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The Time of the Lion and the Wolf

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The night is almost upon them in earnest, and Felan is feeling an ache behind his eyes brought on by the stress of yet another meeting, and the ensuing arguments unlike- minded people are wont to have.  Felan had been mostly agreeable with his advisors suggestions, and deferred to their level-headed judgements thus far, but tonight, he’d put his foot down - and figurehead of whatever the Void he’d stumbled into or not - not all were completely happy with Felan’s final decision to collect the mages from Redcliffe and face this bloody magister.   And the decision was final.   He’s thankful Cassandra had been on his side to press the issue as more than just a glorified rescue mission, and Leliana, bless her, had sealed the deal.  Dorian’s confident assurances hadn't hurt, either.

Walking into the orange glow of the Singing Maiden, Felan shrugs off his hood and throws his cloak off his right shoulder as he quickly scans the tables.  Maryden’s soothing voice drifts over to him from where she plays dreamily on her lute, fireside. He’s about to approach the bar when a familiar, gruff voice calls over the tavern murmurs.

“Hey!  Snow!”

Felan turns to shoot a smile at Varric, and in turn, he’s nodded over to the comfortably-crowded table with the added bribe of a lifted bottle in the hand of Dorian - the contents of which Felan hopes is something to his liking.  He takes a seat opposite the two men, and Sera snickers joyfully beside him as they bump shoulders. Creators, she’s already piss-drunk, or nearly on the verge.

Dorian nudges the dark glass bottle his way and Felan gladly takes it, uncorking it and releasing the warm, pungent tones that set his spine tingling with anticipation.

“I hear you’ve a predilection for whisky.  Bottle’s on me, by the way… so drink up.  Maker knows we’re going to need it.”  Felan takes a large swig and all at once, he practically feels the nerves throughout his body breathe a collective sigh of relief.

Varric peers into his tankard, taking a near-imperceptible inhale before speaking to Felan.  “So, Dorian here tells me you’ll be heading back out to Redcliffe in just a couple days. You sure you’re ready for this?”

Setting the bottle down, Felan chuckles darkly.  “No… but I suppose I should be ready for anything now, mm?”  Felan arches an eyebrow at Sera, who snuggles her straw-yellow head onto his shoulder, apparently ready to doze.  Maybe that’s for the best, he thinks.

“Besides,”  Dorian starts, “I’ll be with him.  I just hope Alexius can be reasoned with… He’s gone entirely too far - further than I thought him capable.  Perhaps with the help of Felix, and your Spymaster’s men quashing some of the Venatori hold on the castle, we can pry Alexius from the grip of this zealous madness ‘The Elder One’ has him in.”

“Yes, well… let’s just hope he isn’t too far gone,”  Felan trusts something in Dorian’s sincerity - something he gathers is a rare occurrence to be witnessed -  and hopes his gut isn’t wrong about him being a formidable ally in this. “Thank you, by the way - for intervening and speaking your piece in the war room tonight.  I needed all the helpful convincing I could get. You made quite the entrance with remarkable timing.”

Felan didn’t miss the way Dorian’s fingers play at the well of his throat as he smirks; the firelight around the tavern gilding his handsome features.  Mythal, but he could be distracting.   “What can I say?  I like to be seen and heard.   Although, your man certainly was a hard sell.  Is the Commander always so tightly wound?”

“Who?  Curly?”  Varric laughs, shaking his head.  “Cullen’s seen some shit, let’s just put it that way.  Don’t take it personally, Herald. I think it’s just in his nature at this point.”  Felan can understand that to a point, but he doesn’t want to be treated as both a leader and something fragile.  He knew little of Cullen’s aversion to mages, being an ex-Templar.  The man would always go quiet, then change the subject or become purposefully vague when Felan would prod for more about his time at Kinloch Hold and Kirkwall both.

He feels a little sombre as Maryden begins singing words that hit a bit too close to home at the moment.  “Well, he doesn’t need to baby me. If everyone wants my help, they need to trust my choices, as well.  If not, I might as well be thrown back in a damn cell…”  Felan takes another burning swallow of whisky. It isn’t particularly good, but it still takes the edge off, and unfurls the tension in his muscles with a false warmth that floods his body.  “It’s not as if it’s their hands that are  marked, or their lives on the line when we don’t even know what the Void this all is yet!”

“Fucking stuck up suit of armour, him.”  Sera stirs, repositioning her head on Felan’s shoulder.  The three men still for a moment, waiting for more until it becomes clear Sera has her foot more so in the land of unconsciousness.

Varric sighs.  “That’s the thing, kid.  It’s all of our asses if something happens to you, no matter which way you slice it.  It’s a shitty hand to be dealt, but it’s the one you got, so make the most of it.  Bluff if you have to - just smile that wolfish grin of yours, nod and agree - then do what you need to.  You’ve been doin’ alright for yourself so far, Snow, and you’ve got a lotta people coming to stand by your side because of it.”

“It certainly sounded as if your Lady Seeker saw your stance before I came to your aid.”  For a split-second, Felan is about to nod in agreement with Dorian until his brain snaps-to, wondering how the Void Dorian would have known that... unless he’d been listening-

“Wait, what?”

“-What?” Dorian quickly lifts his cup to his mouth to hide his feigned innocence.

