The newcomer - Dorian - had only given him a brief and startled glance before continuing to speak, and then the world began to burn, and there was no time for explanations.
In the bone-deep chill of the mountain pass, where the refugees had stopped to catch their breath, however, Cullen checked and rechecked his men, posted a watch, and finally stumbled over to the fire, exhausted. Dorian was speaking quietly with Mother Giselle, and when he saw Cullen approach, he straightened up, his expression growing reserved.
“Dorian. Thank you again for your warning.”
Dorian’s mouth curled wryly. “It didn’t turn out to be worth a damn after all. I didn’t know about the dragon. All I knew was… Well! My contact within the Venatori is… not a hale man, and it was only recently, during one of his lucid days, that he finally figured out what the others were doing.”
“He was poisoned by darkspawn blood, years ago. It was an accident. But he’s nearing the end of his time.” Dorian exhaled slowly. “I rushed here as quickly as I could when I got his message, but-“
“You’ve done your best,” Cullen interrupted absently, and Dorian’s eyebrows arched in surprise. Cullen stared back evenly, hiding his own instinctive amusement. Mother Giselle glanced at them both, then shuffled away, back to the wounded, leaving them alone at the fire.
Finally, however, to Cullen’s surprise, Dorian’s wry, faint smile curled into something warmer. “I’m never going to get used to that.”
“Being interrupted,” Dorian said dryly. “Here in the South.”
“Because you’re a mage, and I’m an omega?” Cullen asked, a little testily.
“By anyone, actually,” Dorian said, not quite a lie, not quite the truth. “I was an Altus in Tevinter. Not quite just ‘a mage’. But I must say, it’s good for the soul.”
“Disrespect?” Cullen drawled, unable to hide his sarcasm.
To his surprise, even as Dorian frowned at him, Cullen felt… nothing at all. There was no press of will, no surge of displeasure, nothing that a mage would have instinctively impressed upon the world around him or her at the moment of their emotions spiking. “Not at all,” Dorian said quietly, and looked back at the fire. “It’s good not to be feared.”
“How are you doing that?” Cullen asked, curious. “You’re… not projecting at all. If I hadn’t seen you warm up the air around the refugees on our way up here, I would’ve thought…” He trailed off, uncomfortably. “You could’ve passed as a beta. Sorry.”
“Don’t apologise. I’m rather proud of it, actually. You templars learn it down South. ‘Maker’s Will’, is it your name for it? I had to teach myself how to do it.”
“Aye, but… proud of it?” Cullen blinked. “I thought… well. I’ve never a met a mage who would’ve wanted to learn something like it.”
“Solas does it. As do the Dalish. That’s where I learned it from. It took some doing,” Dorian said wryly, “Finding a Dalish clan that wouldn’t shoot a Tevinter mage on sight.”
“Any human mage,” Cullen corrected himself.
“I don’t see why we shouldn’t,” Dorian said, with a touch of heat, then he seemed to force a smile. “After all, it’s very much like talking to someone with your breeches down.”
Despite himself, Cullen let out a startled laugh. “Thanks. Now I’m never going to be able to look Vivienne in the eye ever again.”
Dorian grinned, eyes crinkling with mirth, and if he was pretty before, he was beautiful now, skin aglow from the warmth of the fire, impeccable and sleek despite the long, hard trek up from Haven. “I’m sure you’ve imagined her with her br-“
“Not at all,” Cullen said hurriedly, and it was Dorian’s turn to laugh. The sound drew startled looks towards them from other fires, and Dorian quietened down quickly, pushing his hands back into his coat. “I’m sorry about your friend,” Cullen added, a little belatedly. “The one infected by the darkspawn taint.”
“Oh, that.” Dorian’s expression froze, for a moment, then he sighed. “We’ve both known that his death was coming for a while. No magic can stop that… no matter what his father was hoping for. He just hoped to make the best of what time he had left. But thank you. For the sentiment.”
Even that was said guardedly, without the feedback of pleasure-approval that Cullen had instinctively closed off against, the touch of a mage’s ‘positive’ sentiment that untrained omegas could get quickly addicted to if they weren’t careful. Perhaps Cullen hadn’t hidden his surprise sufficiently: Dorian glanced away. “Like I said,” he murmured conversationally, though there was a forced humour in his voice now. “Rather like holding a conversation without wearing breeches.”
“No, I appreciate it, I truly do.”
