This was decidedly not his scene, if he could even claim to have a scene. Did the couch in his sparsely furnished living room count as a scene? Probably not. As he ordered his first drink - which he desperately hoped would be his last - Cullen thought fondly about his gray couch, wishing he were there with his dog and the TV and his after work sweats. Maybe with a soda and a trashy snack cake on the table next to him. He slid cash across the bar - no sense in starting a tab - and sighed deeply as he turned, drink in hand, to survey the place he’d been dragged to, wondering where exactly he’d gone wrong enough to land him in this extremely uncomfortable predicament.
Ah yes, he’d mentioned that he couldn’t remember the last time he’d been on a real date. At work. A tactical error of the worst kind, made in the company of Josephine. So of course Leliana and Cassandra heard about it, and with a quickness that was almost breathtaking. After that, things had escalated, so here he was, outnumbered by his well-meaning coworkers, baffled by how completely he’d been disarmed by if you don’t go anywhere, how will you meet someone?And you must come with us tonight, no excuses. That one had been from Cassandra, who he’d looked to for support as Josephine and Leliana made plans for his evening. He’d banked on her to have his back. Alas, she’d been just as insistent in her own overserious and earnest way.
So. A club. An actual club where people came to… what? Certainly not to converse. The music blared, the bass hit so hard Cullen could feel it in his teeth, and the treble drove an electric line through his brain. No talking, then, but that seemed to suit everyone else in the place just fine. Most were more concerned with… dancing. At least, Cullen assumed it was dancing. It wasn’t like anything he’d label as such - it was more… clothed and mostly clumsy grinding than anything resembling what he knew as dance.
They had passion, he had to give them that. In a way, he was jealous. This undulating, living mass of humanity… it was abandon to the extent that Cullen could never hope to reach. He just… wasn’t built that way. The women who’d dragged him out that night knew that. He assumed they thought he’d unwind when he got there, but really… all this did was highlight how thoroughly and utterly out of place he was. He didn’t belong. There was no room for him amongst the sweating, raw movement of the beautiful people.
That and, Maker help him, he just didn’t want to be there.
“Hey!” A voice in his ear shook him from his rising sense of alienation. Josephine. “Come and dance with me!” He turned to face her, flashing an apologetic smile before answering.
“I don’t think…”
“You are perfectly capable…” Cassandra this time.
“Drink,” Cullen explained, holding up his glass and swirling its contents for effect.
“It won’t last forever,” Leliana answered with a sly look before grabbing both the other women and heading out into the fray.
“That’s what you think,” Cullen grumbled to himself and took another sip. He was going to finish this and then head home. That was the plan. He’d tried. He’d shown up. Even had a drink. As expected, it wasn’t his thing. But he’d more than appeased his friends, at least by his estimation. Whether they agreed or not wasn’t his concern.
So there he stood, leaning back against the bar in his sensible shoes, trying for all the world to somehow look perfectly comfortable and completely aloof at all times.
“Hey… come here often?” A man, smiling like he knew he’d just used the corniest line in all of creation. Cullen himself barely kept the groan at bay.
“No.” Came Cullen’s response, flat and final. The man raised an eyebrow and walked away. Cullen kept sipping his drink alone.
“I’ve not seen you around… come here often?” This man was smaller, lithe and compact. Obviously proud of the way he looked. And yet, Cullen fought a chuckle at hearing the same question… even if the delivery was more confident. “Allow me to buy your next drink…”
“Already got one.” Matter of fact. Frank.
“Shame,” the other man said before sliding away.
Others approached him as he sipped his drink in solitude, but he wasn’t interested in small talk, and each one walked away. He busied himself with keeping tabs on the group of women who’d pushed him there. Their group had grown. They were having fun. Part of him wanted… but no. What he needed to do was finish that drink and go. Just one more sip, and he could head out, away from this particular embarrassment. Yes, he’d just toss this last bit back, let the girls know, and then grab a cab back to his car.
Thus bolstered by his decision, he knocked that last swig back, set the glass down with what would have been a heavy thud - if he could have heard it, anyway - and began scanning the crowd to find his companions.