Varric deftly interrupts the beginnings of their nonsensical line of questioning.  “Cullen’ll ease up. Just keep proving you’re right and he’ll back off. He’s trying, I’ll give ‘im that.  And heeeere I thought you two were getting real chummy.  Hm.” Seemingly contemplating that, with a look Felan can’t quite decipher, Varric pulls a piece off the loaf of crusty bread in the middle of the table and shoves it in his mouth.

“We were!   ...Are.   I just… perhaps I’m overreacting, I don’t know, Varric.  It just felt like he was so quick to give up on the mages because it’s going to be dangerous,”   The word drips from Felan’s mouth with heavy sarcasm.  “As if nothing I’ve done has been dangerous since the fucking Conclave…”

“Ughhhh, shut ittttt, you bleak shits...!” Sera whines from her perch.  Varric pulls off another piece of bread, breaking it in two, then nails Sera right in the forehead, and Felan in the chest with the other half.

“Wh- Hey!  Why me?!”  In Felan’s shock, he jostles Sera a bit.

“Right, who the frig?!”  When Felan glances at his shoulder, Sera just tries to reposition herself with a deep scowl etched in her freckled features.  He doesn’t think she’s even bothered opening her eyes.

He glares up at a laughing Varric, who just shrugs half-heartedly.   “Varric,”   he names the culprit.  Sera then struggles onto one arm, lifting herself up, squinting across the table at the guilty party.

“Frigging go back to your stoney-whatever-it-is-guild... paperweight-cave whatevers.”

“Shaperate??”   Varric lets out a full belly laugh.  “We’ve been over this, Buttercup, I wasn’t born underground.”

She reaches for Felan’s bottle as he takes a sip.  “Ah-ah! I think you’ve had quite enough.” He stops her and receives a sharp shove for it.

“Oh, piss off, you…”   Felan gets one last sneer from Sera, then they watch as she lays down along the bench next to him, mumbling more slurred words under her breath.   “Talk about…. Babying… you….”

“Sh, shhhh… there’s a good girl, sleep…. Let the adults do the talking, there you go.”   Dorian shushes her until something catches his eye somewhere behind Felan.  “Uh-oh.”

When Felan turns, he sees a runner close the tavern door behind him, then peers about the place - clearly searching for Felan.  Felan quickly turns back around, pinching the bridge of his nose. Lovely. Wonderful.

“Well, kid, think that’s your cue, unfortunately.  Never a dull moment, huh?” Varric takes another drink from his tankard as he and Dorian seem to watch the runner’s movements behind Felan.

“Has he seen me?” Felan asks, fingernail picking at the worn edge of the whisky bottle’s label.  Right - as if he didn’t stick out like a sore thumb around here with his pointed ears and white hair.

“I don’t think - yes.”   Dorian frowns.  “Quick, hide under the table - preferably on my side.”   He winks.  And Felan feels a little piece of his resolve crumble with the blush that heats his cheeks better than the whisky.

The runner approaches the side of their table, a look of confusion and momentary distraction clouding his face when he sees Sera passed out next to Felan.  Felan just looks up at him with a genial smile, impatiently dreading whatever words are about to come out of this young man’s mouth.

“Ser,”   He gives Felan a curt little bow before continuing.  “The Commander would like to speak with you.” Out of the corner of his eye, Felan can see Varric listening with rapt attention.

Felan asks, “When, now??”  But he already knows the answer.  Wishful thinking, and all that.

“He said right away if you weren’t busy, ser.”

“If I’m not busy…” Felan mutters.  “I’ll be there momentarily, thank you.”

Another little bow.  “Your Worship.” Felan rolls his eyes as the runner leaves them be.  Before he heads out of the Singing Maiden, he tells Varric and Dorian they’ll meet up in the morning to discuss his decisions on who the mission party will be for meeting Magister Alexius at Redcliffe Castle, and what the plan of action will be.  Glancing down at Sera one last time, he removes his cloak to drape it over her and bids his friends (at least he hopes Dorian soon proves to be one) a goodnight.

The air outside is a little more bitter, but somehow refreshing as well.  Felan resituates the scarf around his neck and begins his chilly, bracing walk to Cullen’s tent.  He watches the sky as he walks, and grimaces internally. At night, the Breach always seemed more eerie, more tangible.  At once thankful for the shem-boots on his feet, Felan trudges through the dirty, red-brown slush, reaching the soldiers’ little lakeside encampment.  The glow of the Breach looms over the frozen water in all its viridescent wrongness, dark clouds roiling in the opaque reflection. It makes his stomach turn and his throat feel tight.

Felan walks up to Cullen’s tent, unsure of how to proceed.  The wintry air has cooled some of his temper, at least. Hm… shall he announce himself before he enters?  Cullen knew he’d be coming, so surely it didn’t matter. He brushes his hair back and tries to look around inconspicuously.  Unfortunately, he quickly realises there are still a few soldiers and runners loitering about here and there - some watching him with withering glances.  Felan decides to trade one awkward situation for another and lifts the tent flap.

“Commander?”  Felan walks in and sees Cullen hunched over a worn trunk- apparently a makeshift desk, judging by several papers strewn about the top and the small inkwell and quill set safely to the side.  Cullen glances up from whatever was causing the little furrow in his brow, and seems a touch caught off guard by Felan’s voice, going ramrod-straight when the tent flap drops behind Felan.

“Fela- Herald.”