“But the others here. They’ll be afraid. They are afraid.”
“It’s unavoidable,” Cullen said candidly.
“I could leave. Once we get everyone someplace safe.”
“We do have Inquisition mages,” Cullen pointed out. “Solas, Vivienne… others. Personally, I would welcome any help we could get.”
“Even a mage from Tevinter?”
“I think it’s fairly obvious - at least to me - that you left Tevinter some time ago,” Cullen said quietly. “To have learned how to close yourself off… that must have taken some time. And besides, you chose to come here to warn us.”
“The Venatori are a fanatical branch of Tevinter mages. They don’t represent Tevinter as a whole.” Dorian said, and his hands clenched slightly for a moment before loosening. “I must say, though, it’s quite an unusual experience, to walk around people who expect you to… set everything on fire at a moment’s notice, or… force them to their knees, or something.”
To their knees. Cullen felt a frisson of heat curl up his spine at the drawled words, and he looked away, hoping the growing flush to his cheeks could be explained away by the fire. “Using your… will on omegas and betas, turning them into slaves… isn’t that common practice in Tevinter? That’s what people fear.”
A flash of temper crossed Dorian’s face, but again, there was no press of will, not even a nudge. “The system doesn’t work like that. We don’t go about randomly subjugating the commonfolk, if that’s what you think. The slave system’s institutionalised. It’s a matter of contractual debt.”
“Unless you’re an elf.”
“Yes. Unless you’re an elf. Still. Only the wealthy have slaves, and they’re housed in servant’s quarters, not kennelled, or whatever you think the practice is. Such places are far less filthy and destitute as your alienages. I’m not defending the system. I’m just pointing out,” Dorian said, with his sharp smile, “That people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.”
“I suppose not,” Cullen met Dorian’s eyes with an even stare of his own. “Even if I disagree. Better to live poor and free than to live as a slave, one whose debt is written by history.”
It was Dorian who broke the stare, with a sigh. “We’re just talking about different grades of cruelty and prejudice. But yes, Commander. Don’t worry. I’ll keep to myself, and if the Inquisition decides that my presence is too disruptive, I’ll go.”
“The Inquisition…” Cullen began, and trailed off, uncomfortably, looking up and away to the ridge of rock that they had passed to get to this valley out of the winds, then he gasped, as he watched a slim figure in plate armour stagger into sight. Could it be…? “It’s her! It’s her! The Herald!"
Cullen’s own distrust started to ease, and Dorian, well, for all his sharp tongue, Dorian was easy on the eyes, and great at chess, even if he occasionally tried to cheat, and Cullen began looking forward to their daily matches, whenever Dorian happened to be back in Skyhold.
“I wonder,” Dorian said one afternoon, and there was none of his usual playfulness to his tone, “If I could ask you for a favour, Commander.”
“What sort of favour?”
“I…” Hesitance was so strange on Dorian that Cullen looked up from where he was studying the game, curious. “You used to live in Circles. What do you know about mage… cycles?”
Oh. Oh. “You mean,” Cullen dropped his voice, “Heat?”
“Is that what they call it here?” Dorian pulled a face. “Trust the South to make the process sound so akin to an animal’s. But yes, Commander. That is what I meant.”
“The, ah, matter arises every one or two months, depending on the mage,” Cullen said, studying Dorian intently, and now that he knew what he was looking for, he could see it. The nervous twitch to Dorian’s fingers, the slightly narrowed eyes, the faint flush on his darker skin. Dorian was so closed all the time that if Cullen hadn’t been told, he likely wouldn’t even have noticed. “In the Circle, usually, um, the matter would be suppressed by templars.”
“With templar abilities, or…” Dorian let his sentence trail off, but he raised his eyebrows meaningfully.
“Obviously. You mean,” Cullen started, aghast, then he reddened. “Is that what they tell people in Tevinter?” There were any number of lurid and wildly untrue stories circulating about, or so he had heard from Sera and Varric, about mages, heat, and templars, and they had made his ears burn. Did people in Tevinter actually believe-
“A mage is never more out of control than he is during an end-cycle,” Dorian shrugged. “A normal omega would succumb, and that would, ah, resolve matters in a day. A trained omega, now, that I’ve only heard stories of.”
“What sort of stories…? Nevermind. We can shunt away the, ah, energy,” Cullen muttered. “Your abilities come from your capacity to draw from the Fade: magic and will. Close off that connection, both cease. The Tranquil rite. Dampening the connection completely for an hour resets the cycle. A suppression.”
