair laughed, “Sorry, it’s not an official restaurant, so no one under twenty-one allowed. Not to mention, your mother would probably kill me if I took you into the bar during operating hours. However, there is a separate entrance to my loft upstairs, I have a full sized training ring up there, complete with practice swords. I bet you could give your Uncle a run for his money.”

 

Cullen rolled his eyes and laughed. “I’d like to see you pitted against the little Templar, he may be almost as quick as you are.”

 

“Is that a challenge, my dear? I’m sure I’ve a few tricks up my sleeve that will still surprise you.” He grinned while sitting up, mischievousness dancing in his eyes.

 

Finished with their lunch, Alistair then looked at Jasper, “What say you, young sir? Are you up for a battle against your brother and uncle?”

 

Jasper looked excited, “With you on my team?”

 

“Of course!” Alistair agreed.

 

Jumping to his feet, Jasper punched his fist into the air, “YES!”

 

Cullen suggested, “Why don’t you two set up goals at either end of the beach.”

 

Alistair indicated the bucket of toys, “Care to choose your weapon, sir?”

 

Reaching in, Cullen palmed an old soccer ball hidden in the bottom of the bucket as Mia giggled from her spot on the blanket. Checking that it was adequately filled with air, he gave Alistair one last chance to change his mind. “You sure you’re up for this? It’s not too late to back out.”

 

Mia tried to interject, “Alistair, you should probably know that Cullen…”

Cullen bounced the ball playfully off his sister’s forehead then tucked it under his arm, “Hush you! He wants to play. I say we see how well he can keep up.”

 

Before Cullen could finish his thought, the ball was gone from his hands and Alistair was off and running towards the field that the boys just finished constructing for them. Dropping the ball to the sand, he began to kick it along the way, showing off a little of his fancy footwork.

 

Catching up to him, Cullen stole the ball and dribbled it a little way further down the beach. As they approached the center of the makeshift field, Alistair stole the ball one last time. Without using his hands, he popped it into the air and began to bounce it off his various body parts; knees mostly, but he used his head, shoulders and chest as well, never letting it hit the ground.

 

Grinning deviously, Alistair asked the boys. “So… which goal is the one Jasper and I are to aim for?” They both pointed down to the south end of the beach which happened to be directly behind him. Looking once over his shoulder and backing up to make sure he had plenty of room. Alistair caught Cullen’s eye and winked before launching the ball high in the air, leaping up to meet it--foot-to-ball--in an elaborate back flip before landing effortlessly back on his feet again. Turning to look, he watched as the ball flew, bounced, then rolled precisely between the two sticks the boys placed as goal markers.

 

From her spot on the blanket, Mia clapped wildly, “Hey Cullen, I think you’ve finally found someone to make the game an effort for you!” She rolled with laughter at the dumbfounded look upon her brother’s face.

 

Shaking off his surprise, he grinned, pulling Alistair into his arms. While he had him distracted, Cullen motioned for Stanton to go get the ball. “Show off.” he whispered good naturedly.

 

“Only for you. Are you impressed yet?” Came Alistair’s breathless reply.

 

Pulling him from his daze came a dejected little voice running down the field, “Awwww! No Fair! Hey Alistair, are you going to help me or what?”

 

Looking towards the other side of the beach, Alistair saw Stanton kick the ball through the other goal.

 

Kissing Cullen quickly before detangling himself from his arms, he chided, “You play dirty for a Templar, I will remember that.” Alistair ran to join the boys who were currently tussling over the ball’s custody. Sliding through, he swooped in and scooped the ball away, racing towards the other end of the field. Cullen matched him step for step and left him no room for his usual acrobatics, though he was still unable to prevent the ball from going through the posts.

 

“Two for us. Will you need to cheat again to make that next goal?” Alistair taunted.

 

Stanton threw the ball back into play towards Cullen, his own footwork was calculated, steady, but not predictable enough for Alistair to manage to get the ball away from him either. Where Alistair was quick and acrobatic, Cullen was strong and meticulous. Both had their strengths that played very well against the other. Equal but different.

 

The game itself came out even, but they came to an unspoken agreement to let the youngest have the winning goal. Lining up Jasper for the final shot, Alistair coached him up to the line, the other two hung back feigning breathlessness to give him a chance to focus.

 

“How would you like to hit it in? This is your shot, let’s make it good!” Alistair encouraged his little protégé.

 

“I want to hit it fancy… like you do!” Jasper exclaimed. “Only... no flips, I don’t want to scare my mom. She worries you know.”

 

Alistair nodded in understanding before offering, “How about I pass you the ball and you hit it in using your head.”

 

Jasper looked nervous, “Will it hurt?”

 

“Not if you hit it here.” Alistair indicated the top of his forehead. “I’ll aim it there and you do the rest. Ready?”

 

“I guess, but don’t kick it hard, ok?” Jasper said, sounding more than a little apprehensive.

 

“Warden’s honor, Jasper. I’ll toss it lightly.” Alistair backed up, picked the ball up with his foot, and rested it on the top for a moment before lobbing it towards Jasper.

 

With a determined shout, he jumped, hitting the ball perfectly towards their goal.

As it cleared the posts, the other two finally caught up. Cullen cheered, sweeping Jasper into his arms and parading him around for high fives and congratulations on a job well done.

 

Mia was laughing and shaking her head as they approached the blankets with Jasper on their shoulders looking victorious. As they all settled onto the blankets, she took Jasper into her arms and snuggled him to her chest.

 

“You boys seem to be having a good time.” Mia said to her sons. “I hope you’ve gotten it all out of your system for today though because we need to be heading home soon.”

 

“Awe Mom!” Both boys said at once.

 

“Now, now. Uncle Cullen will be visiting us again this summer, won’t he?” She looked pointedly at her brother before continuing, “And if he’s a good uncle, he will keep that promise he made to you.”  

 

“We will definitely see you again soon.” Cullen reminded them with a smile. “Alistair and I will make all the appropriate arrangements for the tours. In the meantime, mind your parents and behave.”

 

Sam came over and shook both Alistair and Cullen’s hands before bidding them safe travels home. The boys approached next, giving them both hugs before collecting their things and following their father up to the house.

 

Mia came over last with Emma in her arms, “Thank you for sharing part of your day with us. Not that I gave you any other option,” she grinned as she handed Emma off to Cullen before turning to Alistair. “It has been an absolute pleasure to meet you. Keep my brother in line for me, will you?” She hugged Alistair quickly, then finished with a wink.

 

“I will do my best. Thanks for everything today Mia, your family is beautiful.” He responded, genuinely appreciative of her acceptance.

 

Cullen gave little Emma one last kiss before handing her to Alistair so he could hug his sister too. “I’ve missed you Mia, I’ll try not to stay away so long this time.”

 

“You better not, you have two boys who are expecting a tour of Denerim. If I were you, I’d make sure that happens before the summer is through.” She kissed his cheek, “You pick the date and Sam and I will bring them to you.”

 

“I think I can work within those parameters.” Cullen grinned as he watched Alistair blowing raspberries on Emma’s chubby little cheeks while she squealed with glee. When Mia had Emma back in her arms, he told her, “Don’t worry about sending Sam back down for clean up, we will store the rest of the blankets and umbrella back inside the garage and lock everything up when we’re through. You just be safe heading home.”

 

“Thank you,” She smiled affectionately at her brother, “Oh, and Cullen?”

 

He looked up expectantly.

 

“Take the main drive home please. I don’t want to have to explain to the boys how you rolled your Jeep showing off for your boyfriend.”

 

Cullen rolled his eyes, but nodded.

 

 

Chapter Text

Cocktails & Cheese

Cullen and Alistair - A Modern Day AU

Chapter 14

A Day at the Beach - Part 3


 

 

Cullen threaded his fingers through Alistair’s as they watched Mia ascend the stairs with Emma. “I appreciate you putting up with my family today. I can’t remember the last time I had so much fun.” He looked at their hands and smiled at how perfectly they fit together.

 

Alistair pulled their fingers to his lips, kissing them gently before he placed Cullen’s hands at the small of his back. Draping his arms over Cullen’s shoulders, he grinned, “I know I promised to behave today, but now that we’re alone, I just want to...” He finished that thought by chasing the closeness they’d been avoiding all day; kissing him deeply, passionately.

 

Coming up for air, lost in each other’s eyes, their hands continued to gently caress one another. Cullen found his voice first, “Mmm, I think this still constitutes as behaving. I’m definitely not complaining. We have a few hours worth of daylight left before I take you home with me, is there anything you’d like to do before we pack up?”

 

“Other than the obvious?” Alistair quirked an eyebrow as he ran his hands over Cullen’s chest, teasing one of his nipples as he passed over it. “I would be content to stay in your arms for the rest of the day, but this place is breathtaking. I’m actually torn between this view,” he placed a tender kiss on the corner of Cullen’s mouth. “Or this view.” Turning in his arms, Alistair faced the water and leaned back against Cullen’s chest with their cheeks lightly touching.

 

Placing a lingering kiss on Alistair's cheek, Cullen held him close; breathing in time and enjoying the tenderness of the moment. “I am content with you here in my arms, but we do have limited daylight left, maybe we should make the most of our trip before we run out of time.”

 

“I would love to explore.” Alistair turned again, his eyes glistening with excitement. “Would you mind showing me around? I am in awe of how gorgeous it is here. A private beach probably has many stories to its name and I would love to hear about some of your favorite memories.”

 

“And maybe make a few new ones?” he asked with a wink.

 

Alistair grinned deviously, “I wouldn’t be opposed, but as you said… we only have limited daylight left and we are having another sleepover, so we can always save those memory making experiences for later. I can be very patient with the right motivation.”

 

“Worth waiting for?”

 

“Definitely worth waiting for.” Alistair’s lips met Cullen’s and time seemed to stop as they savored the moment.

 

Grinning, Cullen admitted, “There may be a secret or two around here that I wouldn’t mind unearthing for you. Let’s take care of our camp first and then I’ll give you the tour.” He pulled Alistair in for another kiss, then reluctantly let him go. Together they folded up the blankets and umbrella and laid them at the foot of the stairs before heading off, hand-in-hand, down the beach.

 

They talked while they walked; Alistair asking questions and Cullen sharing stories about growing up with his siblings. Walking as far as they could to the south, they turned and headed back in the other direction, following the gentle curve of the waves as they crashed along the shore. Cullen talked about his parents’ passing and the house being left to the four of them to share and keep in the family. They also spoke of chess matches, Mia being a sore loser, and the ultimate tantrum she threw when Cullen finally beat her at her own game. They discussed volleyball, soccer and how competitive the Rutherfords were when it came to their beach sports.

 

As they neared the north end of the cove, Cullen let their banter fade. Facing Alistair, he pulled him in for a quick kiss. One kiss led to more; tongues dancing together as they stood with their arms wound around each other--comfortable and content as the waves lapped at their toes.

 

In the silence of the moment, Alistair began to hear new sounds; different from the waves and seabirds that’d been singing to them all day. Breaking from the kiss, he cocked his head to one side. Listening intently, he began to hear the distinct sound of water splashing into water. He watched as a smirk teased at the corners of Cullen’s lips and excitement danced in his eyes.

 

He looked around to try to find the source of the new sound. They were standing next to a dense crop of trees that at first glance, appeared to be impenetrable. Cullen pulled him in the direction of the tree’s, brushing a large leafed branch to the side, a small trail became visible.

 

They walked for a few hundred yards along the narrow trail, the sounds of birdsong and splashing water becoming more prominent. Stopping suddenly, Cullen reached out and parted the leaves once again, beckoning Alistair through before him.

 

As he emerged on the other side, Alistair gasped in surprise. He scanned the clearing, taking in the splendor that surrounded him. He was looking at a clear, freshwater pool of water surrounded by thick lush greenery. The bright red, blue, and green plumage of the birds could be seen amongst the canopy of trees all around them. The splashing that he heard, came from the breathtaking waterfall on the other side of this beach oasis.

 

Feeling Cullen’s arms wrap around him from behind and his lips brushing against his shoulder, Alistair whispered in awe, “I thought this was perfect before, but this… this place has been touched by Andraste herself.”

 

“I'm glad you think so too. I've never actually brought anyone but family back here. This was always my secret hideaway. Growing up with my siblings, this place was always quiet; only the sound of the water and birds to keep me company.”

 

“Did you come here often?”

 

Cullen shrugged, taking Alistair’s hand, he led him closer to the pool, “I love my brother and sisters, but they were very loud. I would come here to clear my head. Of course, they would always find me eventually.”

 

“You were happy here,” Alistair asserted.

 

“I was. I still am. The last time I was here was the weekend before I left for Templar training. My parents wanted to have one last vacation together as a whole family. That was the last time we were all together, actually. It was so long ago, though judging by the well worn trail, it looks like someone else has taken to hiding back here now.” Cullen let his eyes wander over the little oasis, “Would you like to see the best part?” He grinned sheepishly.

 

“You mean there’s more?” Alistair looked around in disbelief. “How can you top this?”

 

Stepping up to the edge of the pond, Cullen looked quickly over his shoulder and winked before diving in.

 

Alistair watched in the clear water as Cullen swam towards the waterfall then disappeared beneath it. When he didn’t return, Alistair realized that he was probably meant to follow; so he dove in after him, to find out what other wonders this place held.

 

Coming up for air on the backside of the waterfall, Alistair found himself inside a small cave that was carved into the side of the cliff. It was dark, damp, and much cooler than it was outside. The only illumination came from the golden glow of the late afternoon light as it shone through the flowing water and the softer glow of deep mushrooms as they gently lit the interior of the cave. The waterfall itself was the only entrance or exit to this magical hidden grotto.

 

Cullen sat on a ledge at the edge of the water with his feet dangling inside the pool looking quite pleased with himself. Alistair swam up to him and wrapped his arms around Cullen’s waist while the rest of his body stayed submerged.

 

“My siblings had more trouble finding me in here.” Cullen grinned mischievously. “Mia was the only one to actually ever succeed.” Cullen put a hand out to pull Alistair out of the pool so they could explore the shallow cave within. “My last secret from my childhood home. What do you think?”

 

“This sure beats the shrubberies I used to hide under in the chantry gardens!” Alistair nuzzled in closer to kiss Cullen again. “This place is truly a paradise. And now I know where we should hide out the next time we need to ditch our responsibilities!”

 

Cullen chuckled, “Lana would probably still find us.”

 

“That she would.” Alistair grinned, “maybe if we bribed her just right, she’d let us get away with it though. At least, for awhile.”

 

“I love the way you think and I'm glad you seem to like it here as much as I do. When we decided to come out here yesterday, this was what I wanted to share with you most.” Cullen smiled sheepishly as they walked together back to the edge of the pool.

 

Alistair wrapped his arm around Cullen’s waist as they sat with their feet dangling in the water. “This is perfect. Today has been perfect and you are…” capturing Cullen’s cheek with his hand, Alistair claimed his lips instead of verbalizing the rest of the thought.

 

Sitting together on the ledge, they enjoyed the sounds of the waterfall echoing off the cave walls, the feel of their body’s touching, their hearts connected. As time passed, Alistair began to shiver in the cool, damp air.

 

Cullen wrapped both arms around him to share his warmth. Kissing Alistair sweetly, he whispered, “I should probably get you back out into the warm sunlight.”

 

“Oh I don't know, you seem to warm me up pretty easily. I'll take another of one of those kisses for starters.” Leaning in, Alistair took comfort in Cullen’s embrace before they slipped back into the water to swim through the waterfall. They splashed and played in the little pool for a while longer, before finally pulling themselves out to head back to camp.

 

As they gathered their belongings from the foot of the stairs, Alistair took one last look at the beach and silently thanked Mr. Chen for nudging them to come out here today.

 

~*~

 

They changed out of their wet clothes when they reached the cottage then sat down to eat a quick supper of Chinese leftovers before locking everything up tight and beginning their drive back to the city. The ride home was uneventful and seemed much shorter than the drive out that morning. Once they reached the apartment, Cullen offered Alistair a shower to wash off the remnants of the beach before they retired for the night.

 

“Barely through the door and already you’re trying to get my clothes off. Whatever shall I do with you?” Alistair teased.

 

“I can think of a few things,” Cullen grinned lasciviously as he set their stuff down and pulled Alistair into his arms. “We’ve been behaving ourselves all day, I think perhaps we’ve earned a little reward?” Cullen nibbled at the pulsepoint on Alistair’s neck then peppered kisses across his jaw till he reached his lips. Kissing them chastely, he added, “Unless, of course, you’re too tired. As much as I would enjoy making love to you tonight, I would be completely content to lay with you in my arms and kiss you until we drift off to sleep.”

 

Alistair ran his hands up Cullen’s back, “I think I’ll take option number three.”

 

“Which is?”

 

“All of the above.” Alistair grinned, “And since I’m being so demanding; I believe I'll have you join me in that shower as well.”  

 

Cullen raised one eyebrow, “Mmm, I think I'd like that. And I think I like this assertive side of you; normally I'm the one giving orders. I’m a little out of practice at taking them.”

 

“Oh, I think you took it quite well--last night.”

 

“We’re not talking about giving orders any more, are we?” Cullen laughed, “And if I remember correctly, that was technically--this morning.”

 

“Details, details; and no, we’re not.” Alistair grinned, “We never actually discussed our preferred positions; until you handed me the oil, I’d have taken you for a top.”

 

“You can take me any way you want me; I don’t actually favor any one more than another.” Cullen winked then kissed Alistair deeply. “Do you?”

“That is… good to know. And no, I don’t... not really. I never thought I’d find someone who’d be willing to switch with me. Most people have a preference, but I... like a little variety.”

 

“Oh, I have a preference. There's this gorgeous bartender that I've been fantasizing about for months now. And after the last few days… I'm beginning to suspect that he might feel the same about me”

 

“So, what gave him away?” Alistair asked breathlessly.

 

Cullen spoke softly, awe and devotion clear in his words, “It might be the way he takes my breath away when he talks to me; the sound of his voice, the sincerity of his words. Or it might be the way my heart speeds up when he touches me, or feels like it stutters and stops all together when he kisses me.” He nipped at Alistair’s bottom lip before sucking it into his mouth completely. “The Maker blessed me when he gave me to you,” he finished on a whisper.

 

“And here I was the one feeling blessed, to have all of this,” He vaguely indicated Cullen’s whole being, “to share my life with.”

 

Cullen removed Alistair’s shirt, exposing his freckled torso. Moaning at the sight, he ran his hands appreciatively over the sculpted muscles, “You are incredible to look at, you know that? Even more incredible to touch and… “ he leaned in, running his tongue up Alistair’s neck, nipping lightly at his earlobe, “You taste...”

 

“—you sure that’s not just the beach you’re tasting?” Alistair tried to deflect.

 

“I taste the sea, but underneath that is undeniably… you.” Cullen kissed his way across Alistair’s shoulder, over his clavicle, up his neck, and paused just over his ear. With a gentle breath, he whispered, “I can’t wait to taste these ears again… see how far I can take you with them.”

 

Alistair’s breath hitched, pushing Cullen in the direction of the bedroom, he commanded “Shower!...Now!”

 

“Yes, Sir.” Cullen grinned, “I love it when you get bossy.”

 

~*~

 

They were extra attentive as they showered that evening. Thoroughly enjoying the way their hands slid over their slippery wet skin. Mouths and lips exploring while they washed one another’s hair. Their bodies grinding languidly together, not yet seeking release, but appreciating the feeling of contact and connection.

 

After they washed, they stood under the dual shower heads, wrapped in each other’s arms, kissing deeply, unwilling to leave the warmth of the shower just yet. They continued to rut and grind as their kisses became more urgent, their bodies more demanding.

 

Remembering his promise from before, Cullen suddenly grinned deviously. Pressing Alistair’s body up against the shower wall to hold him in place, he ran his tongue up the outer ridge of that tempting ear.

 

Alistair moaned gutturally and wrapped his arms around Cullen like a vice. Tipping his head to the side, he granted access for more.

 

Alistair’s ears were delicious. Every nip and lick, brought forth the most incredible mewls of desire from his luscious lips. Cullen couldn’t get enough. He knew that they were sensitive, but this was a whole new level of erotic. Alistair’s head was thrown back against the tile, his body, near boneless in Cullen’s arms as he continued his assault on those ears; his mouth, teeth, and tongue on one, his fingers deftly pinching and caressing the other.

 

Wanting to maximize Alistair’s pleasure, Cullen reached for his length with his other hand, only to have his wrist caught at the last moment.


“Too--much.” Alistair panted, shaking his head minutely. “Just… ears. Fuck! I’m… so close.”

 

Groaning at the sounds of Alistair’s pleasure, Cullen directed his everything on those ears.

 

So fucking hot!

 

His cock still untouched, Alistair tensed as his orgasm crashed over him. Cullen’s arms, the only thing holding him up as his body was wracked with wave after wave of release.

 

Once his body began to respond to simple commands such as; ‘stand up’ and ‘don’t be a giant puddle of goo on the shower floor’, Alistair’s eyes focused on the incredibly handsome man who was smiling at him like he was the most precious gift on Thedas.

 

“Sweet Maker, that was incredible!” Cullen whispered in awe when he was sure that Alistair was once again steady on his feet. Gently brushing their lips together, Cullen rinsed them both clean before turning off the water and leading Alistair out of the shower. Wrapping a freshly warmed towel around his shoulders, Cullen dried Alistair’s hair then pulled him in to hold him close. “I have to say… that was one of the hottest things I have ever experienced!” Cullen’s chuckle rumbled in his chest.

 

His body still thrumming with the aftershocks of his release, Alistair grabbing another towel to wrap around Cullen. Finally able to speak, Alistair admitted. “I knew they were sensitive, but I didn’t realize that I could come that way. Maker! You truly are amazing!” Wrapped in their warm towels, they held each other close, kissing sweetly before heading over to the bed. Alistair lay Cullen down, grinning as he climbed shakily on top, “I hope you’ll let me return the favor.”

 

Kissing Cullen one more time, Alistair began to work his way down his body, circling his nipples with his tongue, nipping them gently with his teeth. He loved the responsiveness of Cullen’s body as he worked his way lower. Every point of contact sent shivers through him or made him arch off the bed while gasping and moaning. Finally reaching the thick shaft of his rigid cock, Alistair ran his nose gently up the underside, breathing in his scent.

 

“Your body is beautiful!” Alistair said before taking the head of his cock into his mouth and running his tongue around the outside of it. “I daresay, I am becoming addicted to every bit of you.” Taking Cullen’s length in his mouth, he swallowed his considerable girth, humming in appreciation at how great he tasted.

 

The moans coming from Cullen were hypnotic--music to his ears--and he wanted to hear more. Wanted to be the cause of more. Taking his mouth from that beautiful dick, Alistair began to kiss his way down the shaft, circling his balls with his tongue, he tipped Cullen’s hips up slightly so he could reach more with his mouth.

 

As his tongue found the puckered opening, he heard whisped exclamations coming from Cullen’s lips. He wrapped his hand around the thick shaft as his tongue slid gently inside, teasing his entrance. The whispers turned to prayers and chants of adoration. Hips rolling with every thrust of his tongue, the songs his lover was singing, brought his own erection back to life.

 

He kissed his way back up Cullen’s body. Claiming his lips once more then whispered, “I want you so badly. Want to be so deep inside of you. Need you—” Alistair’s next words were lost as Cullen’s mouth sought his hungrily.

 

As Cullen rolled over to grab the flask of oil that they’d left on the nightstand, Alistair grabbed Cullen’s hips and pinned him--face down--on the bed. “Hmmm, I think perhaps… like this.” Parting his cheeks with this hands, Alistair licked his way down the cleft of Cullen’s ass until he found the still moist opening.

 

One hand still grasping the flask, Cullen moaned into his pillow at the slight intrusion of Alistair’s tongue as it began to plunge into him again. The friction of his cock against the sheets was excruciating, but nothing was as sweet as the feeling of Alistair’s tongue licking him open. He’d never experienced anything so stimulating. Feeling his hips being lifted, he made room for a towel covered pillow to be placed beneath them, trapping his dick between the bolster and his stomach. Chest and face still planted firmly on the bed, his ass in the air, Cullen happily accepted everything Alistair had to offer.

 

Removing the flask from Cullen’s white knuckled grasp, Alistair breathed, “Maker, you’re perfect, so open and pliant for me.”

 

Cullen moaned impatiently, “Please… Alistair.”

 

Alistair chided, “Patience, I don’t want to hurt you.” He spread the oil liberally on his fingers, pushed one inside, then two and couldn’t help but smile as Cullen sighed and whimpered at his intrusion. He worked Cullen open with one hand and used his other to spread more oil liberally over the full length of his own cock, dribbling extra down Cullen’s ass which he worked inside of him.

 

“You’re not going to hurt me Alistair, you’ve already been inside of me once today already. Please just…” Impatience and neediness clawed its way to the surface as Cullen pushed back onto Alistair’s fingers, “It’s not enough.” He growled.

 

Alistair removed his fingers and replaced them with the blunt tip of his cock, he slid in slowly and paused just inside that first tight ring of muscle.

 

Cullen tried to push back against him--to get him to go deeper--but Alistair’s hands held his hips firmly in place.

 

As Cullen began to protest, Alistair slid quickly the rest of the way inside.

 

“Holy Fuck! Do that again!” Cullen begged, as he gasped to catch his breath.

 

Alistair chuckled. “Liked that, did you?”

 

Rolling his hips, Cullen moaned, “Hell yes… More!”

 

Aiming to please, Alistair slid almost all the way out with deliberate slowness before slamming back in again with a grunt of his own. After that they set a brutal pace--Alistair’s hands gripping Cullen’s hips tightly, ass in the air and face in the pillow, muffling his cries of pleasure.

 

It didn't take them long to reach the edge. Pulling Cullen up onto all fours, Alistair leaned over, resting his forehead between Cullen’s shoulderblades. Cullen panted and moaned beautifully, grasping his cock with his hand, he tugged in time with Alistair’s rapid thrusts. He thrust harder and faster, grunting and finally growling as he slammed into Cullen one final time; Alistair’s body--rigid with his release.

 

Feeling the warmth of Alistair’s come filling him, Cullen fisted himself firmly and joined his lover over the edge. The towel beneath him, catching his own excitement as he spilled out, saving the sheets once again.

 

Panting and breathless, they collapsed into each other’s arms. Lips dancing together--worshiping each other--lost to the magic that was them.

 

 

Chapter Text

Cocktails & Cheese

Cullen and Alistair - A Modern Day AU

Chapter 15

Damn It Jim!


 

The alarm started beeping at six-thirty Wednesday morning. Trying to roll over to turn it off, Cullen was caught by an unrelenting set of arms, pulling him back into the middle of the bed. Chuckling, he kissed Alistair on the nose before extracting himself enough to turn off the infernal alarm clock.

 

With a sigh, Cullen wrapped his arms back around Alistair and whispered, “Back to the grind today, sleepy head. As much as I would rather lie here with you all day, I better not press my luck. You are welcome to sleep as long as you’d like. I’ll leave a key so you can lock up when you leave.”

 

Tightening his grip on the painfully awake and way too verbal person next to him, Alistair mumbled, “S’ok. I’ll get up with you. Just give me five more minutes of this.” He nuzzled his way under Cullen's chin and buried his face into his neck.

 

“Since you’re going to be so cute about it, how can I refuse you?” Cullen chuckled, pulling his lover closer and kissing him on the top of the head.

 

“Mmm-not.” Alistair mumbled, burrowing himself impossibly closer.

 

They caressed and kissed each other reverently as the allotted minutes ticked by. Glancing at the clock, Alistair pouted before pressing his lips to Cullen’s cheek one more time, “Ok fine, I suppose it’s time to get up. Doesn't mean I have to be happy about it.” He rolled onto his back, releasing Cullen to begin his day.

 

While Cullen performed his morning ablutions, Alistair sleepily made the bed, tossed their towels into the hamper, and generally tidied up from their last few amazing days together. When Cullen exited the bathroom wearing nothing but a towel, Alistair growled with annoyance.

 

Grinning, Cullen raised an eyebrow, “Problem?”

 

Alistair eyed Cullen’s mostly naked form, “You are too yummy and it’s too early in the morning for me to be able to resist the temptation of that incredible body of yours.”

 

Cullen pointed at Alistair from across the room, “You need to behave because I need to get to work.”

 

“You are an incredibly evil man, has anyone ever told you that?”

 

Cullen smirked, “Maybe a cold shower would help your predicament?”

 

“Yeah, probably not a bad idea,” Alistair sulked. Snagging Cullen’s towel on the way by, he was granted one last glorious look. Accepting that he’d have to be content to look and not touch, Alistair trudged the rest of the way into the bathroom, relieved himself, then turned the water on to an uncomfortably cool temperature.

 

Emerging from the bathroom to an empty bedroom, Alistair put on his jeans, work t-shirt and shoes. He fixed his hair and stowed the rest of his clothes in his overnight bag before heading out to the living room to look for Cullen. He chuckled when he saw his lover crawling around on the floor with his ass in the air, looking underneath the furniture.

 

“Not that I mind the view, but did you lose something?”

 

“I’m still trying to find my shoulder holster from the other night,” he admitted, “Any ideas?”

 

“I’m pretty sure that it came off at some point between you locking the door and our naked asses hitting your bed.”

 

“Mmm - Good deductive reasoning skills you have there.” Cullen rolled his eyes.

 

“Hey, I aim to please. Why don’t you check the plant in the corner?”

 

Looking bewildered while crossing the room, he said, “The plant? But it’s all the way over…” Cullen reached the corner and noticed something black wedged between the pot and the wall. “Now how did it get here?” He glanced at Alistair with a suspicious glint in his eye, “and how did you know?”

 

Grinning, Alistair shrugged as he watched Cullen retrieve then wrestle with the twisted straps of his holster. “I figured we were so careful with our phones and your gun, but the rest of our clothes were thrown off all willy-nilly. When we retrieved them the other day, we never actually made it that far and since your holster is made of a heavier leather, it would have traveled farther than our lighter clothes.” Alistair finished helpfully.

 

Cullen's Shoulder Holster

 

Cullen pulled his arms through the straps, clipped it to his belt on either side of his hips, and adjusted it until it hung just right.

 

Alistair laughed, “I definitely don’t remember all those steps getting it off of you. I must have been quite distracted at the time.”

 

After it was secured, Cullen loaded his sidearm into its slot and began to straighten his clothes around the new addition, “I’d say so.” Glancing up with a wink, he added, “I know I was. You do tend to have that effect on me.”

 

Stepping in to assist, Alistair began to smooth out Cullen’s shirt around the holster. As he reached for the tie to fiddle with the knot, he caught sight of Cullen’s curious expression. Realizing what he was doing, Alistair tried to take a step back, “I’m sorry. Did that just get weird?”

 

Cullen caught him and pulled him to his chest with a smile. “Please don’t apologize. I’ll admit, that was… unusual, but only in that it felt so natural. So… normal--like we've been doing it for years instead of for the first time.” Reaching up, he cupped Alistair’s face, pulling him in for a quick kiss before continuing. “I’m having a hard time believing that it’s only been a few days since I first kissed you. All of this just feels so...”

 

“Comfortable?” Alistair supplied.

 

Cullen nodded.

 

“I know exactly what you mean.” Alistair resumed his attention to Cullen’s shirt and tie and Cullen's hands came to rest on his hips. “I feel like I’ve done this a thousand times and yet, I can easily see me doing this a thousand more. There. All better.” He leaned in, stealing a kiss as payment for his efforts.

 

Cullen asked with a smirk, “So… Lana sent you over here to get me out of your system. How’s that working out for you?”

 

Alistair harrumphed, “Terribly! I’m already trying to figure out when I can see you again.”

 

“How ‘bout I come see you after I get off work today.”

 

Alistair laid the back of his hand against Cullen’s forehead, “You’d come in on a Wednesday? Are you sure you’re feeling ok?”

 

Cullen laughed at the incredulous look on Alistair’s face, “Thursday just seems so far away, I don’t think I can wait. I know I don’t want to. And why are you so surprised? In the past week, I’ve completely blown my regular routine.”

 

“Among other things.” Alistair grinned unabashedly.

 

“You sure are cheeky in the morning!”

 

“Only before I’ve had my coffee.”

 

“What’s your excuse for the rest of the day then?”

 

“I just have one of those personalities? And don’t complain… you know you love it.”

 

Cullen ran his fingers over the hairline framing Alistair’s ears, being very careful not to touch them, “you certainly are something else, you know that?”

 

Alistair smiled sheepishly at the look of wonder and awe on Cullen’s face. Closing the distance between them, he brushed their lips softly together. “Mmm - I could say the same. But apparently my snarkiness has gotten us off topic again.”

 

“What were we talking about?”

 

“You blowing things?”

 

Cullen snorted.

 

“Ok, ok - we were discussing the unusualness of you coming over tonight and you were about to explain why I shouldn’t be so surprised.” At Cullen’s stunned expression, Alistair added, “What?! I was paying attention. Now… you were saying?” he prompted.

 

“Right.” Cullen cleared his throat, “I uh… Oh hell--I don’t remember. I’m sure it was something to illustrate all of the changes in my currently ‘non-existent’ schedule and how it’s somehow all your fault anyway.”

 

“It usually is. Wouldn’t be the first time I was accused of corrupting you with my indomitable influence.” Alistair’s grin turned mischievous, “I hope it’s not the last either.”

 

“I would hope not. I have been loving every minute of this.” Cullen licked his lips before kissing Alistair soundly.

 

Catching his breath, Alistair whispered, “So, will I be seeing you around five-thirty then?”

 

Cullen shook his head. “I should probably hit the gym first. I’ll be over after that, seven-thirty at the latest.” He searched Alistair’s face for any signs of disapproval. Some of his regular routines could be broken, but training was too important. It’s his greatest ally when he’s out in the field; some things just aren’t worth skimping on.

 

Nodding his understanding, Alistair smiled, “You know, you’re always welcome to use mine. If it’s lacking something specific that you need, just let me know. I’m always looking for excuses to add more toys to my collection.” He said the last with a wink.

 

Cullen remembered the state Alistair was in when he answered the door last Sunday: half-naked and sweaty from his work out. “Thank you, I will keep that in mind. It may not be as much fun without you there to get all breathless and sweaty with though.”

 

“Well then, we’ll just have to arrange time for us to work-out together. I would love to get you in that ring anyway.” He said with a wink. “I haven’t had a good sparring partner in a while. The girls don’t count, we’ve been fighting together for far too long. We all know each other’s secrets. You however, keep surprising me at every turn.”

 

A knot of worry formed in Cullen’s gut as Alistair talked about the two of them squaring off in the ring. The last thing he wanted to do was hurt this man that was quickly becoming the world to him. “Let’s figure out a time to work out later. As for sparring, don’t you think it a bit unfair? I have been training, most of my life.”

 

“Oh - I have found myself a cocky Templar! How interesting.” Alistair crowed to the room at large, then he leveled his gaze at Cullen, “I will take that as a challenge Knight-Commander. How could my humble Warden training be a match for the likes of you?” Alistair feigned being affronted as Cullen’s cheeks heated up.

 

Remembering the fear he felt from Cullen when they discussed his Templar abilities, Alistair’s expression softened. Cullen would need to be shown that he was capable of holding his own against him before he’d be comfortable sparring, he could work with that. He was patient. “You do know I’m teasing, right? My facilities are yours whenever you want to use them. I may only be able to work out with you on weekends, but that doesn’t mean I won’t steal away to come catch sight of you all hot, sweaty, and panting. That’s a temptation, even I don’t have the wherewithal to ignore.”

 

Visibly relaxing, Cullen leaned in for another kiss before they parted, “We’ll see.” Was all he said before grabbing his blazer. “For now, however, I need to be heading to work. Can I buy you coffee as I walk you to your car?”

 

“Mmmm, Coffee would be heavenly. How you wake up so bright eyed, I will never know.”

 

“For starters, I don’t usually work until two a.m. It makes it easier to wake up early when you go to bed early.”

 

“Yeah, yeah, yeah. I’ve been keeping you up pretty late the last few nights and yet here you are all perky, even without any coffee. It’s just… unnatural! Almost… blasphemous!” Alistair declared affronted.

 

“That might have something to do with who’s arms I keep waking up in. I can’t help but be happy when I’m with you.”

 

“I uh… don’t really have a comeback for that one. My lack of caffeine is hindering my wit.”

 

“Then let’s remedy that.” Cullen grinned as he led him out the door.

 

On their way to the precinct, they stopped at Cullen’s favorite spot for coffee and bagels with cream cheese. As they drew nearer to the station, he asked, “So, where are you parked?”

 

“I’m in the precinct parking garage. Do you have time to walk with me all the way in?” Alistair looked almost bashful as he asked.

 

“Doesn’t matter what the clock says, I definitely have time to spare for you this morning.” They bumped shoulders playfully as they walked into the dimly lit garage.

 

Alistair led him towards a dark blue, Mustang GT500 with thick dual white racing stripes running from tail to tip down the center of the car. Opening the trunk, he tossed his bag inside as a low whistle came from behind him.

Alistair's Car - 1967 Mustang GT500

“Very nice!” He looked at Alistair who was beaming at him for appreciating his baby. “And she suits you too. A classic Mustang complete with Warden colors.” Cullen chuckled as Alistair’s cheeks flushed.

 

“She has served me well over the years.” Alistair said looking at his car affectionately. “Her name is, Shelby.”

 

“It would have to be, wouldn’t it?” Cullen smiled, “You don’t think she’ll mind sharing you with me, would she? I would hate to ever come between you.”

 

Setting his coffee on the top of his car, Alistair turned and leaned back against the driver’s side door, pulling Cullen closer to him, “I think she already approves. I did leave her in the company of uniformed officers after all. I’m sure she’s had her fill of eye candy in our absence. She does enjoy a man in uniform. Something--I think--we both have in common.” Alistair grinned, eyeing Cullen’s usual work suit and tie.

 

Cullen set his coffee down next to Alistair’s. Wrapping their arms around each other, Cullen whispered in his ear, “You have yet to see me in my… uniform.”

 

Alistair’s breath hitched, “I’m a little disappointed about that actually. I got to spend two glorious nights at your apartment, and not once did you model it for me.”

 

Cullen rolled his eyes. “It is safely locked away in my weapons safe. I can’t play all my cards so early in our relationship. I need to save some fun for later so you keep coming back for more.”

 

“Oh, make no mistake, I definitely plan on coming back for more.” Alistair said huskily as he leaned the rest of the way in to kiss Cullen.  

 

Their coffee temporarily forgotten on the roof of the car, Cullen and Alistair lost themselves in each other’s sweet kisses. Coming back to present, Cullen said breathlessly, “You know, I really should thank you for the last few days. They have been… amazing.”

 

Alistair agreed, “And here I was hoping to thank you. Too bad it has to come to an end. I’d rather spend another day with you than walk into the mass inquiries waiting for me when I get back to the bar.” He chuckled with amusement, “I’m betting that both Zev and Bela will be there to try to get all the steamy details from me.”

 

“As long as they're not trying to borrow me, give them all the details you want. Why should Lana have to suffer alone after all?” He grinned with a wink.

 

They both laughed before Alistair added in all seriousness, “I'm not sure I want to give them any details, it might make them flirt all the more with you the next time they see you. You've met Isabela and have some idea of what she can be like. Imagine that times a thousand for Zevran. He may have a good heart, but he was raised in an Antivan whore house--I'll let you piece together how bad his teasing can be.”

 

“So I should be thanking you for protecting me from him last Friday then?” Cullen asked smiling as he remembered his first view of Zevran.

 

“Mmm, yes actually--though I believe you’ve done a fair amount of that over the last few days, so we may be even.”

 

“I don't mind thanking you more.” Cullen leaned in for another kiss. “I'm already going to be smiling through the entire day because of you, might as well enjoy it longer thinking about how I can continue to repay you later.”

 

Pressing his body even closer to Alistair’s, Cullen kissed him deeply, not yet wanting to part ways.

 

As they were distracted by each other’s lips, officer Jim drove in and parked his car a few spots away. He paused briefly, close enough to identify the two men ardently embracing in the parking garage. Eyes wide with surprise, Jim snapped a quick picture of the oblivious duo and hurried just out of reach. Unable to contain it anymore, he snickered out a snarky, “Good Morning, Commander…” before bolting towards the safety of the building.

 

Cullen stiffened then groaned as he relaxed again into Alistair's embrace. Burying his face in his neck, he mumbled, “He was snickering, wasn’t he?”

 

“I think he was.” Alistair giggled, “Still going to enjoy your day, my dear?”

 

Cullen stood up and took a deep breath, “The gossip is going to run rampant for sure.” Looking into Alistair’s eyes, he admitted with wistful determination, “But I wouldn’t change anything. It’s not gossip if I face it head on, right?”

 

“Does this mean that I don’t have to come up with excuses to visit you anymore?”

 

“You can come see me whenever your heart desires. I have a lock on my door, remember?” Cullen grinned devilishly.

 

“Oh, that won’t make them talk at all.” Alistair laughed.

 

Cullen chuckled as well, “Hey if they’re going to be talking about us anyway, we might as well make it good huh?”

 

“My dear, you are full of surprises. Just think of the scandal as the headlines read: Commander couples with long lost Theirin in his office amidst giggles from Ferelden’s Finest.”

 

“Are we writing tabloid articles now? I have a media liaison that works for me: name’s Tethras, I’m sure he could come up with something suitably scandalous for us.” Cullen sighed, “I suppose I should head in, though, and face the music. For once, I think I’d rather play hooky just so I can spend another day with you.”

 

“We’ll just have to be content with seeing each other this evening. If you don't mind the commute in the morning, you're welcome to sleep over. I wasn't kidding when I said I was becoming addicted to sleeping in your arms.”

 

“I think I'd like that. I'll swing by my house after the gym and grab a suit for the morning.”

 

Alistair took another look at Cullen, straightening his tie, and making sure his hair was all in place.

 

Quirking an eyebrow, Cullen chuckled, “Does my appearance meet with your approval?”

 

Eyeing him up and down, Alistair grinned, “You… definitely meet with my approval, though if you really want to pull off this whole detective look, you need a hat.”

 

“A hat? With my curls? I barely wore my helmet as a Templar.” Cullen looked appalled, “You have no idea what that does to this unruly mop.”

 

“I bet I could find you one that fits the part and complements the curls,” Alistair offered helpfully. “But for now, I figured that since you’re probably going to walk into snickers and innuendos anyway, I might as well send you in not looking disheveled and recently slept with.”

 

“Ah but I am. You’ve made sure of that these last couple of days.”

 

“Yes, but they don’t actually need to know all of the juicy details. Though they may be a little kinder about it than what I'm about to walk into.”

 

Stealing one last kiss, they parted reluctantly and went their separate ways.

Chapter Text

Cocktails & Cheese

Cullen and Alistair - A Modern Day AU

Chapter 16

Paying the Piper


 

Cullen watched Alistair pull out of the parking structure before making his way to the entrance of the precinct. Unable to wipe the smile from his face as he approached the doors: he shook his head, accepting his fate, and walked through them.

 

This should be entertaining!

 

The first thing he noticed as he stepped inside was that everyone’s heads were down, seemingly focused on their work. No one looked up to greet him, which was unusual and also unprofessional. If he’d been a civilian, their behavior would have been inexcusable. They weren’t expecting a civilian though, they were expecting their Commander; and by the smirks on their faces and stifled laughter echoing through the otherwise quiet room, they’d been well and tipped off to his activities outside mere moments ago.