Felan notices at once that Cullen is without his usual fur-mantle and cloak, somehow making him appear much more intimidating in his fully-exposed armour.  Felan crosses his arms tightly across his chest - suddenly feeling self-conscious of his rangy form. “I know I told you to call me by my name, not that… title when we’re alone.  Though I’m still working on that with Cassandra, as well...”

Cullen walks out from behind the large trunk towards Felan with a crooked grin firmly in place.  “And yet you addressed me as ‘Commander’ just now.” Damn.

He ignores that comment and inhales deeply before pressing on, keeping his voice as even as possible. “You needed something?”  Cullen continues to approach, stopping just a couple feet in front of Felan.

“Ah.  Well, no… yes,”  Cullen looks down at his feet, right hand going to rub the back of his neck.  “Actually, it is you that needs something.  An apology.”

Felan smiles, throwing his weight to one hip.  “Oh? Let’s hear it, then.” He already looks terribly ashamed, but oh, how Felan loved to make the man squirm.  It was almost as good as having Cullen blush furiously whenever Felan came onto him in minute little ways. Sighing, Cullen gets a bit nearer to Felan, and Felan curses himself for feeling the faint tinge of his own blush rise in his cheeks at their closeness.  

“I was… out of line, and I wasn’t feeling myself.  I may have uh, let my past judgements and experiences cloud the situation.  And for that I’m terribly sorry, and I know full well it's no excuse.”

Fucking bloody puppy-eyes, ruggedly handsome piece of - Felan scowls.  “Cullen, you became one of the few people here who treated me like a person, like something more than this bleeding mark on my hand!  But in there...” Felan points back behind him in the direction of the Chantry. “Tonight you made me feel like nothing but a means to an end.”  His chest begins to heave with an angry feeling of betrayal, and he doesn’t much care if anyone hears his raised voice.

“Maker, no! I-”

“I thought you trusted me!  ...I thought you finally fucking trusted me.”

Cullen turns on his heel and takes a few short, frustrated paces before he looks back at Felan.  “That’s just it! You are more!  And I do trust you!  This isn’t about my own damn hang-ups, Felan.  If something-” He quickly moves back into Felan’s personal space, and Felan clenches his fists at his sides, ready to defend his opinion and decisions again.  But Cullen’s voice loses its growl, and his expression softens as he looks directly into Felan’s eyes. “If something were to happen to you - to you, in going to take back the mages… I couldn’t forgive myself.  We don’t know what more this magister is capable of, and I fear for you.”

Felan knows his eyes have gone wide as a scared halla’s. “Cullen-”  But Cullen doesn’t let him speak, not yet.

“I’ve begun to fear for you everytime we send you out there…”  His voice goes so incredibly hushed; words almost laced with pain.  “I have nightmares where the dread becomes real, and you don’t come back.  Every other day it’s something so much worse that we set you up for.  And I worry my fears will be warranted in a few days time… that something will happen, and you won’t come back.  And if not this, than something else, I don’t know...   Maker’s breath… because you mean more than just that mark on your hand.”

To quote Varric:   Well, shit.  Felan’s mouth goes dry, and he desperately tries to think of something witty to say to cut through the heaviness blanketing the mood around them.  “I’ll come back. I always do. I’ve made out alright so far, haven’t I?” He tries to smile, but Felan knows it’s weak. “Cullen, I’m not going anywhere.   I'll come back… I promise. ”   He gently places a hand on the cold metal of Cullen’s arm, wishing he could feel the warmth of the man hidden beneath.

Without warning,  Cullen rushes him; hand moving around his waist, fingers splaying and palm pressing into the small of his back, pulling Felan against him.  All sense of self disappears when Felan registers what’s happening. Cullen’s mouth on his - Creators end him now if this isn’t real.   Their mouths move with a shared need that deepens infinitesimally with each passing second.  Cullen parts his lips at the first hint of Felan’s tongue, deepening the kiss all at once with a terrible sense of urgency.  Felan can’t ever remember being kissed with such naked desperation.

They shamble backwards with the force of the kiss - Felan nearly colliding with Cullen’s cot in the process, but Cullen steers them around it, and to where, Felan doesn’t know - nor does he much care.  With one hand, he slides his fingers along Cullen’s jaw - the dark stubble rasping and catching the leather of his glove - and up into pale golden waves.  He presses himself up against that damnable armour, while his other hand scrambles against the seam where Cullen’s gorget meets his breastplate, taking hold of one leather strap, and tugging.   Felan sways a little off balance, having to be on tip-toes to properly reach Cullen, and Cullen seems to take that as a chance to break them apart.  Felan catches himself before he can whine in frustration, but Cullen doesn’t go far - pressing their foreheads together, their pants turning into a volley of anxious breaths.

This has to be real, Felan thinks.  The feeling of Cullen’s hand cupping the side of his face certainly feels real, not to mention the heated tension in his gut.  He worries about breaking the moment wide open with one word, but Cullen does that for them both. “I’m sorry.  What am I doing?”   Cullen whispers so damn close to Felan’s mouth, that he just wants to kiss him stupid; save the reasoning for later.   Just stay close.  Please don’t leave me now.   Felan almost wants to laugh as he wonders if that’s what Cullen has been thinking all this time.

Felan wills himself to gather something that resembles composure.  He keeps his voice just as hushed as Cullen’s. “Well, Commander… you’re going to watch me walk out of here, then wait an unsuspicious amount of time before you come knocking at my cabin door.  To finish our mission discussion, of course.”  Felan holds his breath in anticipation for Cullen’s reaction.

