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Memory Remains

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The headphones cover his ears, enveloping him in hush. Samson’s heart is still hammering in his chest; he’s still keyed up from waiting to hear heavy footfalls on the stair outside his room. This will fix it though — this takes everything away. His fingers shake as he lifts the stylus from the cradle, but he’s slow and careful as he lays the needle against the grooves of the vinyl.  A faint hiss, then a strong riff and drumroll thunders through the speakers -- drama, tension in that moment, and he smiles. The lead guitar wails; the beats seem to roll through his head. The solo arcs and reaches, and Samson inhales, relaxing. A pause in the music, then the next track begins. The introduction is shorter, the beat more driving, and then a rough voice sings, I was born in a scene of angriness and greed -- dominance and persecution.  My mother was a queen, my dad I’ve never seen -- I was never meant to be.

 

    He closes his eyes.  It’s like it was written for him, this song — like whoever wrote it knew something about him.  The anger rises within his chest and his hands tighten against his thighs. But it’s different this time, more manageable, more distant.  His parents are gone. School is gone. This shitty house out on the edge of one of Honnleath’s nicer suburbs is gone. Instead, there is a guitar in his hands, the lights on the stage blinding him as he plays the instrument, each note perfect.  The crowd in his head howl their approval, he grins, mouthing the words which the recorded voice sings: Now I spend my time looking all around… for a man that’s nowhere to be found…  Samson shifts his posture slightly, leaning forward now, in his imagination the rough surface of the microphone slides against his top lip, sweat sliding down his temple.  His lips move silently around the lyrics — lyrics which aren’t half as good as the ones he writes, but that’s not the point, Broodmother are a huge band, not as huge as they’ll be, his band, one day, one day…

 

    A moment of shock — the needle skitters over the surface of the record, and Samson’s eyes fly open.  The headphones are torn from his ears and before he realises properly what’s going on, he’s being jerked backwards by a strong hand.  “You little punk,” his father growls, “You don’t talk to me like that.”

    “...Dad… Dad, I can’t… you’re choking me, you..!”

    His feet scrabble against the thin carpet, trying for purchase, both hands at his throat.  Samson can feel the cotton of his school shirt beginning to tear and fights harder against his father’s grip.  Dimly, he can hear his mother crying, saying something, yelling his father’s name in a voice which sounds almost hysterical.  Then he’s thrown unceremoniously onto the floor.

 

    His father stands over him, fists clenched, looking like some avenging god.  His face is red, his dark hair fallen over his forehead, grey eyes blazing. Samson struggles up, pushing his weight up onto his elbows, waiting.  “You shit,” his father finally slurs, “You think you can talk to me that way? You show me some respect, boy, or I’ll…”

    “You’ll what?” The words are out of Samson’s mouth before he knows what he’s about to say.  “I’ll show you respect when you deserve it, you fuckin’...”

    “No, no, please!” he hears his mother sob; his father’s expression changes in that instant.  For one shining, brief, terrifying second, Samson feels as if he understands his father completely; the hopelessness, the betrayal.  And then everything slows down.

 

    Hauled to his feet; blinding, strange pain in the back of his head.  His father’s face; a final hoarse scream from his mother, just their shared name: “Raleigh!”

    No, mum , he tries to tell her; he opens his mouth for the words, and tastes blood.   No, mum.  That’s his name.  It’s not me. It’s not me.  

 

    It’s not me , he reminds himself, and then the world goes dark.

 

    He wakes, perhaps an hour later.  The house is silent. The faint white-blue of the bulb from the street light outside gutters and dies, plunging the world into renewed darkness.  Samson sighs softly, the pounding pain in his neck and head making him wince.

    He can’t remember how he got to bed — maybe his mother put him there.  Slowly, he turns to the clock on the shelf next to the narrow bed. 06:14 , the numerals burn shakily, and he turns away again.  Is his father up? There’s no noise from the rest of the house.  Maybe they’ve gone, in the night, all run off and left him here? The thought is, strangely, not as comforting as he wishes it to be.  Samson shifts, putting one hand against his head. When he pulls his fingers away from the lump on the back of it, he sees there’s no blood.

    A rat scuttles in the wall of the house, and Samson closes his eyes.  

 

    He must go back to sleep, but too soon, something heavy is landing on his legs, and he’s awake again, the pain in his head more bruised-feeling than before.  “Get up, fuckface,” his elder brother says, “Bus’ll be here in ten.”

    “Fuck off,” Samson says, kicking at the heavy thing on his legs and rolling over, “I’m not going.”

    “Whatever,” his brother tells him, and leaves the room. Samson sighs, annoyed, then throws the covers back and gets out of bed. Quickly, he locates his school shirt -- folded neatly on his desk, though the collar is still torn -- and throws it on over his bare chest. The sight of the neatly folded clothes makes him grimace; so it was his mother who had put him to bed. He pulls on his pants and finds socks, takes up his shoes and the bag that his brother had tossed onto the bed, and darts out of the room as he hears the sound of the bus’ motor in the street below. Another day has begun.

Chapter Text

“...fucking stinks,” he mutters and Stannard looks at him in disgust.

“You’re an idiot,” she tells him, and gestures toward the stereo. Everybody’s got their dues in life to pay, sings the disembodied voice, and Samson shrugs.

“Just don’t like it, that’s all,” he tells her. “Sounds like… fuckin’ pop or something.”

“Maker’s Arse, why I ask your opinion on anything…” she rolls her eyes. “You’re still listening to that hippie shit, aren’t you, Lee?” She flops her hands around, then gives him the peace sign and laughs meanly.

 

Again, he shrugs. Stannard is a damn good guitarist, the best at Temple Collegiate, but she sucks as a human being. They’re in one of the little practice studios in the back of the music department. The room is hot in spite of the open windows. Through them come the sounds of other students milling around, and distantly, the smell of cigarette smoke. Dream on, dream on, dream on , echoes through the speakers, and Samson sighs. “Change the record, man.”

    “Yeah, man ,” Stannard laughs, still waving her hands around. She pulls her hair out of it’s ponytail and shakes it around her shoulders, grinning at Alrik, who grins back. He begins thumbing through the small collection of records they keep back here and selects a sleeve with four photographs on it, positioned in a square. Samson sees it and sneers as Alrik rises, turning to the record player.

“Aw, Maker… are you kidding? That’s not an improvement…”

“Lee, shut up,” Stannard challenges him, also rising. “You’re not the fucking boss of us.” Samson glares at Stannard, who opens her arms and shakes her head at Alrik. “After this track, okay?” She addresses Samson once more to ask, “Did you talk to that Cullen guy yet?”

“Yeah,” Samson tells her, trying not to let her get to him. This music really is garbage though — and they have the nerve to call it metal . It’s meant to sound tough, but to him, it just sounds like selling out. It’s not even hard rock, really. He shrugs, then tells Stannard, “He’s got decent taste. Might be alright. We’re gonna go see Traitor’s Daughter at the Ruin on Saturday.”

   

Stannard’s eyebrows raise a little, then she glares. “Yeah? So? Does he wanna play or what?”

“Dunno yet.”

“Maker’s Balls,” Alrik laughs, “He’s not worth shit. We should get Karras.”

“He sucks,” Samson and Stannard say in unison, then look at each other, confused by their agreement. Samson shrugs.

“You got a record deal we don’t know about?” he asks sneeringly, “Some agent from White Chant breathin’ down your neck? What’s the fuckin’ rush? ‘S only Thursday… he’s interested, I’ll bring him to practice after you lot get back from your service or whatever.”

“Lee, you can’t bunk out of Chantry,” Stannard glares, “It’s fucking important.”

 

He snorts and rolls his eyes. “Sure it is. They really got you, don’t they? That’s not important — that’s just a building with a bunch of old gits telling me what to do. But look, I’ll make you a deal — when blessed Andraste sees fit to ride my cock, then I’ll sing her Chant.”

