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Woven in Shadow

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“Well, fancy meeting you here, in this…place. I’ve had dreams that start out like this.” He really has. All the warnings about a big bad Templar taking him away have given Hawke an impressive number of dreams about being taken by a Templar.

“Serah Hawke,” says Cullen, and it sounds like a sigh. An angry, angry sigh. “What are you doing here, and at this hour?”

It’s a reasonable question, really. Hawke’s been taking the most convoluted route on his way home he could find, and he’s currently in a narrow alley in a part of Lowtown that’s about as safe and as pleasant as the seediest corners of Darktown. Gets about as much light, too, which is why it seemed like a perfect place to get some peace and quiet. And here Hawke is, face to face with a Templar. A nice, handsome Templar that has no reason to suspect him, but just the same, it’s the kind of situation his parents warned him about.

“Ah, you know, taking the long route home from the Hanged Man, getting some air,” Hawke says, and waves his hand to make his point, and to distract Cullen from the fact Hawke is stepping closer, almost into his space. When has he ever run from danger, if there was a way to run towards it?

“You are drunk,” Cullen says in a tone so judging Hawke almost loses his pleasant (“obnoxious, Hawke, we call that obnoxious”) smile. Ah, and now he’s thinking about Varric, who’s half the reason Hawke is wandering the most unlikely alleys instead of still drinking, blissfully undisturbed, at the bar. Drinking alone is surprisingly difficult, when half the tavern wants to hear about this or that adventure, and your friends only encourage them.

“Not nearly drunk enough. But enough about me – the more interesting question is, what are you doing outside your fortress in the middle of the night?” Hawke sways in a way that puts him half a step closer to Cullen, and pretends to steady himself by holding on to Cullen’s arm. The Templar armour somehow manages to reflect the practically non-existent moonlight right into Hawke’s eyes. It looks dashing, dangerous and like some divine sign that Hawke immediately decides to ignore.

“I’m following up on a lead about a blood mage. Will you be able to get home on your own? I can’t-- Are you, ah, feeling up my arm?” He sounds so bewildered. Has the man never been to the Rose in his life? Oh no, has he given the kind of wows Sebastian has?

“Yes, of course – it’s a very nice arm. Your sword practice routine must be impressive.”

“You – never mind. I can’t in good conscience leave you like this in this part of town, but I mustn’t let this mage get away.”

Oh, but where was this dedication when it mattered, he wants to ask, to shout in his face, but doesn’t. He knows this particular Templar well enough to know Cullen would probably apologize sincerely, and try to explain that that’s exactly why he’s wandering the worst parts of Kirkwall in the middle of the night, instead of sleeping. Being guilted by a damned Templar is the very last thing Hawke needs tonight.

“Ah, so the solution is obvious. I shall go with you,” Hawke says, and tries to step forward, past Cullen and deeper into the shadows of the alley.

Cullen stops him with a firm hand on Hawke’s chest. The hand is a bit higher than Cullen probably meant, his fingers reaching Hawke’s collarbones, fingertips the faintest brush against his neck where his armour doesn’t cover. Hawke leans into that hand, tilts his head back just a fraction and for a moment it feels like the beginning of something else. His next exhale must be too close to a sound of pleasure, because Cullen’s eyes widen and he pulls back his hand as if burned. He tries and fails not to look startled, and Hawke is sure there’s a lot more colour in Cullen’s face than there was before.

“Serah Hawke, you are in no state to fight. You don’t even have a weapon!” Cullen sounds so desperate to stop Hawke from running into danger, he’d suspect foul play, if it was anyone else.

“When have I ever given you reason to doubt I can handle myself in a fight? No, don’t answer that!” Hawke says and draws his knives. He waves them around happily, and pretends not to notice the way Cullen leans away, out of his range.

“Carver only carries around the biggest sword to prove he’s carrying the biggest sword. I am just as deadly, I’ll have you know.” Carver has also obviously not warned his Knight-Captain about the futility of trying to keep Hawke away from danger.

“I don’t doubt that, but--”

“Good! Let’s go then, no time to waste,” Hawke says and hopes he sounds cheerful instead of impatient. Going mage hunting with a Templar – never on Hawke’s list of favorite things to do, but at least neither Cullen, nor whatever blood mage he’s hunting, will be interested in making Hawke talk.

He steps past Cullen, making sure to brush up against him as much as possible. Regrettably the Templar armour stops all his attempts at subtly feeling up Cullen any more. He’s stopped once again by Cullen’s hand, this time suspiciously low, but alas, not quite low enough to be scandalous. This time Cullen’s the one who leans closer, and for a moment Hawke suspects his wandering hands might have been more successful than he expected.

“I’m taking the lead,”Cullen says firmly, close enough that Hawke can feel the heat of the words against his own lips. “Oh, and the alley isn’t that narrow, Serah Hawke.” He lets go of Hawke then, and walks on, into the shadowed path between two half-crumbling houses that Hawke knows leads to a maze of old smugglers’ tunnels.

Hawke is too surprised to come up with a sufficiently witty response. Instead he follows Cullen into the strangely soundless night, and tries to prepare himself for a fight – without using any magic.