Dorian looked away, for a long moment. Finally, he asked quietly, “Does it hurt?”
“It does for some,” Cullen said, gentling his voice, despite himself. “Of course you’re aware… the more powerful a mage, the stronger his or her, ah, end-cycle. And the more painful a suppression will be. Not physically. But psychologically, to be, well, helpless for an hour? In Calenhad circle, we always had at least two Senior Enchanters also present, to give the mage, um, emotional support during a suppression. In Kirkwall…”
“I’ve heard stories of the Knight-Commander.”
“Well,” Cullen swallowed, pushing evil memories aside with some effort. “They were, many of them, true.”
“That aside.” Dorian let out a long, unsteady breath. “I suppose I… I count you a friend, among the very few that I have here. And you would know better than most how… disruptive an end-cycle can be, and mine will be… very, very strong, shall we say.”
Cullen blinked. “How did you deal with it before?”
“In Tevinter? There were always willing partners. Not slaves,” Dorian said hastily. “All that energy can be, as you say, ‘shunted’ away safely in other ways. Sexually,” Dorian added dryly, when Cullen looked blank.
“Oh. Really?” So it could be done.
“… Circle life must be incredibly boring,” Dorian said, sounding faintly amused. “But yes. When I left Tevinter… it was harder. Usually I would go off by myself into the wilds and wait it out. But it’s a painful process, when the connection to the Fade becomes… unstable, and a dangerous one, as you know, since mages risk possession during an uncontrolled end-cycle, and. If anyone happens to come close…”
“Did anything happen before?”
“No. I was lucky. There were a few close calls, though. And,” Dorian exhaled, “The last time. It was very close. So. If you templars can… reset the cycle? Then,” Dorian clenched his hands again. “There’s no easy way for me to ask this.”
“Dorian,” Cullen said uncomfortably. “I can’t help you.” When Dorian stiffened up, Cullen added hastily, “Not because I don’t… not because I don’t want to. But I’m not a templar any longer. Do you know how templars get their abilities?”
It was Dorian’s turn to look confused for a moment, then he blinked. “You’ve stopped taking lyrium.”
“Oh.” Dorian let out a shaky laugh. “I just thought for a moment… since you could still close yourself off the way you do. I just… didn’t realize.”
“That’s a mental discipline. Anyone can learn it - you have. But the rest, the suppression, closing off a mage’s magic, resistance to magic… it’s by creating a connection to the Fade, by, ah, artificially amplifying an omega’s empathy. Through lyrium. I’m sorry.”
“Not your fault. Mine, it seems, for assuming.”
Cullen coughed. “Ah. Cassandra could still do it. The suppression. And,” he added quickly, when Dorian frowned, “If you’d like, I can be there. For support. Probably um, the Inquisitor too, as well.”
Dorian stared at him for a long moment, his eyes dark with something that Cullen could not read, an intensity of emotion that burned wild for a moment before it was pulled away, and this time, he felt it, a little nudge, just before the end. Heat. Want. The end-cycle was fraying Dorian’s perfect self-control.
At Cullen’s flush, Dorian got up abruptly from the chess table. “Cassandra is a good suggestion, Commander. Thank you. But I don’t think you need to be there.”
At that, he walked away hurriedly, leaving Cullen staring at his back, bewildered and feeling hurt about the sudden, sharp declaration. Then he sighed to himself, shook his head, and started to clear up the pieces. It was, Cullen decided, a very private matter for Dorian, friend or not. As to whatever Cullen had just felt, bleeding off Dorian like the edge of a storm...
His hand clenched briefly tight on a rook, hard enough for the stone piece to bite into his palm, then Cullen shook his head again to clear it.
“… Yes?” Cullen asked, blinking.
“So,” Evelyn said dryly. “Last night.”
“Uh… last night… what?”
“Dorian,” Evelyn said, with exaggerated patience, and Cullen flinched.
“How did… are you talking about the…”
“Yes. Dorian asked me to be present. It was,” Evelyn took in a deep breath, “Kind of horrible to watch. But before you ask, everything is fine, Dorian just has the biggest hangover ever, and I really hope that we don’t have to go through that with Solas and Vivienne too, just saying.”
“You, ah, well, you’ll have to ask them.” Cullen said, a little nervously. “It was ‘horrible to watch’?”
