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Poison & Wine

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"Ah, Lady Trevelyan, may I present The Knight-Vigilant, Ser Cullen Rutherford? Ah, but silly me, my Lady” —a whimsical, coy smile from the Marquis — “but of course you already know him, do you not? After all Ser Rutherford served the Inquisition in some capacity, did he not?”

“Yes, Marquis Bourchilon, as I think you well know he was the Commander of our forces.”

“Oh, yes! How silly of me!” the Marquis titters, covers his mouth coyly with a handkerchief he plucks from his sleeve.

Cullen bows over her hand, “A pleasure, Lady Herald,” kisses her knuckles, the familiar line of his lips pushing into her skin, calling to other places and other times in her memory. “The Left Hand indicated we would see you tonight; you are most welcome to the Grand Cathedral.”

“The pleasure is mine, Ser Knight,” she reclaims her hand, flexing the fingers to try to rid them of the feel of his leather gloves. They are both silent, and she casts her gaze out toward the dance floor, as if small talk is beyond her.

“Well,” the Marquis says after a moment of silence, realizing the sport is at an end, “I must circulate. Tea this week, my dear?” he says to Dorothea.

“Yes, Marquis. I do believe there will be time before I return to Ostwick.”

“Wonderful! We shall see if Madame de Fer can join us; it will be a triumphant reunion for us all! Au revoir, mon petit pomme.” He walks away, fluttering at another group of men and women just out of ear shot.

The knight at her side clears his throat discretely, raises his glass to take a sip, and whispers from the corner of his mouth: "My little potato?”

She laughs. She cannot help it. It is undeniably him. No shouts, no tears, no accusations, but a lifted eyebrow and a joke for them to share.

“Yes, the Marquis finds it terribly quaint that I am a mage. It matters not that I am titled nor that I was the Inquisitor. He is determined to ‘introduce’ me around. I am grateful he finally left my side. He has been shadowing me most of today. But I think introducing me to you was the pinnacle of his fun for the evening. If he could find a way to ‘introduce’ me to The Divine, he would.”

“I see,” he smiles. It is the grin of a shared secret, a coy smirk that she came to know over the years: given so sparingly in Haven and in the early months, so dependable after Blackwall ceased. It is the charm of it after these years that captures her imagination, relaxes her judgement, and looses her tongue. She pushes on, relentless chatter for the moment:

"I can only imagine the paroxysms of delight he would find if he knew he had introduced me to my husband.”

His breath stops for half a moment and he stills. In his plate she shouldn’t be able to notice. But then she has spent countless hours in bed next to him listening for the hitch in his breath that spoke to his arousal, the break in breath that said a nightmare was coming, so she sees it.

“Dorothea." And nothing else: no more words, no pleas, no explanations, just her name.

She laughs mirthlessly, “Do you know, you are the only one who still calls me that?” She turns to look at him. His face registers surprise that she is meeting his eyes: "I miss the sound of my name.”

He looks at her and pulls the glove from his right hand. He lifts her hand with his own, gently rubbing his forefinger into the hallow of her palm, dips at the waist so that his eyes are directly in front of hers. He pulls her hand to his lips and presses into her fingers a kiss and her name, “Dorothea.”

She swallows.

Damn him.

“Ser Knight. I hope you enjoy your evening.”

Then she disentangles her fingers, nods her head, and turns away. As she walks along the balustrade, she sees the Left Hand and the Nightingale. The Hand starts to approach, calls out a smiling question, but Leliana does not watch her, instead focuses on the man Dorothea walks away from. The look on the Nightingale's face tells Dorothea everything she needs to know about what she would see if she turned around.

She doesn’t turn around.

This was never going to be a fairy tale.