Dream on, dream on, the voice on the record sings, and Samson laughs at the look on Stannard’s face. Over the final bars of the music, they hear the bell ring, indicating class will begin in five minutes. None of them move as the song ends, each for a moment lost in the hiss of the needle moving over the vinyl. One day, that will be their record on the turntable — each of them know it.

Chapter Text

In the half-dark, he’s kind of… beautiful. Cullen’s enraptured, and it’s a good look on him. The blue light from the stage makes his skin pallid, his hair a strange, underwater green; Samson smiles slightly, shifts inside his boots, his hands coming out instinctively to push the sweaty back of the girl in front of him as she leans backward a little too far.

It wouldn’t be love… if it wasn’t a lie! screams the lead singer of Traitor’s Daughter, the music like a battering ram, furious, unrelenting — it recalls his attention to the stage. They’re amazing, these four tough-looking women. Samson grins when he glances at their drummer, Anora Mac Tir, sweat sticking her long blond hair to her forehead and neck. The Ruin is going off tonight, all for them, the crowd leaping up and down, pogoing and slam-dancing. Samson returns his gaze to Cullen, standing next to him in the crowd.

Something leaps inside Samson as he watches Cullen mouth the lyrics to the song, grinning, staring up at the women on stage. He smirks, then punches Cullen in the arm, hard. “Oi,” he yells into Cullen’s ear, leaning over as far as he can, careful not to touch their bodies together, “Gonna go up to the pit! C’mon!”

Samson doesn’t wait for an answer, just shoves forward, into the crowd at the front. At first, he meets resistance, but then manages to slide between two older guys and push past a tall woman. She just rides the motion, hardly pausing and Samson feels that same leaping in his chest. ...Waste, waste all my time! You wouldn’t be bleeding if it wasn’t your crime, or mine! The guitar shrieks briefly with feedback, and the lead singer pays it no mind, continuing to sing Hell hath no fury like me , over and over again, the lead guitarist and bass player yelling back-up into their own mics.

Then the song shifts, slowing for a moment, and Samson pauses, almost catching an elbow to the face as he stops moving to look up at the stage. The lead singer looks in his direction at the same time, and it seems strangely cursed as she sings the line You’re no good for me . She sings it twice; then she looks away from him toward the other side of the stage. He scowls, a weird feeling within him turning his feet to lead. Then a hand is on his shoulder and Cullen shouts, “Why’d you stop? You alright?”

“Yeah,” Samson shouts back, then turns around, back to the stage. Cullen looks at him strangely, and Samson takes him by the front of the t-shirt and pulls him forward. “Actually… I’m gonna go for a smoke. You wanna come?”

Cullen smells of shampoo and sweat. Samson releases him quickly and Cullen moves back a little, still with that strange stare on his face. His mouth opens, then a huge guy pushes into his back, sending him toppling into Samson. The crowd is tight — there’s nowhere really for them to go — but Samson stumbles, his sudden armful of Cullen’s weight both mortifying and weirdly wonderful. “Fuckin’ fags,” the man yells, pushing forward again without looking at them, “Fuck off!”

“Fuck you, you fucking tit,” Samson snarls back, pushing Cullen off and to one side. He clenches both fists and raises them. “C’mon then.”

“Lee,” Cullen yells, then shoots the man a glance, and reaches out a hand toward Samson’s sleeve. “Let’s go.”

“Nah,” Samson tells him, still staring at the man in front of him. He’s big, and a lot older, but his beer-gut looks soft, and Samson thinks he’d be easy to beat in spite of his size. The man frowns down at him, then grins and clenches his own fists. The crowd seem suddenly to be aware of what’s going on; a circle forms, and over his concentration, Samson hears amplified female laughter and someone says, “Come on, boys. Put your dicks away and let’s party…”

The crowd roars at this statement, surging forward. There’s a moment of confusion; the big man is himself shoved in the back, the crowd which had left room for them, anticipating the fight, loses the shape it had been holding. It’s enough time for Cullen to grab hold of the sleeve of Samson’s t-shirt — enough time for Samson to look at him. The expression on his face is clear: let’s get out of here . There’s a last moment of internal struggle for Samson, as he fights the urge to shake his head. He’s never run from a fight, he’s never been one to let that kind of insult stand… but Cullen’s eyes hold something… more. So he swallows his pride and doesn’t look back, following as Cullen shoves his way through the crowd once more, toward the shining green exit sign.

 

Outside the Ruin, the air is crisp and cold. There’s a little knot of smokers huddled together against the chill, and Samson shoves his hands into the pockets of his jeans.

Cullen looks left and right down the alley into which they’ve exited, then glances over his shoulder at Samson. “Sorry,” he mutters, “I just… he was a lot bigger than you.”

“Yeah, well. I coulda taken him. I’m not a pussy, you know.”

Cullen laughs a little, then quickly smothers it. Samson scowls, takes a pace forward to stand next to Cullen. “What?” he asks belligerently, “I’m not.”

“Yeah. I guess…” Cullen says noncommittally, and Samson makes a face.

“What the fuck, Rutherford,” he sneers, “Look, do you wanna play bass with us or not?”

Cullen shrugs. “I don’t know,” he mutters, “I’m not really a bass player.”

Samson makes a small tsk sound and shakes his head. Cullen sighs, a gust of white steam, then cups his arms around his elbows. “Can we walk? It’s freezing out here.”

 

They turn, the crunch of their feet on the gravel audible above the faint sound of the music inside. Walking in silence away from the Ruin makes Samson feel awkward. He’d thought that Rutherford maybe… Doesn’t matter , he tells himself scornfully, That stupid fuckface Karras’ll have to do. At least fuckin’ Meredith can boss him into submission .

The thought makes him vaguely ill. Karras really is a complete arsehole, and it means that he’ll probably lose his place in the gig as well. Not that that is so awful… but… then he won’t have a band at all. Is a band you hate better than nothing? Yes , comes the answer, so swift and emphatic that he smiles. Cullen huffs a breath beside him and asks softly, “Copper for them?”

“Huh?” Samson turns slightly, startled, and Cullen smiles slightly.

“Copper for your thoughts,” he repeats, and Samson shrugs.

“Nothin’, really. Just thinkin’ about the band.”

Cullen nods. They continue walking, then he says, “I thought you wanted a cigarette.”

“Uh… oh. Oh yeah,” Samson mumbles, hands coming out of the pockets of his jeans for a moment then going back in again in an awkward gesture. “Don’t have any.”

Cullen laughs, looking at him again. “What? In the Ruin…”

“Yeah. Was gonna cadge one. Usually I nick my brothers’, but he’s clocked me…”

Again, Cullen chuckles and almost against his will, Samson smiles. “That funny, is it?”

“Yeah. A bit. You come off all badass… but you’re actually kind of nice. You don’t seem like you’d fit in with the rest of them… I mean, I like Meredith, I know her from civics class… not very well, but…” He smiles again at Samson, then raises his eyebrows. “You don’t like her?”

Samson shrugs again. After a moment of silence, he concedes, “She’s alright. She’s a great guitarist… but… Dunno, man, she’s all into this Chantry shit…”

 

He leaves the sentence hanging, then glances at Cullen, who is now watching his feet move over the pavement. “What?” Samson asks, then sighs. “You’re into that too.”

“Well… yeah. I am. I’m not, like… an altar boy or anything. But… I believe in the Maker. Don’t you?”

“Nah,” Samson says, and shakes his head. “I don’t think so. I mean, what’s he done for me lately, eh?”

Cullen laughs a little and hunches his shoulders. “I don’t think it’s about that.”

“Then what’s it about?” Samson smirks. “Anyway… whatever. How come you don’t wanna play bass?”

Cullen shrugs, then loosens his arms from around himself to run both hands through his hair. It’s short on the sides and back, but the top is kind of wavy; it catches the moonlight whitely. “It’s not that I don’t want to,” he begins, “It’s just that… I mean, I probably won’t be very good at it.”