And Cullen’s scarred smirk doesn’t disappoint.  “Are you ordering me?”

Reluctantly pulling himself away from Cullen, Felan walks the few feet to the tent entrance.  From there, he can fully appreciate the way the lantern light heightens the blush along Cullen’s cheeks and neck.  “I wouldn’t dream of it. No, the choice is yours, but I hope you don’t keep me waiting.” Felan turns to leave the tent, but glances back over his shoulder at Cullen, and he swears he sees that blush deepen.  “And Cullen? I’d lose the armour.”




Back at his hovel, Felan feels like laughing at himself, quite honestly.  What in the Void is wrong with him, seducing the Inquisition’s commander??   His commander.  Truth be told, it isn’t as if he hadn’t tried previously, but Felan figured it was all in vain; just something to entertain himself with, until the two had struck up an unlikely friendship.  Felan prided himself on weaseling through Cullen’s metaphorical armour, finding a man with a quiet, dry wit and a soft sadness Felan couldn’t help but feel a kinship to. Soon, it began to matter less about how attractive Felan found Cullen, and more about finding a collective bond with a soul that carried past and present burdens upon its shoulders.  Something in Cullen’s sorrowful, topaz eyes made Felan want to tell him everything; feeling as though secret hurts shared would only remain between the two of them. But Felan also had to remind himself, even now, that it didn’t mean Cullen would or could feel the same.

After lighting a couple sconces about the room, he busies himself with changing out of his warm leathers and into a loose doublet and woolen leggings, then adds more coals to the large iron brazier in the room.  What is he supposed to do now? Pace? He stands beside the brazier, absorbing the flames’ warmth and watches out the window across the room as dainty little snow flurries begin their slow, sporadic descent to the earth.   Pretty.   He’d not seen much snow travelling around the Free Marches all his life.  And he definitely wasn’t accustomed to the freezing temperatures, by any means.  Felan moves to stand at the window, hypnotised by the downward float of each tiny flake, some catching on dry, red-orange leaves yet to fall away from their homes amongst the barren branches of a nearby tree.

Felan is pulled from his reverie by two gentle knocks at his door.  Instantly, it feels as if fingers wrap tight around his quickly beating heart.  He begs his legs to bring him towards the small front room, and for the briefest second, Felan thinks he might scream if it’s anyone other than Cullen on the other side of that door.  When he opens it, he’s greeted with a dark, yet hesitant look from a very flushed Cullen. The man shirks eye contact when Felan gestures for him to enter. It’s odd - seeing him like this - even out of his armour, Cullen is a towering presence to Felan, but as he removes his signature lion’s mane-like cloak, his entire being softens and his posture relaxes.  

“Here,” Felan walks them into the main room and motions to a chest not far from the brazier.  “You can lay it out to warm, if you’d like.”

“Ah… Right, thank you.”

There’s no mistaking that Cullen is still all hard edges beneath his threadbare tunic - the colour of which reminds Felan of the spongy moss he used to collect and use for bedding.  He chastises himself for the comparison at a time like this. He felt like an awkward, bloody teenager. When Cullen turns back to him, Felan inches closer, moving a hand along his right side, feeling Cullen’s muscles twitch and tense as he drags his fingernails across the fabric to the plane of his back.

Felan looks up at him, using his sly smile for his own selfish wants.  “You came.” He almost rolls his eyes when Cullen raises his hand to nervously rub at the nape of his neck again.  

“I didn’t want to disappoint.  And I… um, wouldn’t want to miss the end of our important discussion.”   A faint smile as he looks into Felan’s eyes.  He drops his hand from his neck in favour of running those fingers along the close-crop of hair at the side of Felan’s head, then up along the narrowing point of his ear - slowly, so hesitantly.   Mythal preserve him…

Clearing his throat, Felan starts, “He has a sense of humour,”  He tightens his hold in the fabric at Cullen’s back, directing him closer until their bodies finally, finally touch.  “I sometimes forget.”  This time, Cullen smiles in earnest at that, and the enticing darkness in his eyes returns and takes over.  Felan had known a darkness like that once, dangerous and familiar - a shadow to blanket himself in; dark lust turned to love-corrupted.  He pushes away those memories. Not now.   Cullen is different.   Cullen is safe.

“Then I suppose I’ll have to make an impression more memorable.”

Chapter Text

 

 

Before Felan can dither, Cullen is on him again with a heated, lingering kiss; hand clutching the back of his head as his feet carry them back towards the bed.  Thick, calloused fingers work at a hurried pace untying the laces holding Felan’s doublet closed. Felan quickly removes it the rest of the way himself, not wanting to move from Cullen.  He presses his tongue into Cullen’s mouth like he means to devour the man - and perhaps he does.   Their legs knock the low bed frame, and Cullen lets out a short, low sound in his throat that seduces Felan’s senses all that more keenly.  He’d never thought he would be the one to bear witness to his commander’s unravelling. And oh, Creators, how powerful that does make him feel.  Fuck being the “Herald of Andraste.” This is something Felan could quite possibly lay a claim on; something of his own in all of this strange madness.

