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You Lied to Me

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The sun peaked over the tops of the mountains that surrounded Skyhold, filling Cullen’s room with the clean light of dawn. The commander could hear the bustling of the beginning of a new day as the keep awoke from its slumber.

A new day. For the first time in months, the commander’s heart felt light and unburdened. Scarred lips pulled themselves up at the corners, resolving into a contented smile that brightened the man’s face and melted years of hardship and stress away. He closed his eyes and turned toward the warmth of the morning sun as he took a deep breath, bare chest rising and falling slowly. As he did every morning, he reached under his pillow, fingers searching for the bit of parchment he kept there.

Dorian’s latest letter was there, just where Cullen always put them when he was done reading and re-reading them.

“Maker willing,” Cullen thought as he inhaled the last vestiges of the dusky-sweet cologne Dorian always sprinkled over his missives, “This is the last letter. The last one before he’s home. Finally home.”

Bright golden eyes, their edges crinkled by a beaming smile, scanned the neat script once more.

Amatus,

This unpleasant business with my family is nearly done. About time, I say. I’ve long since grown weary of my mother’s constant barrage of guilt, accompanied by her desperate appeals for me to reconsider. She tries to placate me by suggesting I could still indulge in dalliances on the side if I’d only marry a woman of their choosing. The gall! As if I could reconsider who I am. As if I could settle for meaningless “dalliances.” The woman is mad to still think I would acquiesce to living her pretty lie.

My father has been mostly silent all this time. His look says enough. It is heavy with his disdain for… the turns my life has taken. I am a great disappointment to all of them.

Suffice it to say, I find myself shockingly ready to return to that cold, grey, tastelessly decorated pile of rubble Madam “isn’t this old rickety castle just the best” Lavellan calls a keep. I miss the spaces I called mine. I miss my nook in the library. I miss my table in the Rest. I miss the Maker-damned crows!

It’s more than that, though. I miss my side of your bed. I miss my place in your arms. I miss my spot in your heart.  

I miss that the most. It is comfortable, you see, and warm. You know how I do detest the cold.

But I go on. What I want to tell you is that my parents have finally agreed to annul my standing here, absolving me of the annoying responsibilities attached to my status… and absolving them of the burden of remembering that they ever had a son.

It is somewhat… bittersweet. I fear… well, I shall tell you all about it when I see you again, my lion. And that will be soon. There is one last formality, I’m told, and my name will no longer be Dorian Pavus.

I’ll simply have to find a new one. I find myself wondering more and more if you could help me with that.

But again, I digress. The point is that I’ll likely arrive at Skyhold not long after you get this letter.

I’ll be home soon.

Because, and I hope you know this, you are my home now.

I love you, Commander.

Dorian

The letter came a week ago, and it didn’t take long for Cullen to commit the words to memory. As he read, could hear Dorian’s voice, rising and falling in that musical way he spoke.

As it did each time he read this letter, Cullen’s heart ached for Dorian. The mage was proud and stubborn and, despite all his flirting, hesitant to show affection. But Cullen knew the truth of him. He knew the arrogance, the mulishness, the extravagant flirting all hid a delicate heart that was battered and bruised.

But it was healing, by the Maker. Dorian’s hesitant heart was growing stronger every day Cullen remained by his side. It was growing stronger with every morning spent contentedly wrapped up in each other, every secret smile, every hesitant brush of the mage’s hand against his own while they were outside the comfort of privacy.

I love you, Commander.

Those words made Cullen’s heart flutter. To know he was loved, and to truly love that person in return… it was a better fate than he dared to dream just a single year ago.

But there it was, written in ink.

He found me a broken man. And he was just as lost. But we’re better together. We’re whole. Maker, I miss that infuriating, wonderful man.

Cullen chuckled as he carefully put the letter back in its place under his pillow. He stood and stretched muscles sore from training and long days, wincing as several joints cracked in protest.

It had been a morning like this when Dorian left for Tevinter. Cullen had argued against it from the moment the mage mentioned it. He didn’t trust the man’s parents, not since Dorian had shared the story of how his father had tried to use blood magic the change him.

In the end, however, Cullen relented. Dorian needed closure; the commander could see that, but he felt a jerky, desperate kind of panic at the thought of his love entering that den of vipers alone.

