Actions

Work Header

One-shots in the Cocktails & Cheese Universe

Chapter Text

(In the Cocktails & Cheese Universe)


 

 

Alistair sat across from Cullen at a small table towards the back of his pub. It was Mother’s day, which meant, Sunday, so he had the day off, leaving Lana to tend the bar while Leliana sang her sweet songs of yesterday up on the stage.

 

Smiling softly at each other over a plate of cheese and crackers. Alistair lifted his glass and clinked it against Cullen’s.

 

“To our mother’s! May they be walking safely by the Maker’s side!” He took a sip of his Johnny Walker neat and set his glass back down, spearing a small square of Ferelden cheese with a toothpick.

 

Lana walked by at that moment and flicked the tip of Alistair’s ear, “You do remember that your Mother was elven don’t you? We honor the Creators, not the Maker… get your theology straight! Oh wait, I’m sorry… bi - you’ve never done anything straight in your life.” She chuckled and dodged as Alistair took a swipe at her.

 

“Hello… handsome Templar sitting across from me, I can’t disrespect his Maker by offering up prayers to your heathen gods!”

 

“Ex-Templar,” Cullen reminded him. “And whomever you decide to place your--straight, gay, bi, or otherwise--faith in, it doesn’t affect mine. I’m secure in both my sexuality and my spirituality.”

 

Alistair grinned wolfishly, “I’m pretty secure inside your sexuality too, it’s one of my favorite places to be! Well… when you’re not inside mine.” He winked suggestively.

 

“You are terrible!” Cullen chuckled knowing full well, he’d baited Alistair in the first place, “Don’t ever change that dirty little mind of yours.”

 

A towel flew towards Cullen’s head. He snatched it out of the air and set it on the table, “Don’t spill my drink, Lana! You’ll upset the owner, you know he only gives me the good stuff.”

 

“Yeah, you know. I think he might have a thing for you, Cullen. He doesn’t let anyone else touch that bottle.”

 

“Really? Huh, I never would have noticed.” He leaned across the small table and gave Alistair a lingering kiss. “I hope he knows that the feeling is definitely mutual.”

 

“Y’know, after almost a year, I was starting to suspect.”

 

“What gave me away?” Cullen whispered against his lips.

 

“Could be the fact that we live together and I’m the one you reach for in the middle of the night? Or that, before you leave for work, you make sure that my lunch is ready for me in the fridge and my clothes are laid out for me?”

 

“You know I enjoy my routines.”

 

“So, I’m just a routine to you?” Alistair said in feigned affront.

 

“Not just a routine… my favorite routine.”

 

“Mmm… am I now?” Alistair scooted his chair closer to Cullen’s and kissed him softly on the lips. “I think we have gotten off track.”

 

“Oh, right.” Picking up his scotch on the rocks, Cullen raised his glass, “To our mother’s! May they not be listening to this conversation as they’d probably both be blushing or shaking their heads at our inappropriate level of candor.”

 

Alistair echoed the gesture and they both took sips of their drinks as they chuckled.

 

Cullen sighed wistfully, “Y’know - when she was here, I took for granted all the little things that my mom used to do for me. I sometimes regret not telling her how much she meant to me.”

 

“You don’t think she knew that you loved her?” asked Alistair.

 

“She knew. I mean, I told her that I loved her. It’s something my siblings and I have never been shy of. I may suck at keeping in touch, but when we talk or visit, the love is always apparent.”

 

“So, what is it then?”

 

“Well, loving someone and appreciating them can be totally different things. I know she loved me and she knew I loved her back. I just wish I’d told her how much I appreciated some of the little things she’d do for us.”

 

“Oh yeah? Like what? Tell me one of your favorite memories of your mom.”

 

“Well, ok - but only if you do the same. One for one!”

 

“Should be easy enough. I only got to see my mother once a year and that stopped before my 16th birthday, but we had some good times during her visits.”

 

“Well you have Mother Natalie too, you can include her in your ‘mother memories’ as well.”

 

“Fair enough. So, pick a topic: homework, food, chores, getting into trouble? Where would you like to start?” Alistair grinned at all the options on the table.

 

“Let’s start with food. I used to love seeing my mother in the kitchen. Holiday meals were legendary… she made this cheesy, potato thing that you would just die for.”

 

Alistair’s eyebrows shot up. “I don’t suppose Mia knows how to make that dish does she?”

 

“Actually, I think she does. Remind me to ask her the next time we go visit.”

 

“Hey Cullen, remind Mia to make that cheesy-potato thing for me the next time we go over for dinner!”

 

“You’re such a smart ass!”

 

“And you love me.”

 

“Maker help me, I really do!” Cullen took a sip of his scotch and began his story, “I remember waking up one morning to the house smelling divine! The air was filled with cinnamon and sweetness that had my mouth watering before I even rolled out of bed.” Cullen smacked his lips, with a faraway look as he remembered.

 

“I must have been only about six or seven years old. The whole house was quiet, everyone else was still asleep. I tiptoed as quietly as I could down the stairs and into the kitchen. The morning sunlight was just peeking through the window, making my mother’s golden curls glow with their light.” Cullen sighed wistfully and took another sip before continuing.

 

“She was humming to herself as she smothered icing on the tops of the batch of sweet-rolls she’d just pulled out of the oven. I don’t remember the song, but her voice was warm and made me pause just around the corner so she wouldn’t see me. I didn’t want to interrupt her, I wanted to just listen and watch as she worked. She was so beautiful and no one ever made me feel like she did: happy, safe, loved—all unconditionally.”

 

“She sounds like home to me.”

 

“She was. I almost feel guilty for fighting so hard to join the Templar’s. I think I purposely made her life difficult from the time I was eleven until she finally let me go at thirteen. I don’t regret joining, even after all I went through for the order. But every once in a while, I think about that morning and wonder how many days like that I missed by following my dream.”

 

“I dunno, something tells me, if you hadn’t joined the order, our paths may not have crossed. I’m pretty thankful for the choices you made.”

 

Cullen smiled and took Alistair’s hand in his, kissing his knuckles. “I’m pretty happy too. Though my story doesn’t end there, you keep distracting me.” He chastised.

 

“So tell me what happened to that sweet little Cullen hiding in the kitchen as his mother stood in the golden light of morning making breakfast.”

 

“Cheeky bastard.”

 

“You know it… Now spill!”

 

“Well, I thought I’d done a pretty good job of sneaking around that morning. But one thing about my mother… you could never get anything past her.”

 

Alistair raised his eyebrows at the challenge, but didn’t interrupt.

 

“As I watched, she distributed the sweet-rolls, one per plate. The one closest to the corner, I dashed in and snagged. Thinking I was being stealthy, I quickly went back behind the corner to sit and eat what I thought I’d gotten away with. The next thing I knew, my mother was sitting on the floor across from me with a knowing smile in her eye, a plate in her own lap. Of course she noticed.

 

“She winked at me and laughed, ‘I thought somebody stole one of my sweet-rolls. Of course it had to be you.’ She grinned as she used her apron to wipe some frosting off my cheek then we both just sat in silence eating our still warm treats. When we finished the first, she got us each a second. We’d finished half the batch before anyone else woke up. It was simple and quiet, just the two of us. Most of the time with six of us in that house, things were very loud. But that morning, it was just she and I and too many sweet rolls.” Cullen chuckled to himself as he polished off the rest of his drink.

 

Alistair was quick to pour his refill. At the questioning look from Cullen, he explained, “Only one more. I know you need a clear head should you get called into work. And besides, I’m only having the one… I can always drive you.”

 

“You know how I feel about you going into the field with me.” Cullen mumbled unhappily.

 

“And yet, you’ve never tried to stop me when I’m called to serve my own missions. Which, I might remind you, can be infinitely more dangerous.”

 

“They thankfully occur, far less often too. You know, I would never get between you and your duties. It doesn’t mean I want to drag you into more danger as I cater to mine.” He wanted more than anything for Alistair to understand.

 

“This will all be moot, if they don’t call you in tonight. Why don’t you let me spoil you for once while I tell you about the time my mother and Duncan introduced me to cheese.”

 

Knowing he wouldn’t win this one, Cullen nodded his assent as Alistair settled in for his tale.

“So… let’s see. I couldn’t have been more than nine. My mum and Duncan were at the orphanage for my annual birthday visit. They rarely brought me large gifts as I didn’t have a lot of room to store my belongings. Maybe slightly more than you did as a Templar, but not by much. It all had to fit in the footlocker at the end of my bed.”

 

“Those were barely big enough to hold our basic layers, so yeah, I understand. Small box, no big presents. Continue.”

 

“Exactly! So anyway, instead of ‘stuff’, she would bring samples of different types of foods she’d pick up in her travels. She was always going to exotic places and occasionally the things we’d try together were frightfully disgusting, but sometimes we’d be pleasantly surprised.” He chuckled at the fond memory.

 

“This particular visit, she brought a basket of cheeses from around the world. At the time, I hadn’t yet discovered my love of all things dairy, so you can imagine my delight as I discovered the smorgasbord!” Alistair’s eyes lit up with excitement, his voice and hands flying more animatedly as he described the wonders she introduced him to.

 

“It wasn’t only cheese… There were other things in the basket to go with them! Flavors to enhance or subdue the experience: almonds, jellies, capers, lox, jams, crackers, I don’t even remember all of it. We spent two hours just exploring the combinations. The stinkiest cheeses were Duncan’s favorite, my mom liked the sharp bite of the swiss. And though I tried everything, the one I kept coming back to was the wheel of Ferelden cheese.” He speared a square of said cheese and handed it to Cullen before taking one for himself. Taking a bite, he closed his eyes and rolled the flavor around in his mouth.

 

Cullen watched with his crooked smile as Alistair moaned through his mouthful. Waiting patiently, he enjoyed watching the near rapture that washed through Alistair’s countenance. “Do I need to leave you alone with your cheese, my love?”

 

Swallowing the bite, Alistair just smiled with his eyes still closed, “Y’know, I think she knew. Her ability to predict what I would like or want amazed me. Everything in that basket came in small, sample-sized portions, but the Ferelden cheese was a large wheel--as big as my head--there was no way that the three of us would have been able to eat it all. She let me keep the rest. I had to stuff my clothes into my pillowcase so I could store the cheese in my trunk, but it was worth it!”

 

“Well, you are Ferelden born, it only makes sense that you would prefer our national cheese to all the other fancier cheeses out there.”

 

Alistair grinned, “Well, yes, that might have been a big clue, but still--I do enjoy other cheeses as well. She couldn’t have known that would ultimately be my favorite, or that I would be so fond of cheese all together. It’s not like we were ever able to spend a lot of time together. We were basically strangers--bound by blood--so how would she know what I would or would not like? But she did. Mother’s instincts, I suppose. She was pretty awesome that way.”

 

They each stabbed another piece of cheese with their toothpicks then clinked them together (as they had their glasses) and savored their bites in silence. Both smiling at their musings.

 

Cullen broke the silence with a chuckle, “Ok so… how ‘bout something a little sillier?”

 

Alistair thought for a moment, then nodded. “Sounds good. I was always getting into mischief when I was younger, I’m sure I can come up with something suitable.”

 

“What do you mean, when you were younger? You’ve never grown out of your mischievous ways!” Cullen teased as he bumped knees with Alistair under the table.

 

“Ha-ha, you are so full of wit today. So, Mr. ‘my schedules run on schedules’, regale me with a funny memory about your mother.” The crinkling at the corners of his eyes, showing that he took the jest for what it was.

 

Cullen laughed at the nickname, knowing it suited some of his more prominent quirks. After taking a quick sip of his drink, he began, “One Mother’s Day, my siblings and I decided that we were going to give our mom her very own spa day. She was always taking care of us, so we vowed to spoil her for a day. No cooking, no cleaning. Not only were we planning to take care of all of her chores and our own, we decided that we would pamper her while we were at it.”

 

“I’m sure that ended well. The best laid plans, and all that?”

 

“Well, keep in mind, Mia--as the oldest--was only ten at the time. So most of the work fell to the two of us. Next to none of our regular chores got done, but we did manage to make breakfast and lunch for everyone. We mostly spent the day just trying to ‘take care’ of mom. Mia put curlers in her hair and the special avocado mask on her face, Branson was in charge of bringing her snacks--which consisted mostly of goldfish crackers or dry cereal--Rosalie was still pretty young, but she was able to hand us supplies when she wanted to be helpful, otherwise she would just sit on mom’s lap telling her how pretty she looked.”

 

“And what was your job?” Alistair knew if Cullen left it out, it must be something good.

 

Cullen coughed, “I was in charge of massaging her feet and painting her toenails.”

 

Alistair couldn’t help the burst of laughter, “You were painting toenails?”

 

“Well, I may have painted most of the tops of her toes, but it was a lovely shade of pink. Why you want to try it sometime? I’m a little rusty, but I think I can manage.” He winked at Alistair enjoying the startled expression on his face.

 

Alistair actually looked a little uncomfortable, “Something tells me that Lana would enjoy that too much if we did.”

 

At that declaration, combined giggles erupted from the stage where Leliana was taking a break, sitting on the edge with her wife. “Oh come on Alistair, I have a lovely shade that would enhance those lovely freckles of yours! We haven’t had a proper slumber party in way too long! We are long overdue, no?”

 

Cullen raised an eyebrow, “Slumber parties huh? You haven’t stopped the fun traditions just because I moved in have you?”

 

“Well, I uh…” Alistair stuttered. “I wasn’t sure if that was something you’d be interested in.”

 

Cullen rolled his eyes, “I did used to wear a skirt to work every day, as you so often remind me.”

 

“That’s right! And you still haven’t let me try it on!”

 

Always so helpful, Lana giggled, “So that’s settled--Cullen brings the dress, Alistair dances the Remigold in it and we can all do each other’s nails while watching cheesy romantic comedies! What do ya say boss, can we close up early tonight to have pillow fights in the dojo?”

 

“I’m going to have to cleanse the area again, aren’t I?” It was more statement than question. “You do know that’s my sacred space, don’t you?”

 

“Well, if you already sweat and bleed on it…” Leliana began.

 

“Not to mention all those other bodily fluids, you two manage to get on those mats regularly.” Lana interjected with a smug grin causing both Alistair and Cullen to blush.

 

Leliana continued, “I think it would be ok for us to bring out the blankets for one slumber party a month. We promise to make sure it’s all clean and tidy when we leave!”

 

Lana chimed in again, “This is so exciting! Does that mean we get to see Cullen’s curls too? Oh!... And will we have themed nights again? It’s been so long; I forget where we left off. Was it lace, satin, or leather we’re supposed to be wearing this time?”

 

“You guys really have done this a lot if you’ve got it down to a schedule. I’m afraid to say though, I’m fresh out of lace, I can do either satin or leather though.”

 

Alistair choked on the piece of cheese he’d just put in his mouth. “Maker Cullen, you’re going to be the death of me!” His face was bright red with embarrassment, “I must insist on the satin if those are our only options… I know what leather you’re talking about and that’s… well, that doesn’t cover enough for you to wear it for anyone but me. Even if it is only those two.” He pointed to the girls.

 

Cullen pulled Alistair to him, kissing him soundly, “You know I love it when you get all possessive of me.”

 

“You know I hate it when you let them take us off on tangents when we were having a perfectly respectable conversation.” He looked at Cullen then the girls noting the puppy eyes he was getting all around, “Ok fine, Second Sunday Slumber parties are back on the schedule again. Go ahead and close up at ten, it’s not like we do a lot of business on Sundays anyway.” Alistair shook his head at the excited looks on the girls faces, now if you two will excuse us, I was about to hear what happened after Cullen painted his mother’s toenails.”

 

With one arm around Alistair’s shoulders, Cullen leaned in and kissed him on the temple, “So where was I?”

 

“Your mom was being subjected to torture by her four kids… where was your dad anyway?”

 

Cullen started laughing, “Oh that’s the best part! So, our father had to go into work that day. When he got home, there were piles of stuff everywhere: toys, clothes, food, laundry that had previously only needed to be folded, but now could use a run through the wash again. He was shocked, to say the least! And there was mom, sitting in her bathrobe in his recliner, with green goop on her face, eating dry fruity cereal out of a bowl, curlers in her hair, cotton between her toes and paint covering more of her feet than not. I could tell, dad was trying really hard not to laugh, but the look she gave him was priceless! It said, ‘If you say one-word mister, you’re sleeping on the sofa for a week!’ And I swear, dad buttoned it up, announced that he would be ordering dinner in so mom didn’t have to cook and proceeded to start tidying up around us. I have to say, that was one of my favorite Mother’s days ever.”

 

Cullen shook his head and chuckled as he raised the class to take a sip. Alistair’s eyes followed, still chuckling at the images Cullen drew for him. “Your parents sound amazing, I wish I could have met them.”

 

“Me too,” Cullen sighed. “They would have liked you.”

 

Alistair smiled as he pulled Cullen into a tight hug. “Ok, one-for-one--my turn. This one is about Mother Natalie, not my Mum, but considering she raised me, I think it’s still counts.”

 

“Absolutely.” Cullen encouraged him to continue.

 

“I was little, maybe four years old and was upset because… well I don’t even remember why. Someone was picking on me about something, I think: my hair color, or my freckles, or the fact that I actually had parents that didn’t want me--even though my mum had just come to visit--it doesn’t really matter why. Anyway, I remember running to the garden and finding Mother Natalie sitting on a bench knitting. She’s almost as predictable as you, y’know.” He winked at Cullen, then continued, “I was so upset that I threw myself at her feet and buried my face in her skirts. She didn’t say anything, just set her knitting aside, ran her fingers through my hair, and hummed softly. By the time I finished crying…”

 

Cullen interrupted, “Hey, hey, I thought this was supposed to be a silly story. You’re getting me all sad for you over here.”

 

“Patience! A wise woman once told me, that a little angst helps you appreciate the good times more… so here’s the angst… the humorous is coming, if you’d just let me finish.”

 

“Yeah, yeah. You were saying?”

 

“So, when I’d finished drying my tears and snot on her skirt.”

 

Cullen made a face.

 

“What do you want from me? I was four! Anyway, when I looked up at her, all she wanted to know, was which kid hurt my feelings, and what sorts of awful things we could do to them to retaliate!”

 

“Mother Natalie said that?”

 

“Don’t let her fool you, that woman’s got a mean streak!” Alistair shuttered.

 

“You seem to surround yourself with really frightening, tiny women.”

 

“It does seem to be a theme with me, doesn’t it?”

 

“So did you? Retaliate?”

 

“Not really. She knew that if they knew I told on them, it would only make their teasing worse and she didn’t want me to have to deal with that. Oh, there would be extra lessons on being kind to one another and if the situation warranted it, she would have absolutely stepped in. Usually though, she’d pull a couple of tarts out of her apron and while we nibbled away on the sweet treats, we would plot different ways to get back at the kid. Each more elaborate and silly than the next.”

 

“So how is that funny? All I see is you getting bullied and Natalie not doing anything about it.” Cullen was appalled that someone would treat Alistair that way.

 

“Oh she did, believe me.” Alistair soothed, “She would just find ways to do it, while removing me from the picture. Like making them write extra lines in class for their o’s not being completely sealed, or dishing out extra chores, like kitchen duty or laundry duty for the tiniest infractions. When I say Mother Natalie was vicious, it’s because she has a very long memory and man is she patient! It didn’t matter when you committed the crime, you would always end up paying the price.”

 

“That’s good at least, so I’m assuming the things you were plotting with her were more far-fetched than the reality?”

 

“Oh yes! Like I said, the sillier the better. She was never satisfied until I was curled up laughing on the ground. One time we discussed painting up one mean little girl like a clown and making her carry a goat around all day as her kid, because she was a b-a-a-a-a-d girl.” Alistair bleated in a fair imitation of the animal in question, then snorted in laughter.

 

“Mother Natalie always had the most creative ways to make me feel better. She still does actually. I may not have been able to grow up with my mother by my side, but as surrogates go, having Mother Natalie there was worth its weight in gold.”

 

“Family isn’t always those we are born to.” Cullen intoned his heartfelt belief.

 

Alistair looked around the bar, noticing Leliana and Lana nose to nose in a private moment, he smiled taking Cullen’s hand in his own, he said, “Don’t I know it?! I’m the illegitimate son of one of oldest/wealthiest families in Denerim and a legendary elven warrior/mage who’s no longer with us. Yet my life is complete, I have you, Lana, Leliana, Duncan and I wouldn’t trade Mother Natalie for the world either.”

 

“She’s certainly a keeper. And so are you!” Cullen leaned in and kissed Alistair softly on the lips. Thank you for taking the time today to help me honor my mother, and for sharing some of your own stories with me. Usually, I offer a quick prayer at the chantry for her and spend time in quiet contemplation. This is so much better.”

 

Alistair smiled. “I agree. Hey y’know - we can always still go to the Chantry. Swing by and grab some flowers for Mother Natalie… or better yet--yarn, she’s always looking for one more project to knit.”