 

Damn it Jim! Well, I might as well get this over with!

 

“Good morning, team,” he said pulling their eyes up to him. “It looks like Jim’s already had his fun at my expense this morning, so here’s your chance…” he paused to look each and every one of them in the eye, smirking at them all. “Ask your questions, poke fun, make your snide comments, do whatever it is that’s got you all pretending to work so hard while not actually doing any work at all. Let’s get it out of your systems now, so we can all get on with our day.”

 

The room was dead silent.

 

Cullen chuckled and pointed at the officer who always seemed to be at the wrong place at the wrong time, “Oh c’mon, Jim? You just caught me kissing some guy outside, surely you have something to say about it!”

 

Cullen heard one of his officers whisper loudly from the back, “Hey, Jim. Why don’t you show him the picture you took?” Which was followed by more--not so subtle--laughter.

 

“Oh? There’s a picture too? I must have been… too distracted to have noticed. Will someone please make sure I get a copy? I need to make sure he got my good side.”

 

There was some uncomfortable scattered laughter around the room then Cullen’s

phone vibrated in his pocket. Taking a quick look, his cheeks tinged a light shade of pink as his smile grew. It clearly showed them leaning up against Alistair’s car with their distinctive forms pressed together. The embrace couldn’t be mistaken for anything other than what it was: an ardent moment between two lovers.

 

He took a moment to set the picture as his wallpaper, “Not bad. Though next time, Jim, try to get more of him in the frame, I don’t really need a picture of my own ass, thank you.” He chuckled, then tipped his phone in a salute to the officer who’d sent him the image, “Thanks, Josie, quick fingers there.”

 

“Anytime, sir.” Came the voice of his officer in charge of diplomatic affairs.

 

Putting his phone away, Cullen returned his gaze to Officer Jim, who was shifting uncomfortably and looking around at his fellow officers for some sort of back-up.

 

“S...Sir, that wasn’t just some guy. Wasn’t that... Mr. Theirin you were locking lips with out there?”

 

“Why... yes, it was! Very observant of you. Perhaps, you should try for detective next. Though, with how quietly you were able to snap that photo, perhaps I might schedule you for surveillance duty instead. Anyone else?”

 

Wynnie, the newest member of their team, asked, “Didn’t he come in on Monday demanding that only you could help him find something that’d been stolen from him, sir?”

 

At Cullen’s affirmative nod, she continued, “Did you find it then? Was he thanking you with a reward kiss?”

 

Cullen laughed out loud. “Not exactly, Wynnie. Though, I appreciate you trying to defend my honor by offering me a way out.” He winked at the wet-behind-the-ears, blonde recruit, causing her to blush. He then looked around the room expectantly,

 

“Really guys? That’s all you’ve got? I’m giving you full access here, you can come up with something better than a way out for me. Where’s your snark? Where’s your sarcasm? I promise you, no one's job is on the line. C’mon people, you’re Ferelden’s Finest! Don’t let me down.”

 

“You caught yourself a Theirin, huh? The Commander aim’s high!” Josie high-fived the officer on her right.

 

Smiling affectionately at the group, he encouraged them further, “Yes, yes and loving every minute of it. That’s more like it--who’s next?”

 

The office flirt, Kelvin, piped up, “Were you really in the field yesterday, Commander? Or were you ‘playing the field’, sir?”

 

Cullen chuckled, “Nice! We were at the beach, actually. Alistair and I spent the day with my sister and her family. Why? Do you like my tan or did you just miss me?” There was collective laughter around the office as he looked around for the next taker.

 

Jim stood up again, “That car has been parked in the garage since Monday, sir. Did you two spent the last two nights together?”

 

“Three, but who’s counting?” Cullen grinned.

 

Josie’s voice chirped, “Jim was!”

 

Thom, the usually stoic office veteran, weighed in, “Alistair, sir? Not, Mr. Theirin? It sounds like things have gotten serious quickly.”

 

“Do you picture us calling each other, Mr. Theirin and Commander when we’re alone?”

 

An unknown whisper came from somewhere in the back. “Alistair probably calls him Commander in the bedroom.”

 

Still smiling, Cullen’s voice grew serious, “and that’s where I need to draw the line. Alistair and I are…”

 

Caboodling, sir?” Kelvin offered.

 

Cullen coughed to cover his discomfort, “I was going to say, ‘in a relationship’. As I will not inquire into the intimacies of any of your relationships, I will expect the same courtesy from you, regarding mine.”

 

Thom smiled behind his thick beard, “You really like this guy, huh?”

 

“That is a definite understatement.” Cullen’s smile softened as he slipped his phone out of his pocket to glanced once more at the picture.

 

Clapping his boss on the shoulder, Rylen congratulated him, “Good for you, sir. We may give you shit, but it’s only because we’re all happy for you.”

 

“Thank you, Rylen.”

 

Varric chimed in, “Yeah, Curly--the happier you are, the easier our lives will be!”

 

“I’ll let you think that for now, Varric. But be warned, I may take that as a challenge--so you might want to do your best to keep this out of the headlines.” Cullen looked at his media liaison pointedly who groaned and scribbled out something on the notepad in front of him.

 

Toni, the Qunari responsible for interrogations and intel, grumbled, “You’re kinda taking all the fun out of this, sir.”

 

Chuckling, Cullen admitted, “Yes, that was kind of the point. Now if there are no more questions or smart ass comments…”

 

“Just two more, sir.” His lieutenant smirked.

 

“Yes?”

 

Rylen grinned, “First off, you were late again, sir.” He elbowed Cullen in the ribs who just rolled his eyes, “and secondly… I thought you were supposed to bring us donuts today.”

 

Cullen crooked a smile before answering, “Considering that this is no longer a secret, Rylen, I don’t see why I have to pay up. I’ve also been caught kissing Alistair; I don’t see how holding a little giggle over my head could be much worse.” Having taken away the last of Rylen’s ammo, Cullen patted his shoulder, “The cat’s already out of the bag, Lieutenant. Bribery will only get you so far.” He finished, laughing.  

 

Jim groaned from his desk, “Rylen knew?!! That lucky…”

 

The team erupted into scattered laughter and jovial teasing.

 

Cullen finally cut in, “All right… don’t you all have work to do?”

 

He walked towards his office laughing--his heart happy and focus returned. Cullen was content to know that he was going to get to see Alistair again that evening. It was enough to carry him through.

~*~

 

Alistair pulled into his parking spot just past eight. Noting the time, he chuckled at Cullen’s precise knowledge of how long the trip would take. Opening the side door to the bar, he was hoping to enjoy a quiet morning by himself, before having to face the interrogation of his friends during their prep-time that afternoon.

 

As Alistair climbed the darkened stairwell and reached to slide the key into the lock, he paused, realizing something was amiss. Some would joke that his spidey senses were tingling, but it wasn’t that refined. He could definitely tell that he wasn’t alone though. Turning to his left, he identified a distinct outline lurking in the shadows.

 

Resigning himself to do this now, he beckoned his friend forward, “Good Morning, Zev.”

 

Stepping into the light, Zevran quirked his mouth in amusement, “Good Morning, amore mio*. I thought for sure I had you that time. You were so deliciously distracted, you nearly walked right by me.”

 

“You have to try much harder to hide around me, you sneaky... sneak-thief.” Alistair waggled his finger at him.

 

“So it would seem.” He chuckled, “I hope you didn’t think you were going to get a peaceful morning to yourself, did you? Perhaps spent in various bendy yoga poses, ruminating on your last few days with your strapping Commander? … Ah, the color in your cheeks tells me that’s exactly what you were planning! Well, I hate to disappoint you friend.” He paused then continued with an unapologetic shrug, “No… actually, I am quite enjoying this! Truth is, we are all dying to hear the lurid details of your most recent rendezvous. I must insist that you join us!”

 

Alistair sighed, “Does it have to be now?”

 

“Why not now? Did dearest Cullen keep you up late last night? No, wait, don’t tell me - you’ll only have to repeat yourself anyway. Here let me take your things and put them inside for you. Be a good boy and head on downstairs so we can begin properly.” Zevran took Alistair’s bag and keys then shooed him away.

 

With a groan that resembled a whine, Alistair slumped his shoulders and trudged back down the stairs to face the music. Walking into the main room, he noticed Lana sitting next to Leliana at a table; their hands entwined and their foreheads leaned together intimately. There were three other chairs at the table with a cup set before every spot; a pot of tea and a carafe of coffee sitting in the center, just waiting to be poured. Bela was in the corner throwing darts, and though she seemed bored and unfocused, Alistair could tell that each and every dart hit the center mark.

 

Leliana gushed as she caught sight of him, “Oh look, love! He’s positively glowing!”

 

Alistair wiped his hands down his face, “Really? All of you at once? No wait--don’t answer that! Bella--I know where you were going to take it and the answer is still a resounding, no!” He took a deep breath before asking, “Do we have to do this now?”

 

Bela released another dart, looking a little dejected that she didn’t even get to offer, “Why? Did you have something else you’d rather be doing? The bar doesn’t open for several hours yet, and your sweet Commander is too far away to rescue you. I’d say that this is a good a time as any to uh… drill you for information.” She finished with a seductive wink.

 

Zevran entered, “Who are we drilling? Has he started talking about that part yet? Please tell me I haven’t missed anything--juicy!”

 

Leliana reassured him, “No, Zev, we haven’t even begun. You’re right on time.”

 

“Oh Good! I want to watch him blush as he remembers the sweet caresses of his tall, strapping Commander.” Zevran’s grin grew even larger as Alistair’s face did just that.

 

“You two weren’t wearing much when we brought you breakfast. So... was he as good as you’d hoped he’d be?” Bela asked, loosing another dart.

 

Alistair tried not to recall the details of the weekend--for Lana’s benefit, if for nothing else, but he couldn’t help the heat that rushed to his cheeks.

 

“So are you ready for me to teach you those massage techniques yet?” asked Zevran. “Those skills may come in handy in the future. Or perhaps I should give your handsome Commander a lesson or two?”

 

Unable to help himself, Alistair responded defensively, “I’ve already had a massage--thank you--I don’t think Cullen needs any instruction in that area.”

 

Leliana began, “Oooh, a massage, huh? That’s promising! Was there lots of oil involved?” She asked coyly.

 

“You do know that they make different types now, don’t you?” Zevran interjected, “Some taste delectably sinful while others smell positively divine. Then there are those wicked little treats that warm to the touch and cool to a chill if you so much as breathe on them.” Zevran licked his lips thinking about them.

 

Alistair didn’t respond, but made a mental note for later.

 

Bela wasn’t going to let it lie. Sauntering over, she leaned her hip against Alistair’s chair, running her hands through his spiky hair. “So, my dear, Warden. Did your luscious Commander… “

 

Shit, here it comes. Alistair rolled his eyes and braced himself for the onslaught.

 

“…protect and serve you? Read you your rights? Hold you against your will? Provide justice until he permitted your… release?”

 

He groaned, knowing that she was just getting started.

 

“Or did he, perhaps, tickle your fancy? Grind your gears? Float your boat? Flick your bic? Sail your seas? He was a Templar right? Did he worship your altar? Drink from your cup? Praise your piston? Chant your light?”

 

Zevran was leering wolfishly as he continued where she left off, “Did you two do the deed? Polish each other’s swords? Do the horizontal mambo? Declare your undying love for each other? Swoon in each other’s arms? Whisper sweet nothings in each other’s ears?”

 

Alistair was holding strong until Zevran mentioned the ears. That made him close his eyes and visibly shiver remembering vividly their shower the night before.

 

Lana grinned and her ears turned flaming red at that particular memory.

                  

Running his fingers over his own ears, Zevran chuckled knowingly, “Ah, the ears have it! I should have known. So did you tell him your little family secret? Or does he think you just have incredibly sensitive ears?”

 

“He knows of my mother.” Alistair admitted, though didn’t elaborate further.

 

“Oh c’mon Alistair, you have to give us something to go on here! You’re all glowing and heart-eyed! Is he everything you ever fantasized about?” Bela pouted. “You owe me--by the way--I covered your shift so that you could play with your new toy!” She stomped her booted foot to accentuate her mini-tantrum.

 

Rolling his eyes, he acquiesced, “If you must know, the last few days have been beyond what I could ever have hoped for. Cullen is…” He tried to search for the right word as his friends’ eyes were glued to him. He finally came up with, “... perfect.”

 

The group let out a collective sigh.

 

Uncomfortable with their rapt attention, Alistair shut down, “Having said that, I don’t plan on soiling any of those memories by sharing them with the likes of you.”

 

“So I get to suffer alone until he comes in tomorrow huh?” Lana’s tone was petulant, but she continued to smile at her best-friend. If he was happy, that’s all that mattered to her.

 

Alistair suddenly grinned, “Actually… he’ll be in tonight.”

 

Leliana looked up surprised, “But it’s Wednesday! He never comes in on Wednesdays!”

 

“He’d never been in on a Friday or Sunday before either. Now if you are all through with me, I’ve got some things to do before our prep time this afternoon.”

 

Alistair’s phone chimed in his pocket indicating a new text message. Looking at the screen, he chuckled at the image Cullen sent him.

 

“What’s so funny?” Bela asked.

 

Alistair flipped his phone around to show his friends, “It looks like we were caught saying goodbye this morning. Ok well, I already knew we’d been caught--I didn’t realize that there was photographic evidence.” Setting the picture as his background, he tipped his head to the side as he appreciated the view of Cullen from behind.

 

Mmmm--I’ll have to thank that officer later. 

~*~

 

Cullen was sitting at his desk, trying to unbury himself from the stack of paperwork that had amassed over the last day and a half. Finally, able to focus, he was actually making progress.

 

At just past two, the phone on his desk rang. “Commander, Rutherford,” he answered professionally.

  

“Amatus!”

 

“Dorian? To what do I owe this honor?... Hey wait, why are you calling my desk phone? Why didn’t you text me first?”

 

“I figured after you played hooky yesterday, you’d be tied to your desk today making up for lost time and I didn’t want you to be able to ignore me.”

 

“I would never ignore you! Hey, wait a minute - how did you know that I took yesterday off?”

 

“I have my ways, my dear. A little birdy may have told me that you took Alistair to the beach. How did he like the beach house?”

 

“It didn’t go exactly as planned, but it was still a fun day even with Mia ambushing us.” Cullen added petulantly.

 

“Oh-ho! That’s my girl! So how did that go? Did she approve of your Alistair?”

 

“I think she did, actually. Samuel and the boys were there too and I finally got to meet Emma. Everyone seemed to get along easily, so I’d call that a win!”

 

“The new baby? How is she?”

 

“Just beautiful… You’ll be happy to hear that she has my curls.”

 

“Oh I hope they’re blonde like yours too!”

 

Cullen laughed, “They are.”

 

“Oh, be still my heart! Daddy better buy his shotgun now! That girl’s going to be a heartbreaker.” Dorian laughed, “So… Did you bestow your blessing upon her?”

 

“Did you really think Mia would let me get away without it?”

 

“No… No, I didn’t.” Dorian chuckled, having been there for Jasper’s blessing. “And how are the boys doing? Are they running the house yet?”

 

“Nah, Mia got lucky with those boys. Jasper is still busy building with anything he can get his hands on. And Stanton… Damn Dorian, Stanton is something else and he’s been practicing so hard!”

 

“He still wants to be a Templar?” Dorian asked with trepidation.

 

“He does and he’ll be old enough to start his training this winter. I told him that I’d set up a tour of the chantry for him. You should see him; his footwork, it’s damn near perfect! When did those boys get so big?”

 

“That’s what kids do, amatus. That’s what kids do. So how are you doing with all of this? Still being the ever-supportive uncle?”

 

“As best as I can be. Some days are easier than others though. I see the excitement in his eyes--that same fire I used to feel… and I miss it. His passion to serve rivals mine when I was his age and I want to support that! I really do. I just…”

 

“You’ve witnessed the other side of things. You’ve seen the corruption and the absolute abuse of power that no one should ever experience. You want to… protect him from having to go through what you did.”

 

Way to not pull punches, Dorian.

 

Cullen closed his eyes and breathed. Deep breath in through his nose; two, three, four, five. Hold it. Slow controlled breath out through his mouth: two, three, four, five.

 

Dorian listened to the familiar calming technique. Cullen didn’t seem in crisis, so he let him continue, waiting patiently for him to finish his fifth breath. “Cullen?”

 

“Yeah, Dor?” came the calm, even reply.

 

“You ok?”

 

“I am… and you’re right.” Cullen let out his breath slowly.

 

“I’m proud of you, you know.”

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“Despite all that you’ve been through, you’ve managed to maintain your faith. Your devotion to the Maker has been unflinching. Even at your darkest, you found strength in his light. Stanton’s lucky to have you.”

 

“My fight isn’t with my beliefs, it’s with the corruption within the system. How do I protect him from that? How do I teach him what to stay away from? What to look out for? How do I--”

 

“You do what you’ve always done Cullen. You be there for him. You fought through most of that alone. You internalized a lot of it because you had no one to talk to. So… be there for him. You still have the access, drop in - say hi. Surprise the hell out of Mia and write a damn letter once in a while.”

 

Cullen laughed.

 

“His faith may emulate your own--his path as clear to him as yours was once for you--but that doesn’t mean that he’ll face the same trials and tribulations that you faced.”

 

“Maker’s grace, I hope he doesn’t!” Cullen prayed adamantly. “But what if during his testing, he gains his true sight? What if he becomes an Awakened-Templar, like I did? I can’t protect him from those horrors.”

 

“No… no you can’t. You can’t stop it from happening either. If he is meant to have the sight… it will happen, whether he joins the Templars or not. All you can do is be there; talk to him, help him, guide him. Let him know that he’s not alone and then…. let the Maker guide him.”

 

Cullen nodded at every one of the points; Dorian wasn’t saying anything that they hadn’t discussed before. “You should have seen him, Dorian… He could be one of the best! He’s not even eleven yet and his stance is strong and true; he barely needed any correction. Then when he talked about the Maker and Andraste--the love that radiates from him is immense. It’s… beautiful Dorian. Damn near brought tears to my eyes.”

 

Dorian softened his voice, “I know another Templar with faith that true… apparently you haven’t looked in the mirror recently. I’m sure Alistair could tell you that he sees the same thing when he looks at you.”

 

“I’m not a Templar anymore Dorian.” Cullen’s tone turned dark, this was still a point of contention between them.

 

I failed at being a Templar… I couldn’t hack it, remember?

 

“A part of you always will be. I bet you still pause and pay your respects before exiting the chantry. Don’t you?”

 

“Of course I do, that’s just simple respect! But how can I support Stanton in a life that I can no longer see myself living? A life that I’ve actively separated from amidst much publicity and upheaval. No one leaves the order, Dorian.”

 

“But you did and for valid reasons. You even managed to do it without publicly denouncing anyone or burning your bridges. You kept the peace and still maintain connections.”

 

“Those bridges weren’t mine to burn; my path isn’t everyone’s to walk. For some, the chantry is all they’ve ever known; it’s the only thing keeping their head above water. Just because I decided that I didn’t need it and would be better off without, doesn’t mean it was my place to take away other’s comfort.”

 

“You could have, though. What they did to you alone would have been enough to rock the boat. You could have--single handedly--brought down the chantry infrastructure in Ferelden if you had gone public. But you are a good man. You understood that what happened to you was a byproduct of someone else’s power play. That person was punished. The other people involved are no longer in power. You were given compensation, pension, and allowed to walk free from all of it while maintaining your honor and status. I don’t know anyone else who could hold their head so high after all that. I’ve never met anyone else who so effortlessly wielded that kind of honor and dignity.”

 

“It wasn’t easy.”

 

“I know. I was there, remember? And look at you now. You ask how you’ll be able to support Stanton in this path? You’ll do what you’ve always done. Follow your heart. You will support those boys in whatever paths they choose. You don’t have to have the same passion for architecture that Jasper has to support him. The same goes for Stanton. At least with him, you’ve walked in those shoes. You will love and support each of them, no matter what their choices in life. That’s what family does, amatus.”

 

“You’re right, Dorian. Jasper’s going to walk his path and perhaps be a famous architect one day. It’s his own to walk. Stanton wants to walk in Andraste’s light and I will be here for him every step of the way to be his support and guide. It’s just… going to be hard.”

 

“Life is hard Cullen. You--better than most--know that to be true. And look how far you’ve come back from that brink! When I met you, you could barely carry on a full conversation before you would collapse with flashbacks. You found your strength; you fought through hell. And now look at you. Happy and in love with a hot little redhead.”

 

“I don’t know that we’re in love yet, Dorian. We’ve only just started dating.”

 

“And sleeping together… and you’ve already taken him to meet your family.”

 

“That was under duress. I was totally tricked into it.”

 

“And he was accepted by them. If Mia approves, you know no one else could ever say anything about him. He’s already family. And don’t forget, amatus, I’ve seen the way you two look at each other. The rest will fall into place; all you have to do is let it.”

 

“Letting go has never been easy for me. And how did you know all that about my trip to the beach anyway?”

 

Dorian coughed uncomfortably on the other side of the line.

 

“Dorian…. What did you do?”

 

“Me? Why does it always have to be me? It was your sister’s fault!”

 

“Mia?”

 

“She called me as soon as she got home… wanted to… compare notes, as it were.”

 

“But, why you?” Cullen asked incredulously.

 

“She said that Alistair mentioned that we’d met, so she wanted to get a second opinion. You may have to be careful there, Amatus; she’s going to have your wedding planned before you know it.”

 

“Shit, really? So uh… I guess that means she really did like him?” Cullen couldn’t keep the notes of elation from his voice.

 

“‘Liked him’ might be an understatement. I swear she kept going on and on about how good he was with Emma and the boys. And don’t get me started about her impression of you two moon eyeing each other. Maybe I should have you tell me what exactly happened that day from your perspective… but for now, I think I shall let you go. I’ve given you lots to think about.”

 

“Yes Dorian… yes you have. Thank you for everything.”

 

“Anytime, Cullen.” You know I’ll always be here for you.”

 

“Yeah, I do. Thanks.”


 

*Amore Mio - My Love

(remember my Zevran is Italian not Spaniard)

 


 

A/N - The third section here is for Theza. Did I answer your question here darlin’? I know I haven’t gone into the meat of what the hell happened to Cullen, it’s coming, I promise! In like 15 more chapters… but it’s coming! Don’t hate me! Or hate me but continue to love the story - I can roll with that too!

 

Chapter Text

 

Cocktails & Cheese

Cullen and Alistair - A Modern Day AU

Chapter 17

- Bad Day Part 1 -


 It was a slow day at the bar in early autumn. Leliana was on stage, singing to the few patrons that had trickled in after work on an almost dead Thursday night. Lana was making the best of serving them while listening to her wife’s golden voice and Alistair--was going stir crazy. He hadn’t seen Cullen in four days and was feeling his absence terribly. He’d received a few text messages on Monday letting him know that he was on a new case and probably wouldn’t have much free time until it was solved. There were a few spattered messages after that just to let him know he was still in Cullen’s thoughts, but it wasn’t the same. Alistair missed him.

 

The door opened around seven-thirty and Alistair’s heart skipped a beat when he saw Cullen come in. Then it plummeted. He’d never seen Cullen look quite so harrowed. There were dark circles under his eyes, like he hadn’t been sleeping; his hair was loose from its normal confines with a few errant curls draping over his right eye. His whole body looked simultaneously wound up tight--ready to explode--and incredibly defeated. He was dressed in his usual work clothes, but had his gym bag slung over one shoulder.

 

Cullen trudged over to his usual spot at the side of the bar but didn’t sit down.

 

Alistair met him there, “Hey, are you ok?”

 

Eyes cast down, he sounded just as defeated as he looked, “Not really, no.”

 

“Is there anything I can do? Would you like a drink?”

 

“No drink.” Cullen actually shuddered, “I was hoping I could burn off some steam?” He pointed upstairs, “I would go to my gym, but nobody needs to see me like this--and yours is private.”

 

Alistair reached for Cullen’s hand across the bar. “It’s yours.” he squeezed his fingers gently. “Make yourself at home; I will be up as soon as I can get away.”

 

Cullen flipped his hand over and squeezed Alistair’s back. Leaning across the bar, he placed a light kiss on Alistair’s cheek and choked out a quiet, “Thank you.”

 

Catching sight of Lana on his way to the back room, he noticed that her eyes were misted over with the pain that he was feeling. The pure horror and understanding of what he’d witnessed earlier in the day was written plainly on her face causing him to stop in his tracks.

 

He approached her slowly while attempting to clear his head, “I am so sorry, Lana. I… didn’t think. I never meant to share this. Please--forgive me.”

 

Unable to speak, she touched his cheek and nodded her head, letting him know that she understood and they were fine.

 

Taking a deep breath, Cullen leaned into her touch, “I know he’s going to want to come check on me, but I need time to work through this, get it out of my system, and find my control. Will you keep him down here, please? I am barely hanging on and I don’t want to hurt him...” Cullen struggled to find the words. Instead, he let Lana see the image in his head that he feared most: uncontrolled rage, blind to his surroundings. Smiting his attackers only to find an innocent family had been hit in his crossfire. The young girl dying in his arms. The image of that girl changed and was replaced with Alistair; broken and bloody.

 

Lana wrapped her arms around him tightly laying her head on his chest. She held him close for just a moment before she pulled back to look into his eyes, “You have more control now than you did back then. What you fear will never come to pass.” She said it quietly but with so much confidence that he almost believed her. “I will do my best to keep him down here for you. And don’t worry about me, I’ve been hit with worse. It’s never easy to see someone you care about hurting. It took me by surprise, that’s all. We are all here for you Cullen, should you need us.” She touched his cheek one more time before letting him pass.

~*~

 

Alistair watched Cullen walk away--sullen and melancholy. Based on recent news, he could guess the cause: a particularly horrifying case. What he couldn’t conceive, though, was the right course of action: should he try to intervene? He wanted nothing more than to wrap Cullen in his arms, but he’d never seen him react like this to anything. He was always so calm, cool, and collected. Alistair was at a loss.

 

The look of horror on Lana’s face convinced him that he had to do something. When he approached her, she was still wiping tears from her eyes.

 

“Hey. You ok?”

 

She tried to smile. “You should know me better than that, Ali. Of course I’m ok.”

 

“He’s hurting.”

 

“Yes, I know. He’ll be ok too. This is how he copes.”

 

He wanted to ask her for details, but he knew she wouldn’t share them. “Do you think I should…”

 

“No!” Her vehemence startled him. “Stay here. He just needs time. I will let you know when he has calmed down and is ready to talk. You need to trust me!”

 

Alistair looked toward the stairs with longing, “I do trust you. I just want to help.”

 

“Please Alistair, let him be for now. This is a safe place for him: he knows this. He came here over any of his other options. You have no idea how big that is for him.”

 

Alistair shrugged. “I’ve never seen him so--lost before. He looked haunted. The only other person I’ve seen look like that was you right before we retired from service.”

 

Lana took a shaky breath, “Yes, I am fully aware. It will be okay, Alistair. He will be okay.” She held his eyes a moment longer until he nodded in acceptance, then she hugged him tightly. “If I can come back from that look, I know he can too.”

 

Alistair wasn’t sure if she was trying to reassure herself or him, but he did as she asked and went back to work.



Cullen let himself into Alistair’s loft with the key he’d been given over a month ago. He didn’t deserve to have his own key. He didn’t deserve Alistair.

 

I can’t even do my own damn job!

 

Dropping his keys, wallet, and phone onto the tray on top of the credenza, he kicked off his shoes and left them in their proper place by the door, then carried his bag into the room.

 

He’d spent so much time here recently that it felt like home. It was warm, welcoming and held so many fond memories for him. Feeling as he was, it only made his heart hurt more.

 

Who am I that I deserve to live and be happy when her light was snuffed out before its time. Her family mourning the loss of their baby girl while I…

 

Shaking his head to try to clear that train of thought, he moved into Alistair’s bedroom. Placing his sidearm on the dresser, he proceeded to change out of his work clothes and into his shorts and tank top. His actions slow and deliberate; every movement a study in control and determination. A direct contrast to the screaming he was doing on the inside. Right now he needed to stay guarded, soon he would be able to burn off this excess, but not yet.

 

Grabbing his athletic tape and towel, he wrapped his knuckles as he went out to assess where he should start his workout.

 

Training and experience told him that he needed to warm up first. He started with jumping jacks, then finding a jump rope in Alistair’s equipment, he began to build up a light sweat with that. Next came some basic stretches on the mat followed by pushups, pullups, and lunges.

 

Through it all, he made sure to keep his back firmly to the mirror: he couldn’t stand the sight of himself.

 

Failure. You failed! And because of you; a family is grieving.

 

He was hurting and angry. He wanted to punch something, anything, everything! But going straight for the bag after his warm up would probably only escalate into something he couldn’t easily pull himself back from. Chasing the moving bag wouldn’t satisfy, he needed something more solid; he needed to feel the impact.

 

His eyes lit on the makiwara board; a rope wrapped punching board bolted directly to the floor. It was just what he needed: rigid with little give. Something to give him the outlet for destruction he wanted while allowing him to maintain his tight control.

 

Cullen focused on his breathing, on striking with each exhaled breath, short concise jabs. Fists, elbows, an occasional knee to begin with. As his knuckles numbed to the pain, his mind wandered. The call from frantic street cops requesting the aid of a detective. A little girl, same age as his youngest nephew, stolen from her front yard. It’d taken hours to get the whole picture.

 

I should have been faster.

 

The makiwara gave a little more, his breathing not so controlled. He’d arrived to find a distraught family; the mother and father staring at the chaos around them with empty eyes. Twenty minutes more before he got the full story from them, and another ten to get full reports from the officers on the scene. Twenty-four hours; they had twenty-four hours to ensure she was safe and already a quarter of that was gone.

 

I should have worked harder.

 

Cullen’s breathing was erratic, his strikes closer to the top now causing the board to rock in time with each jab of his fists. His mind conjured pictures of the little girl; dark hair, dark eyes, snaggle toothed smile in her class pictures. His imagination filled in the gaps of her abduction. Young adult male taking advantage of the absence of anyone else in the area for the short two minutes it took for him to grab her.

 

No one on his team slept for the first twenty-four hours. They wouldn't rest while she was still out there. In that, they had all agreed. He felt the board crack against his knuckles. He ignored the sound and the pain; it was nothing compared to what she’d suffered.

 

I should have seen it.

 

His blindness prevented him from finding the connection to the man down the road. He’d ignored the voice in his head that told him to verify the facts from the street cops. They hadn’t bothered to talk to the human in the house--four doors down. He should have seen the missed interview, should have realized the neighborhood canvass was incomplete. If he’d made that connection sooner, he could have saved her.

 

I should have been more diligent.

 

He was no longer paying attention to his fists, no longer concentrating on his breathing. All he could see was the face of the man who sneered as Cullen and his team searched his home; mocking the Commander and the others trying to find the girl and Cullen allowed himself to become distracted once again.

 

I should have remained calm.

 

Cullen was unaware of the sound he was making, the raw pain that now echoed throughout the room, punctuated by his bloodied fists striking the wildly moving board. If he’d been smarter, faster, better; he’d have seen the clues sooner, he’d have gotten to her before that bastard hurt her.

 

It was her eyes, staring up, that broke him. Their spark, gone. She lay there, lifeless and accusatory.

 

I should have saved her! I have no fucking excuse!

 

CRACK!

KERTHUMP!

 

The unexpected sounds broke Cullen from his remorseful reminiscence. His eyes focused on his right fist, holding the broken board against the hole in the wall behind it. Retracting his bloodied hand, he barely registered that the board stayed behind, lodged into the wall. 



 

Forty-five minutes after Cullen went upstairs, the sound of breaking wood reverberated through the bar. Alistair ran for the back room, only to be met by Lana. Trying to get around her was pointless, so he pleaded with her instead, “Please Lana!”

 

Shaking her head, she laid a hand on his shoulder, “Let me, Ali.” Seeing the helplessness in his eyes, she reassured him, “If I need you, Leli will come get you. I promise.”

 

Nodding his acceptance, Alistair went back behind the counter while the girls went upstairs to investigate the noise.

 

Lana went because she could read him, Leliana followed as added protection. Both of them aware of Cullen’s past, they knew to be prepared for the worse. They were there when it happened; ten years ago. They were the ones to pull him from the brink, to save him. He’d been angry and desperate for revenge back then; broken, begging for them to end it all.

 

It was a surprise when he walked into their pub seven months ago. It was an even bigger surprise when he and Alistair connected so magnificently and Cullen became one of their regulars. They thought for sure that he would remember them, but his walls were strong, blocking out that time in his life. He’d yet to make the connection between his friends and his rescuers. Having witnessed how far he’d come over the years; how much he’d healed, they wanted to protect that, to protect him; from his past--from himself.

 

Side by side, they approached with caution; then as now. Entering the loft, the sight broke their hearts: Cullen, on his knees, breathing heavily, blood on his hands, the chant of light tumbling brokenly from his lips.

 

Leliana pointed out the broken board protruding from the hole in the wall behind where the makiwara used to stand. “I’ve seen Alistair attack that board with a vengeance; I’ve never seen one snap like that before...” she whispered to her wife.

 

Lana nodded, but her focus was on Cullen. She could tell he was teetering on the edge of control. Waves of despair and anger were pouring from him, his heart bleeding with grief. The chant was doing little to soothe him, though its familiarity was probably the only thing keeping him grounded.

 

“Cullen?” Lana approached slowly, Leliana staying several steps behind, ready to help keep her safe or run for help--whichever was needed most.

 

He continued to rock in place and pray, seemingly unaware that anyone else had entered the room.

 

Angling her steps, Lana circled the edge of the room so she could approach him from the front. Her steps were slow and deliberate, her own shield at the ready. Palms up in supplication, she called his name again, a little louder.

 

“Cullen.” This time, he looked up in recognition.  

 

“Lana?” he asked hesitantly, then looked over at the broken wall in shame, turning his face away.

 

“We heard the board break from downstairs. I wanted to make sure you were ok. May I see?” she asked, looking pointedly at his hands. The tape that’d been protecting his knuckles was a shredded mess, his skin torn. Blood had started to cake on his fingers where it had dripped, but the wounds were still open and weeping--his knuckles misshapen and most likely broken.

 

He looked into her kind, hazel eyes and nodded; granting her permission to approach. Keeping himself guarded in her presence, he focused on the pain that should be there grounding him, but wasn’t.

 

She took his hands gently in her own, poking and prodding around the bones to assess the amount of damage he’d done. She noticed that he didn’t flinch, even when she was poking at the shattered knuckles. “It doesn’t hurt?” she asked tentatively.

 

Cullen shook his head, “Numb.” He stared at his hands with an odd sort of detachment.

 

Lana hesitated before softening and searching his eyes. “Would you like me to heal them for you?”

 

Looking down again at his hands, he nodded. “Please. If you don’t mind. I… don’t think I’m done yet. I will need them still.”

 

Lana nodded to him, then looked towards Leliana. “Please go tell Alistair that Cullen’s ok so he doesn’t charge the stairs. I will be down in a few.”

 

Leliana nodded once and smiled kindly before leaving.

 

Turning back to Cullen, Lana let her energy flow through her; gently fusing the broken bones, torn tissues, and the outer skin on his hands.

 

He shivered as the healing energy flowed through his body. Tingling, cold, and somehow familiar. He didn’t give that a second thought as he returned his attention back to the room. He was thankful for his friend’s gift, but even her healing couldn’t mend how torn his heart and mind were.

 

He managed a strained, “Thank you.” As she finished and stood, kissing the top of his head.

 

“I know you still want to be alone. But before I go, is there anything else that I can do to help?”

 

He shook his head, but still managed a tight lipped smile.

 

When she emerged back downstairs, Lana immediately went behind the bar to wash the traces of blood from her hands. Alistair’s eyes grew large with concern but she waved him away. “He’s ok, Ali. Nothing beyond my abilities to help--physically anyway; he still needs time though so it’s back to work for us.”

 

Taking a deep breath, Alistair resigned himself to waiting.


 Safe Summary:  Cullen’s current case involves the kidnapping and death of a child. He blames himself for not saving her. While hitting a punching board, he loses himself in his memories of what happened and ends up breaking the board and his fist.

 

 

Chapter Text

Cocktails & Cheese

Cullen and Alistair - A Modern Day AU

Chapter 18

Bad Day Part 2


 (Starting off with the heavy - you’ve been warned)



 

Removing the last of the torn tape from his freshly healed hands, Cullen threw it away and went to rinse the blood off in the kitchen side of the loft. Standing at the sink, he tried to wash away the evidence, the cool water diluting the blood as it swirled down the drain.

 

Rotating his hands under the stream, he tried to hold the clear liquid in his palms, but it ran through his fingers, uncontrollable, uncontainable. He felt himself falling once again. No matter how hard he worked to save that little girl; like the water, her life slipped through his fingers.

 

Damnit Rutherford, knock it off! Focus on something else. Anything else!

 

He turned off the water and dried his hands, thankful for Lana’s healing so he could continue to work through the rest of this shit. Grabbing a bottle of water from the fridge, he took a long pull hoping the drink would help ground him.

 

He needed to get a grip. Shaking from grief and exhaustion, his own voice was startling in the empty room. “Rutherford, pull it together. This isn’t your first case gone wrong and it won’t be your last.”

 

Leaning back against the kitchen cabinets, Cullen tried to focus on the breathing techniques Dorian trained him to use, so long ago.

 

You can’t control everything but you can control your breath. Start there.’

 

So he did.

 

Slow. Steady. In, one… two… three… out, one… two… three.

 

Starting with a set of ten, Cullen began to breathe his way through some of his aggravation. He could do this; slow and steady--focused. He wasn’t fresh out of therapy anymore, he knew he had the skills to power through. First things first, he needed to get that little girl out of his mind.

 

Five breaths in, Cullen thought perhaps he had this. He was focused, concentrating on the job at hand. Breathing in with a controlled intake then breathing out slowly.

 

Finishing his first set of breaths, he decided to power through into another. He wasn’t in control yet. He needed this. He needed the exercise to help refocus him, he needed the physical exhaustion to help him forget. He needed Dorian, but he didn’t want to bother him. He should be over this, he should have this! He pleaded for something, anything to take the last four days from his mind and wipe it clean so he could finally get some rest.

 

It’s been so long since I’ve slept--the nightmares keep coming. And after today, I know there will be new ones to add to my old.

 

Taking another drink of water, Cullen attempted to keep his mind clear. All too soon, his failures began to seep through his defences and flash before his eyes.

 

The tower massacre…

 

No! Not the tower! I can’t go back there!

 

Even as distraught as he was, he wouldn’t allow himself to revisit that horrific event. Still more deaths that he should have been able to prevent.

 

If only I’d been enough.

 

After the tower, only six months into his recovery, he got stationed in Kirkwall. His old Knight-Commander went power hungry and thought she herself was above the law. For too long, he’d followed her; unthinking, having faith that she was only doing what the Maker had wanted them all to do. He’d never been so wrong. People suffered and died because he failed to see; failed to act.

 

There is so much blood on my hands.

 

Killing innocents in the name of the Maker and his bride. For what? Her own righteous glory? She'd strayed so far from the true heart of the Templar; he almost saw it too late. If it hadn’t been for that strong willed Battlemaster, Garrett Hawke, fighting against Meredith, he might not have noticed in time to stand against her as well.

 

Hawke and his friends warned him. They tried to help him see time and again and even handed him proof, but he’d been too blinded by his own fear and recovery. Too broken to think for himself, completely wrapped up in needing to follow orders just to get through his day to day life. No thinking, no feeling, just doing as commanded. Following orders was easy. Until it wasn’t.

 

In the end he’d stopped, but the damage was done. He’d been trying so hard to claw his way out of the madness the tower had submerged him in. He’d been trained to follow blindly and after Kinloch Hold, that’s all he knew. He’d nearly lost his mind to the torture and abuses he’d suffered in the tower, all he had left was duty and faith.

 

It was his Knight-Commander’s job to guide him back into the light, but instead she twisted his madness and used him as her weapon. If it hadn’t been for Dorian and Hawke, he might never have made it through.

 

He found himself in Haven next, trying to pick up the pieces, help them fight and rebuild. The whole town had been overrun with demons. Not that everyone saw them. Most people saw gruesome murders and crimes of passion. But they were so much more.

 

He was sent to assess and clean up. Kill the demons, save the people. It was a simple order he was tasked with following. He thought he had taken all the precautions necessary, he evacuated the town, gotten all of the civilians to safety so his small team of Templars could eradicate the threat.

 

But just like this week, he’d missed something important. He was assured that all the civilians were cleared out. Once again, he put his faith in the word of another; it was just the demons left for them to take care of. The area was secured.

 

I trusted them!

 

He didn’t see the family that’d taken refuge in the abandoned school bus. Didn’t hear the children whimpering in fear or their parents’ urgent whispers for them to be quiet. Separated from his brothers-in-arms, he didn’t know how many were still alive, most having fallen to the onslaught from the other side of the veil.

 

He was alone.

 

Finding himself surrounded by demons, he could have easily fought his way through. If he’d been able to stay calm and focused, that is. He was good at what he did, and there were only three of them. But his mind hadn’t fully recovered from the ordeal at the tower or his battle with Meredith. The gravity of the situation took him right back to the original source of all his nightmares. No longer was he fighting demons, but he was surrounded by blood mages. The torture and abuses still fresh. His Templar abilities failing to drain the magic from them, nullifying their powers. He was desperate.

 

Why is my mana-drain not working? Have my gifts been taken away? Is this my penance for my past transgressions? Why has the Maker forsaken me?

 

Reaching once again for the Maker’s gifts, he tried to form his shield to protect himself from the oncoming horde. Stepping backwards, he found his back up against the abandoned school bus. His shield was weak, but there. A perfect counterpoint to the sword that was growing heavier in his grasp. There was one more hidden gift at his disposal. A last resort to be used only when all hope had fled.

 

Backed into a corner with his sword arm failing, he saw far more ‘mages’ coming at him than the actual three demons left in attendance. Digging deep into his soul for the Maker’s light, Cullen lashed out at his attackers, smiting them with the full force of his faith and will.

 

He’d never used his untempered powers before. Never did he want to use them again. When the dust settled, Cullen found himself kneeling in a small indentation on the soft earth. Everything in a six foot radius; blown clean away. The bus that was at his back only moments before, relocated to two feet outside of his blast radius and was now tipped on its side. The blood mages that he believed himself to be fighting were nowhere to be seen, only the rotting corpses of demons lay motionless almost ten feet away.

 

Taking in the deafening silence after the rush of adrenalin he’d been feeding off of, Cullen heard a quiet whimper from inside the bus, “Daddy?” the tiny voice said heavy with fear and unchecked emotion. “Mommy? Wake up!” The voice came again, slightly weaker than before.

 

He followed the sound, found the aftermath of his explosion on the inside of that bus. Climbing into the wreckage, Cullen found what was left of a family. Mother, Father, small toddler, and a baby--barely a few months old; all dead. The voice he heard belonged to a wide eyed little girl with brown curls and a cut on her head that was bleeding profusely. She was holding her father’s hand, begging for him to answer her. As Cullen approached, she reached for him and asked if he could help wake her parents. She hurt and needed her Daddy. She was cold, scared, and so tired.