Felan takes hold of Cullen’s sides, fingers creeping the fabric of his tunic upwards, only to rake the dull edge of his nails back down along the smooth ripple of muscle there.  Cullen all but growls and pushes himself away, breaking their kiss. Waiting for an objection to their activities (that Felan decides wouldn’t be quite so unexpected), Felan is pleasantly surprised when Cullen reaches behind his head to pull off his tunic completely.  As Cullen toes off his heavy black boots, Felan takes the time to appreciate the view: Cullen is a bit leaner around the middle than Felan would have - alright, had - imagined, with white and pinkish scars marring his pale flesh in random slashes around his torso and arms.  Felan wants to stretch a hand out to touch, just as Cullen pulls the blankets down his mattress and sits at the edge of the bed.

“Come here.”  Cullen’s voice is so gentle it somehow hurts Felan inside .   Hands reach out for his, and Felan lets himself be pulled in towards Cullen’s fond gaze and the thighs that move apart to make way for him.  One hand moves up Felan’s wrist - delicate touches across his pulse point - and up, and up his arm to brush a finger along the thin trail of vallaslin that leads up to his shoulder.  Felan feels his body act of its own accord; veins and lungs pumping blood and air like bellows stoking a fire inside him he thought had long since died out with a final farewell to the one with the emerald eyes.  His hands fall to rest on either side of Cullen’s neck and he loses himself in that worshipful stare. In worship of him, not some Chosen hero.

“How in the world are you so perfect?”  

A blush blooms in Felan’s face, and he tries and fails to hold Cullen’s gaze.   Flatterer.   Cullen’s hands grip his hips firmly then move to the laces of his leggings.  There’s an unspoken question in his expression.

“Besides saving all of your asses, are you putting flattery to use because there’s something you want?”  Felan quirks an eyebrow down at Cullen, who’s now got the laces of his leggings completely undone. The fingers of one hand slip just beneath Felan’s waistband and Cullen’s palm hovers hesitantly over the shape of his erection.

Cullen croaks out a, “Yes” and his hand presses against him.   And oh, Creators, it’s nothing and everything all at once to have this man just simply touching him. “You,”   Cullen asserts.  He moves forwards to pepper kisses below Felan’s navel, eyes fluttering closed, and Felan cards his fingers through blond waves encouragingly.  

“You want me, Cullen?”  Felan breathes.

Cullen just nods from where he nibbles and licks at a now-exposed hipbone, then presses the word, “Entirely.” against Felan’s skin.  They sigh in unison as Cullen slides Felan’s leggings downward, well below his hps, and Cullen immediately takes Felan’s cock in hand, stroking him to full-hardness.  Felan’s stomach clenches and unclenches, and he keeps having to remind himself that this is in fact, real; quieting down his conscience that wants to scold and question him on whether or not this is a good idea.   That can wait.  They can pick apart the practicality of the string of choices that got them to this point later.  

Open-mouthed kisses work their way across Felan’s lower stomach, then Cullen moves to the underside of his cock.  Once Cullen’s lips wrap around the tip, Felan can’t help the involuntary little jolt of his hips at the feeling of Cullen’s mouth on his heated flesh.  Cullen’s tongue massages with alternating pressure, as he takes in more of Felan, only to pull back slightly, then forward again. Every action is slow, so aggravatingly slow, and tentative that it’s setting every nerve of Felan’s raw.  The saliva-wet hold on his dick that meets the too-good-sluggish movement of Cullen’s mouth on him causes Felan to cry out - eyes clenching shut.

“Fenedhis, Cullen!  Are you trying to kill me?”  Felan’s fingers tighten a bit in Cullen’s hair, and Cullen chuckles at his reaction.  The resulting vibration around his cock - Well.   Using the lightest touch of his knee, Felan finds the large bulge between Cullen’s legs and nudges gently up and down, over and over until Cullen is angling and lifting his hips to meet the friction.  He lets out short groans as his head bobs a little faster. Felan’s breathing quickens to panting and he tugs the back of Cullen’s hair when he swallows around him twice - sure he’ll lose it soon.

“Mm...fuck!  Cullen, wait… wait…”  Cullen pulls off slow - because of course he does - and scoots himself back a little ways further on the bed to help divest Felan of his leggings the rest of the way.  In one swift movement, Cullen stands and grips Felan’s ass, hoisting him up into his arms, then deposits him roughly on the bed.  With the resulting creaks of the bedframe, Felan laughs up at Cullen. “You know, I’m not going to be the one responsible for telling Leliana you broke my bed.”

Cullen smiles, leaning over him, then gives him a quick kiss before moving back to the edge of the bed.  “Well then, we’ll just have to set you up a tent near mine to sleep in.”

“To sleep!   How forthright of you, Commander… and salacious.”  

With a completely serious face, Cullen scoffs and peers over his shoulder at Felan as he undoes his breeches.  “Mind in the gutter. More convenient for late night mission discussions, of course.”  Now completely undressed, Cullen climbs back over Felan and draws the covers over their lower halves.

Felan laughs loudly, at this point not giving two shits if some passerby should hear and wonder.  “Yes, of course. And what’s this,” Felan plucks at the blanket over Cullen’s lower back. “Bashful now, are we?”

“I, well… no, I just-”

Pulling him down, Felan kisses Cullen hard then whispers against his mouth, “Shutup.”   Cullen kisses him back even deeper, and Felan drinks him in with the moment.  He settles in between Felan’s legs, giving Felan a long roll of his hips that makes a gasp catch in his throat.  Hard, heated skin-against-skin leaves them both reeling - Felan’s senses narrowing down only to sounds of Cullen’s breathy moans against his ear and the feeling of their cocks brushing with each tight roll of their hips.   More, please, more, Felan silently pleads.