 

“I’d like that. Out of all of our parents, she’s the only one we can still share today with in person.”

 

As they retrieved their coats and headed for the door, Lana called out to them, “Hey you two, stay out of trouble, give Natalie my best, and don’t forget about our slumber party tonight!”

 

They said in unison… “Yes, Mother.”



 

Chapter Text

Mother Natalie

(In the Cocktails & Cheese Universe)


 

“Now where did that boy get off to? Maker help me, he’s going to be the death of me!” The newly promoted Mother checked the dormitory, the grand hall and even the galley. Either the kitchen staff were lying about knowing where he was, or something happened to upset the boy and he was hiding again.

 

If he didn’t want to be found, there would be no help for it. Alistair was so good at hiding, the other kids refused to play hide and seek with him anymore. It upset him more than he would let people see, but Natalie always knew, when it came to Alistair.

 

“If he’s hiding, I’ll just have to wait for him to find me.” Resigning herself to waiting him out, she collected her knitting and proceeded to head out to her favorite spot near the roses in the garden. Sitting on the bench, she took out her needles and worked on the hat for one of her charges. She’d noticed that little Emmy’s was looking a little threadbare and with winter in full swing, she didn’t want the child to get cold.

 

As she worked another round, a rustling in the laurel behind her clued her in to Alistair’s presence. Her lip quirked in a quick smile before she returned her features to relaxed concentration. Focusing on her stitches, she listened as the sound drew closer.

 

She pretended not to notice as the little boy with bright red hair slunk up to her, sat at her feet, and laid his head down on her knees. He was silent--not a good sign, in her experience--and seemed content to sit there leaning against her legs, occasionally wiping his eyes and nose on her skirts.

 

Holding her needles in one hand, she reached out with the other and softly stroked her fingers through his wild spiky hair.  It was softer than it looked--that always surprised her.

 

From experience, she knew that he would talk when he was ready and not a moment before. He’d been with her for six years now, brought to her when he was just a baby. She knew that she wasn’t supposed to pick favorites amongst the orphans, but she couldn’t help but love him a little more than all the rest. He was different; he wasn’t going away anytime soon and he was--a little bit--like her.

 

It’s rare for a human child to be born with the sight, but it does happen. Maybe it’s his half-elven heritage, or the fact that his mother is a mage and a Grey Warden. Whatever the reason, whatever the cause, this boy had already seen true horror and it was only the beginning of what he will actually see in his lifetime. There was no one else in the chantry who understood, no one else with the sight that could help him understand. So she took it upon herself to reassure him, to comfort and explain the multi-layered world in which they lived.

 

Her own sight came late in life and she always questioned its purpose. She wasn’t a born fighter or healer to help counter anything from the other side of the veil. She would never be able to keep up with the Wardens or the true-Templars. The only thing she was ever certain of was her faith. She knew she’d been chosen with this gift for a reason. Looking down at the boy seeking comfort in her lap, she acknowledged that he was her purpose. He needed a guardian and a guide. Someone to love and look out for him. Someone who understood the scary world around them. It was a responsibility that she happily accepted and one she felt was absolutely worth dedicating her life to.

 

As she ran her fingers through his hair, she hummed tunelessly, remembering the night Alistair was brought to the orphanage... 

~*~

There was a light drizzle in the air that early spring morning and Natalie had been instructed to greet those that entered the chantry. It was her job to make sure they wiped their feet and then direct them, should they have questions.  

 

She was mopping up a puddle from the last visitors that came in when she saw two people walk in. A tall male and a petite female, judging by the outlines of their bodies, still fully enveloped in wool cloaks. As they pushed back their hoods, Natalie saw that they were travel worn, but wore calm determination like it was armor. The gentleman had almost black hair with a beard to match and dark brown eyes, his face was sun-darkened and stern, but when he looked at the tiny elf next to him, Natalie glimpsed the gentleness that seeped through his tough exterior.

 

The woman at his side had similar colored hair and eyes. If it weren’t for the points of her ears to contrast the roundness of his, Natalie would have thought them siblings. As they shook off the rain, the tiny bundle in her arms began to fuss. The woman peeled back the blanket surrounding the baby’s head, revealing a bright shock of red hair.

 

Caressing her finger down the babe’s cheek, she soothed, “Shh, my son, you will be safe here.” The babe quieted at her touch and Natalie was struck at how tragic the whole image felt. Natalie startled with a gasp as the woman’s shifting, opened her cloak revealing a flash of blue and white armor underneath. Natalie recognized that armor.

 

Hastening to the two visitors, she whispered, “Welcome, Wardens. Is everything ok?”

 

The two shared a glance. He nodded once and she returned her gaze to the sister inclining her head in acknowledgement, “Thank you, sister, it’s not often that we are recognized. Can you direct us to the Revered Mother? I have a special request that I must make of the chantry.”

 

Nodding, Natalie indicated that they should follow her, “She’s currently in her office and is probably the only other person here who might know what you are. It’s right this way.” The three walked in silence, the two visitors and the babe, two steps behind the sister.

 

Knocking quickly on the large door, Natalie heard a distinctive, “Come in.” from the other side.

 

“Revered Mother, there are two Wardens here, seeking an audience with you.” Natalie said with the appropriate amount of reverence and respect.

 

“Show them in, dear, and please wait just outside for when we’re through.”

 

Nodding once, she opened the door wider, letting them in and closing it behind them. Standing her post outside the door, she pondered why two Wardens would be here in the chantry. She didn’t have long to wait, as after about five minutes the door was opened by the young man and she was asked to join them again.

 

“Sister, this is Fiona and Duncan, as you already know, they are Grey Wardens. Their duty is unsuited to raising a child and as such, we will have a new charge here at the orphanage.” The Revered Mother indicated the tiny bundle. “I would like you to make sure young Alistair here gets settled in the nursery before you go back to your duties.”

 

“Yes your Reverence.” She said as she hesitantly reached for the baby in the woman’s arms.

 

Leaning in with a kiss to his forehead, Fiona reluctantly handed the baby over. Getting her first look at the young man, she knew… knew from the first moment she touched her finger to his cheek, that there was a connection, this boy was special. She didn’t know how yet.. But she was determined to guard him with her life if need be.

 

The Revered Mother added, “I want you to make it clear to everyone, that this child is not to be put up for adoption. His circumstances here are special. These Wardens have made a generous contribution to the chantry and in return, we are to keep the boy safe for them. This will be his home until he turns eighteen.”

 

The young woman turned to the Revered Mother, “I have one further request, if I may.” Her tone was respectful, but left no room for argument. She was used to giving orders and expecting them to be obeyed.

 

“Yes?” the Revered Mother asked curiously.

 

“He is my son; I want him to know that I am his mother. I don't want him to ever think that he is unloved or unwanted. I want to be able to have open communication with him; write him letters and come see him. Truthfully, that may not be that often, considering my duties, but still. Will these conditions be acceptable to you, your Reverence?”

 

“There should be no problem with any of that.” The Revered Mother smiled kindly.

 

“Also, I want to be the one to tell him about his father when he is older. No one else here is to know that he belongs to the Theirin bloodline. It will be hard enough for him to grow up here, without having the weight of that name on his shoulders as well.”

 

“It will be as you say, Warden. Most of our children here have no last names, so simply calling him Alistair will be fine. No one but Sister Natalie and myself will know of his bloodline.” She looked pointedly at the young sister, who nodded solemnly.”

 

Gulping audibly with the weight of her new charge resting on her shoulders, Natalie dipped her head, “You have my word Wardens.” Pulling the child to her chest, she felt the babe sigh and relax into her grip.

 

Fiona and Duncan took their leave from the Revered Mother and stopped just outside the office. “May I say goodbye to my son?” Fiona asked hesitantly. It was the first indication that she was reluctant to leave--the pain in her eyes speaking the regret she would never let her mouth utter.

 

Natalie handed him over gently, Fiona scooped him up and buried her face in his hair. She couldn't help but overhear Fiona whisper to her son, “May the Creators and the Maker watch over you, Alistair. I will be back as often as I can to see you. Know that you will always be loved and you are so very wanted.” She then kissed him on each cheek, each eyelid, his forehead then his tiny cherub lips before hugging him to her chest one last time and handing him back to the sister.

 

Wiping away a single tear, she whispered, “Please watch over him for me Sister. The Revered Mother has much to oversee, and I know she will be unable to tend to him personally.”

 

“I will, Warden; he will be safe here.” Then she added, “And loved.”

 

Nodding solemnly, the two Wardens turned on their heals and hastened out of the building. Watching them depart, Natalie glanced down at the child in her arms. She’d never thought about being a parent before. Her plan was always to give her life wholly to the Maker and his work. But looking into those beautiful honeyed eyes staring back at her, she couldn’t help but smile at the boy. “Hello Alistair, I am Sister Natalie. It looks like you and I will be spending a lot of time together over the years. If you ever need anything, I’m here for you!”

 

She leaned down and kissed him on the nose. Pulling back, he flashed her a large toothless grin. Chuckling, she left for the nursery muttering to herself. “Maker... that smile. I know I’m in trouble already.” 

~*~

Mother Natalie lifted Alistair’s chin so she could look at him. Tear stained cheeks, puffy red eyes, and a runny nose said more than words ever could about how he was feeling. As their eyes met, she saw the sadness deep within his. Hoping he was finally ready to tell her what happened, she wiped his face with her skirt as she asked, “What is it child? What has you so worked up?”

 

“Why doesn’t my Mamae love me?”

 

“What do you mean, Ali? You just saw her last week on your birthday. You know she loves you very much.”

 

“But Rodney says that she doesn’t love me because she doesn’t want me to live with her.” Alistair wiped his sleeve across his nose and looked up at Natalie expectantly.

 

“You know, Rodney is just jealous because you get visitors and he wishes he got them too.”

 

Alistair nodded, then remembering something else and shook his head, “Rodney said that no one loves me and I’m unadoptable. He’s going to find a good family to adopt him and love him and buy him a pony… while I’ll be stuck here with you.”

 

“Thanks a lot!” She chuckled, knowing he didn’t mean anything by it. “You don’t like being here with me?”

 

“Can you buy me a pony?” He looked up hopefully.

 

“Where would you keep it? I don’t think your room is big enough and you know they are a lot of work.”

 

Looking a bit crestfallen, he stared at the ground with a sigh, then suddenly grinned, “I bet they poop a lot too! I don’t think I want to clean their poop.”

 

“No, probably not. I can barely get you to make your bed,” she chided.

 

“I just get in it again and mess it back up later!”

 

“That may be, but the rules remain the same. Beds must be made before you head down to breakfast. And you know why.” She reminded him gently.

 

He sighed, “I know, but the people who come to adopt never see my room, why do I have to keep it neat like everyone else?”

 

She smiled down at him, “You know why we don’t let potential parents interview you, don’t you?”

 

Looking at the ground, Alistair picked at the grass and shrugged one shoulder.

 

“It’s because you already have a mother that loves you. She would be very sad if we adopted you out to another family.”

 

“But why can’t I go with her? Why can’t I live with her instead of here?” he asked mournfully.

 

“Now Alistair, you know your Mamae and Duncan have very important jobs.”

 

“Rodney says that Grey Warden’s don’t exist except in fairy tales.” He ripped several blades of grass out at once and watched them fall from his fingers back to the ground.

 

“And I suppose you think that Rodney knows everything?”

 

“No.”

 

“Are you sure about that? It seems that you’ve let this boy get you all riled up about a bunch of things he knows little to nothing about.”

 

Alistair huffed but otherwise remained petulantly silent.

 

“Your mother would love nothing more than to take you with her. But her work is much too dangerous and she loves you far too much to risk your life. It would break her heart if something ever happened to you. That’s why she entrusted you to live here, while she tends to her duties.”

 

“Is my Mamae a super hero?” Alistair looked up for the first time hopefully.

 

“Do you think she is one?”

 

“Well.” Alistair pondered, “She works a very dangerous job.”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Protects those around her.”

 

“True.”

 

“She even has a secret identity... like batman!” He looked up excited!

 

Mother Natalie chuckled, “yes… I suppose she does. Not many people know enough about what’s really out there, to know that what she does is vital to our survival.”

 

His eyes looked a little haunted. “It is true though. I’ve seen… scary things.”

 

“I know you have, child. I wish sometimes you couldn’t, but there’s nothing we can do about that.”

 

“You can see them too.” He said as more of a statement than a question.

“Yes… I can,” she sighed.

 

“But no one else can?”

 

“There was another person here once who could. But the old Revered Mother has since joined the Maker. Now it’s just you and me.”

 

He nodded solemnly, then suddenly smiled up at the Sister. “That’s ok. You’re my favorite anyway!” he said, standing up and suddenly hugging the startled Mother.

 

Chuckling into his hair, she wrapped her arms around him and hugged him back, “Yes, I know, dear. You’re my favorite too.” Pulling back just far enough so she could wink at him, “But shhh, you can’t tell, I’m not allowed to have favorites.”

 

Alistair’s grin grew and his eyes lit up, “We have lots of secrets that no one can share.” He giggled then whispered, “You want to know another one?”

 

“Of course.”

 

“When I grow up, I want to be a Mother just like you!” He giggled again.

 

“But I thought you wanted to be a superhero?”

 

“I can do that too! You said I can be anything I want to be when I grow up! So, I’m going to be the best Grey Warden and Revered Mother ever!”

 

“Oh, a Revered Mother, huh? You’ll even outrank me!”

 

“No I won’t, silly! When I’m a Revered Mother, you’ll be the Divine!”

 

“Oh you think so, do you?”

 

“Yup!” He said, suddenly much happier and full of the joy and mischievousness she’d come to expect in the boy. “I do!”

 


A/N - Reposted for Day 4 of Alistair Appreciation Week! November 9, 2017.

Four days down - Only three more delicious Alistair filled days to go!

You can follow along with all the fun here: Alistair Appreciation Week

I will be posting every day for this event! You can find me on Tumblr as Aurlyn!

Chapter Text

 

Kept Promises

(In the Cocktails & Cheese Universe)

~Takes place at the end of summer - between Chapters 16 & 17~


 

 

The summer was quickly coming to an end. In keeping with their promises to Stanton and Jasper, Cullen and Alistair invited them to spend the day with them. Mia and Sam dropped them off early then headed out with Emma to enjoy the day to themselves.

 

They started their day by going to breakfast so they could lay out the schedule. They had a fairly tight itinerary to follow to be able to squeeze everything in that they wanted to do in such a short amount of time. Cullen and Alistair set everything up in advance, but they wanted the boys to be prepared for how the day would fully play out.

 

They made their way over to the chantry after breakfast. Cullen made arrangements for Stanton to shadow the Templars through their morning exercises while Alistair and Jasper visited with Mother Natalie, touring the grounds.

 

Jasper loved exploring all of the architectural elements and was delighted when Alistair showed him all of the secret passageways and hiding spots that he used to sneak around in as a kid.

 

Stanton suited up and impressed the newly promoted Knight-Commander with his sure footwork during the morning forms practice. He was able to easily keep up and proved that his skill already surpassed several of the young recruits when they took to the ring to spar.

 

Far from being cocky about his skills, however, he further impressed everyone with his humility, devotion, and dedication to helping those he planned to serve with. Mature beyond his years, he knew that a team was only as strong as their weakest member, so it benefitted all to not posture, but support and help those that needed it. His soft yet sure nature, soothed the egos of those already in training, never making them feel bad, only making them want to do better. For themselves, for each other, for Andraste and the glory of serving the Maker.  

 

While Stanton worked with his peers, Cullen made the necessary arrangements to make this permanent. Stanton’s official training would begin this winter, right after his eleventh birthday. The former Knight-Commander and the current Knight-Commander discussed the details of the young man’s joining and began the final paperwork that would induct Stanton as a recruit in five months’ time. All they needed was his parent’s signature and all would be set.

 

As they met back up with the others, Stanton was positively humming with excitement. Cullen remembered those days fondly from when he first joined. The excitement and anticipation; the pure joy of knowing that what he was doing was what he was meant to do. He just prayed that his nephew would have an easier time in his service than he had.

 

They enjoyed lunch in the garden, provided by Mother Natalie, who joined them for part of it at Alistair’s insistence. She shared stories of Alistair’s youth that left the boys in hysterics and him slightly red and disgruntled. His love of the woman, apparent in their easy banter and playfulness.

 

After lunch Cullen took Stanton to the altar to share their parting prayers and light their candles of dedication. It was a ritual that Cullen never faltered in and hoped to impart that appreciation and reverence to his nephew.

 

Their next appointment was with Alistair’s brother Cailan, in downtown Denerim. The older Theirin was in charge of running the day to day dealings of the family business and was thrilled to clear his boring schedule to spend time with his rarely seen younger brother and his boyfriend’s nephews.

 

Though their father insisted that he carry on the family business, Cailan’s first passion was historical architecture, which he minored in at the University of Denerim.

When Alistair mentioned to him that Cullen’s youngest nephew had a similar passion and a great interest in Theirin Tower specifically, Cailan was only too happy to entertain the young architect’s questions and ideas for the afternoon.

 

Cailan quickly became fascinated by the young man’s innovative ideas. He never thought that he would seriously consider a seven-year-old’s perspective on how to improve the flow and decor, but the more the young man dazzled him with his knowledge, the more in awe he became of such information coming so naturally from someone so young. This was certainly an individual to watch and nurture to grow.  

 

Before they departed in the evening, Jasper received an official letter of gratitude from Theirin Enterprises, thanking him for his insight and visual contribution to bettering their offices. The letter came complete with an offer for summer employment when he reached his sixteenth year and an invitation for a working scholarship program should he choose to pursue his degree at the University of Denerim. The prospect of being able to work inside Theirin Tower when he was older left the little guy walking on air.

 

They finished their day off with pizza at Alistair’s who was only too happy to show off his dojo to the young Templar-to-be. Jasper was more interested in the view from his window overlooking the Amaranthine Sea. After they ate, the ex-Templar, the Warden and the Templar-to-be sparred together for over an hour while Jasper played referee before Mia, Sam, and Emma came to pick up the boys.

 

Mia’s eyes filled with tears as she looked over the Templar paperwork as well as Jasper’s letter for an internship. Both overjoyed and saddened at both of her son’s prospects for doing things that they’ll love while simultaneously mourning the loss of her children leaving the nest before she would like them too. Cullen wrapped his arm around his sister’s shoulder and kissed her on the head in comfort. He remembered her tearful goodbye when he’d left for his training and would do his best to help ease her transition in any way that he could.

 

After they all said their goodbyes, Alistair and Cullen settled into a quiet night of movie watching and snuggles on the sofa. Neither of them made it far, so exhausted from their adventures with the boys that they both passed out within the first fifteen minutes of the first movie starting.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Declarations of Love

(In the Cocktails & Cheese Universe)

(Takes place between Chapters 16 & 17) 


 

I woke slowly as if in a dream. It was almost surreal, the down bedding beneath me was soft and comfortable, cradling me in my twilight slumber. The top sheet draped softly over my legs and hips, leaving my upper body completely bare to the cool air in the room.

 

As the fog in my head began to clear, I realized that I was draped over someone warm, soft, and awake; his fingers gently stroking down my arm from shoulder to wrist. His lips laying gentle kisses on the top of my head.

 

Cullen.

 

Knowing that I was here, in his arms, I allowed myself to drift in a comfortable haze; not yet ready to face the day and ruin this moment. This was nice, this was comfortable, this was--home.

 

 

We’d fallen into a predictable routine. Of course we did, Cullen loves his routines. But I certainly couldn’t fault them. Since Sunday was our one day off together, we always tried to spend it together from start to finish. Cullen would come in on Saturday night and watch me perform for the space of one drink, then he’d retire upstairs to wait for me.

 

Sundays were all about us. We’d wake up together at my house, spend the day doing whatever we wanted together: hang out, watch movies, go on hikes, we’d even occasionally go on real dates--like a normal couple. Whatever that means. Then since Cullen had to get up Monday morning to go to work, we’d generally retire for the evening at his place. Sundays quickly became my favorite day of the week.

 

When my shift ended, I made my way upstairs. Occasionally he’d wait up for me and be all curled up with a book and his reading glasses on. I may have a thing for Cullen in his dark-framed, reading glasses. But last night, I found him freshly showered and sprawled out, face down across the bed, the white sheet barely covering his ass.

 

Sweet Andraste, this man is pure sculpted muscle. Beautiful!

 

I love watching him sleep, those careworn lines always melt away leaving behind an almost happy expression. Can people look happy when they sleep? Most people tend to frown when their faces relax, but not Cullen, he looks positively peaceful and content.

 

I fought the urge to trace the ridges of every muscle on his body--with my tongue--and decided instead to behave myself by taking care of my evening ablutions first. He wouldn’t go anywhere while I washed away the sweat and alcohol smells that tended to linger after a night of flipping bottles.