“Well, he hid it very well, but the hour he spent without magic obviously scared him to death, for all that we tried playing chess and talking about random things and stuff. Longest. Hour. Ever.”
“I can imagine.”
“The thing is,” Evelyn said pointedly, “It probably would’ve been nice if the closest friend he had in Skyhold actually was there. Just saying.”
“He… I’m not…” Cullen took in a deep breath. “I offered. He said no.”
Try as he might, Cullen couldn’t quite keep all of the hurt he had felt then out of his voice, and Evelyn blinked at him for a long moment, then she started to grin. “Well damn. I owe Sera a sovereign. You’re both idiots.”
“Excuse me,” Cullen said, a little offended, and Evelyn actually walked right over to pat him comfortingly on the arm.
“Don’t worry,” Evelyn said brightly, with one of her wide smiles that usually, in Cullen’s experience, was a promise of mayhem. “I’ll take care of it.”
“What? You’ll what?” Cullen demanded, but Evelyn had already wandered off, and he was promptly inundated with reports again.
Whatever Evelyn had done, to Cullen’s relief, he didn’t see the effect of it, and after a couple of days, Dorian asked him, a little guardedly, for a game of chess. He agreed, they played, and at the end of two games, everything seemed mostly back to normal.
Mostly. There was a strange… reserve, to Dorian now, a touch of control even in his laughter, and as they cleared the pieces, Cullen asked, “Is something wrong?”
Dorian’s eyes narrowed. “What makes you think that?”
“You’re not quite yourself.”
This time, Dorian let out a sharp laugh. “I’ve just had a very unpleasant experience that it seems I may have to repeat, monthly, for the rest of my life. Pray explain, whatever might be the problem?”
Cullen winced. “You could always, um. Make an arrangement. With an omega. Or um. Well not an arrangement. If you meet someone.” His voice dropped to a mumble as he said this, a cold and uncomfortable knot twisting its way through him, and it didn’t help how Dorian was staring at him, narrow-eyed and distrustful, as though the friendship that they had built so tentatively all this while had been shattered. “I’m sorry,” Cullen said finally.
“I don’t know what it’s like - obviously, I mean, only mages have end-cycles… But. I wish I could’ve helped,” Cullen replied honestly, and Dorian stared at him for a long, suspicious moment more before he suddenly smiled, a little faintly, a little tiredly.
“Ah, Commander.” Dorian reset the pieces deftly. “The things you say.”
“I meant it,” Cullen said, stung.
“Of course you did,” Dorian said gently, “But not in the way that I would’ve liked.”
“I won’t take lyrium again. You don’t know what you’re asking of me-“
“I didn’t mean it that way.” Dorian looked briefly frustrated. “I meant… Nevermind what I meant. Another game, Commander?”
“I’d rather we talk about what your problem with me is.”
Dorian exhaled. “Always to the point, eh?”
“Fine,” Dorian snapped, a little angrily. “There were two ways you could’ve… helped me with my end-cycle. I asked you for the first, because that was… easier all round. And it didn’t work out, so I went to Cassandra. You would’ve been averse to the second way, and I didn’t want to ask, because there’s no easy way to, out of Tevinter, and I didn’t want to spoil everything, but now you’ve forced my hand. Happy now?”
It took Cullen a long moment to parse Dorian’s temper, then his words, then he blushed. “Really?”
Dorian stared at him, defensive, hunched over the board, then he snorted. “Only you would be that oblivious, Commander. Look. I know you’re not interested. I’m fine with that. I’d rather you forgot what I just said and keep playing the game.”
“The chess game?” Cullen shot back evenly, “Or the game where you pretend to know everything about me?”
“I…” Dorian blinked, and seemed frozen in place as Cullen reset the board, his hands jerky with irritation.
“If you had asked,” Cullen said quietly, though he didn’t dare look up, do more than keep his voice steady, “I would’ve agreed to the second way.” He moved a pawn, setting it down with slightly more force than was necessary. “Your move.”
Dorian was silent through half of the game, thoughtfully so, then he made a rueful laugh, when Cullen used one of his bishops to remove a rook. “So the Inquisitor was right.”
“About what?” Cullen asked, his voice still edged.
“About the both of us being idiots.”
A smile pulled at Cullen’s mouth, all unbidden, hopefully looking more confident than he felt. “Maybe. Your move.”