“Don’t be an arse,” Samson tells him gruffly, “Stannard said you were good. She never says anyone’s any good, ever. So… I dunno, if that’s not a fuckin’ ringing endorsement, I dunno what is.”

“Really? She said that?”

Samson shrugs and nods, then looks around. They’ve come to a junction just before the bus interchange. “Yeah. She said it. Look, if you wanna come play sometime, that’d be cool, no matter what Stannard says.” He leaves the inference hanging — Because I say it’s okay . Samson clears his throat into the silence then says, “It’s no big deal.”

“It’s a big deal to me,” Cullen mutters. He looks pensive for a second, then glances toward the interchange, where the buses are silent and dark. “What’s the time?”

“Don’t know,” Samson says, then looks up at the sky. The cloud cover is deep; no light shines from the sky at all. “Be after one, maybe?”

“Shit,” Cullen says, and rubs his hair again. “That means I’ve missed my bus.”

Samson snorts a laugh, his humour dying when Cullen turns to look at him, irritation and chagrin on his face. “Ah, well,” Samson says, trying to be philosophical, “I mean… Honnleath ain’t that big. Just walk. I’m gonna.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. Honnleath’s fuckin’ tiny.” At the expression on Cullen’s face, Samson shrugs, then gestures across the road. “I come from Starkers. Starkhaven, up in the Marches. You know. C’mon. Well, I mean… what direction you headin’ in?”

“Lakedale,” Cullen mumbles, and Samson’s eyebrows raise.

“Really? Me too. That’s… you sure?”

“Yeah,” Cullen laughs, looking both directions before they begin to cross the road. “‘Course I am. I know where I live, Raleigh.”

“‘S just Lee,” Samson says, and swallows against his tight-feeling throat. For some reason, it’s important for Cullen to call him this name, what he thinks of as his real name… not the name that got chosen for him. And it feels good, doesn’t it, to begin to sever this tie to his family, his father, even if it is just an empty gesture at heart. Maybe not so empty as all that , he thinks, and grins when Cullen nods and says, “Sorry. I didn’t know.”

“It’s cool,” Samson says. “Don’t worry about it.”

Cullen smiles at him; Samson sees it out of the corner of his eye. They walk in silence for a time, and Samson looks at Cullen directly — their eyes meet, and Cullen smiles again and looks away. “Man,” he says quietly, “I love Traitor’s Daughter.”

“Me too,” Samson says, then sighs. “Sorry we had to leave early.”

“It’s alright,” Cullen mutters, then laughs. “I’d rather not be part of the headline Local Youths Incite Punk Brawl, Hospitalised .”

“That fuckin’ git would be the one that’d be goin’ to hospital. You hear what he called me?”

“Yeah.” Cullen looks away, then down at his shoes, and silence falls again. They walk another block, then Samson clears his throat.

“I mean, it’s no big deal if you are. You know. A…”

“I’m not,” Cullen says abruptly. Silence falls again, then Samson laughs.

 

“‘Draste, you don’t have to get sensitive about it. No skin off my nose, like I said. I just don’ like being called a fag.”

He glances at Cullen, who scowls, glances quickly at him then away again. He seems almost to hunch away from Samson slightly before he asks, “Are you?”

Samson smirks. “Dunno,” he says musingly, then laughs. “Never really thought about it. I guess I’d try it, for the experience, you know?”

Cullen snorts and glances at Samson again. “You’d let someone put their dick in you for the experience?”

“Yeah. Why not? If it feels good, right?”

 

Cullen makes a noise of dissent, then seems to think about it. “No,” he says slowly, “I mean… it’s weird.”

“Only if you let it be,” Samson laughs. “Look, I don’t know. I just… don’t think dudes are… you know. Worth lookin’ twice at. Generally speakin’, anyway.”

“Yeah,” Cullen says, grinning. He looks a little relieved, then says, “So… do you have a name? The band, I mean.”

“Meredith wants to call us Soul Edge, but that sucks. Alrik’s had… this obsession with some garbage Fereldan band for ages, he wants to call us Towering Inferno after one of their songs, which also sucks....”

Cullen chuckles. “Sounds like you’re critical of everyone elses ideas, but I’m not hearing what you want.”

“I want…” Samson blinks and swallows. “Dunno. Bands… names, yeah, they have a lot of… power. Sounds dumb, but… I mean, names are powerful, right? This has to be a kick ass name, like Warhound or Last Warden Standing…”

“Or Killer of Birds…”

“Yeah, fuck, that’s a good one… but harder, more than that. Because this is… it’s our band, you know?”

Cullen nods. When Samson glances at him, he catches his eye and smiles slightly. “Our band,” he says softly, then nods again. “What about… I always liked Warhound… what about Blood Red Dogs?”

“Yeah,” Samson says slowly. “Yeah… or… Red Dogs of Violent Death.”

“Maker’s Breath,” Cullen grins. “Yeah. It’s got a lot of front.”

“Yeah,” Samson agrees, then bites his lip and nods. “Yeah. Red Dogs of Violent Death.”

 

He stops in the middle of the pavement. They’re right at the edge of what passes for Honnleath’s central business district, and it seems like there’s no-one in the world but them. Cullen stops as well, just a few paces beyond him, and turns, smiling as he looks backward toward Samson. “So,” he says, “I guess… I guess I’m in, then.”

“Yeah,” Samson says, unable to stop grinning. “Yeah, I guess you are.”

Chapter Text

“Nah,” Alrik says, wiping liquid off his lips and grinning at Samson, “It’s gotta be White Chant, right?”

Meredith nods, and Samson shrugs and cocks his head. “Yeah. So… that’s it then. We’re not signing this?”

He flaps the envelope with the Fortress contract inside it, then throws it on the table between them. Meredith puts her foot on top of it, resting it on the table, then fishes her bottle of vodka from inbetween the sofa cushions. Technically, none of them are old enough to drink, not really, but ever since they became local heroes, alcohol isn’t that hard to find. It’s not the only substance they've been introduced to in the recent weeks.

 

He looks across the room, to where Cullen sits, his legs slung over the armrest of the chair he’s in. He’s picking at a tear in the knee of his jeans, ostensibly engrossed in the activity. “Oi,” Samson says, “Rutherford. You got an opinion?”

“Huh?” Cullen blinks, looks up from his jeans and stares around the room. “On what?”

“The contract, you dozy fuck,” Alrik laughs, “You been hitting the blue a bit hard, have ya?”

“No,” Cullen says defensively. Samson feels his expression change to one of incredulity; without meaning to, he glances at Meredith, who rolls her eyes.

“If you can’t handle it, Cullen, stay the fuck off it, alri…”

“I can handle it,” he says, and suddenly swings his legs over the side of the chair. The motion is quick and controlled; when it’s complete, Cullen sits facing them, his back ramrod straight, his eyes blazing. “Don’t fuckin’ tell me what to do.”

“I’ll tell you what to do all I want,” Meredith sneers. “You’re not going to fuck this up for me, Rutherford.”

“Yeah,” Alrik echoes, then snickers, “And anyway, less blue for you means more for me.”

“Shove it, Otto,” Cullen snarls. Meredith sighs and lifts her feet off the table with the air of a general about to address insubordinate troops. Samson looks at the wall in an attempt to keep his expression neutral. “Listen good, you lot,” Meredith says, her voice low, almost threatening. “I don’t care what you do, right? But if you’re not in this — if you’re not practicing until your fingers bleed, if you’re not giving everything you have to every single fucking show we do — then you’re out. I’m in this to be a legend; I’m not draggin’ your stoned asses along for the ride. Got it?”

Silence in the room, then Alrik mumbles, “Yeah.” Cullen only grunts, and Samson feels his mouth twitch into a smile, then looks at Meredith.