 

Once I was clean and dry, it was all I could do not to climb up on top of that delicious man in my bed. If there was one thing I’d learned after several months of being together, it was; you don’t surprise attack the sleeping Commander.

 

Don’t ask! It wasn’t pretty, and we both felt bad afterward.

 

Placing my fingers on the inside of Cullen’s ankle, I let them rest there for a moment, allowing him time to get acclimated to my presence. The change in his breathing let me know that he was present, if not fully awake. Smiling to myself, I climbed up onto the bed and slowly made my way up his calf with gentle touches and light kisses. When I reached his thighs, he spread his legs ever so slightly which caused the sheet to slip off completely.

 

Now, how am I supposed to resist that?

 

With one hand on his thigh and the other resting firmly on his other hip, I leaned over and placed a chaste kiss on one of his glorious cheeks. The slight shift and low moan that came from my dearest below me, told me that he knew I was there and it was safe to proceed. Taking it for the invitation it was, I kissed my way up the rest of his body.

 

Our love making was slow and sensual, full of every emotion we could pour into it. Every time he touched me, I felt worshiped and cherished. I never expected it to be like that. I never could have hoped for something so beautiful, so pure, so perfect.

 

Basking in the soft glow of the morning light and the warmth of my lover’s arms around me, I reveled in my memories of our time together. As I lay there, a warmth began to seep through me. A certainty that I could no longer ignore. This wasn’t just a minor infatuation, a crush to be taken lightly, or even a ‘friends with benefits’ kinda thing. This was so much more.

 

Cullen and I have only known each other for five months. We’ve only been dating for three of those, but this--what we have together--is damn near everything to me. This right here, if I had to put a word to it, is love.

 

I’ve fallen in love with this amazing man; fully, completely, and unapologetically. Wholy shit!

 

A throaty chuckle rumbled through Cullen’s chest, “Where has your mind gone to put that look on your face this morning?”

 

Taking stock, I realized that I probably had a dopey grin on my face. Pulling myself up to be face to face with this amazing man, I kissed him lightly on the lips then searched his eyes. I’m not sure what I was looking for, but what I found soothed any nerves I may have had about this current revelation. “I… was just thinking about this--about us--and something occurred to me.”

 

“Something good by the looks of it. Care to share with the class?”

 

The amber of his eyes had a soft golden glow this morning; a happy sparkle that reflected the hope and safety that I felt whenever I was with him. Losing myself in that light for a moment, I traced the side of his face with my fingertip.

 

Unable to keep the wonder from my voice, I finally admitted, “I… love you, Cullen.”

 

His eyes softened as he cupped my cheek. The same joy and wonder I felt was reflected completely in his smile as he whispered, “I love you too, Alistair.”

 

 

Chapter Text


 

Into the Fade

(In the Cocktails & Cheese Universe)

(These snapshots take place during chapter 22)

 


 

Alistair woke feeling like he was still dreaming. Everything had sort of a surreal haze to it and if you looked away for even a moment, then looked back; things were different. Changed. Sometimes subtly, sometimes dramatically. It was disorienting and if you weren't used to it, disconcerting. Alistair was used to it. That doesn’t mean that he liked it.

 

Rolling over on his side, he watched Duncan tending something in a pot over the fire. As if on cue, his stomach rumbled loudly catching Duncan’s attention. “Well, good morning sleepy head. Or is it good evening? It’s so hard to tell here. I trust you slept well?”

 

“As well as I can in this place.” Alistair grumbled, rubbing his eyes. “Two hour watches, more likely to be broken up by a wandering demon than being allowed to sleep for the duration. I’m just peachy!” He stretched, causing his back to pop all the way down. “I’m getting too old for this.”

 

Duncan chuckled, “If you’re getting too old for this, I should have retired years ago.” He shook his head as he stirred the pot. “You’re just out of practice. All that wine and cheese is making you soft.”

 

“I’m quite fond of my life thank you. I’m just not used to sleeping on the ground anymore.” He poked at the weird spongy texture of the surface. It wasn’t exactly hard, but it definitely wasn’t his feathery soft mattress either. And like the horizon… it changed; sometimes it looked like stone, others like moss or sand; it was hard to tell from one moment to the next what he was sleeping on. Forgoing his investigation of the ground, he opted to change the subject, “Do you need any help with that?”

 

Duncan looked up with something akin to fear in his eyes. “Uh… no. Thank you. But, no.” He laughed at the look on Alistair’s face. “Lana made me promise to do all the cooking. If we happen to find any vegetation that won't kill us, you can do the chopping and we can add that into tonight’s stew. Otherwise, you get clean up.”

 

Alistair grumbled to himself, but knew he only brought a small pot of the burn salve, so it was probably for the best. “So, what are we having for breakfast? Demon surprise?” He crawled over and looked into the pot, frowning at its contents.

 

“Thankfully, it hasn’t come to that yet. I think we still have enough food in our packs to get by for now. There’s dried meats and flat breads if nothing else. I’m hoping to find a freshwater stream today, though, so we can replenish our pouches. Keep your eyes open for anything edible as well.”

 

The good thing about the same world being present on both sides of the veil, sources of food tended to find their way, unwittingly, to the other side. Fresh water streams, plants, and the occasional animal would potentially cross their path, making for a quick and easy replenishment of their supplies. You just had to know what to look for to be able to tell reality from illusion. Thankfully, that was one of the first lessons taught when you began your Warden training.

 

Survival as a Warden was more than just fighting darkspawn and hiding the evidence from the unawakened population; it was being able to live, sleep, and function on the other side of the veil for extended periods of time.

 

While Duncan finished cooking, Alistair busied himself with putting away his bedroll and tidying up their camp. Just because he was inept at cooking didn't mean he couldn't make himself useful in other ways. Plus, they hadn’t found the source of the disturbance yet, the sooner they moved on--the quicker he could get home again.

 

 

Alistair was exhausted. It felt like they’d been fighting for hours. Duncan was covered in gore, both daggers held tight in his grip as he faced off against yet another demon. Chances were good that he didn’t look much better. Back to back, they fought, taking down the rabble and their cronies.

 

The physical attacks were one thing. Fighting the arcane horrors, revenants, and skeletons; they were predictable and basic. Muscle memory was all that was required to fend them off. Yes, they were messy and in greater number, but they were easily taken down.  

 

It was the ones that prayed on their emotions that were wearing on Alistair. He missed the days of Lana being present to mentally shield him.

 

Hunger wasn’t bad. Alistair was always hungry anyway. His cravings for cheese and all things dairy were greater, but they weren't nearly distracting enough to deter him from the goal.

 

Fear tried to take him by surprise. He was used to a healthy dose of fear, but there was so much in his life that he could lose now. That demon played on each one of his insecurities making Alistair have to really concentrate to discern reality from its manipulations of it.

 

The Pride demon attempted to take away all of the things that Alistair worked so hard to build and create. Yes, he may have ended up with a trust fund in the end, but he was never one to shy away from hard work. Even with accepting a few gifts from his sperm doner, all of the hard work that went into keeping things going, was all on him. Yes, he was proud of the work he'd done, of all he accomplished, but it was a feeling built on confidence rather than anything boastful.  Blood, sweat, tears; his, Lana, and Leliana’s… in the end, that demon didn’t stand a chance either.

 

He knew what he was good at. He could easily tell reality from what the demons were trying to sell. None of their efforts were anything new to Alistair, so with a thought and a stab of his dagger or sword, the demons were taken out, one-by-one.

 

He shuttered as a desire demon sauntered towards him. It was all breasts and barely any coverage; Alistair was not impressed. He readied his dagger to dispatch the next threat. The demon suddenly tilted its head to the side and Alistair’s world tumbled.

 

Cullen was there, smiling, walking closer--his curls loose on his forehead. His voice more seductive than Alistair remembered. “I’ve missed you Alistair. You can’t imagine how lonely I’ve been without you. Please come home. I need you. I want you. It’s just not the same without you.”

 

Alistair blinked and was suddenly on his knees. Cullen stood before him--completely naked--stroking his thick cock with one hand, smacking the tip across Alistair's cheeks roughly. Cullen’s other hand gripping his hair tightly as he crooned, “I know what you want, Alistair. Open up; take me in. We can be everything together. All you have to do is submit to me.”

 

Alistair blinked again, remembering where he was. It wasn’t real… couldn’t be. Shaking his head, he looked up into the black eyes of the desire demon. Shoving it back, he jumped to his feet and shouted, “Get out of my head, you bitch!” With a flick of his wrist, he flung one of his daggers right into its abdomen. Grabbing the hilt of his longsword with both hands, he spun around, removing the creature’s head.

 

Pulling his dagger free, he wiped the viscera on the currently mossy ground. His chest was heaving and it wasn't from exertion. He felt like throwing up. That thing took something, no someone, he cherished so deeply and tried to use him to get to him.

 

He growled in anger and frustration, trying to wipe the image from his mind. Looking up, he found Duncan staring at him, a mass of bodies at their feet.

 

The look on Alistair’s face must have halted the usual witty banter they shared after facing off against so many demons at once, because for once, he held his tongue. The look of concern spoke volumes though.

 

“I'm all right,” Alistair tried to reassure him. “I guess I just wasn't expecting that.”

 

“Cullen?” Duncan asked simply.

 

Alistair nodded sullenly. Of course Duncan knew.

 

 

Alistair woke in a cold sweat with his cock painfully hard. He groaned as he rolled over onto his side. This separation was going to be the death of him. Between the desire demons taking on Cullen’s form, dreaming of his lover, and not having a moment of privacy to take care of himself, he was certain that the sexual frustration alone was going to kill him.

 

Duncan chuckled from the other side of the campfire. “Another dream about that boyfriend of yours?”

 

“Ugh, Duncan. I don’t need your help with any of this. Couldn't you just… pretend that you didn’t see me wake up like this every time? That would be great. Thanks.”

 

“This is the first time you’ve had someone specific in mind while on a mission. I never thought to warn you about that. It’s how they wear us down. Holding what we desire most in front of us, until we can’t see the truth anymore and give in to those longings.”

 

“I think I liked it better when they were offering me cheese, or puppy treats to give to Brie. I guess I never thought about how falling in love would effect me here.”

 

“So far, you’ve been holding up well. Though, I haven’t seen this many desire demons in one place in a long time. It’s like they’re drawn to you.”

 

“Gee, thanks. I think I could do without all the extra attention. I just want to find out what’s causing the rift in the veil and pushing the darkspawn through so I can get home to the real Cullen. These imitations are starting to get on my nerves.”

 

“What is it about the imposters that keeps you so sure that it’s not the real Cullen? What gives them away?”

 

“The eyes.” Alistair responded without pause. “They don’t get the look in his eyes right. It’s softer, gentler, with more affection than anything they can mimic.” Alistair smiled softly at the memory.

 

“It sounds like the two of you have found something special. That warms this old man’s heart.”

 

“Or maybe you’re just sitting too close to the fire.” Alistair chided, but the smile didn’t leave his eyes. “He’s pretty amazing, Duncan. I can’t wait for you to meet him. When we get out of here, will you be sticking around? Or will it have to wait until next time you come crashing through town?”

 

“We’ll see. I'd like to meet him. But something tells me,” he indicated the still obvious tent in Alistair's pants. “That you're going to need some time alone with your lover when we get back. I can always wait for another visit to allow you to… reconnect.”

 

Alistair blushed while pulling his pack into his lap to hide his erection while pretending to look for something inside. “Yeah, yeah, I uh… appreciate that. But I know he still wants to meet you, so maybe you can come by sometime when you're not whisking me away.”

 

“I'd like that, Alistair. Thank you.”

 

 

Alistair and Duncan walked into a large open room. It looked to be dwarven made; completely carved out of stone, but not crudely so. As Alistair turned in a circle to take in the room dimly lit by torchlight, his friend faded from beside him. Startled, he stumbled as two images caught his eye. Standing side by side in front of him were Lana and Cullen, a mere foot apart from each other, staring blankly at nothing. Alistair gasped, raising his hand to cover his mouth.

 

What is wrong with them?

 

“Lana? Cullen?” he breathed out in a whisper.

 

A vision of Leliana emerged from the shadows behind them. “Leli, what’s going on? What’s wrong with them?” Looking deeper, he could tell that something wasn’t right. Her usual soft demeanor was missing, hard lines creased her forehead.

 

The voice that came from within her was an eerie mix of her own and something ominous; ethereal. “Is this shape useful? Will it let me know you?”

 

She stepped up behind Cullen, running her nose up his neck, inhaling deeply as her eyes bored into Alistair’s. Cullen stayed motionless, not flinching away from her touch, or reaching for Alistair’s hand.

 

“Everything--tells me about you.”

 

This can’t be real.

 

“So will this: Watch!” She raised a dagger to just below Cullen’s chin.

 

Alistair pleaded, “Stop these disgusting lies, demon!!!”

 

The image--that couldn’t be Leliana--sneered as she she sliced Cullen’s throat wide open. Alistair watched in horror as his lover crumpled before him. She threw his own words back at him. “Stop these lies, demon!”

 

He couldn’t stop the tears as she stepped up behind Lana.

 

“No. Please, no!” Alistair couldn’t bear to look. He knew it wasn’t real, but he didn’t have the mental capacity to will away the illusion. He was helpless to watch as the two people he loved most were taken from him by the third person that shared his heart.

 

“You are an open book to me, Alistair.” Not-Leliana crooned. “I want you to watch as I take everything you hold dear and bleed it at my feet!”

 

Alistair keened in anguish. Crumpling to his knees as Lana’s body fell lifeless before him. Her head landing next to Cullen in a mockery of two lovers snuggled together. He squeezed his eyes and forced his focus away from the image burned in his retinas: bloodied and dead, Cullen and Lana, his future and his always.

 

Opening his eyes, the terrain was the same, but the bodies were gone. Taking a breath, he shakily climbed to his feet and looked around. Leaning against a pillar in the distance was Cullen, alive, grinning menacingly at him.

 

Alistair shouted, “Stop toying with me! You don’t know me, you are nothing but a demon. You’re not my Cullen, you... are nothing,” he croaked the last as he fought to hold onto reality.

 

The not-Cullen sauntered forward, a little extra sway to his hips, a sneer on his lips, “I am not your toy! I am envy and I will know you! I will know everything about you.” Suddenly standing before demon-Cullen was Mother Natalie. “Tell me, Alistair, in your mind. Tell me what you think.” Alistair watched as a dagger protruded from her back before she slid off the blade, dropping to the ground. The demon’s eyes trained on Alistair, Cullen’s eyes--only darker--fed on his anguish. It stepped over the lifeless form and continued its advance: predator to prey.

 

Alistair gasped and shook his head trying to clear it from the illusion.

 

This isn’t real - it’s not real - Cullen would never...

 

Not-Cullen continued over Alistair’s whimpers, “Tell me what you feel.” They were now standing before the door to his pub, the demon laid Cullen’s hands upon the door, flames erupting in the old wood. The fire spread quickly, consuming everything he built.  

 

Turning away from the fire, Alistair was faced with an image of himself. Arms wrapped tenderly around Cullen, their lips locked in an ardent embrace. The not-Alistair opened his blackened demon eyes and grinned at him over Cullen’s shoulder. Raising a dagger, he plunged it into Cullen’s back. “Tell me what you see.” He spoke emotionlessly as blood gurgled in Cullen’s throat, begging Alistair to help him.

 

He crumpled, screaming, unable to fight back, unable to look on as all that he loved was torn from him. He knew it wasn’t real, knew it was those fucked-up demons praying on his memories, his emotions, his fears, and his dreams.

 

When did they learn to work together? There’s too many, I… can’t. I’m sorry.

 

When Alistair came to, he was curled up on his bedroll next to a fire. He reeked of smoke, blood, and vomit, but he ached too much to care. Seeing Duncan watching him worriedly from the other side of the fire, he sat up and tried to put on a brave face. The memories of what the demons did to him, fresh in his mind caused him to shudder.

 

Duncan rose and brought him some water. “Drink, son. You’ve had quite the adventure.”

 

Alistair smiled weakly in thanks, “What happened, Duncan? I know what I saw, but what really happened? How long was I out?”

 

“We found it. The nest pushing forth the vileness that has been finding its way through the veil. I’ve never seen anything like it. Usually, the demons are separate; these ones somehow found a way to merge. They converged on you as if you were a buffet. And… I let them. I am sorry, Alistair, for what they probably put you through. But I… needed the distraction, so I--let them.” Duncan was looking down at his hands, remnants of blood still visible. “I promised your mother that I would take care of you. I promised her that I would do everything in my power to keep you from the worst of it. And I not only led you into the den, I used you as bait.” A single tear dripped slowly down Duncan’s cheek. “I’m so sorry, Alistair. Please--forgive me.”

 

Unsure what to think, Alistair crawled over and sat down next to his mentor, “You’ve always been here for me, Duncan. You’ve always taken care of me. I can only assume, since I’m still alive, that whatever plan you devised--it worked.” Alistair leaned into Duncan, bumping their shoulders together.

 

Duncan nodded, but didn’t look up. “It did. But, at what cost to you? I’ve never seen you so distraught. I don’t know what world they painted for you, but by the sounds of your screams, I know it couldn't be good. You were calling out to Cullen, to Lana, and to Leliana. You begged for your own death, cursed the Maker and Creators. I’ve never seen you like that before. And yet, I didn’t stop it, until it was almost too late. While you had the abomination distracted, I was able to kill all the darkspawn surrounding it. I was able to light the fire that took out its sanctuary, and as you crumpled to the ground under the weight of its mental onslaught, I was able to launch myself at its back and sever its heads from its body. There were five total. Heads that is, on one body.” Duncan shuddered at the memory. “I barely managed to drag you out of there as the ceiling collapsed in on that thing. I wasn’t sure if I was too late. None of the potions we brought would bring you out of your... sleep. So I settled in and have been waiting. I dreaded bringing bad news to Lana and your Cullen. I didn’t know if you would pull through.” He finally looked up, the fear in his eyes evident.

 

“I’m all right, Duncan. You killed it, you destroyed its lair and got me to safety. Maker knows, I wasn’t any help.”

 

“But you were, son. You were everything I needed. I couldn’t have taken it out if you hadn’t kept it talking… kept it distracted. But that was over eighteen hours ago, I didn’t know if you’d wake up. If you didn’t, would all of this really have been worth it?”

 

Alistair took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “This is what we do, Duncan. This is what we signed up for.”

 

“This is what I signed up for. You retired from this life. Hell, you’re not even bonded to the darkspawn anymore. If it wasn’t for me, you wouldn’t be here in the first place.”

 

“That’s not true, and you know it. If it wasn’t you pulling me back in, it would be some other Warden. They wouldn’t be so understanding about keeping Lana home. They wouldn’t have been so diligent in watching over me for eighteen hours while my mind took the time it needed to heal. They wouldn’t have my back like you do. If I had to choose, between being here with you or being here with any of them, I would choose you any day.”

 

Duncan wrapped a single arm around Alistair, pulling him to his side. “I don’t deserve a son like you, Alistair.”

 

“Well too bad, Old Man. Like it or not, you’re stuck with me.” Alistair chuckled then groaned audibly as he pulled himself to his feet. “Maker, I feel like I’ve been hit by a truck. Let’s get out of here, the sooner we can finish the cleanup in Orlais, the quicker I can get home to Lana.”

 

“And Cullen?”

 

Alistair blushed, “Yes, and Cullen.”

 

A darkness fell over Alistair’s eyes, but Duncan chose not to comment on it. He knew that Alistair would talk when he was ready, but until then, he would wait him out.

 

 

Clean up in Orlais took almost no time at all. The drive back to Denerim went by almost as quickly. Granted, Alistair spent most of it sleeping while Duncan drove. He was still battered and bruised from his ordeal in the fade; his energy recovering slowly. His only thought, to get back to Lana so she could heal him, then to go see Cullen. He missed him so damn bad, he needed to see him and touch him to truly believe that he was ok. That he was real. But, he didn’t want Cullen to see him injured. He’d had worse. This time there were only a few scrapes, lots of bruises, maybe a broken rib or two, the most visible was a cut just under his left eye. He knew Lana could fix him up. She always did. He hoped his internal demons could be quieted as easily.

 

As Duncan drove, Alistair drifted in and out of consciousness. Every time he closed his eyes, he would see Cullen; broken and bloody at his feet. Eyes staring sightless into nothing; the blood still on Alistair’s hands. It didn’t matter that it was demon-him that ran Cullen through. The idea was still firmly planted; Cullen’s death would be his fault. He couldn’t shake it, couldn’t run from the inevitable, couldn’t run from his own mind, his own fears.

 

Duncan tried to soothe him, tried to reassure him that it was just the demons talking that made him think these things. All Alistair knew, was he needed to get home. He needed to see Lana and he definitely needed to see Cullen. The sooner the better.

 

~*~

 

When Alistair entered the backroom of the building, he sighed in relief. One of the images the demons left him with was his bar burnt to the ground. Seeing her still standing lifted a weight he didn't know he’d been carrying.