 

Cullen found himself sitting amidst the corpses, holding that distraught little girl. Rocking her in his arms--crying--as the life slowly left her tiny body. He clutched her to his chest for several hours after she died, unwilling to let go. Unwilling to admit--his total failure.

 

He forced himself to re-live the horrors of what’d happened. Knowing that this was his fault, he killed that little girl and her family. He’d lost himself to the flashbacks, lost himself to the desperation of the memories that haunted him. Abused the powers that the Maker granted him.

 

If he’d been fully present, he would have been able to assess his surroundings and fight his attackers properly. His tactics would have been different; suited towards demons, not mages.

 

I failed!

Failed that little girl.

Failed her family.

Failed my team.

Failed myself.

Failed as a Templar.

 

Cullen knew then that it was time to leave the order. He couldn’t carry on the lie. He was no longer suited to walk in their light. He needed to find himself. Needed to help others, not be the cause of their sparks going out.

 

Cullen didn’t know how he got there, having long since stopped focusing on his breathing. He was standing, staring at the mirror along the wall in Alistair’s loft. The reflection of himself, unrecognizable. His image fading to that of the girl in Haven, melding into the little girl from today. They’d both been so young. So much life before them and neither would ever get to live it. Would never be able to grow and find their place in this fucked-up, crazy world. All because he couldn’t do his damn job the way it needed to be done. Because he couldn’t control himself; his mind, his powers.

 

It’s too much! To many deaths: lives taken before their time. I… can’t. It was supposed to get better when I left the order. I was supposed to ‘do’ better!

 

He suddenly fell to his knees on the floor. Gasping for air, he realized that he couldn't breathe. His brain registered the panic, yet he couldn’t calm himself. Couldn’t force his breathing to even out, slow the pounding of his heart, or stop the tears that poured from eyes.

 

Clutching the water bottle in his hand, Cullen realized that his throat was raw. The reverberation of his scream still echoing through the room. The plastic of the bottle collapsing in the tightness of his grip. There staring back at him was his own face once again; mocking what he knew he could never be. What he should have been, but was never good enough for.

 

Unable to take it, he shouted at his reflection and threw the bottle at the mirror. Anything to get rid of the image. The panel in front of him shattered. He shattered. Crumpling to the hardwood floor, he watched as the shards slid down the wall in slow motion. Broken, like he was.

 

Fuck!

 

He needed to get away, needed to move, needed to leave the room. With wracking sobs, Cullen picked himself up off the floor and glanced at the broken glass, knowing he’d have to clean it up and apologize for it later. Heading towards the bathroom, he hoped to be able to drown his sorrows in Alistair’s oversized clawfoot tub.



 

~*~

 

Alistair stood at the counter, wiping mindlessly at the already clean bartop. Lana was talking to Leliana were over by the stage when she looked up to meet his gaze.

 

Lana Please?!

 

She walked over and laid her hands on top of his.

 

“Alistair, he needs space.”

 

“What he needs is a distraction.”

 

“Yes, but he’s afraid of hurting you; you would be too much of a distraction.”

 

“Well, maybe you could go up - you’ve already been up there with him once, maybe…”

 

“Alistair, no.” She paused and hesitated for a moment. She looked nervous.

 

She never looks nervous!

 

“Lana, what’s going on? Why do you look… guilty. What aren’t you telling me?”

 

“You always were more perceptive than you let on.”

 

He shrugged, “It’s a gift. If people think I’m simple minded, they open up more around me.”

 

“That’s been the source of their undoing many times.” she chuckled.

 

“Yes it has… but as Cullen would say, you are deflecting. What aren’t you telling me?” he reiterated the question more sternly this time.

 

“Alistair, there’s something that you should know.”

 

“Yes, Lana, I can see that - what is it? I thought I knew all of your little secrets.”

 

“Not all of them--” she suddenly gasped and stumbled; barely catching herself on the stool while crying out in pain.

 

“Lana!” He leapt over the bar to be at her side, catching her elbow to steady her. Leliana arriving a moment later. They held her with dual looks of concern on their faces.

 

Lana’s eyes stared--unseeing--the look of pain on her face telling more than her words ever could.

 

She gripped Alistair’s arm tightly, seeing sights that were not her own: memories from a time and place she’d never been. The crushing weight of his panic threatened to overwhelm her, but she pushed through it by throwing up her emotional barriers to protect herself, while gauging what Cullen needed most. These were his memories, she was sure of it. She allowed only the information through, blocking out all of the emotion that threatened to weigh her down.

 

Lana felt Cullen pulling himself back to the here and now, fighting to regain his control, fighting to reclaim his breath.

Shaking her head to clear it, she whispered, “I’m all right. But… he’s not.” She swallowed and looked up, tears once again filling her eyes, heavy emotion lacing her words.

 

There was a loud crash from upstairs, halting her from saying whatever she was about to.

 

Not wood this time…

 

Was that glass?

 

Alistair looked panicked. His eyes large, knowing full well that there was a wall of windows upstairs; not to mention the floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall mirror panels lining the dojo side of his loft. Without waiting for approval, Alistair took off towards the stairs.

 

Taking them two at a time, he paused at the top to catch his breath. Entering the loft, he looked around to assess the situation. Cullen’s shoes and personal belongings were stashed in their usual places next to the front door. There was a blood-stained towel next to the sink that was no longer neatly folded. The cabinet where he kept his trash can, left open.

 

The sources of the sounds he heard from downstairs were evident on the dojo side of the room. The broken makiwara was protruding from the wall and one of the mirror panels on the kitchen side of the dojo was in pieces on the hardwood floor with a half-full water bottle settled in and amongst the debris.

 

Well, that explains the sound of shattering glass! But where’s Cullen?

 

Nothing else seemed amiss--all the windows were in place and other than a small towel draped over the weight bench and an errant roll of athletic tape laying haphazardly on the floor, everything was where it belonged.

 

Alistair headed for the bedroom.

 

Cullen’s workout bag lay empty, his gun was stored safely on top of the dresser, and the suit he’d shown up in was draped neatly over the foot of the bed. From inside the bathroom, he heard the sound of water running. Walking around to the closed door, he paused to listen.

 

Cullen was sobbing on the other side of that door; full body-wracking sobs from the sound of it. Though his heart was breaking right alongside Cullen’s, Alistair knew he needed to wait. He knew Cullen wouldn’t appreciate an audience, no matter how sincere the intent was behind the intrusion.

 

Deciding to be comfortable while he waited, Alistair grabbed his gi pants and laid out a second pair for Cullen on the bed. He changed quickly, then slipping into his rubber soled house shoes, he went to go clean up.

 

This wasn’t the first time one of his mirrors had broken. Alistair was just thankful that this one was over the hardwood; it was a bitch to get glass out of the mat. Last time, he replaced the whole thing instead of picking out all the tiny little shards. Grabbing his trash bin and broom, Alistair made quick work of the mess; sweeping up the larger pieces, then took a lightly damp dust mop to the mat and floor. Just in case.

 

Convinced that the immediate danger was taken care of, Alistair slipped out of his shoes and made his way back to the mat. Kneeling in the center, he focused on quieting his mind and preparing for Cullen to join him. He may not know exactly what was wrong, but he knew that Cullen was hurting and he was determined to try everything in his power to help get him through it.

 

~*~

 

Finding his way to the bathroom, Cullen crumpled to the floor. Too worried about seeing his reflection in the bathroom mirror, he immediately shut the door and fell; pillowing his head on his arms against the side of the tub.

 

He didn’t cry often, but he knew that sometimes the only way to process through the pain, you had to let it out. Here was safe, there was nowhere else he felt safer. This wasn’t panic, he was fully present, this was catharsis.

 

Cullen pulled himself together enough to run the bath. When he first started therapy with Dorian, they’d used a sensory deprivation chamber to help with his sudden and sometimes violent panic attacks. Alistair had a large clawfoot tub that was long enough and deep enough to make a reasonable simulation for his 6’1” frame. It wasn’t perfect, but it would do.

 

Once the tub was half way filled, Cullen climbed into the barely warmer than body temperature water. When the tub was almost full, he turned it off then slid down, leaving only his knees and face left in the air of the room.

 

Ears properly submerged, he closed his eyes and let his senses relax. Dark, quiet, warm, only the sound of his breath to guide him and he worked towards keeping it calm and even. Anytime his mind started to wander, he forcefully brought it back to the water. Cleansing, purifying, safe. He stayed in his cocoon of comfort until it cooled below his body temperature and he began to shiver.

 

Pulling the plug, Cullen climbed from the tub and sought out his towel to dry off. The calmness of the water helped to soothe his anger and frustration, but the sadness was still there. He wasn’t fully better, but he felt like he regained some of the control he’d been lacking.

 

Exiting the bathroom, wearing only a towel, he debated on what to dress himself in. The clothes he’d worn to work out in were sweaty and had blood on them. They were out of the question. Pondering borrowing something from Alistair’s drawers, his eyes caught sight of a pair of martial arts pants laying across the bed where nothing had been before.

 

Alistair... is here?

 

He paused to listen, trying to see if he could hear Alistair in the other room. It was silent, but he’d clearly been in the bedroom recently. Cullen sighed inwardly, he was in no frame of mind to talk. He was still too raw. Though he’d pulled himself back from the brink, the pain and self-flagellation were right there waiting to resurface.

 

Cullen dressed in the borrowed pants and towel dried his hair before heading back into the main room to face Alistair. He needed to apologize for the damage he’d done, if nothing else.

He found Alistair with his back to him, kneeling in the center of the practice mat. The shattered mirror no longer in evidence, but the board still protruded from the wall.

 

Cullen hung his head. He loved that man so much and didn’t deserve the patience and care Alistair was always showing him. Watching him now, Cullen was envious: he appeared to be peace personified: sitting on his heals with his toes folded under, his hands resting comfortably on the top of his knees. It was the exact opposite of how Cullen’s heart and mind felt at the moment.

 

In his present state of mind, Cullen resented the calm that surrounded Alistair. Just knowing that he’d come up here and cleaned up Cullen’s mess made him feel less than worthless. It poked at the beast that was raging inside of him.

 

I can’t even be trusted to clean up after myself.

 

Alistair hadn’t moved and clearly didn’t intend to. Leaving him to his meditation, Cullen decided to start abusing the bag. Not bothering to tape up his hands this time, he put his back to Alistair and went to work. Light jabs followed by full swings with a kick or two thrown in for good measure. Cullen was doing his best to focus on the workout and not on why he needed to be burning off steam.

 

It wasn’t working. The more he kicked and punched the bag, the more he wanted to hurt something real. There was zero resistance with the bag and it only made him angrier. The fact that Alistair was still in the room with him, gradually faded until it was just him, the punching bag, and the weight of the world looming ominously over him once again.

 

~*~

 

Alistair could tell from the sound of Cullen’s steps that he’d entered the room and paused. He kept himself loose and calm; available if Cullen wanted to talk, not intrusive if he didn’t. He followed the sounds of Cullen’s bare steps over to where the heavy bag was hanging and listened as Cullen began to hit it. Focusing on his own breathing, he waited. After a while, he could tell that Cullen’s breath had become more erratic, his rhythm broken. Only then did he rise from his position on the practice mat.

 

“Cullen.”

 

Nothing.

 

Watching Cullen’s posture, Alistair knew that he was spiraling out of control again. He may have been able to calm himself briefly with the bath, but he was clearly working himself up once again. He needed to get Cullen’s attention before all control was lost, but he didn’t dare approach him in this state.

 

He tried calling out again; louder this time, “Cullen!”

 

Still no response.

 

Cullen was trying very hard to kill the bag. Looking around for something to catch his attention, Alistair saw the chime that he used to clear the vibrations after some of his meditations. Walking over to where it hung on the wall, Alistair rang it.

 

He waited and watched.

 

Then rang it again.

 

And again.

 

Twice more before he was able to get Cullen’s attention.  

 

Alistair watched as Cullen paused in his assault and stood there with his hands on the bag. Breathing heavily, Cullen turned slowly toward him. Alistair’s heart nearly shattered at the wild eyes that were now scanning the room before they landed fully on him.

 

Walking back to the center of the mat, Alistair raised his hand and beckoned Cullen to join him.


Safe Summary:

Cullen washes off the blood from his newly healed knuckles. Drinks some water and tries some breathing exercises to help him regain control.

It doesn't work, he starts seeing his past. The tower massacre pops in his head which he quickly shakes off, but then he remembers what came next.

Kirkwall: with his old Knight-Commander Meredith who was power hungry and instead of helping Cullen heal, used him as her weapon. Manipulated his fear, anger, and hate and used it to her advantage. Hawke and his friends helped him see what she was doing was wrong. He opened his eyes at the last and fought back against her, but the blood was already on his hands.

Flash to Haven: He and a small group of Templars had been dispatched to clear the area of some demons who'd slipped through the veil. In the midst of the battle, Cullen got separated and--in his desperation--lost himself in another flashback. Instead of demons, he saw mages and couldn't figure out why his Templar abilities weren't working against them. In his panic, he unleashed the full force of his smite. In the aftermath, he found a family of five was killed in his crossfire. That's when he decided to 'retire'.

He feels like a complete and total failure.

His memories sent him into a full body wracking panic attack. He throws a bottle of water at the wall and in the process, shattered one of the mirrored panels that lined the dojo area.

Finally pulling himself together, he makes his way towards the bathroom.

 

Chapter Text

Cocktails & Cheese

Cullen and Alistair - A Modern Day AU

Chapter 19

Bad Day Part 3


Cullen was able to ignore the ringing at first. He was lost in his head; battling the demons from his past alongside the inner demons currently plaguing his heart. Taking it all out on the heavy bag. His control was slipping.

As the ringing persisted, it slowly pulled him from his inner struggle.

Where is that sound coming from?

Wrapping his arms around the bag to stop it from swaying, Cullen began to search for the source of the chime. Scanning the room cautiously, his eyes eventually landed on Alistair, standing by a chime on the wall, watching him intently.

He’d forgotten that he wasn’t alone.

Once their eyes connected, Alistair moved gracefully to the center of the sparring mat and stood in what Cullen would call, parade rest; but Alistair probably had another word for it. He usually did. He didn’t appear angry. In truth, he looked calm and relaxed--even sympathetic in the kindness gracing his face.

He couldn’t look away from Alistair’s quiet intensity, even as his brain rebelled.

I don’t deserve his kindness, or his sympathy.

With a small smile, Alistair slowly raised one a hand with his palm facing up, he curled his fingers up a couple of times, then he pointed to the X on the mat directly across from where he was standing.

Things started to click into place. They were dressed the same, in matching pairs of martial arts pants. Alistair was standing at the ready in the center of his dojo, inviting Cullen to join him.

He’s waiting to spar. No… I... can’t!

They’d worked out together on several occasions over the last couple of months. And though they playfully wrestled and messed around, Cullen always refused to seriously spar with him. He’d been training from such a young age, he didn’t think it fair to take advantage of Alistair’s good nature that way; Grey Warden or not.

His mind told him that as a Warden, Alistair was more than capable of handling himself. They were some of the best Warriors on Thedas and needed to be to match the preternatural foes they faced. He’d personally witnessed Alistair’s speed and agility as well as been on the receiving end of his incredible strength. Cullen’s heart, however, wouldn’t let him completely let go around Alistair, so he always held back. Whether it was his ego over his own considerable abilities or his fear of losing control and hurting the man he loved, Cullen refused to pit himself--hand-to-hand--against Alistair.

Now, here he was, being beckoned to the mat. Alistair didn’t realize how out of control he felt right now. He couldn’t fight him; not here, not now. He wasn’t sure what kind of expression he held on his face, but he was pretty certain that Alistair understood his head shake as a refusal.

Alistair’s face softened a little more, “Join me. Cullen, please.”

“Alistair, no. I couldn’t, you--”

“I am perfectly capable of handling myself.” Alistair sounded slightly amused.

“But... you haven’t warmed up yet.” Cullen tried to find an excuse to refuse him.

Groaning audibly, Alistair began his warm up routine.

Cullen was familiar with the basics, having worked out with Alistair several times now. Jumping in place, some kicks and punches, maneuvering up and back down the salmon ladder like it was an extension of him. His body was poetry in motion; quick, agile, flexible, strong, and moved fluidly from one action to the next. He was mesmerizing to watch, beautiful.

Alistair was going above and beyond for this warm up though. Cullen wasn’t sure if he was showing off, or just trying to prove that he was capable of handling himself. Between the kicks and punches, Alistair was throwing in elaborate aerials, flips, and handsprings; landing each one perfectly, every movement; graceful. He made it look effortless, easy.  

Cullen stood stunned by the acrobatics and skill that Alistair was demonstrating.

When he came back to the center of the ring, he bounced a couple more times before landing solid, his serious gaze locked firmly on Cullen. “I'm warmed up now. Come… here.”

It was an order this time and Cullen knew it.

He took a step forward hesitantly, “I dont have the control that I should right now, Alistair. I really don’t want to--hurt you.” He finished in a whisper.

Alistair smiled gently, “If I let you go at the bag anymore, we’ll have to add it to the list of things to be replaced and fixed.” He ticked off a few items on his fingers, “The makiwara board, the mirror, the wall. None of those things can fight back, Cullen. You need a moving target.”

Looking down at his feet, Cullen stayed just out of range; shame and self-hatred washing over him.

Seeing Cullen’s face fall, Alistair tried another tactic, “If you’d prefer not to fight me hand-to-hand, then choose your weapon. You need this and you know it. You need a solid target that’s going to hit back, you need a challenge. Let me help keep your mind focused while your body burns off the rest.”

Nodding reluctantly, Cullen approached the weapons rack. The board had been unsatisfying, his breathing exercises left him too much time for his mind to wander, and chasing the bag was only spiraling him farther out of control.

What he wanted, was to physically assault the man they’d arrested earlier in the day. His face was the target he was craving, but that sadistic asshole was currently behind bars and if he had his way, that’s where he would stay.

His instincts took him to the wooden swords first, he’d been training with swords since he was old enough to hold one. It was a natural extension of his body. He couldn’t do that to Alistair though. At the last moment, he reached for the wooden staves instead.

Alistair stopped him, “You were heading for the bokken--the wooden swords--if that is your weapon of choice, grab it; I’m in.”

Cullen hesitated.

Alistair chuckled, “Do you think I have them here because they’re pretty? If the sword is your weapon, pass me one. I’ve never pitted myself against a Templar, sword-to-sword before. You might teach me something new.”

He knew it was a bad idea, but at the moment, it was better than talking about what was bothering him. Grabbing the two swords, Cullen tossed one to Alistair who snached it deftly out of the air.

Alistair was cool and relaxed.

Cullen was terrified of hurting him.

They squared off on the mat and saluted.

Cullen began to circle. Alistair matched him step for step; a direct mirror to his footwork. Seeing an opening, he dipped in for a basic strike--a test--which Alistair parried effortlessly.

“Really?” Alistair rolled his eyes, “Don’t insult me. I’m not made of glass, Cullen. Stop holding back.”

Circling again, Cullen saw another opening and upped his game; which Alistair deftly dodged.

“You do remember the part about me being a ‘Warden’ right? If that’s all you’re going to throw at me, I might as well tie one hand behind my back and blindfold myself.”

Shaking off Alistair’s taunting, Cullen went back in for another attack, then another--each one more complex than the last. Alistair evaded, parried, and countered them all with practiced ease.

“C’mon, I know you have more in you than this. You were a Templar, for Maker’s sake. Show me what you’ve got!”

Cullen noticed that up until now, Alistair had been purely on the defensive. Always deflecting and dodging--never attacking.

He wants more? Let’s see if I can get him to reciprocate in kind.

Feigning to the right, Cullen switched directions and spun to the left, trying to sweep Alistair’s legs out from under him. Alistair, leapt over his attack then pressed his own, forcing Cullen to block, then counter.

“That’s more like it.” Alistair quipped.

They were fairly evenly matched. Where Cullen was pure strength and practiced precision, Alistair was adaptable, nimble, and quick. They fought for roughly half an hour. For a time, Alistair believed that Cullen was finally powering through the worst of it and ready to move past. He was focused and surefooted; on the offensive as much as he was successfully defending. But then, he started making stupid mistakes: he missed an easy block, forgot to put his guard up, overcompensated his steps--throwing himself off balance.

This isn’t working. Cullen’s checking out again.

Knowing they needed to regroup before they hurt each other, Alistair lunged forward and caught Cullen’s sword at the crossguard--twisting it out of his grip. Spinning away from his opponent, he faced off again, this time with both bokken at the ready.

Cullen looked down at his empty hands in surprise, then back at Alistair, present once again.

“Welcome back.” Alistair said with affection. “Are you ready to put the toys away and talk to me? Or do you need another go?” He held one of the swords out for Cullen to take.

Palms up in supplication, Cullen refused the sword. “My mind is not where it should be for me to be in the ring with you right now.”

“Well, that much is obvious.” Alistair teased lightly, but his smile was filled with gentle understanding. “You’re distracted. It’s making your movements sloppy and predictable. I should never have been able to disarm you so effortlessly. So, either you’re going easy on me out of pity for my poor, pathetic Warden training, or you’re too wrapped up in what’s going on in your own head to focus. I’m betting it’s the latter.”

“I’ve had a really bad week.” Cullen bemoaned as he watched Alistair wipe down the swords and put them away.

“I get that. So how do we get you past it?”

“I wish I knew,” came the defeated reply.

Alistair grabbed two bottles of water then walked with Cullen over to the sofa. As they settled into their usual spots, he asked, “Will you please tell me what happened?”

Cullen drained half his water in one gulp while shaking his head.

“Listen to reason, love. You’re too sleep deprived to work through this physically and not hurt yourself.” Alistair brushed his fingertips lightly over Cullen’s recently healed knuckles. “Your only other option is to talk to someone. If you’re not comfortable talking to me, at least call Dorian, or I can bring Lana up here. But this, right here--is not healthy.”

Cullen hung his head in shame, “I can’t put Lana through this, she only caught a glimpse and it brought her to tears. She doesn’t deserve that.”

“And you don’t deserve to have to deal with this alone. You have people that love you, Cullen. I love you. Please let one of us help you.”

“This is— it’s just too much, Alistair. There’s layer upon layer of shit running through my head and I don’t want to burden any of you with it.”

“Too much to even warrant a call to Dorian? From what I understand, he’s seen you through worse.”

“I don’t think it’s enough to need Dorian… but perhaps--it is too much for me to handle alone.” Cullen admitted reluctantly.

Alistair laid his hand gently on Cullen’s shoulder, rubbing small circles with his thumb, “I’m here. I’ll always be here, my love. It’s time to face what’s got you so torn up inside.”

Signing heavily, Cullen closed his eyes and bowed his head. “I have been facing it. With every blink, I relive what happened. I can’t seem to turn it off.” His tone was heavy with anguish as he continued, “The pain from today keeps reminding me of something horrific that happened right before I transferred to Denerim, which keeps bringing me back to what happened today. It’s a never ending cycle.”

Alistair shook his head. “That sounds more like dwelling on it than facing it. Can you tell me what happened?”

Cullen shook his head, “I can’t tell you the details. And I’m not quite ready to discuss the issues that led up to me leaving the order either.”

“We both have stuff that we’ve yet to share, there will be time for that later. When you’re ready. But, please tell me that you’ve already discussed the stuff from your past with Dorian at least--that it’s not just sitting there festering?”

Nodding solemnly, Cullen added, “I have. And until today, I’d come to terms with it.”

“Then we don’t need to discuss it now. Talk to me about today. What’s got you so worked up?”

“Alistair, you know there are parts of my job that are classified. I’m not permitted to speak of it.”

“Is this about the little girl who went missing on Monday?”

Cullen’s head shot up in surprise, eyes narrowing.

“Oh come on. People talk to me everyday and it’s all over the news. It didn’t take much to piece together the urgency of your new case with that particular story.”

“How much was in the news?”

“No specifics, just generalities. But I know enough to realize that’s some pretty heavy shit you’ve probably got swimming around in that handsome head of yours.”

Cullen leaned back into the sofa and stared at the ceiling contemplating how much to tell. Or if he should confirm any of it at all.

“If you get it out, you can move on from it. Tell me what happened?”

“I… can’t.”

How do you admit something like this? What will Alistair think of me when I do?

“Can’t? Or won’t?” he asked pointedly. “I don’t need details, you don't need to break confidentiality or anything, but you do need to talk about it so you can let it go. Tell me what has you so torn up, or I’m calling Dorian.”

Knowing that he didn't have a better option at his disposal, Cullen confessed, “She’s...dead.” He finally breathed out with a whimper. “She was the same age as Jasper and now--she’s gone.

Laying a hand on Cullen’s knee, Alistair tried to keep him talking, “This isn’t your first case gone sour. What happened with this one that has you so torn up? Was it just because of her age?”

Cullen continued, as if Alistair hadn’t spoken. “I found her body today.” His voice held a new edge to it: frustration, resignation, the remnants of his anger--all bound together under tightly controlled despair. 

“She hadn’t been there long.” His words caught in his throat as he remembered her innocent face. “I wasn’t quick enough. I’m not… good enough. She died, Alistair--because I failed.” Cullen whispered the last word, crumpling forward, he covered his face with his hands and began to cry.



Alistair was instantly on his knees in front of Cullen, wrapping him in his arms. “Sweetheart, you didn’t cause her death,” he said intently, “You are good enough. This is just one instance. More often than not, your cases have happy endings. This isn’t the norm. It may not feel like it now, but it will be ok. You will be ok.” 

Cullen shook his head in disbelief, but didn’t pull away. Leaning into him instead, he sought comfort in Alistair’s embrace.

He still blamed himself for her death. He blamed himself for so many deaths. Yet here was Alistair, trying to comfort him and encourage him through it all; trying to convince him that everything was going to turn out all right.

How can I look him in the eye after this?

Cullen wanted to scream, rant, throw, and break things. But he was tired, so very tired. He knew that he couldn’t change the past, but he also knew he needed to mourn her loss and move on. But how could he do both?

Am I allowed to?

Alistair caressed Cullen’s cheek with his hand and touched their foreheads together, “My love, please don’t blame yourself for this. You can’t be everywhere at once. You have a tough job, one that very few people could handle. And you are damn good at it. You get a lot of shit thrown at you and you always do the best that you can. I know that there is nothing I can say that will take away the hurt you are feeling; but Cullen, you don’t have to face anything alone anymore. Whatever you need, I am here. Whether it’s someone to trade blows with, someone to listen to you vent, or someone to hold you and tell you that everything will be ok. I’ve got you, I’m not going anywhere.”

Cullen finally opened his red puffy eyes and looked into Alistair’s. Pulling him to his chest, he clung to him like a lifeline--his anchor to the here and now. As they held one another, Cullen accepted that he couldn’t win them all. He cried for that little girl who would never again grace her parents with her presence. He admitted to the world and himself that he wasn’t perfect. He mourned all of his failures and mistakes. He let the tears fall and allowed them to cleanse away his doubts and fears.

Finally allowing acceptance, love, and hope to take root within him once again, he accepted Alistair’s words:

I will be ok.

I’m not alone this time.

I am enough.

I did the best I could.

As Cullen’s sobs began to ebb, Alistair pulled back only far enough to be able to kiss his lips. Sweet, tender, chaste. Wiping away his tears, Alistair smiled softly at Cullen, his face full of understanding and support.

With a quavering voice, Cullen asked, “What did I ever do without you?”

“You probably destroyed your fair share of makiwara, mirrors, and punching bags.” Alistair teased, trying to lighten the mood.

“Bookcases actually.” He looked away, embarrassed.

“What, really?”

Cullen shifted uncomfortably, not proud of that fact.

Alistair tried to smooth things over, “Hey, y’know--it doesn’t matter. All of that can be replaced. Bookcases or punching boards, they are just objects. Things. You are… so much more to me than that. Anytime you need to burn off steam, vent your frustrations, or need someone to be with, I’ll be here to help.”

Cullen looked away, letting one last tear fall down his cheek, but managed to look back at Alistair with a small, thankful sigh. “That will take some getting used to.” He grinned shyly. “I am not complaining, though.”

Running his hands soothingly across Cullen’s broad shoulders, Alistair asked, “How are you feeling?”

Cullen groaned, “Like I’ve had the crap beat out of me!”

Chuckling warmly, Alistair offered, “I bet you do, you’ve had quite the week.”

“You know, you’d make a very good therapist.” Cullen winked.

Alistair countered, “Or a bartender?”

“Or a bartender.” Cullen agreed. “My bartender.” He reached up and adoringly touched Alistair’s cheek before hugging him once again.

“Always.” Alistair confirmed, “C’mon let’s get cleaned up and I’ll tuck you into bed. You look like you could sleep for a week.”

“I feel like I haven’t slept in a week. In truth, I think the last full night’s sleep I had was Sunday with you. I’ve taken tomorrow off to recover; they know how to find me, should they need me.”

“Let’s hope they don’t--so you can sleep the day away and let me spoil you.” Alistair said affectionately.

“You are truly a gift from the Maker. Thank you.”

Alistair blushed brushing his lips softly against Cullen’s, “Come on, my love. Let’s get showered so I can tuck you into bed.”

Cullen nodded feebly. He was exhausted: physically, mentally, and emotionally. A shower and a good night's sleep might be what he needed to feel like himself again.

Alistair took his time caring for his internally battered love: he massaged his muscles under the steaming hot water, trying help him relax. He washed him gently, keeping his caresses reassuring and comforting. Once they were both clean and dried, Alistair then led an exhausted Cullen to their bed.

Tucking him in gently, Alistair climbed in next to him and kissed him softly on the forehead, “I need to head back downstairs soon. There are still several hours left before we close tonight and I know the girls will want to know you’re ok.”

Cullen nuzzled closer, “And here I was hoping to drift off in your arms.”

“Well that, I can certainly accommodate. I just didn’t want you to worry if you woke up and I wasn’t here.” Alistair made himself comfortable on the bed, wrapping his arms around Cullen. “And I will definitely be back, so don’t hog all the covers while I’m gone.”

“I’m sure you could wrestle them away from me again without much effort.”

Alistair chuckled, then kissed Cullen on the temple, “You going to be all right?”

“I will now. Thank you… for everything.”

Gazing into Cullen’s drooping eyes, Alistair said, “Anytime. I mean that. I love you; you know that right? There is nothing I wouldn’t do for you.”

Cullen tightened his grip around Alistair’s waist. “I love you too.”

Alistair held Cullen close to his heart, caressing his shoulders and kissing his brow as he drifted off to sleep. He prayed that Cullen’s mind and soul would be lighter come morning.

He held onto Cullen for twenty minutes past when his breathing evened out in sleep. Convinced that he’d done all that he could, Alistair extricated himself from his lover’s grasp, dressed once again in his uniform, then slipped silently out of the room to head back downstairs to work.



Safe Summary:

Cullen admits that a little girl died on his watch and says some pretty negative things about himself and how it’s all his fault.

Alistair’s not having it (but most of that is after the double lines)

Chapter Text

Cocktails & Cheese

Cullen and Alistair - A Modern Day AU

Chapter 20

Good Intentions


 Alistair

My intentions were pure; they usually are. I’d promised to spoil Cullen and take care of him. After such a rough week, he deserved a nice, relaxing day that began with breakfast in bed--at the very least.

One would think with all of my skills and training, that I would have picked up cooking along the way. Not so. As a matter of fact, when I was an active Grey Warden, our little band of misfits used to look for excuses for me not to take a turn cooking the evening meal. My stews were too bland and the meat always turned out chewy. Nothing I tried to cook ever turned out right.

Oh, I know my way around a knife. In a fight, slicing cheese, or chopping vegetables; even Zevran isn’t my equal. But put me next to a heat source with chunks of dead animal, and I’m completely hopeless. Even my dearly departed mabari, Brie, would turn her nose up at my cooking. And she ate damn near everything!

But those were stews and trail rations. No one in our group could really make them taste anything other than passable. Well, Lana could--but everything she touches turns to gold--so we’ll leave her out of this little comparison here, shall we?

How hard can breakfast really be?

After brewing a pot of coffee, I decided to start my day. Before the sun was even up, I slipped out to grab a few necessities from the twenty-four-hour grocer down the street: milk, eggs, bacon, those pre-made biscuit thingies in the cans--that always pop when they open and scare the bejeezus out of you--fresh berries, melon, and oranges to make fresh squeezed orange juice. Nothing fancy; just the basics.

What could go wrong?

I should never… ever… ask that question again. 

After I laid out my ingredients, I searched the kitchen for the items I needed to make breakfast. Cookie sheet… check. Cast iron frying pan… check. Orange juicer... Ok, I’ll admit it. I am many things--and for the most part, none of them are good in the kitchen--but when it comes to making drinks? I like to do it up right! That being said, I actually have two juicers. One is specifically for orange juice; it separates the pulp from the juice for perfect OJ every time! That’s what the commercials told me anyway, so I simply had to have one.

My other fancy juice machine is a Vitamixtm blender. That magical creature takes whatever fruit and veggies you can imagine and turns them into a delicious beverage or soup of your creation… did I mention that it’s magical? It can also make nut butters, dips, and… cheesy things too! I may never need another appliance! It's beautiful--and has a permanent home on my counter between the sink and refrigerator. My kitchen would definitely be a safer place, if I’d only stick to using that blender. 

The only other appliance that has a place of honor in my home is the coffee maker.

Yes, another drink machine!

Mornings wouldn’t be the same without either of these vital tools.

Hey if all else fails, I can always blend up a good breakfast for us. At least I won’t screw that up!

Bringing everything over to the kitchen island, I realized that I couldn’t remember where my oven was?

How can someone lose their oven?

Oh believe me--it’s easy. I never use it. I think Leliana used it once; the girls brought over ingredients to make me cookies. I forget why, but I think I remember it being somewhere on the wall, hidden amongst all the matching cabinetry.

See, living in a loft, I have everything in one room. The kitchen runs along the same wall that my front door is on--just to the other side of my entryway and credenza. Sink, refrigerator, cabinets as far as the eye can see; and that’s pretty far considering there’s a mirror on the other side reflecting the... Well, there was a mirror on that wall. That section will have to be replaced.

It’s not the first time, and probably won’t be the last.

The rest of my ‘kitchen’ resides on an island with a backside eating bar. That’s where my cooktop is, but the oven isn’t underneath. It took me opening half dozen cabinets before I finally discovered where it was hidden.

Oh this can’t end well.

Opening the cupboard to reveal the sneaky little device, I slid the panel back into its recess, to keep it out of the way. Now… how do you turn this thing on? There’s no on/off  switch; that would be too easy. Two knobs? One with ‘temperature’ on it, the other ‘settings’? Well, that’s an easy one - this setting says ‘Bake’--and I want to bake these biscuits--so I turned that one to the indicator line. Now to figure out the temp.

Reading the tiny print on the can of biscuits, I finally found what I was looking for: 350*. Setting the temperature on the oven, I left it to preheat.

That’s a thing, right?

I paused for a moment to consider calling Lana for advice, but shook my head. I was doing okay so far. I’d only call her if things got really bad.

Turning back to the cooktop, I decided to open that dangerous can to get the biscuits on the cookie sheet to rise. Wait, do you have to let canned biscuits rise? I can’t remember, but getting them ready for the oven couldn’t hurt. So I carefully began to pull back the paper around the outside of the can. Holding it way out in front of me--away from my face--I cringed on the inside as I anticipated the inevitable pop that I just knew was coming.

It didn’t.

I looked at the plain brown packaging and wondered what to do next. Looking at the instructions once again, I saw that it said to gently press along the seam with a spoon.

Why a spoon?

Thinking that I knew better, I gently prodded at the seam with the tip of my finger.

Nothing happened.

Hmmm.

With two hands, I started poking again--gently along the same seam. Nothing continued to happen. Picking up the damn thing with both hands, I decided to pry them apart using my manly muscles and savvy skills. Just as I thought that I was going to have to get out one of my daggers and whack the thing into submission, the damn thing popped, scaring the crap out of me! I jumped and threw the offending can into the air. Thankfully, it landed on the cookie sheet with its biscuit goo oozing out the side of the opening I just made. My leap backwards, however, was less graceful. I crashed into the counter where I’d laid out all of the pans while searching for the cast iron skillet. I swore loudly, but the crash the pans made was even louder.

Cringing at the commotion, I just knew that Cullen couldn’t have slept through that. Walking over to the bedroom door, I cracked it slightly and peeked in; expecting to meekly apologize for all the noise. But instead of Cullen’s sleepy eyes, I was greeted with the sight of his glorious ass in the air, barely covered by the thin white sheet, his head stuffed under my pillow. I waited a few moments to see if he’d emerge from underneath so I could apologize, but his breathing evened out again.

Leaving him like that: face down in the mattress, knees tucked up underneath him--that was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Breakfast be damned, all I wanted was to run my hands up those beautiful thighs and over that luscious ass. Groaning in sexual frustration, I opted to behave myself.

See, I can be good!

Closing the door quietly behind me, I went back to my task at hand.

Biscuits… right.

I laid them all out evenly across the pan and brushed the tops with oil. Why? I have no idea. I think I saw it on one of those cooking shows once? Or maybe, I saw Lana do it? It doesn’t matter. They looked good sitting there patiently waiting to be put into the oven. I looked around for the instructions, but couldn’t see where I’d tossed them in my excitement. Ah well, I figured that I’d probably be able to smell them when they were done. Lana never uses a timer anyway.

How hard could it be?

Famous last words by someone who doesn’t fully understand the gravity of the situation. Putting the biscuits in the oven, I turned to the rest of my supplies. Opting to do what came easy next: I reached for the berries and melons. Slicing them up into bite sized pieces, I set them aside in a bowl.

See? Knives--I can do!

I looked at what I could do next. Juice! I can do juice. I decided to make a whole pitcher, instead of just individual glasses. Rinsing off my cutting board, I made quick work of the dozen oranges that I’d purchased, slicing them all neatly in half then running them through the juicer.

Biscuits in the oven… Check. Melons and berries sliced up… check. Juice made and in the fridge to chill… check. Ok what’s next. Better check the biscuits! Peeking into the oven, I jumped back from the blast of heat that felt like it singed my face. With a very unmanly squeal, I slammed the door again, patting at my eyebrows to make sure that they were still in place.

Who knew 350* was so hot?

From what I saw, the biscuits were still pasty white--clearly not ready yet. So… that left the bacon and eggs. Now, I know that I’ve mentioned that putting me, dead animal, and cooking together in the same sentence, isn’t necessarily a good thing. In fact, statistically… it’s been very, very bad.

But that was then… And this is my kitchen. Surely, it couldn’t be more difficult to cook on the stove than it was for me to cook over an open fire at camp.

Could it?

With a deep breath, I resigned myself to finding out. Laying the skillet on the stove, I turned on the heat and hoped for the best. After a minute, I laid the first piece of bacon in the pan to a satisfying sizzle.

See… was that so hard?

Laying out six pieces total, I watched as they sizzled and eventually began to shrink. The room smelled amazing. Then I realized, I hadn’t gotten out a utensil to flip the bacon with. Opening the drawer, I grabbed the first thing that looked like it would work. A plastic tipped set of tongs. Setting the tips into the quickly pooling grease in the pan, I immediately saw the error of my ways. Plastic melts!

Why would anyone make cooking utensils that can’t stand the heat?

I quickly removed them from the pan, before they could leave any residue or contaminate the food. But, it still wasn’t swift enough to save the tongs. Throwing them into the sink behind me, I grabbed a metal fork instead. Forks can’t melt at least. After stabbing the bacon and successfully flipping them over. I set the fork down, back end on the stove, teeth resting on the side of the pan.

What? It sounded like a good idea at the time!

While I waited for the bacon to finish cooking, I got out a plate with a towel on it to absorb the grease.

See, I know some things.

I learned two important lesson, in quick succession. One--metal gets fucking hot when you leave it against a heat source! And two--oil, catches fire rather quickly!

Grasping the fork--I yelped--and in my haste to rid my skin of the blisteringly hot metal, I hit the handle on the skillet. The grease that splashed out of the pan ignited, surprising me with how high the flame shot.

Thank the Maker, I have high ceilings!

I vaguely remember shouting, “Andraste’s Flaming Sword!” as I tried to grab at the handle. Looking around for something to put out the fire, I spotted the spray nozzle next to my sink and took only a step before Cullen was next to me, laying another frying pan over the top of my skillet, effectively extinguishing the flames.

What have I done?

My hand was burnt; breakfast was ruined; I’d meant to do something special for Cullen and here he was swooping in to save my ass in my own kitchen! I tried to bury my face in my hands, but the contact hurt. The next thing I knew, I felt the warmth of his arms wrap around me, pulling me to his chest. Soft words spoken, calmed my frazzled nerves while he ran cool water over my blistered hand.

As the pain began to ebb, I noticed smoke coming from the oven.

“Uh, Alistair?” Cullen asked hesitantly. “What’s in the oven?”

 


Cullen

Cullen woke slowly to the soft feel of sheets on his bare body. He stretched and moaned as his sore muscles released the last of their tension from the night before.

He clearly remembered Alistair coming to bed after his shift ended; the gentle brush of lips across his shoulders and neck as Alistair curled around him. The feel of Alistair’s freshly showered, naked body; molding perfectly to his. The look of surprise on Alistair’s face as Cullen rolled them over, pinning his body to the mattress with mutual smiles to follow.

After the week he had, the need to reconnect overcame him. Work could be hard, but loving Alistair was so easy and Cullen ached to show him how much he appreciated all that they were together. Sliding into the tight confines of his heat, Cullen sang his praises. With his body, he conveyed all the gratitude he couldn’t find with words. With his lips, he lavished love and adoration on Alistair’s mouth, face, neck, and ears.

Those amazing fucking ears!

The chorus of moans as they made love--affirming their union. This was who they were, what they were meant to be. As one, connected, together. Their release washed over them amidst soft gazes, sweet caresses, and gentle kisses. The bliss that followed, pulling them both down into peaceful, contented sleep.

Wanting nothing more than to wrap himself in Alistair’s embrace, Cullen rolled over to seek his lover’s touch, only to find the other side of the bed--empty.

Where is he? He never wakes before I do.

The thought was fleeting, as he was still exhausted from the rough week he’d had. Grabbing Alistair’s pillow instead, Cullen nuzzled into it and slipped back into sleep with Alistair’s scent to keep him company.

Jolting awake, he sat up in bed, still holding Alistair's pillow in his arms. His breathing came in quick short gasps as he tried to piece together what had woken him up. When he heard no other sounds and the feeling of danger subsided, Cullen decided that he could afford to get a little more sleep. Rolling over onto his stomach, he tucked his knees up under him and threw the extra pillow over his head to keep out the light.

Cullen woke again when he heard Alistair shout something about Andraste and her sword. Jumping out of bed, he stepped quickly into a pair of sweats that were folded neatly on a nearby chest. Running out of the bedroom, the sight that greeted him was--unexpected. Alistair was standing in the kitchen looking panicked. He was shaking his hand, swearing, as a flame at least three feet high blazed on the stove.

Cullen had a moment of panic of his own as Alistair glanced from the sink to the fire and back again.

NO! You don’t put water on a grease fire!

Running on pure instinct, Cullen grabbed the nearest pan and smothered the fire with it. Grabbing a towel, he removed both pans from the heat and turned off the burner before turning back toward a very frazzled Alistair.

Wrapping Alistair in his arms, Cullen did his best to soothe with calm reassurances whispered in his ear.

Alistair gasped in pain when he tried to hide his face in his hands, bringing Cullen’s attention to the damage he’d done to himself. Seeing the red skin beginning to blister, Cullen led him over to the sink and very carefully ran cool water over the damaged skin.