She’s staring at him, her eyes narrowed. “That goes for you too, Samson. You got more tracks than Central Station — if I see one slip…”

“Yeah, yeah,” Samson sneers. “Whatever. You been thinkin’ of a solo career, Stannard? It sure as fuck sounds like it.” He sniffs and arches an eyebrow. “If you tell me that you don’ think I’m committed to this again, you can fuckin’ try it on your own.” They stare at each other coldly, and just for a second Samson thinks that maybe, she is, she’s going to walk away, she’s going to quit. But then Meredith shakes her head and rolls her eyes again.

“Fucking junkies,” she mutters. “Just… whatever.”

“Fuck off,” Samson tells her, “You can’t say you don’t love a bit of holy water any less than the rest of us. So don’t give me that crap.”

 

Meredith only snorts. “Whatever,” she repeats, then looks at Samson. “Did you get any lyrics for that new tune yet?”

“Yeah,” he tells her and she smiles.

“What the fuck are we doing here then?” Her smile changes, eyes lighting up viciously, “Let’s play.”

“Void yeah!” Alrik whoops, and bounds up off his seat. Cullen laughs and gets up as well, looking at Samson as he does. There’s something in that look, something both welcome and dangerous; something that hurts and heals at the same time. Samson returns Cullens smile, getting up from where he leans then following him from the room. They leave the contract where it lays, still inside its brown envelope, forgotten.



Chapter Text

The light is pale, and for a moment, Samson doesn’t know where he is or what might have woken him. Then the knock sounds again.

 

He rolls over, pulling the sheets up over his head. Gingerly, Samson reaches out onto the other side of the bed, hoping he can still feel the warmth of Cullen’s resting body, some residual proof that he was ever there at all. It’s cold. Samson pulls his hand away, crossing his arms over his chest, and sighs.

The knock comes again. It’s insistent, annoyed sounding, and Samson frowns slightly. Who could it be? Not anyone in the band — they have a rest day today after all, and he’d be surprised if any of them were up this early. The new album is coming hard, and they’d worked until the sun was well and truly risen.

That fucking knocking again. Well, he’s awake now, so he may as well find out what’s going on. Throwing the tangled mess of sheets and blankets back, he lurches out of bed, feeling the heavy weight in his chest and head roll through him. The come down is always hard, if he just had a little dust, he could…

 

“Mr Samson?” comes a voice from behind the door. “Mr Samson!” Samson scowls, and ambles slowly over to the door.

“Wharryou want?” he mumbles crossly.

“Mr Samson,” the woman at the door smiles. Her eyes flick over his naked chest, then back to his face. “I don’t believe we’ve met. I’m Elthina, your representative at White Chant. Your colleagues were involved in something of a fracas recently with…”

“Yeah, yeah,” Samson tells her in a bored tone. He scratches his chest and leers when he catches her looking again. “Look, sweetheart, that all got sorted out, yeah? So if there’s nothing else you need me for…”

“Oh but there is, Mr Samson. Our legal representatives,” she gestures over her shoulder, “Wish to guide you through certain… protocols, shall we say, regarding this event. We feel that some of the discourse which RDVD has been engaging with recently might not be entirely…”

“Maker, spit it out,” Samson growls, and rolls his eyes. Elthina pauses, then nods.

“Certainly,” she says, her smile gone. “Your mouths are getting too big for our wallets. We need to rein your behaviour in. Therefore, your supply of certain substances is being reduced. Just for a short period; it’s a temporary measure, if of course, you comply. I’m sure you’ll understand.”

 

He feels his mouth tighten. “No. I don’t. What’s this got to do with me?”

“You front the band, do you not? And after that little stunt in Kinloch, we perhaps should have done this earlier. We’ve tolerated your addictions up until this point, Mr Samson.” Elthina smiles falsely, and gestures down the corridor again. “Put a shirt on, and meet us in the lobby. This won’t take long.”

 

-|||-

 

It doesn’t. There’s shouting, of course, until Meredith takes the situation in hand. Samson barely notices after Ethina tells them the new order though. How’s he going to get by? They’re not cutting them off entirely, but… nowadays, blue on its own just isn’t enough. Samson’s barely making it through on the White Chant dose even now, often finds he has to get a gofer to score extra for him. So what’s he going to do? Panic runs like a rat in his chest at the thought of detoxing in the middle of trying to record. He can’t — no, he won’t. What’re they gonna do, kick me out? he thinks scornfully, hardly hearing what Elthina is saying. The talk continues, on and on until eventually, they’re told they can go. But as Samson shuffles out, following Alrik out of the room, Elthina looks at him, still smiling, and says, “Mr Samson? If I might have a word?”

He sneers at her and crosses his arms over his chest as he pauses, standing in the doorway. Raising her eyebrows, Elthina regards him quietly for a moment, then pulls a white sheet of paper from her handbag. “This came for you. It’s not run-of-the-mill fan mail, so I thought I would deliver it myself.” She hands the paper to him, then smiles — that false, glittering don’t-give-a-shit smile. “Good-day, Mr Samson.”

He grunts, scowling at her as she leaves the room. When she’s safely down the corridor, he looks at the paper in his hand; immediately, he recognises the shaky hand-writing, the address on the reverse. His stomach tightens and all of a sudden, he’s seven, cowering under his bed as the voices from downstairs rage and howl. He’s nine, anger boiling under his skin at the way his mother flinches and lowers her head when he yells at her. He’s twelve, staying out all night, never wanting to go home again. Samson clenches his jaw, stuffs the letter into his pocket and stalks back to his room.

 

“Maker’s Breath, Lee,” Cullen starts, as soon as he enters. “I can’t believe she’d do that, I mean, cutting the dose? It’s…” He stops, looking at Samson, then narrows his eyes. “What’s up with you?”

“Nothin’,” Samson says, then shrugs. “Got a letter from Dad.”

“Oh,” Cullen says, frowning a little. He seems at a loss for something to say, then shifts awkwardly. “Wanna… talk about it?”

“Haven’t read it.” Samson mutters. It’s on the tip of his tongue to say, I wish that old fuck would just die, just go away forever, leave me alone, but he doesn’t. What does it matter to Cullen? Samson glances at him, willing him to say something, anything that will help these words out. It feels like Cullen’s the only one he can trust with this stuff, since Maddox is… is… Samson flinches internally, away from the thought. But he needs someone to ask; he can’t do it on his own. His mouth feels dry; he licks his lip and asks gruffly, “You read it for me?”

The discomfort on Cullen’s face intensifies. “Uh,” he hesitates, then reluctantly puts his hand out, stepping forward and taking the letter. “Are you sure?”

Samson nods. “Yeah. I… yeah. I’m sure.”

Cullen nods in reply and glances at the envelope. He takes a deep breath, sighs it out in a rush, then pulls open the envelope, withdrawing the creased notebook paper and unfolding it. Samson watches nervously as Cullen’s eyes scan the document, and he swallows, then reads aloud:

Raleigh,

If you’re reading this, I need you to come home. I got some bad news from the doctor, he reckons I don’t have too long, and I want to see you before I go.

I know you think that I was never a good dad to you, but I did my best. If you can’t come yourself, if you could see your way clear to sending money, that’d be the next best thing. Any little bit helps.

Dad.

Samson sits, stunned to silence. He can feel Cullen's eyes on him, but doesn't look at him until Cullen clears his throat and asks, "What are you gonna do?"

Samson shakes his head, the movement jerky, as if he is trying to clear his ears. The room spins slightly, moving around him, and he closes his eyes. Don't have too long, the letter said, but who knows if that's the truth. He feels inert, caught, guilty and ashamed of his guilt. Then he releases the breath he didn't know he'd been holding, and blurts, "Mum. I'll get in touch with mum."

"'Kay," Cullen says, and Samson nods and folds his arms over his chest, starts pacing. "Or Augie. Yeah. He'd know."

Cullen snorts. "August? Your brother?" Samson glances at him and Cullen puts both hands up, shrugging his shoulders. "I don't know. He's just..."