 

Lana and Leliana met the two of them at the bottom of the stairs to Alistair’s loft. Lana took a moment to look them over before she started giving orders. She turned towards her wife, “Leli, take Duncan to our house to get cleaned up; he can rest back here once you get back.” Looking harder at Alistair she noted him wince with every breath, “I’ll take gimpy here upstairs and get him back on his feet so he can leave again.”

 

At Alistair’s raised eyebrow, she chuckled, “Oh puhleeze, don’t even try to pretend that you’re going to stay here with us tonight. Let me take care of these,” she poked at his ribs and bruised cheek before continuing. “We’ll get you all cleaned up and healed, then you can go see Cullen. I’m assuming you haven’t called him yet to let him know you’re alive?”

 

“No, I wanted to get myself cleaned up first. Is he… is everything ok? Is he--ok?”

 

“She smiled reassuringly, “He’s fine Ali, was just here the other night. Now come on, we’re wasting time.” She led him up the stairs and ushered him into his bathroom to shower. “Go wash that yuck off you. No getting dressed after, I need to make sure you’re all healed up before you let him have his way with you.”

 

Alistair flushed but did as he was told. He emerged from his blessedly hot shower, skin pink from scrubbing, wrapped only in a towel, as instructed. He suddenly had an armful of Lana, “Ali, I’m so glad you’re home!”

 

He chuckled as she fussed over him. But the mirth never touched his eyes.

 

“Do you want to talk about it, hun?”

 

He shook his head, no, but pulled her close and rested his forehead on hers. He couldn’t talk about it, but with Lana, he didn’t need to. The images came easily; Cullen and Lana’s lifeless eyes at the hands of the Leliana-demon. Cullen’s blood on his hands, his body crumpled on the ground. Everything. It hurt, but he knew it wasn’t real. This was real, Lana was real. She’d reassured him that Cullen was ok. He had to trust, he needed to have faith. He fingered the coin around his neck, as he released the last of the images from his subconscious. The soft glow of her magic fading as he finished his mental telling of the trip.

 

“Thanks, Lana.” He whispered into her hair as he kissed the top of her head. “Only you could heal me with a hug.” He took a quick look down at his body and took a tentative deep breath in. It was pain-free.

 

She looked at him and smiled. Closing her eyes, she lightly touched the cut on his cheek and healed it before taking one last look at him. “I wish I could take away those memories for you, Ali. You know they’re not real, right? We’re safe. He’s safe.”

 

Alistair nodded, “I know. But I won’t be content until I can feel that he’s real again too.”

 

“Well then, you better get dressed. I’ve got you patched up as best I can for the moment. The rest, he can kiss and make better for you.” She reached up on her tiptoes and kissed him on the nose. This was familiar for them, the healing after battle. Even though she didn’t venture into the fade any longer, she was still the ever present balm in his life.

 

Smiling, he went over to where he’d left his phone on the charger and sent Cullen a message.

 

[14:35]          

Alistair:         Miss me?

 

Cullen:           Thank the Maker!

 

Alistair:         I'll take that as a yes.

 

Cullen:           Where are you?

 

Alistair:         Where would you like me to be?

 

Cullen:           Here, in my arms. The quicker the better!

 

Alistair:         Glad we’re on the same page with that. I just got home. Are you busy tonight?

 

Cullen:           Well… my favorite bartender just got back into town and unless he’s got other plans, we have some lost time to make up.

 

Alistair:         I like the sound of that. How early can you get out of there?

 

Cullen:           I’m just working on reports. For you, I will leave anytime.

 

Alistair:         Good. I will be there in thirty minutes to pick you up. I’ve missed you so much and can’t wait to see you.

 

Cullen:           I’ve missed you too. See you soon!

 

With a smile on his face as he reread Cullen’s messages, Alistair retreated to his room to get dressed. He needed to get to the precinct, he needed to feel him in his arms again, he needed… Cullen.

 

 

Chapter Text


I Kissed A Girl

(In the Cocktails & Cheese Universe)

(Takes place after Chapter 25)

Please Indulge My Twisted Little Mind …sorry (totally not sorry)!  


 

 

If the Broken Bottle (Chapters 23-26) were a tv episode with out-takes or post credit scenes at the end, we would finish chapter twenty-five watching Dorian and Bull sharing a quiet moment on their thirteenth anniversary before it fades to black.

 

As the camera pans back in, we’d see Alistair’s--mostly empty--bar after closing. Our favorite pub owner on top of the bar with a mic in hand: singing, dancing, and generally hamming it up to the following lyrics...

 


I kissed a girl and I liked it

The taste of her cherry chapstick

I kissed a girl just to try it

I hope my boyfriend don't mind it

It felt so wrong

It felt so right

Don't mean I'm in love tonight

I kissed a girl and I liked it

I liked it

 

(Alistair is joined by Leliana who sings the next verse, dancing around him provocatively~but her eyes are fully on Lana.)

Us girls we are so magical

Soft skin, red lips, so kissable

Hard to resist so touchable

Too good to deny it

Ain't no big deal, it's innocent

 

(Alistair takes over again.)

I kissed a girl and I liked it

The taste of her cherry chap stick

I kissed a girl just to try it

I hope my boyfriend don't mind it

It felt so wrong

It felt so right

Don't mean I'm in love tonight

I kissed a girl and I liked it

I liked it


 

Their audience: Cullen, Lana, Zevran, Dorian, and Bull, are sitting at a table in the middle of the room clapping, laughing, and cheering along to the music as the duo perform for them.

 

Alistair finishes the song and Leliana pushes him playfully off the bar. He recovers from his surprise enough to own the momentum, turning the shove into an elaborate flip and twist combo, landing in front of the table with a flourish and a bow. Collapsing into Cullen’s lap laughing, he wraps his arms around his lover’s neck and kisses him soundly.

 

Looking lovingly into Cullen’s amused eyes, Alistair admits sheepishly, “I may have kissed a girl , but no one’s lips are as sweet as yours.”

 

As their lips meet again, the camera pans up to the sign hanging above the bar that reads: Alistair’s House of Whine and Cheese. As the music fades, the Camera zooms in, highlighting only the word ‘Cheese’ before it goes black.

 
Alistairs Cheese Circle

 

~ Lyrics taken from “I Kissed A Girl” by Katy Perry ~

 

 

 

Chapter Text

The Wrath of Lana

In the Cocktails & Cheese Universe

(Takes place in tandem with Chapter 29)


It was just after midnight when he got close enough for me to feel again. A faint whisper against my mind, so familiar after all these years that I barely noticed it at first. As it drew closer, the self depreciating litany screamed louder than any words—Alistair was almost home.

The bar was pretty quiet for a Wednesday night--only two customers sitting at a table in the corner. I signaled for Leliana to replace me behind the bar so I could intercept Alistair before he retreated upstairs.

Standing in a dimly lit corner of the back room, I waited in the shadows. If I wasn’t so upset, I might have chuckled at his overly cautious attempts at stealth.

He really should know better by now.

He let himself in and turned to close the door with barely a click. Just as he sighed in relief, I emerged from the shadows, surprising him. “Alistair Theirin, what the hell were you thinking?” Without waiting for an answer, I grabbed him by the ear and dragged him up the stairs. Being a foot shorter than he, I was less than careful at helping him keep his footing. If he banged his knees on the stairs as I hauled him up, I didn’t care. He more than deserved it and--for once--I sure-as-hell wasn’t about to heal him.

“Lana, let go!”

“No! If you behave like a spoiled brat throwing a tantrum and breaking all your toys, then I’m going to treat you like one.” Blasting through his door with enough force to loosen its hinges, I dragged him over to the couch and tossed him onto it. For a usually graceful martial artist, he landed in an uncoordinated, jumbled heap. His eyes red rimmed from crying and clothes sopping wet, he looked absolutely miserable.

Good!

“Leave me alone, Lana. I’m already beating myself up enough about this.”

“You had one job, Alistair. One job! Don’t hurt Cullen. And you just had to go and screw it up! You have no idea...None! The risk you’ve put him in! Do you want him to backslide? Was it your intention to undo the years of hard work and healing he’s put into himself? He wanted to help you, Alistair. He was asking you what you needed, he wanted to know how he could best support you.”

“But, I lied to him, Lana.”

Exasperated, I smacked him in the back of the head. “Bullshit! You can’t lie about something that hasn’t come up yet. Did it look like the news of you having a son phased him in any way?”

Alistair shook his head.

“Did he appear disgusted or terrified by the fact that you’re a father?”

Alistair shook his head again.

“No, he didn’t. He took that information and fucking rolled with it and what did you do? You pushed him away.” Yelling at him was getting us nowhere, I needed to calm down so I took a slow, deep breath. “You need to fix this, Alistair. For his sake and yours.”

He hung his head, rubbing his hands down his face. “I’m so screwed up, Lana. How could he want me after this?”

“Why are you asking stupid questions? Embrace the fact that he loves you unconditionally and let him in.  Text him, Alistair. Call him. Hell, go get him!”

“I… can’t, Lana. I’m still wrapping my head around Morrigan being here. You say that he loves me unconditionally, then he’ll be ok for a couple days while I get my head on straight.”

“The longer you wait, the harder it’s going to be. You know that, right?”

“I know, Lana. Just give me another day or so.”

She sighed heavily and plopped herself down on the couch next to Alistair. “You can be such a stubborn ass, you know that?”

“Yeah, but you still love me.” Alistair removed his sopping shirt and grabbed the afghan off the back of the couch, wrapping it around his shoulders.

“I do. Creators help me, but I do.” Lana looked down at her hands, picking at her nails, “I owe you an apology, you know.”

Alistair rubbed the back of his head and his ear where she’d gripped him tightly. “For a tiny little thing, you sure are strong.”

“Not for that, Alistair. For this whole mess--with Morrigan. If I didn’t ask you to--”

“Then one or the other of us would be dead, Lana. You didn’t force me into anything. I may not have participated enthusiastically, but I chose to be there.”

“She wasn’t supposed to come back. She--she said... it would be the last time we saw her. But then I felt her come into town this morning and it was like she was calling to me. Her fear and anguish was almost palpable. I can’t imagine having children of my own and knowing that fear, intimately.”

“I’m still having trouble imagining Morrigan having feelings at all.”

“Alistair, stop.” She playfully swatted his shoulder, then leaned into him when he raised his arm, draping the blanket around both of them.

“We are quite the pair aren’t we?” He leaned down and kissed the top of her head. “You know, if someone decided to write down our story one day, no one would ever believe it.”

“Right? So, what are we going to do?”

“I don’t know. I want to look into this whole Flemeth thing. See what we can find out and maybe help Morrigan indirectly, since she doesn’t want us actively meddling.”

“And what about Cullen?”

Alistair sighed heavily, “I… don’t know, Lana. I fucked up. Until I figure out this thing with Morrigan, maybe it’s best if I take a step back for awhile.”

“What will that help?”

“With time, maybe he’ll see that it’s for the best too. Maybe he’ll find someone better.”

“You really are an idiot; you know that?”

Alistair shrugged, his heart aching. “An idiot who doesn’t deserve someone like him.” Alistair stood up, taking the blanket with him. “I need to go change, Lana. Then I need time. This whole thing with Morrigan isn’t going to fix itself overnight.”

“Are you going to call him?”

“Not tonight… maybe not tomorrow either. I don’t know; we’ll see.”

“Beating yourself up isn’t going to help anything, Ali.”

He looked over his shoulder at Lana, “Some good advice. When you decide to start forgiving yourself, maybe I will as well.”


Alistair retreated to his bedroom, Lana returned to the bar downstairs. Both of them despondent and unsettled, neither of them sure about how to fix the situation. Maybe Alistair was right; maybe some time would lend clarity. Or… maybe they were both fools.

 

Chapter Text


A Harvestmere Family Dinner

In the Cocktails and Cheese Universe

(About a year in the future from where we are currently in chapter 32)


 

Prompt from Lola Vega / Lola Auditore:

Hahaha, could you imagine a holiday like that with the boys?  The chaos ensued.

"Alistair you can’t eat all the cheese, put it down and back out of the kitchen before you start a fire by looking at the stove!"  

"But I got my loose eating pants on!  And dinner isn’t for like another 3 hours!"  Pouting puppy eyes.  "I'm starrrvinnng!  Look, I'm already wasting away!"


 

"Alistair you can’t eat all the cheese, put it down and back out of the kitchen before you start a fire by looking at the stove!"  Lana’s tone brooked no argument as she entered the kitchen looking fearful for all of their lives.

Mia started laughing at his crestfallen expression, a large bite of cheese still half hanging out of his mouth. He looked like he just got caught with his hand in the cookie jar.

Alistair took a step back, hands in the air while sucking the rest of the cheese into his mouth as he went. "But I got my loose eating pants on! And dinner isn’t for like another three hours!"  He gave Lana his best pouting puppy eyes while he whined. "I'm starrrvinnng! Look, I'm already wasting away!"

Cullen entered the large kitchen chuckling and wrapped his arms around Alistair from behind. “Don’t let him fool you, he ate before we left home. He won’t be wasting away anytime soon.”

Alistair gaped at Cullen. “You traitor! And here I was going to give you a special treat when we got home tonight.”

“Something tells me that treat will have to wait. Or have you forgotten that we get Kieran for the long weekend. Morrigan should be dropping him off shortly.”

Alistair’s face fell, then was replaced by an earsplitting grin. “Oh, yeah! Raincheck then?”

Cullen kissed him sweetly. “Raincheck. Your treats are definitely worth waiting for, and I know how much you love our weekends with Kieran.”

Mia gagged. "Um... ewww!" She giggled. "Not the weekend with Kieran, I can't wait to see him again. The 'eww was because that's my brother and an image I never needed to have. Thanks for that." She finished with an eye roll.

Alistair laughed, “I really do love our weekends with Kieran.” Alistair smiled at Cullen then looked back at Mia. “And sorry, luv. I'll be good, I promise. Is there anything I can help with? I promise to behave.” He looked pointedly at Lana. “And I promise to stay away from all things cookery.”

“Cookery, Alistair? Really?” Lana laughed.

“Hey! It’s my word… that I just made up!” He stuck his tongue out at Lana who proceeded to try to grab it.

Leliana grabbed Lana and hauled her off laughing. “Alright you two. If Alistair in the kitchen isn’t frightening enough, the two of you wrestling in here would be even worse. No?”

Lana turned in Leliana’s arms and kissed her sweetly. “You’re right, as always. What would I do without you?”

“You probably would have frozen Alistair’s tongue off by now if I wasn’t around to keep you both in check.”

“It’s not my fault that he licked the lamppost that winter!”

Cullen laughed. “You actually licked a frozen lamppost? Please tell me it was on a dare!”

Alistair looked away, embarrassed. “It was Oghren’s fault. Stupid dwarven ale. That stuff should be outlawed!”

“Is that why you don’t serve it at the bar?” Cullen asked intrigued.

“One of the reasons.” Alistair looked pointedly at Lana. “And you will not be sharing anymore of those reasons in Mia’s company. I still need her to like me!”

Lana mimed zipping her lip and throwing away the key. When Alistair turned toward Mia, Lana silently mouthed, “I’ll tell you later.” She winked then left the room with Leliana in tow.

Mia grinned after Lana, but handed Alistair a knife. “If you want to help, you can help me cut the potatoes so I can put them on to boil.” She looked at Cullen questioningly. “I’m assuming it’s safe to let him help me with chopping and dicing?”

“Knives, he’s good with. There was no actual cooking involved.” He kissed Alistair on the cheek, then snagged a piece of cheese off the tray.

“Hey, I saw that!” Alistair admonished, “You’ll spoil your supper!”

Cullen grinned at his sister. “Don’t let him touch anything electrical and your kitchen will be safe. I’m going to go back out and spend time with the kids while I can.” To Alistair, he said, “you behave and stay out from underfoot.”

Alistair kissed him quickly before focusing on the potatoes he was tasked with cutting. “Yes, dear.”

Mia brought out a can of pre-made biscuits. “Hey, Alistair, can you open this can of biscuits for me?”

Looking at the can with true fear in his eyes, Alistair very slowly set down the knife, and started backing out of the kitchen. “I uh… I think I hear Emma calling me.” In a high pitched squeaky voice, he said out of the side of his mouth, “Uncle Alistair, come play with me!” Then with a more relaxed smile, said, “see that, Mia? Emma needs her uncle. I’ll just be… over there… with the baby… until the food is ready.”

With a little hop, he spun around and fled the kitchen like darkspawn were on his heels.

In truth, darkspawn he could handle. Those prepacked cans of biscuits--are just plain scary!


If you need a reminder about how catastrophic it can be when Alistair is in the kitchen, allow me to direct you to Chapter 20 from the main story: Cocktails and Cheese. It wasn’t pretty. Ch. 20: Good Intentions

 

Chapter Text

★ DAY ONE || DECEMBER 18 || LEGACY


DA Satinalia Week

Day One - December 18, 2017

Legacy


Prompt:

children, new and old generations, long lost siblings and newfound cousins… today we celebrate the intricate webs of families, whether it be about your favorite character’s descendants or the daily life of another, stuck between fighting darkspawn and changing diapers.


A Joyous Satinalia

In the Cocktails and Cheese Universe

(About 7-ish years in the future from where we are currently in chapter 36)


“I’ve been doing this for over twenty years, Cullen, and you’ve been joining me for the last eight of them. We get all dressed up and come to the Chantry to take pictures and spread a little holiday cheer. You always grumble and complain until we sit you in that big overstuffed chair. When the first child comes rushing in, all giddy with excitement, you turn to putty under the onslaught of their cuteness.” Alistair turns with a sigh and bows his head. “Can’t we just… skip the grumpy part this year?”

Cullen stopped fidgeting with his costume and wrapped his arms around Alistair. “I’m sorry, Al, I just feel… ridiculous. Dressing up was never my thing.”

Alistair turned around, returning the embrace. “Says the man who used to wear a skirt to work.”

Cullen chuckled. “You’re lucky there aren’t any Templars in here right now, I’d hate to have one of them try to smite you for making fun of their uniform.”

“You know you’re the only Templar for me.”

Ex- Templar.” Cullen reminded him.

My-Ex- Templar, and I’m sure you’d protect me.” He leaned in and whispered, “I much prefer you in the skirt anyway--with nothing else underneath.”

Alistair laughed as Cullen sputtered, “We are in the house of the Maker--lest you’ve forgotten--you can’t just…”

“Fine, I’ll behave.” Alistair smiled playfully. “But you can’t honestly think that he doesn’t know that we… caboodle in our spare time. We did get married within these very walls after all.”

Cullen placed his hands lovingly on Alistair’s hips and pulled him in for a quick kiss. “Almost six years ago now; I remember the day vividly. Mother Natalie was there to bless our union; with Lana and Duncan at your side, Dorian and Mia at mine. The day was perfect .” Cullen let out a contented sigh as he melted into Alistair’s arms.

“Now, there’s the look I was searching for.” Alistair smiled at Cullen, who returned it with soft, fond eyes.

“Only you could get me to play dress up once a year.”

“We play dress-up more than this.” Alistair winked. “This is just the only one I make you do publicly.”

A soft blush dusted across Cullen’s cheeks as he buried his face in Alistair’s neck. “Maker’s breath, you’re going to be the death of me.”

“I hope not. I plan on keeping you around for many years to come. But for now, let’s get you into position, it’s almost time for Natalie to bring the children in.”

Alistair smoothed out Cullen’s red suit, fluffed up his fuzzy white collar, and made sure his oversized black belt was in place. “Oh! Can’t forget your favorite part!” Alistair ran over to his camera equipment and plucked Cullen’s red stocking cap out of his bag. When he turned around again, Cullen was unabashedly checking him out.

Alistair quirked an eyebrow. “Really?”

Cullen grinned. “What?! You can’t bend over in front of me and expect me not to appreciate the view!” His smile turned wolfish. “Have I ever mentioned how much I love seeing you in those tights? You make a perfect little elf in your pretty green dress, bells, and fake pointy ears.”

Alistair deftly dodged Cullen’s advance on his ears. “I’m only half-elf, thank you very much, and if you don’t behave yourself, I’m going to tell Natalie on you.”

“You love me.”

“I do, now hold still so I can get your hat in place.” Alistair leaned back to appreciate his handiwork. “I know you don’t like to dress the part, but you really do make a very good St. Nicholas.”

Cullen pulled Alistair down into his lap. “And I know I don’t tell you often enough, but I think what you do for the orphanage is a wonderful thing. It’s a small price to pay to play dress-up for the children once-a-year.”

Alistair shrugged bashfully. “I do what I can. Growing up here was hard. We didn’t always get to experience the joy of the holidays like other people did. So yeah, I want them to have a little piece of normalcy so they can enjoy the spirit of the season. It only costs me an uncomfortable day wearing tights and a little money for the toys; but to know these children will remember this day forever… just makes it all worth it. Y’know?”