As they both stood there chuckling softly, Cullen noticed a wisp of smoke coming from the oven.

“Uh, Alistair?” he asked hesitantly, “What’s in the oven?”

“Shit! The biscuits!” Alistair started towards the oven, only to be stopped by a hand on his shoulder.

“Let me.” Cullen turned off the oven then grabbed the potholders before opening the door, letting out a huge plume of smoke. Cullen chuckled, “Mmm, eight lumps of coal! Alistair, you shouldn’t have!”

“You joke now, Mister; that was supposed to be your breakfast!”

“Hmmm. Y’know, I’ve been trying to limit the amount of carcinogens that I consume on a daily basis. It’s not healthy you know.”

Alistair giggled, “Well, there goes my grand idea of bringing you breakfast in bed!”

“Let me guess: cooking is not your forte?”

“Whatever gave you that idea?”

They looked around the room at the aftermath of Alistair’s adventures that morning. Grease splatter all over the cooktop, some of it dripping from the countertop to the floor. Burnt biscuits. And Alistair’s hand was badly burned.

“Should we… call Lana to help with your hand?” Cullen asked, as he cradled it gently in his palms.

“Oh, please don’t. I’ll never hear the end of this.” Alistair rolled his eyes, then reached into the cabinet below the sink and brought out a small container with a screw top lid. Grinning at Cullen, he opened it, “Besides, I have this.”

“What is that, exactly?” Cullen tilted his head, looking at the jar curiously.

“Lana got tired of healing me every time I’d burn myself cooking. So she made me my own personal salve.” Rubbing the greasy looking substance into his blistered palm, a soft blue glow emanated from his hands. When it faded, Alistair’s skin was smooth and blemish free. “All the healing powers of Lana; none of the snark and sass to go with it.”

“Portable healing in a jar? That’s pretty impressive.”

“Well, it’s not for all healing. This is specifically for me… for burns. She recharges it for me every few weeks and when I run out… she makes more.”

“It’s like she knows that you’re a menace in the kitchen!”

“Hey! I resemble that remark! At least this time, I had you here to swoop in and save the day?”

“Isn’t swooping bad, my love?”

“Swooping is only bad, if it’s not you saving my ass.”

“I happen to really like your ass; it’s definitely worth saving.”

“What about the rest of me?”

“I suppose.” Cullen winked, “You did save me from myself yesterday. It’s only fair.”

“And I’d do it again, in a heartbeat.” Alistair’s eyes softened as he wrapped his arms around Cullen, pulling him in for a kiss.

“For that knowledge, I am grateful.” Cullen smirked, “And I too will endeavor to save you from yourself… in the kitchen.”

“You’re never going to let me live this down, are you?”

“You keep pouring the drinks, m’love. I’ll handle the cooking from now on.” 

“It’s a deal!”


Prompt from Lola Auditore/LolaVega:  (I hope I did you justice darlin' - I sure as hell had fun writing this!)

They need a lil bit of fluffers after that shit week. (Breakfast in bed maybe!)

Me - I can definitely do breakfast in bed - but who's cooking?

Who’s cooking? Maybe Alistair attempts cooking... maybe he’s not so good at it, but his heart is in the right place, and there’s a mess, and he burns himself and Cullen wakes up to "Andraste's flaming sword!" And as Alistair is about to break down Cullen saves the day and he finishes breakfast and then they jump into bed together? 

Bonus points if you can work SWOOPING IS BAD in there!

Chapter Text

Cocktails & Cheese

Cullen and Alistair - A Modern Day AU

Chapter 21

Warden’s Oath Pt. 1


 

It was almost noon on a Tuesday during the second month of Autumn. Alistair was behind the counter preparing cheese trays, whistling along to a song that was stuck in his head. He looked up from his work--startled--when the front door opened. The bar didn’t open for another three hours; the door should have been locked-up tight.

 

When he heard the telltale creak of the heavy oak door, he half expected it to be Lana coming in early to help him get ready for the day. A familiar, bearded man walked through the door instead. He was dressed nondescriptly in black cargo pants, boots, and a black button down shirt. His hair was pulled back into a low ponytail, its black straggling wisps rivaling Alistair’s in their unruliness. The years had been kind to his handsome mentor, he was well muscled and still fit, though his temples were speckled with more silver than black. It was a look that he wore well.

 

Duncan smiled at Alistair behind the bar. “Long time no see, son. You are looking well.”

 

Setting his knife and towel down on his work surface, Alistair came out from behind the bar. “Duncan!” They grasped forearms and hugged. “You do know that door was locked don’t you?”

 

“There isn’t a lock in all of Thedas that can keep me out, or have you forgotten?”

 

“I remember, it was you who taught me, after all. It’s still disconcerting to see you just walk in, though. I didn’t hear anything at all, even keys make noise when they hit the tumblers in that mechanism.”

 

Duncan winked. “If it makes you feel any better, it did take me two tries to get through; quiet or not.”

 

“You’re lying, but I appreciate you trying to make me feel better.” Alistair chuckled. “So what brings you into my humble establishment, Old Man? Would you like something to drink? Are you hungry?” He motioned for Duncan to sit.

 

“I have been traveling, so whatever you have handy would be appreciated; thank you, Alistair.”

 

Producing a full tray of cheese, crackers, and pretzels, Alistair then added some cold sausage when he saw how quickly Duncan was eating. He pondered what kind of threat he was chasing down--or running from--to leave him so famished. Handing him a glass of water as well as a tumbler of scotch, Alistair let the comfortable silence stretch as Duncan put away his food.

 

Once the majority of the food was consumed, the glass of water empty and the scotch being slowly sipped; Alistair cut to the chase, “Do I need to call in Lana before we start?”

 

Duncan chuckled, “Always right to the point. I’ve missed that. Most people I deal with spend all their time playing The Game and it’s bloody tiresome.” He smiled affectionately at Alistair, “Yes, call Lana in.”

 

Alistair frowned causing Duncan to reassure him, “Don’t worry, son, we will not be taking her with us when we leave. She should know what’s going on though.”

 

Alistair nodded; disquiet flittering across his face. He wasn’t surprised that Duncan was here now to put him to work; he expected it to happen occasionally. Resigned, he sent a quick text to Lana.

 

[12:33]

Alistair: Hey, hun. Duncan’s here. Wants to speak to both of us.

 

Alistair: Looks like he’s only requiring me again this trip, but says you should be here for the briefing.

 

Lana: I will be there in ten, Alistair. Don’t start without me.

 

Alistair: Too late, but I’m sure you can catch up.

 

Alistair: See you soon.

 

Alistair pocketed his phone again, “Lana’s on her way. Is everything ok?”

 

Duncan shook his head. “You know I wouldn’t be here if it was. There’s something going on in Orlais. Too many questionable deaths that are starting to spark rumors; and it leads me to believe that something is brewing behind the veil.” He smiled apologetically, “I am sorry to have to reactivate you, Alistair. You know that right? If I had any other choice, I would leave you and Lana to your lives. But, right now, I just don’t have the manpower available to bring in a proper sized crew for this. If I’m only going to have one person at my back--I’d rather have you. You’re the best I’ve got.”

 

“Now you’re just trying to butter me up.”

 

“Flattery is one thing, but this is truth. I should have at least five Warden’s for this clean up. Not only are we crossing the veil to deal with the darkspawn, we’ve got to soothe the general populace of Orlais too. We’re stretched pretty thin right now. I need someone who knows the area, who’s quick on their toes, not afraid to get their hands dirty, and someone who is just as good at talking circles around people as they are at keeping us both alive. I need-- you , Alistair.”

 

Alistair dipped his head at the complement, the tips of his ears flushing pink. “But not Lana?”

 

Duncan lowered his eyes and sighed with regret, “No, Alistair. I promised you that I would not reinstate her unless I had no other choice. She has suffered too much in our service, already. Her sensitivities--far greater than any of us could have predicted. I will not do that to her again; she has more than earned her respite.”

 

Alistair choked up remembering how battered and broken Lana became facing off against so much death, destruction, and hatred day after day. She was the reason he fought to break free of the order’s chains. To terminate--or rather, pause--their contracts in time. It was for her health and well being that he gave up the only life he’d ever wanted; and he would do it again in a heartbeat.

 

Lana meant the world to Alistair. She had since the day they met. It’d never been sexual, but he still needed her presence in his life; like oxygen. They were tied at the heart--family. When he was lost and felt alone, she was the one there; leading him forward; comforting him--or kicking him in the ass--depending on what he needed most.

 

When her health began to decline and her mind began to splinter from the strain of their burden, he could have fought to just have her released. He could have remained behind and continued serving the Wardens himself, but separating from her was as unthinkable as chopping off his own hand. They were a team, two parts of the same whole, and he’d long ago accepted that.

 

“Thank you, Duncan.” He smiled gratefully, “Separating from the order has been so good for her; she is completely different now, more relaxed and genuinely happy. I wouldn't want to take that from her either. Even for a short while.”

 

Duncan nodded in understanding. From the moment he recruited Lana and introduced her to Alistair, there was a connection between the two of them. He used to secretly hope that Alistair and Lana would find a romantic connection together. Sometimes, however, history is doomed to repeat itself. It became apparent early on that Lana and Alistair’s relationship was to be as his was with Fiona. A bond in arms; family-by-heart. Content, happy together, and ultimately devoted to each other’s safety and well being; but beyond that, there was never anything more.

 

Duncan would have gladly taken Fiona’s place in her final battle if he could have. His Commander, at the time, ordered him to a fight elsewhere when he sent her into the Deep Roads to face a darkspawn invasion. A rare excursion separating the two battle veterans. It turned out to be her last. Duncan often wondered if she would have survived, if he’d been allowed to be where he belonged--fighting at her back. But that was a question that could never be answered.

 

When she perished, he almost didn’t survive himself. He was so broken hearted and lost without her. If it weren’t for Alistair still needing him, Duncan would have given up long ago, he owed it to her to carry on. He may not have Fiona any longer, but he still has the closest thing to a son, he’s ever known.

 

Oh, Fiona. You would love the man he’s grown into! You’d be so proud of him. He’s strong, smart, handsome, and battle bonded to his own headstrong, elven mage.

 

Alistair could tell that Duncan was traveling down a dark path with his thoughts. Bringing him back to the present, he asked, “So, when will we be leaving?”

 

“I’d like to leave as soon as possible. Today , actually, if you’d let me tear you away. But I realize you have a business to run and may need to find coverage.”

 

Alistair nodded, “I’m sure I can get Zevran to cover for me and if we’re not bringing Lana, that will leave her and Leli here to watch over things while I’m away.”

 

“Will you be ready to leave tonight?” Duncan asked, sounding anxious.

 

“Actually… I need to say goodbye to someone first. It’s-- he’s-- important to me. I would prefer to leave at first light--if we have the time to spare.” Alistair was studiously watching Duncan for his reaction. He noticed the surprised expression and raised eyebrow before it was replaced with a genuine smile.

 

“I hadn't realized that you’d met someone. Does he know what you do when you're not pouring drinks?”

 

Alistair smiled, “He does, but before you start preaching to me about our oath of secrecy, you should know that he is a true -Templar--or at least was; before he left the order. And, he’s had dealings with Wardens before, so our purpose isn’t unknown to him either. I’m not sure what happened, but whatever it was, it wasn’t pleasant for him.” Alistair sighed as he thought about his lover’s PTSD; thankful that he had recovered so much from his days of needing Dorian on a daily basis.

 

“I only know of one former Templar that had the sight. Templars leaving the order are about as rare as Warden’s retiring, you know.” Duncan winked at Alistair. “Would this new interest of yours happen to be named, Rutherford?”

 

Alistair’s eyes widened, “You've met him?”

 

Duncan carefully cleared his face to reveal nothing. “I have not. I only know him by reputation and from what I’ve heard, he is an honorable and good man.” It wasn’t his place to tell Alistair if Cullen hadn’t told him already. As Lana’s Commander, Duncan read the full report, but never met the man himself. He found it even more interesting that it seemed Lana was keeping the secret as well. He would have to remember to ask her about it later.  

 

“He’s both,” Alistair sighed wistfully, “and so much more.”

 

“So tell me,” Duncan smirked, “does he treat you well? What does he do for a living, now that he has left the order? Is he deserving of you?”

 

“Are you asking as a Warden? Or as a Friend?” Alistair chuckled.

 

“I’m asking as someone who cares about your happiness.” He smiled affectionately, “I’m also asking because I know that your mother would have wanted me too, as your guardian and as your friend.”

 

“He is a detective now,” Alistair began, “and yes, Cullen treats me better than I ever thought I deserved. I can’t even begin to put into words how he makes me feel. As for if he’s deserving of me? I can’t even begin to know, but if it helps, Lana approves.”

 

Chuckling at Alistair’s flushed cheeks, Duncan said, “I’m sure she does.”

 

As if on cue, Alistair heard keys jingling in the lock followed by Lana and Leliana walking in.

 

“They’re disgustingly adorable together, I’ll give them that.” Lana said cheekily. “And you know I would have sent word to you directly if I thought they weren’t taking care of each other. Alistair only listens to me so much, after all.” She wrapped her arms around the old Warden, hugging him tightly. “It’s good to see you, Duncan.” Genuine affection heavy in her voice.

 

“It’s good to see you too, Lana. You are looking well. Married life seems to suit you.” He looked pointedly at Leliana, embracing her next, “I trust she’s not making your life too difficult, little nightingale?”

 

“Only every day, and worth every minute of it!” Leliana grinned.

 

Lana sat next to Duncan, getting right down to business. “So, how long are you going to have him for?”

 

Duncan replied, “I don’t see this taking any longer than three weeks. But you never know with these things. I will have him back as soon as possible; I promise you.”

 

“You’ll make sure that he behaves himself, takes his vitamins, and eats regularly?”

 

“Yes, Lana, I will. And I promise not to let him do any of the cooking either.”

 

“You guys do realize that I’m standing right here, don’t you? You sound like you’re discussing your shared visitation rights and I’m the child in question.” He shook his head laughing.

 

“Well, you are my favorite man-child, Ali.” Lana said teasingly. “And you know, Cullen’s going to want to make sure you’re taking care of yourself as well. So I might as well get it out of the way now. That way you can focus on… other things when you see him.” She grinned wickedly, patting him on the cheek, then went about making arrangements to cover the bar while Alistair talked more with Duncan.

 

“Thank you for allowing me tonight, I really do appreciate it. Cullen and I have discussed me being needed periodically, so this won’t come as a complete surprise to him. He’s also aware that I won’t always have the luxury of being able to say goodbye in person, so… I’m sure he will appreciate this as well.”

 

“Now that I know, I will do my best to be able to give you fair warning. But you know, I’m not the only one that may come claim you.”

 

“I know, but thank you for this time all the same.” Alistair smiled and gripped Duncan’s shoulder. “You are welcome to my loft tonight. I’m assuming you haven’t made other arrangements since you were planning on us leaving straight away. Please make yourself at home. I will be back before first light--I promise.”

 

He started to walk away, then turned back with a smirk, “I’d offer you a key, but as you said, there’s not a lock in all of Thedas that can keep you out. Though I would like to see you try to get into Cullen’s Jeep… just once.” He chuckled then hugged his friend one last time before excusing himself to head upstairs to prepare.

 

~*~

 

Alistair packed his travel satchel, finished prepping and polishing his armor and long sword, and was working on his daggers when Lana came in and sat next to him.

 

“You ok, Hun?” she asked tentatively, wrapping one arm around his waist.

 

He leaned into her. “You know better than anyone how I’m doing. I’m ok enough with the mission. It’s never the same without you at my back, but Duncan isn’t a bad second choice to work with. He’s a bit larger to try to protect though.” He grinned and ruffled her hair. “You’re so tiny, I could just put you in my pocket to hide you from all the bad guys.” He laughed at the old joke they shared as she smacked him in the shoulder. Truth be told, Lana never really needed protecting in battle. She was actually quite fearsome to behold, which always made Alistair grateful that she was on his side.

 

Knowing that he’d be going into battle without his favorite healer and security blanket, made him realize how much he was going to miss Cullen as well. They’d prepared for the fact that he’d have to cross the veil again at some point, but for the first time, Alistair thought about what that would mean for them logistically. There’s no communication across the veil. Alistair wouldn’t know if he was safe while he was gone. Nor would Cullen know if something were to happen to him . It was a very lonely feeling and bothered him more than he’d care to admit.

 

“You’re worried about not being able to check in with Cullen while you’re away?” It was more of statement than a fact.

 

Alistair sighed, “I am. I don’t want him to worry unnecessarily and you know I’ll be worrying about him as well. I just wish there was some way we could communicate while I’m gone.”

 

“The veil plays havoc on electronics; you know that.”

 

“I do. Makes me wish someone would invent a mechanical phone that could pass through. Hey! Why don’t you work on that while I’m away? That would be swell, thanks!” He smiled, wrapping an arm around her shoulders. His playful tone put away, replaced with resignation and… sadness, “Will you… keep watch over him for me while I’m gone?”

 

Lana nodded. “You know that you don’t need to ask. I’ll even make sure no one sits in his seat at the bar while you’re gone.” She winked.

 

“If I… um. Could you do me another favor while I’m gone?” He blushed as he hesitated.

 

Lana’s grin grew wider as she responded before he could finish his question, “Of course I’ll continue to send Cullen his weekly rose in your absence. Monday morning deliveries, blessed by yours truly, as if you never left. You are a cheesy romantic, you know that?” she teased. “You need to write the notes yourself though; I don’t think I could do your sentiment justice.”

 

He hugged her tightly and whispered into her hair, his voice choked with emotion, “Thanks, hun.”

 

“I’ll miss you too, you big sentimental lug. Be safe for me while you’re gone, okay? I won’t be there to heal you should anything happen. Take your potions with you too-- lots of potions, and probably your salve. I don’t want to lose you because you’ve gone and done something stupid like not pack enough healing potions, poultices, and bandages.”

 

“Yes, mother.” He replied affectionately, before adding with a sigh, “I know you’ll likely be the first to get any word should something happen during my trip. Will you pass on any information you get to him for me? He’s not a Warden and we’re not… married , so he doesn’t technically have any right to the information, but still. I would feel better knowing that he could be reassured somehow.”

 

Lana smiled. “There will be no need for any ominous messages, but you know I will share whatever I hear if it will help ease his heart about you. Speaking of, shouldn’t you be finishing up so you can get out of here to go see him? There are only so many hours between now and first light. Only so many positions the two of you can squeeze into such a short period of time. You better get started.”

 

She laughed as Alistair’s cheeks turned bright red, then removed the daggers from his grip and shooed him off, “I’ll finish these. Go write your notes then spend time with Cullen. I’m sure he’ll appreciate getting as much time with you as possible before you have to leave. And Alistair?”

 

He looked at her expectantly.

 

“Don’t worry; we’ll take care of him, just keep yourself safe.”

 

He wrapped his arms around her again and kissed her softly on her forehead. “What would I ever do without you?”

 

“Let’s not find out, shall we? Now scoot!” She chuckled and shoved him.

 

Alistair left five notes on the credenza, numbered consecutively. Duncan said they’d be gone a maximum of three weeks, but he didn’t want there to be a lapse in delivery if his mission ran longer. The spell on the vase, relied on the regular refreshers the roses provided. He knew it was silly, but besides the protection, sending Cullen a weekly rose and a note made him happy. He loved doing little things to let Cullen know that he was always on his mind.

 

At first, he worried that it was too cheesy or that Cullen wouldn’t appreciate these little affections, but one day in his office, Alistair noticed that Cullen had a drawer cleared out and dedicated to all the little things that he’d sent him. There was a bowl filled with all of the dried rose buds from previous weeks’ flowers and a box that contained all of the notes that he’d written him, cataloged by date of delivery.

 

He really is to be too good to be true.  

 

Content that he’d done all that he could to prepare for the journey, Alistair showered quickly, then headed over to the precinct to share the news. He knew Cullen would understand. They’d talked about this eventuality after all, but it still meant that they wouldn’t be together for several weeks and they’d become accustomed to seeing each other on a fairly regular basis.

 

This was new and unknown territory for them.

 

Alistair was really going to miss him.

 

Chapter Text

Cocktails & Cheese

Cullen and Alistair - A Modern Day AU

Chapter 22

Warden’s Oath Pt. 2 


 

 

Officer Jim was closest to the door when Alistair walked in. He did a double take, noting the lack of playfulness on his features. Remembering his manners, the young officer greeted him, “Mr. Theirin! It’s nice to see you again. Would you like me to get the boss for you?”

 

Alistair shook his head, “That’s ok, Jim.” he smiled, though it didn’t touch his eyes, “I think I can find my way--assuming he’s in his office, of course.”

 

Jim nodded, “He is. Just working on reports. Go on in, Sir.”

 

Alistair padded quietly over to the office, pausing just outside the closed door, he took a deep and knocked.

 

“Come in.” Came the gruff reply.

 

Well, here we go.

 

Shutting the door behind him, he approached the desk and flopped into the chair across from Cullen, draping one knee over the arm.

 

Cullen looked up and smiled, “Playing hooky again, love?” Then noting Alistair’s unusually serious expression, he cocked his head to one side, “What’s wrong?”

 

Ignoring the question, Alistair smiled at Cullen behind his desk. His look, both longing and wistful, “I could sit and watch you work all day.” Alistair began.

 

“You could, but I probably wouldn't get much done. You are quite distracting.” Cullen smiled, then noticed the underlying tension in Alistair’s shoulders, “So, are you going to tell me what’s going on? Or, am I going to have to guess?”

 

Alistair sighed, “Duncan’s in town; I've got orders.”

 

Taking a moment to think, Cullen walked around to the other side of the desk. “How long do we have before you leave?”

 

“He wanted to depart right away, but I convinced him to give us until morning.” Alistair took in the sight of Cullen leaning against the desk, his hard body relaxed and comfortable, his gaze intense. He wanted to remember everything about him. From the shine of his shoes to his impeccably pressed suit to the adorable quirk of his half smile, which only made the scar on his lip beg to be kissed. These were the images he wanted to take with him when he entered the fade.

 

Cullen smiled reassuringly, “Well we knew this would happen sooner or later. I know most of your work is secret, but is there anything you can share with me about this mission? How long you’ll be gone perhaps?”

 

Alistair stood and wrapped his arms around Cullen’s waist, “All I can tell you, is that we’re heading to Orlais and that I should expect to be gone up to three weeks. I've prepared for five, but I'm hoping to come home sooner.” He smiled coyly before pressing his lips to Cullen's; soft, supple, perfectly molding to his own. “Mmm I'm really going to miss those while I'm gone.” He admitted breathlessly.

 

“Me too.” Cullen responded with his hands resting on Alistair’s hips, their foreheads touching. “At least we have tonight. We won’t always get this time for a proper goodbye.”

 

“No, probably not. I, for one, am thankful for this.” He ran his hands up and down Cullen’s back, savoring the feel of his muscles beneath his shirt. He suddenly chuckled.

 

“What's so funny?”

 

“Duncan actually did a double take when I asked for extra time. He was surprised when I told him about you. He may have given up hope for me ever finding someone with how he reacted. Then... the interrogation started.” Alistair finished with a wink.

 

“Oh? How so?”

 

“Oh you know, the usual parental questions. He wanted to know what you did, if you treated me well, if I was happy.”

 

Cullen quirked a smile,  “I hope I passed the test.”

 

“With flying colors.”

 

“Will I be meeting him before you leave?”

 

Alistair shook his head, “Probably not. I know he’d like to meet you, but sadly, there isn’t time and I don’t really want to share you tonight. Call me selfish.” Alistair shrugged, “You will though, when I’m not being swept away to save the world… again.”

 

“A Warden’s work is never done. You’ll have Duncan with you though, at least I’ll know you’ll be safer with someone who cares about you at your back.” Cullen was being more understanding than Alistair dared to hope for.

 

“Duncan’s been doing this a long time. Other than Lana, there's no other Warden I would rather have with me wading into battle.”

 

“So, if it isn’t that, what is it about this mission that’s bothering you?”

 

Alistair paused and pondered the question, then grinned, “You are too damn perceptive for your own good, Detective.” He chuckled.

 

“You don’t like secrets anyway, so out with it. What has you so tense?” He ran his hands expertly over Alistair’s trapezius muscles, gently massaging them enough to show their tension had been noted.

 

Alistair took a deep breath then blew it out slowly. He melted into Cullen’s chest and tried to relax the offending muscles that had given him away. He finally admitted, “We will be separated by the veil while I’m gone. I will have no way to contact you; no way to let you know I’m okay, to see how you’re doing or even to just let you know that I’m thinking about you. Not being able to check in with you for so long is going to drive me crazy.” He laughed ruefully. “I've never had anyone waiting for me to get back before--except Mother Natalie, but she doesn't really count, and Lana doesn’t come with me anymore.”

 

“Lana's not going with you?” Cullen seemed surprised.

 

“No. They will only reactivate her, if there are no other options. She’s safe from that life--for now. She’ll be staying here, to watch over the bar with Zev and Leli.”

 

Cullen nodded, “I can’t say that I’m looking forward to the radio silence, but I have faith. We’ll make it through.”

 

“I know we will.” Alistair whispered in response, holding Cullen tightly.

 

“Hey,” Cullen murmured into Alistair’s ear. Just because we won’t be able to talk while you’re gone, doesn’t mean that I can’t send you off with a reminder of how much you mean to me.”

 

“Well… that is kind of what I was hoping for when I asked to spend the whole night with you.” Alistair winked lasciviously. “I want to feel it for a few days at least.”

 

Chuckling, Cullen tightened his arms around Alistair, then kissed the tip of his nose, “Well, that goes without saying--once I get you home, that is. But for now, I want to give you something that’s suitably cheesy. I think you’ll approve.”

 

“Oh?” Alistair asked,“You know there’s nothing I like more than a bit of cheese. It happens to be one of my all time favorite things--next to you of course.”

 

“Yes… I know. It’s nice to know that I rank higher than cheese.” Cullen laughed, “close your eyes.”

 

Alistair quirked an eyebrow, kissed the scar on Cullen’s lip, then closed his eyes.

 

“Put out your hand.” Cullen whispered against his cheek before kissing it gently. He felt Alistair raise his left hand--palm up--as he was instructed.

 

Pulling his lucky token from his pocket, Cullen placed the old worn coin in the palm of Alistair’s hand. “My… brother gave me this, on the day I left for Templar training. I think it was just a simple coin he happened to have in his pocket at the time, but he told me it was for luck. I’ve… carried it with me ever since. Through all I’ve experienced, everything I’ve endured, I’ve somehow managed to prevail.” Taking a deep breath, he added, “I don’t know exactly what you’ll be walking into; a little luck can’t hurt.”

 

Alistair looked at the small silver coin in the palm of his hand. The image of Andraste almost fully worn away from years of worry and use. “Cullen I… I don’t know what to say. Thank you!”

 

“It’s not too cheesy then?” Cullen’s almost bashful expression began to melt away.

 

“There is no such thing as too cheesy. Especially when it comes to you!” Alistair pulled Cullen in for a deep kiss, their hands still clasped together around the coin.

 

Parting from their kiss, Alistair’s eyes were shining with emotion. This was the first tangible item that Cullen had given him. They knew that they loved each other. Alistair never felt the need to keep something solid with him as a reminder. Knowing that he would be leaving for several weeks and be unable to have any contact with Cullen at all, made him appreciate the coin in ways he never thought possible.

 

Kissing Cullen’s fingers still wrapped around his fist, Alistair whispered, “I will keep it safe, always.”

 

Cullen gently wiped away the single tear that collected in the corner of Alistair’s eye, then kissed the spot his finger dusted over, “Good. I know it’s foolish but... I’m glad.”

 

They held each other tightly as they reveled in their shared affections. Resting his forehead against Alistair’s, Cullen whispered, “Please… promise me that you’ll keep yourself safe, and fight like hell to come back to me. If you do that, I will wait for you for as long as it takes.”

 

“I can handle that. I have luck on my side now, remember?” Alistair smiled softly.

 

“That’s less comforting than I hoped it would be.”

 

“I’m going to miss you terribly, you know. We may need to take a vacation once I get back. So we can uh... make up for lost time.” That telltale mischievous glint was back in his eyes.

 

“I may hold you to that.” Cullen grinned then added with his own mischievousness. “Let’s get out of here. I want to spend as much time with you as I can before you leave; with as little clothes on as possible.” Cullen breathed heatedly before sealing his lips to Alistair’s once more.

 

~*~

 

Leaving work early, Cullen took Alistair by the hand and led him out of the building. He didn’t stop to explain to his team or bid them a goodbye. His expression, as they left, enough to still the tongues of even his most snarky officers. He knew he had only this night to spend with Alistair and he was determined to make the most of it.

 

Cullen took his time, solidifying into memory Alistair’s body under his, the moans escaping his mouth as he gave in to his desire, and the scent of sweat and sex as it permeated the room. Their lovemaking was slow and sweet. Every touch and caress, filled with as much love and adoration as he could put into them. His kisses driven by desperation--not knowing when he’d get the chance to be with Alistair again.

 

Their passions were insatiable, only stopping briefly to eat when Mr. Chen delivered their dinner. They couldn’t get enough of each other. It would be their last time for awhile, so they were determined to enjoy as much of each other as possible. When their bodies needed rest, they lay together caressing, touching, kissing; until they were ready to go again. At some point, Cullen realized that they would both likely be sore afterwards. Showing Alistair how much he loved him made the potential for any future aches, completely worth it.  

 

Cullen began to drift off shortly before dawn. He was laying on his back gazing into Alistair’s eyes, completely sated and content. He was wrapped comfortably in his arms, the sweet smell of Alistair permeating the room and his taste still fresh on his tongue. With the last of his conscious energy, he reached his hand up and gently brushed Alistair’s cheek. “Not tired yet, sweetheart?” Cullen asked, his voice heavy with exhaustion.

 

“I’d like to claim that it’s my Warden stamina that has me still awake and not starting to doze with you. But you have managed to drain even the last of that reserve.” He smiled and brushed a curl from Cullen’s forehead, “I just… don’t want to miss a moment of this. Duncan can drive while I sleep for the first part of our journey. You, however, need to be at work in a few hours. You should sleep.”

 

Cullen mumbled, losing his battle, “You just like watching me sleep.”

 

Alistair’s lips quirked as Cullen’s eyes closed. Pulling him to his chest, he whispered, “I do at that. Sleep well, my love. I will be home before you know it.” He kissed Cullen’s forehead as he began to relax into sleep.

 

Cullen managed a faint, “I love you, Alistair. Please stay safe.” before his breathing deepened and evened out, having completely lost his battle with consciousness.

 

Alistair whispered back, “I love you too, Cullen. I’ll miss you.”

 

~*~

 

Cullen woke a couple of hours later to an empty bed, with only a note and a single rose on his nightstand. His body ached in the most delicious ways, his heart full enough to carry him through, no matter how long this mission would take. Smiling at the gifts, he picked up the rose, bringing it close to inhale its scent as he read the note.

 

My Dearest Cullen,

 

            I wish I didn’t have to leave you. I am thankful that you understand duty and obligation. It makes having to go, that much easier. I will be thinking of you often while I’m away. Please try not to worry. I know that’s easier said than done--believe me. I will be back home again before you know it. Thank you for an amazing night and thank you for entrusting me with your lucky coin. I will cherish it always.

 

                                                All my love,

 

                                                            ~Alistair~

 

~*~

 

The first day with Alistair gone trudged along painfully slow in his sleep deprived state. Cullen knew that they would be spending the whole day traveling, so he wasn’t yet worried for Alistair’s safety. He felt his absence greatly though, as if a vital piece of himself was missing.

 

Cullen decided to head to the chantry for comfort after work. There wasn’t much he could do to aid Alistair in his quest, but adding a daily prayer for his safe return was certainly within his abilities. He hoped that it would bring them both some comfort and peace of mind.

 

When he arrived, Mother Natalie greeted him warmly. Then she took a closer look, “What’s wrong child? Is everything ok with Alistair?” She was nothing if not perceptive.

 

He smiled a bit wistfully and said, “He’s fine, for the moment. But he… he left this morning to--work away from home.” Cullen said cautiously, looking around to confirm that no one else was near enough to overhear their conversation.

 

“Ah, I see.” She said in understanding. “It is always difficult when he works at his ‘other’ job.” She linked her arm with Cullen’s as they proceeded toward the altar. “Do you mind if I sit with you awhile? I would like to say a prayer for him as well.”

 

Smiling, he nodded in acceptance. “I would like that. I plan on being here a lot more with him gone. I hope you don’t get sick of me.”

 

“You are always welcome here, child, and I will add my own prayers as well.” She offered to his smile of gratitude.

 

They lit their candles for Alistair then sat in companionable silence as they sent their silent prayers to the Maker and his bride. Before he left, Mother Natalie hugged him gently, “You have such a good heart, Knight-Commander. Alistair is very lucky to have you supporting him here on the homefront.”

 

“Thank you, Mother Natalie, for everything.” Cullen smiled sheepishly. “I will see you tomorrow.” He bid her farewell and headed over to the gym to try to distract himself further.

 

~*~

 

By the end of the day on Thursday, Cullen knew that he needed the familiarity of his old routine and friendly faces to make it through. If anyone felt Alistair’s absence and could commiserate with him, it would be Lana.

 

Walking into the bar after work and his quick visit to the chantry, he was met with the lilting voice of Leliana singing an old song about Grey Wardens. Sharing a smile with both women, he took his place at the end of the bar.

 

Lana handed him his drink, “I was wondering if you’d be visiting us while he was away. I’m glad that you’re here.” her smile was genuine and welcoming.

 

“Routines bring me comfort. And being here reminds me of… him.” Cullen took a sip of his whiskey and savored the smooth texture.

 

“You are always welcome here dear. We miss him too.” She smiled reassuringly as she laid her hand over the top of his. “Everything is as he left it upstairs; should you wish to stay. I know he wouldn’t mind at all.”

 

Cullen nodded his thanks as he worked on his drink.

 

Lana hesitated briefly before adding, “I want you to know, before he left… Alistair made me promise to let you know if I heard anything… work related.” She said cautiously.

 

His eyes widened in understanding, before nodding. “I would appreciate that. I know it’s… outside of regulation, but it helps to know that you’ll keep me in the loop. Thank you.”

 

“It’s my pleasure. You’re part of this little family too. We watch out for each other, don’t say I didn’t warn you.” She smirked before heading off to take care of her other customers.

 

~*~

 

The first week of Alistair’s mission passed without issue and Monday rolled around again. Cullen became used to receiving a package every Monday around ten a.m. He started getting wistful as the hour approached but knew that with Alistair away, he wouldn’t be receiving one. Looking at the rose on his desk that had already begun to wilt, Cullen sighed with longing. He missed Alistair dearly and wanted nothing more than to wrap his arms around him again.

 

A knock on his door brought him out of his wistful musings. Looking at the clock, he dimly noted the time and beckoned for his Lieutenant to enter.

 

Rylen always delivered the nondescript white box as if he didn’t know what it contained. When he entered, carrying the very familiar package, Cullen’s eyes lit up. He wondered if it meant that Alistair was back. Thanking his Lieutenant, he waited until he left before opening the box.

 

It was--as he’d expected--another rose for his little vase and a note folded neatly, written in Alistair’s handwriting.

 

My Beloved,

            I wish I could be delivering this rose in person. Letting you know that I am home again safe and sound. Unfortunately if you are reading this particular note, it means that I am still out on mission and unable to be there with you. Please know that I am thinking about you often and missing you terribly. Our first week apart is almost over and I hope that this rose will be a reminder of how much I love you and am no doubt wishing I could be with you, right now. Please be safe in my absence and I will endeavor to do the same for you.

                        Loving you Always,

 

                                    ~Alistair~

P.S.

            Thank you again for the coin, I had Lana fashion it into a pendant for me as soon as I got back to the bar. It hangs right over my heart, where you belong. (cheesy, I know) I miss you already. ~A~

 

Cullen sighed with longing as he picked up the rose and ran it across his lips. Not nearly as soft as Alistair’s, but it was the closest thing he had for the moment; it would have to do.

 

~*~

 

One week stretched into two. Cullen heard nothing from Alistair except for his two Monday roses and pre-written notes--the latter, he carried with him everywhere. He continued to visit the bar on Tuesdays and Thursdays, as he did in the beginning. The routine bringing him comfort and consistency which helped to sooth his worry. Seeing his friends and knowing that they hadn’t heard anything was reassuring. He chose to take that as a good sign and just did his best to remain patient.

 

On two occasions, when he was missing Alistair the most, Cullen took Lana up on her offer and stayed upstairs in the loft. It felt like him. He couldn't bring himself to sleep in the bed without Alistair, though, so he snuggled up on the oversized sofa with one of his pillows and watch their favorite movies. He knew it was cheesy, but that was the point. In his heart, he knew that Alistair would approve.

 

~*~

 

On the thirteenth day, Cullen was sitting at his desk filling out reports when his phone began to vibrate. Looking down at it, his face lit up as he read:

 

[14:35]          

Alistair:         Miss me?

 

Cullen:           Thank the Maker!

 

Alistair:         I'll take that as a yes.

 

Cullen:           Where are you?

 

Alistair:         Where would you like me to be?

 

Cullen:           Here, in my arms. The quicker the better!

 

Alistair:         Glad we’re on the same page with that. I just got home. Are you busy tonight?

 

Cullen:           Well… my favorite bartender just got back into town and unless he’s got other plans, we have some lost time to make up.

 

Alistair:         I like the sound of that. How early can you get out of there?

 

Cullen:           I’m just working on reports. For you, I will leave anytime.

 

Alistair:         Good. I will be there in thirty minutes to pick you up. I’ve missed you so much and can’t wait to see you.

 

Cullen:           I’ve missed you too. See you soon!

 

The next thirty minutes went by in a flash as Cullen finished a few quick reports, tidied up his desk, and let his mind wander about what exactly he wanted to do to Alistair first. His heart was racing as he checked his appearance in the mirror and waited with his door slightly ajar so he could hear when Alistair entered the outer office.

 

As he heard the first telltale, “Hello, Mr. Theirin, long time no see.” Cullen silently slipped behind the door to wait.

 

~*~

 

Alistair tapped his knuckles lightly on the door then slipped into the office, stopping when he reached the middle. He noted briefly the empty desk where he anticipated Cullen to be sitting. Before he could take in more than the missing Commander, he heard the door close and lock behind him. Smiling with excitement and anticipation, he turned slowly to find Cullen standing with his back against the office door, grinning at him with a relief laden smile.

 

He’d missed Cullen immensely. Hair perfectly molded to his head, curls straightened and held cleanly in place with styling product. Tan slacks, a burgundy button down shirt with a tan tie. His only accessories were his golden, Sword of Andraste tie tack, belt, and leather gun holster strapped around his shoulders as it always was while he worked. The sight of him, never failed to take Alistair’s breath away.

 

~*~

 

Looking Alistair up and down, Cullen took in the sight before him. Relaxed blue jeans and a form fitting black t-shirt, hair spiked in perfect disarray while his eyes twinkled with affection and mischief. It was a look that never failed to warm his heart and weaken his knees. The near two weeks away, only compounding the effects he had on him.

 

“You are a sight for sore eyes. I thought I wouldn’t get to see you for at least another week.” Cullen closed the space between them, gently snaking his arms around Alistair, holding him close--breathing him in.

 

Alistair admitted, “Let’s just say, I was motivated to finish the job early.”

 

“Oh yeah? What exactly was your motivation? No cheese behind the veil?” Cullen’s words were playful.

 

“Do you really have to ask?” Alistair nuzzled his face into the crook of Cullen’s neck while he ran his hands up and down his back, humming in contentment.

 

After several precious moments holding one another, Cullen pulled back just far enough to be able to take a good long look at Alistair. Other than a recently healed cut under his left eye, he seemed to be fine. Cupping Alistair’s face, pressed his lips to the new scar, “You seem to be mostly intact. Anything I need to be particularly gentle with?”

 

Alistair shook his head, “No, sweetheart. Lana’s already given me the once over and healed what she could. I am just fine.”

 

“Good to know.” Cullen said with barely contained relief. Unable to hold back any longer, his eyes flicked down to Alistair’s lips before claiming them. They connected with a sigh of contentment, completeness, of being home. Their tongues dancing together, relearning and memorizing the taste and feel of each other. Hands and arms holding on tightly, unwilling to let go.

 

As he clung to Alistair, their kisses grew more heated. Alistair was home and safe, and a very feral part of Cullen wanted to feel him in the most intimate of ways. He needed the reassurance that he wasn’t dreaming.

 

Spinning them both around, he pushed Alistair up against his office door with a small thump. Pressing their bodies even closer together, he ground his arousal up against the similar bulge in Alistair’s jeans. Their kisses were intense and beautiful.

 

Sweet Maker I’ve missed this!

 

“Mmm.” Cullen grunted as he pressed their bodies tighter together. Feeling his desire reflected in Alistair, he contemplated behaving until they could get to someplace more private. “Maybe we should get out of here before we… Sweet Maker, you are…”

 

“All yours, Commander.” Alistair grinned cheekily then added as a half-hearted dare, “The door’s locked, blinds are drawn, and we’re all alone, whatever will you do with me?”

 

Cullen chuckled darkly. He knew Alistair was bluffing and didn’t expect him to do anything inappropriate while at work. The thought of breaking free from his usually proper demeanor, spun Cullen’s mind with wantonness. He ran his nose up Alistair’s neck, breathing him in then flicked his tongue across his ear, earning him a low throaty moan. “I have many things I’d love to do to you once I get you home, my love. But for now...” He left the thought hanging as he began to kiss his way down Alistair’s perfect body.

 

He lifted Alistair’s shirt, allowing him to circle his tongue around each nipple before descending lower. Cullen’s knees hit the floor as he began to work Alistair’s jeans open.

 

Alistair gasped, “Cullen… are you sure you want to do that… here?” To say that Alistair sounded surprised was an understatement.

 

Grinning mischievously into Alistair’s lust blown eyes, Cullen whispered, “Shhh, my love, just don’t let them hear you.” Then pulled Alistair’s jeans down to his thighs, freeing his bulging cock from its confines. Licking his lips, he wasted no time in taking Alistair into his mouth.

 

Letting his head rest gently against the door, Alistair whispered, “Maker’s breath!” as Cullen lavished love on his throbbing cock. His back pressed firmly against the cool wood, he held perfectly still, trying to stifle the sounds that Cullen was cruelly coaxing from him. He wasn’t making it easy. Needing something to do with his hands, Alistair gripped Cullen’s hair, freeing it from its product, releasing his curls so he could run his fingers through it and grip it tightly. Alistair pulled and pushed him where he wanted him most; simultaneously setting the pace while surrendering completely.

 

Cullen moaned softly, as he enjoyed the feeling of Alistair’s hands through his hair. Looking up as he lavished attentions on Alistair with his tongue, Cullen’s breath hitched at how incredibly beautiful he looked; head thrown back in pleasure, eyes closed, bottom lip held securely between his teeth as he tried to stifle the moans that Cullen was pulling from him.

 

He is breathtaking!

 

Cullen gripped the velvety smooth shaft with his hand as he tasted, sucked, and tongued the rigid rod before him. Then he began to stroke in earnest. Licking his way from base to tip then back down again, he lubricated the length with his saliva. Taking one testical gently inside his mouth, then the other, he rolled them around and savored each while his hand continued to stroke Alistair’s length.