Dorian’s end-cycle wasn’t monthly, though, despite his words, and so matters trundled right along, right through the mess at Halamshiral, after which, with Celene slain, and Gaspard on the throne, Cullen had to make a quick retreat, out to a balcony, to breathe deep and clear his head. What a bloody mess.
“What a mess,” Dorian echoed, behind him, and Cullen turned sharply. Dorian smiled lightly as he settled at the balcony beside Cullen, elbows on the balustrade, back to the view.
Dorian had, to Cullen’s - and Evelyn’s - amusement, absolutely refused to wear the red uniform that Josephine had prepared for him, despite blandishments, praise, threats and begging, and had somehow managed to arrange for his own, a one-shoulder robe in the Tevinter style over a blood red vest, the garment from the knees to the hem dotted with occasional faint silver and gold flecks, made with some fabric so black that it looked, from afar, as though Dorian was wearing a piece of the midnight sky itself, painted with stars. It was caught at his waist and over his shoulder with a pale gold sash, highlighting Dorian’s dark skin, and his dove gray leather boots hugged his thighs to his knees, accentuating his long, long legs.
Now that they were alone, Cullen didn’t bother to hide how he was staring, and Dorian grinned at him, plucking at his high collar. “Not too bad, I suppose. I could’ve done better with my usual tailor.”
“I think you possibly caused some women in Court to faint from jealousy.”
“Some of the men as well,” Dorian said, and his grin turned into a smirk. “Poor Vivienne probably wished that she had worn a gown instead of the uniform as well.”
“How did you get out of it?”
“Well,” Dorian purred, leaning a little closer, “These clasps come right off.” He laughed when Cullen instantly blushed crimson, and settled back again. “I told Evelyn that it was against my culture and my religion.”
“… And she bought it?”
“Josephine was furious. Said that the Inquisition had a uniform that had been carefully selected and designed and you were doing yourself no favours,” Cullen mimicked Josephine’s irritable voice, her accent all the thicker whenever angry.
“No doubt. But I did Orlesian fashion a very great favour,” Dorian said facetiously, “And with that I must be content. Oh, her uniform’s not too bad,” Dorian said, looking Cullen over, and now Cullen saw it, that touch of heat in Dorian’s eyes, so at odds with his usual self-control. “I like how it’s so… tight in places.”
“You’re not helping,” Cullen breathed, just to see what that would do, and Dorian smiled, hungry and intimate, leaning in-
“May I have a dance?” Dorian asked lightly, instead of the kiss that Cullen had expected, had leaned over to receive.
“Uh - what-“
“A dance, Commander.” Humour chased lust in Dorian’s roughened tone, playful, beautifully husky.
“Everyone’s back in the banquet hall, watching Evelyn tell some tall tale of what happened at Adamant.”
“I’m… not very good at it,” Cullen apologised, though he drew away from the balustrade, and pressed a palm over Dorian’s arm, over the sleek material of his robe. “I’ll step on your toes.”
“We’ll see,” Dorian disagreed, and slipped a hand lightly over Cullen’s hip.
It was a little awkward, and Cullen did tread on Dorian’s toes once or twice, for all that he tried to concentrate, but all he could think of was the gorgeous touch of heat in Dorian’s eyes, the scent of him, so close, the unexpected, lean strength of him under Cullen’s hands.
“You’re close, aren’t you,” Cullen whispered, as they executed a lazy half-turn, close to the balustrade, and Dorian’s palm stroked up to splay over his spine.
“Yes.” The word was hushed, Dorian’s lips barely parting as he breathed it. “And I ask you again. Help me.”
“My answer remains the same,” Cullen murmured, as he tipped his head over, to steal a quick kiss, soft and light.
“Mm,” Dorian’s next breath was ragged, shaky. “Damn this ball. D’you think we could steal away somewhere?”
“Are you that close?” Cullen asked, worriedly. “I don’t think we’ll be leaving Halamshiral anytime soon.”
“I could probably,” Dorian sucked in a slow breath, “Wait another day, if I tried. I don’t know. It’s never been like this before. When I’m near you, like this - I can’t really concentrate. I thought I had longer.”
“Come on, then.” Cullen grasped Dorian’s wrist. “Let’s try and sneak out somewhere.”
“Your absence will be noticed by your hordes of admirers.” Dorian’s eyes dilated a little, and Cullen shivered as he felt a press of will, like a possessive caress against his mind, then Dorian shuddered and looked away, closed off again. “Sorry.”