“I know, sweetheart. And for as long as we’re able, I’ll be here at your side passing out toys to spread holiday cheer while you stand behind the camera taking pictures for them to commemorate the day.” Cullen checked his watch and looked over at the door, then back at Alistair nervously.

“What is it, love?”

“It’s just.” Cullen took a deep breath and tried again. “You know how we’ve been talking about maybe having one of our own someday.”

Alistair nodded, hope barely concealed behind his eyes. “Of course. We’ve talked about adopting or possibly having a surrogate carry for us. But, I didn’t think you were ready yet.”

“Well, we’re not getting any younger. You’re 45 and I’m not that far behind you. I just wanted you to know that I’m open to it. If one of them today seems to fit , I wouldn’t be opposed to talking with Natalie.” He looked down at his hands, nervously picking at his nails. “And if they don’t, I know the Maker will provide us a way--when it is time.”

With happy tears glistening his eyes, Alistair placed a soft kiss on Cullen’s lips. “You’re something else, you know that? Always surprising me.”

“Someone has to keep you on your toes.” Cullen kissed him again, then released him from his grip.

Alistair straightened out his costume as Mother Natalie poked her head through the door. “Are you boys about ready? I have a gaggle of children out here waiting to see you.” Her smile was soft and filled with affection.

“Sure, Nat. Whenever you’re ready.” Alistair positioned himself behind the camera and watched as one-by-one she brought the children in to spend a few minutes sitting and talking quietly with Cullen dressed to represent the spirit of the holiday season. The epitome of love, hope, happiness, and giving.

Alistair couldn’t help but fall more in love with Cullen as the day went on. He sat and talked quietly with each child, giving them his undivided attention. They all left with smiles on their faces, new toys, candy canes, and—when they asked for them--hugs. It was all Alistair could do not to cry as he continued to take picture after picture, capturing the beauty of the day.

When he first came back to Denerim after retiring from the Wardens, this was his way of giving back. It was the least he could do: a few toys, a special meal for the children without families of their own and the people who dedicate so much of their life serving others. Even though he left the orphanage at eighteen to follow Duncan and his dreams, this would always be his first home—his family—and he wouldn’t trade them for anything. Once Cullen started joining him, it just put icing on the cake.

As the hour came to a close, Mother Natalie came in to usher out the last child. “We appreciate you boys coming in to do this again. I know you usually stay in the great room for this, but I have someone who’s been looking forward to today, but unfortunately, she’s currently in the infirmary and unable to make it down. I was hoping you would accompany me up for one more visit before you leave.”

With barely a look to each other for confirmation, they nodded. “Of course, Nat. Let me grab my camera and Cullen can grab one of the toys. We’ll be happy to go up and see her.”

“You said she’s in the infirmary; is she gravely ill?” Cullen’s eyes were filled with worry.

“Nothing I haven’t handled before.” She looked fondly at Alistair. “Little Emily just came into her sight early is all.  We were reading one of your old books when it happened, Alistair. It was one about the Grey Wardens. Poor thing hasn’t been able to stop talking about griffons since; swears there are some eggs hidden somewhere and she’s meant to find them. Sometimes she swears she’s already a Warden; others, she’s scared of the shadows in the corner. She’s… adjusting, but it’s going to take time.”

Alistair looked at Cullen then rushed over to the bag of toys they brought with them.

While he was digging, Cullen asked, “How old is she?”

“She’ll be five in the spring. Like I said, nothing to worry about. She’s not the youngest with the sight I’ve had to help through it. Alistair was much younger and gave me so much more grief.” She smiled at Alistair when he returned holding a stuffed griffon.

“I didn’t give you that much trouble!” Alistair handed the griffon to Cullen who set down the bear he’d been holding to take up.

“You keep telling yourself that, dear; if it makes you sleep better at night. I can place each one of my grey hairs to one of your antics or pranks. Don’t think I’ve forgotten about the time you replaced my Chant of Light with a copy of Swords and Shields.”

Alistair grinned looking over her head at Cullen when he snorted in disbelief.

“Surely you didn’t!”

“Weeeeelllll. She never did give it back, so I assumed she enjoyed it.”

“It was a little dry actually. I prefer my romances to have a little more…”

“La la la la - I don’t need to hear this!” Alistair covered his ears. “Cullen, please make her stop!”

Natalie chuckled. “I think you earned that one.”

“Yeah, yeah. I probably did. Remind me to tell Varric the next time I see him that I’ve fed his fandom.”

“He might be kind of proud that you got one of the Chantry Mothers to appreciate his work. Granted, his wife is a Seeker of Truth; he met her at one of his book signings when she was raving over his work like a lovesick teenager. If he can get a Seeker to go all gaga over his books, then a mere Mother is child’s play to him.”

Natalie snickered as they approached the door to the infirmary. Let me go see if she’s awake, she startles easily right now, and I don’t want to upset her unnecessarily.

Cullen and Alistair looked at each other as Natalie slipped quietly through the door.

“Cullen I… Would it sound weird if I told you that my Warden senses were tingling?”

“No more than anything else that comes out of your mouth, but… I know what you mean. I feel like we’re supposed to be here.” Cullen held the little stuffed griffon tighter to his chest. “There’s a little girl through that door that we are uniquely equipped to care for. When I mentioned it before the photo shoot, I didn’t think that everything would happen today.”

Alistair placed his hand gently on Cullen’s chest. “Maybe not today, but we’re here now. Let’s just take it slow. We’ll go in and meet her. She’s safe with Natalie right now. We can come back and get to know her before we make any decisions. Okay? No rush, no pressure.”

Cullen nodded slowly then placed a gentle kiss to Alistair’s temple. “Okay, love.”

Mother Natalie opened the door with a smile. “She’s just waking up, but knows your here to say hi. Come on in.” She gently took the camera from Alistair, then gave them space.

Hand in hand, they entered the room. Sitting up in bed was a waif of a girl with bright red ringlets cascading down her back. She was rubbing the sleep out of her eyes with both fists as she stretched, then tucking her hair behind her tiny pointed ear, she looked over to where they were standing. A bright grin split her face and lit up her golden eyes.

Alistair gasped and gripped Cullen’s hand tighter. “Cullen, she’s--”

“I know, Alistair. She really is.”

They approached with hesitant smiles of their own and took a seat on either side of her little bed.

Natalie snapped a couple of pictures, then picked up her knitting, and got comfortable in her rocking chair in the corner. She watched them with a knowing smile on her face; every once in awhile picking up the camera and taking more pictures, but otherwise, content to stay in the background and let things unfold on their own.

Cullen cleared his throat and handed over the stuffed toy. “Happy Satinalia, Emily. A little griffon told us that you might like one of your own one day.”

Her smile grew impossibly wider as she clutched the little plush beast to her chest. “Thank you, so much!” she squealed. “They told me you were coming! I was sad that I couldn’t come down, but Mother Natalie said that I needed to rest.”

Alistair removed his hat and clutched it in his lap. “Mother Natalie is right. She knows a lot and wants you to get better so you can go out and play again.”

Emily nodded then looked off into space, losing focus for a moment.

“Emily?” Both Cullen and Alistair said her name, concerned.

“Hmm?” she responded. “Oh, yes, I think they are too.” Her eyes focused again, she got up on her knees and wrapped an arm around each one of their necks, hugging them tightly.

Returning her hug, Cullen and Alistair shared a look before Cullen asked, “Who thinks we are what, Emily?”

“The spirits. I’ve been waiting for you my whole life. But I didn’t know it until I woke up. I wasn’t sleeping , not really. I’m not sleeping now either, but I’m more awake. And they… yes, yes. I’m getting to that…” she huffed impatiently then looked back at Alistair and Cullen with excitement. “They said when I met you, that I’d know. That I’m yours, or I’m supposed to be, or maybe you’re mine. They talk funny sometimes, so it’s hard to know. But this is good.” She touched the space over Alistair’s heart, then with the same hand touched Cullen’s then her own. She tilted her head to the side, sitting back on her heels, she hugged her stuffed griffon to her chest and kissed its nose. “I think I’m going to call you… Cheddar.”

Alistair laughed out loud, while Cullen snorted. Both of them with tears leaking down their cheeks.  

Emily looked up, noticing their tears, concern filled her eyes. “Are you sad?”

“No Emmy.” Cullen laughed, joy lacing his voice. “These are happy tears. I think we’ve been waiting for you too. Only, like you said, we didn’t know it yet.” Finding Alistair’s hand, Cullen squeezed it. “It might not be today, sweetheart. But soon, we’ll be back to take you home.”

“Can Cheddar come too?”

“We wouldn’t have it any other way.” Alistair beamed at her, then at Cullen. “Lana isn’t going to believe this.”

Looking at Emily, holding the stuffed griffon named Cheddar, Cullen marveled at how perfectly she fit in with their crazy mixed up family. “Something tells me, my love, that it’s not going to be a problem.”

Emily crawled up between them and nestled into their arms. She chattered away about her griffon and what her room was going to look like and how they were going to have so much fun together. Her eyes suddenly grew serious when she mentioned that they still had work to do too, though, but it would be ok as long as they were together.

The three of them spent several hours talking and getting to know one another. Finally, Emily yawned; her eyes heavy.

“Em--” Alistair whispered as he ran his fingers through her ringlets.

“Hmmm?” she hummed.

“It’s time for you to get some rest, but we will be back soon, okay?”

“Promise?”

“We promise.” Cullen soothed as he lifted her so Alistair could pull back the covers. Together they tucked her in with Cheddar snuggled in her arms. Brushing the curls from her forehead, Cullen placed a gentle kiss on her brow.

“I think…” she mumbled, half asleep. “I think I’ll like you better as Daddies than St. Nick and his elf.” Her voice drifting off as she fell asleep.

Alistair smirked, looking at the joy in Cullen’s eyes. “You’re not the only one, my little cheesepuff. You’re not the only one.”


A/N - One day down - Only six more delicious DA Satinalia filled days to go!

You can follow along with all the fun here on Tumblr: DA Satinalia Week

I hope to be posting every day for this event! You can find me on Tumblr as Aurlyn.

btw - Meet Emily... 

 Emily Theirin-Rutherford

 

Chapter Text

★ DAY FOUR || DECEMBER 21 || LOST IN DREAMS


DA Satinalia Week

Day Four - December 21, 2017

Lost In Dreams


Prompt:

the fourth day gives you a chance to bring your favorite characters to life in an alternate universe. modern day, crossovers nightmare before christmas, dystopian worlds… in your universe, what do they do in december? what and how do they celebrate?


Alistair’s New Rose -  A Satinalia Surprise

In the Cocktails and Cheese Universe

(About two years in the future from where we are currently in chapter 36)


Alistair is pacing back and forth behind the bar. Cullen’s never this late, not without sending a message or something first. He pulls his phone out of his pocket to see if he’s missed anything.

Nothing.

He sighs heavily and looks around for a distraction. The bar is fairly empty tonight, not unusual for midweek before the holiday. Leliana is perched on her usual stool, singing Satinalia songs for the few patrons in attendance and Lana is making her rounds, ensuring that the customers have everything they need.

He checks the phone again and ponders sending off a quick message to ask if he’s ok. He’s not worrying.

Ok, so I’m worrying .

If his fiance’ wasn’t so attached to his bloody schedules, it wouldn’t be so obvious that something is wrong. Even if Cullen got off work at his regular time and went to the gym with Rylen, he still would have been here at least two hours ago.

This definitely isn’t normal.

Alistair is about to reach for his phone a third time, when the door to the pub opens and in walks Cullen with a small guilty smile on his face. He’s hunched over, with one arm wrapped protectively around his middle while he dusts a few flakes of snow from his hair with the other. Immediately alarmed, Alistair navigates out from behind the bar.

“Cullen, are you ok? What happened?” He tries to wrap his arms around him in a hug, but Cullen shies away from the embrace.

“I’m sorry I’m so late.” Cullen tries to soothe the hurt look on Alistair’s face by leaning in and placing a kiss on his cheek. “There was an unforeseen issue at work.” Cullen flinches and the arm currently tucked inside his coat flexes uncomfortably.

“Cullen, you’re hurt!”

“Not hurt.” Cullen flinches again, this time stifling a giggle when a small growl comes from inside his coat.

Alistair’s concern is replaced with amusement. “Uh, I know you’re late for dinner, but I’ve never heard your stomach make that noise before.” He chuckles affectionately. “What are you hiding?”

“I uh… well, you see.” With his free hand, Cullen rubs at the back of his neck. “I know we haven’t exactly discussed this, and I know, nothing will ever replace Brie...” An excited series of yips interrupt whatever Cullen is about to say.

Stepping closer, Alistair carefully opens the long overcoat, exposing a tiny mabari puppy with a red bow tied to her collar. She’s cradled against Cullen’s body for warmth. “Is that…” At the sound of his voice, the puppy begins wiggling with excitement trying to get to Alistair by any means necessary. Plucking her from Cullen’s arms, he brings her to his chest where she quickly calms. A small smile graces his lips as he tries to blink back the tears threatening to spill from his eyes. Placing her paws on Alistair’s chest, she licks his chin twice before turning in a circle in his hands, curling up, and falling asleep.

“I think she likes you.” Cullen smiles sheepishly. “You don’t mind, do you? I couldn’t just leave her there, but if you want me to, I can take her to work tomorrow and see if someone at the station will take her.”

Alistair looks up sharply--protectively--as he pulls the puppy even closer to his chest.

Lana laughs sweetly as she approaches. “Oh, dear-sweet-Cullen. They’ve already bonded. You will have to pry her from his cold dead fingers before he’ll let you take her away from him now.” She pats Alistair’s cheek affectionately as he beams a watery smile back at her.

“Where did you find her?” Alistair asks with wonder as he takes in her rust colored fur that’s not too different from the color of his own hair.

“We were finishing up down on the docks today, when this little one came whimpering out from behind one of the crates. We couldn’t find any indication of who she belongs to, and I couldn't just leave her down there.”

Alistair leans in, careful of the puppy in his arms, and kisses Cullen more soundly. “I’m glad you brought her home. She’s beautiful and perfect. Thank you so much, Cullen.” Looking back down at the sleeping angel in his arms, Alistair looks up suddenly. “It’s late, we need to get her supplies and food before the stores clo--”

“Alistair, it’s all taken care of.” Cullen wraps an arm around him and rests his head on Alistair’s shoulder while he gazes down at the sleeping puppy. “I have her immediate supplies in my Jeep. When you get off, we can get her settled in at home and tomorrow we’ll go out and get anything else you think we’ll need.”

Lana looks around the room. “Leli and I have this here; you boys go settle in. There’s no reason for you to wait.”

“Are you sure, Lana? I can finish up; she’s not going to be any trouble.” Alistair noses against her scruff, savoring the warmth.

“Yes, Ali. Taking in a baby together is a big responsibility, I think you both should go and discuss who’s going to take care of what. And… she’s going to need a name.”

Another grin lights up Alistair’s face as he looks at Cullen with conviction. “Rose. I think I will call her, Rose.”

Chapter Text

The Kiss

~In the Cocktails and Cheese Universe~

Mini-Excerpt that was never actually written for Chapter 37

(but could have been)


 I pause in the doorway of Cullen’s office to drink in the scene before me. Cullen and Rylen are gesticulating at an interactive link-chart; blueprints of the library where Kieran was taken from are up on the left hand side of the screen. They’re debating the most probable exit routes and noting specific points of interest that Cullen will be investigating when he gets back to the library.

It’s the perfect picture of teamwork and efficiency, like the super sleuths of old. With their jacketless suits, shirt sleeves rolled up to their elbows, shoulder holsters buckled in place, and ties tugged loose around their necks, they resemble detectives from some of my favorite old TV shows. I never dreamed I’d have a particular kink , but watching Cullen at work, makes me think that maybe I’ve developed a bit of a detective one.

Cullen’s hair is pulled loose from its usual product, a telltale trait of him running his fingers through it. It’s one of his habits that always brings a smile to my face. Granted, there are a lot of those: his insatiable need to schedule, the way he rubs the back of his neck when he’s nervous, dragging his fingers through his curls when he’s worried or concentrating, the crooked smile he gives me when he thinks I’m being ridiculous, but he can’t help but love me anyway. I love all of that about him, and more.

It’s in that moment—seeing Cullen so diligently working away on my behalf—that all of the fear and trepidation I’ve been feeling, melts away. His whole bearing demands it. I take a moment to really look at him, to take in the confidence with which he holds himself: powerful, proficient, sure. This is his element. This is where he belongs.

I’m impressed, I’m in awe.

When I came in, his officers were already hard at work covering all of the basic search parameters required by the average missing person case. The difference this time? All hands were on deck; not just a few of them. And they were all giving this assignment their full focus. I’ve never seen them so devoted to a cause before. To my cause. It takes my breath away that they would do this for me. For my son. A little boy that I’ve yet to meet, who happens to carry my DNA.

Cullen made that happen.

He’s selfless, perfect, beautiful. How did I not see the reach of his influence before? I mean, there was a part of me that always knew. But this… this is power.

My father owns most of this bloody city. My brother runs it. My best friend wields the energies that surround her as easy as breathing. My job , is to cross the veil and protect those around me. I’m used to demonstrations illustrating how incredible people can be.

But this ? This is strength, power, and influence all rolled into one. To wield it so effortlessly, so selflessly, and to have his personnel willing to follow. Not out of some sense of fear or retribution. But because they truly love him, they enjoy working for him and believe in who he is. He earned that dedication and devotion. That’s leadership. Awe inspiring, perfect teamwork brought on by faith and devotion. Not to the Maker; to him . They believe in him. And looking at him now, I know whole heartedly, that I do too.

I always have.

Apparently, I just needed a little bit of a wakeup call before I could pull my head out of my ass enough to realize it. I knew that I loved him. But here, right now, I am so enamored with how much in love with him I am; I can barely contain it.

With eyes misty from emotion, I knock lightly on the office door alerting them to my presence.  

Their conversation halts immediately and Cullen’s whole face lights up as he  wraps his arms around me. “There you are. I’m glad you made it,” he says endearingly.

I can’t help myself, cupping his face tenderly in my hands, I press my lips to his. With my heart in my hands, I hope to impart all of my recent revelations into this one simple action. Looking into his eyes, I see the same wonder that I’m feeling reflected back at me. I know we have work to do. I know that our path together will still contain bumps and rough spots, but I know now—irrevocably—that we are ok. Better than ok.

Together, we can accomplish anything.

Chapter Text

Rylen

~In the Cocktails and Cheese Universe~

Excerpt written for Chapter 43

This is Rylen’s side of the time leading up to and including the phone conversation we see happen in chapter 43.


 Friday PM

Rylen jolted upright on the sofa in Cullen’s office.

Did I fall asleep?

He checked his watch, then rubbed his hands down his face with a groan.

Shit! It’s after ten p.m. I’ve been asleep for over an hour.

He checked his cellphone. No new messages.

I hope everything is going okay.

Rylen pocketed his phone and stretched. He was exhausted, but he wasn’t being paid to sleep. He was here to field any incoming information, document what they already knew, and make sure all of the proper paperwork was filled out and filed correctly—all the shit work, while they did the real work.

He shook his head; that negativity was just his exhaustion talking. It wasn’t Cullen’s fault he was so tired. Well, maybe inadvertently, but they couldn’t have known what form his awakening was going to take. Everything was new and somewhat frightening, but Cullen took extra care to make sure he had everything he needed to feel safe and secure. Even in the rushing tide of the current case, Cullen ensured that Rylen knew to take care of his basic needs first and foremost, while they were figuring things out, and he even managed to teach him a few possible techniques to try to mitigate the effects of his heightened senses. All-in-all, he couldn’t have asked for a more attentive guide in this path he chose.

Rylen went home the night before, on Cullen’s orders, and was given most of today off as well, so he could rest and be fresh for this evening’s mission. Even with the extra time off, however, he was still dragging. Sleep didn’t come easy and was seemingly interrupted by everything. The sheets were too scratchy, his fiancé’s breathing was too loud, and the dark room was too bright. Not to mention the nightmares caused by all of the new information he’d been bombarded with lately.

Things needed to change in his everyday life if Rylen was going to be able to rest in the future. He spent most of the morning buying a few things to help: sheets with the highest thread count available, a soft sleep mask, and some ear plugs. It might not fix everything, but at least it was a place to start, and time would help him figure out the rest.

Rylen sighed, remembering how concerned his fiancé got with his tossing and turning last night. Even without him being able to tell her what was different, Jan took it all in stride. She fussed over him and did her best to help him get comfortable. She was the one who suggested the new sheets and spent the afternoon laundering them, with scent free detergent, in the hope that it would help Rylen when he got home from work. He looked at his watch again and realized that she was probably already asleep.

If I ever make it home tonight.

He shook his head, he would make it home eventually and his bed would be infinitely better than it’d been the night before.