 

Cullen tasted the fluid’s leaking freely from the tip of Alistair’s cock. He savored the tangy saltiness he missed so much while Alistair was gone. Moaning quietly with his own pleasure, he wrapped his lips around Alistair’s cock and swallowed as much of his considerable length as he was able. His hands never pausing in their stroking, Alistair’s hips thrusting in unison.

 

He only had a moment’s warning when Alistair’s body tensed in ecstasy; hot come splashing deep inside Cullen’s throat. He very happily swallowed it all. As Alistair shuddered through his release, Cullen coaxed every last drop from within him.

 

~*~

 

Panting with surprise and elation, Alistair tried to wrap his mind around what just happened. As he fought to regain his composure, Cullen tucked him carefully back into his pants and refastened them into place.

 

Standing to his full height, Cullen looked quite pleased with himself, “Welcome home, sweetheart.” He said before leaning in and kissing him deeply.

 

Alistair was having trouble focusing on the evil standing before him. He still managed to smile, sated before declaring, “You are… a wicked, wicked man, my love…” He panted breathlessly as he added, “Maker’s breath, but I’ve missed you.”

 

Chuckling, Cullen admitted, “I missed you too. Don’t think I’m done with you yet though. I can’t wait to get you home so we can do this properly.” He pulled Alistair’s shirt back down and attempted to straighten their clothes to hide all traces of what they’d just been doing. “In fact, I think we should hurry. It seems so wrong for me to be re-dressing you when all I want is have you naked next to me.”

 

Cullen made sure that Alistair was standing solidly on his own before he stood back and tried to straighten his own suit, adjusting himself to be more comfortable in his usually loose fitting slacks. Grabbing his blazer, Cullen buttoned it to try to hide his obvious arousal. He brushed off his knees and ran his fingers through his hair to put some semblance of order into the unruly curls that’d been set free.

 

He reached for the handle of the door that Alistair was still leaning against. “Coming?” He asked, but Alistair was only able to nod slowly, completely at a loss for words for once in his life. His mouth unable to verbalize the single thought running through his head.

 

I just did, thank you!

 

Stepping out of the office, they were greeted with grins and applause from the officers in the room. None of them were working, instead they were sitting on their desks or in their chairs facing Cullen’s office door.

 

Was that money exchanging hands?

 

They all knew that Alistair had been away on business, and though their Commander hadn’t exactly been short tempered with them over the last couple of weeks, they definitely noted the lack of spring in his step that they’d come to find familiar since they got together.

 

With Alistair’s return, Officer Jim made the rounds to announce it once Cullen’s office door was closed. As they gathered, the on staff crime-reporter and media liaison, Varric, began taking bets on whether or not their Commander would wait to uh… reconnect… until they’d gotten home.

 

The telltale thump against the office door, followed by their goofy-grinned appearance, and the Commander’s usually neat hair looking free and untamed, left the officers no question as to their in-office activities.

 

A couple of wolf whistles later; Cullen and Alistair fled the building hand in hand--faces red with embarrassment. Their laughter trailing behind them as they raced toward the safety of the apartment. There was lost time to be made up after-all.

 

 

Chapter Text

Cocktails & Cheese

Cullen and Alistair - A Modern Day AU

Chapter 23

Broken Bottle Part 1


 

Cullen arrived at the train station to collect Dorian and his husband, Iron Bull. They were coming into town to celebrate their thirteenth anniversary.

 

As they climbed into the Jeep, Dorian asked, “So, where are we going first, Amatus?”

 

Cullen and Dorian smirked at Bull’s low playful growl. It was an old game of theirs; Dorian would call Cullen by his pet-name for Bull and said husband would pretend to get jealous. They’d been doing it so long, that it was more habit than anything, but the Pavuses enjoyed the game, so Cullen endured--for their benefit.

 

Focusing on the question at hand, Cullen responded, “I’m taking you to Alistair’s first to celebrate the two of you putting up with each other for as long as you have--and so Bull can finally meet Alistair, Lana, and Leliana. Then, when you've had your fill of our hospitality, I will take you to your hotel where you can have your own private celebration.”

 

“Hotel?” Bull exclaimed, “I thought we were staying at your place.” He turned his whole body to better see Cullen. His left eye was covered with a black patch--having been lost in battle, long ago.

 

Dorian scoffed, “No, Love. Cullen has an aversion to us sleeping at his house. Something about us breaking his bed the last time.”

 

“We bought him a new one!” Bull exclaimed.

 

“That’s what I told him! And with as snuggly as he’s been with his hot little redhead lately, I assumed that he’d let us reacquaint ourselves with his apartment.”

 

“Mmmm redhead.” Bull growled and was promptly smacked lightly in the back of his head.

 

“Hey, watch it, Amatus. I might start to think that you’d prefer a redhead to little ol’ me. You wouldn’t want me to get self-conscious now would you?”

 

Bull practically purred, “I don’t know, Kadan. Watching you wriggle and squirm as I show you just how much I treasure you, is one of my favorite things to do.”

 

“You think I’ll let you touch me after that comment? I think, perhaps, I may just take what I want and leave you tied to the bed--begging for mercy.”

 

“Mmmercy.” Bull rumbled, clearly enjoying their little quarrel.

 

Cullen chuckled at their antics, catching Bull’s attention, “I sure hope your sweet-ass redhead is as feisty as Dorian. It keeps life interesting and it’s a hell of a lot more fun when they keep you on your toes.”

 

Cullen’s chuckles turned to laughter which dissolved into hiccups and giggles as he tried to reign it in.

 

Dorian and Bull stopped and stared in stunned silence. The Cullen they knew was calm and reserved, serious almost to a fault. He was methodical, analytical, and definitely not prone to fits of giggles. No... this new Cullen was loose, carefree, and jovial in his demeanor. Happy.

 

When he finally caught his breath, Cullen quipped, “Oh, Alistair is certainly feisty and definitely keeps me on my toes.” He paused for effect before adding with a wink, “Or knees when the situation warrants it.”

 

The matching shocked looks was totally worth it. Enjoying the change in who was making whom uncomfortable, Cullen indulged further. “Not that we’ve chosen a favorite position yet. We’ve thoroughly enjoyed all that we’ve tried so far: standing, sitting, kneeling, prostrate, supine, upside down… mmmm the things my redhead can do upside down.”

 

He grinned evilly at Bull’s open-mouthed expression, “Y’know, I've been thinking about installing one of those swings in the bedroom. Have you tried one yet? ...  Oh wait! That's right--you broke yours.”

 

Dorian actually began to sputter as Bull glared over his shoulder, “You told him about that?”

 

“I did try to warn you that I thought you were too much man for it. I just wanted to get a second opinion!” Dorian explained calmly.

 

Cullen laughed at Bull’s look of indignance. He knew their favorite kind of sex was makeup sex, so he was just helping them get there. He decided to give Bull a little more fuel for the fire, “I should probably warn you about tonight. I’m taking you into temptation. Two redheads, in one place. Think you’ll be able to control yourself?”

 

“Two redheads?”

 

“Dorian didn’t tell you? Leliana has red hair as well.”

 

“Fuck… me!” Bull exclaimed with a unique mix of excitement and despair.

 

“No dear, that is Dorian’s job. Speaking of… you’ll want to be on your best behavior tonight. I wouldn’t want you to do anything that might interfere with some of the little extras that Alistair and I have provided for you in your room. You know how much Dorian loves his surprises, especially when there are presents involved.” He looked into the backseat and grinned at Dorian who was practically bouncing with excitement.

 

“Oooh Prezzies! You shouldn’t have!” Dorian beamed. “Well ok, yes, you really should. What are friends for, after all?”

 

Bull groaned in resignation and excited anticipation, “So… what hotel will we be staying at?”

 

Cullen grinned, happy to be able to do something this generous for his best friend. Dorian was there for him when he was at his lowest. Though it started as a professional relationship--Doctor and patient--their friendship grew as they worked together to piece Cullen’s life together again.

 

It was Dorian that helped him see that he had other choices besides serving the Chantry; that he was more than just the obedient man behind the mantle. It was with Dorian’s encouragement, that Cullen learned to find happiness and contentment within himself. And finally, it was Dorian’s gentle persuasion that gave Cullen the courage to approach Alistair as more than just a customer. He owed Dorian so much, and spoiling him on their anniversary was just the beginning of what he wanted to do to repay him.

 

The silence stretched on and Dorian grunted in the backseat, growing impatient with Cullen’s internal musings.

 

He laughed heartily as he relented, “Ok… all right, I’ll spill!” He rolled his eyes then confessed, “Alistair arranged for you to stay at--The Theirin.” He waited for the full realization to hit. Seeing Dorian gape, Cullen winked before turning to Bull who seemed unaware of what that actually meant. “They have rooms there designed with your particular size and… appetite in mind. We picked up your keys earlier today and once we’re done helping you celebrate at Alistair’s; I will drop you both off so you can see what sorts of… gifts we’ve left you.”

 

Dorian’s face lit up at the mention of the famous landmark, finally finding his words, he gushed, “You got us into the Theirin? That is the ritziest hotel in Denerim! I can’t wait to see what our room looks like! Can we go there first? Can we, puhleeze?”

 

Cullen shook his head, “Nope, sorry. I am to bring you straight to the pub so you can experience their Wild Weekends.” At the confused looks he got, he elaborated, “It’s a much different feel than when you were here last, Dorian. Not my usual crowd, but I do enjoy stopping in occasionally--for the show.” He then looked pointedly at Bull, “I think you’ll really enjoy it. It’s loud, boisterous, and over the top… a bit like you, big guy.” Cullen smacked Bull’s shoulder playfully as Dorian stifled a chuckle in the backseat.

 

“What kind of show will we be watching?” Bull asked curiously.

 

“Oh, it’s nothing extravagant, just my deliciously hot redhead and a sexy little elf dancing provocatively together. They can do so many amazing things as they show off their talents with phallic shaped objects.”

 

Cullen wasn’t disappointed with Bull’s reaction: his mouth was hanging open and his one eye wide, showing white all around his ice blue iris. If he left him like that for much longer, he wouldn’t put it past Bull to start panting, or maybe drooling.

 

“Down boy!” Cullen chided, “It’s juggling bottles of booze--mostly--but they dance and move so well together that it can be… very erotic. Then again, that may just be me watching Alistair.” He finished with a slight flush to his cheeks and a smile on his lips.

 

Trying to get their conversation back on track, Cullen said, “If I took you to your room first, you wouldn’t want to leave again. This way, we get to hang out with you before you sequester yourselves. You’ll be staying in the Qunari honeymoon suite, by the way. I think you’ll find it… more than adequate. It has an extra sturdy bed so the two of you are less likely to break it.” Cullen chuckled again, “Don’t take that as a challenge! Alistair pulled some family strings to get you this room and he really doesn’t like to throw his name around. So don’t abuse it. Please--for me?”

 

“Yes, Dear,” they said in unison.

 

The rest of the short ride was spent in silence with Dorian resting his hand comfortably on Bull’s shoulder while rubbing tiny circles with his thumb. It was an old habit that Cullen found endearing. No matter how much they bickered and gave each other shit, they were completely content and at peace when they were together.

 

Watching them together, knowing how close they were in spite of--or perhaps, because of--all the trials and tribulations they’d been through; made Cullen hopeful for his future with Alistair. He never thought he’d have what his best friend did. A small part of him still didn’t think he deserved it, but that voice was growing quieter over time. He was finally allowing himself to hope.  

 

~*~

 

Alistair and Zevran were dancing along with the music, flipping bottles and twirling dexterously as the trio entered the bar. Cullen led his friends over into his corner which was the only place large enough for the three of them to stand together in the crowded room. Cullen sat on his usual barstool while Dorian stood next to him and Bull loomed a full head over them from behind.

 

Cullen watched the show with a huge smile on his face. He loved the way Alistair moved, so fluid in space as if the world itself was conforming to his motions. His body undulating to the music, his hands and bottles creating their own beats while he and Zevran played off each other’s strengths as well as their audience’s desires. Each toss, twirl and catch more elaborate than the last.

 

As Cullen sat there, appreciating the view, Bull leaned in and shouted to be heard over the din in the room. “Hey, Cullen! He’s fucking hot!”

 

Alistair had just tossed two bottles into the air. They were spinning ass over tip as he was twirling in his own clockwise circle--when Bull’s voice shook him from his concentration. Barely catching one bottle, he dove towards the other in an uncoordinated attempt to rescue it from its plummet.

 

He missed.

 

I actually missed!?

 

As the glass shattered harmlessly behind the bar, the band stopped playing--blanketing the whole room in deafening silence.

 

Alistair’s face flushed crimson as he exclaimed, “Damnit!”

 

Cullen started laughing.

 

Climbing on top of the bar, Zevran accepted a microphone from one of the musicians and addressed the crowd, “Well… well… well--ladies and gentlemen--it appears that you are in for a rare treat tonight!”

 

The crowd cheered loudly.

 

Waiting for room to quiet, Zevran grinned at Alistair, who was picking his way over the broken glass toward Cullen’s end of the bar.

 

“For those that are new to Alistair’s House of Whine and Cheese--and more specifically to our Wild Weekends--my dearest Alistair and I have a little agreement regarding what happens should we ever…” Zevran dropped his voice an octave and finished ominously, “...drop a bottle.”

 

He looked pointedly at Alistair sitting on top of the bar, holding hands with Cullen. They looked too comfortable, smiling and waiting for the inevitable bidding to begin.

 

Zevran cackled from his perch on top of the bar while the crowd cheered. “The illustrious owner here hasn’t dropped a bottle in… how long has it been, dear Alistair? Come, come--tell the crowd how long of a streak you’ve enjoyed without dropping one… single… bottle.”

 

Alistair admitted quietly, “Two years.”

 

“What was that?” He held his hand cupped to his ear, “I don’t think everyone heard you.”

 

“It’s been just over two years since I’ve dropped a bottle.” Alistair said louder.

 

“Tsk, tsk. Two long years where we’ve been anxiously awaiting the boss man to fumble and grant us the opportunity to auction him off! Who wants to tell our newcomers what they are about to get the opportunity to bid for?”

 

As a whole, the crowd shouted, “A KISS!” which left Alistair smiling at Cullen with confidence. They had this. No problem.

 

Cullen wrapped his arms affectionately around Alistair’s waist as they sat there waiting for Zevran to finish priming the crowd. They were both laughing good naturedly at the whole situation, while Dorian and Bull watched the proceedings with interest.

 

Alistair leaned in, kissing Cullen tenderly. Gazing into each other’s eyes, they missed the look of mischievousness cross Zevran’s face.

 

They were brought from their confident cocoon by the sound of Zevran clicking his tongue into the microphone. “Who here thinks it would be fair for Alistair’s boyfriend to be able to bid on that kiss as well?”

 

The audience shouted their disagreement and Zevran had the nerve to grin evilly at them before addressing the crowd again.

 

“They look a little too cozy over there, don’t you think? Cullen gets that pleasure, so often, that I think it’s time he gave someone else a taste.”

 

The crowd went wild.

 

Alistair groaned, “Maker help me.”

 

Cullen stood and cupped Alistair’s face in his hands. He kissed him fully on the lips to cheers and wolf whistles from the crowd, then reassured him, loud enough for others to hear, “Go ahead, my love, pay your penance.” Then whispering softly in Alistair’s ear, “I know who you’ll be sleeping with later tonight.”

 

He winked, still smiling as he pulled Alistair to his feet and ushered him over to go stand next to Zevran on the bar.

 

Resigned to his fate, Alistair ran his hands through his hair and took the mic from Zevran, to address his patrons. “Ok, here are the rules. One kiss to the highest bidder - all proceeds will be donated to a charity of our choosing.”

 

He looked toward Cullen, “Since you’ve so graciously given me up to the masses, my love--thank you for that by the way--” The room erupted in laughter. He turned his attention back to the crowd, “I think Cullen should pick the charity that will be receiving the benefits of my foibles this evening.”

 

Chuckling, Cullen quickly glanced at Dorian then back towards Alistair, “The PTSD Research and Reintegration Study at the University of Denerim.”

 

Alistair nodded, then addressed the crowd again, “And so it shall be. Whether your heart lies with the important work our University researchers are undertaking regarding post-traumatic stress disorders or in claiming the rare honor of bidding on a kiss from yours truly, it’s time to offer up what you think either would be worth.”

 

Alistair handed the microphone back to Zevran to oversee the bidding. Smiling toward Cullen, he lowered his eyes then shook his head in disbelief.

 

Ok, here goes nothing.

 

Then the bids started coming in. Alistair tried to tamp down the flush creeping up his neck. Looking from face to face as the bids continued, he began to register just how high the bidding had become.

 

“Three hundred sovereigns from the lovely young lady in purple,” came Zevran’s astonished voice as more hands were raised and bids given.

 

A few shouts later, “Four hundred and fifty!” came the deep voice that got him in this predicament in the first place.

 

Alistair couldn’t help but laugh at Dorian’s expression of indignance before he threw out a bid himself, “Four hundred seventy-five!”

 

To which Bull countered, staring back at his husband, “Five hundred sovereigns!”

 

Cullen sat staring at his friends in disbelief, only a hint of a smile remained on his face as he quirked an eyebrow at them bidding on a kiss from his lover.

 

Thankfully another bid came in from Alistair’s left; an attractive young woman with black, shoulder length hair and light eyes shouted, “five hundred twenty-five!”

 

A tall, mousy looking man near the pool table bid five hundred and fifty sovereigns which was followed up by a red haired, elven male by the dartboard that bid six hundred.

 

Eventually the number of bidders died down and it was down to a bidding war between the raven haired human and the red haired elf. They were each determined to win the honor of his lips, but as the bidding hit eight hundred sovereigns, the elf put his palms up in supplication and bowed to the girl who outbid him.

 

Hugging her friend in excitement, she then pulled out a wad of cash and counted it out into Zevran’s waiting hand. As the crowd cheered, Zevran pulled her up onto the bar, and guided her into Alistair’s waiting arms.

 

 

Chapter Text

Cocktails & Cheese

Cullen and Alistair - A Modern Day AU

Chapter 24

Broken Bottle Part 2


 

As Cullen watched the bidding continue; he became aware of the the door opening to let in three new people. Two he recognized: Lana and Leliana. He didn’t recognize the behemoth of a man who stood scowling just inside the door, scanning the room like he was looking for someone specific.

 

Lana and Leliana made their way over to Cullen, “Sorry we’re late. We heard the cheering from outside as we were walking up, what’s going on? Did Zevran drop a bottle again?” Lana asked, amused.

 

Cullen shook his head, grinning from ear to ear, “No ma’am, tonight it was all Alistair.”

 

They looked at him in disbelief then up at Alistair before Leliana asked, “Why aren’t you bidding?”

 

He shrugged, admitting with a soft smile, “Zev tied my hands before we could even get started. The crowd decided, since I get to kiss him anyway, that I wasn’t allowed to play. So here we are, seven hundred sovereigns in and climbing .”  

 

Cullen stood and offered his stool to the ladies while they watched the rest of the auction unfold. He was getting a really bad read off the guy at the door and his instincts were telling him that he needed to be on his feet… just in case.

 

They all cheered as the raven-haired girl won the bidding. Eight hundred sovereigns was just raised for PTSD research and the winner was blushing as she climbed up onto the bar to face Alistair.

 

Cullen watched two things unfold simultaneously: Alistair held out his arms for the young woman--Dania, she said her name was. Tucking a stray hair behind her ear, Alistair leaned in and kissed her to the approving sounds from the crowd. For eight hundred sovereigns, he was making it worth her while.

 

Concurrently, the newest arrival seemed to have found the object of his ire as his eyes locked on Dania and Alistair’s lingering kiss. The large man was furiously shoving his way through the crowd, pushing people roughly, his focus only on the two people on the bar with their lips still locked together.

 

Knowing that Alistair was oblivious to this looming threat, Cullen threaded through the crowd, trying to intercept the guy before he could get to the bar. He was still just out of reach when the girl that’d been standing with Dania, placed herself between them and her friend on the bar, effectively blocking the way.

 

She stepped forward, putting her hand on his chest to push him away. “Nick-- stop!” She growled with quiet heat.

 

He barely glanced down; his eyes were glued to the girl on the bar grinning goofily at Alistair.

 

Nick batted her hand away, “Back off, bitch, this is between me and Dania.”

 

“NO!” She shouted at him, this time loud enough to grab the attention of the crowd. “You’ve hurt her enough. I won’t let you touch her again!”

Hearing the commotion, Alistair wrapped his arm protectively around Dania as he turned to face the disturbance. Not five feet away, he saw the blonde that Dania came in with, squaring off against a man easily five inches taller than Cullen. Cullen was quickly approaching the disturbance from behind.

 

Nick was staring at Alistair with pure hatred before barely glancing down at the girl blocking his way. He raised his arm across his chest as if to backhand her when Cullen caught the thick wrist and used it to twist him around to face him instead.

 

Every inch the Commander now, his face was full of calm determination, “I don’t think I will let you do that.” Cullen said with quiet intensity.

 

“Back off, asshole! That’s my girlfriend up there, and that red-haired prick has his hands all over her.”

 

The small blonde shouted, “She’s not your girlfriend, Nick. She dumped you a month ago when you put her in the hospital. It’ll be over my dead body before I let you get near her again!”

 

With barely concealed hatred, Nick spat over his shoulder at the girl, “I can arrange that, Connie .”

 

Before he could do more than threaten her, Cullen punched Nick in the jaw. It was a quick jab, more to catch his attention than to floor him. Stumbling slightly, he turned to glare at Cullen, wiping blood from the corner of his mouth.

 

The crowd around them began to part for the altercation. A few fled through the door as soon as the shouting started. Most of the patrons, however, were sticking around to see how this played out.

 

Taking in his surroundings, Alistair noted that Lana and Leliana were strategically positioned to his right and Dorian and Bull were off to his left. Nick was completely boxed in with Cullen in front of him and Alistair behind. Everyone was ready to step in, should the situation warrant it, yet they waited… and watched. This guy was big, but Bull was bigger and even he seemed content to defer to Cullen.

 

Entrusting Dania to Zevran’s protection, Alistair dropped down silently from the bar top to place himself between Connie and Nick. He quietly guided her out of harm’s reach, then stood ready while continuing to monitor the altercation. He trusted Cullen, but he’d be damned if he was going to let anyone hurt these two girls because of that kiss .

 

Cullen held the guy’s attention with his commanding presence, “Does it make you feel powerful to beat up your ex and threaten her friend?”

 

Nick growled and stepped forward intimidatingly.

 

Cullen didn’t blink. He took his own step forward, “Save your posturing, you overgrown nug. I will give you this one chance to walk out of here on your own. Leave now, or I’ll--”

 

“Or you’ll what ?” He interrupted, “You can’t do anything to me. My father is Loghain Mac Tir and he’ll--”

 

Cullen threw his head back and laughed, clearly unimpressed by this revelation. The Mac Tir family was well known for having ridden the wake of the Theirin family’s rise to power. They weren’t used to being challenged or stood up to, their own infamy was usually enough to keep most people from crossing their path.

 

Cullen wasn’t most people.

 

The terribly young and naive Nick Mac Tir, looked around at those who were closing in on him. His menacing scowl was replaced by one of confusion and uncertainty as Cullen stepped into his personal space. Needing to protect his pride--if nothing else at this point--he tried to gain the upper hand once again, “Who are you to laugh at me? My father will--”

 

Quieting his laughter, Cullen grabbed Nick by the shirt and pulled him to his chest. “My name, you spoiled brat, is Commander Cullen Rutherford. You may have heard of me? ... I know your daddy has.”

 

Nick’s eyes grew wide. He had, in fact, heard of the famous Commander who was responsible for thwarting some of his father’s shadier dealings.

 

Cullen continued without raising his voice, “Your daddy and I have had many confrontations over the years. He is currently on his very last strike before going away for the rest of his sad, pathetic little life. To the best of my knowledge, he’s been on his best behavior lately. How do you think he would react to your arrest for assault and battery against your ex?”

 

At Nick's stunned silence, Cullen quirked an eyebrow and leered, “For that matter, your family and the Theirins go way back. So far back, that I’m sure you don’t even know why the Mac Tirs aren’t permitted on Theirin property.” Cullen grinned knowingly at the kid who was now staring at him with a growing sense of dread, “Do you know where you stand… right now ?”

 

Cullen waited for a full five heartbeats as he let the question sink in with the young Mac Tir who’s face flashed with realization and understanding. “That’s right. You are on Theirin property.” Cullen stated for the kid as if he were simple. Quirking his head to one side, he contemplated aloud, “Assault, battery, disrupting the peace, and trespassing. I see your list of charges growing. Still want to continue playing this game with me? Because I can assure you that you... will… not… win.”

 

Taking a step backwards at Cullen’s vehemence, Nick slowly shook his head from side to side and glanced around the room. A few of the customers left, but many others were still there watching. Some were taking videos with their cellphones, others were taking pictures. Chances were good that at least some part of this altercation would hit a social media site or two. Nick straightened himself up, thankful when the detective released his shirt so he could smooth it out.

 

Dropping his eyes, he quietly stuttered an apology, hoping that the sound wasn’t picked up by the cellphones. “I’m… sorry, I didn’t realize this was… we don’t need to bring my family into it, or… or the Theirins… please.”

 

“This is the only chance I will give you. Walk out that door, without any more trouble. If you come back here to try to threaten Mr. Theirin--and I emphasize the word try --I will not stand in the way of what will happen to you when he defends his domain. I assure you that, should you make that attempt, being arrested by me will seem like a Sunday stroll in the park in comparison.”

 

Nick looked behind him expecting to find the Theirin in question, still standing on the top of the bar. He found him instead, not two feet behind him--smiling. He gulped audibly as he turned back to focus on the Commander.

 

Cullen chuckled darkly at Nick’s reaction to Alistair, “And should I find out that you have attempted to contact Dania, Connie, or Maker forbid that I hear about you threatening--or hurting--them in any way; I will come after you myself bringing the Maker’s wrath with me. Do I make myself clear?”

 

“Perfectly, sir. Th-Thank you, Commander.” He said hastily as he tripped over his feet while rushing toward the door. Barely catching himself from his stumble, he exited the bar without further ado.

 

Cullen watched Nick leave and took a breath before sweeping the room to see where everyone was.

 

Standing near the bar, Connie stared at him with gratitude. She took a couple hesitant steps forward, before wrapping her arms around Cullen’s middle and hugging him tightly. “Th… thank you. I would probably be in the hospital right now if you hadn’t stopped him. No one stands up to Nick. But I… I just couldn’t let him hurt her again.”

 

“No one’s hurting anyone tonight.” He rubbed her back as he returned her hug. They stepped apart and he looked over at Alistair who was beaming at him, eyes filled with pride and adoration. Pulling Alistair into his arms, they embraced quickly before turning towards Dania, still standing on the bar with Zevran. After helping her down and returning her hugs in kind, she thanked Cullen for standing up for her then apologized for shamelessly kissing Alistair.

 

Cullen smiled and waved away her worries, “It’s just one of the hazards of his job, I’m afraid. But what’s a guy to do huh?” He looked at Alistair, smiling affectionately.

 

Dorian stepped up, chuckling, “Well, you all certainly know how to show a couple a good time! We’ve been here less than an hour and we’ve already broken bottles, scared off some of the locals, thwarted a bar fight, kissed the girl, and Bull’s not even drunk yet! What ever shall we do for an encore?” he asked excitedly.

 

Alistair grinned, “Well, we’re not closed yet and the band’s still here. So, how about a round of drinks on the house and we can go from there.” He nodded to Zevran who hopped back behind the bar to field the onslaught of drink orders.

 

Turning to Bull, Alistair held out his hand, “It's a pleasure to meet you--officially. Usually our Wild Weekends aren't quite this exciting, I assure you.”

 

“Damn, I’m sorry to hear that.” Bull laughed shaking his hand firmly, “It's not often I get to see a hot redhead making out on top of a bar followed by his lover--who wasn't the person he was kissing--showing just how badass he can really be. It's enough to get me all hot and bothered!” Pulling Dorian to him, Bull kissed him passionately, “you are definitely going to have to help me work this off later, Kadan.”

 

Dorian grabbed him by the horns and said breathlessly, “Anything for you, Amatus!” Then pulled him in for another kiss.

 

Alistair smirked at Cullen, “Are they always like this?”

 

“No… sometimes they're worse. Trust me, right now they’re behaving.” Cullen chuckled.

 

Alistair turned to Dania and Connie; holding hands and whispering quietly to each other, they appeared shaken from the events of the evening. “I hope you both will join us. Have a drink, enjoy the band. If nothing else, I’d really like you hang out for a bit to give him a head start before you head out into the night; less chance of you running into him that way.”

 

They looked at each other, but it was Dania who responded, “Thank you, really, for everything. But tonight’s been a little too exciting for me already. Connie brought me out to celebrate being free of that ass. I… wasn’t expecting him to come crash our little party.” She looked pointedly at Cullen, “Thank you again... for sticking up for me, especially after I…” She looked at Alistair blushing.

 

Cullen chuckled, “You’ve already apologised and it's really not necessary. Alistair is the one that dropped the bottle, after all, and that penalty was put into effect long before he and I got together, so have no fear for offending me, my dear. We’re good.” He smiled reassuringly at Dania then over to Alistair with the same look of acceptance before addressing her again. “And as for sticking up for you, it’s what I do; I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

 

She nodded as Dorian chimed in, “That’s Cullen for you. If there were anyone that would ride in on a white horse to save the day, it's our dear Commander here.”

 

Connie nodded in agreement, but then addressed the elephant in the room, “I'm actually proud of her for getting out when she did. Though I am sorry for not seeing what he was doing to her sooner.”

 

Dania touched Connie’s arm, “Hey, it’s not your fault. I should have seen the signs earlier myself. I knew he was possessive and had a temper, I just never thought he would take it out on me like that.” She took a deep shuddering breath and smiled appreciatively, “You’ve been my rock ever since, helping me recover. Without you, I never would have realized that I deserved better; that I am worth so much more. I couldn’t have done this without you.”

 

Dorian stepped up and handed them his business card. “I may not be here in Denerim full time, but I do work in a facility that can help you work through the trauma he’s caused. Friends are wonderful to have, but sometimes it is better to have an unbiased ear to listen and help you through. My name is Doctor Dorian Pavus, by the way. I run the clinic that your most gracious contribution will be benefiting. The facilities on the University of Denerim campus are funded solely by grants and charitable donations. I’d say you’ve donated enough tonight to warrant free sessions for life, should you want them.” He smiled at the girls reassuringly then retreated to stand next to Bull again.

 

Looking around at the small group that came to her aid, Dania seemed to shrink in on herself in exhaustion, “Seeing Nick again has completely drained me.” She looked at Connie, “Can you take me home now? I think I just want to go to bed. The sooner tonight is over with, the better.” Then to Alistair she said, “I appreciate your offer for us to stay, but I really just need to put tonight behind me.”

 

“At least let us walk you out, so we can ensure that you make it safely.” Alistair smiled in understanding. “Is your car nearby?

 

Connie answered, “It’s just down the block and an escort would be great, thanks. I’d hate to run into Nick again tonight. He was really pissed.” To Dania, she said, “I’m not sure you should go home tonight either. Why don’t you stay at my house? That dick doesn’t know where I live, so you can rest without worry. I can take you home in the morning.”

 

Cullen nodded his approval before pulling out two of his own business cards. He handed one to each of the girls, “I meant what I said, if he so much as looks at either of you crossly, I want to know about it. I would also recommend coming down to the station and filling out an official report so we have it on record. You don’t need to press charges if you don’t want to, but if you want, I will personally help you find a good lawyer to be able to go up against the Mac Tirs.”

 

Alistair offered, “I have one in mind that would be more than happy to take your case, actually. They are the best at what they do and I would personally cover all fees for you should you want to follow that path.”

 

“Oh, Alistair, Anders would be perfect person to represent her! You know how riled up they get when there is injustice. They wouldn’t rest until the case was won and she was safe!” Lana said excitedly.

 

Alistair nodded. “Please don’t let fear of going up against that family dissuade you from protecting yourselves. You have heavy hitters on your side too.”

 

Dania looked to her friend then back to Alistair, “Thank you. I will think about it. I really just want him to leave me alone, though.” She paused for a second, “Are… you really a Theirin?” She looked to Cullen and back again just to make sure she had heard him correctly.

 

Alistair quirked a smile and placed a finger over his lips as he winked at the girls, “Shhh, that’s our little secret. But yes, I am the youngest son of Maric Theirin. As I said, the Mac Tir name holds little weight where my family is concerned. The decision is ultimately yours, however, just know that you won’t have to face them alone should you decide to fight.”

 

Cullen interposed, “And even if you don’t press charges, I would strongly recommend heading over to the courthouse to file for a restraining order against him. Guys like that don’t always know when to stop and they don’t generally like it when they are told no either. You don’t deserve that sort of treatment. No one does,” he finished with a touch of heat in his voice.

 

They nodded their understanding and offered their thanks before grabbing their coats to leave.

 

Cullen and Alistair escorted them to Connie's car, a purple PT cruiser with fancy black pinstriping on the hood and down each side. They watched the two young ladies drive away, before they turned back toward the bar.


Chapter Text

Cocktails & Cheese

Cullen and Alistair - A Modern Day AU

Chapter 25

Broken Bottle Part 3


 

After watching Dania and Connie drive away, Cullen and Alistair began to make their way back to the bar.

 

Alistair sighed, “Two years. I can’t believe I broke my streak of two years! All because your friend said I was ‘fucking hot’!”

 

Cullen laughed, “Bull certainly has a way with words doesn’t he?” Stopping on the sidewalk, he pulled Alistair into his arms and smiled, “And he’s not wrong. Though, I am a bit disappointed, I wasn’t even allowed to bid on you.”

 

“Eight hundred sovereigns! Who pays eight hundred sovereigns for a kiss?”

 

“I would have.” Cullen leaned in, brushing his nose against Alistair’s before kissing him tenderly. Finding the remnants of fruity chapstick, he pulled back and laughed while licking his lips. “Hmm, not a flavor I’m used to tasting when I kiss you… cherry?”

 

Alistair blushed as he wiped the residue from both of their lips before trying again. “Better?”

 

“Every kiss from you is better than the last. I will never tire of this...” Cullen whispered before claiming them again.

 

Reluctantly parting, Alistair sighed, “We should probably go back in and join the others.  Can I buy you a drink?”

 

“I would like that.” Cullen threaded their fingers together as they finished their walk toward the pub.

 

~*~

 

They entered the bar amidst happy banter and good music. The energy in the room was more subdued from what it usually was on a Friday or Saturday night; the music a little quieter, making it easier to talk over. As they walked toward the bar, the clapping started: first one set of hands, then more, until finally the whole room was cheering and whistling at Alistair and Cullen.  

 

Once they recovered from their initial surprise, they both bowed their heads in acknowledgement. Cullen and Alistair smiled graciously as one by one people approached to pat them on the back or shake their hands, offering their appreciation and gratitude for all they did for those girls.

 

There were a few whispers of Alistair’s lineage, but for the most part, that little revelation was largely ignored. He was just Alistair, pub owner, and that’s how he prefered it.

 

When the crowd finally dispersed, they found their friends sitting at a table that was tucked into the far back corner of the room. Dorian was absentmindedly stroking his hands over Bull’s shoulders as they watched everyone begin to settle into their own groups once again. Leliana and Lana were behind the bar helping Zevran fill the free drink orders that Alistair offered up after the confrontation with Nick.

 

Seeing the crowd still surrounding the bar, Alistair leaned in to Cullen, “I’m sorry, sweetheart, I should probably get back to work. This is supposed to be the girls’ night off. I promise to come visit with our guests as soon as the crowd dies down again.”

 

Wrapping his arm around Alistair’s waist, Cullen pulled him tightly to his chest, “Never apologize for having to do your job, my love. It is still a Wild Weekend after all, and we both know what your adoring fans come here to see,” Cullen suggestively stroked his hands over Alistair’s hips and ass. “I’ll happily sit over here and fantasize about what I’m planning on doing to you later--when I have you all to myself.” He winked deviously before adding, “Try not to drop anymore bottles though, I think we’ve had enough excitement in the bar for the night.”

 

Alistair leaned in for quick kiss before reassuring him with a smile, “I think I can handle that. I much prefer your kisses anyway.”

 

Back behind the bar, the crowd cheered as Zevran tossed the first of many bottles toward Alistair.

 

True to his word, he didn't drop a one.

 

~*~

 

As the crowd died down and the evening wore on; Alistair rejoined his friends at the table.

 

Dorian chuckled, “Well, this has been a most bracing evening and celebration.” He looked pointedly at Cullen. “It’s been far too long since I’ve seen you in full Commander mode. You are certainly an intimidating force when you want to be.” He looked at Bull and winked, “Remind me to never get on his bad side.”

 

Cullen took a sip from his glass to hide his blush. “Well, someone had to step in, and I wasn’t about to let you break a nail. We’d be listening to you fuss about it for the rest of your visit.”

 

Bull burst out laughing which turned into coughing as he choked on his drink.

 

Dorian twacked him hard on the back until he was breathing normally again. “That’s what you get, you big lummox! Teach you to laugh at your husband; I’ll be adding that to your list of punishments later.”

 

Bull growled excitedly and pulled Dorian from his own seat into his lap, kissing him soundly.

 

Lana tossed a bar towel at them. “Hey-hey, get a room, you two! You are in public!”

 

“Oooh, I’m told we have a very nice room waiting for us. But sadly, we are at the mercy of Cullen and Alistair. They’re holding our key hostage while we celebrate here first.” Dorian placed a chaste kiss on Bull’s lips before turning toward Alistair. “Thank you, by the way. Cullen said you pulled some strings to get us our room. We may be a little uninhibited, but we are grateful and looking forward to the other surprises that await us.” Dorian’s eyes twinkled with excitement.

Alistair smiled, “You are most welcome! As I understand it, congratulations are in order!” He looked from Dorian to Bull then back again. “How long have the two of you been married anyway?”

 

Bull rubbed his hand in a small circle on Dorian’s back while gazing at him lovingly, “Today marks thirteen years of wedded bliss, though we’ve been together for a lot longer.” He looked back at Alistair and continued, “When we first found each other, Tevinter was at war with Par Vollen--yet again--so our joining was readily frowned upon and needed to be hidden. Forbidden fruit is that much sweeter, isn’t it, Kadan?” He grinned at Dorian, earning him a kiss.

 

Leliana chuckled, “They are almost as bad, if not worse, than our dear Alistair and Cullen, no? I fear cavities from the amount of sweetness we’re surrounded by.” She leaned in and kissed Lana sweetly.

 

“Says the bard who still can't keep her hands off her wife.” Alistair chuckled, “Ten years and I still have nightmares from listening to you two back in your tent. None of us got any sleep! It's a wonder we are still alive after fighting so sleep deprived.”

 

They all laughed good naturedly at the comfortable banter then Bull turned to Dorian, “You know, my love, we’ve been talking about getting a second apartment here in Denerim. Maybe now might be a good time to do that.” A devious glint was shining in his eye.

 

Dorian rolled his own overdramatically, “That wouldn’t happen to have anything to do with the fact that we are sitting between two redheads now would it?”

 

Bull deadpanned, “I have no idea what you’re talking about.” He then grinned at Alistair and Leliana before looking pointedly back at his husband, “I don’t see any redheads around here. Only you, my sweet, delectable, milk-chocolate treat.” He finished by wrapping his arms around Dorian’s waist and nibbling at his neck.

 

Dorian didn’t resist the affections but chuckled at his husband’s obvious attempt at being nonchalant. “You keep telling me that, Amatus, and I’ll let you think I believe it.”

 

Alistair and Cullen shared a conspiratorial look, which made Lana suddenly gasp then start giggling, earning her a quick wink and a large grin from Alistair. In an attempt to cover and regain her composure, she stood up quickly and excused herself to go give Zevran a hand behind the bar.

 

Leliana looked pointedly at Alistair and Cullen, wondering what it was those two were up to that had Lana losing her composure. They both grinned with mischief, but it was Alistair who said with a wink, “you can ask her about it later.”

 

Bull looked around the table warily. “Something tells me I should be worried. Normally I wouldn't--when it comes to Cullen here--but it appears that there are more devious influences in his life these days. It’s almost as if he’s a completely new man. Isn’t it amazing what really good sex can do for you?” He grinned approvingly, raising his glass in a silent toast to this new Cullen before taking a drink.  

 

Returning Bull’s grin, Cullen raised his own glass in answer. “I can’t argue with that. I can honestly say, I have never been happier.” He leaned over to place a light kiss on Alistair’s ear, who closed his eyes and shuddered with pleasure. Smiling, he then turned back to Bull, “I wouldn’t worry about what’s waiting for you back at the hotel, though. You may even thank us later.” He finished with a smirk toward Alistair who was grinning deviously.

 

The conversation died down as the couples lost themselves in each other. After a few minutes of companionable silence, Dorian remembered something from earlier, “So tell me, what was all of that earlier regarding the Theirin and Mac Tir families having a history together? I’ve known they didn’t get along, but I just assumed there was a lover’s spat in there somewhere that got their panties in a twist.”

 

Alistair chuckled at the analogy, “That would certainly make for a more interesting story. The Theirins and Mac Tirs separated by jealousy and angst! To be reunited--against all odds--rekindling the heat of their passions under the full moon light; making both families whole once again!”

 

Cullen sputtered, “Hey that’s pretty good! Maybe I should tell Varric about it and see where he takes it.” He chuckled before explaining to the others, “Varric Tethras works for me as my media liaison. He also moonlights as a romance author. I think he said his most recent serial was titled, Swords and Shields.”

 

Leliana giggled, causing Cullen to quirk an eyebrow at her, “Oh, you’ve heard of it, I see?” He teased.

 

“Heard of it? Oui! Lana and I take turns reading chapters to each other before bed. It can be… quite stimulating!” She winked for emphasis, “I did not realize he worked for you, however. Perhaps I shall volunteer for one of your Monday deliveries so I can meet him myself? Do you think he would sign a copy for us?” She giggled at the prospect, blushing lightly.

 

“I can arrange an introduction if you’d like; I’m sure he would be happy to sign however many copies you have. There are several in the series I understand?” Bringing the conversation back to the original question, Cullen looked at Alistair, “You were saying about the Theirin and Mac Tir conflict?”

 

“It’s really not a very exciting story. I’d be interested to see how the story I heard corroborates your own interactions with Loghain.” Alistair then addressed Dorian, “Basically, the Theirins built Denerim as we know it today. Riding the wake of their rise to power was the Mac Tirs. The two families used to be very close, supporting each other from generation to generation. What my family didn’t realize, was that the Mac Tirs were also building a secret little empire of their own.” He took a drink to wash down his obvious disdain, “They bandied around the name ‘Theirin’, using the weight it held to further their own gains as they ran their own protection racket. They extorted money from people so the ‘family’ wouldn’t come after them.”

 

Taking another drink from his glass, he continued as his audience sat in attentive silence. “If the families couldn’t pay, their children were taken from them; to work off their debt, as it were. Stories vary, but forced slavery and sexual servitude seems to be a reoccurring theme. The Mac Tirs wielded their power using fear and intimidation, all behind the scenes of the Theirin empire being built around them.” Alistair shook his head in disgust.

