Alistair returned, fresh from his wash in the stream. He bustled in the dark tent they shared, stowing his gear before he settled beside Cullen on their blankets. Cullen remained silent, he’d learned very quickly that silence was his ally when it came to Alistair.
In the beginning he’d tried to talk of Kinlock, tried to let his lover in, but Alistair had fretted and fussed every time he mentioned the hard things until Cullen wanted to scream. This way Alistair was happier. His optimism and encouragement in Cullen’s apparent healing was easier than the overwhelming sadness and his efforts to compensate that with tenderness and care. Cullen thought that said more to his damage than anything else.
As Alistair took his place by Cullen’s side, all warmth and clean forest smell, he could almost convince himself that he was healing. He enjoyed being with Alistair again, enjoyed not being so alone, if only physically. Perhaps it was this thought that prompted him to turn and kiss the man. Truth be told he didn’t want to scrutinise his motives to closely.
As he’d expected Alistair responded readily. He knew Alistair had been holding back, afraid to push himself on Cullen if Cullen wasn’t ready. He wasn’t ready, but it felt like he was supposed to be. So after a time, when light petting had progressed to something more, when he could feel the fullness of Alistair against his thigh and Alistair moved to settle overtop him, he let him.
It was a lie; Cullen’s hands clasping his lovers sides, Cullen’s body moving in languid synchronicity, Cullen’s soft sighs around his dancing tongue – it was all a lie, but the thought of shunning Alistair, of seeing the deep hurt behind those hazel eyes he’d loved so dearly in another life, would be so much worse. So he participated, he danced the steps as was expected of him- expected but not demanded – and when Alistair pulled back to ask him, to reassure him that they didn’t have to, that if it was too soon they could stop, Cullen only shook his head and gripped tighter, grinding them together and told him he wanted this.
Cullen could never tell him. Alistair wouldn’t thank him for forcing himself through this. It would hurt him more even than rejection. Alistair would feel used, and worse, he’d feel ashamed to have used Cullen. Alistair would never dare to touch him again, his confidence in their relationship and in himself would be all but extinguished. Cullen knew his lover that well, and still cared enough to want to avoid inflicting such damage, to preserve what sweetness in Alistair he could. So he would open his body, and would mimic the intimacy they had used to share so freely, and he would never tell.
Alistair reached between them, guiding his shaft slick now with oil, and he began to gently hump himself into Cullen’s body. When fully seated he began to move, loving Cullen with his whole body, kissing him with his whole heart. It should have been so sweet, so perfect to be with his lover again after so long, but as Alistair made love to him Cullen could only let his mind go blank and try not to think about it.
It wasn’t fair, and Cullen had always thought himself an honourable man but now there was none of that left and his last consideration was doing as little harm to Alistair as he could manage. If that meant keeping a lie, in order that Alistair should be happiest, then he’d lie through his teeth and wear the wound of the act on his own soul. Perhaps going through the motions would even help, perhaps through the practice it would become truth and he’d be able to love him again just as he pretended to now.
It was the only hope he had left to cling to.
And that, also, was a lie.