I love you, too.
Four words. Four short words. That’s all it took to send the heart and mind of the Lion of Skyhold reeling. He fought to maintain his composure, to remember that he’d decided to wash his hands of the bizarre infatuation he’d developed with the man in front of him.
When Cullen had confessed his feelings only hours earlier, Dorian’s sharp laughter had cut to the quick. The confidence he’d felt after the one kiss they’d shared melted away. All that was left was bitterness.
Of course he didn’t feel the same, why would he? You sound like a fool.
“Love? Don’t be ridiculous, man!” chuffed the dark-haired mage from Tevinter.
There you have it. Ridiculous. The commander of the Inquisition. Ridiculous. Dress me in motley and call me court jester. But, still, I had thought… well, it clearly doesn’t matter now.
Cullen stiffened, stony faced and stern, as he commanded Dorian to take his leave. He saw the mage’s face fall as the commander turned his back. He heard him call out to him in a soft voice.
Too late. I know what you’re about. I’m done with this. I won’t be laughed at. I won’t be the fool.
“I won’t ask again,” he stated, injecting his voice with as much ice as he could muster.
But when the door closed, when he was sure Dorian was gone, he collapsed into his chair, head in his hands.
Why did I even try? Why did I think I deserved even this?
His eyes strayed to the drawer that held the little box. The little box of highly specialized tools meant for mixing that sweet, singing poison. The little box that was always, always on his mind.
The pain of the withdrawal. The pain of knowing he was less than he once was. The pain of rejection. The pain of everything. It would all just disappear if he opened that one little box and let his practiced fingers do their work. Preparing the lyrium had always been a soothing ritual, one that had a rewarding payoff. His heart would still. His body would relax. His mind would be filled with the song again, at peace, and he wouldn’t care.
I wouldn’t care.
“No,” he whispered, taking deep, measured breaths until the need passed.
Look at who I was when I didn’t care. Look at how many suffered because of who I was. Before Kirkwall, Dorian wouldn’t even be a person to me. Or Solas. Or Vivienne. Or, Maker help me, the Inquisitor herself.
“No,” he had repeated, “This hurts like nothing else, but this is better.”
Now, hours later, he stood on the battlements, glaring at the mage responsible for the wave of emotions that had sent him spiraling from the heights of love to the lows of rejection… within the span of minutes. The man was apologizing to him, saying he was sorry for his reaction. He said he was broken and had a hard time accepting it when someone actually cared for him.
Cullen's mind snagged and held onto that word as the mage continued.
We’re both a little broken.
“I love you, too,” Dorian finished, silver moonlight glinting steel in his determined eyes.
Those four words pulled Cullen from his thoughts and shook him to his core. Another wave was coming, another crest to ride. Another high. But for how long this time?
Oh, Maker, do I believe him? Do I give in to this? Do I dare accept that I’m deserving of love, even now?
Fear and hope in equal measure had frozen him. He was a statue, face stern and posture unyielding, but just under the surface, doubt and love raged, battling for control.
“Well?” snapped the mage, “You can’t just ignore me. Tell me you love me. Tell me you hate me. Just… say something. This silence is unnerving.”
Cullen blinked and finally looked at Dorian. His jaw was set stubbornly and his nose wrinkled in defiance, daring Cullen to respond.
Andraste’s blood, he’s adorable when he’s angry.
The thought came unbidden into Cullen’s mind, cutting through the turbulence of emotion like a knife, and he couldn’t hold back the snort of amusement.
“What?” Dorian demanded, “What is it?”
The snort of amusement became a gale of laughter as the battle for control was decided. Doubt and fear were soundly defeated as he wiped tears from the corners of his eyes.
Love, then. I’ll bet on love.
“Oh, is it payback you’re playing at? I laughed at you, now you get to laugh at me? Oh, how the tables have turned, right? Well, fine. I’ll just get back to the company of my wine now, if you’re done,” the mage snapped as his fine features pulled into a scowl, disappointment written plainly in his eyes.
“No,” Cullen gasped as he caught his breath, finally pulling himself together. He grasped the dark-haired man’s arm as Dorian turned toward the Rest. “Come with me.”
Dorian looked at him with one eyebrow raised.
“Please,” Cullen added.
That seemed to do the trick.
“Fine,” Dorian grumped, but his face had softened, and the disappointment was giving way to something else. Hope? Anticipation?
The walk along the battlements to the commander’s office was silent. Cullen knew Dorian was bursting to talk, to discuss, to analyze. He could feel the mage turning the night’s events over in his head, wondering what Cullen was leading him into.
Always thinking, this one. Well, I’ll let him stew a bit longer. Ah, a walk along the battlements, bathed in moonlight. The stuff of sappy love stories, definitely, though I’m sure Varric could have written this one a bit better than we have…. still, I’ll take it…
It was all Cullen could do to keep from laughing again. It was a beautiful night. The person he loved had just returned the sentiment. What could be better?