"I know, alright? I know. It's just..." Samson bounces on the balls of his feet for a second, then steps forward quickly, snatching the letter from Cullen's hands. "This fuck. I just... I can't..."

He's close to tears, he can feel the heat of them all in his head, and Cullen looks horrified. "Lee," he murmurs, "Wait..."

"No," Samson tells him and tears the letter and its envelope in half. "No. Let Chant deal with him." The tearing motion is compulsive, and Samson looks down to see small pieces of paper littering the floor next to the bed. "I'm gonna score," he tells Cullen aggressively, "You coming?"

"Yeah," Cullen says, sounding relieved, and together they leave the room.

Chapter Text

"Lee."

He rolls over and throws an arm over his eyes. “Lee,” the voice says again, “Wake up.”

“Fuck off,” he growls, rolling over again, away from whoever it is that has the audacity to wake him up. “Fuck off , you…”

A hand on his flesh, cold feel of skin against his own. “It’s Mads. They said you’d want to know.”

 

That brings him awake. Some hotel room, some nameless White Chant serf in front of him. She looks frightened and pale in the dim light of the room. He clears his throat and rubs his eyes, then sits up. “I’m awake,” he mutters.

 

Hang on. Is he awake? He doesn’t know. It seems so much like a dream. The woman holds out a telephone, it’s long cord dangling, and tells him, “Here.”

Slowly, he takes the cream-coloured handset from her and puts it to his ear. “Hello?” he asks.

“Mr Samson?” It’s a Marcher accent, a clipped woman’s voice. “It’s Doctor Stephens. I have some bad news about your friend, Maddox.”

Samson swallows hard. “Yeah?” he asks, his voice gruff with sleep still. “What?”

“First of all, are you sitting down? This is…”

“Just… just tell me, huh?”

The voice at the other end hesitates, and Samson covers his eyes with one hand. An audible intake of breath, then the doctor says, “His condition has deteriorated significantly since we last spoke. It’s… unlikely that he’ll ever recover the mental capacity that he had prior to the accident…”

The voice continues talking, telling him details, but Samson isn’t registering them any longer. That’s it then. Mads. He’s a… a fucking… he’s a… he’s…

 

No. No. Not that.

 

“Mr Samson? Are you still there?”

“Uh huh,” is all he manages, and the voice sighs.

“I appreciate that this is a lot to take in. He’s…”

“So… you think he’ll… like… can he still perform? Does he still… I mean, can he sing?”

That hesitation again, then the doctor speaks softly. “Mr Samson… is it at all possible for you to come and visit him? We might be better placed to talk about long-term care if…”

“Can you just…” He takes a breath, holds it, then sighs. “Just answer the question.”

“He can still sing. He’s still capable of it… but I have a feeling that that’s not really what you’re asking.” That pause again, then, “He… isn’t the same. But he remembers you, he knows who he is and what’s happened to him. I understand that with your commitments, you may not be able to…”

“No. It’s not that. If Mads… Maddox, if he needs me, I’ll be there.” Samson swallows and narrows his eyes, “Thanks, doc. ‘Preciate the call. Can I talk to him?”

“Well…” the line is quiet, then a low crackle breaks it for a second. “Mr Samson? Are you still there?”

“Yeah, I’m still here.”

“Hold for a moment.”

 

“Yeah,” he says, but the doctor is already gone. He can hear muffled voices on the other end of the line, and looks up at the White Chant rep, very aware suddenly that she’s in the room. Shifting on the bed slightly, he turns his back to her and cups the phone closer to his ear. The wait feels interminable. Samson sighs, shifts again, and tucks his hair behind one ear, trying not to think too hard about what comes next. The phone crackles again, there’s a barely audible mutter, then someone on the other line says, “...back to me when you’re finished. Is that alright?”

“Yes,” a voice says, then there is a pause. Samson swallows, then the same voice says, a little louder, “Good morning, Lee.”

 

“Mads,” Samson croaks, then grins falsely and tries again. “Mads! How are ya?”

“I am fine. I am under observation. Doctor Stephenson is performing adequately.”

Samson laughs; half from nerves and half from relief. “You old dog. Bet she’s eating out of the palm of your hand.”

“No, Lee. She is not.”

“Nah, I didn’t… I mean, it’s not…” Samson laughs again, then itches his chest. “I’ll come up and see you, yeah?”

“There is no need,” Maddox replies. Samson frowns, then Maddox speaks again, “I have adequate care here at the unit. Doctor Stephens assures me that I am no trouble. Orsino has visited, but he did not stay long. I believe that my Tranquility shocked him. It was… difficult to say. I do not wish you to have the same response.”

Samson swallows. “Right,” he says, then can think of nothing to add. The silence grows, then Samson says, “Well… it’s good to hear your voice, mate.”

“Yes,” Maddox replies. The line is quiet again, and eventually Samson clears his throat.

 

“Mads, do you… do you want me to come up? ‘Cause I don’ mind, I want to…”

“Do not come on my account.” Maddox’s voice is calm, awfully calm, and it gives Samson a chill to hear it. “If you wish to come, then do. If Doctor Stephens requires it, that would be adequate. However… do not come for me, Lee. You have other things to do.”

Maker. Samson takes a sharp breath in, feels tears prickling at the corner of his eyes. Uncomfortably, he shifts again on the bed, careful not to let the White Chant person see. “Right,” he says again, “Kay. Lemme talk to the doc now, alright?”

“Certainly,” Maddox says, and something on the phone line rustles. Samson hears someone exhale, then Doctor Stephens says, “Mr Samson?”

“Yeah. I’m here,” Samson mutters. “What can I do for him?”

The doctor pauses on the other end of the line. “There isn’t much, I’m afraid. Maddox is healthy — he’s actually in fairly good condition, physically, I mean. He needs to be kept busy, given a sense of purpose. We often find with Tranquil that…”

That word. Tranquil . It sounds too final, too… not-Maddox. Mads was smart, and he was funny, and he could sometimes be an insufferable little dick, especially about things that he cared about… but the fact of it is that he won’t care about anything any more. Samson feels his throat close up again, and he harrumphs and tries to bring his mind back to what the doctor is saying.

 

“...at the clinic, we have opportunities for someone like Maddox. There’s a few work programmes and we…”

“No.”

A stunned silence, then the doctor asks, “Excuse me?”

“No. Don’ put him in a programme. Mads… he needs more’n that. He needs…”

“He needs to adjust to his new life, Mr Samson.” The doctor sounds as if she’s trying to be reasonable, and Samson bristles at the sound of it. “He needs stability, occupation and…”

“Lemme see him. I can be there in a week, just… lemme see him and talk to him.” Samson swallows. “If that’s what he wants, if your way sounds best to him goin’ forward, then that’s fine. I’ll pay, if there’s… y’know. I’ll sort all that shit out. But please… don’ just… throw him away. Let him choose. He’s… he’s a trank, but he knows what’s best for him. And… and if he wants to come with me… I can keep him occupied. I can…”

 

“Mr Samson.” The doctor sounds downright disapproving now. “Mr Samson, I apologise for being blunt, but that is not an option. Your lifestyle is not conducive to…”

“Please,” Samson mutters, and puts a hand over his eyes. “Just… please. Gimme a week, alright? I’ll be there, we’ll sort it out. But just… please just wait until I get there? C’mon doc. I know you don’ owe me any favours. But…”

A sigh on the line, and it crackles once more. “Alright,” the doctor says, finally, sounding resigned. “A week. But Mr Samson, I really think that our way will be the best for him in the long term.”

“Right,” Samson says. “Well… just… we’ll see, alright? We’ll just see what he thinks about all this.”

Another sigh. “Alright. Will you let us know when you’ve made travel arrangements, please? So that we might prepare?”

“Yeah,” Samson agrees, and glances at the White Chant person, still standing there at his bedside as if they are trapped in amber. “I’ll be in touch, alright?”

“Alright,” Doctor Stephens says again, and he think he hears a smile in her voice. “Well. If you’ve no more questions or… suggestions, Mr Samson..?”