Cullen felt a burst of warmth within him. Jealousy? From Dorian? “We’ve just crowned an Emperor. I don’t think that approval’s going to be a problem right now.”
Somehow, they managed to sneak out of the balcony and up, into the guest apartments, where from the looks of things, they weren’t the only ones who had decided to sneak off. Some of the rooms were closed, with muffled… sounds… coming from behind the doors, and Dorian grinned as they hurried past.
“Here. Evelyn and the rest of us passed this way. There was a… here.” Dorian tugged Cullen into a side room, down a corridor away from the main set of apartments and the library. The door was ajar, and embedded into the door were three little halla statues, oddly enough. “Magical lock,” Dorian explained, as he removed the halla statues and closed the door behind them. “It won’t open again from the outside unless someone has more of these."
“And… what’s this room for?” Cullen asked dubiously. There was a four poster bed, if a small one, but it looked as though it hadn’t been used for a time, and the rest of the room was filled with odds and ends, piled high on the floor against the wall.
“Store room, maybe. Who cares,” Dorian growled, tossing the statues aside, and pinned Cullen to the wall, his kiss demanding, groaning as Cullen twisted up in his grip and gave back as much as he got. He was stronger than Dorian, even like this, and when they broke to gasp for breath, Cullen reversed their positions deftly, grinning at the blink of surprise in Dorian’s eyes, felt him shudder beneath him as Cullen sank his teeth into Dorian’s neck, under the collar of his ridiculous robe.
“I…” Dorian gasped. “Cullen. Once we get… once we get started, I won’t be able to ‘close off’. You’re going to have to watch yourself.”
“Do you want me to?” Cullen asked, curious, and Dorian flushed, his eyes going very dark and wide, the air around them growing chill, for a moment, then unseasonably warm, then Dorian chuckled ruefully.
“You’re very adept at testing my self-control, Commander.”
“Not an answer,” Cullen plucked a kiss from Dorian’s mouth, enjoying the brush of Dorian’s neatly trimmed moustache against his lip.
“Then I want you to close yourself off,” Dorian said, low and harsh. “I want you to be absolutely yourself, inside your head, when I fuck you… I want you to give yourself to me knowing precisely what you are offering.”
“Maker,” Cullen breathed, as lust pulsed through him all in a heady rush, “Yes.”
The clasps did open with delicious ease. Josephine’s costume, however, was somewhat more of a trial, and Dorian grumbled to himself as they tried to be careful with the buttons, growling as they struggled with Cullen’s boots. By the time they were both bare, and on the bed, their hands were frantic on each other, Dorian’s cock dragging a wet streak of seed over Cullen’s belly.
“The first time,” Dorian said apologetically, as he kissed down over Cullen’s pulse and mouthed at his throat, “Will always be too quick.”
“I wouldn’t know,” Cullen said, stroking his hands greedily through Dorian’s perfect hair, mussing it. “Never done it before.”
Dorian stiffened up, staring at him, then he tried to pull away, but Cullen hastily grabbed for his shoulders, holding him down. “I… I didn’t know.”
“There’s always going to be a first time,” Cullen said lightly.
“Then this will hurt you more than it should.”
“Dorian,” Cullen said, lust stoking raw honesty into his voice, “You won’t hurt me. You can’t. I might not be able to stop your connection to the Fade, but the rest of the effects of lyrium take a while to go away. As to the rest,” he brushed a kiss over Dorian’s temple, leaning up on his elbows, “I don’t care. I want you to have me. So. Have me.”
“You,” Dorian shuddered again, and this time, when they kissed, Cullen could smell lightning in the air, and he whimpered as he cant his hips upwards, to rub against Dorian’s pulsing cock. Whatever slick that Dorian had magicked up was warm between his thighs, as fingers fumbled against his skin, knitting healing magic against the digits as Dorian pushed them into him, mumbling some incoherent apology against Cullen’s mouth as they kissed. It did hurt, but it was not so bad, not with how desperate Dorian was, the lustful look of wonder in his eyes.
The air burned chill, for a moment, then hot again, as Dorian slipped in a third finger, stretching Cullen urgently, his connection to the Fade growing unsteady and wild, but unlike before, during all the times Cullen had assisted during a suppression, this time, he was not afraid.
“Sorry,” Dorian whispered, “I can’t wait any longer.”