The walk to Cullen’s office was approaching unbearable. The silence was almost too much for Dorian, but Cullen hadn’t said a word since that silky-soft “please.”
And the look in his eyes. It was just a moment, but there was something there. What was that glint? It was almost… devious. Maker, am I walking to my doom here?
Dorian swallowed and stole a glance at Cullen’s profile. His face was impassive now, unreadable.
No, no he’s not a vengeful man. I know him better than that, right? He’d just tell me to fuck off if he was done with me. I mean, not like that. That’s what *I* would say. He’d be less colorful about it, of course. But he wouldn’t lure me out to get back at me for what I did earlier, right?
Dorian’s brow furrowed as he chewed his thumbnail.
Worst-case scenario, he’s just going to have a talk with me in private to tell me to drop it, that I already completely blew it.
And what a fine job I did of it, too. I really did a number on this one. It has to be some kind of world record, doesn’t it? Most idiotic fucking thing to do when someone says they love you. Dorian of House Pavus, come claim your prize.
The mage sighed raggedly.
And look at him! Just… walking… like nothing’s happened. Nothing at all! In fact, he’s practically lollygagging at this point. Has he ever walked so slowly? What’s he thinking? He could be considering troop formations or pondering Andraste’s fat ass for all I know. Does he even remember that I’m walking beside him?
Dorian’s scowl deepened.
Wait, is this the payback? He’s just going to ignore me now, like I’m nothing? That’s just… that’s just beyond childish. It’s infuriating. I won’t stand for it.
They stopped suddenly, and Dorian realized they were finally there. Cullen stood, holding the door to his office open for him. He was patiently waiting for Dorian to go in, his expression still impervious. The mage entered the office as the commander closed the door behind him.
Turning swiftly on his heels, Dorian faced the man once more. “You are the most frustrating man I have ever met. If you think for one second that…”
But that’s as far as his complaint got before it was silenced. The commander gripped his shoulders and spun him, pinning him roughly against the door they’d just entered. Dorian’s surprised cry was muffled as Cullen covered his mouth with his own, pressing into him with his body. The commander’s kiss was full of need, full of hunger. It was almost overwhelming. Dorian felt like he could almost lose himself here.
Would that be such a bad thing?
The thought crossed his mind as he buried his fingers in golden hair, clutching tightly, pulling Cullen in even closer, as he returned the ardent kiss. Warmth spread through his body as his tongue darted into Cullen’s inviting mouth, pushing and caressing and wet and wanting. He groaned as the commander took his lower lip between his teeth, tongue flitting lightly across it as the sensation sent chills down Dorian’s body.
Cullen pulled back and Dorian followed. More. He wanted more. This wasn’t enough, Maker damn it. He wanted everything. Cullen wasn’t getting away now, not now. Caramel colored hands grasped the commander’s tunic as Dorian turned the big man and pushed him against the door.
The tables have turned... Dorian thought distractedly as his hands went to work searching for some way to relieve the commander of the damnable armor he always wore.
“S… stop,” Cullen’s voice was low and raspy, “Wait…. Just… just a moment.”
The commander pulled away, but his arms remained wrapped around the mage, unwilling to let go completely. He tilted his head back against the door, taking deep breaths to steady himself.
“Too soon?” Dorian asked.
“Maker, no, it’s not that… I just… I’m sorry. I didn’t want it to start like this,” Cullen sighed as one hand went to the back of his neck and his blush deepened.
Dorian laughed at the commander’s nervous tic. He pulled Cullen’s hand back down, kissing the calloused palm before wrapping the arm around him once again. Satisfied, he looked back at Cullen impishly.
“Oh? And how did you want it to start?”
“You told me properly. I wanted to… return the sentiment, but you were just so damned adorable with your angry face… the way your nose wrinkles up… I clearly couldn’t control myself,” Cullen explained with a chuckle.
“Adorable? My…. My angry face? Commander, did you just tell me that I’m ‘cute when I’m angry’? Seriously? Of all the ridiculously clichéd…”
“You should see yourself right now. You’d agree,” the commander said as he flashed a lopsided grin at the mage.
“Of course I would. That’s not the point…”
“It’s condescending is what it is...”
“As if I were some sort of child. Cute when I’m angry… Those venatori we killed yesterday surely didn’t think I was cute when I…”
“Dorian, shut up.”
Dorian’s mouth snapped closed, indignation clouding his expression.
“Dorian, I love you.”
“Ah,” the mage replied as a smile curled his lips and lit his face, “and I love you, Commander.”
“And Dorian,” the commander’s voice was a low whisper as he drew the mage in closer, “you’re beautiful when you smile.”