“Nah,” he says, then sniffs. “Thanks for callin’ doc.”

“That’s fine, Mr Samson. Thank you for your insights — we’ll see you in a week. Goodbye.”

“‘Bye,” he says, but the line has gone dead. Slowly, he puts the handset down once more into the cradle. He turns, picking the phone up as he does, and gives it wordlessly to the White Chant administrator. “I need a flight to Kirkwall,” he tells her. “Don’ tell the others. Just get it done, alright?”

“But, Lee, what about..?”

“Just get it done ,” he snarls. “Sharp, got it? Lemme know.”

She nods, clearly frightened, and walks quickly around the bed, out of the room. Samson sighs, hearing her close the door behind him, then looks around himself. Various items from the night before clutter the space — empty liquor bottles, a goldfish bowl with nothing in it, a jumbo bag of crisps, open with its contents spewing out. There is trash everywhere, but none of it matters, because Samson’s eyes alight on his works and the need is there, suddenly omnipresent. He leans over, rolling out of bed, walking unsteadily toward them. It’s time to find a little oblivion.

Chapter Text

“Shut up,” he says, “I want to hear this.”

Cullen scoffs. It’s inaudible, but Samson can see the expression on his face in the dim light of the abandoned barracks; can, in fact, hear the noise of it in his head. He smirks, rolls his eyes and shakes his head, then turns to face Cullen.

Their chests bump lightly together, and Samson curls an arm up, pulls Cullen’s head closer. There’s resistance, he feels it, and he tells Cullen, “Relax. I ain’t gonna kiss you.”

“Lee,” Cullen says, his eyes darting to Samson’s face. “I…”

“Just shut up for a bit, alright? I’m tryin’ to listen. And…” He grins, shrugging, “if you gave it half a chance, you might like it.”

Cullen gives him a doubtful look and shrugs. “It’s not metal,” he says scornfully, and looks toward the stage. “I don’t know what you see in Mads, honestly.”

“S’not just Mads. Harvester are pretty good,” Samson reminds him, then laughs. “Are you jealous?”

Cullen scowls and shifts. “No,” he says petulantly, then is silent. It’s difficult to talk here, almost impossible between the sound of the music and the crowd, and nothing will make Cullen talk if he doesn’t want to, so Samson shrugs.

 

“Whatever then,” he says, and releases the back of Cullen’s neck. “Go see if Donall’s about. Cop for me too, yeah?”

Cullen makes a face at that, and Samson frowns. “Come on.”

“Alright,” Cullen shrugs, but that reluctance is back, and Samson shakes his head. He puts his hand into his pocket and pulls out the notes he finds there. “Here, then,” he says, stuffing them roughly into Cullen’s jeans pocket. “Here, if that’s what you’re worried about…”

“Lee,” Cullen says, and looks around. Is it the cash, or is it the gesture? Samson thinks the latter. The gig is crowded, noone is looking at them, but still… it rankles, it burns , this… this sneaking . Samson sneers and leans forward — with the motion, he reaches out, and takes Cullen by the front of the t-shirt, once more leaning close to speak.

“Maker’s Arse… I can’t believe you,” he growls. “What do you want from me, huh? I thought we shared everything, Len… I thought…”

 

I thought we were in this together. You said you loved me . The words hang between them, cold, unsaid. Cullen stiffens and tries to pull away, but Samson holds him fast.

“So? What do you want? You better make up your mind, ‘cause… ‘cause I…”

But the words fail him. After a moment, Samson shakes his head and pushes Cullen away.

Cullen just stands there, staring at him, anger written plainly across his features. “Because you what , Lee? And I’m not the one that needs to make up my mind here. You’re the one that keeps holding us to ransom — you think any of us want to find a new singer?” He scoffs and puts his hand into his pocket, pulling out Samson’s money. “Cop for yourself, you junkie cunt. You use more than me anyway.”

 

             Maker, who’s doin’ that to the microphone, that guitar tone sounds

that’s that new song.                                               junkie cunt? Is that what he called me?

yeah but the tone, it’s like it’s

                                                   Cullen, Cullen, please don’t walk away, please.

 

Samson laughs, grabbing his money out of Cullen’s hand. “Junkie cunt, is it? Fuck off, you self-righteous bastard…”

The last words are lost as someone in the crowd gives a bellow; it’s echoed in several places, the old building seems almost to shudder as people come in from outside — as a weird scratching sound, a strange, ethereal harmonic striking on guitar strings rises from the speakers. As usual, Maddox hasn’t announced anything — Harvester barely ever talk to the crowd, even to announce a new track. And that clicking , Maker, it’s insectile, creepy, it seems like it’s everywhere and nowhere at once. Samson glances over his shoulder, back toward the little rickety stage, then back at Cullen, who gives him a disgusted look and turns, striding away, out of the building. Samson opens his mouth, meaning to yell for him

                                                                What’s the point? He’s made his mind up.

Yeah, well. That might be it. So Samson closes his mouth again, lips thinning, lowering his chin. The music around him mounts, rising, the tone getting more intense. There’s a choppy guitar chord, it sounds like it’s lowered, maybe tuned weirdly too or put through a couple of effects pedals… it comes again, but still he does not turn… not until he hears Maddox sing.

“I don’t wanna be hostile… I don’t wanna be dismal… I don’t wanna rot in an… apathetic existence,” Maddox sings, his voice distorted a little by the shitty microphone. “See I wanted to trust you...”

 

Samson folds his arms, turning as he does. Harvester are pretty new on the scene here in Honnleath, but they already have a solid — if grudgingly given — reputation. Maddox’s voice is boss too, nothing like the rasping yell which Samson himself affects, nothing like the growls and screams of vocalists in other bands. This is pure, this is… well, it’s talent. But it’s different, and where there’s difference, there’s bound to be trouble.

It’s not just their style; it’s the magic. Because they’re all fucking mages in that band; who would have thought mages’d be so good at metal? Samson smirks, all thoughts of Cullen and his stupid attitude vanished. “...but you lie, cheat and steal,” Maddox sings, head cocked back, one arm upraised. “And I tolerate you!”

 

“Mage cunts!” someone close to Samson yells, and something is thrown toward the tiny dias. Samson watches the arc of it — it’s a bottle of beer, he sees what it is as it turns and turns, spraying its contents over the crowd below — their guitar player steps neatly aside and the bottle lands on the stage. The guy — Samson can’t remember his name — looks out at the crowd, a filthy expression on his face, then shakes his head and looks down again. He’s never missed a beat. Maddox scoffs into the microphone and flips the crowd the bird.

There’s laughter from the crowd and Maddox smiles as well. But it’s tight, cold, and there’s no humour in it. “As I smile and — laugh and — dance and sing your glory... while you lie, cheat and steal… you lie, cheat and steal…” The expression on Maddox’s face is hard to read; he seems to be staring intensely at the ceiling while he rocks backward and forward in time with the music. It’s not an aggressive movement though, it’s more like… something sort of mystical. It’s weird… maybe that’s why Samson likes it. He laughs a little at himself and tries to lose himself to the music.

 

It works, at least for a little while. The new track is good, but the outro is too long, at least in Samson’s opinion. It seems self-indulgent, and he gets the sense that Harvester are losing the crowd. He sniffs and wipes his nose on the back of his hand. Harvester’s guitarist leans close to Maddox, says something with his back to the crowd and Maddox nods. “One more,” he says softly into the microphone, ignoring how the crowd bay.