Thanks to her. She really is too good for me, but Maker help me, I do love that woman!

Rylen wondered if it was too early to start texting Cullen. He wasn’t sure cellphones even worked wherever they were, but it’d been over four hours since they started their mission, it wouldn’t hurt to at least see how things were going.

 

[22:00] To Cullen

Rylen: Sir, just checking in.

Rylen: Update me when you can.

 

He wasn’t actively expecting a response. Some missions took longer than others and he wouldn’t be surprised if this one took longer than most. To pass the time, he sat down at Cullen’s desk to work through the paperwork. Glancing briefly at the glowing vase holding the rose on the side of the desk, he smiled softly, then got to work.

An hour later, Rylen finished filling out all of the reports for the day and everything for the weekend crew was prepped and ready to go.

Looking around, he was at a loss for what to do next. He was starting to get bored and a bored Rylen was never a good thing. He actively avoided it at all costs, knowing that when he got bored, the lines between what was appropriate and what wasn’t, tended to get a little hazy. At work, that was never a good thing.

With nothing better to do to pass the time, Rylen started sending Cullen random text messages.

 

[23:06] To Cullen

Rylen: Your office needs a little something.

Rylen: Perhaps… curtains?

Rylen: Oh, I know! Pastel pink curtains on the windows.

Rylen: With pretty doilies on some of your side tables and filing cabinets!

Rylen: Perhaps a new shade for your lamp.

Rylen: Something soft.

Rylen: Should we go with lace or eyelet?

Rylen: I’m thinking eyelet.

Rylen: What do you think, Sir?

Rylen: Should I go ahead and place an order?

 

[23:10] To Cullen

Rylen: I’m going to take your lack of response as permission granted.

Rylen: It’s going to be lovely.

Rylen: Just you wait and see!

 

Chuckling to himself, Rylen took a quick walk over to the break room to refill his coffee, nodding at Merrill at her desk on his way by. She was the evening Lieutenant to his daytime position, a tiny elven thing with a soft voice but a strong resolve. As long as they didn’t have to interact too much with each other, they got along well. On a professional level, they both respected one another’s work, the jobs got done in a timely manner and they were both meticulous in their methods. It was the actual methods that  varied: Rylen tended to do things by the book , whereas Merrill… chose more unorthodox methods to get to the same end.

She fit perfectly with the unusual team that worked the evening shift though, and he was happy with his daytime team. In the long run, they were both exactly where they were supposed to be.

Making his way back to Cullen’s office, Rylen reclined in Cullen’s chair and put his feet up on the desk.

Well, if he didn’t want my feet on his things, he’d check in! Damn! I’m sounding more like a jealous lover than his second in command.

Rylen laughed out loud.

I better not tell Alistair I made that connection. Speaking of Alistair…

Rylen looked at a specific drawer on Cullen’s desk with a knowing smirk. Then picked up his phone once again.

 

[23:15] To Cullen

Rylen: Does Alistair know that you keep a box containing all of his love letters and ‘expired’ roses in your lower left desk drawer?

Rylen: Oh, wait.

Rylen: Was I not supposed to know about those?

Rylen: Maybe you shouldn’t have left the drawer unlocked.

Rylen: ;)

Rylen: No, that wasn’t a winky face.

Rylen: I think it was just my autocorrect.

Rylen: Maybe you should call to check in--so I know how things are going.

Rylen: Maybe you should call to check in--to tell me to get out of your things.

Rylen: You know how I get when I’ve got nothing else to do.

Rylen: I’d apologize, but…

 

[23:20] To Alistair

Rylen:   In case you ever have the occasion to browse about in Cullen’s office…

Rylen: Do not look in the bottom drawer on the left hand side of his desk.

Rylen: No reason specifically.

Rylen: He’s not hiding anything in there or anything.

Rylen: I swear.

 

[23:25] To Cullen

Rylen: Sir, don’t worry.

Rylen: I’m pretty sure that Alistair doesn’t suspect a thing.

Rylen: What you don’t tell him will remain between us.

Rylen: Your secret is safe with me. ;)

Rylen: I really should get my autocorrect looked at.

Rylen: Not that doing so will fix the fact that you’re a hopeless romantic.

Rylen: And a giant Sap.

 

He tried to call Cullen, then Alistair, then Cullen again, but it rolled right to voicemail.

Rylen set his phone down with an evil chuckle. Maybe he should have offered to monitor the events of tonight from home instead. He could have at least entertained himself from there. Probably gotten into less trouble. At this rate, Cullen will likely retaliate with something awful. It’ll be totally worth it, though.

Granted, Rylen understood why he needed to be on site; this was a high profile case and one close to Cullen’s heart. Having someone he trusted at home base was paramount to Cullen feeling confident and focused enough to proceed unencumbered by worry. And with Alistair’s son being the child they were searching for, there was no one else that Cullen trusted more than Rylen, to hold down the fort. He could respect that—on some level. But he didn’t have to like it.

Realizing that he was already walking a fine line with his texts, Rylen opted to take a short trip around the precinct to stretch his legs and distract himself. The night crew was really just a skeleton crew to manage things while everyone else rested. There was the lieutenant in charge, the dispatch officer that handled all of the paperwork and phone calls, and rounding out the team was the couple that worked the evening neighborhood patrols in the squad car (and made the majority of the donut/coffee runs).

Cole was at his usual location at the front desk. He was sickly pale and a bit scattered conversationally, but the kid had a heart of gold and always did his best to keep everyone happy. In fact, the evening crew liked to joke about having a ghost around that haunted their halls, leaving special gifts for the officers that worked the late hours. In truth, Rylen caught Cole leaving coffee, chocolates, and sometimes other things that his co-workers were craving. He didn’t do any of it for the recognition, and he certainly wasn’t harming anyone by leaving them little treats, so Rylen saw no harm in keeping that particular little secret.

Today when he walked by the desk, Cole handed him a cup of the good coffee from the donut shop and a bear-claw to go with it.

How the hell does he always know?

“Thank you, Cole. Slow night?” Rylen asked, taking an appreciative sip of the brew doctored up just right for him.

“So far,” Cole said with a knowing smile. “I hope you’re not getting into too much trouble in the Commander’s office. Remember what happened last time he left you to work an overnight shift while he was out on a mission.”

Rylen chuckled. “Well, he hasn’t left me behind since.”

“Until tonight?”

“Until tonight,” Rylen responded with a sigh.

“You’re where you need to be, Rylen. The Commander trusts you.”

“I know, Cole. Thanks. And thanks for the little pick-me-up.” He raised the cup and pastry briefly before taking a bite.

“Anytime. I figured you could use it after your nap earlier.” Cole smiled innocently then turned back to the reports he was typing up.

Rylen looked over his shoulder, before shaking his head and moving off toward the break room.

He found Lieutenant Merrill sitting back, sipping a cup of tea, working on a crossword puzzle. She looked up at his approach and asked absentmindedly, “What’s an eight letter word for hinder?”

“Prevent?” Rylen guessed.

“That’s seven letters.” She paused for a moment then said, “It begins with an ‘o’. Does that help? I’ve been staring at this for three minutes now and it’s eluding me.” She sighed in frustration.

“Obstruct?”

She paused for minute then squeaked in excitement. “Perfect! Thank you, Rylen.” She looked up at him then and frowned. “Are you bored? You look bored. Why are you bored?”

He shrugged, noncommittally. “A bit, I suppose. There isn’t much for me to do.” He took another bite of his bear-claw as she appraised him with clear disapproval.

“You know, I could probably find something for you, if you need me to. You know what happened the last time you got left behind and got bored. You and bored isn’t a great combination.”

He ducked his head, a light flush tinting his cheeks. “Yeah, I know. For now, I think I’m doing ok. I figured I’d do a walk around before heading back to the office.”

“To wait?”

He sighed. “Yeah, to wait.” He chuckled to himself. “I’ll let you know if I decide to do something stupid, so you can stop me before it happens,” he finished with a wink.

She smirked then put her nose back in her crossword. “You do that. I’d hate to find myself working the day shift again because you’ve been moved to nights as punishment. It was an awful two weeks the last time it happened.”

“I didn’t mean for you to get caught in that crossfire, Merrill.” He looked at his shoes abashedly.  

“Re-priming the sprinkler system and rigging it to go off every time someone flushed the toilet wasn’t your most shining moment.” She giggled.

“Hey, Dagna was impressed!”

“Dagna gets excited any time something new happens, add in the skill required to rewire the whole network to work like that and her inner geek was having its own little dwarf-gasm.”

“Says the elf who spent the better part of five years putting together a broken mirror like a puzzle just because she wanted to see if she could?”

“It was a family heirloom and they were quite cross that it was shattered in the first place.” She grinned suddenly. “And I finished that project! Found every last piece too.”

“I bet it still has cracks though.”

“Well, yes. I never expected to be able to clear up the spider-webbing across the surface. I’m just happy it’s in one piece again.”

“Yeah? Well, maybe ask Dagna, she might have a solution for mending glass. She’s able to work damn near miracles with some of her ingenuity.” He chuckled. “We all have our shortcomings, Lieutenant, and our areas of expertise,” he said with a smile. “I’m heading down to the intake room and holding cells next. Speaking of Dagna, is that where her and Sten are shacked up?”

“They better not be shacking up anywhere on the premises.” She shuddered. “And no, they’re out on patrol. Cole fielded a call earlier for a domestic disturbance , so we sent them out to investigate. It turned out to be just a family game night gotten out of hand. Can you imagine the trash talking getting so loud the neighbors thought they were actually upset with each other?” she chuckled.

“That sounds like a fun family game night! The only ones I’ve ever been to have all been subdued and boring. Apparently I’ve been doing it wrong.” He nodded in farewell as she stuck her nose back into her crossword, chuckling.

The rest of his circuit only took him another fifteen minutes. If Dagna and Sten had been present, he probably could have stretched that out another ten to twenty minutes listening to Dagna talk about her newest invention . That little spitfire was always coming up with new and exciting creations. Which explains why, after the fire sprinkler incident, she’d cornered him to find out exactly how he went about rewiring the network and she wasn’t content until he’d spelled it out in excruciating detail.

He was disappointed that he couldn’t use her as a distraction for the evening. With a smirk, he decided that he’d just have to go entertain himself for awhile.

Rylen wandered back to the office thinking about the odd pair. He had to hand it to Sten who stoically catered to Dagna’s every whim without care for anyone else’s bullshit or criticisms. As far as couples went, they were one of the strangest pairings he’d ever met. Partners in all things from home to work and everything in between. The qunari and dwarf; one quiet, one talkative; one reserved, one bubbly; Sten and Dagna covered the spectrum. They may have been an unusual unit, but they worked well together and no one could ever tell them that their relationship was anything less than perfect.

With his cup of coffee still half full, his pastry remnants licked from his fingers, and nothing else to distract him, Rylen once again picked up his phone as he sat back in Cullen’s office chair.

 

[01:05] To Cullen

Rylen: Bored, Boss…

Rylen: I’m sooo bored.

Rylen: Don’t worry though.

Rylen: I swear I haven’t touched the sprinkler system.

Rylen: Or the network.

Rylen: And I’m pretty sure I haven’t connected anything to the flushing mechanisms of the commodes.

 

[01:07] To Cullen

Rylen: Are you back yet?

Rylen: Can I go home yet?

Rylen: I’m tired.

Rylen: It’s late.

Rylen: Or is it early?

Rylen: Are you tired?

Rylen: You should be tired!

Rylen: You’re the one out risking your life.

Rylen: While I’m here watching the paint dry.

 

He tried to call Cullen, then Alistair, then Cullen again, but it once again rolled right to voicemail.

 

[01:10] To Alistair

Rylen: Paint isn’t very exciting to watch dry.

Rylen: Just thought you’d like to know.

 

[01:30] To Alistair

Rylen: In the interest of full disclosure…

Rylen: Did you know that Cullen acts completely different since you’ve been together?

Rylen: He’s like…

Rylen: A completely different person!

Rylen: Not like… literally a different person.

Rylen: He’s still Cullen.

Rylen: It’s just that…

Rylen: He was always so serious and dour before.

Rylen: Now he…

Rylen: Smiles.

Rylen: And hums.

Rylen: It kind of freaked me out the first time I caught him humming.

Rylen: I should thank you for that, you know.

Rylen: But not today.

Rylen: Maybe someday.

 

[01:35] To Alistair

Rylen: I’ll never tell him this, but he kind of has a nice voice.

Rylen: If you don’t already have karaoke at the bar, you should probably get it.

Rylen: I’d pay good money to watch him sing karaoke.

Rylen: I wouldn’t even take blackmail videos…

Rylen: The first time.

Rylen: I’d give him one freebee.

Rylen: After that though—

Rylen: He’d probably be really good at it.

Rylen: That would take all the fun out of it.

Rylen: Never mind.

Rylen: Don’t get karaoke.

Rylen: I just ruined it for myself.

 

He tried to call Cullen, then Alistair, then Cullen again, to no avail.

 

[02:59] To Cullen

Rylen: Cullen.

 

He tried to call Cullen.

 

[03:00] To Cullen

Rylen: Cullen.

 

He tried to call Cullen.

 

[03:01] To Cullen

Rylen: Cullen.

 

He tried to call Cullen.

 

[03:02] To Cullen

Rylen: Cullen.  

 

He tried to call Cullen.

 

[03:05] To Alistair

Rylen: Alistair.

 

He tried to call Alistair.

 

[03:06] To Alistair

Rylen: Alistair.

 

He tried to call Alistair.

 

[03:07] To Alistair

Rylen: Alistair.

 

He tried to call Alistair.

 

[03:45] To Cullen

Rylen: Permission to speak freely, Sir?

Rylen: Where the hell are you?

Rylen: Please, be ok.

 

[03:47] To Alistair

Rylen: Please keep him safe.

Rylen: And keep yourself safe too.

 

He tried to call Alistair.

 

[03:50] To Cullen

Rylen: Sir, you need to let me know as soon as you’re back!

Rylen: I don’t even know how long this mission is supposed to take.

Rylen: Have you been gone too long already?

Rylen: Have you not been gone long enough?

Rylen: I don’t know if I should be worried yet.

Rylen: Does time pass differently there?

Rylen: I need to be able to ask you all of these questions.

Rylen: You can’t just leave me here wondering.

 

[04:05] To Cullen

Rylen: I’m worried.

 

He tried to call Cullen.

 

[04:15] To Alistair

Rylen: Should I be worried?

 

He tried to call Alistair.

 

[04:20] To Alistair

Rylen: Are you guys back yet?

Rylen: How bout now?

Rylen: Now?

Rylen: How bout now?

 

He tried to call Alistair.

 

[04:30] To Cullen

Rylen: Sir, if you don’t call me soon, you may end up regretting it!

Rylen: I’m warning you!

Rylen: Okay.

Rylen: You’ve been warned.

 

[04:35] To Alistair

Rylen: Since neither one of you are picking up your phones…

Rylen: I fear it’s come to this.

Rylen: Cullen once told me that he sometimes likes to wear panties.

Rylen: Satin ones.

Rylen: With lace trim.

Rylen: And a little pink bow in the front.

 

[04:40] To Alistair

Rylen: No, actually, he really didn’t.

Rylen: Would be funny if he did though.

Rylen: Can you imagine?!!!

Rylen: That’s some information that would be fit for blackmail.

Rylen: Not that I would ever…

Rylen: Not really an image I need to visualize, in any case (shudders).

Rylen: You’re welcome to keep that one all for yourself.  

Rylen: No really; you’re welcome.

Rylen: Please don’t mention it.

Rylen: Like… ever.

Rylen: Again.

Rylen: Have I mentioned how bored I am waiting for you two to check in?

Rylen: Are you guys home yet?

 

[04:45] To Cullen

Rylen: Are you guys home yet?

 

He tried to call Cullen.

He tried to call Alistair.

 

[05:00] To Cullen

Rylen: Sir, if I find out you got home hours ago and just forgot to check in, you’re going to owe us donuts for a month!

Rylen: At the very least.

Rylen: And I reserve the right to add to that!

Rylen: Or change the punishment.

 

[05:01] To Alistair

Rylen: If I find out you two got home hours ago and got distracted with celebratory sex, I’m going to give Varric access to the the surveillance videos of you two kissing in the parking garage.

Rylen: ALL of them!

 

[05:02] To Cullen

Rylen: If you are home safe, check your damn phone and call me back!

Rylen: I’m tired.

Rylen: Damnit.

Rylen: And there’s a warm body waiting for me at home.

Rylen: A nice soft and curvaceous body.

Rylen: Voluptuous and squishy in all the right places.

Rylen: I should describe all her womanly parts in great detail.

Rylen: Just to make you cringe.

Rylen: But I won’t.

Rylen: I’m a gentleman.

Rylen: And gentlemen don’t kiss and tell.

Rylen: No matter how much we might want to, just to get back at our boss.

 

[05:05] To Cullen

Rylen: You guys are all together.

Rylen: Everyone who could remotely understand to help me.

Rylen: Lana, Leliana, Dorian, Alistair...

Rylen: I don’t even know who else I could call to find out if you’re just blowing me off.

Rylen: Or just blowing Al….

Rylen: I’m sorry.

Rylen: Never mind, I know that was overstepping.

Rylen: Please call.

 

Rylen sighed with discontent. Trying not to let himself get too worked up, he laid back down on the sofa and tried to wait patiently.

Tapping his foot on the arm of the chair, he watched the seconds on the clock tick by, pondering whom he could call. He could try the library, but the contact there was probably home asleep—like a normal person. And even if he was still on site waiting, it was off hours, so probably wouldn’t answer the phone anyway.

I wouldn’t.

At ten after five, he’d about had enough. He was worried and tired and needed to get ahold of Cullen before he could head home. Without Alistair’s home number, he decided to try the number to Cullen’s apartment first. If they did manage to get home and just forgot to call, he would at least have an answer. If no one answered, then he’d look up the number to the pub, then Lana’s number. If none of them were answered, he’d track down every last Theirin in the city until one of them ponied up Alistair’s private loft number.

I really need to get that number to add to my collection. Maybe Mia has it? But damn, she’s the ‘last’ person I want to call not knowing the whereabouts or condition of her brother.

Rylen sighed and dialed Cullen’s apartment number. After four rings, the line picked up followed by something crashing and some graphic swearing—in several languages—before someone growled into the phone, ”what!”

Clearing his throat, Rylen stuttered, “D-Dorian? Are you… is everything… uh, were you sleeping?”

“Of course I was sleeping! At this blasted early hour, you should be too!” After a beat, Dorian added on, “who’s this?”

“It’s Rylen. I’m trying to find Cullen. He’s not answering his cell.”

“Kaffas! That blinded fool.” Dorian mumbled a few choice phrases under his breath that Rylen didn’t quite catch.

“What was that, Dorian?”

“Nothing. Never mind. He’s at the loft. You should try that number and let me get back to sleep.” The phone clicked, then there was silence.

Rylen took a deep breath and called the number again.

On the first ring, it was picked up. “Go away, Rylen.” Was the gruff answer.

“I will. I’m sorry to bother you again, but, do you happen to have the number to Alistair’s loft? All I have are cell phone numbers, and like I said, neither of them are answering.” Rylen sighed.

“And you call yourself a Detective.” Dorian chuckled and he fumbled around for what Rylen hoped was his cellphone to get the number for him.

“I’m still in training, Dorian. And detective or not, phone numbers don’t just magically appear out of thin air.”

“They do if you ask right.”

“Maybe when you ask!” Rylen chuckled. “Do you have a number for me or am I going to have to just go bang on their door?

“As much as they’d deserve it after such a rude wake up call on my end, I’ve got the number. But you can only have it on one condition.”

“I’ll probably regret asking this, but, what’s the condition?”

“Give Cullen hell for not checking in. His absent mindedness isn’t worth my interrupted beauty sleep!”

“Of course, Dorian. I can handle that.”

After a moment to compose in his head what he wanted to say, he picked up the phone and dialed the loft.

The phone was eventually picked up and Alistair practically barked into the handset, “Someone better be dead or dying...”

“Uh… Alistair?” He asked hesitantly. “You’re home! I’ve been waiting for you guys to check in so I could go home. Did you find your son?”

“Shit! Rylen!” Alistair stammered, “I’m sorry. Yes, he’s… Kieran’s home safe…”

“And you guys just what… just forgot to call and tell me? That was kind of a dick move, you know that? You have no excuse for not checking in… unless something happened to Cullen—”

“No he’s—” Alistair started but was cut off.

“You owe me big, mister!

“…yeah, okay.” Alistair mumbled before Rylen really lit into him.

“I’ve been sitting here stewing, wondering where the hell you two have been. Wondering what the fuck happened that’s kept you guys away for the entire night. And here I come to find out that you’re both home safe and sleeping it off while I pace the precinct worried about your sorry asses!”  

“I am truly sorry, Rylen. Let me put him on the phone; he can update you with the rest.”