As one, the people on the floor pulsed in time with the music, but he only saw faces, looking for the three that were familiar. His scowl deepened the longer he went without finding them. From where he was, he had to rely on the movement, the breaking and shifting of couples and groups to see past the closest bodies, and it was slow work. Desperate, he considered getting his phone out to text them, but then the waters parted, a shift in the sea, and his eyes found…
It was barely more than a glimpse, but it left Cullen… disoriented. Not breathless. He wouldn’t admit to the way the air whooshed out of his lungs as his stomach somehow coiled and loosened at the same time. No, he didn’t believe in that type of reaction, not so far as his own body and mind went, anyway, so no. He was just… disoriented, that was all. The drink had been stronger than he’d thought, surely, but…
Well, what harm would one more drink do? It would make his friends happy that he stayed longer than 15 minutes, and weren’t they always telling him to loosen up?
So he turned, not towards the exit, but back to the bar and ordered another. The bartender smiled, like he knew something, when Cullen slid his credit card across the bar to start a tab. Really, he was out of cash, and besides this way he could easily buy the ladies drinks when they took a break. That’s all.
And maybe, once he got his drink, he moved down the bar. That was just angling so he could see his friends better. He wasn’t looking for anyone else. Certainly not the man who’d caught his attention earlier. It just so happened that… yes, there he was, just in view. Different from everyone else, the way he moved was confident. Assured. Like he knew his body, and it obeyed his command. Certainly, he was… entertaining to watch, while Cullen waited.
As he worked on his second drink, his attention drifted between the large circle that Leliana, Josie, and Cass had joined and… well, yes. Him. But only because the man was clearly a skilled dancer. He moved with the music like a great cat. Silky, but assured. No awkward fumbling there, only sweat and hips rolling and…
What was that?
Cullen shook his head and took another sip only to discover that he’d drained this second drink dry without even realizing it. Another, then. It’d been a while since he’d been out anywhere and, fuck it, it was Friday. He could sleep all day tomorrow, if it came to it.
He barely registered the third drink. By the end of it, he’d made a game of seeing how many men approached Him - and that was how Cullen was thinking of the man, just Him, capitalized just like that. There were a fair few. Of course. He was the type that drew others in. As someone so diametrically opposed, Cullen found it fascinating to see. What must it be like, to draw people in…
“This spot taken?” A voice interrupted his musing. Cullen spared a glance to see a great mountain of a man, broader and taller than even Cullen was. That much was a shock - he wasn’t accustomed to feeling small, but for a moment, he surely did.
“No,” Cullen answered, and he took a moment to find his friends before his gaze refocused on Him.
“Never seen you here… you with anyone?”
Cullen snorted at the variance of the old come here often? and tipped his drink in the direction of Josie, Leliana, and Cass. “I was dragged against my will.”
“Not much of a dancer then?”
“Not at all.”
“You should try it… I could show you the ropes…”
“Thank you, I’ll pass.”
There was a moment when Cullen thought the man would leave him alone, and then he heard a deep chuckle in his ear. Cullen started, almost spilled his drink from the shock of that rumbling sound so close. The other man had lowered his head to Cullen’s level and was looking out onto the dance floor, following his gaze.
“Content to enjoy the sights, then,” the man said, shaking his head as he collected a slew of drinks in his giant paws. “Well, if you change your mind, I’m that way. Can’t miss me.” He laughed at his own joke and walked off into the direction he pointed to join a large group.
Cullen shrugged as the man left before fixing his gaze back on the dance floor. Another would-be partner had approached Him, was allowed to dance for a moment before given the subtle but clear sign he should back off.
Yes, it would be nice if Cullen were that kind of person. Someone who others noticed. Sadly, he just wasn’t. No one found him interesting, and he could hardly blame them. But the man on the dance floor out there… he surely was. Everything Cullen wasn’t. Confident. Comfortable.
Something in Cullen’s brain recoiled against that thought - what do you mean, beautiful? He’s just interesting to look at - but it was far smaller than it had been after the first drink. The larger part of Cullen’s consciousness… well, it was awake now and aware. That man out there, the one who’d drawn his attention all night, he was… he was more than beautiful. He was hot. Hot. Not a thought that ever crossed Cullen’s mind, but there it was. Incongruous with his day to day existence. This man was hot, and Cullen wanted to be one of the people with enough audacity to approach him, even if he’d be turned away.