Immediately, their bassist begins; it’s rhythmic, and Samson scowls, trying to figure out if she’s using a pedal or if it’s just a combination of strange tuning, bad amplification and cheap instruments. It doesn’t really matter — it’s interesting though. Damn, how did this band get so good ? There’s several harmonics, almost a symbol, and then the guitar comes in… but not in the way that Samson was expecting. The guitarist is standing with his back to the crowd again, holding his own instrument right up against the amplifier, eliciting a screaming whine of feedback, Maker, it’s… it’s going on for a long time, almost on the verge of unpleasant, then… Samson laughs as the song breaks, the drums come in and everything crashes together into a rolling series of deeply wonderful moments. The rhythm pounds in Samson’s guts and he feels a frisson of strange tension as Maddox sings, “Something… has to change, undeniable dilemma… boredom’s not a curse that… anyone should bear…” He keeps singing in this vein for a while, and Samson is overcome — he wants to be closer. Uncrossing his arms, shouldering his way forward, he encounters only a little token resistance as he gets closer to the band on the stage.

 

The song is moving around him as he approaches, Maddox’s head thrown back, long sustains into the microphone. It’s obvious to Samson that he likes singing, as well as being good at it. The crowd this close to the front are mesmerised; he doesn’t know if it’s true, but it almost seems as if he can feel the magic coming off them. Just imagining it , he tells himself, and stares at Maddox, folding his arms once more.

As per usual, Maddox is singing with his eyes closed. He grins, his body moving slowly now, seeming to wrap each movement around the drone of Orsino’s — fuck! that’s his name! — guitar. However, as if he senses Samson’s presence, he opens his eyes as he sings: “Finger deep within the borderline… show me that you love me and that we belong together… Relax… turn around and take… my… hand.”

 

Samson smirks at him and Maddox winks and closes his eyes again. Yeah, it’s a good song, a great song maybe, and Maddox is a good guy. There’d been a few moments, hadn’t there, over the short time that they’d known each other… some kind of draw, some pull that Samson had felt. Maddox opens his eyes again, his mouth around the words, “Would not want me any other way… not enough! I need more…”, but before Samson can catch his eye, they’re closed again. Sweat drips from the end of Maddox’s nose, shining for a brief moment in the low light of the barracks, the the golden glow that the generator lamps cast shining through the stubble on his head. Someone shoves Samson in the back, but he doesn’t turn. They’re good, really fucking good , Harvester are… but they’ll never make it as a band. Samson knows it, as sure as he knows his own name.

Chapter Text

“I guess they’re back,” Cullen sighs, and pulls his t-shirt over his head. Samson can hear them, Meredith and Otto. The voices are out in the corridor of the hotel — three months they’ve been based in Kirkwall, and stupid White Chant still hasn’t found separate accommodation for them. The sound of the voices is pitched strangely; something in Meredith’s tone particularly sets Samson’s teeth on edge. Something’s not right , the words sound in the back of his head, but he doesn’t move. Right now, unless it’s someone screaming, there’s nothing that could get him to move. Even screaming might be marginal.

He doesn’t say anything in response, just watches from under the covers of this hotel bed as Cullen stretches and rubs his head. The long blond hair falls down his back in waves and lazy ringlets; it’s the most beautiful thing Samson’s ever seen. “C’mere,” he mumbles, and sits up, attempting to grab Cullen by the waist and pull him back into bed. Cullen laughs and pushes him easily away.

“Fuck off,” he says gently, and chuckles. “Come on, Lee.”

“Nah,” Samson begins, grinning, and then there’s a loud knocking at his door.

 

Cullen stiffens and jerks, half-rising to his feet at the sound — it’s as if he wants to run. The breath catches in Samson’s lungs, and then all he feels is annoyance. If they didn’t hide this, what they have, then there’d be none of this stupid…

He pushes it aside. Those thoughts aren’t fruitful — it’s not what Cullen wants. The knock at the door comes again, and Cullen turns, looking at Samson, imploring him with his eyes. “Alright,” Samson says, his voice tired. “Stay here.”

 

He crosses the room quickly, jerking the door open and glowering at Meredith and Otto. “What the fuck...” he begins, but is quickly silenced.

Meredith immediately pushes past him, into the room, already talking. Her eye is swollen, and one of her knuckles is bloody. “Yeah, those cunts had it coming,” she babbles, “That fucking Hawke … him and his little mage friends… you know, right?”

Otto chuckles sycophantically, and mumbles, “Yeah, Meredith, yeah… it’s the beginning for them, beginning of the end…”

“Shut it,” Samson tells him, following Meredith into the room. He glances at Cullen, standing by the bed now, looking completely guilty. As if we had anything to feel guilty about , Samson thinks, and then discards the thought once more. That’s a conversation for later — all he needs now is to get these idiots out of his room. Something about their appearance is still bothering him though, so he asks, “What happened to you two?”

Meredith laughs. “Got into a fight,” she tells him, then scoffs. “Not that it was much of a fight, those two limp-wrists… Fader, that Hawke and their vocalist.”

“Anders?” Cullen supplies, and Samson glances at him. Meredith grins.

“Yeah, that’s him. Used to be in Orphan and some no-name Fortress band…” Her hand twitches, and she shivers suddenly in the warm room. Swallowing hard, she recovers and looks at her knuckles as if for the first time noticing the blood there. The blue, Samson thinks, it’s the first time she’s felt pain from it.

 

He glances at Cullen again, noticing the look of veiled anger upon his face. “So?” Samson asks quietly, “You got in a fight. What’s it to do with us?”

“Everything,” Otto laughs, rubbing one hand over his shaven head. “Tell ‘em, Mere.”

Meredith blinks. “Yeah,” she muses, “Chant might be in touch — the city guard got involved. It’s nothing we can’t shake off… but it means that once those cunts sign to Chant, we can crush them.”

Silence, and Samson scowls. “Crush them?” he repeats, and scoffs. “Why the fuck would… you’re fucking nuts, you are. How would we crush them? They don’ matter shit to us. We’re not even the same genre music — they’re some sort of punk or some shit, aren’t they? Art rock?”

“Dunno, Lee, you’re the expert on that soft cock shit,” Meredith says, and Otto laughs sycophantically. Even Cullen laughs a little, and when Samson looks at him, he spreads his hands wide, a half-apologetic smile on his face. “Well…” he says, “It’s kind of true.”

Samson scoffs. “Whatever,” he says, “Doesn’t matter to me. Now can you get out of my room?”

Meredith laughs. “Alright,” she says, and itches her arm. “I need a fix anyway. You coming, Cullen?”

A moment, just a single beat, then Cullen starts forward. “Yeah,” he mumbles, not looking at Samson. “I’m coming.”

 

And the three of them leave, Cullen closing the door gently behind him. Samson cannot help noticing how he does not look back as he does it.

Chapter Text

she’s not awake                            shit

                                                                     this can’t be happening.

            not again not again

 

                                                                                          

                                                                                                 it’s not real. go back to sleep.

 

Samson slits his eyes open, his breath already held. He can hear the rhythmic squeaking of the mattress next to his, see Cullen’s shape moving. The girl he’s with… she’s crying.

 

He’d passed out early in the festivities, but he’s wide awake now. Red Dogs of Violent Death are big enough to command large venues these days, and a decent tour. That means that when it sells well — and lately, it always does — White Chant will get them all the drugs, all the booze and girls and cover any amount of destruction they leave in their wake. It’s almost like Elthina’s showing them off… at least, in public. In private, they skimp where they can, and one of the ways is having them share rooms. It’s alright. Samson doesn’t mind. Invariably, he rooms with Cullen, and it hurts, it really fucking hurts, but he’s been through worse before. He’s survived.

 

Oh Maker, fuck, she’s really sobbing. “Shh,” Cullen whispers, panting, “Shh, it’s alright, shh…”

“Stop, p-please stop” the girl stammers, then whimpers. “What are you..?”

“It’s alright,” Cullen tells her again, “It’s…”

“No,” the girl whines, “no, please…”

There’s a sudden movement then, and Samson hears a muffled gasp. “Shut up, bitch,” Cullen hisses, and something in Samson drops right away. It can’t be real, it can’t be

                                                                      he should stop it stop it he needs to get    

                              up right now needs to stop it Stop  sstop it it’s not real no it’s real

it’s real, alright, he can

    oh Maker, the sound of the bed

                            and she’s crying, and

 

he can hear Cullen’s voice

not what he’s saying but

the meaning is so clear.