The morning Dorian left, they’d held each other in silence, committing the feeling of that embrace to memory. When they finally broke the hold, Cullen remembered, neither man’s eyes had been dry. Dorian flashed one of his beautiful smiles, gray eyes dancing.

“My lion, this will be done before you know it. One day, you’ll turn around and there I’ll be, whole and healthy, and you’ll never be rid of me again after that.”

Cullen had tried to summon up a lighthearted witticism then, but he just felt like a scared child. He grasped Dorian’s hands, wrapping them in both of his own.

“Do you promise?” his voice broke and trembled; his eyes were pleading.

“Promise?”

“Yes. Do you promise… to be safe and to come back ‘whole and healthy’ as you said?”

“Amatus,” Dorian had smiled as he freed his hands from Cullen’s grip. He traced the line of the commander’s jaw before pulling the larger man in closer. “I promise. Always. I will always come back to you.”

Standing alone in his room now, Cullen’s face flushed with heat as he remembered the last, desperately delicate kiss they shared before he left.

“It’s been a long four months,” the commander grumbled as he pulled on a tunic. His stomach grumbled back and he laughed, “I suppose breakfast is in order.”

The commotion at the gates was difficult to miss. Cullen stepped out of his office to the sound of horses and shouts. He couldn’t make out any words, but it was clear that someone had just arrived at Skyhold.

Someone was here. Could it be?

Cullen allowed himself a bit of hope as he rushed past the rotunda, through the great hall and down the stairs. Abandoning all appearances of composure, the commander took the stairs two at a time.

The group of people that had gathered at the gates surrounded the visitor so Cullen couldn’t see who it was. There were familiar faces in the crowd. Iron Bull, Sera, Inquisitor Lavellan, Cole, Varric, Solas and several others whose names escaped him.

The crowd shifted and Cullen caught a glimpse of dark hair and warm skin.

Praise the Maker, it really is him!

Cullen’s heart sang as he picked up his pace. Dorian’s sensibilities be damned, he was going to wrap the man up in his arms and kiss him silly, right there in front of the Maker and everyone.

Lavellan saw him before he reached the group. Their eyes locked as she rushed forward with her hands out.

“Cullen, stop! Please stop.”

He did as he was told. His joy gave way to confusion.

Lavellan was crying. She could barely voice her command through the sobs.

Why is she crying?

Cullen rapidly looked at the faces of the people gathered there. Iron Bull, Sera, Cole, Varric, Solas – they were all acting…. wrong. Cole was beside himself with grief and Solas shook with anger. Varric and Iron Bull hung their heads solemnly. Sera was pacing and cursing, angrily wiping tears from her face.

What is this? The commander wondered as he took a step forward.

“Cullen, don’t.” Lavellan held out her arms, willing him to stop.

He couldn’t. How could he? The man standing in the center of all that… was Dorian, wasn’t it? He couldn’t see the mage’s face, but the hair, the clothes… it was definitely him. There was nothing the Inquisitor could have said that would have kept Cullen from him.

“Dorian!” Cullen finally managed when he was a few strides away. He didn’t like how the rest of the group wouldn’t look him in the eye. “Dorian, what’s…”

But the words boiled away to nothing in Cullen’s throat as Dorian finally turned to face him.

“Yes, Commander? How can I help you?”

Lifeless monotone. Nothing there. Nothing at all.

There was no music in that voice. The music was gone. Cullen reeled in horror as dull gray eyes looked at him passively, patiently.

And there, centered above the eyes that both did and didn’t belong to Dorian, the sunburst brand. The mark of the Chantry.

The mark of Tranquility.

Cullen took a last step, staggering forward to fall to his knees at the feet of the man he loved, gripping his robes.

Tranquil.

“… there is one last formality…”

Tranquil.

“…I love you, Commander.”

Tranquil.

“…There I’ll be, whole and healthy.”

Tranquil.

“…I promise”

Tranquil

“…I will always come back to you.”

Tranquil

Cullen’s mind broke against itself again and again, fighting the horror of that word.

Tranquil.

“You promised!” the commander howled, pounding his fist into the rocky dirt until his knuckles bled, “YOU PROMISED. YOU PROMISED. You promised. you… promised.”

He shook with sobs as he crumbled into the ground, broken again. Tears followed tears down his face, there would never be an end. He could feel the pain already carving out its old space in his heart.

“you promised,” he whimpered in a small voice, barely more than a broken whisper,  “you lied to me.”