As if reading Felan’s mind through his quiet, needy grunts, Cullen pulls himself up onto an elbow just enough to snake his other hand between their bodies to grip them both.  Felan claws at Cullen’s back, his own arching off the bed, pushing his cock deeper into Cullen’s fist. He wants Cullen to fuck him, oh-so-desperately, but it’s been so damn long since he’d last been bedded, that he wouldn’t last long anyway.  Almost just as desperately, Felan hopes for a next time.  Placing his own hand opposite Cullen’s, he relishes in the feel of the other man’s cock sliding against his within their fists, their precome creating just enough of a slickness to heighten everything.

Cullen nips hard at the curve of Felan’s jaw, trailing more down the side of his neck, following each little bite with a soft, apologetic kiss.  He slackens his grip around their cocks, the friction becoming all that much sweeter.

“Fu- Fuuuck… Harder.”   Felan really, really wishes they were fucking.  And he curses himself for it. Cullen’s mouth meets his again, swallowing Felan’s whining moans as their tongues dance slow against one another.  With the quickening undulation of Cullen’s hips, Felan meets his movements and feels himself reaching the edge.

Their bodies rock against each other in tandem with their rapid-fire breathing.  Felan doesn’t hold back his noisiness as he reaches his impending release. Cullen huffs out a laugh and moves the arm propping himself up so that he can cup the side of Felan’s face, brushing a thumb along his cheekbone.  “You’re loud.” he says quietly.

“You should try it some time, away from the training grounds.”  Felan positions his hand between them so that he can run his thumb across the slit of Cullen’s cock, using dripping precome there to rub circles into the sensitive bundle of nerves below the head as Cullen jerks them off faster now.

When a strangled moan finally leaves Cullen’s throat, and his brows pinch together as he looks down at him, Felan feels victorious.

“Felan…”

“...Do it.”

Cullen practically collapses onto Felan as he comes in hot spurts - ribboning Felan’s stomach.  His loud groans are muffled into the pillow next to Felan’s head, but Felan more than appreciates the reverberation of it against his chest, and the way Cullen’s body curls into his. Despite this, Cullen’s hand never falters, and Felan cries out against Cullen’s neck as his own orgasm overtakes him.  His hips give a last couple lazy thrusts into their hands, and he brushes his nose along Cullen’s jaw in between wet kisses, tasting his salted sweat. Cullen turns his head finally and kisses Felan passionately with low whimpers of contentment.

It takes all of their menial reserves of combined energy to clean themselves up with a rag at Felan’s wash basin.  The water is cold, but Cullen’s body is warm as he rejoins Felan under the blankets. Their legs tangle and Cullen conforms himself to Felan’s side while his middle finger dances imaginary patterns across his sternum.  

Felan swallows, taking in a gulping breath of air.  “So, about that brilliant tent idea you had…”

Cullen smiles crookedly, and it warms Felan to the core.  “That would make it achingly harder to part from you, I’d imagine.”

“So don’t.”  Felan hates the sincerity in his own voice as he hears himself speak those words.

Sighing, Cullen runs his hand up Felan’s chest and neck to cradle his jaw.  “I wish I didn’t have to go tonight, but you know I must. We cannot rouse any suspicions.  I’d like to keep this quiet for a little while… If it’s um… alright with you.” Felan hates the tug he feels in his heart.

“No, I understand.  I did not mean to involve you in something so foolish-”

Rising up in bed, Cullen leans over Felan; a broken look in those tired lion-eyes.  “Felan, I want to stay, but I don’t think it wise tonight.  There are things we need to discuss, yes… But I… I’d like to hang on to… this.”  

“We have time.”  Felan’s fingers curl around Cullen’s wrist.

“We do,”  His lips are soft against Felan’s tattooed forehead, and then Cullen chuckles.  “Maker, what spell have you put me under?”

“Hah!  You know I’m no mage.”

“No, something infinitely more cunning and dangerous, it seems…”

Felan’s lips curl into a smirk beneath Cullen’s as the man rolls back on top of him.   They have time.   Time to figure out what to do next, what this all means - for their friendship, and for the Inquisition.

Cullen stays a little bit longer.



******

 

The funny thing about time, especially when it’s bloody twisted up and wrong, and has thrown you forward into some hellish future, is that it gives you a chance to think.  A chance to think about all those small things you’d rather keep hidden in darker corners. But they scratch and scratch their way to the surface at the worst of times, don’t they?

As Felan watches on in surreal horror - watches as his friends’ lifeless bodies are thrown by the wayside with that glow of sickly red; as Leliana fights with death breathing down on her back and a chant on her lips to buy them more time - he hears one simple thought cut through demon screams and Dorian’s desperate pleading to not move - Please let this bring me back to him.

He has to come back to Cullen.  He always came back.

We have time.

 

******

 

Dark, dark, all encompassing dark.   Nothing but ache radiating throughout the Anchor, down his arm, his right side.  And fuck, he’s sure his ribs are broken.  A lancing, sharp pain grabs hold of his chest with each intake of icy cold air.

He didn’t know cold could feel like death.

Walk and walk and walk.   The snow feels like quicksand pulling him under.  His body feels like so much lead. Felan wonders how much longer he’ll be able to feel at all.   The mountain wind whips at his eyes, and he isn’t sure there are tears freezing on his cheeks because of it or if he’d started crying again.