“You’ve been taking your bloody time as it is,” Cullen shot back, smirking as he stood firm against the press of will that curled against him, the way Dorian growled and guided himself in, that thick burn of friction despite the slick. If he wasn’t closed off, Cullen knew he would have been towed under, lost in Dorian’s own lust, probably writhing and begging at this point for more, heedless of his own comfort. It was tempting to give in, to the intensity of Dorian’s need, to give himself to it, but Cullen held on, more out of habit of discipline than anything else, forcing himself to relax as Dorian choked out a string of ragged Tevene and sank all the way in.
“Sorry,” Dorian groaned, as his hips twitched, rocking shallowly into Cullen despite his wincing. “I can’t… sorry, I, amatus-“
“Don’t speak,” Cullen tugged Dorian down, kissing his forehead. “This is for you. So. Give it to me.”
“Kaffas,” Dorian hissed, and snatched a pillow from against the headboard, tucking it under Cullen’s hips, and the first hungry thrust into Cullen’s body punched him an inch up the bed and made him shout, surprise, pleasure, pain, all in a rush.
Dorian stilled instantly, concerned, but Cullen growled and wrapped his thighs around slender hips, and Dorian ducked his head, braced himself on the bed, and lust broke him out of rhythm, out of reason, all driving, snapping thrusts that made the base of Cullen’s spine ache, pain wreathed together with desire, the heavy headboard thumping against the wall, the smell of the storm all around them, thick with their moans. Frost arced up Dorian’s arm to his neck, then melted away, his eyes burning with a warm flame for a moment before he squeezed his eyes shut with a gasp.
“You’re beautiful,” Cullen breathed, his voice already raw from his cries, and Dorian choked out a strangled whine in response, grinding in as much as he could, and Cullen hissed at the wet pulse he could feel inside him, as Dorian’s mouth worked soundlessly, his chest heaving as his hands clenched tight in the sheets.
Then Dorian shoved a hand between them, to close tight over Cullen’s cock, tugging roughly as he groaned a ragged word in Tevene, shivering, the temperature again skewing from hot to cold and back about them, and it was this, the closeness of the fade, the knowledge of how thoroughly Dorian’s control had just shattered, because of him, that shoved Cullen right over the edge into the white noise of ecstasy.
Dorian slumped down onto his elbows, still pressed inside him, eyes still tightly closed for a moment longer, then he started to chuckle. “Did anything catch fire?”
“Not… not that I can tell,” Cullen said, trying to slow his breathing, rubbing his palms lightly up Dorian’s arms to his shoulders. “Has that happened before?”
“Once. When I was younger.”
“Mm.” Dorian nuzzled over Cullen’s shoulder, pressing lazy kisses in a slow, wet trail up to his neck. “Almost. It’ll be better for you the second time,” he added, again apologetically. “The end-cycle. It’s starting to reset. The balance is righting up. Still,” Dorian tilted his head, looking up at him now, with a quick, sharp smile that was so much more like his usual self. “You’ll be limping when you walk out of this room, I’m afraid.”
“I don’t care,” Cullen growled, as he felt Dorian stiffen up again, within him. “Do it again. And then,” he added, when Dorian bit out a gasp, “Again when we’re back in Skyhold. When there’s no risk of court scandal, things burning down, assassinations and such.”
“Tempting, very tempting,” Dorian teased, and leaned up for a hungry kiss.
Cullen blushed, even as, riding beside him on a roan mare, Dorian raised his eyebrows. “Really? I can’t imagine why.”
“Seems,” Evelyn said sweetly, “There were a lot of strange sounds, coming out of nowhere, and a lot of weird temperature changes, and someone’s gown caught fire along the edges, but thanks to a nearby vase of flowers, no one was hurt.”
“Caught fire,” Cullen repeated, resigned, and glowered briefly at Dorian, who shrugged helplessly.
“Well, who knows, all these terrible side effects seem to happen when Fade rifts are torn open and such,” Dorian said ingenuously, and smirked when Evelyn winked at him.
“Awful side effects. Awful. But just so you’re aware,” Evelyn added absently, “If there’s any further incidences of ‘side effects’, maybe they should be kept to the Commander’s rooms, which are, shall we say, very far from mine.”
“Yes, of course,” Dorian grinned, even as Cullen groaned and pressed a hand over his face.
“But,” Evelyn added thoughtfully, “I have this right prick of a brother, so, if you’re ever both in the Marches, and maybe want to make a certain mansion feel haunted…”
“Inquisitor!” Cullen yelped.
“Just a thought.”