Rylen pictured Alistair cringing away from the phone, kicking Cullen to wake him up so he could pawn off the angry caller. He snickered quietly to himself, making sure that the sound didn’t carry through the phone.

Cullen finally picked up the phone with a groan. “I am so sorry, Rylen.”

“Do you realize what time it is, Sir?” Rylen asked heatedly.

“A quarter past five?” Cullen said after a brief pause.

“Do I even want to know what time you guys got back last night?”

“Um… late?”

“You don’t actually know, do you?” Rylen asked frustrated.

“Well, there was a lot going on and we--”

“There’s no excuse for not checking in, Sir. You always check in!” Rylen was back to exasperated. “What was I supposed to think? I’ve been trying to call your cell for hours. I even tried Alistair’s before I called your apartment.”

Cullen groaned. “You woke up Dorian?”

“He’s the one that said to try this number and that you owe him for me disrupting his beauty sleep for something that could have so easily been avoided.” Rylen chuckled uncomfortably, then took a deep breath and let it out in a rush.

“I cannot apologize enough, Rylen. We turned our phones off before we left for the library last night and were so tired when we got back, that I guess we never turned them back on again. And you’re right, there’s no excuse…”

“You’re damn right there’s not! I’ve been waiting here, worried that something happened… that you wouldn’t be coming back… that I’d have to figure this all out on my own...” Rylen finished on a whisper.

“We’re all fine, and I wouldn’t have left you without a backup plan in place. I promise.”

Rylen sighed again. “Fine, whatever. I’m beat. Permission to go home and get some sleep?”

“Granted. Take the rest of today off and enjoy your weekend. We’ll reconvene on Monday to finish the reports and start your training. If you need anything at all, give one of us a call. My phone’s back on and I won’t be turning it off.”

“Aye, Sir. Enjoy the rest of your morning.” Rylen hung up the phone before Cullen could respond.

He grabbed his coat, locked up the office and headed out to his car.

I’m so bloody tired, I might actually get some sleep today.

Rylen drove home exhausted, but content that Cullen made it home safely and that the mission was successful. It was a start. There were still trials to overcome and more paperwork to finish, but knowing that Kieran was safe, along with everyone else, was a weight off Rylen’s shoulders. Today he would rest. Tomorrow, he’d plan. Monday… the real training would begin.

 

Chapter Text

Where the Heart Lies

Dagna/Sten

~In the Cocktails and Cheese Universe~


 

Today

Dagna was this little ray of sunshine that evoked certain feelings in Sten; stronger even than his desire for those sweet cookie things she was always baking for him. She understood him better than anyone; could read him, give him exactly what he needed, take him to the edge--hold him there, and when she was finished, bring him back down again feeling safe, whole, and completely at peace. Her control was unprecedented. Her dedication to their arrangement --breathtaking.

If you told him three years ago that this was going to be his life today, he never would have believed you. Before he agreed on the temporary transfer to Denerim, his existence was predictable, wrapped up in duty, the qun, and caring for Asala*; his sword. It was a familiar and comfortably structured. The only passion in his life, was the sword on his back and the betterment of his clan.

He looked across the room at his partner, a gentle smile on her face as she nodded in his direction while continuing her conversation with their lieutenant.

Things were very different now.


Three Years Earlier

He scanned through the papers in the folder he carried as his train pulled into Denerim station. It contained everything that he needed for his new assignment: addresses to his work and temporary lodging, information on where to pick up his new uniforms, and a single name: Officer Dagna. They were to be his guide and partner in everything during his six month stay. He only hoped that this Dagna was aware of what they were getting into with their cultural differences.

Shaking his head to clear those thoughts, Sten let his gaze float over the sea of people searching for his contact. As the crowd began to dissipate, he saw a smaller-than-average Dwarven female, bouncing up and down at the edge of the platform. She held a sign high above her head with his name scrawled on it in flowery, fluid script.

With a heavy sigh, and a roll of his eyes, he approached. “Dagna?” he asked with resignation. He would get stuck with a bubbly guide. Putting on a small smile, for politeness sake, he resigned himself to six months of this.  

“Are you Sten? Of course you’re Sten. Just look at you! How can you not be? I’m Dagna, your partner, but—of course—you already knew that. I’m supposed to show you the town, the ropes, and anything else your little heart desires. You could say that I’m your new assigned best friend! Won’t that be fun? Did they tell you much about your new post, responsibilities, or the crew you’ll be working with? We’re a pretty fantastical bunch, if I do say so myself, definitely diverse. But mostly you’ll be stuck with lil~ol’ me.” She batted her eyes, grinned playfully, while looking at him expectantly.

Sten found his mouth hanging open, which he quickly closed, and said, “I’m not sure which part of that you’re expecting a response to; there seem to be several options I’ve been presented with.”

She giggled--actually giggled--then took a breath and held out her hand in a traditional Ferelden greeting. “My apologies, they always tell me that I can be a bit… much . Let me start over.” She cleared her throat and began again, much calmer. He couldn’t imagine the amount of effort it took for her to contain her excitement. “Shanedan*, Sten. My name is Dagna. It’s a pleasure to meet you. Welcome to our fair city.”

Pausing at the traditional Qunari greeting slipping so easily from her tongue, Sten briefly pondered the layers hidden beneath his new guide’s perky exterior . He eventually engulfed her tiny hand with his own and shook it. “Thank you,” he said, stoically. “Will we be heading straight to the precinct, or do I have time to settle into my lodgings before we begin my check-in process?”

She bent and hefted his duffle bag as if it were nothing, shrugging it over her shoulder. “First things first, let’s get you settled at home. It’s within walking distance of the station and right next door to my place, so I’ll be close by if you ever need anything… like a cup of sugar… or gallon of milk… spare ammunition, my newest blend of Vitaar*.”

Sten raised an eyebrow. “You are familiar with our Qunari war paint? Not many outsiders even know what that is, let alone how to handle it--you are aware that it’s toxic?”

“Of course I know it’s toxic,” she said with a sassy roll of her eyes. “It’s one of my areas of expertise, actually. I’ve been developing a resistance to it over the last few years, but I’m still careful and wear protective coverings when I handle it.”

Sten nodded, impressed.

“Speaking of… I should probably warn you before we get to the precinct and you meet the others.” Dagna looked at her feet ruefully. “Some of my experiments tend to get me into trouble at work. I think they paired me with you in the hope that you’ll help to contain some of my… enthusiasm .” She looked up with a wicked twinkle in her eye and winked. “What they don’t realize is—I’ve been studying the Qunari for most of my life. It’s a bit of a hobby of mine—researching. It’s why I started formulating my own blends of Vitaar. Your people fascinate me. You…” She glanced at Sten and smirked. “…you more than others. I’ve never met a Qunari without horns before. Are you really as scary and intimidating as the stories say?” she asked conspiratorially.

“Time will tell—if you’re lucky,” he said simply.

She gave a fistpump and a quiet, “ Yes! ” as they approached the police cruiser.

He chuckled quietly at her enthusiasm. Perhaps they’d get along after all.

“Here we are!” she announced happily, stepping around to the back of the SUV and depositing his bag inside. “I didn’t think you’d be comfortable squished into the small cruisers they usually make us drive.

“That was… very thoughtful of you. Thank you.” He watched, fascinated, as her head disappeared behind the other side of the vehicle only to pop up again suddenly when the driver’s side door opened and she climbed inside.

She looked over to Sten, still standing motionless on the sidewalk, a look of contemplation shadowing his features. “Well, big boy… ya comin?” she wiggled her eyebrows suggestively, then grinned when he climbed in and gave her a small smile of his own.

This is definitely going to be an interesting experience.                                                                            


As days led to weeks, Sten found himself less annoyed with his new partner’s bubbly personality and more intrigued by her in general. There was so much about her that he found fascinating; specifically her insatiable curiosity and indomitable positivity. He’d never met anyone who had a talent for finding silver linings like she could. In most  people, he would find it downright annoying, but in her case, he found it strangely… endearing.

It was a feeling he was innately unfamiliar with, but one he found himself embracing more and more. There was something about that little ball of positive energy that was captivating him; sparking things in him that he never dreamed of feeling. He began to question ; something he’d never done before. He also began to want; which created an internal conflict he was ill prepared for, but demanded his immediate attention. Because, he wanted Dagna; not as just a partner--as more. Which went against everything he’d been trained to believe.

Where he was from, procreation was for necessity; matings were scheduled and pre-arranged based on your skills and proficiencies. His responsibility to the process was over as soon as his seed took. Couplings rarely happened for pure enjoyment; stress relief--yes, but even then--there were rules. There were always rules.

Listening to Dagna’s passion and fervor--day after day--lit something inside Sten that he’d long since buried. Those thoughts were ill placed and inappropriate back home. But, here? Here, he might be able to pursue anything he wanted. This uncharted territory--this desire, this selfish need--was new to him and as time went on, he had an increasingly difficult time suppressing it.

He found everything about her irresistible, she just naturally drew him in. They spent most of their time together during their work week: walking in together in the evenings and home again in the mornings, dinners and breakfasts soon joined their regular schedule as well. Eventually, even their time off was spent in each other’s company: at the gym, shooting range, or just lazing about watching movies, playing board games, or working on her Vitaar mixtures.

Their relationship was comfortable and refreshing. Sten wasn’t sure what to do with the warmth he found blooming in his chest every time they were together. He needed to figure out something, though, and soon. His time in Denerim was quickly coming to an end and, for the first time in his life, Sten did not look forward to returning home.


Two and a half years ago

With only two weeks left in his assignment, Sten found himself pacing his little apartment. He should be sleeping; his shift ended several hours ago, but he couldn’t get his brain to quiet down. He was excited and nervous. He’d found a way to stay on at the precinct permanently, to stay in Denerim—with Dagna--but he wasn’t sure how she would take the news. They hadn’t talked about what they were to each other, what they’d become. He knew they performed well together at work; he knew they got along well as friends, but they’d yet to cross the line into more, and he wasn’t sure she even wanted to.

A soft knock sounded on his door, startling him out of his reverie. Finding Dagna on the other side, he smiled softly at her fuzzy pink pajamas and white bunny slippers. “Dagna? Is everything ok?” he asked, noticing she was more subdued than normal. “What’s wrong? Did something happen?” He opened the door wider and ushered her inside.

She paused next to his sofa, wringing her hands. “Um… I couldn’t sleep. And, I could hear that you were still awake through the wall, so I thought I’d…” She shrugged and bit her lip.

Gently taking her hand, he sat down on the coach, pulling her to sit next to him. “You’re starting to worry me. Please tell me what’s going on.”

“I don’t want you to go!” she blurted suddenly, tears pooling in her eyes.

Sten sat there for a moment, unsure how to proceed. When her lip began to quiver, he slid his arm around her shoulders and pulled her closer. Before he could say anything, he found himself with a lap full of Dagna. She wrapped her arms around his shoulders and buried her face in his neck, sobbing. Finally giving in to temptation, he wrapped both arms around her and hugged her tightly, rubbing soothing circles on her back with one hand and stroking her hair with the other.

By the time her tears subsided, the shoulder of his t-shirt was soaked, but he didn’t care. This was a reaction more visceral than anything he’d ever experienced before. Her warmth against his chest and weight in his arms, being able to bring her some measure of comfort... it just felt right. It felt like home, and he wanted nothing more than to bring back her sunny smile.

Handing her a tissue with a fond smile, he waited for Dagna to finish wiping her tears and blowing her nose.

“I’m sorry, Sten. I didn’t mean to—”

Tipping her chin up, he touched his lips softly to hers, effectively cutting off her words. She stiffened ever so slightly before melting into the chaste kiss.

“Was that… okay?” he asked, when they pulled apart.

“Yes. More than okay,” she said breathlessly. When he leaned in to kiss her again, she stopped him with a hand on his chest. “Sten… we shouldn’t. Especially with you leaving soon. This will only make it harder when it’s time for you to go.” She sighed heavily, placing her forehead back on his shoulder with a shuddering sigh.

“Well then,” he said with something closely resembling a smirk. “This might be a good time to inform you that I’ve been working on arrangements to make my transfer permanent. I only need you to sign off on the paperwork and we can finalize my new orders.”

The squeal that erupted from Dagna was hardly dignified, but he didn’t care as long as she kept kissing him the way that she was. There wasn’t anything that Dagna did without fervor. And this, more than anything else, was pure, unbridled, Dagna on a rampage. Her lips were forceful and demanding; he easily yielded, savoring his first true taste of her. If he’d ever allowed himself dreams of carnal pleasures surrounding Dagna, they would have all paled in comparison to the reality of this ardent embrace.

Dominant and in control in most aspects of his life, Sten happily let Dagna take the reigns. She maneuvered him onto his back, straddling him just above his hips. When she started kissing her way down his neck, he let his head fall back with a low moan.

“Dagna,” he said reverently, his voice hitching when she sat up at the feel of her body weight seated directly over his growing erection.

“Shhhh, Sten. I’ve got you. I’ll take care of you,” she whispered soothingly. “I will take such good care of you. Please, let me?” She waited patiently for his slow nod of consent before resuming her affections. She was driving him crazy with every touch, brush of her lips, and swipe of her tongue.

It was too much, yet he couldn’t get enough. He gripped her hips and thrust-up seeking friction, growling in frustration at the clothing barrier between them.

She smiled sweetly. “So impatient,” she cooed while rucking up his shirt, pulling it over his head. She raked her eyes over his body. “By the Stone, you’re incredible,” she whispered, then licked along the scar that ran from the base of his sternum toward his left shoulder. When she reached his clavicle, she bit down playfully and grinned at his moan.

“Hmmm… you like me biting you,” she stated in observation. “What is it you like most? Is it the marks I’m leaving? Do you want others to know that you’re mine? That you belong… to me?” Dagna kissed her way back down toward his pierced nipple, where she gripped the barbell and gave it a sharp tug.

Sten’s eyes blown wide with arousal, and the soft puff of air expelled from his nose, were the only clues that she caused him any pain.

“You are so freakin’ perfect.” she exclaimed breathlessly as she gently twisted the barbell in his other nipple, causing him to close his eyes with pleasure.  

Dagna worked her way down his body, taking her time, licking, biting, kissing his exposed skin in random locations. Occasionally lurching back up to claim his lips for her own. She was driving him mad—and he absolutely loved it. He was hers, irrevocably, completely. He’d never been owned so fully or willingly before. He never wanted to be owned like this by another.  

“Dagna, please,” he begged when her fingers found his waistband.

“I’ve got you, Kadan*.” She tugged his pants down, freeing his dick. With an almost feral grin, she drank in the sight before her; even for a Qunari, he was well endowed. She licked her lips while wrapping both hands around as much of his girth as she could. Looking up through her lashes, she chuckled wickedly, “I’ve always loved a challenge.”   

Whatever words he might have responded with were quickly erased when she slid into position and took the head of his cock into her mouth. Managing only the first couple of his hefty inches, Dagna didn’t let that deter her. She pulled off and ran her tongue up the underside vein, then, flicking it across the tip, tasted the salty bitterness of his precome with a pleasured moan.

He was lost to her touches, happily giving her full control. This was unprecedented for him; placing his complete trust in another person. Spread out naked on the couch, he was open for whatever she wanted to do to him; willing to let her take him apart piece by piece, because he believed that not only would she put him back together again, but she would re-make him whole and complete--better than before.

And by his sword, that’s exactly what she was doing. She used her tongue and hands to work together in perfect harmony--her actions never predictable. The scrape of her teeth, pulling back of his foreskin, teasing his sensitive flesh with varying strokes, licks, and nibbles, kept him on the brink of rapture.

Lost in sensation, it took him a moment to realize that the pleasurable attention had stopped. Cracking his eyes open, he looked down his body to find her kneeling between his knees with a devious smile on her face. Once she had his attention, she slowly grabbed the hem of her sleep shirt and pulled it up and over her head.

She was stunning. Her hard lines of muscle were softened by the curvature of her rounded hips, thick thighs, and shapely breasts. Sten ran his hands up her legs until they found the warmth of her skin at her waist. Sitting up, he pulled her to his chest, kissing her deeply. Feeling the swell of her breasts against his skin, her breath caressing his neck, and the her clothed heat pressed up against his length was pure perfection, but he wasn’t going to let it stop there.

“Dagna.” He paused, searching her face for permission.

“Shh, Sten, I just want—”

Her words were abruptly cut off when he grabbed onto her thighs, and hoisted her up into the air.

With an surprised squeal, she wrapped her legs around his waist and her arms around his neck, holding on tight.

“If we’re going to do this, Dagna. I’d rather it not be on the sofa.” He paused in his purposeful march to the bedroom and looked at her, his eyes softening with affection. “You deserve more than that. You deserve to be worshiped, taken care of… submitted to.” The corner of his mouth tipped up in a smirk as he began walking again. “You deserve the world and I would be honored to be that for you.”

Laying her down on the bed, he quickly removed a strip of condoms from his top dresser drawer and lay them within reach on the nightstand.

“You are such the boy-scout, Sten—always prepared.” Dagna teased with a quirk of her eyebrow.

“There are many things that we must discuss about this arrangement, Kadan. One thing I will never compromise on, however, is you. Your health, safety, and input are important to me. But, those conversations can wait, for now…” Sten deftly removed her pants, leaving her completely bare.

He sighed with contentment. “You are so beautiful, Dagna--like nothing I’ve ever experienced before.” He gently ran his fingers over her slender waistline. “Pure perfection,” he sighed, cupping one of her breasts and rubbed his thumb across her nipple.

The look in her eyes was cocky, sanguine, and tauntingly alluring.

Unable to resist any longer, he kissed her deeply, then began to work his way down her body; trailing tender kisses interspersed with gentle nibbles. He stopped to lavish affections her breasts; his mouth worshiping one while his hand attended to the other.

She was incredible; writhing beneath him and moaning his name wantonly to urge him on.  

He worked his way lower and, with a groan of desire, got his first taste of her intoxicating essence. Parting her lips, he slipped a finger inside, while his mouth feasted on everything else. She was so very wet. Her constricting walls tightly squeezed his single digit making him dizzy imagining how she would feel when he finally penetrated her.

Her tiny gasps of pleasure fueled his onslaught as he latched onto her clit bringing her back arching up off the bed. Adding another finger, he worked them in and out, bringing her closer to the edge, then backed off to let her catch her breath.

Filthy words tumbled from her tongue, begging him for more, ordering him around, demanding his attention, obedience, and devotion.  

...all of which he gave willingly.

She came suddenly, screaming his name, praising him to the Stone. It was the most beautiful sound he’d ever heard. Continuing to work his fingers in and out of her shuddering body, he sat up, tore open a condom, and worked it over his considerable length one handed.

Kissing his way back up her shuddering body, he finally removed his fingers and replaced them with the head of his cock. Nudging at her entrance, he bracketed her head with his arms and slowly pushed the tip inside. She was panting, breathless, and utterly perfect with a flush to her cheeks and her lips slightly parted as she rode out the waves of her aftershocks. Her inner walls constricted tightly around his intrusion.

It was almost too much.

Once she caught her breath, she spread her legs wider and canted her hips up to slowly work him inside her. He paused frequently, allowing time for both of them to adjust and accommodate her still constricting passage around his girth.

My God, she feels amazing!

Wrapping her legs around his waist, she used the leverage to pull him in further. “I don’t know if that whole thing is going to fit,” she teased. “But damn, I’m going to enjoy trying!”

Her flippant words were soon replaced with sounds of pleasure as he slowly worked his way in with painstaking care and gentleness. Pulling back slightly, then pushing in further, her inner walls slowly relaxed and welcomed him in. The friction was exquisite, the pulsing grip of her pussy driving him to the brink far quicker than he’d like. When his balls finally lay flush with her ass, he stopped and took a slow, deep breath to regain control.

“Perfect,” he breathed out the single word of worship while staring deep into her eyes.

After a moment of pause, she looked up at him with that devious little smirk again, then—planting her feet back on the bed—began rolling her hips while thrusting up and back on his cock. It only took him another moment to get on board before he started joining her thrusts. It began slow and sensual, but didn’t stay that way for long. The small apartment was soon filled with the sounds of bodies slapping together, deep moans, and shrill shrieks of pleasure.

He pounded into her relentlessly as her body locked up again. Slowing down to work her through the waves of release, he smiled at her, then wrapped her in his arms and, in one fluid movement, rolled them over till she was on top of him--his cock still buried deep within her channel. With tiny thrusts, he extended her pleasure for a bit longer until she caught her breath once again.

Once Dagna caught her breath, she sat up on his cock and smiled beatifically. “I feel like I should be keeping a tally. Though, that might be cruel to you, considering your refractory period is much longer than my ability to achieve multiple orgasms.”

“Bringing you pleasure makes it worth it. Seeing you like this—” He ran his hands up her sides with a contented sigh and thrust up gently. “--is quite possibly the most incredible experience of my life.”