But, oh the wolves keep him company.

He won’t let delirium take over.   Find them.  Just fucking walk and you’ll find them.  

Now the wolves are howling again.  It seems so close, the sound. Distorting into some strange cacophony that sounds like his name.  He laughs at that - at least he thinks he does - Death take your little wolf.

No.   He can’t give in.  His eyes fall shut as his knees buckle.  And all Felan can picture is that hopeful red-orange flare of a flaming arrow streaking into the night sky.   At least they're safe.  He’s safe.

He can hear them.

Cullen’s voice.  Cullen’s terrified face when he opens his eyes again.  Did death have a sick sense of humour? A wet crackle in his lung when Felan gasps into strong arms.

Dark.

 

******

 

Cullen grimaces at the dead weight in his arms and briefly bows his head to Felan’s as he rounds his way into their little makeshift encampment.  He ignores Cassandra’s voice rising over his shoulder, the sound of their boots kicking up snow.

“Make way!  Please! We’ve found him!”   She calls.  

He rushes Felan into the nearest infirmary tent and lays him out on a cot.  Questions of his well-being are thankfully answered by Cassandra’s anxious timbre.  Cullen doesn’t admit to himself just how bad Felan looks.

Dorian fighting to be at Cullen’s side.  “Just- Ugh! Just get out of my fucking way!”  He’d never recalled the mage looking quite so shaken before.  A strong grip on his shoulder - Cullen snaps out of his shock and turns to see Dorian speaking to him in rushed tones.  “-have to get his armour off, he’s bloody soaked through. Do you know if he’s injured?? Or how badly?”

Cullen feels his mind swirl in a thousand different directions.  “I…”

“Commander!”

Cassandra answers Dorian for him.  “His breathing.   Listen to it!”  She is right. Felan’s breaths come in mingling, weak wheezes that rattle in his chest.  Dorian and Cullen make quick, but careful work of removing Felan’s leather coat, and then piece by piece, he is stripped of his cold, wet armour.  Cullen feels pin-pricks of fear and anger take hold when he sees Felan’s bare, supine form laying helpless before them. The right side of his ribcage is rife with the beginnings of mottled, reddish-purple bruising that would probably look much worse if it weren’t for the intense cold Felan had been subjected to for so long.  They bury Felan in as many blankets and furs that can be made available. It isn’t much.

More voices echo around the tent.  Someone calling for a stronger healer.  Someone - Cassandra again, asking where Solas is.  Dorian yelling back, no, he is with the dying.   An old woman next to him Cullen doesn’t recall the name of, working at Felan’s left arm and broken ribs with glowing hands hovering.

Maker, this is a nightmare.   Felan’s face is so pale.  A dew of melted frost gathers around his brow and forehead, in his hair.  Bluish lips parted for barely-there breath. No… He’s not breathing.   Cullen grips Felan’s wrist so tight it might break, feeling for the faintest hint of anything - of life.   The healer’s wrinkled face draws down in sorrow as her fingers scramble for that tell-tale beat tucked safe beneath the strong angle of Felan’s jaw.  But, no...

Nothing.

“Damnit!  I’m getting Solas!!”  Cassandra marches out of the tent, and Cullen watches her go.  Watches Leliana quietly usher a crying Josephine out along with a few others.  He barely registers Dorian’s voice at his ear again.

“I can save him, now!  But you have to give me space.  And you can’t intervene.”

The old woman nods and moves away from Felan’s side, her thick Orlesian accent shaky and sad.  “You are a healer, Lord Pavus??”

“Not exactly.”

Cullen takes over the healer’s vacated spot at Felan’s left and kneels beside him.  He reaches over his still form to clutch Dorian’s shoulder. He tries to keep his voice even.  “You can do this? You can save him?”

Fear and confidence warring in Dorian’s stormy eyes.  “I can bring him back,” He shrugs, moving his hands over Felan’s heart and head.  “If I pass out after, just toss me somewhere warm and comfortable, will you?”

Squinting in confusion at Dorian, Cullen stammers, “Wha- wait-”  

Cullen holds his breath as a tingle of magic surrounds them - a magic Cullen feels so acutely unfamiliar with, it makes his hair stand on end.  Purple light emanates from Dorian’s hands, and soon little wisps of that odd light blanket over Felan from head to toe. Dorian’s hands tremor, and with his head bowed over Felan, Cullen can just barely hear the man whispering, “Come back.  It’s not time yet.  Not yet. Step back through, Felan.  ... please.

The violet-white orbs grow brighter, almost blinding, along Felan’s body.  The ache of hope in Cullen’s chest is incomparable to anything he’s ever experienced.  His worse days of withdrawal thus far don’t even hold a candle to this awful, awful feeling.

Just as Cassandra storms back into the tent with Solas in tow, Felan takes a breath as if he’s surfacing from the deepest waters.

“Oh, Andraste have mercy!”  The healer yells out, hands clapping together.  “The Herald lives!”

The purple light dissipates all at once, and Dorian falls back on his haunches, looking the very picture of exhaustion.  Cullen can’t help but laugh - joy replacing his worry. Felan doesn’t open his eyes, but there’s a warmth that radiates from him now that is so alive.   His breathing steadies, though it is not quite normal yet.  There is still a struggle there beneath the skin and bone.