 

“Once my ancestors learned of the underhanded scheming and using the Theirin name to gain influence, they publicly denounced the Mac Tirs, bringing all of their dirty little secrets into the limelight. You can imagine that the revelation wasn’t taken lightly. They tried to say it was the Theirins that were giving the orders, but they were never able to prove anything. My family was pardoned of all involvement and the Mac Tir name was ruined. Though it appears that some things never change.” He looked at Cullen and inquired, “You said you’ve had dealings with Loghain Mac Tir, I can’t imagine any of it to have been good.”

 

Cullen shook his head, “Gambling, prostitution, drug trafficking, theft, there’s not much that I haven’t arrested him for. I’ve yet to be able to nail him for murder, however, and I haven’t managed to keep him locked up for long either. That’s a very slippery family. I’ve tried to keep them under twenty four hour surveillance, but they tend to find ways to evade all my best efforts.”

 

“You said something about the Mac Tirs not being allowed on Theirin property; how’d that happen and how is that reinforced? The Theirins own a lot of Denerim I understand.” Bull asked curiously.

 

Alistair looked at Cullen before addressing Dorian and Bull again, “The first part of that is actually kind of interesting, if a bit tragic. About a hundred years ago or so, a young Mac Tir lad fell in love with the Theirin’s daughter. They were very determined to be together, regardless of the family feud. They were planning on eloping, but their families found out about it and each locked their child away, for their own good . Somehow the young Mac Tir boy escaped and fled to the Theirin estate. He managed to scale the wall leading up to his beloved’s bedroom. They found a rope and tied it off so she could climb down and they could be together. But as they descended, the rope broke and they both plummeted to their deaths.”

 

Cullen laid his hand on Alistair’s knee. He took a drink before continuing, “When the bodies were found the next morning, the Theirins blamed the Mac Tirs for their daughter’s death and banished them forever from any of their lands. As time wore on, the unwritten rule became a law. The way I understand it,  the Mac Tirs must request written permission to be granted for them to enter onto Theirin property, to this day.”

 

Smiling at Alistair, Cullen added, “The Theirins don’t own all of Denerim, like they once did, but they own enough of it that we still see those written requests come through the precinct from time to time. Most of them are eventually approved, however, when a Mac Tir commits a crime on Theirin land, the penalty is twice as bad because of the law. It generally keeps them away from Theirin property--or at the very least--on their best behavior. Other than Alistair’s, the rest of their properties generally have the Theirin name posted prominently somewhere on them, to avoid… accidents .”

 

Cullen furrowed his brow for a moment in thought. “Y’know, I may actually have to look that up. Since this place doesn’t have the usual Theirin plaque outside, I wonder where it falls under that law. Would it even be able to stand up in court? Hmmm.” Cullen mused to himself.

 

“Well my name’s written plainly all over the ownership papers, so that has to stand for something.”

 

“I guess it would just depend on how the law is actually written. I’ll look into it just in case little Nicky decides to come back.” Cullen added with a sneer of contempt.

 

Alistair grinned cheekily, “Well, you can forget about me posting the Theirin plaque outside, that’s not going to happen. I quite enjoy being the anonymous family bastard, thank you very much.”

 

Cullen chuckled as he tipped his drink back, draining the last of its contents. He set the glass down as the band started playing one of Alistair's favorite songs. Enjoying the number of times he’d been able to surprise his friends already this visit, Cullen grinned at Dorian before standing with his hand out to his lover. Alistair’s face lit up as he took the proffered hand and the duo made their way to the dancefloor, effectively ending the conversation.

 

Dorian watched in disbelief. He’d never before seen Cullen so relaxed--carefree--and he absentmindedly wondered when he had learned to dance so well? This Cullen, seemed like a wholly different person than the broken Templar he'd met all those years ago. He was very proud of the improvements Cullen made over the years, but there were so many firsts just within the past year that it made him tear up with how happy he was for his traditionally sullen friend.

 

Dorian looked at him now, with his arms around the man he’d completely fallen for--swaying in time to the music--foreheads touching in perfectly content adoration. Timed with certain parts of the song, Cullen would spin Alistair out then back into his arms again as they smiled into each other’s eyes and hearts.

 

Leliana noticed Dorian staring. “They move very well together, no? As if the Maker himself designed them as two parts of the same whole.” She smiled affectionately at the two of them swaying to the music and chuckled, “You should have seen the first time Alistair asked Cullen to dance. The look of fear on his sweet face would have been comical if it wasn’t so painful. He’s never actually been bad at dancing, he is very coordinated, after all. He was just lacking in… confidence. Now the two move so beautifully together, it sometimes takes my breath away.”

 

“And here I thought I was the only one to have that honor, my sweet nightingale.” Lana approached just then and offered her hand to her wife. “It’s not often that I get the pleasure of having you off-stage. Would you like to dance, my love?”

 

“But of course, chéri. Nothing would bring me more pleasure.” Leliana positively purred as they joined those already dancing in the middle of the room.

 

As the song ended and another slow song began, Bull watched the two couples as they continued to dance, wrapped up in one another. Looking into his husband’s eyes, he whispered, “Here’s to thirteen wonderful years, my love, and to many, many more.”

 

Pulling Dorian closer, Bull enjoyed the quiet moment of just the two of them together.

Chapter Text

 

Cocktails & Cheese

Cullen and Alistair - A Modern Day AU

Chapter 26

Broken Bottle Part 4 


 

 

As Cullen drove the Pavuses to the Theirin hotel at half past three in the morning, he found himself chuckling at the conversation about their evening at Alistair’s.

 

“You weren’t kidding, Amatus. That was quite the show tonight.” Dorian announced as they wound their way through the vacant city streets. “The provocative way those two danced together… are you sure there’s nothing there to be jealous over?”

 

“Aww, you’re getting indignant for me? That’s cute, Dorian.” Cullen laughed, “Lana assured me, the first time I met Zevran, that there has never been anything between the two of them. Zevran is just naturally flirty--as in--he doesn’t know how not to be. As for Alistair,” Cullen grinned deviously at Bull, “he can use those Maker-given talents on me, anytime he wants. Preferably when we’re alone... Without clothes.”

 

Bull sputtered, “Dammit, Cullen! Usually it’s Dorian and I making you blush, now you’re giving as good as you get. I may need to step up my game. Or--I could just let you have this. I like seeing you this happy. In alI honesty, it’s about time you found someone. It wasn’t healthy for you to be alone for so long.”

 

“I had very good reasons for waiting, Bull.”

 

“I know, but still. I’m happy for you. So learn how to take a complement, damnit.”

 

“In that case, thank you. I can’t even begin to describe how complete I feel when we’re together.”

 

Dorian and Bull shared a knowing look, before Dorian asked, “How come he didn’t come with you to drop us off?”

 

Cullen shrugged, “He said he had few things still to do to close up shop. Don’t worry, you’ll see him again before you head back to Tevinter.” Cullen smirked. “Providing, of course, that we can pry you away from your hotel room.”

 

“Oh, there you go again--teasing us! Aren’t you going to at least give us a little clue as to what we have waiting for us?” Dorian was positively bouncing with excitement in the backseat.

 

“I think you’ll really like it,” Cullen supplied unhelpfully as Dorian rolled his eyes. “We’ve strategically placed several care packages around the suite for your… uh, added pleasure. There is one small package, however, that is for Dorian’s eyes only.” He shifted to address Bull directly, “Don’t go peeking ahead of time, either. You’ll spoil the surprise.”

 

“So, where is this package located so I don’t go ruining anything inadvertently?” Bull asked with a glint of excitement in his own eye.

 

Cullen looked at Dorian through the rearview mirror, “You’ll find it on the bathroom sink. It’s wrapped with a bow; hard to miss.”

 

Dorian’s eyes lit up, but before he could respond, they pulled up to the Hotel. Cullen waved away the approaching valet, “I’m just dropping off Mr. Theirin’s guests, they’ll be staying in The Qunari suite.” He handed, the young man the room key and slipped him a bill.

 

“Yes, Mr. Rutherford. Any special instructions, sir?”

 

“I believe everything has already been taken care of. Please just add anything extra to our tab and we’ll take care of it when they check out at the end of the week.” He pulled the bags from the back of his Jeep and handed them to the valet before turning to his friends.

 

“You two have fun, and try not to cause any trouble.” He finished with a wink and hugged Dorian, then Bull.

 

“You’re not coming up, Amatus?” Dorian asked.

 

Shaking his head, he chuckled, “I’ve monopolised most of your evening, now it’s time for you two to play and for me to get back home to Alistair.” He wiggled his eyebrows before waving his farewell.

 

Climbing back into his Jeep, Cullen sighed with contentment then started driving back to the bar.

 

Home.

 

They’d been together for several months now and though he still had his own apartment, he spent so much time at Alistair’s that he considered it his second home. Based on their work schedules, they split their time between the two locations, the only time they slept apart was when their work assignments got in the way. Otherwise, they preferred the comfort of each other’s arms and that suited Cullen, just fine.

 

As he pulled into his usual spot in the parking garage, Cullen shivered in anticipation. He loved watching Alistair dance on Fridays and Saturdays. It was incredibly tantalizing and usually left him craving more personal attention to sate the build-up the evening provided. Tonight’s events left Cullen more excited than usual. He couldn’t wait to get upstairs to have those tasty little, erotic hip-swivels all to himself.

 

I really hope Alistair isn't asleep yet.

 

~*~

 

Lana and Leliana were lying naked, basking in the afterglow of their lovemaking. Lana’s sex tousled hair splaying out over Leliana’s creamy white breasts, her fingertips drawing light circles over her smooth flat stomach.

 

Leliana was caressing Lana's shoulders when she remembered something from earlier in the evening. “Chéri?” she began.

 

“Yes, love?” Lana looked up into her wife’s beautiful blue eyes.

 

“What was it that you were giggling about earlier? Alistair said that I could ask you about it later.” Leliana prompted at Lana’s confused look, “I think it had something to do with the anniversary gift?”

 

Lana giggled again at the memory. “Those boys of ours put together quite the little welcome for Dorian and Bull back at their hotel.”

 

“Oh? Do tell!”

 

“Well, Alistair managed to secure the Qunari honeymoon suite for them, for starters.”

 

“The Qunari suite? Isn’t that one designed to cater to every sexual pleasure one could think of? I heard that it has a Jacuzzi tub big enough for two large men, a massive four poster bed with bondage brackets built right in, and a separate ‘play’ room with specialized furniture catering to very specific… appetites. Is it true?” Leliana was positively glowing with excitement at the possibilities such a room would provide.

 

“Among other… luxuries.” Lana pushed her body up, brushing her nipples lightly over Leliana’s sensitive skin as she repositioned herself directly over her wife. “Should I request the same room for our anniversary, my love?” Raising her thigh up between her wife’s legs, she pressed gently against her already sex-swollen lips. “Would a night in a room like that… excite you?” Lana smiled sweetly, the glint in her eye full of promise.

 

“You know more than anyone what pleases me, but stop trying to distract me.” Leliana pulled Lana’s slight form flush with her own, kissing her deeply. “The room sounds exciting enough, but that alone wouldn't usually elicit that kind of response from you. So spill, what have those boys done now?” Leliana’s hands were freely roaming over her wife's velvety smooth, bronze skin, massaging her luscious round ass as she waited for the answer.

 

“From what the boys were thinking about, they seemed to have left several gift baskets around the rooms to uh… enhance their stay.”

 

“Pray tell, sweet wife, what kinds of exciting things did they leave for them?” Leliana stilled her hands, their current passions replaced by the intrigue of tantalizing gossip.

 

“Well, the basket in the kitchenette has what you would expect: champagne, strawberries, chocolate syrup, whipped cream, that kind of thing. The one on their night stand, has: massage oils, silk ties, honey dust powder, feathers, various types of lube, blindfold, candles, edible body paint, and a few other necessities. But the one that surprised me, was the package for Dorian to open privately.” Lana tried to stifle the giggles that burst forth by burying her face in Leliana’s hair.

 

“Stop teasing! The suspense is killing me.” Leliana chided as she tickled Lana’s ribs, which didn’t help the fit of giggles at all.

 

“A wig!” Lana gasped out between hiccups. “They’ve given Dorian a red wig so Bull can have his very own redhead!”

 

“Oh mercy me!” Leliana gasped then joined in on Lana’s laughter.

 

~*~

 

As they approached their room on the penthouse floor, Bull handed his small bag to the bellhop who was already overloaded with baggage. Grinning at Dorian, he swooped him into his arms, bridal style, then indicated for the hotel employee to open the door for them.

 

Dorian grunted with indignance which quickly turned to laughter as he was carried over the threshold, “I am quite capable of walking, Amatus!” He chided, without heat, as Bull set him down on the lush carpet just inside their lavish room.

 

“I know, Kadan, but we never got a proper honeymoon, and I just couldn't resist.” Bull leaned in to kiss his husband and was interrupted by an uncomfortable cough in the doorway. Chuckling, he turned and tipped the bellhop, “Uh yeah… thanks man, I think I can take it from here.” He grinned lasciviously as he ushered the young man out, closing and locking the door behind him.

 

“Now… where were we, Amatus?” Bull pulled him in for a chaste kiss which quickly escalated.

 

Dorian came to his senses first, “Amatus,” he panted. “Perhaps, we should settle into the room, before we begin to defile every horizontal surface.”

 

Bull groaned, grinding his obvious arousal against Dorian’s, “Only the horizontal ones?” He grinned hopefully, then sighed at Dorian’s lack of amusement, “Fine. But you will make this up to me later.”

 

“Oh believe me, beloved, I intend to.” Dorian reached for Bull’s hand and pulled him around to tour the large suite.

 

They stopped briefly at the first basket in the kitchenette and perused its contents. Settling on two glasses of champagne to start, they began their exploration of the rest of their space, glasses in hand. They moved through the living room, briefly inspecting the giant hot tub, sunk into the middle of the floor, before peeking into the first bedroom.

 

“Fuck... Me!” Bull exclaimed excitedly!

 

“Oh believe me, I intend to!” Dorian chuckled darkly as he sauntered past him into the large dungeon themed ‘play’ room. Bull stood gaping at the door as Dorian made his way around the room. Each wall was a different texture. The restraints and implements assigned to them, designed to both enhance and accentuate the experience.

 

Giving a cursory perusal, Dorian stopped at the fur lined wall and picked up a long feather, “What do you think, my love? Shall we start soft? Fur Cuffs, with me… tickling your fancy?”

 

Bull gulped audibly, “If it pleases you, sir.” He slipped easily into his role.

 

Dorian grinned. Walking up to his husband, he cupped his cheek and placed a chaste kiss upon his lips, “You are such a good boy for me. But for now, we are just looking. And, perhaps, cataloging what we want to play with, later.”

 

He took Bull’s hand and led him around the room. Together they explored the soft wall with its accompanying fur, silk, and feathers. Next they investigated the hard wall made of concrete with its metal shackles, wooden paddles, canes, and other accoutrements. Everything on the third wall was made of--or covered in--leather: restraints, cat-o-nine tails, whips, clamps, and blindfolds. The final wall was completely covered in mirrors; the round door handle, the only blemish on an otherwise perfect reflection of the room.

 

In the middle of the large space, there were several rings and a sturdy horizontal pole hanging from strategically placed anchors in the ceiling.

 

Dorian hoped he could remember all of his favorite shibari knots. It’d been a long time since they’d indulged in a bit of suspension bondage. It’s not easy to find a rigging strong enough to comfortably and safely hold up his husband. Knowing this suite was designed for people of Bull’s stature, opened up all sorts of fun possibilities for their stay.

 

Next to the rings, there was a multipositional restraining bench and a large slate table with hooks built into it ready for use with the various cuffs and binds hanging from the walls. Between the bench and the table was a large chest labeled simply ‘Kinbaku’.

 

Bull lifted the lid on the rope-filled chest and grinned widely, “Yes please, and thank you!”

 

Dorian laughed, playfully slapping Bull’s wrist so he released the lid, “Down boy. We’ll get to all the good toys in due time. First, we must see what else this little treasure trove has in store for us. We may have to prioritize. We only have one week, after all. Shall we?” He indicated that Bull should precede him through the door.

 

They eventually found their bedroom at the end of the hall and stopped in awe at the opulence. The giant four poster bed was the centerpiece and took up most of the room. Bull immediately went to inspect the bondage anchors built right into the bed frame. “Dorian, I think I must have died and gone to heaven. Will you please pinch me so I know I’m not dreaming?”

 

Dorian sidled up to his husband and pinched his ass causing Bull to jump, “Yup, definitely awake.” He glanced around the room, “Remind me to thank them for all of this later. I can’t even--” Dorian suddenly dashed over to the far corner of the room. “Uh--Bull?” He quickly pulled himself into the main strap of the free-hanging swing and struck a pose.

 

“Yes, Amatus?” Bull turned to look and laughed.

 

Dorian grinned evilly, “Do I need to warn you about staying out of this swing?”

 

“But, it looks much sturdier than the one we had!” Bull pouted.

 

“No! Just… no. Cullen told us not to break anything. I would simply never hear the end of it!” Dorian reminded him as he climbed out of the contraption to rejoin his husband who had discovered the gift basket on the nightstand. “Oooh, lots of pretty play-things! They are definitely getting a fruit basket for this!”

 

“Forget fruit baskets! I may offer to bear their children as thanks for all this!” Bull gave an appreciative whistle at its contents.

 

“I don’t think you’re quite equipped for that, Amatus.”

 

“Yeah, yeah.” Bull was distracted by a pair of fur lined handcuffs and a silk blindfold in the basket.

 

Leaving his husband to rifle through their bedside goodies, Dorian excused himself and slipped into the bathroom, closing and locking the door behind him.

 

A few minutes later, Bull heard excited cackling, “Uh… Dorian? Should I be worried?”

 

Dorian tried repeatedly to get himself under control before he was able to finally respond, “Oh, Kadan… you are going to absolutely love this!”

 

~*~

 

Alistair paced the open floor plan of his loft. They’d been planning this visit with Dorian and Bull for weeks. He watched with growing admiration as Cullen threw himself--selflessly--into making this anniversary, the most memorable for them yet. Cullen wasn’t usually the kind of man who felt the need to throw around his money to impress others. He showed how much he cared with little gestures, touches, and very rarely, a heartfelt--or well thought out--gift. Reaching up with a smile, Alistair fingered the coin that he wore on a chain around his neck.

 

This was one of those occasions where Cullen had gone above and beyond. Watching how methodically Cullen planned each and every aspect of their gift, Alistair realized that he wanted to do a little something for Cullen as well. Nothing as extravagant as the plush hotel accommodations. No, he wanted something more subtle. Which was how he found himself pacing the loft; waiting for Cullen to return from dropping off their guests.

 

Alistair bid their friends a good night, declining to accompany them on the trip to the hotel. It wasn’t far, and he needed a few minutes to get things ready upstairs. With Lana, Leliana, and Zevran’s help, they made quick work of the evening clean up, before he excused himself to go get ready.

 

After showering, he slipped into a pair of Cullen’s burgundy, silk sleep pants. They hung low on his hips, and he knew from experience that Cullen loved the way he looked in them. Once dressed, he lit a few candles around the room, sprinkled fresh rose petals on the bed, planted a new bottle of lube under his pillow and made sure the rest of their supplies were well stocked before he deemed everything ready. All he needed now, was Cullen.

 

As his bare feet padded across the floor, Alistair replayed the events of the evening over in his head: dropping the bottle, Dania’s nervous smile, the seething anger on her ex’s face, and the calm, dominant presence of Cullen as he put that little shit in his place.

 

Maker, that was hot.

 

Other than the confrontation, it was a very nice evening that got even better when Cullen asked him to dance.

 

Boy, can that man dance!

 

They held each other close, swaying to the music, fully losing themselves in the moment as the band played all of their favorite songs. It wasn’t until Lana intervened that they realized, they’d stopped dancing altogether. When she’d tapped them on the shoulders to pull them from their overly enthusiastic kiss, their hands were fisted in each other’s hair and they were panting for breath. It took them a few more moments--and perhaps, a little discrete calming energy from Lana--before they were confident enough to step apart, without revealing the full extent of their arousal. With a flush to both of their faces, they’d both agreed to pick that up again...later.

 

Now, it was later and Alistair couldn’t wait to ambush Cullen when he came in. The sound of the door opening at the bottom of the stairs brought Alistair out of his reverie. He took a deep breath as he listened to Cullen’s feet ascend the stairs.

 

~*~

 

When Cullen opened the front door, Alistair was leaning casually against the opposite wall of the entryway; his legs crossed at his ankles, his arms folded over his bare chest.

 

“I wasn’t sure if you’d still be up. It’s late.” Cullen toed off his shoes then stepped into Alistair’s arms, greeting him with a kiss.

 

“It’s actually really early,” he smirked, “and I was waiting up--for you.”

 

“Oh?” Was all Cullen could manage before he tipped his head back and moaned when Alistair placed open mouthed kisses on his neck.

 

“Mmm.” Alistair hummed softly. “I’ve been thinking.” He removed Cullen’s coat and tossed it toward the stand in the corner.

 

He missed.

 

He didn’t care.

 

Pressing Cullen firmly against the wall, he kissed his way over the rough stubble on his cheek.

 

“What have you been thinking about?” Cullen’s voice hitched, his hands actively roaming over the delicious contours of Alistair’s back.

 

Swiveling his hips, Alistair moaned as their growing erections rubbed together through their clothing. His lips and tongue continuing their assault on Cullen’s willpower; he breathed out between kisses, “I was thinking about how incredibly hot it was to watch you tonight. You took control, minimized the fallout, protected the innocent, and made it look so effortless. Do you have any idea what seeing you like that does to me?” Alistair ran his fingers through Cullen’s hair, grabbing a handful, he slotted their mouths together.

 

Gasping for breath from the searing kiss, Cullen grabbed Alistair’s thighs, wrapping them around his waist as he hoisted him up into his arms. Turning them around, he pressed Alistair’s back up against the wall as he began an assault of his own. “I was only doing my job. You--on the other hand--took way too much pleasure in teasing me tonight. You think you were being coy? Eye fucking me from across the room as you moved these gorgeous hips of yours. You know all too well, what you do to me; how the way you move… affects me. And yet, you played it for all it was worth. That tongue, those fucking eyes… this mouth.” Cullen dove in again and groaned as Alistair gave as good as he got.  

 

“You are too observant, for your own good.”

 

“I am good at my job.”

 

“You’re good at so many things.” His breath caught as Cullen began nibbling on his ear. “Sweet Maker! We need to get out of this hallway.”

 

“And there’s way too many damn clothes between us.” Cullen groaned in frustration when he couldn’t get enough friction.

 

“Don’t look at me, I dressed minimally for this. It’s you that’s over-burdened with attire.”

 

Pulling them from where he had Alistair wedged between himself and the wall, Cullen began the longer than usual journey to their bedroom. Alistair still wrapped firmly around him, making each step more difficult than the last as he nibbled over his neck. “You know, if you leave marks, I will never hear the end of it at work.”

 

“Your staff, needs a little more excitement in their lives if teasing you over a few love bites, gets their gossip going.”

 

“I like not having excitement at work. It means more people are safe.”

 

“Then perhaps, I should double my efforts--leave more marks for you to try to hide.”

 

“Maybe I need to give your mouth something else to keep it busy.”

 

“Is that a request?”

 

“Or--maybe I'm not doing my job properly, if you're still able to converse so fluently.” With his thumbs hooked in the waistband of Alistair's sleep pants, Cullen dropped him unceremoniously onto the bed and removed his pants in one fluid motion.

 

Alistair chuckled while crawling backwards up the length of the bed. His cock already hard with a bead of precum at its tip. Laying back against the pillows, he placed one hand behind his head then crooked a finger on his other, beckoning Cullen to come get him.

 

Cullen looked on with hunger in his eyes as he drew his shirt up and over his head then unbuckled his belt and pants, letting them drop to the floor.

 

Alistair's eyes drank in the vision before him. He licked his lips at the sight of Cullen's dick laying thick and heavy in its bed of blonde curls. Cullen’s gaze never left Alistair’s as he prowled his way up the bed. There’s no other word to describe it. His movements were hungry and predatory. He crawled up and over Alistair, bracketing him in with his arms on either side of Alistair’s head, knees pressed against his hips.

 

Their kiss was bracing, all tongues and heat as Cullen rubbed his dick against Alistair’s, beads of precum coating the way. Alistair ran his hands down Cullen’s back, over his hips, then down the cleft of his ass before he bumped into something he wasn’t expecting.

 

He looked up in surprise and found Cullen smirking at him. “Why you… is that, what I think it is?”

 

Cullen leaned over and whispered in Alistair’s ear, taking great pleasure in barely touching the sensitive flesh. “That depends, my love; on what you think it is?” Cullen pushed back into Alistair’s fingers, nudging at the soft silicone plug nestled there.

 

Chuckling darkly, Alistair tapped it a few times causing Cullen to thrust forward again and moan with pleasure. “This is new for us. I think I like it.” Alistair gripped the base and twisted it inside his lover, watching him arch his back. Thrusting it shallowly a couple times before nestling it back into Cullen’s hole, holding it in place with his fingers. “You like that, I take it? When did you get toys?”

 

Cullen tried to catch his breath, but ended up speaking between ragged pants, “Wasn’t… only shopping for… them last week. Bought a few things for us to play with as well.”

 

“Have you been wearing this all night?”

 

Cullen shook his head, “I put it in, just before midnight.”

 

“I was wondering where you disappeared to.”

 

“Wanted to surprise you. Been half hard all night, watching you dance, imagining you inside me, moving--” Cullen gasped as Alistair grabbed the plug again and began thrusting it directly into his prostate. “Maker! That feels so good.”

 

“Yeah?”

 

Cullen nodded, “But you know what would feel even better?”

 

“Mmmm what’s that?” Alistair released the plug and ran his hands up Cullen’s back, pulling him flush with his body, kissing him deeply as they continued to rut together.

 

“Feeling you… inside of me. Want you… need you, Alistair, please?”

 

Alistair gently removed the plug and dropped it over the side of the bed, before grabbing the bottle of lube from underneath the pillow. Cullen raised his hips, so Alistair could reach between them to slick himself up. They locked eyes, suddenly still as Alistair slowly slid inside of Cullen. Their names mere whispers on their lips as their bodies became one.

 

The franticness of their earlier actions, replaced with a slow, deliberate attentiveness. Cullen rested only a moment as they caught their breath and adjusted, relishing in the feel of being so connected, so full. Then he started to move, slowly sliding up and down Alistair’s length.

 

While Cullen drove them closer to completion, Alistair guided them with his hands on Cullen’s ass; moving him where he wanted him. Thrusting from below with those fucking amazing hips, to meet each and every deliberate drop of Cullen’s body.

 

Alistair paused, holding Cullen completely still; that devious smirk back on his face. Effortlessly flipping Cullen over onto his back, Alistair began to pound into him with wild abandon. Their earlier urgency back with a vengeance. Cullens’ nails raked down Alistair’s back, Alistair’s eyes closed tight as he thrust hard and fast into his lover.

 

Maker, he’s so tight. So perfect. So…

 

“Cullen, I… not going to--last.” Alistair grunted out between gasps of breath.

 

He was enjoying every last ounce of energy provided by that blessed Warden stamina. He felt so full, his own orgasm; right there. Reaching between them, Cullen grabbed his cock and gave it a squeeze then a few strokes before he came with a shout, spurting between them. Hot, messy. His toes curled as his back arched into his climax.

 

Seeing Cullen come undone below him, Alistair continued to chase his own release. “Cullen,” He panted. “Wrap yourself around me.”

 

He couldn’t form words, but he could obey the direction. Cullen wrapped his legs tightly around Alistair’s slender hips, then his arms around Alistair’s shoulders, pulling them chest to chest. As their lips met, Alistair shuddered and froze as his orgasm overtook him. Cullen’s tiny hip thrusts, milking the last vestiges of his release from his body.

 

“Holy, Maker! That was intense!” Cullen whispered between peppered kisses to Alistair’s forehead and cheeks when he finally found his voice. He ran his hands up and down Alistair’s sweat slicked back as their breathing slowly evened out.

 

Slipping from Cullen’s body, Alistair grimaced before he rolled off and lay against Cullen’s side. “You know, I always thought I would end up dying in battle,” he managed with a chuckle, “But, I think you may just be the true end to me someday.”

 

Cullen rolled over so he was once again face to face with Alistair and kissed him on the nose. “But what a way to go, huh? I would much rather die impaled on you than someone else’s blade.” Cullen grinned wickedly.

 

Alistair laughed, “You are a bad, bad man.”

 

“Yes, but you love me.”

 

“That I do! So… now that we’ve gotten all of that pent up urgency out of the way. How’d our guests like their room?”

 

“They seemed pleased with the location, but I didn’t uh… follow them up.”

 

“No? How come?”

 

“Please, you’ve seen them together. Do you think I really wanted to be in that room when they started looking around? I’ve seen way too much of the two of them together for my liking, and had to replace furniture when they were finished. I’m happy just knowing they’re there and safe. I’m sure we’ll get more details than we want when they get back anyway.”

 

“Damn - I was hoping to hear what they thought about the wig.”

 

Cullen chuckled, “If I know Dorian, he probably giggled for a full five minutes before he used it to his full advantage. Bull’s been going on about redheads for as long as I’ve known him. Dorian has secretly lamented the fact that his hair is too dark to dye and he doesn’t have a penchant for illusions, so it’s always just been one of those things. I’m sure, we’ll get a full report on how well our gifts were received later in the week. I don’t expect for them to emerge for at least a few days though.”

 

“You got everything set up for room service, so it’s charged to us and not them?”

 

“I did. No stone left unturned. They will be well and spoiled by the end of this trip.”

 

“Good.”

 

“I appreciate you helping out with everything y’know.”

 

“I’m happy to help. It’s nice to see two people so happy together, it’s just not that common anymore. Not lastingly anyway. I’d do the same for Lana and Leliana as well, if either of those stubborn women would ever let me.”

 

Cullen laughed, “Good luck with that, maybe we’ll have to figure out a way to surprise them.”

 

“If you figure out how to surprise Lana, you let me know. Cause I gave up trying long ago. It’s no fun to try to surprise someone if they can just pluck the thoughts out of your head.”

 

“I may still have a trick or two up my sleeve.” Cullen wiggled his eyebrows, “We’ll do something special for the two of them too - you may have to trust me with all the planning, keeping the rest of you in the dark, but hey - I think we could make it work.”

 

Alistair beamed, “I’d really like that. You are something else, you know that?”

 

Cullen kissed him gently, then lay on his back, pulling Alistair to his chest. “What do you mean?”

 

“I mean - all the things you do for everyone, you make it seem so effortless. You want to make your best friend’s anniversary the best one ever, so you make it happen.”

 

“I had help.”

 

“You diverted a situation that could have gone horribly wrong--in the most peaceful way possible--and everyone left happy.”

 

“Not everyone, Nick wasn’t very happy - and I did punch him in the face, so not entirely peaceful either.”

 

“That was a love tap.”

 

Cullen playfully slapped Alistair’s ass, “Like that?”

 

Alistair laughed, “No, you ass. You gave him a quick jab to get his attention, then you held it and kept him from hurting anyone.”

 

Cullen opened his mouth to speak but Alistair cut him off, “And he may not have left all smiles and rainbows, but he was allowed to walk out. You didn’t arrest him.”

 

“I didn’t have enough to hold him on. And with that family, you really need to have hard evidence. Right there in front of you. In black and white.”

 

“I understand. But still, worse case scenario? That jackass could have come in, hurt people, you would have had to leave to go process the paperwork and your guests wouldn’t have had the opportunity to see how well this ass moves on the dancefloor.” Alistair carefully cupped one of Cullen’s cheeks, squeezing it gently.

 

Cullen ran his fingers through Alistair’s hair, letting them land on the back of his neck. “Yes, you’re right. It could have been worse. But it didn’t. And I’m glad I was able to contain it. In all honesty, I really didn’t like the way he was looking at you. I’ve seen that blind hatred before. I still don’t trust that he won’t come back.”

 

“Let him try.”

 

“When he does, he can’t say that I didn’t warn him.” Cullen chuckled darkly. “Just him alone? I wouldn’t worry. But guys like that, tend to run in packs. I don’t like the idea of you getting hurt.”

 

Alistair laughed, pulling Cullen in for a quick kiss. “Welcome to my world, love. Both of us live in a world where we’re going to go up against some pretty serious shit. So far, both of us have survived. And we’re going to continue to survive. The Mac Tir’s have had their eye on my father’s family for so many generations, I don’t think anyone could pinpoint exactly how long it’s been.”

 

“Your father’s family?”

 

“I may be a Theirin by name, but my family is right here.” He pulled Cullen into a tight hug. “My family also lives at the chantry in a plain little room on the west end, wanders wherever his orders take him--so I never know where he is, and the rest live just down the block. Lana, Leliana, Duncan, Zevran, Mother Natalie… and you. You are my family.”

 

“You know, Mia would be very offended if you didn’t add her to that list too.”

 

Alistair grinned, “Mia likes me that much?”

 

“She never shuts up about you. The last few times we talked, she asked about you and when I’m going to bring you over for another visit.”

 

“In all fairness, you didn’t take me to meet her in the first place.”

 

“True, she is a sneaky little thing.”

 

“I think we got off topic.” Alistair said then followed it up with a yawn, which spurred Cullen to follow suit.

 

“Stop that. You’re making me sleepy.”

 

“I’m surprised you’re even still awake, it’s almost five a.m. You’ve been up for almost 24 hours.”

 

“Wouldn’t be my longest vigil, but it’s certainly been the most fun.” Cullen grinned at Alistair then yawned again before reluctantly getting out of bed. “Join me for a quick rinse off, before we completely soil our sheets?”

 

“Honestly? I’m actually surprised we managed to keep it all on us.” Alistair laughed  as he picked a couple rose petals off his thighs, then grimaced as he looked down at his chest. “I definitely think a shower is in order, I’m sure I have roses in places that roses should never be. Then after that...more snuggles!” He streaked by, throwing a handful of rosepettles in Cullen’s hair as he passed into the bathroom, “And I get to be the big spoon tonight!”

 

Cullen rolled his eyes, but chuckled at his lover’s antics. He wouldn’t have him any other way.

 

~*~

 

As the morning sun gradually lightened the room, Bull and Dorian lay nestled together in each other’s arms. Dorian’s head rested comfortably on Bull’s shoulder as thick fingers deftly played with his soft, black hair.

 

The wig lay crumpled in a heap across the room.

 

Dorian sighed.

 

“That’s an ominous sound. What’s on your mind, Kadan?”

 

“I was just thinking.”

 

“About?”

 

“Do you ever…” Dorian took a deep breath and tried again, “I know that you love me, of that I have no doubt. But do you ever wish--that I looked different?”

 

Bull glanced over at the discarded wig, then back at his husband and placed a tender kiss on his brow. “I want you to look, like you.” He tilted Dorian’s chin up so he could place a light kiss on his lips. “Would you like to know one of my biggest secrets, Amatus?”

 

Dorian smiled content with Bull’s gentle affections and nodded curiously.

 

Bull looked around conspiratorially before whispering in Dorian’s ear, “My...thing for redheads, isn’t really a thing at all. You want to know what really gets me all hot and bothered?”

 

Dorian’s eyes went wide as he looked on in wonder.

 

“After all these years, the only thing that does it for me; the one thing--above all else--that gets my motor running; the object of all of my deepest, darkest, dirtiest desires as well as my sweetest, most beautiful, romantic fantasies. Do you want to know what it is?”

 

Unshed tears glistened in Dorian’s eyes, he could only nod.

 

“It’s you, Dorian. You are my everything. You are all I will ever need. You are all that I could ever want. My best friend, my lover, my husband--my Kadan.”

Chapter Text

Cocktails & Cheese

Cullen and Alistair - A Modern Day AU

Chapter 27

Secrets and Salvation Part 1


 

Wednesday

The door opened before Cullen could grasp the brass handle. Leliana quickly looked up and down the sidewalk before tugging him inside and locking the door behind him.

 

He looked between Lana and Leliana while hanging up his coat, dripping from the late-autumn rain. “Is everything ok?” Cullen took in the empty room, it was six-thirty p.m. in the middle of the week--they should have opened three and a half hours ago. Wednesdays weren’t usually a busy night, but they still boasted a regular stream of customers stopping off after work for a drink.

 

Why are they still closed?  

 

Before Leliana could answer, Alistair’s voice came booming from the stockroom. “Why come to me now? You said to never look for you… either of you. And yet, here you are asking for…?”

 

The low alto of a woman replied, equally angry, but burdened with fear and sadness, “Alistair, I had nowhere else to go. No one knows my mother like you and Lana do. I need... help, all right? I need help trying to figure out what she’s planning. This can’t be a coincidence… it just can’t.”

 

Cullen looked to Lana, hoping to get some answers. Worrying away at her hands, she paced back and forth; sentinel to what was transpiring in the back. Only sparing Cullen a glance, she waved for him to take a seat.

 

Leliana laid a gentle hand on his arm, “Between you and me, it sounds like Alistair has had better days, no?”

 

“What’s going on, Leliana?”

 

“I think it is best if we stay out of it, at least for the moment. When the dust settles, you will get the answers you seek.”

 

Alistair pleaded, softer than before, “Where is he now, Morrigan?”

Who’s Morrigan?

 

Cullen walked over to the bar to sit and wait. Leliana poured him a drink while he tried to glean as much as he could from their conversation.

 

“He’s safe… for now. You… you don't need to know where he is.” Her voice sounded guarded and unsure.

Has she been hurt before? Who is she trying to protect? Why won’t she let Alistair help? Who is she hiding from? Who is she?

 

“You don’t need to protect him from me, Morrigan. You should know better than that.” There was a pause, then an angrier, “You don’t want my help to protect him! Did you think I wouldn’t want to? Or that I’m just inept to do any good?”

 

Alistair sounded defeated, a little surprised, and perhaps… hurt?

 

“He’s not yours to protect, Alistair!”

 

Who’s not his? Maker’s sake, I wish I knew what was going on!

 

Cullen looked to Lana for answers, but she just kept pacing, not meeting anyone’s eyes.

 

Alistair shouted again, “Then why are you here!?”

 

Holy crap! I didn’t know he could sound so pissed!

 

Her reply came so quietly, that Cullen could barely hear it, especially after Alistair’s outburst, “I… don’t know. He means everything to me. I hate to admit it, but I’m scared. Scared of what she’ll do with him. Scared of what I would be… without him.”

 

There was a long pause, then quietly, “Morrigan.”

 

“Don’t… just don’t Alistair.” Her words were clipped and if Cullen wasn’t mistaken, came from closer to the doorway.

 

Her footsteps paused with a surprised shuffle when Alistair quietly said, “You’ve changed.”

 

“And you haven’t. Still the prattling little twit that used to annoy me, day in and day out.”

 

Alistair sniggered, “Hey, a guy’s gotta be good at something!... I’m serious though.”

 

“For once.”

 

“Oh - ha. ha.” There was a pause and Cullen strained to hear, “You truly love him. I never thought I’d see the day where you put someone else before yourself. It’s… refreshing actually.”

 

“Oh, shut-up, Alistair.”

 

He responded, but Cullen wasn’t sure he heard him correctly. “I’d… like to meet him.”

 

“What? No!”

 

“Why not?” Alistair’s voice cracked with indignance.

 

“That wasn’t in the deal.” She responded heatedly.

 

“Then why come to me at all? You won’t let me do anything! All I know is, he’s in danger and you’re too damn guarded to let us in.” Alistair’s voice crescendoed until something shattered against the wall. There was a groan followed by a much calmer, “If you won’t let me help protect him, why don’t you just--leave.”

 

“I came to you for information, Alistair, not help. If you have nothing to offer… I’ll go.  But if you… If you hear anything about where that Witch might be, or what she might be up to… will you please… call me?”

 

Alistair sighed, “Will do.”

~*~

A tall, slender woman with raven black hair--wearing far too little for the cool weather they’d been having--came out of the back room and gave Lana an affectionate hug. She spared only a glance for Cullen before she waved at Leliana and with a gentle pull of energy and a quick flick of her wrist, unbolted the lock on the door, then left.

 

Well, that was… interesting. Maybe now I’ll get some answers.

 

Cullen quickly downed the rest of his drink and rose from his seat.

 

Alistair appeared in the doorway looking defeated. Lana brushed his arm with her hand and nodded toward Cullen.

 

Shoulders hunched, Alistair briefly met Cullen’s gaze before dropping his eyes. With a deep resigned breath, he beckoned him to follow.

 

Oh this can’t be good. What in Andraste’s name happened to make him look… so lost?

 

Alistair stopped just inside the storeroom, head bowed, “Do you remember when I said I didn’t like secrets?”

 

Cullen wrapped his arms around Alistair from behind, “Yes, but secrets are one thing, not knowing everything about each other’s past, is different. There are aspects of my life that I have yet to be able to share. It would be reasonable to assume that you have the same.” Cullen turned Alistair around and tilted his chin up to face him, “And hey, whatever it is, we will get through it.”  

 

Alistair sagged against Cullen, “You say that now, but this one’s a doozy.”

 

“Did it just walk out the door?”

 

“Part of it, but there’s more...” Alistair closed his eyes and took a slow steadying breath. “I don’t want to keep this secret anymore and you deserve to know. Let’s go upstairs, I need to sit down and I definitely need a drink.”

 

Reluctantly pulling himself out of Cullen’s embrace, Alistair grabbed the closest bottle out of one of the crates and headed for the stairs. “Let’s get this over with… before I lose my nerve.”

 

Whatever’s bothering him, can’t be that bad--can it?

 

Cullen watched Alistair take a large drink from the bottle as he strode up the stairs.

 

Well shit! Maybe it is that bad! I’ve never seen him self-medicate with alcohol before.

 

Entering the loft, he noted that Alistair didn’t bother to remove his shoes and hesitated only a moment before deciding to leave his on as well. Alistair was sitting on the sofa, hunched over with his elbows on his knees and his head in one of his hands--the other still held the bottle.

 

“What is it, Alistair? What’s wrong?” Cullen sat next to him wondering if it would be ok if he touched him.

 

“I told you about how Lana and I met, right?”

 

“Yes, you said she was conscripted to join the Wardens about six months after you did.”

 

“How much do you really know about what we do? Spell it out for me, so I know which holes to fill in.”

 

“Enough to know that I would never want your job. You are peacekeepers--of a sort--like me, but whereas I mostly deal with the mundane world, Warden’s deal in things that everyday people don’t--or won’t--see: demons, darkspawn, magic.”

 

I wish I could un-see, some of the things I’ve seen.

 

Cullen took a steadying breath then continued, “You fight beyond the veil, keeping in check the horrors, so everyday people can live their lives--blissfully unaware. When the fight bleeds over to Thedas proper, it is the Wardens that manage the cleanup and cover-up. They… explain away the unexplainable.”

 

I wonder how hard it was to cover up what happened to me, that day at the tower?

 

Shaking his head to clear it, he continued, “I know… that it is a very secretive organization and that, once you are in the order, you are usually bound to it for life. You and Lana being the only exception to that rule, that I know of.”

 

Alistair shook his head, “There is one other, he’s currently a hotshot lawyer, in Kirkwall.”

 

“Is that the guy you mentioned for Dania & Connie?”

 

Alistair nodded, “Anders, yes. He’s very adamant about making sure justice is served. Ensuring that the Mac Tirs don’t get away with any of their usual bullshit, is right up his alley.”