Their first stop ends up being a house only a couple minutes walk away. It’s exactly as dusty and covered in suspicious stains as one might expect, so Hawke happily lets Cullen search the place thoroughly. Meanwhile he sits down on the passably clean desk and rifles through the papers on it. Someone seems to have smashed the only chair in several pieces, which might have been the right call, considering how much like a torture device it looks.

Hawke pockets a focusing ring he finds under the pile of papers and tries to sort the notes into some order. Cullen, done with his sweep of the place, looks questioningly at Hawke.

“Perfectly mundane,” Hawke waves at one stack, “and perfectly unintelligible.” The second stack is twice as high, of course.

“Let me see those,” Cullen says and carefully steps through the spiky remains of the chair. He stands so close to Hawke that his thighs brush against Hawke’s knees, and Hawke really hopes he isn’t expected to focus right now. He goes through the stacked pages slowly, oblivious to Hawke’s suffering.

“This one, it marks the meeting place,” Cullen says, and turns to Hawke. Hawke might have been surreptitiously sliding sideways, so Cullen comes almost face to face with him. Hawke hooks his legs around Cullen’s.

“Mhm, go on, I’m listening,” Hawke says, and puts his hands on Cullen’s chest. Cullen catches them before he can slide them anywhere interesting.

Serah Hawke.” Cullen’s grip on his hands tightens in warning. Hawke’s exhale might be too sharp right then, because Cullen blushes again. He doesn’t let go, though. “We cannot--”

Cullen falters and doesn’t say what exactly it is that they cannot; he releases Hawke’s hands after a pause, and Hawke is ready to get on with finding someone to fight tonight. It’s bound to help with his frustrations, if nothing else.

The frustrated sound Cullen makes is a surprise. So is Cullen dragging Hawke forward by the collar of his shirt. Cullen kisses him awkwardly, the angle all wrong, but Hawke tilts his head and deepens the kiss almost as soon as it starts. Best not waste the opportunity.

“We cannot, we don’t have the time,” Cullen says between kisses, voice already rough. He doesn’t resist, though, when Hawke pulls him more firmly between his thighs.

“You’ll have to be quick then,” Hawke returns, and goes straight for his belt.

-

“And people say dreams don’t come true,” Hawke says, as he walks out of the house after Cullen. “I’m sure someone says that, and they’re wrong. I, on the other hand, was right - you are good with your sword.” Cullen shakes his head and doesn’t say anything, face still flushed.

They walk to the meeting place in a silence which feels almost companionable. Hawke wants to resent it, but he still feels too loose and relaxed to get angry.

-

Their opponent has some violent friends, which seems like a thing they should have expected. Everyone in Kirkwall always has violent friends, in Hawke’s experience.

Cullen is excellent with his other sword as well. Hawke keeps well out of his way to avoid any stray mana drains and cuts down everyone careless enough to give him an opening. They’re winning when things go wrong, as always.

One of the angry blood mage’s violent friends turns out to be a mage as well, and Hawke sees him cast an impressive fireball at Cullen. Hawke’s daggers are stuck in someone’s chest, and he couldn’t throw one fast enough to stop the spell anyway. Cullen is facing away from the mage and engaged with another opponent.

Hawke doesn’t think, he casts a barrier on Cullen right before the fireball reaches him. It’s shoddy without a staff, just focusing rings to stabilize it, but it’s enough. Hawke pulls his knives free and throws them both at the remaining blood mage. The mage deflects the first, but the second takes him down.

The tunnel is silent, Cullen having defeated the last of their foes. Fuck. Well, that’s what he gets for getting into other people’s fights all the time.

Hawke looks at Cullen and yes, he’s staring at Hawke with a pale face.

“Do try to duck from the fireballs, Knight-Captain,” Hawke says, and makes sure to not touch Cullen as he walks past him to retrieve his knives. He’s not in the mood to be stabbed. Should never have forgotten who he was here with.

-

The walk back out is also silent, but decidedly less companionable. Hawke absolutely gets angry, though mostly at himself.

Cullen hasn’t really said a thing, and Hawke hopes he’s smart enough to know he’s going to end up with another fireball in his face, if he mentions taking him to the Circle.

They’re within sight of the main street where their paths will part, when Cullen breaks the silence.

“You.” He doesn’t seem to know what to say.

“Am excellent help in a fight? Why thank you, Knight-Captain, I did say I was,” Hawke says. He can tell he sounds much too cheerful. Cullen pushes him against a wall; Hawke’s been wary since the fight, but it still takes him off guard.

“I cannot,” Cullen says, voice pained, and once again doesn’t finish the sentence. He’s pressed against Hawke, hands fisted into his clothes, their foreheads touching. Hawke swears quietly. All of this is too much for a day barely dawning. His own mind is messy enough for him to want anything to do with whatever is going on in Cullen’s, and how it’s going to fuck up Hawke’s life.

“I’m sure you can,” he says, and tilts his face close enough for their lips to touch. Cullen kisses without any hesitation this time, angry and biting, and Hawke groans.

Yeah, he’s not escaping this mess, but he’ll get something out of it, at least.