Dagna let her head drop back as she moaned, her inner walls squeezing him with yet another aftershock of her orgasm. With a gentle rocking of her hips she rode out the rhythm and, biting her lip, looked back into his eyes. “While I can appreciate your dedication to bringing me pleasure, I don’t intend on leaving you without your own release.” Pulling her feet up under her, Dagna began to raise her body up the full length of his shaft. Barely keeping the tip inside of her, she lowered herself back down, ever so slowly. Then she repeated the process.

He was captivated. Watching her rise and fall on his dick was hypnotizing in ways he never thought possible. Watching her body swallow him whole was mesmerizing. Her velvety folds taking him in and surrounding him was going to be his undoing. He would never tire of this. Strength, character, intelligence, and wit, all rolled up into one tiny ball of enthusiasm known as Dagna.


Today

He was trained from the start to seek out perfection; within himself and others. He was trained to admire dedication, perseverance, and tenacity. They sent him to Denerim to better understand other cultures so that he could best protect his own. In the beginning, it was just duty, over time— she became his world.

After three years of working, training, and eventually living together, Sten knew this was where he was meant to be. He was home.

Patting his pocket where a tiny box was secreted away, he let a rare smile touch his lips. It wasn’t his custom; it wasn’t something he’d ever even considered until he was given this assignment and fell in love with Dagna. But, tonight was the night he would finally ask. The ring in his pocket, fashioned from a piece of his sword, Asala, spoke volumes of what he was offering Dagna. He’d given her his heart, his obedience, his protection, and tonight, he would offer her his soul.

He only hoped she would say, yes.


 

Translations: from dragon age wikia on the Qunlat language.

Dragon Age Wikia: Qunlat

Asala: Soul (Also the name of Sten’s sword).

Kadan:  Where the heart lies.

Shanedan:  Literally, “I’ll hear you.” - A respectful greeting.

Vitaar:  Poison Armor. A warpaint used by the Qunari that is toxic to other races and has a metal-like quality once applied to the skin.

 

Chapter Text


Weirdest Father's Day Ever (and possibly, the best!)

~In the Cocktails and Cheese Universe~

(Roughly seven years in the future from where we are in chapter 58 - Kieran is eighteen and attending a special university for Magical Practitioners in Tevinter. Emily just turned five and this is her first Father’s Day with her new Dads. Takes place after - A Joyous Satinalia - Cocktails and Cheese One-shot, Chapter 9.)


With the blanket stretched out beneath him, Alistair patiently watched while Cullen put the finishing touches on their makeshift picnic. He was initially surprised by the request for a quiet day in for Father’s Day; it was their first with Emily after all. He thought they’d take her out to dinner, make it something special. He certainly never expected to have Cullen make a picnic lunch on the floor of the bar only hours before they were scheduled to open. He should know by now, not to ever be surprised by the things Cullen likes to do for him.

Cullen finally took his place at Alistair’s side and fed him a small bite of cheese just as the lights dimmed around them and Leliana took the stage with her lute followed by Kieran carrying the newest Theirin-Rutherford who was currently wrapped around him like a koala. Leliana stepped into the background and let Kieran and his little sister take center stage. Emily peeked out from beneath Kieran’s chin holding her stuffed griffon, Cheddar, safely between them. She looked over at Alistair and Cullen and gave a shy wave.

Alistair waved back, his eyes swimming with emotion. Looking back and forth between Cullen and their two children, he stammered, “B...but… Kieran’s supposed to be at the University... in Tevinter!” He looked at his son. “You said you weren’t going to be able to make it home until later in the summer!”

Kieran smiled. “Yeah, uh… about that? I may have lied. But... it’s their fault.” He hugged Emily closer while pointing at Leliana, Cullen, and then into the shadows where Lana was hiding with Morrigan.

Cullen wrapped an arm around Alistair and kissed him on the cheek. “We wanted to surprise you. It wouldn’t be a proper Father’s Day unless we were all together today.” He waved Kieran and Emily over who sat with them on the blanket, Emily immediately crawled over onto Alistair’s lap, dragging Cheddar with her.

Once she was settled, Cullen continued, “Kieran and Emily planned this whole thing and only let me in on their shenanigans last week when you started talking about not making a fuss over the holiday this year.”

“Mother and the Aunties helped.” Kieran supplied. “We thought it would be nice to have a picnic and a concert--”

“That means, you all better save me some of that delicious smelling food for when I’m finished singing.” Leliana laughed.

Lana and Morrigan brought out a second blanket and a couple more trays of food. Once things were settled, she kissed Cullen and Alistair on the tops of their heads then went to join Leliana on stage. After a few shared whispers and a kiss of their own, Lana took a second microphone from Leliana. “And if me helping to make this surprise happen doesn’t say ‘I love you both’ enough, the fact that Lels talked me into singing with her tonight, should more than make that clear.”

Leliana played a few chords on her lute and opened the song with her warm alto painting the background of a piece that sang of togetherness and love. On the second verse, Lana’s lilting soprano joined in adding an ethereal element of peace and hope. Together their voices melded beautifully, but it wasn’t until a third, much younger voice harmonized in a sense of belonging and family, that Alistair no longer held back his tears.

As the song came to a close, Alistair wiped his eyes, and kissed Emily on the top of her little red ringlets. “That was beautiful my little cheesepuff, you must have practiced hard to sing with your aunties so perfectly.” He looked over at Lana and Leliana who were looking a little wide eyed themselves.

Leliana found her voice first. “We’ve never sang that with anyone. It’s a compilation of--”

“--an old Dalish song and a Orlesian ballad,” Emily finished for them. The spirits said it was meant to unite all races into one family though, they taught me the third part.

Leliana and Lana shared a look. Morrigan and Kieran shared a look. Cullen and Alistair shared a look before Alistair turned back to Emily. “Was there a reason they… taught you that?” he asked, carefully.

She rolled her eyes so perfectly like Kieran that he couldn’t help but stifle his chuckle. It was patient yet exasperated as if she were wondering how her dad could be so slow. She very carefully pulled Cullen over to them and rested the three of their foreheads together. The voice that emerged from their little girl next, was a combination of her own and a couple of familiar ones from their past. Calm, soothing, grandmotherly… family. The three voices melded together as they said, “We are a family, all of us, alive and those who have passed over. We will always be together regardless of skin color, ear shape, gender, sexual orientation.” Emily paused and pulled back with a smile wiser than her own. “All that matters is that we love one another, are here for each other, and never lose hope or faith in those we consider family.”

Lana, Leliana, and Morrigan all whispered, “Wynne?” just as Alistair choked out, “Mother?”

The triad of voices answered, “Yes, we are here. We have always been here, though it’s taken a while to find the right spirit mage to be able to speak to you.”

Emily reached up and patted them both on the cheeks, with a big grin. “I’m happy my spirit friends can finally talk to you, we’ve been practicing, but…” She frowned. “Sometimes it’s hard to focus.”

“You are still young, child,” came Wynne’s patient voice. “Do not be afraid, you’ve the perfect family to help you. Just look at what they were able to accomplish with your brother.” Emily grinned over at Kieran, then back at her fathers.

“Whatever it is you need, my sweet Emmie, we will make sure that you have it.” Cullen kissed her cheek before turning to Alistair. “Looks like we have another mage in the family. We may have to adopt another for you to get that swordmaster you were talking about training.”

Alistair looked shocked. “Me? I think that was you that was waxing poetic about training our newest recruit with the sword and shield. I will love her no matter what.” He grinned. “Doesn’t mean we can’t discuss having another later though.”

Emily giggled, catching their attention. “But I want to learn how to use all the weapons!” she exclaimed. “My friends tell me that I will need to be the strongest arcane warrior ever to be able to bring back the griffons. We’ve already began my training...” she tapped her head. “Up here, but they said it’s up to you to teach me the rest.”

Alistair shared a smile with his husband before looking around the room at the knowledge and skill surrounding them. “Then I guess you really did find the best family to be a part of. If anyone can accomplish the impossible, it’s this group right here.” He pulled her to his chest, tugging Cullen along with them. “Just don’t grow up too quickly now, we’ve already sent Kieran off to school, we’d like to enjoy you around the house for a few years before you leave us on your epic quest too.”

She giggled again, this time with an eerie overlay of his mother’s laughter. “Oh, Alistair dear,” Fiona said. “She won’t be leaving the nest without you. Her journey will include all of you. Before it’s over, you will all be tested, and only together will you succeed.”

Alistair gulped. “That doesn’t sound ominous at all. And that Multiple voice thing is kind of creepy too.” He chuckled, nervously.

Emily’s golden eyes flashed the warm brown Alistair remembered from his youth. The soft voice of his mother spoke alone, “I’m proud of you, son: of all you’ve accomplished, all you’ve achieved, and the family you’ve accumulated where I was unable to provide.” Emily’s eyes softened back to their usual golden hue. “Grandmama’s spirit feels sad that she didn’t get to be here for you while you were growing up, she loves you. It is hard for her to speak like that, but she wanted you to know.”

Alistair smiled softly, while Cullen wiped away a single tear. “I know, sweet Emmie. I wish she could have been with me too.”

Cullen kissed Alistair on the cheek, then smiled at their daughter. “Thank you Emily, Wynne, and Fiona. You’ve made today truly special.”

Kieran came over and wrapped himself around the three of them. “Best Father’s day ever, because we have the best fathers ever.” He ruffled Emily’s hair as a distraction and tried to reach for a piece of cheese off Alistair’s plate with his other hand.

Alistair quickly grabbed his wrist. “Hey, you gotta get up pretty early in the morning to steal my cheese!”

Kieran’s eyes flashed brilliant white; he opened his mouth and a piece of cheese levitated in.

“Hey!” Alistair hollared, depositing Emily in Cullen’s lap. He jumped up to chase after Kieran, who lay a thin sheet of ice on the ground as he tried to get away. After regaining his footing, Alistair vaulted over the bar and landed in front of Kieran who was being held in place by not one, but three other mages. “Didn’t you hear what your little sister and a couple of old dead ladies just said?”

“Hey!” Emily, Fiona, and Wynne exclaimed together.

Alistair grinned even wider. “We are stronger together. One against the rest will never work. Steal my cheese again, and not only will I sick our little family of mages on you…” he paused for effect. “I will have that handsome templar over there--”

“Ex-Templar,” everyone in the room deadpanned.

“Yeah, yeah.” Alistair waved off the expected interruption. “The EX-Templar will drain you of magic until you have to wait to cast magic again for a week.”

Kieran grinned at the old threat. “You sure you’re up for the challenge, old man?” he fired off at Cullen with a single raised eyebrow.

Cullen stood up, Emily still held protectively in his arms, and walked over to where Alistar and Kieran stood nose to nose. With a slow smirk of his own, he wrapped one arm around Kieran, letting Emily pull Alistair into the other side of the family hug. “I think… to underestimate any one of us would be a mistake. Especially when we’ve got each other’s backs like we do.” He kissed Kieran on the forehead, followed by Alistair and Emily. “I love you all so much. I couldn’t have asked for a better family.”

Lana’s tiny frame soon joined the mix, followed by Leliana and even the usually reluctant Morrigan. The rest of the evening was filled with laughter and light. Emily’s spirit friends hung out in the background just watching over their charges.

As they’ve been doing for years.

As they would continue to do.

~*~

(And for those that need a refresher - isn't Emily beautiful?) :)

Emily

Chapter Text


Wouldn’t Change a Thing


They sat alone in the quiet room. Stools stacked up on top of the well-worn mahogany bartop, chairs on top of their tables, shelves once stocked with the finest liquors in Denerim, now were bare.

“Will you miss this?” Cullen asked, bringing the cup of elfroot tea to his lips.

“Hmm?” Alistair said, looking around the room. “I don’t know, maybe? This is where we met after all, and where you surprised me with Rose, our first furry child --may she rest in peace-- and our newest family member, Cheddar.” At the sound of his name, Cheddar raised his greying muzzle and scooted closer so he could lay his head in Alistair’s lap. Alistair chuckled, obediently scritched behind the mabari’s ears. 

“We’ve made lots of memories here,” Cullen said, “But still, Alistair’s House of Whine and Cheese has been a part of this community for more than forty years. I’m not sure what this town will do without it.”

“Probably the same thing they’re going to do without their famous Commander, running the police force.” He nudged his husband’s foot under the table. “Are you going to miss it? The work, the schedules?” Alistair snickered. 

Cullen shrugged. “Maybe parts of it, but I think we’ve more than earned our retirement. I’m ready to relax for once; travel, maybe spend some time at the family beach house, sleep in, be lazy and snuggle with my still-gorgeous husband.” 

“I’m weathered and all grey now, not nearly as agile as I once was either.” Alistair blushed.

“And yet, your cheeks still turn pink at my compliments after all these years.” Cullen took Alistair’s hand and brought it to his lips. “You will always be the most beautiful person in my world, grey, with hair growing out of your ears--” Cullen reached up, only to have his hand swatted away.

“Hey, my ears are off limits in this room, you know the rules.”

“Bar’s closed for business, my love, never to open again. No reason not to indulge a little.” Cullen leaned in and whispered. “I love you, and I’ve always loved your overly-sensitive ears, can’t blame me for trying.” With a light kiss to Alistair’s cheek, Cullen sat back and grinned at Alistair’s warning glare.

“You’re mean!” Alistair declared.

“You love me.” Cullen winked, taking another sip of his tea.

“Maker help me, I really do.” Alistair took a drink from his own mug. “So, would you change any of it? All that we’ve been through to get here?”

Cullen pondered for a moment, then shook his head. “I wouldn’t change a thing. Everything we’ve been through together has brought us to where we are. We have four beautiful children, Kieran’s teaching at the University of Tevinter with our beautiful --if slightly intimidating, Qunari daughter-in-law-- Tamazlin to keep him and our two grandchildren in-line.”

“Tammy makes Bull look meek and cuddly.” Alistair shivered.

Cullen laughed. “Remember the first time you called her that? I thought I was going to be a widower and Kieran was going to have one fewer father.”

Alistair grinned. “Yes, but I grew on her and now she just puts up with it.”

“Only from you, though, you have a way with bringing down people’s walls and making them feel comfortable.” 

“She’s family.” Alistair shrugged. “I had to let her know that she wasn’t immune to our way of showing public affection. Took her awhile to come around though.” 

“She did eventually. That’s what matters. And it was Emily’s grand adventure that brought the two of them together. Tam as our guide traipsing across the Anderfels, poor Kieran didn’t know what hit him.”

“Reminds me of us when we first met… love at first sight.” Alistair winked.

“Thankfully, it didn’t take them as long to pull their heads out of their asses.”

“True, and they were able to remain focused enough so that we didn’t all die.” Alistair shook his head. “I truly believed that our children were going to be the death of us for awhile. I wasn’t sure we were going to survive that little adventure of Emily’s. I mean… who goes after something that epic?” 

Cullen shrugged, “When she was little, I thought the talk of finding the gryphons was just a child’s fantasy.”

“I did too. We should have known better, though. And now look at her, running the first Gryphon Conservatory. Bringing them back into the world, training them to once again be allies with the Grey Wardens.” Alistair sighed. “I’m so proud of her, even if she wont let me ride one of her gryphons.”

“She just doesn’t want you to get hurt, they’re still very unpredictable. And she did name her organization after us,” Cullen said.

“The C&C Gryphon Reserve, does have a nice ring to it.” 

“Until someone links C&C with those books Varric wrote about us all those years ago, instead of thinking it stands for Care and Conservation, like they’ve been conveniently led to believe.” Cullen grinned. “Something tells me Cocktails and Cheese wouldn’t inspire the respect that their work rightfully deserves.” 

“True, but it still suits our story very well.” Alistair finished his tea then poured them both a refill.

“Don’t make it sound like our story is over yet. Just because we’re retired and old--”

“Hey, speak for yourself!” Alistair said, indignantly.

Cullen laughed. “You’ve still got a year on me, old man. But I think we both have some good years ahead of us.” 

“Retirement was the right choice. I want to enjoy the life we have left. I want to spend time watching Marjolaine and Duncan grow up,” Alistair said.

“They’re not babies anymore.” 

“They will always be our babies, I don’t care how old they get.”

“I’m glad that Lana and Leliana asked us to be their fathers. Our family is so full and complete… I never thought I could have this.” Cullen squeezed Alistair’s hand, eyes misting with emotion.

“They were meant to be ours just as much as Kieran and Emily were. Marjolain has your beautiful blond curls and Leliana’s blue eyes and penchant for music. And Duncan, “ Alistair grinned. “He’s so much like Lana and I, it’s scary.”

“Not bad for a couple of sperm donor.” Cullen laughed. 

“We’re more than just the donors, you know that.”

“I do. I love that they asked us to help them have a family. I love that we’ve been able to be a part of it every step of the way.”

“You just love that you got to father Marjolaine without having to have sex with an actual woman.”

“Hey, I’ve had the best, I don’t need anyone else… ever.” Cullen scooted his chair closer, wrapping his arm around Alistair’s shoulders and kissing him sweetly. “I wouldn’t do anything differently. We have the best of everything. Each other, four amazingly talented children, and the best mabari a pair of old, retired, has-beens could ever want.” 

Cheddar’s ears picked up, he licked Cullen’s hand clasped with Alistair’s, then lay his head back down again.

“We do have it pretty good.” Alistair admitted. “My mentor, Duncan would be so proud, were he still around, and probably a little bit jealous. Can you imagine a master rogue Grey Warden with the ability to ‘see’ what’s behind the lock? There’d be no stopping them.”

“Like any lock could ever stop either of you from getting through it.”

“And now our little boy is following in those footsteps.” Alistair sniffed.

“Not so little anymore, he’s almost nineteen,” Cullen said. “How’s his Warden training going?”

“Like he was born into it.” Alistair winked. “I’m sure his namesake is up there laughing his ass off by the Maker’s side. Lana and I couldn’t wait to get out, and our youngest couldn’t wait to get into the order.”

“I’m sure he’s probably shaking his head at us -- couple of old men reminiscing over tea.” Cullen sighed, looking into his cup. “I miss my Blue some days.” 

Alistair chuckled. “You know I still keep a bottle in the cabinet, just for you.” 

“I know… but the tea is more soothing.” Cullen drained his drink and stood up, clearing the table, the charcuterie board long since emptied of meats and cheeses. “You sure this was an okay way to spend our anniversary, I would have happily taken you out to a nice dinner.”

Alistair stood and pulled Cullen into a full bodied hug, swaying where they stood. “We can go out anytime, a nice quiet night in with just you and I? That’s my idea of heaven. Celebrating one more year as your husband while saying goodbye to this old place-- I couldn't ask for anything more perfect.” 

They finished cleaning up and placed their chairs on top of the table. Stopping at the lightswitch, Alistair turned and took one last look around with a sigh. 

Cullen was immediately there, kissing him sweetly. “This isn’t the end, you know, just a stepping stone into the next chapter of our life.” 

Alistair threaded his fingers through Cullen’s thinning curls at the back of his neck. “I like the sound of that. I have no regrets about the path we’ve walked together, and I’m pretty excited to see where it’s going to lead us in the future.”

“Any ideas of where you want to start?” Cullen asked.

That familiar smirk crossed Alistair’s face while he wiggled his eyebrows. 

“Really?” Cullen laughed. 

“Weeeelllll,” Alistair started, “we do still have that bedroom upstairs next to the dojo. And it hasn’t been used in weeks.”

Cullen leaned in and pressed his lips to Alistairs. “After all these years, you are still insatiable.”

“This Warden stamina has to be good for something.” Alistair held Cullen’s hand and tugged him toward the stairs. “C’mon, I might still have a trick or two up my sleeve.” 

Cullen chuckled. “I think Cheddar just rolled his eyes at us.”

“Wouldn’t be the first time.” Alistair responded as he watched their mabari cross the backroom and go lay on his bed at the bottom of the stairs. They both pet his head as they went by, then went up the stairs hand in hand.

When they entered the small apartment, Cullen carefully turned Alistair and pressed him up against the wall, kissing his way up Alistair’s neck, just below the ear. “So many wonderful memories we’ve made here… but you know what my favorite is?”

“Mmmm, what’s that?” Alistair said, breathlessly.

“The one we’re about to make, and the one after that, and again after that. Every new memory with you is my favorite. Every birthday, holiday, anniversary, each one sweeter than the last because I get to spend them with the love of my life, because I get to share them… with you.”

Alistair kissed Cullen back, years of familiarity and experience, never diminished the passion between them. From that very first kiss to the current, to kisses for the foreseeable future, Cullen and Alistair would cherish each one more than the last, because they knew they were blessed to have what they have. They appreciated everything and each other, refusing to take anything for granted. Life can be short and unpredictable, they’re lucky enough to have been able to spend so many beautiful years together. See their children grow up into the amazing adults they were today. 

Partners in every way, Today might be the ending of Alistair’s House of Whine and Cheese, but it’s the first day of their new adventure. 

And through it all, no matter where they might land, they wouldn’t change a thing.