 

“If the girls contact us again, we can contact him for his assistance, but in the meantime--” Cullen placed his hand gently on Alistair’s back and began to rub small soothing circles, “Why don’t you tell me what happened. I’m not sure I can tell you anything more about the Wardens. I am well versed in most of the legends and having seen what I’ve seen, I’m pretty sure whatever it is you have to tell me, will not be a surprise.”

 

Alistair shrugged then took another long drink from the bottle; coughing as the cheap liquor burned his throat. “When we all first started out together, things were insane. We were always moving, always traveling. We picked up quite a few friends during our adventures--others who possessed the sight that wanted to aid in our cause. That’s where we met Morrigan, then later, Leliana and Zevran. There were nine of us total, only Lana and I--Wardens. We traveled together, fighting the good fight, bound together by a common desire to defeat the darkness before it consumed everything.”

 

“I remember the time,” Cullen’s hand stilled on Alistair’s back. “It was a dark one for me as well, it was like the whole world went mad all at once.”

 

Alistair nodded, “The battles were growing more frequent and the darkspawn were ever increasing in number. Usually when that happens, it means there’s a major force driving them on, causing them to reproduce exponentially. In short, an Archdemon was at the reigns.”

 

The little gasp that escaped Cullen barely registered to Alistair as he recounted the event.

 

“We were on the eve of--what we hoped to be--the final battle. Lana and I were pulled into a secret meeting with another Warden we’d recently met up with. Well, rescued actually. We’d found him wasting away in Howe’s dungeon, but the timing couldn’t have been better, for him or us.”

 

Cullen cocked his head, “Wasn’t that the guy behind the Cousland family massacre?”

 

“It was.”

 

“He was never caught.” Cullen signed.

 

“Oh he was caught. He just--didn’t survive trying to kill us too.”

 

“Shit.”

 

“Yeah.” Alistair sighed, “couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.”

 

Cullen snorted his agreement.

 

“Anyway, after… after we rescued Riordan, we realized just how new to everything we really were, we had so much to learn.” Alistair looked over his shoulder at Cullen, he clearly didn’t want to continue.

 

Cullen braced for something truly horrible, “Go on,” he encouraged.

 

“Riordan informed us that to be successful and win the war... one of the three of us would need to die taking the Archdemon’s life.” He sighed heavily before reciting the writ, “The life of a Warden will need to be sacrificed in order for the Archdemon to be no more.”

 

“But there were three of you there; a possibility of you and Lana surviving.”

 

Alistair shrugged, “In a battle like that, there are no guarantees.”

 

Cullen nodded the concession.

 

“Yes, Riordan was senior to us and volunteered to be the first to go in, but there was still the chance that one-or-all of us wouldn’t survive. We had been through so much together, to come to the end and realize that this was it. I would have gladly gone to the grave for her, for any of them. Well, maybe not Morrigan… but it turns out she was the one that held the answer to saving us.”

 

“Before she left, I saw her flippantly wielding magic. So... she’s a mage, like Lana and Dorian?”

 

“She is nothing like Lana and Dorian. They’ve been molded and trained. They have refined and honed their magic to work for them, with confines, rules, and consequences. Morrigan was born wild and free, her magic is equally wild. She’s a witch if ever I saw one. She and her mother can harness the very essence of magic and wield it like you and I breath. It’s natural… a part of them. They are both scary powerful!” Alistair shuddered.

 

“Witches” Cullen deadpanned, “and here I thought you were just calling her names.”

 

“Not--broomsticks and pointy hats--witches; swooping in and frog-time you type witches.”

 

“That sounds bad.”

 

“Swooping… is always bad.”

 

“So I’ve heard…” Cullen shuddered, “Ok, raw power or not, how could one witch save you from certain death?”

 

“After our meeting, we were uh… a bit upset.”

 

 “Understandably so.”

 

Alistair nodded, “Lana went back to the room she shared with Leliana, to--I don’t know--share one last night together, I suppose. But, she wasn’t there; Morrigan was. Apparently the witch already knew about what we had to face and what we had to lose. She had a solution--a ritual--that would eliminate the need for our sacrifice. But--I had to participate for it to work.”

 

Alistair took a pull from the bottle to try to blot out the memory.

 

“To save Lana, to save myself, I--Cullen… I have a son, his name is Kieran, and he should be about ten years old.”

Chapter Text

Cocktails & Cheese

Cullen and Alistair - A Modern Day AU

Chapter 28

Secrets and Salvation Part 2


(continued from last time)

“To save Lana, to save myself, I-- Cullen I… I have a son. His name is Kieran and he should be about ten years old.”

“Should be?”

“I’ve never met him. I’m not sure exactly when he was born. That was part of the deal; Morrigan saved us and we wouldn’t go try to find her or her child. I honestly never thought I would see her again.”

“That explains the day on the beach… with your questions about Stanton?”

Alistair shrugged one shoulder, “I was picturing what my child would be like. So, yes. Are they similar? Different? I didn't know; I still don't. I didn’t even know if it was a boy or a girl before she came in tonight. I planned on telling you. I guess I just hadn't gotten around to it yet. And now Morrigan’s here, needing help.”

Cullen took the bottle from Alistair and gulped down a few swallows of his own. “Well, I can honestly say, that wasn’t what I expected.”

“I am so sorry Cullen, I should have told you sooner.”

“Does this change anything between us?”

“NO!” Alistair replied hastily, then much softer, “At least--I hope it doesn’t? But it’s not as if I can ignore the fact that she’s here and he’s here too… somewhere.” He shook his head then planted it firmly in his palms, “I never really gave much thought to having children of my own. What I do is... dangerous, and well, I always hoped to find someone to share my life with before even opening that topic for discussion.”

Cullen nodded. “That is understandable. When I first realized that I wasn’t attracted to women, I thought children were totally out of the question. But as time went on, marriages of same genders became legal and adoptions to those couples--more accepted. I still never stopped to consider them for myself. Though, I suppose, now is as good a time as any to let you know that if something were to happen to Mia and Sam, I’m listed as the next of kin to raise their children.”

Alistair nodded. “That doesn’t surprise me, but it’s different. That’s you taking on responsibility in the wake of tragedy. We’ve barely been together for half of a year, Cullen. For me to dump something like this on you? I’m honestly surprised you’re still sitting there and haven’t run for the hills.”

“It’s going to take more than a surprise kid to scare me off, Alistair. And those other conversations can still happen… in time.”

“What we have is still so new and it’s been… wonderful. I know I should have told you sooner, I… I guess, I just didn’t want to ruin it. I’m sorry.”

“Alistair, you haven’t ruined anything. So you have a son. So what?”

So what ? Cullen, there’s a little piece of me out there somewhere! Does he look like me? Does he have my laugh? Is he playful or serious? What’s his favorite food? Does he know my name, or that I even exist?” Alistair took a deep breath and let it out slowly, “There are so many unanswered questions, Cullen. I don’t know where to start. The only thing I do know… is that I think... I’d like to meet him--”

“Morrigan didn’t sound very amenable to that when I walked in.”

“You heard that, did you?”

“Some of it, though it was out of context. I figured she was an ex-girlfriend trying to get something out of you. You are a Theirin, so money or influence came to mind.” Cullen shrugged away his initial assessment.

Alistair shuddered. “Morrigan? My ex-girlfriend? Now you’re just trying to give me nightmares! No, Morrigan and I barely tolerated each other, and that was on a good day. And, she could give a shit about me or any of my familial assets.

Cullen set the bottle down on the table and leaned back, wrapping his arms around Alistair, “And yet, together, you created Kieran. There must have been something between you to allow that to happen.”

“Morrigan’s only ever looked after herself. It’s all I’ve ever known her to care about. Until… now.”

“She and Lana seemed to get along ok?” He posed it as a question, hoping to shed some light on the hug he witnessed earlier. It didn’t look superficial.

“She gets along with Lana and Leliana well enough. I suppose they’re the closest things to friends she’s ever allowed herself to have. I was always just her verbal punching bag.”

“When I was a boy, I was told that girls picked on the boys or girls that they liked.”

“Not Morrigan. She’s not… well, she’s not really wired that way.”

“What do you mean?”

“She doesn’t get… she doesn’t feel sexual attraction.”

“At all?”

Alistair shrugged, “She always said it wasn’t important to her. In one of my less sensitive moments, I told her that she’d be less of a bitch if she’d just get laid. Morrigan reacted… well, let’s just say, Lana had to help me put the flames out, then was kind enough to heal me. Afterwards, she pulled me aside and explained about Morrigan being asexual.”

“So then Kieran was…”

“Just an arrangement. A means to an end, which is all Morrigan has ever found passion in.”

“It sounded like she cares about him now though, otherwise she wouldn’t have come here.”

“Yeah, she really does. It’s a side of her I’ve never seen before. She’s scared, Cullen.”

“You look a little scared too. I can understand a Mother’s fear over her child, she’s lived with him and cared for him for ten years--”

“I’m not afraid!” Alistair exclaimed.

Cullen leveled a gaze at him until he finally relented with a sigh, “Ok fine, I’m afraid.”

“What of, exactly?”

“I don’t know, take your pick. Being tied to her… failing him. I never really had a father growing up--not one that was there for me anyway. I’m painfully aware of how that felt and how it has tainted my view of my own father. I don’t want to make those same mistakes. I’m afraid of what life will be like with him in it, as well as what it would be like if I never get to be part of his. I’m terrified of something happening to him; this big bad that has Morrigan so worried. I want to protect him and keep him safe. Maker, Cullen--with all my heart, I want to shield him from any harm. I’m afraid that she’s not going to let me. And to top all of that off, I really don’t want any of this to ruin things with you.” Alistair sighed in frustration, “My head’s just a giant, jumbled mess right now. I don’t know what to do.”

Cullen rubbed Alistair’s arms soothingly, “You don’t have to have all the answers, Alistair. Not all at once anyway, and certainly not all by yourself. Let me do what I can to help.”

Alistair shrugged his shoulders, but didn’t argue.

“Let’s piece through some of what we can, what was she trying to accomplish by coming here? She said something about information?”

“Apparently, the whole, ‘save the Wardens by getting knocked up’ idea was her mother’s. Recently, she discovered what it was her mother hoped to get out of the arrangement.”

“What was it?”

“I’m not completely sure, but whatever she found out scared the hell out of her--enough to come to me.” Alistair sighed, “None of it makes much sense. She said that Flemeth has plans for Kieran, or his soul, or… extra soul? She fears that her mother will kill him to accomplish her goal.” Alistair sat forward, pulling out of Cullen’s arms.

“Her mother is… F-Flemeth? The Flemeth?” Cullen gulped, “That’s uh… wow! We used to tell stories about her in the Chantry. I thought they were just tales made up to scare the younger kids. You’re saying she’s real ?”

Very real. Shapeshifter and all. She saved Lana and I from a burning tower once.”

Cullen flinched.

“That’s how we got landed with Morrigan. As payment for saving our lives, we had to take her daughter with us on our travels.”  

“And now Flemeth wants… what? To Find Kieran and sacrifice him in some awful blood ritual?” Cullen seethed at the very idea.

Alistair shook his head, “I don’t… I’m not sure. I just know they’re on the run, yet she won’t let me see him or help to protect them. She doesn’t know where her mother is and I think that is scaring her more than anything. Morrigan, by nature, is an insufferable know-it-all and hates it when she doesn’t have all the answers. I think she was hoping that Lana and I had heard something through the Warden grapevine. She wants to stay one step ahead of her mother.”

“So explain to me how exactly this ritual saved your lives. I understand a child was the byproduct, but help me see why it was necessary.”

“To explain the why, I need to elaborate on what we were up against.”

“You mean besides an Archdemon and its cronies?”

“Exactly. So, roughly eleven years ago, the darkspawn started to amass numbers. We’ve already established, that that usually means there’s an Archdemon driving them out of hiding.”

Cullen’s cringed, but remained quiet.

“That’s what our little group was fighting, the threat of the darkspawn taking over Thedas. Not only were we fighting them, we were trying to keep the rest of the world blissfully ignorant of all that happening while they all lived their normal everyday lives.” Alistair paused in hesitation, “Do you know, what it is that makes Grey Wardens so capable at what they do?”

He shook his head. “I assumed that it was intense training and discipline… like the Templars.”

“That is definitely part of it. But, there are… things that we must do--and consume --to connect us to the Darkspawn Hive Mind.” Alistair shuddered, “We were so good at what we did, because there was a little phial which bound us together--darkspawn and Wardens. That little bottle helped us sense them. Hell, we could even hear the song of the damned Archdemon herself. To maintain the connection, weekly drafts must be consumed and the phial needed to be replenished. The potion was a combination of our blood, their blood, and… well I can’t tell you what it’s mixed with, but I can tell you that it tasted horrible! It’s not without its flaws either. In return, they could sense us as well. It made us targets, magnets for attack. It was a rough time, especially for Lana.” Alistair sighed.

“Can you … still--sense them?”

“No. When we left, our phials were destroyed, the connection from our final draft faded, and eventually went away all together.”

“Did you… when you went to fight with Duncan, did you have to… reconnect with them?”

“Thank the Maker, no. As of yet, I haven’t needed to. It does stand as a future possibility though. As long as I travel with Duncan--or someone else who is connected--I can rely on my reflexes, experience, and ability to trust my instincts when it comes to the Darkspawn. There’s been no need to taint myself further.”

Cullen nodded, “So… the ritual with Morrigan?”

“Yes, so, we were about to confront the Archdemon. We’d been told that only a Warden could kill one, but we didn’t know why. What we learned was that normally when an Archdemon is slain--say it was by a soldier or a Templar--its soul jumps into the nearest darkspawn tainted creature, starting the cycle over again. The demon isn’t truly dead-- just dormant. When a Warden strikes that final blow, the soul tries to jump into them--being tainted with darkspawn blood themselves--which destroys them both. In War, Victory. In Peace, Vigilance. In Death, Sacrifice.” Alistair recited his oath with sadness.

“You said Riordan was the only other Warden in the area? Where was everyone else?”

“When Lana and I met, we were gathering for a battle in Ostagar.”

“You fought at the slaughter of Ostagar?” That now famous war-zone-massacre was at the forefront of some major media coverage. It was labeled the largest act of terrorism on Ferelden soil of all time. “I always thought that story sounded a little thin around the edges.”

Alistair shook his head sadly. “Yeah, it wasn’t our best cover-up. But, to answer your question, no , we didn’t fight. We were there, but Lana and I were sent off at the last hour to light a stupid beacon. Our numbers were decimated in that battle. If Lana and I weren’t sent off on that ridiculous errand, we would have died with our brothers-in-arms. After that, it was just Lana and I here in Ferelden. Two--wet behind the ears--Wardens, trying to wear grown-up Warden breeches.”

“That’s a huge burden to carry.”

“Tell me about it. Duncan was in Orlais trying to gather more Wardens, but he didn’t make it back before the Archdemon’s attack. It was only Lana, Riordan, and I.” Alistair bowed his head, “Riordan fell from the back of the demon during the battle and didn’t survive. I suppose we had another honorary Warden with us: my Mabari, Brie. She was a sweet girl, completely loyal, and a fierce fighter.” Alistair smiled. “She also… fell … during that battle.”

Cullen rubbed Alistair’s shoulder as he pulled him closer. “Lana told me that you had a Mabari the first time I came up here, but she wouldn’t tell me anything about her, except that you miss her dearly. I am so sorry, love.”

Alistair leaned into the touch. “Now, that brings us back to answering the ultimate question about Morrigan’s ritual . The premise--as I understand it--required her to be pregnant with the child of a Warden. The tainted seed inside her would absorb the soul of the demon instead of one of us, freeing us from the burden of sacrifice. Protected in the womb and yet not fully formed, the child would survive. The two souls would cohabitate peacefully, not ever having been alone, neither would need to be destroyed.”

“Why couldn’t Riordan have performed the ritual?”

“Ha! I asked the same thing while trying to get out of it. Apparently, he’d been a Warden for too long, my own connection to the Archdemon was still relatively new, so it had to be me.”

“But it worked; you’re still here… and so is Lana.”

“And apparently, so is Kieran. My… son .” Alistair took a shuddering breath.

“So, what of the Archdemon’s soul? Do you know if it has… affected Kieran?”

“Lana says it hasn’t, she saw him this morning before Morrigan found me. I suppose that’s how Morrigan found me. I was told that he is a normal, sweet, ten-year-old boy. Whatever that means.”

Cullen tried to soothe him. This was a lot to take in, but he knew in his heart that it didn’t change anything for him. He loved Alistair and wouldn’t let this come between them. “Alistair… if there’s anything I can do, please just let me know.”

Apparently this was the wrong thing to say.

Alistair’s face flushed in anger, “I don’t even know what I can do! She wants to hide him from her mother, yet she won’t let me help hide him. I don’t know where they’re staying. All I have is a phone number to reach her, but I can only use it if I find out anything, yet she doesn’t want me actively searching. She walked in here, after ten years, and waved the fact that I have a son in my face, and I can’t do a damn thing about it.” Alistair took a steadying breath, consciously trying to lower his voice, “Morrigan is this stoic, acid-tongued woman who never gets rattled by anything--and she is visibly scared, Cullen.” Alistair buried his head in his hands with a frustrated growl.

Cullen held Alistair tightly to him, in comfort and protection, “We’ll figure this out, love.”

Getting more agitated, Alistair sat up, pulling out of Cullen’s arms. “Why are you not upset about this?”

Wait, what?

“Should I be?”

“I might be, were I in your place. The man you’re with has a kid that he’s been hiding from you… a byproduct of a fling he had for selfish reasons.”

“I wouldn’t argue anything that saved your life, Alistair. I never would have met you otherwise.”

“You’re being pragmatic again. I feel like my world has just been dumped on its ass and you’re sitting there all calm and collected .” Alistair’s voice rose with his agitation and yet the more heated he got, the calmer Cullen seemed. “You should be fuming mad at me right now!”

Why would I do that?

“I’m not sure that would help things, it certainly wouldn’t change anything.”

“No, but it would make me feel better. I deserve your anger. I don’t deserve your understanding or kindness… or you .” Alistair looked away pointedly.

“Alistair, please.” Cullen reached out and tried to touch Alistair’s shoulder, but he jerked away and stood up.

“No!… Just… don’t.” Alistair sighed heavily. “I’m sorry. I just need to go clear my head. I need to figure some things out...”

Sweet Maker, please don’t let him tell me that he needs space.

“I just need some… space.” With a heavy sigh Alistair walked out the door, slamming it behind him.

Cullen jumped up and followed. He caught Alistair’s wrist just outside the downstairs exit, which closed and latched behind them. The rain was heavier now, drenching through their clothes in seconds. “Alistair!”

Spinning around, Alistair slammed Cullen against the wall, eyes wild and afraid, unfocused.

Cullen wanted to kiss him, to sooth him and tell him that it would be all right. Instead, he wrapped him in his arms. “Alistair, please don’t do this, let me know what I can do to help. Please--don't shut me out.” He choked back a sob.

Alistair allowed himself to be held for only a moment before pulling back. Cullen thought he felt lips on his cheek as he did, but it could have just been the rain.

“I need to go, Cullen. I have to figure this out.” His tone was cold, hard.

“You don't have to do it alone,” Cullen rasped.

“I can't ask that of you. You don't need to mop up my transgressions; I'm a big boy; I can do it myself. I should have to.”

Alistair pushed away and bolted off into the darkness. 


A/N: Forget what you think you know about Thedas. This is an Alternative Universe, and as such, I’ve taken liberties with twisting the in-game lore to meet my twisted-little whims. If you have questions, please ask! I’ve tried to explain things as much as possible in the context of the story, but I would be happy to elaborate on any of my ‘creative manipulations’ of the in-game lore we’ve come to know, trust, and love/hate.

A few bits that I’d like to address to alleviate any confusion:

1) There is NO Calling! (Does this mean Alistair and Cullen might actually get a “they lived happily ever after?” Why yes… I believe it might.)

2)   The Wardens are not connected for life, though their oaths do still bind them to keep secrets.   

3)   Phial = Another word for Vial. A small container, typically cylindrical and made of glass, used especially for holding liquid medicines. (thank you dictionary) In this world, phials are devices used in connecting Wardens to Darkspawn. (Like the Templar’s Lyrium kit in game, it has its benefits, but ultimately, just means bad juju’s.)

4) Templars do not get their boosted powers from Lyrium. Though drug addiction may exist in this world, we have not really seen it yet and it doesn’t go hand in hand with being a Templar. (Yes, I got rid of The Calling and lyrium addicted Templars - sorry, I am fond of happily ever afters, especially for my boys. Ok, totally not sorry. And they’ll face other trials before they get there, so buckle up.)

5) Mages are not prisoners to the Chantry or to Templars in this world. They are a free people that attend special schools to master their talents. They are ‘out of the broom closet’ to the awakened world, but are still very much in the closet within mundane society. Think Harry Potter and Hogwarts…. kinda.

Chapter Text

 

Cocktails & Cheese

Cullen and Alistair - A Modern Day AU

Chapter 29

Secrets and Salvation Part 3


Wednesday Cont.

Cullen stood in the rain, wondering what the hell just happened.

 

Did Alistair just leave me? What did I do wrong?

 

He was getting one of his headaches; it’d been a while since he had one.

 

He tried the door, but it was locked. His keys were still in his coat, currently hanging up inside the bar.

 

Great! Just fucking great!

 

Sighing, he walked around to the front of the building. He needed to grab his things and hopefully talk to Lana before heading home.

 

Maybe she can shed some light on where I went wrong.

 

Stepping back inside the bar, he paused, noting the few customers scattered around the room. Lana was pouring drinks and Leliana was on stage singing a morose tune that matched his current mood.

 

Cullen walked up and leaned against the bar.

 

Hey, Lana - when you get a minute...

 

She nodded almost imperceptibly tossing him a towel before going back to her current customer.

 

Cullen wiped the raindrops from his face and hair while he waited for her to finish. Lowering the towel to the bartop, he fidgeted with its frayed edges. Lana’s gentle hands eventually appeared to still the trembling evident from his frazzled nerves.

 

“Will he be all right?” he asked tentatively.

 

“He will be; he just needs to cool off.” She paused, worrying at her bottom lip. “This is my fault, you know. I was the one that asked him to--”

 

“It doesn't matter how this came to be, Lana. We all lived separate lives before we met.” Cullen folded the small towel and handed it back to her. “Could I have done anything different to support him?”

 

Lana shrugged, “I don’t know; he’s in a dark place right now. I think he just needs time and to know that we’ll be here for him when he’s ready. Are you going to be ok?”

 

Cullen shrugged. “It’s a lot to wrap my head around, but my heart is still his .” He sighed. Pulling out one of his business cards, he flipped it over and wrote his cell phone number on the back. “Will you give me a call or send me a text when you think he’s ready to see me again? I don’t want to push him if he needs his space. But I… “ Cullen choked up on the last words and couldn’t get them out.

 

Lana squeezed his hands comfortingly before pocketing the card in her apron. “I will. He does love you, Cullen. Please remember that.”

 

Cullen nodded and turned to collect his overcoat, giving Leliana a small defeated smile as he left.

 


 

Thursday

[14:00]

Cullen:        Are you ok?

[16:00]        

Cullen:        I’m out of here in an hour. I’d like to see you.

[17:00]

Cullen:        Fine. I’ll try to give you the space you asked for. Please just know that I love you.

Sunday

[12:00]

Cullen:        Thinking about you. You know where to find me… when you’re ready.

Wednesday

[10:00]

Cullen:        Alistair, it’s been a week. Are you ready to talk to me yet?

[10:45]

Cullen:        I’ll take that as a no.

Saturday

[13:00]

Cullen:        Damnit, Alistair, please let me in!

 


 

Sunday 05:00

 

Cullen knelt before the statue of Andraste, the Chant of Light flowing automatically off his tongue. This vigil was familiar, comforting; a soothing balm to his frayed nerves and fractured heart. He was so deep in his meditation, in his prayers, that he felt cocooned within a soft haze; the outside world barely registering within the safety of the Maker’s house.

 

Slowly, he became aware of a frail hand resting on his shoulder. He looked up--unfocused--still mouthing the words to the never ending litany of the Chant, he took in the vague shape of a chantry Mother.

 

Not a threat then .

 

“Is everything all right?” she asked kindly.

 

He shook his head, then bowed it once again over his clasped hands, the Chant once more flowing audibly from his parched lips.

 

“You were here when I retired last night, have you been home yet?”

 

Maintaining his vigil, he shook his head no; his prayer continued unceasing.

 

“Cullen?... Mr. Rutherford?...” Getting down on her knees, Mother Natalie placed a hand on either side of his face and said sternly, “Knight-Commander!”

 

He looked up suddenly, blinking. “Mother Natalie? Is everything ok?” Clearing the cobwebs from his mind, he wondered how long she’d been trying to get his attention.

 

“I should ask the same of you. Your behavior is worrying. I haven’t seen anyone pray through a fifteen hour vigil in many a long year, and unless I’m mistaken, you’re pushing seventeen hours now. Is… Is everything ok? Is Alistair ok?” she asked, worry clear in her eyes.

 

Cullen shrugged sadly, “I wish I knew. It’s been a week and a half since I’ve seen him. He was upset, said he needed space . I’m trying. I really am. The only thing I’m sure of is that he’s safe, Lana said she would tell me otherwise.” Cullen’s thoughts were garbled from sleep deprivation and the calming haze left over from his extended meditation. “Has he come to see you recently?”

 

She shook her head. “I haven’t seen him in over a month, but that’s not unusual for him. I learned long ago, that searching him out when he’s not ready to be found, is quite futile.” She chuckled fondly. “No one could ever beat that boy at hide and seek. But you know, Cullen, I’m not only here for Alistair, I’m here for you as well. Do you want to talk about it?”

 

“I can’t, I’m sorry; this isn’t my story to tell. Not really.” Cullen sighed. “I would never hurt him intentionally, you know that, right? I only wanted to be there for him, to support him, but he...” Cullen bowed his head again, his vision beginning to blur.

 

She reached up and smoothed her hand over his shoulder. “The Maker works in strange and wondrous ways, Cullen. You, better than most, know that to be true. We are all led through trials that test our faith. Your faith has never wavered. Have faith in our Alistair now. He’s never been one to have a quick temper, but once he gets himself worked up, it can take him longer than most for him to come back down again. It’s his cycle. When he’s ready, he’ll let you in to talk about whatever happened.”

 

He rose stiffly, offering a hand to help up the sweet Mother that just offered him succor. “I will take your words to heart.”

 

“Go home and get some rest, dear. Trust in the Maker to watch over you both.”

 

Cullen turned and lit his candle, then faced Mother Natalie again. “Thank you for… well, for everything I guess.”

 

“You’re welcome, son. Now scoot! Go home and get some sleep, you look terrible.”

 

A rough chuckle escaped him. “Yes ma’am,” he said as he headed out the door. Looking at his watch, he decided to send Alistair just one more text.

 

[06:00]

Cullen:        I’ve been doing a poor job of giving you space. I’m sorry. I love you and will be here when you’re ready.

 


 

Tuesday

 

It’d been almost two weeks since he last spoke with Alistair and it was driving Cullen mad with worry. He avoided bar; trying to honor Alistair’s wishes for space, but Alistair still hadn’t reached out to him: no phone calls, no texts, no… Monday morning roses.

 

Cullen grew more short tempered at work as the silent treatment wore on. He was doing his best to try to distract himself, but the cases that came up at work were simple and routine--he could do them in his sleep--which left him too much time in his own head.

 

Taking some of the information he’d gleaned from his last conversation with Alistair, he decided to see what he could dig up regarding the names Flemeth or Morrigan . He found only fairy tales and legends--the same shit they used to spew to try to frighten the new recruits in Templar training; absolutely nothing substantial. Witch of the Wilds was a phrase that came up a few times regarding both women, so he made a note and moved on, trying next to research what was going on publicly eleven years ago.

 

Other than the Massacre at Ostagar, there was nothing in his files, the media files, or public access files stating anything else out of the ordinary. The crime waves were certainly more abundant back then, but the reports were so bloody mundane that he couldn’t tell what was real and what was doctored by the Grey Wardens. It left him frustrated, angry, and no closer to helping Alistair than he had been before. He needed more information to go on.

 

Trying to burn off steam, Cullen added extra days to his workouts at the gym. He’d broken no fewer than five punching bags, three makiwara boards, and may have potentially added a few more holes to the walls at the gym. He knew his demeanor was slipping. He was gradually losing his grip on reality, but he wasn’t yet ready to reach out to Dorian for help. If something didn’t change soon though, he would definitely need to.

 

It was nearing the end of his shift and Cullen was particularly short tempered that day. He knew he owed his team an apology--or explanation--but he just couldn’t bring himself to admit what was going on; mostly because he wasn’t really sure what had happened or what he’d done wrong. Just as he was thinking about leaving a little early to give everyone a break, Rylen came in and closed the door softly behind him.

 

He approached the desk hesitantly--yet determined--as if he drew the short straw and the rest of the office sent him in to deal with the crazy lion pacing in his gilded cage.

 

“Can I help you, Lieutenant?” Cullen asked crisply.

 

“Is there…” Rylen cleared his throat to coax out the next words, “Is there trouble in paradise, Sir?”

 

Cullen’s anger flared and he slammed the report he’d been holding onto the desk, “That is none of your damn business, Lieutenant.”

 

Tamping down his own anger, Rylen bit back quickly, “Normally you would be correct-- Sir--but your temper lately has been affecting this office. And the moral of our team is my business!”

 

Cullen froze, letting the words seep in. Sighing heavily, he glanced at the rose on his desk that had long since dried up. Collapsing back in his chair, he ran his fingers through his hair. “You’re right, of course. I’m sorry, Rylen.”

 

“Anything you want to talk about, Sir? You look like you need to get some of, whatever is bothering you, off your chest.”

 

“You don’t need to be my therapist, Lieutenant.”

 

“Then let me be your friend, Sir. There’s a coffee shop around the corner. It’s loud enough to drown out our conversation and not too loud as to deter talking. Unless you want something stronger, there’s a bar just down the street--”

 

Looking up at the ceiling, Cullen relented, “All right, Rylen. No bar though. I suppose it would be nice to get an outside perspective on this. Thank you.”

 

They grabbed their coats and left the office amidst dead silence from the rest of the team.

 

Rylen led him to a small coffee shop around the corner. As they entered, a petite blonde behind the counter lit up with a smile, “Hey Ry! Want your usual?”

 

“Yes, please,” he responded. “And a plain-black coffee for my… friend.”

 

“I’ll bring them right out - find a seat!”

 

Looking around at the warm atmosphere, Cullen asked, “You uh, come here often?”

 

“Almost every day after work. Probably for the same reason you frequent a small pub downtown.” Rylen looked around the room fondly before his eyes landed on the young woman that greeted them when they came in.

 

As they found a small table in the corner bracketed by two overstuffed chairs, their cups of coffee were set down in front of them. Sitting on the arm of Rylen's chair, the barista leaned down and kissed him quickly on the cheek.

 

“Who’s your friend, hun?” she asked familiarly.

 

“Jan, this is my Commander, Cullen Rutherford. Cullen, this is my fiancé, Jan.”

 

Cullen took her hand and shook it warmly. “It’s a pleasure to meet you. Rylen is a lucky guy.”

 

Jan blushed. “You are kind to say so. Rylen speaks very highly of you.” She grinned, rising from the arm of the chair. “You two just give me a wave if you need a refill, ok?”

 

Rylan’s face lit up at the exchange. Standing when she did, he kissed her chastely with a soft word of thanks.

 

As she walked off, Cullen watched Rylan’s eyes follow her back behind the counter. “I didn’t know you were engaged, Rylen.”

 

“Jan and I have been together for over three years now. It was actually your humming about the office that got me thinking it was time to take the next step. I proposed two weeks ago, but haven’t been able to find you in an amiable enough mood to tell you, Sir.”

 

“Drop the ‘Sir’, Rylen. We’re out of the office and, as you said yourself, we are here as friends.” Cullen managed a small smile. “Congratulations--by the way--I’m happy for you. Do you have a date set yet?”

 

“Not fully, S-- um, no; not yet. Sometime next summer when the weather is nice, but we’re not here to talk about me. What’s going on? You’ve been in a piss poor mood these last two weeks; what happened? We were just getting used to you flitting about the office all doe eyed and bringing us donuts. Trust me, that was weird .”

 

Cullen chuckled, “I bet it was.” He took a sip of coffee to collect his thoughts. His expression turned dour, “I wish I had an easy answer for what’s wrong. Alistair and I… damn it, I don’t even really understand what’s going on.”

 

Rylen set his cup down and leaned forward, tentatively laying his hand on Cullen’s bouncing knee to still it. “You don’t have to understand, that’s what I’m here for. Why don’t you tell me the simple facts and we’ll go from there?”

 

Taking a breath, Cullen spared Rylen a grateful, if sheepish, smile. “The basic facts? Well, there’s a girl from roughly ten to eleven years ago. They had an… arrangement. She showed up two weeks ago and he’s been a wreck ever since.”

 

“It sounds like you’re leaving out some pretty important details. Was she an ex?”

 

“Some of the details aren’t mine to tell.” Cullen sighed, “though right about now I wouldn’t mind the help in trying to figure this out. To answer your question, no; they were never romantically involved, though even that is complicated.”

 

“Isn’t it always?” Rylen picked his cup back up and reclined in his chair, waiting for Cullen to continue.

 

“She wants him to help her with something. Whatever it is has her spooked. If I understand things correctly, she needs information. Which would normally be right up my alley, right?”

 

Rylen nodded.

 

“But Alistair won’t let me help. He won’t let me in. He said that since this is something from his past, he needs to take care of it on his own--it’s not my problem to deal with.” Trying to quell his frustration, Cullen took a deep breath and chased it with a sip of his coffee.

 

“Feeling left out?”

 

Cullen shrugged. “I guess? I don’t know. Everything’s been going so well until now. He was even able to talk me down after that last bad case we had. Those normally leave me simmering for weeks.”

 

“I remember. If I wasn’t convinced that you were made for each other before , I certainly was, after.”

 

Cullen scoffed, “I’m not so sure about that.”

 

“Why do you say that?”

 

Cullen growled as he slammed his cup down, “He won’t let me return the favor! I feel…” He closed his eyes and took a couple of deep breaths to reign it in, “I don’t know, Rylen. I suppose, I feel impuissant. My hands are tied. But, this is what I do, this is what I’m good at. I know I’d be able to help, but he won’t let me. Hell, he won’t even let me be there for him in this.”

 

“When was the last time you spoke to him?”

 

“Not since the night she showed up.”

 

“When was that?” Rylen asked, already suspecting the answer.

 

“Two weeks ago tomorrow.” Cullen put his head in his hands, running his fingers through his hair, “Look, I've sent him texts, but he hasn’t responded to any of them.”

 

“Why haven’t you gone to see him?”

 

“He said he wanted space --that since this was something he dug himself into, he needed to fix it by himself .”

 

“That doesn’t sound ominous at all.”

 

“Tell me about it.” Cullen sighed. “I’ve been trying to give him what he asked for as best I can, but it hasn’t been easy.”

 

“I can see that. Honestly, the whole office has. What do you think would happen if you just showed up?”

 

“I don’t really know. This whole situation has me completely thrown for a loop. I’m not sure what to do here. I do know that Lana said that she’d let me know if he needed me.”

 

“Lana?”

 

“His best friend and business partner. You probably would recognize her as my Monday morning delivery girl.”

 

Rylen nodded, “Haven’t seen her in a couple weeks.”

 

“I know.” Cullen hung his head.

 

“You still want to call him?”

 

“With every fiber of my being.” He whispered into his cup, “but, he’s working at the moment; I don’t want to interrupt him during his shift.”

 

“Says the man that used to go several times per week, just to watch him work.”

 

Cullen blushed. “You’ve met him; he is pretty easy on the eyes.”

 

“If you say so, Sir.”

 

Looking up to reprimand Rylen for calling him ‘Sir’ again, Cullen caught him smiling. “You’re messing with me.” He deadpanned.

 

Rylen shrugged, “Look, it’s obvious that you’re head over heels for this guy. Go let him know how much he still means to you. Go fight for him. If for no other reason than to give us some sanity back in the office.”

 

Cullen smiled as he set down his empty cup. “Thanks Rylen; I guess I did need someone else to bounce this off of. I’ve been telling myself the same thing and just kept second guessing it.” His phone vibrated. “Excuse me a moment,” he said as he retrieved it from his inner coat pocket.

 

Unfamiliar with the number, Cullen opened the text dialog.

 

[17:43]   

Unknown:   She’s back. Ali could use you for backup.

Cullen:        Lana?

Lana:           Yes. You should hurry.

Cullen:        Does he want me there?

Lana:           He hasn’t asked for you specifically, but he’s been struggling over it for days.

Lana:           He needs you, Cullen, and he’s at a point right now where he won’t refuse your help.

Lana:           Please Come! This is… ‘bad’ doesn’t even begin to cover it.

Cullen:        I am on my way.

 

Returning his phone to his pocket, he looked at Rylen apologetically, “I’m sorry, I really need to go. How much do I owe for my coffee?”

 

“Just go, she never charges me for coffee anyway.”

 

Cullen offered another small smile. “That sounds familiar.” He chuckled before shaking his hand, “Thank you, Rylen.”

 

“Anytime, Sir.” Rylen smiled fondly as Cullen bolted out the door.

 

Chapter Text

Cocktails & Cheese

Cullen and Alistair - A Modern Day AU

Chapter 30

Secrets and Salvation Part 4


Still Tuesday         [18:30]

Cullen reached the door to the bar, but before he could grab the handle, it was opened by a panicked, yet grateful looking, Lana.

“Cullen… Kieran’s been taken!” she whispered.

His head snapped up at the angry shouting from the stockroom, “Stop being so bloody stubborn and ask your fucking boyfriend to help! Lana says that he’s the best, so he should be helping me find him!”

Cullen looked at Lana, a question on his brow. She merely shrugged in return, looking despondent. With a quick hug and a reassuring smile, he whispered, “It’ll be ok, hun. I won’t let anything happen to him--to any of them.”

Alistair sounded tired and frustrated, “I can’t ask him to do that Morrigan. Why would he even want to?”

Leliana approached, taking Lana into her arms. “I’ve got her, Cullen. Perhaps your presence would be better served back there, no? Maybe you can get those two to stop screeching at each other. We’ve been trying for years, without success.”

He nodded sagely, just as Morrigan growled in exasperation, “Because Kieran’s your son Alistair, don’t you want me to find him?”

Taking a deep breath, Cullen squared his shoulders and ventured toward the tempestuous shouting match.

In an explosive rage, Alistair countered, “You’ve never let him be my son! You’ve kept him hidden; you won’t let me meet him. Hell, I don’t even know what he looks like! How am I supposed to help you when you won’t-let-me-in? I understand why you didn’t want to burden me with it before, but like it or not, he’s mine too, and now he’s been taken. He needs us to work together to find him. Set aside your, Maker driven, ego and let me fucking help!!”

As Cullen approached, Morrigan’s tone turned steely quiet, “This is why we can’t work together Alistair. We don’t get along; we never have. I need his help. If you won’t ask him for it, will you please give me his number so I can do it myself?”

“Morrigan, this isn’t his burden to bear.” Alistair paused with his back to her, trying to calm down. It’d been almost two full weeks since he’d last seen Cullen. He couldn’t imagine why he would want to help, especially after pushing him away. Just when he was about to say as much, Cullen stepped around the corner.

“Why don’t you let me decide which cases I take and don’t take.” His steady voice was a soothing balm, cutting through the tension in the room in an instant.

Alistair’s breath hitched when he turned and locked eyes with Cullen.

There was only a moment of hesitation before Cullen began to slowly walk in his direction, completely ignoring Morrigan. With each step, Alistair felt all of the fear and trepidation he’d been holding onto, ease away. After the way he treated Cullen, he was here. For him. For them. Dipping his head in shame, he choked out half-heartedly, “Cullen, you don’t have to.”

Cullen placed a finger under Alistair’s chin and raised it so their eyes could meet.

I love this man so much! Maker, how I missed him.

Placing a chaste kiss to Alistair’s lips, Cullen pulled him to his chest. Holding him tight, he breathed a gentle whisper into his ear, “I want to. Please… let me help.”

Alistair whispered, “Why?”

“Because I love you, and if you have a son, that makes him my family too.” Cullen brushed a gentle kiss on Alistair’s brow, taking in all the sadness and exhaustion written there.

Sagging with relief, Alistair returned the embrace and whispered into his neck, “I am… so sorry.”

“I am too. We can do this together, ok?” Cullen kissed him again as Alistair nodded his agreement. Looking deep into his eyes, Cullen ventured a small smile of reassurance. He echoed the words that Alistair issued to him once before, “You don’t have to face things alone anymore.”

Alistair returned a tight lipped smile. “Ok,” was all he said before they both turned to face Morrigan.

She was watching Alistair with a strange expression on her face.

Keeping one arm firmly around Alistair, Cullen extended his other, “You must be Morrigan,” They shook hands briefly. “I’m Cullen. Why don’t you tell me what happened?”

Morrigan said simply, “Kieran is missing.”

Cullen nodded, “Lana said as much when I came in. Tell me about when you last saw him.”

He was all business now, asking questions and gathering basic information. “Do you have a picture I can work with to help identify him? Something recent?”

Morrigan reached into her purse and pulled out her wallet, which held a picture of her son.

Taking the photograph, he asked, “May I keep this?”

She hesitated briefly before relinquishing the photo. Cullen pocketed it, then handed her his business card. “Thank you; I will see what I can dig up tonight with the information you’ve given me. I would like to continue this conversation tomorrow. Can you come to my office at ten a.m.?”

She bowed her head briefly and answered stiffly, “If it will aid in finding my son, I will be wherever it is you require me to be.”

“I will see you in the morning, then. I need to speak to Alistair alone now, if you’ll please excuse us.”

Nodding once at her dismissal, she headed back into the main room.

Cullen turned toward Alistair and embraced him. “Maker’s breath, but I’ve missed you!”

They clung to each other tightly for a few moments, before Alistair chuckled uncomfortably.

Cullen raised an eyebrow. “What’s so funny?”

“M-Morrigan” Alistair stammered conspiratorially, “I’ve never seen anyone dismiss her like that… and she actually obeyed ! She would have turned me into a frog for talking to her like that--Zap! Frog time!”

Joining in on the quiet laughter, Cullen couldn’t help but bring their lips together again. It’d been too long.

Moaning softly into the kiss, Alistair pulled back and looked lovingly into Cullen’s eyes. “You are something else, you know that?”

“Is that a good something? Or a bad something?”

“At the moment, you are my knight in shining armor, so I’d say that’s a very good something.” Alistair laid his head on Cullen’s shoulder with a sigh. “How did you know I needed you so much right now?”

“Lana sent me a text.”

“Of course she did.”

“I wanted to come sooner, but you said… you said you wanted space and I--I’m so sorry, Alistair, I should have been here for you.”

“Well, it’s not like I made it easy for you. And, you’re here now; that’s what matters. I’m sorry for pushing you away, you were being so understanding and I just didn’t think I deserved that.”

Cullen cupped Alistair’s face in his hands and whispered softly, “I love you, there is nothing I wouldn’t do for you. Whether we deserve each other or not is another matter entirely.” He leaned in and kissed Alistair softly on the corner of his mouth before pulling away with a wink, tugging him towards the loft, “C’mon, let’s go somewhere where we can talk more privately.”