Solas’s voice cuts through everything, angry and accusatory.  “What have you done?!”

Dorian wears a sneer as he stumbles to standing.  “I fucking saved him, is what I did!”

The two men face off like rabid animals.  “You’ve tainted him with your unnatural dark magic!!  You set his soul up for the possibility of demon corruption!”

“Oh, I’ve done no such thing!  He lives, does he not?  Isn’t that all that should matter?  It was not a risk I was willing to take, waiting for you.  Now do your blighted job and heal his-  Oh dear...” Dorian does in fact pass out, and despite Solas’s clear aggravation with him, he catches him before Dorian can fall in a heap on the ground.  Cullen doesn’t want to leave Felan’s side now, but he does have Dorian to thank for bringing him back from the brink of death, after all. He stands and walks over to Solas, slinging one of Dorian’s arms around his neck to drag him to another nearby cot.  

“Will he be alright?” Cassandra asks, glancing over at Dorian and Cullen.

“He has irresponsibly depleted his mana.  But yes, he will be fine, after a rest and perhaps a potion of lyrium… if we have them to spare,”  Solas moves to Felan’s bedside, shaking his head as he looks down at him. From Cullen’s new position, one could easily mistaken Felan for being in nothing more than a peaceful, deep sleep.  Solas turns back to Cassandra. “Tell me, Seeker, where was he wounded?”



After Solas had finished mending Felan’s battered body, everyone was told to leave the Herald be, by both the kindly old crone and Solas.  Cullen tells himself to remember to ask after the healer’s name later and thank her for all she’d done for everyone. Mother Giselle has begun checking in on Felan periodically, but other than that, no one else is permitted into the tent until Felan wakes on his own.

Cullen feels tiredness seep into every pore as he makes his way around the small camp, checking in on what’s left of his men, Felan’s followers, and others who’d simply called Haven their home for so long.  He was tired from bickering with Leliana, Josie, and Cassandra over everything and anything. Tired of the guilt that hung heavier and heavier on his shoulders once the number of named casualties grew in black, ominous script on a scroll.  Tired from the shock of an entire day gone by that held many triumphs and horrors alike.

He sighs and trails his sight around to make sure everyone nearby is preoccupied, then swiftly ducks into Felan’s tent.  Cullen can’t help but feel as though things could still be touch and go; that knot of dread still filling his gut as he eyes Felan.  He slumps down against the small chest at the foot of Felan’s cot, hoping to maybe rest his eyes, listening to the quiet, even rise and fall of Felan’s chest.

The beating of Cullen’s heart suddenly roars in his ears when he hears a rustling movement behind him.  He turns to see Felan stirring - his eyes fluttering slowly open, searching his surroundings. Cullen barely scrambles to his feet, armour clanking noisily in the process, before he’s once again kneeling at Felan’s side.  Felan smiles over at him, and Maker those icy blue eyes hold a warmth Cullen never thought he’d see again.

“It really is you.”  Felan says groggily, and snakes a hand from beneath the weight of his furs to hold the side of Cullen’s face.  Cullen is hit with a wave of emotion that he doesn’t mind showing in this moment.  It’s only them.   He tries to sniffle away tears that just refuse to stay put at the corners of his smiling eyes.  Felan brushes them away with a knuckle, shushing him, “No… no, Cullen, don’t…”

The empathetic look in Felan’s eyes nearly breaks Cullen, and he rips off his gloves to feel the hand against his face.   Warm.  Alive. He leans down to press a rough kiss to Felan’s lips, tasting his own tears as they fall.

“You came back.”

 

******

 

The shifting lantern light casts the portrait of the two men in a glow that shines with so much hope.  Something so terribly human… though, one is a Dalish elf.  Does it truly matter?

Cullen is leaning over the Herald, clutching his left hand in both of his as he kisses Felan’s eyelids, the bridge of his nose, the curving vallaslin on his forehead.  Each motion slow, and meaningful. The Commander’s voice is stretched thin with tears and he murmurs something close to Felan’s mouth.

Words of love, perhaps?  

Leliana knows the feeling all too well, and her mouth tilts up in a knowing smirk as she curls the partially lifted tent flap back down with skilled silence.

She knows what it is like to love a Hero.  And what it is like to fear for them.

Cassandra trudges up to her, nodding in greeting, then sidesteps to move passed her towards the healer’s tent.  Leliana gently grabs her arm, stopping her.

“Come, Cassandra.”

“I was just going to check on-”

“He is awake.”

Cassandra’s face goes from shock, to excitement in seconds, but Leliana stops her again with another gentle tug on her arm.

“Leliana, we must see if he needs anything - tell the healer, and Mother Giselle, at once!  Maker, don’t just stand there!”

“Cullen is with him.  He’s fine, Cassandra,”  she assures.

Cassandra gives her a confused scowl and shrugs Leliana’s hand free from her bicep.   “Cullen?  Ugh. He was told no one was to disturb the Herald!”

Smiling, Leliana asks, “And yet you were on your way to do so, were you not?”

“I wasn’t going to- I was,” Her scowl intensifies just then.  “I was just going to look.   That is all.”

“And I have.   As I said, they are fine.  Cullen is watching over Lavellan now.  He is safe with him. Let us give them some time.  Come.” The look Leliana gives Cassandra brooks no argument, and the Seeker follows her away to find Josie and tell her of the news.   Quietly.  

Give them time.