And he would. Oh, he wouldn’t even be one of the lucky ones allowed a moment of the man’s attention. And what would Cullen even say to him? How would he even approach him? Hi! I’m the most dull and completely mediocre person on the planet and you are just ridiculously attractive! So, ah… do you come here often?Everyone else seemed to think that was a good way to get things started, apparently, but something told him this man was far too cool for that sort of thing. He’d need something special. Something clever. Something that would grab attention and hold it. A witty phrase or smooth delivery… neither of which Cullen had. No, he was more like to get laughed right out of the place. It was pointless.
But the way the man moved… Maker help him, Cullen couldn’t tell if the heat in his face and the sweat on his brow was from the drinks or the the way the man’s body rolled with the beat. And if he could move like that on the dance floor, imagine what he must be like in…
“Cullen, please tell me you have not been just… standing here this whole time?” Josephine. In his… admiration for the dancing beauty, Cullen had lost track of his friends. A flush of guilt worked through him as he turned his full attention on the ladies standing next to him at the bar.
“N… no?” he answered, stumbling over the word in a way that told them he was clearly lying.
“We brought you here to mingle! Meet people! Have fun!”
“I’m… having fun…”
“Come and dance with us. I won’t accept no as an answer.” Cullen had to appreciate Cassandra’s directness.
“No, really. It’s… it’s fun just… watching you guys have fun. I’m not made to dance, I’m all left feet and…”
He stopped when he saw Leliana’s arched brow.
“We are going to the ladies’ room, sir, and when we come back, you are joining us on the dance floor. And that’s that.”
Great. Well. He didn’t have much argument in him, so he swallowed and nodded. Satisfied, the three women turned and weaved through the crowd towards what Cullen suspected was the bathrooms.
He might as well get one more look at the dancing stranger who had so thoroughly captured his full attention. It would likely be his last - who knew where he’d end up once his friends got back and forced him to… have fun. Probably, it was wise to work off some of this alcohol… how many drinks had he had? Four? Five? But really, it was sad. Even if Cullen had the courage, that man wouldn’t give him the time of day, would he? Other, far more attractive people had tried and been turned down. Cullen couldn’t measure up, and now he’d never see this guy again. Well, he could be content with longing from afar. That was enough. He was clearly fixating on something that wasn’t meant for him. His life was work, his dog, his couch. Rinse. Repeat.
And then the song changed to something more… aggressive… and the man on the dance floor dropped it low and something in Cullen’s head clicked.
Fuck it. If he’d never see the guy again, what did it matter?
He tossed back the last of his current drink, thunked the glass down and, wiping his mouth, stalked out onto the dance floor. No time to think. No time to talk himself out of it, he strode up to the man and, before he could second guess himself, tapped him on the shoulder.
The man turned and Cullen sucked in a breath as he went absolutely wordless. This man… he was… so much more handsome up close with his glistening skin and curling mustache and gray eyes and sweat dripping from his hair. Dark eyebrows raised as he gave Cullen a long, considering look. Long enough for Cullen to wonder what in Andraste’s name had convinced him this was a good idea, and he cringed against the anticipated rejection.
But then the beat dropped again, and the man was flush against Cullen’s back, hands splayed across his abdomen, his body encouraging Cullen’s to move. And it did. Oh, it did, like it knew what it was doing, and all he knew was the warmth rolling against him and the thumping beat of the music. Easy. Too easy to lose himself in this, especially when there was no desire to fight it. His eyes slid closed and he moved with the stranger at his back and it was… bliss.
“I know you’ve been watching me. All night,” hot breath against his neck, a velvet purr in his ears. The man rolled his hips and ran a hand over Cullen’s chest, letting his nails scratch against the fabric of his shirt. Cullen shivered for the touch. “Practically devouring me with your eyes.”
Cullen had no response except to lean his head back and cover the man’s hands with his own, still moving with him. “I was starting to think you’d never come,” the voice continued, the barest hint of a pout present in his tone, “You forced me to go through all my tricks, you know. So much hard work…”
“I’m… not one…,” Cullen began, and had the circumstances been different, he’d have been embarrassed by the way the husk in his voice laid his longing bare, “… to let hard work… go unrewarded.”
The man laughed then, a musical sound that rose above the near deafening music. “Oh, you are glorious,” he said, letting his lips brush Cullen’s neck before spinning him around and pressing against him, chest to chest. He raised his arms and draped them loosely around Cullen’s neck. “I’m Dorian,” he said with a smirk that approached devilish, “Come here often?”