“Does it matter? Lana can hear us no matter what.”

Cullen smirked, looking over his shoulder. “Do you trust me?”

Alistair nodded and followed Cullen up the stairs, drawing strength from the fingers interlaced with his own. He was so tired--tired of fighting, tired of being alone. He knew that he was finally ready to let Cullen help. The feeling of emptiness that had consumed him the last couple weeks was too much. He tried to justify it; wanted to believe that Cullen wouldn’t want him after learning his secret.

I should have known better.

Wanting to help Cullen during one of his rough patches, Alistair told him that they were stronger together, that he would be there for him, should he ever need it, and that he didn’t need to face his demons alone ever again. But when it was his own past, his own demons come to haunt him, the first thing he did, was push Cullen away. He may not believe that he deserved Cullen’s forgiveness or acceptance, but he wasn’t going to fight it any longer. It wasn’t fair to either one of them. Whatever Cullen wanted or needed from him, he would gratefully give it.

 

Chapter Text


Cocktails & Cheese

Cullen and Alistair - A Modern Day AU

Chapter 31

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:

 

[19:45]

 

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.”

 

[19:48]

 

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?”

 

“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.”

 

“Thank you.”

 

“Anytime.” He looked up to find Leliana with a bemused expression on her face before bidding them both farewell and heading out the door.

 

 

Chapter Text


 

Cocktails & Cheese

Cullen and Alistair - A Modern Day AU

Chapter 32

Secrets and Salvation Part 6


 

After leaving Alistair’s, Cullen headed over to the library to see what he could see. Before getting out of his Jeep, he sent Rylen a text.

[21:15]

Cullen:        On a new case; heading back to the office and could use your help. If you are otherwise occupied, be prepared to jump in first thing in the morning.

Rylen:      I can be there after Jan goes to sleep. Need anything?

Cullen:     I need to find Alistair’s son.

Rylen:      Sir?

Cullen:     I will explain later. We are meeting with the Mother in the morning at ten a.m.

Rylen:      How’s Alistair?

Cullen:     He’s been better, he’s coming by to pick me up after he closes the pub for the night. ;)

Rylen:      Did you just send me a winky face?

Cullen:     No… that must have been my auto correct.

Rylen:      Right. So not an all-nighter then?

Cullen:     Not if I can help it.

Rylen:      Glad to have you back, Sir. See you in a bit.

 

Switching over to Dorian, Cullen sent:

 

[11:19]

Cullen:        I need a favor.

Dorian:        Anything for you, Amatus.

Cullen:        How soon can you get to Denerim? I need you to track someone for me.

Dorian:        Tracking? Really? You interrupted my amorous adventures with Bull for tracking?

Cullen:        Alistair’s son has been taken… You are the only one I know who can help.

Dorian:        Kaffas! He has a son? Of course, Amatus, I will be on the first train out of here. Should make it to your office by noon tomorrow.

Cullen:        Thank you Dorian. I owe you one. This is… big.

Dorian:        How are you holding up? Any… issues?

Cullen:        No, I’m… holding up so far. This case may push my limits though; will be nice to have you handy… just in case.

Dorian:        I’ll always be there when you need me. Should I bring Bull?

Cullen:        Come prepared, but I think we can handle it without Bull if he can’t get away.

Dorian:        Armor, weapons, my rapier wit, and debonair charm? What are we up against here?

Cullen:        Do you know anything about the Witch of the Wilds?  

Dorian:        … Fuck!... Really? You don’t do anything small, do you?

Cullen:        It keeps life interesting for you. If you have any information on her, bring that too. I’ve been coming up empty handed with my database.

Dorian:        There’s a tome or two around here somewhere, I’ll bring what I have. Hang in there, Cullen. I expect a full report tomorrow.

Dorian:       Alistair has a son and is somehow connected to the most powerful witch ever… This should be fun. :P

Cullen:         Thanks again, Dorian.


 

 

Cullen mentally prepared himself for what he might find. The lights of the library were off and the doors were locked tight, but the grounds were ungated which would allow for a preliminary perimeter check. That would have to do for tonight.

Grabbing his flashlight from the glovebox and making sure his gun was free in its holster for easy drawing, Cullen began his search around the outside of the building. He checked the walkway around, the shrubs and even looked into the dark windows themselves, looking for anything out of the ordinary.

As he reached the south side of the building, Cullen noticed curtains fluttering in the breeze in a second story window that was left open. He shined his light at the darkened window and noticed something glinting back at him.

He hoisted himself up onto the first story window ledge to try to get a closer look and noticed that the reflective object seemed to be an amulet of some sort.

It can’t be a coincidence that the only open window has something dangling from it. Though it’s not usually this easy for me either.

Marking the location of the necklace and taking a picture for reference with his phone, he once again pocketed his device to try to figure out how to reach it.

Placing his flashlight in his mouth, Cullen found hand and toe holds in the mortar of the bricks allowing him to scale the wall to the second story ledge. Pulling himself up to safety he sat for a moment and inspected the device.

It was tarnished brass, the back rubbed smooth by worrying fingers; the front boasted a relief of a majestic dragon, poised to take flight: wings spread wide, head thrown back in a fearsome roar. It hummed with a magical energy but remained fastened securely even after Cullen drained it of its powers.

Taking another picture for reference, Cullen picked it up with his kerchief and placed it into his pocket until he could seal it in a baggie to take back to the precinct with him.

I will ask Morrigan in the morning if this looks familiar.

Cullen looked through the open window to note the location so that he could come back to look around after their meeting. Not noticing anything else unusual, Cullen shimmied back down the wall, then headed back to his Jeep.

 


 

Cullen already spent an hour digitally mapping out what he already knew on the link-chart on the computer when Rylen entered the office.

He handed Cullen a cup of coffee. “So… Alistair has a kid?”

Taking a grateful sip, Cullen replied, “It appears so.”

“And, you’re ok with this?”

Cullen shrugged. “Alistair having a son doesn’t bother me. It is what it is and doesn’t change anything between us. He’s always been great with my niece and nephews.” Cullen chuckled to himself remembering their antics on the beach. “Hell, he’s practically a kid at heart himself.”

He took a deep breath, settling himself into ‘Commander’ mode. “Now that you’ll be helping me with this case, I can fill you in on what I couldn’t earlier at the coffee shop.”

And he did. Tapping a few keys on his computer, Cullen projected the chart he’d been working on onto the whiteboard in his office. As he went over the details on the interactive projection, Cullen told Rylen everything that he could, leaving out the sordid details surrounding their other life, letting his Lieutenant make his own assumptions about the one time hook-up resulting in Kieran.

They kept much of the discussion to the facts on hand: where he was last seen, that Morrigan suspected her mother of taking him and not knowing where in Thedas she might have him hidden. Over the next couple hours, they discussed what questions they still needed to ask Morrigan as well as lay plans for investigating the Library. They also discussed their options for where they might be able to do more research on who Morrigan’s mother actually was. Cullen told Rylen that he called in Dorian to help; his background in psychology had come in handy in the past as a convenient cover for helping to analyze cases.

Time passed quickly and before they knew it, Alistair trudged through the door at half past two in the morning.

Rylen looked over Alistair’s ragged appearance. He was surprised by how exhausted and drained he looked; his enigmatic smile replaced by a feeble one laced with anxiety.

Cullen looked at his Lieutenant. “That’s all for tonight, Rylen. I appreciate you coming in to help me with this. We’ll pick it up again in the morning.”

Rylen nodded his head but directed his next statement towards Alistair. “Don’t worry, Mr. Theirin, you’ve got the best working on your case. We’ll find your son, I promise you.”

Alistair managed a genuine, if exhausted, smile. “Thank you Rylen.” Then said to Cullen, “Are you ready?”

“I am. You look like you could sleep for a week.”

“You don’t look much better.”

“That’s funny, I feel better than I have in a while. Maybe it’s because I finally have something to focus on.” Wrapping his arms around Alistair, he whispered in his ear, “Maybe, it’s just that I feel complete again now that you’re here.”

Kissing his forehead, he said louder, “Let’s get you home.”

Cullen grabbed his coat and wrapped an arm around Alistair before turning to leave. He noticed that Rylen had yet to move from his spot studying the projection. “You’re not leaving?”

“Not yet.” Rylen tilted his head to the side while staring at their notes. “There is something… something here that I just can’t quite put my finger on. I can almost… I feel like I’ll see it if I don’t look at it directly. I know it sounds silly, but I want to sit here with this for a bit longer. You two go ahead, I’ll be fine.”

Cullen looked at Alistair who was staring at Rylen in contemplation. Catching each other’s eyes, they nodded with the same realization.

Rylen was close to being able to ‘see’ on his own.

Guiding Alistair out the door, Cullen took a deep breath before whispering, “I will talk with him tomorrow and give him the choice. If he wants to know, I will help him. If he doesn’t, we’ll leave it alone.”

Alistair nodded, “Opening his sight will only be the first step.”

“I know. Being able to see the big bad is one thing, I wouldn’t leave him unprotected from being able to fight it too.”

“If it comes to that… I want to help.”

Cullen nodded, tightening the arm draped over Alistair’s shoulder and kissing his temple, “There’s no one else I would rather have by my side for this.”

They walked the rest of the way to Cullen’s apartment in silence. Arms wrapped securely around one another. Always touching, always connected, taking comfort in each other’s presence.

Alistair was so exhausted; he didn’t look like he was going to make it up the stairs. Cullen opted to take the elevator instead, holding Alistair’s swaying form in his arms the whole way up.

Opening the door to the apartment, Cullen went through his routine of removing various items from his pockets and hanging up his coat. Reaching up to unfasten his shoulder holster, he noticed that Alistair hadn’t moved from the entryway. He was leaning up against the door, watching Cullen with a smirk on his face.

Returning the odd smile, Cullen approached and pulled Alistair into his arms. “What is it, love? If I didn’t know better, I’d say you looked like you were about to devour me.”

“Mmm I’d really like to, but you’re right, I’m much too exhausted for that. Doesn’t mean that I can’t enjoy the show though.”

Placing a chaste kiss on Alistair’s lips, Cullen whispered, “Let’s get you into bed, sweetheart. You look about ready to fall over. We’ll have plenty of time to play later. Tonight, I just want to hold you and feel your skin next to mine.”

“I like the sound of that. I’ve missed you so much, I wish I had more energy for a proper reunion.”

Cullen kissed him tenderly, “You’ve had a rough couple of weeks--we both have--I’m just happy to have you here with me again.”

They made it to the bathroom to brush their teeth, then back to the bedroom to strip down to nothing before climbing into bed. Alistair curled his body up next to Cullen’s, grabbed his arms and wrapped them tightly around himself; Cullen’s hands curled firmly to Alistair’s chest.

Cullen chuckled, “I love it when you’re so demanding.”

“Shut up and hold me, I missed being your little spoon .” Alistair chuckled tiredly. “Thank you for being here, Cullen. I don’t know what I’d do without you.”

Cullen wrapped himself around Alistair’s body as much as he could; chest to back, arms wrapped securely around Alistair. “I’m here, I will always be here for you. We both fight so hard to keep others safe, I think it’s hard for us to admit that it’s ok to need help ourselves.”

Alistair nodded, enjoying the feeling of Cullen’s fingers in his hair. “Sometimes I think you’re too good to be true; certainly too good for likes of this wayward Warden and all his problems.”  

“Oh, Alistair. I love you more than I ever thought possible. That includes your past. We both have history, we both have baggage, but I think what we have together is worth working through it. It may take time, but I’m willing… if you are.”

Alistair nuzzled closer into Cullen’s chest, nodding his head in agreement, “I’m willing... and I love you too.”

Cullen kissed Alistair’s cheek softly before laying his head down on their shared pillow. “Sleep well, my sweet man. We will do our best to solve the world’s problems when we wake up.”

Chapter Text


 Cocktails & Cheese

Cullen and Alistair - A Modern Day AU

Chapter 33

Secrets and Salvation Part 7


 

Wednesday Morning

Alistair woke up a little after ten, to an empty bed. He stretched, feeling refreshed and rejuvenated, surrounded by the smell of Cullen on the sheets. Rolling over, he wrapped his arms around Cullen’s pillow, burying his face in the comforting scent. He lay there for a few moments more; imagining arms still wrapped securely around him, unsure if he deserved such an amazing man, but done arguing it anymore. If Cullen still wanted to be with him, even after all that’d happened, who was he to fight it? Deciding to finally quit whining about what should be, he opted to actually let go and just enjoy what was being offered.

Content with his new outlook on life, Alistair stretched once more, then looked up to start his day. The first thing he noticed was a red rose laying on the nightstand waiting for him. It was not unlike the ones he sent weekly to adorn Cullen’s desk. With a sigh, he realized that it’d been a couple of weeks since his last delivery.

I need to remedy that soon, before the spell fades completely.

Refusing to dwell on it, Alistair perked up when he noticed that the rose was accompanied by a few other items. Under the rose was a note, next to them sat a large cup of coffee, and a small paper bag that held something heavenly smelling inside. Taking a quick peek, Alistair nearly squealed with glee when he found a toasted bagel hiding inside with so much cream cheese in it that it was oozing out all sides.

Sweet Maker, I love that man for knowing how to make me smile first thing in the morning.

Taking a sip of the coffee, Alistair grimaced at the tepid temperature. “Well, what did you expect? He had to be at work at a quarter to eight and your lazy bones slept until after ten.” Grabbing a pair of shorts out of Cullen’s drawer, Alistair slipped them on. Once he was decent, he scooped up his gifts and ventured out to the kitchen to warm up his coffee and enjoy his breakfast.

Finally sitting down at the small table, Alistair licked the excess cream cheese from around the outside of his bagel while he read his note:


 

 

Good morning, my love,

Thank you for last night. Waking up in your arms again was definitely good for my soul.

I’m glad you joined me after work, I know we were both exhausted, but there’s no place that I’d rather be when things are tough, than with you. Thank you for letting me in and--most of all--thank you for allowing me to help you find Kieran.

I know the circumstances aren’t ideal and that this was almost as much of a surprise to you as it was to me. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t make this work; that we can’t make this beautiful. What we have is worth it. I just want you to know that I’m willing; I am here for you, no matter what you need. Things are hard right now, but I promise, they will get better.

If you come by my office today around noon, I’ll take you to lunch and we can go over the meeting with Morrigan. Dorian is scheduled to come in around the same time, so if you’re ok with him joining us, we can all get on the same page before we split up and get down to it.

Enjoy your morning and enjoy the breakfast I left you; extra cream cheese, just the way you like it.

Love always,

Cullen

 


Finishing his breakfast, Alistair cleaned up after himself then took a shower. He let the hot water wash over his body, cleansing him of all doubt and negativity. Moping wasn’t going to get Kieran back. Cullen offered to lead the search for his son and he was going to let him. ‘ Together’ he said, and Alistair liked the sound of that.

It was only eleven o’clock by the time he finished tidying up after his brief stay. He knew he couldn’t sit around for the next hour twiddling his thumbs, so he grabbed his bag and left, locking up the apartment behind him. Dropping his things by his car, Alistair headed for the only other sanctuary that he’d ever known.

Entering the Chantry, Alistair inquired as to the whereabouts of Mother Natalie and was directed out into the private garden. She was sitting on a bench in the sun, knitting a pair of socks. She looked up and smiled as he approached. Seeing her like that, he remembering days long gone. Wanting a little of that comfort back, he sat at her feet like he used to do as a child. Laying his head on her lap, he wrapped his arms around her lower legs and closed his eyes.

Setting aside her knitting, Mother Natalie ran her fingers through his hair. “You used to do this when you had bad days. You’d always come to me for comfort, but never asked for anything beyond this. I could always tell when you were upset though.”

“Why’s that?” He asked quietly.

Still petting his hair, she replied, “Because you were quiet, dear. The only time you were ever quiet was when you were hurting.”

“I guess some things never change. I actually came here to ask for prayers and blessings, but seeing you sitting there like when I was a boy, I just couldn’t help myself.”

“Would you like to tell me what’s troubling you? Or would you just like me to sit here and run my fingers through your hair?”

“This is nice… I like this.” Alistair rubbed his face against the familiar feel of her robes.

Natalie chuckled affectionately. “Cullen was here last weekend. Are you two… okay?”

He nodded briefly. “I suppose he would come here seeking answers.”

“I think he was here seeking solace . He was praying when I went to sleep and hadn’t moved by the time I woke up. He was worried for you, you know.”

Taking a deep breath, Alistair admitted, “I… wasn’t very nice to him. But things are… better now. We talked finally and I think... we’re going to be okay.”

“Is there anything I can help with?”

Alistair shook his head. “I want you to know--that is--I found out recently that I have a son. He’s ten years old and his name is Kieran. So, I guess that sort of makes you his grand-Mother.”

Natalie chuckled softly. “I suppose congratulations are in order. Or is that what has your heart hurting? How is your Knight-Commander taking the news?”

Alistair answered the last question first, “He’s fine, better than I deserve actually, but still, we’re good. Having a son isn’t what’s bothering me. I haven’t even met him yet, but I hope to--soon. We need to find him first. My heart hurts… because he was kidnapped from the Denerim library yesterday.”

Natalie gasped at the revelation and paused her hand in his hair. “Oh, Alistair, I am so sorry. Is there anything I can do?”

“Actually, I think you’re doing it.” He hugged her legs a little tighter before relaxing his grip again with a sigh. “Two weeks ago, I didn’t even know that he existed and now… I’m a father and I’ve got to find him. Nothing else matters to me.”

“If you’re supposed to be searching for him, why are you here? Not that you’re not welcome, child; I will be here for you as long as the Maker wills it. But, being still has never been your strong suit, you were always the first into action; the first to defend.”

“I’m waiting for Cullen, actually. He’s meeting with Kieran’s mother this morning and I’m… not allowed to show up until noon.” Alistair sighed heavily. “And you’re right, I couldn’t just sit around the apartment, I’d be pacing like a caged lion.”

“So you came to see me? I’m touched.” She teased affectionately.

A thought occurred to him as he looked up at Natalie, “Would you… like to see a picture of him?”

Alistair stood and reached into his wallet for the picture of Kieran. Sitting down on the bench next to her, they talked about the similarities and differences between this young man in the photo and when Alistair was ten years old. They spoke quietly for the next twenty minutes, about everything and nothing in particular. It was enough. It was exactly what he needed.

After offering up her prayers and the Maker’s blessing, Natalie bid him farewell and good luck. He thanked her and with a heartfelt hug, then headed out for Cullen’s office.

 


 

A/N - I hope you'll forgive the short chapter; it was a busy holiday week and I'm working on getting back up to speed, but I was able to put out a quick Harvestmere one-shot to go with this weeks mini-chapter. If you're interested, you can find more of Alistair's kitchen shenanigans here!

Please keep in mind that it does not take place in the current timeline (poor form having such a lighthearted family gathering when Alistair is currently searching for his son). Think of it as... next year's holiday feast!

 

Chapter Text


Cocktails & Cheese

Cullen and Alistair - A Modern Day AU

Chapter 34

Secrets and Salvation Part 8


 

Wednesday Morning / Cullen

The first thing Cullen noticed as he entered the precinct with his arms full of donuts, was that everyone was looking at him like he was a ticking time bomb. There was a cautiousness to their hushed conversations, and everyone seemed to be giving him a wide berth.

Have I really been that bad lately? I can’t let this go on.

Clearing his throat, he set the large box on the reception desk. “All right guys, I’d like your attention please.”

The guarded officers gathered around while Cullen rubbed nervously at the back of his neck. “Look, you guys put up with a lot of shit from a lot of people. The last person you need to be walking on eggshells around--is me.” Cullen smiled meekly. “I owe you all an apology for how I’ve been behaving the last couple of weeks.”

Josie piped up, “Is that why we get donuts, Sir?”

“Yes, actually, it is. My behavior lately has been deplorable; it was unworthy of me to take my personal issues out on you. I just wanted to say, I’m sorry.”

Jim reached in and grabbed a bear claw out of the box with a wink. “So, I guess you and lover-boy kissed and made up, huh?”

“Shut-up, Jim.” Toni smacked him in the back of the head before grabbing the box. “It’s none of our business. The boss is making amends; that takes balls man. Leave him alone.”

Chuckling, Cullen looked up at Toni, chewing through a grin. “Thanks Toni, you got a little something on your...”

Wiping the jelly from her chin, she licked the goo from her fingers one-by-one. “Anytime, boss!”

Kelvin looked disgusted. “Use a napkin, Toni. That’s repulsive! Don’t Qunari know what proper table manners are?”

“Oh, I know what table manners are, but… I don’t actually see a table around here. Do you?” Toni grabbed another jelly donut out of the box and wandered off back to her desk.

As the rest of the officers began to disperse, Cullen looked curiously around the room. “I don’t see Rylen, has he made it in yet?”

Thom pointed with his maple bar, “He’s in your office, Sir. Was here when I came in this morning. He’s lookin’ pretty ragged: pacing, mumbling to himself, unshaven, he doesn’t look like he’s slept. Is there a new case, Sir?”

Cullen sighed heavily. “Yes, unfortunately... missing child.”

“Those are never good.”

“No, Thom, they’re not.” He caught the eyes of some of the remaining team members. “I have a meeting scheduled today for ten o’clock then Alistair and Dorian will be arriving at noon to give me a hand with the case. I expect you all to be on our best behavior.”

Jim snickered. “Bringing the boyfriend in on a case, Sir?”

Cullen leveled a steely gaze at him. “Considering it’s his child that we’re searching for, you bet your ass he’s going to be here. And you will treat him with respect this visit. Do I make myself clear?”

“Yes, Sir. Perfectly clear.” Jim blanched and lowered his gaze.

Confident that his message was received, Cullen grabbed an apple fritter out of the box and headed for his office.

Closing the door behind him, Cullen took in Rylen’s haggard appearance. He was currently pacing back and forth in front of the digital projection of the link-chart diagram; wearing the same clothes he’d been in the night before. His hair was disheveled; there were dark circles under his eyes and his skin had taken on a sickly pallor. There were a few additions to their chart but he was mostly focusing on the amulet in his hand that Cullen found on the ledge at the library.

Rylen’s fingers were worrying over the smooth metal as he mumbled to himself, “If… but no, that’s not right… that’s not possible. Or is it? Don’t be stupid, Rylen, of course it’s not! But what if… It’s right here, right in front of me and I’m missing it?”

Cullen cleared his throat.

Rylen’s head snapped up in surprise as he quickly deposited the necklace back onto the desk, “Oh, good morning, Commander.”

“Good morning, Lieutenant. Long night?”

“Yes, Sir. I couldn’t leave it. There’s something here that’s just… off. I don’t know, I’ve been running through this all night, trying to figure it out. I thought this would be a normal kidnapping case, but it feels--all wrong.”

“Wrong? How so?” Cullen handed Rylen the fritter and the untouched cup of coffee in his hand. “Sit.”

Getting comfortable in the chair, Rylen sipped at the coffee gratefully. “We don’t even have all the data yet: haven’t been to the library itself, haven’t done our usual intake interview with the parents, there’s no note of ransom or anything. But I… I get the feeling none of that will really help if we’re not looking at this correctly.”

“And you don’t think we’re looking at it correctly, Rylen? Can you elaborate on that?”

“It’s hard to explain.” Rylen opened his mouth, closed it again, then took a bite of his pastry to buy him more time to formulate his reply. After a moment of contemplation, he finally admitted, “I’m… not sure how to describe it, not without you questioning my sanity, Sir.”

Cullen settled in behind his desk, “Try me. I doubt there’s anything that you could say that would surprise me or make me question the soundness of your observations.”

Rylen chuckled morosely and whispered mostly to himself, “We’ll see about that.”

Watching Rylen uncomfortably fidget with his breakfast and coffee, Cullen decided to meet him in the middle. “Why don’t we start with what you feel when you hold that amulet?” Cullen began with something tangible to focus on.

Rylen hesitated. “Do you… do you feel it too?”

Cullen smiled reassuringly, “Why don’t you tell me what you feel and we’ll go from there.”

After taking a large gulp of his coffee, Rylen tried to put it into words, “Well, Sir, I know it might sound strange, but this necklace feels off; not like just a hunk of metal. It’s more than that. No, that can’t be right. There must be a logical explanation. Sir, please forget I ever said anything.”

“Does it hum, put off vibrations, or feel… alive to you? Like it has an energy all its own?” Cullen sat back with his fingers steepled together, gauging Rylen’s reaction.

Eyes like saucers, Rylen nodded. “I thought… I thought I might have been imagining it, but you--”

Cullen nodded. “Trust your instincts, Rylen. You know what you feel. Your translation of that energy might be different than mine. But, to answer that doubt in your eyes, yes, that necklace is more than just an inanimate piece of metal. You are not imagining it.”

Rylen looked at the item laying on the desk. “How is that possible?”

Instead of answering the question, Cullen asked reluctantly, “Are you sure you want this information, Rylen? Because once we start down this rabbit hole, there is no coming back.”

“I… I don’t know. You sound like it’s not something you want me to know. But, without the information, I can’t help you find Alistair’s son. I feel like I’m looking at everything all wrong, or just not seeing what I need to see. I feel like it’s right there glaring at me, but I’m blind to what I should be seeing! I know that sounds crazy but…” Rylen glanced over at their interactive diagram, then down at the amulet again coming to his decision. “Whether I want to know or not,I think I need to know, Sir.”

Cullen rubbed both hands down his face, groaning begrudgingly.

“There will be consequences if you tell me. Won’t there?”

Cullen nodded. “You were always too observant for your own good. I can help you if this is what you want. The decision needs to be entirely yours though; I won’t be responsible for making it for you.”

“Then, my answer is yes.” Rylen answered confidently. “I feel like this is something I’m… supposed to do… to know. I want to help you with this case and right now, I’m not playing with all the cards.” Rylen took a steadying drink of his coffee while he waited for Cullen to compose his thoughts.

“Are you absolutely sure? You can take time to decide; it doesn’t have to be now.”

“No time like the present, Sir. If this can help us find Alistair’s son, then whatever the cost, it’s worth it.”

Cullen took a moment to take in Rylen’s decision. He was cautious, but determined. This wasn’t a rash decision, it wasn’t something Rylen was taking on begrudgingly either. He was sure, he was ready.

Putting his own reservations aside, Cullen took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “Very well. To begin with, I need you to understand something. The world you know, is only one half of a whole. Our world is one of two that co-exist in a symbiotic dance. There are… beings on both sides of the veil that separate us that are completely unaware that the other exists.”

“Beings, Sir?”

Our side of the veil has people you’re familiar with: Elves, Dwarves, Qunari, Humans, dogs, cats, birds, reptiles, fish… to name the most prevalent of them. The other side contains things you’re more apt to find in fairy tales or horror stories: fae, dragons, demons, darkspawn; all are very real.”

“Monsters? Really? ” Rylen looked skeptical, but he didn’t get up and walk out.

“Yes, really.” Cullen answered simply.

Shaking his head, Rylen pressed on, “Ok, say I believe you. How can we co-exist without one side knowing about the other? And why do you know about them?”

“Not everyone is unaware. There are a few who can traverse the veil, others that are charged with protecting one side from the other, and still more that utilize energy from the other side to facilitate their magic on this side.”

“Magic too?” Rylen put his head in his hands, shaking it in disbelief. “You’re just fucking with me now, aren’t you?” He leveled a gaze at Cullen.

“I truly wish it were so, Rylen. Y’know, if you would like to stop, we can leave this alone and move onto other topics. This isn’t something you are required to know.”

Rylen took a breath, then sighed in resignation. “No, Sir. I’m ok. It’s just… a lot to take in: two worlds in one, magic , and apparently there’s more to it.” Rylen closed his eyes and leaned back in his chair. “I wish I could explain it, but I feel like I need to do this. You said there are people on this side charged with protecting; is that… what you do?”

“I am one, yes. A True-Templar gifted with the responsibility of protecting the Maker’s children.”

“But you… left the order.”

“That is mostly true. I left the politics behind; but not my faith, and not my mission. Once you acquire the ability to see the other side, you cannot give it up again.”

“Do all Templar’s know of this other world?”

“No, only a few possess the ability required to become aware of it. Not everyone is capable of seeing the truth.”

“But you are…”

“I am…” Cullen sighed heavily. “Though I have left the order, my oaths still demand that I protect those incapable of protecting themselves. That includes dangers from both sides of the veil. There is a… blessing--if you will--that aids the transition into opening your sight fully, if you are susceptible. It is the same one that was used to open my sight when I was still in training. If we are to continue discussing this, I would suggest you allow me to perform the rite on you before we proceed further.”

“Does it hurt?”

Cullen chuckled. “No, it only removes the doubt that’s clouding your ability to accept. It’s a prayer; a gentle touch of my ‘gift’ to your mind and the only thing you should feel is cool acceptance and calm understanding. It can be refreshing, exhilarating, and sometimes a little frightening. But you are safe here, I wouldn’t offer this if I couldn’t protect you while you acclimate to your sight.”

“All right.”

Cullen rose from his chair and walked purposefully to stand in front of him. “Last chance to tell me no, Rylen?”

“I trust you. Teach me.”

“Very well. I’ve been watching you for a while. Chances are high that you’d have come upon this awakening on your own. At least this way, we can help guide you through your transition.”

We , Sir?”

“We’ll talk more after. For now; close your eyes, relax, and listen to my voice. When you feel something cold permeating your body, don’t panic, let it flow through you. Think of it as a cleansing shower, removing all of the barricades put into place by the Maker to protect those less capable of understanding. Know that you are capable, you are ready, and most importantly, you are not alone.”

Cullen placed one hand gently behind Rylen’s neck, tilting his head up and supporting its weight. With his other, he gently pressed his first and middle fingers to the center of Rylen’s forehead and began to intone the prayer that he never thought he’d have to use again.

By the Maker’s light, I grant you your sight

To reveal the veil in all its glorious horrors

All the truths of this world, and the one beyond

In believing, we truly see

In sight, we truly know

With this Awakening,

The actuality of the world--will be revealed.

Be you worthy

The Maker will provide

The release of energy flowed naturally as he spoke--cooling, calming--leaving Cullen with a sense of serenity and rightness. He was meant to do this. Throughout his life, all he wanted was to be the Maker’s hand; to do his work. That goal had been twisted and tarnished into something he barely recognized by the time he separated from the order.

Rylen quietly lost consciousness, collapsing into Cullen’s arms; this was not uncommon when an awakening was successful. Lowering his body gently to the floor, Cullen pooled his jacket beneath Rylen’s head and arranged his body into a comfortable position. It was hard to tell how long he would remain unconscious; it all depended on how much adjusting his mind and body needed to do to accommodate the new information.

On his knees, Cullen offered up a quiet prayer:         

                    Maker~

                    So often, I worry about the path I’ve taken

                    Today, you’ve reassured me

                     I still walk in your light

                    I am worthy of your love

                    And my devotion is not misguided

                    For this, I am grateful

 

                    I pray that Rylen’s new path be an easy one

                    Please, Maker, watch over him

                    Help me guide him and ease his transition

                    I pray his new gifts be no more than he can handle

                    Always your faithful vessel

                    Walking Forever in your light

 


A/N - Happy December, my friends!
I can't believe the end of the year is fast approaching! This story is happily back on schedule with weekly updates, but I want to bring your attention to another Dragon Age writing week coming up on Tumblr. DASatinalia is December 18th - December 24th this year. I have a few new Cocktails and Cheese one-shots planned for the adventure, so I hope you'll be following along to enjoy them! Subscribe to me or follow the blog on Tumblr, I don't think you'll be disappointed! :)

DASatinalia

My Tumblr

 


 

Chapter Text


Cocktails & Cheese

Cullen and Alistair - A Modern Day AU

Chapter 35

Secrets and Salvation Part 9


 

Rylen opened his eyes and looked around with childlike wonder.

Cullen helped him to his feet, steadying him as he continued to look around the room. “How do you feel? Sometimes, it doesn’t feel like anything is different, though there are some people that say it’s like they’re looking at the world through brand new eyes.”

“Yeah--that one! It’s… I just… I can’t…” Rylen stuttered as he approached several items around the room. There was a medal on the wall that Cullen received as a Templar; it was surrounded in a faint green glow. Rylen reached out to touch it, but hesitated at the last moment. Next, he went to the sword that hung behind the desk; he always assumed it was ceremonial, but it shone so brightly, he could barely look at it directly. Finally, he turned to the desk and noticed a faded pink pulse coming from the vase that currently contained a dried-up rose.

Tilting his head to one side, he whispered in awe, “Alistair’s roses… they’re more than just…” Looking at Cullen, who was looking back quizzically, he noticed that Cullen himself, was surrounded in a golden aura that shone even brighter than his sword.

Auras? Am I seeing auras?

Rylen returned to the chair and, closing his eyes to the new sights before him, sank back into it with a sigh.

“I take it… something is different?” Cullen asked hesitantly as he approached his own chair behind the desk.

“I… yes. Y’know, I used to scoff at the self proclaimed psychics who offered to read auras for a fee. But now, I… I dunno… some things just shine more than others… there are colors with each of them and some of them pulse--almost as if they’re alive.” He looked pointedly down at the necklace on the desk that was pulsing steadily with a deep purple glow. “Can you see auras on things too?”

Cullen shrugged. “The sight is different for everyone. I tend to feel more than see, for example: intent, evil-vs-good. It’s like a gut feeling, only… stronger. To answer your questions, I am capable of seeing auras, but it is not as easy for me; I have to really concentrate and unfocus my eyes. The feeling comes naturally, the seeing… not so much. As Templars, we were trained to attune to magical energies. Some of my brethren would describe things with vivid imagery, but I always felt them more than saw. We are all different.” Cullen sighed then smiled apologetically. “I should also tell you that with the sight, occasionally comes new… talents . Yours appear to be auras of sorts; time will tell us if something else has been awakened as well.”

“That doesn’t sound frightening at all, Sir.” Rylen gulped.

“If all you’ve awakened is the ability to see auras, or if we find you have some latent ability come to the forefront, we will help you with them. I meant what I said, Rylen, you will not be alone.”

“You keep saying… we , Sir. If I may say, you don’t have a wide range of friends. Who do you have in your pocket that could possibly know what I’m going through?”

“I may not have a lot of them, but the ones I do have are almost all… unique. You’ve met most of them; others you will soon meet. I’m sure that you will get along with them all.”

Rylen looked at the vase on the desk. “Alistair?”

Cullen smiled fondly. “Yes, Alistair also carries the sight. He was the one that encouraged me to offer you the choice, instead of just waiting for you to come into your awakening… naturally.”

“Was he a Templar too?”

“No, though he did grow up at the Chantry watching them train. Did you ever read, The Last Flight Of The Griffons as a kid?”

“Sure, who didn’t? It was about the Grey Wardens and their mounts of old before they died out…” Rylen’s eyes narrowed in suspicion, then grew wide. “You can’t mean that Alistair is…”

“A Griffon? No.” Cullen winked. “But he is a Grey Warden. Well… in as much as I am still a Templar, that is.”

“I need to sit.”

“You are sitting.”

“Maybe I need to stand.” Rylen rose and began pacing the room again. “So, Alistair huh? What about Mia?”

Cullen sighed. “Mia is unique. She’s aware, but not awakened. She believes, but doesn’t have the capability to see. She’s been there for me through some pretty difficult times, her and Dorian both, but the innate ability isn’t in her.”

“So… Dorian too then?”

“He’s a Mage.”

“Shit.”

“He’s a good one though, I promise you. As is Lana.”

“Lana? The lady from the bar that delivers your roses?”

“The same.”

“Well that explains why your vase is glowing.”

“Is it?” Cullen focused on it for a few moments before his face lit up with a smile. “Why, that sneaky little…” Cullen chuckled. “I never noticed before. Not really surprising, just getting the weekly delivery makes me all sorts of--well, let’s just say, I never noticed the other feelings underneath the joy of receiving my flowers. Damn, she’s good! Hmmm…” Cullen closed his eyes concentrating, then began mumbling to himself, “...protection, but it’s faded. I wonder… I wonder if it’s powered by the roses? That would explain the regular deliveries.”

“Sir?” Rylen pulled Cullen back to their conversation.

“What? Oh I’m sorry, Rylen. I was just… never mind. I will ask Lana about it the next time I see her.”

“How do you all keep this hidden from everyone else?”

“Did you ever suspect that I was more than just a failed Templar, turned Detective, Rylen?”

“I never thought you failed at being a Templar, Sir. But to answer your question; no, you never gave any indication that there was more . Now that I’m thinking about it though, I used to catch glimpses of things out of the corner of my eye, or would get a bad feeling during one of our raids when we’d go in.” His eyes suddenly went wide remembering their last raid to find the missing mother. “The warehouse? We killed nine of the kidnappers when they fought against us, but one got away and you were… more exhausted than usual after that fight. What exactly were we up against? It wasn’t just people right? It was… something else that night, wasn’t it?”

Cullen nodded. “Mages, Lieutenant. Some are good and help people, they follow certain rules and guidelines that keep them and those around them safe. There are other mages, however, that are power hungry; they use their own blood to amplify their powers. It’s stupid, dangerous, and puts them at unnecessary risk. Demons are drawn to it, and if they’re not careful, their bodies can be possessed. We call them abominations. Thankfully, I was able to prevent anything like that from happening while you guys took them all out. It took great effort to keep the powers of so many at bay, but their leader still got away.” Cullen sighed heavily at the memory.

“I’m sorry, Sir. If I had only known--”

“You would have treated the case exactly as you did. Your orders remain the same. You follow my lead and go where I tell you. Mages are my specialty, Lieutenant. We have yet to discover yours, though I have a feeling it will have something to do with seeing things that others cannot. Not a bad skill to have as a detective, don’t you think? You’ve always had a penchant for it, even without the sight ; the auras will help and only time will tell what other skills you’ve acquired.”

Rylen nodded, still absorbing all that he’d discovered.

“I don’t mean to add more weight to your already burdened shoulders, but you know that you can’t tell your fiancé about this, right?” Rylen looked up sharply at Cullen’s declaration. “To keep her safe, she must remain naïve to all of this new information.”

“I thought you said that Mia knew. Why can’t I tell Jan?”

“If it were possible, I would have protected all of you from knowing about the true horrors that are out there. Mia had to know, to help with my healing. She…” Cullen sighed, running his fingers through his hair. “She is incapable of seeing, and maybe that is what protects her. When we failed to open her sight, we did what we could to ward her and her family. We can’t be sure how Jan would react, and I wouldn’t want to risk her unnecessarily.”

Rylen nodded solemnly. “So, what should I expect? Will I have to be hypervigilant all the time now?”

Cullen shook his head. “You shouldn’t be seeing big nasties around every corner. Well… at least, I would hope you wouldn’t. I don’t anyway.” Cullen chuckled trying to lighten the mood. “You’ll still be able to go about your normal life: go to the grocery store, the gym, out for coffee. Tears in the veil are rare, but they are possible, and now you will be able to see them and the dangers that can pour forth from them. Ultimately, this makes you better prepared for them.”

“But, what do I do if I do see something like that? I can’t… I don’t…” Rylen wrung his hands nervously.

“Remain calm. You are not prepared to fight them--yet. The best course of action is to try to remain as passive and apparently naïve as possible. Remember that looking at them draws their attention to you. With some of the creatures, it’s easier said than done to avert your eyes, but do your best. Bury your nose in your cellphone; call me or send me a text with your location. We can contact Alistair as well; there is no one better prepared to counter a tear in the veil than a Grey Warden.”

Rylen ran his hands down his face and groaned. “Ugh… An hour ago, I didn’t know any of this existed beyond niggling feelings, and now…” He looked over at Cullen, who was still sitting calmly behind his desk. “How do you do it? How do you cope with all of this information?”

Cullen smiled reassuringly. “Some days are easier than others. There are many days that I can go through life pretending that I’m just like everyone else. Then there are other days… days when I’m there to help a young mother find her way back to her baby and worried husband; days like that, make knowing what I know unequivocally worth it. I do what I do because it is the right thing to do and because someone has to do it. My faith carries me through much of it; Dorian and Mia have had a hand in helping through some of the rougher trials I’ve faced as well.”

Rylen nodded in understanding.

“As an officer, you already put your life on the line to protect and serve others. This just opens you up to do the job you already do--that much better. And as I’ve said, you won’t need to face any of this alone. As soon as we find Kieren, Alistair and I will begin your training.”

“My training, Sir?”

“I would not leave you defenseless in a world where you can see all the horrors. Your usual three days per week at the gym will not be enough for awhile. Alistair has offered up his dojo for us to prepare you to fight the supernatural. We’ll figure out a regular schedule and head there after work.”

Rylen snickered. “You do like your schedules, don’t you?”

“Yes… yes I do,” Cullen admitted, “...and it usually serves us well. You’ll need to figure out something to tell Jan though, it can be as simple as extra training for work. You know I’ll back you up. I don’t want you getting into trouble at home, but I don’t want to put  you in unnecessary danger either.”

“Understood, Sir. Do you mind if I… excuse myself for a bit? I need to freshen up before the meeting and I really need a moment to just...”

“Whatever you need, Rylen. Just be back by nine-thirty so we can prepare to meet with Morrigan.”

“Alistair’s not coming?”

“No, the two of them… don’t really get along. I think it would be counter-productive to have them both in the same room for this. She holds back in front of him and they…  antagonize each other; to put it lightly”

“That bad huh? I can’t imagine him being happy about passing on this meeting though.”

“Oh, there was a discussion, believe me.” Cullen chuckled fondly. “He will be joining us afterward about the same time Dorian shows up. I made a reservation for the four of us at Mr. Chen’s so we can discuss our findings and plans over lunch.”

Rylen nodded. “Sounds good, Sir. I will be back shortly.”

Cullen watched Rylen walk out of his office, looking pale and more haggard than when he’d come in, but all things considered, he seemed to be taking things rather well.

Well that didn’t go as bad as I thought it might.

Chapter Text


Cocktails & Cheese

Cullen and Alistair - A Modern Day AU

Chapter 36

Secrets and Salvation Part 10


Rylen re-entered the office forty-five minutes later, looking much calmer. He’d taken the time to freshen up and put on the spare suit that he kept in his locker. His eyes were still wide and rested a fraction of a second longer than necessary on items around the room. But overall, he seemed better .

“How are you feeling?” Cullen asked, pocketing the amulet he’d been inspecting.

“I’m ok, I guess. It’s--I don't know how to describe it.” He handed Cullen a cup of coffee and took a long pull from his own. “It's like every one of my senses has woken up. Everything looks crisper and sharper . The coffee tastes more robust; the cup feels smoother, the sweetness of the apple fritter was just… more … I don’t know, everything! Even touching things--” he caressed his fingers across the leather on the back of the chair. “Maker, I--”

“Can't wait to get home to your fiancé?” Cullen chuckled.

Blushing, Rylen laughed, relaxing into the comfortable camaraderie they were used to. “I hadn't actually thought of that, but if everything is more intense, I can't imagine what being intimate is going to feel like.” Closing his eyes, he inhaled the aroma wafting from his cup and savored the more vivid scent--letting it encompass him before taking another sip, rolling it around on his tongue.

“You need to be careful with this, Rylen.”

Rylen looked up quizzically.

“With these new powers, you run the risk of sensory overload, overstimulation, and debilitating headaches. To stay in control, you need to