 

“Puh-puh- please ,” the girl gasps in between muffled sobs. Cullen shifts again, the rhythm of his movements in the bed picking up pace now and Samson can feel it, the knot in his stomach, the words in his throat, choking him, simple words they are, words like stop it, cullen, stop .

 

Stop it, Cullen, stop. Stop it, Cullen, stop. Stop it, Cullen, stop. Stopitstopitstopitstopstopstop pplease, stop, please — the thoughts come so fast now, in the same rhythm as the squeaks of the mattress and the hard breathing of the girl in the bed, of the grunts Cullen’s making now, and Maker, please, just let this stop, Samson wants to put the blankets over his head, he wants to get up, have the fucking balls to get up, do something, anything to let Cullen know he’s here, he’s awake and listening to this.

 

“Cullen. Stop it.”

The words are out of him before he knows what’s happening, and Maker he sounds like he wants to cry himself, and he does, he wants to yell at Cullen, Stop it! You were meant to be the best of us, not this! Not this! Shake some sense into the bastard. Something.

“Holy shit !” Cullen yelps, and the girl, oh Maker, she is sobbing now, quietly though. There’s no more words from her. Samson wishes he could swallow, but his mouth feels so dry. But here he is, throwing his legs off the side of the bed, reaching out to the hunched shape in the bed opposite, pulling Cullen off the girl’s body, the girl who cries out and covers herself

Maker she looks young

Oh Cullen what have you done

it’s not too late to change

it’s not too late

it’s not too late

 

                      and scrambles out of the bed, even as the sound of Cullen’s voice slurring something ( sorry baby?) permeates his consciousness.

 

There’s the loud slam of the door, and Samson’s chest constricts. “What the fuck?” he asks, hating how his voice shakes, hating how this makes him feel. Maker, just a little blue . Samson sniffs, pushing the thought aside, scowling at Cullen, who shrugs and looks away, sits down on the bed and wraps the loose sheet around his hips. “Don’t know,” he says churlishly. “She was in my bed.”

So you thought you’d just..? And he almost asks the question, almost pushes past the discomfort that he feels, but at this last moment, his courage fails him. “Yeah, well,” Samson says gruffly, swallowing hard, and then can think of no more to say. Cullen sighs out a shaky breath, looking at the floor. “I… Lee,” he begins softly, “Don’t tell anyone. Please.”

 

Samson draws a breath, then nods. “Good as forgotten,” he mumbles, and looks away. “I need a shot.”

Cullen nods. “Yeah,” he agrees, “Me too.”

And silently, they gather their gear, making their preparations, each without speaking to the other. In the distance, far below their hotel room, a siren howls.

 

Chapter Text

“Y’alright?” Samson reaches out, catches Cullen’s sleeve before he reaches the door. Cullen pauses, cocks his head, then turns to face Samson, a strange expression on his face.

“Yeah,” he says softly, then gives Samson a rueful smile. Samson smirks, waiting, then raises his eyebrows. Cullen laughs softly.

“C’mon,” he says, “They’re waiting.”

 

Samson nods. His stomach twists with nerves, and he swallows. Cullen mounts the three steps, opens the front door and yells, “Mum? Dad?”

A voice answers, sounding cross, though Samson can’t hear more than that. He pauses, one foot on the last step up. “Is it alright?” he asks softly, then Cullen yells into the interior of the house again.

“Don’t be a tit, Bran,” he says, sounding annoyed. There’s a light laugh, then there’s a woman there, dragging Cullen forward into a hug.

 

She catches Samson’s eye over Cullen’s shoulder and grins at him. “You must be Lee,” she smiles — crows feet in the corners of her eyes, sparkling and golden, just like his, just like Cullen’s. She releases Cullen and beckons Samson up the steps, still smiling. “Come on, come on, get in.”

Samson bobs his head, grinning awkwardly, not knowing where to look. “Ms Rutherford,” he mumbles as he passes her, careful not to touch, and she laughs again. Soft it sounds, though, not mocking; his smile becomes more relaxed.

“Get away with you,” she tells him, putting a hand on her belly. His eyes dart to it — she’s obviously expecting. He wonders if he should mention it, but before he can say anything she says, “I’m Ann. And you’re Lee, aren’t you? We’ve heard so much about you…”

“Mum,” Cullen chides, glancing at Samson awkwardly. Ann rolls her eyes and chuckles.

“Oh, darling, am I embarrassing you?” She doesn’t let Cullen answer though, just pushes him lightly in the shoulder and says, “Go and wash up, boys. Dinner will be on the table in about ten minutes.” She grins at Cullen, looks as if she will say more, then waves them inside.

 

Samson watches as Cullen frowns at his mother, obviously wondering what it is. But then he twists slightly and smiles, looking at Samson. “Come on,” he says, “I’ll give you the tour. If you want.”

“Yeah,” Samson says. Cullen nods, beckons slightly, and they leave the threshold, Samson following Cullen deeper into the house.

 

“Kitchen, obviously,” Cullen says, gesturing vaguely as they walk through the space. “That little shit is my brother, Bran.”

A kid, probably about eight, sits at the kitchen table, frowning furiously at a school notebook. He pokes his tongue out as they pass, and Ann laughs. “Boys,” she says, mock-warningly, then carries a colander to the sink. As they walk away, Samson hears the sound of running water, competing with the sound from the television.

“Lounge,” Cullen says, making the same vague gesture, which takes in the television, blaring but ignored, and the older girl with her legs flung over the edge of a worn armchair. Samson sees she’s reading a magazine with a picture of the lead singer of Golden Mirror on the cover and he grins at her. She looks up when Cullen speaks, glancing at Samson then away again as if she’s bored. “That’s Mia,” Cullen says by way of introduction, and Samson clears his throat and says gruffly, “Hi.”

“Hey,” Mia says, not bothering to look up. Cullen makes to walk away, but Samson blurts, “Golden Mirror, yeah? They’re pretty good.”

Mia looks up, giving Samson an appraising look. “I guess. That Morrigan seems like kind of a bitch,” she shrugs, “I like Orphan better.”

Samson rolls his eyes. “Doesn’t matter what she’s like — her music is good. Anyway, Orphan’re boring. Everyone likes Highever Orphan.”

Mia makes a noise of disgust and looks at Cullen. “Can you take your little friend somewhere else please? I’m trying to read.”

 

Samson shrugs and turns, following Cullen into a narrow hallway. “Sorry about her,” Cullen mumbles, then pauses before asking, “Do you not like Orphan?”

“They’re alright,” Samson says, “Not as good since that Anders bloke left.”

“I guess,” Cullen says, “Did you go to see them when they were in town?”

“Nah,” Samson says. An older man comes out of one of the rooms, closing the door behind himself, and Cullen stops, Samson behind him.

The older man looks up, startled, then smiles. “Len! How was your...” He beams, then spots Samson. “Oh, hello…”

“Dad, this is Lee,” Cullen says, moving aside. Samson takes a deep breath and puts out his hand.

“Mr Rutherford,” he says, and the older man grins.

“It’s Owain,” he says, taking Samson’s hand and shaking it. His grip is warm and dry, comforting somehow. “Nice to meet you, Lee. We’ve heard a lot about you. All good things.”

“Dad,” Cullen mutters, though he sounds pleased. Owain laughs.

“Alright, keep on with your tour then. You’re staying for dinner, Lee?”

“Uh huh,” Samson mumbles, and Owain nods.

“Good. Don’t forget to wash up,” he reminds Cullen, who nods. Owain grins at them, seems to consider Lee for a moment, then turns and walks back toward the lounge.

 

Cullen takes a deep breath then gestures at the door his father has closed. “Loo,” he says, then points at another door, “and bathroom. Uh, then down here…”

He walks a little further down the corridor, and Samson smiles. Ahead of them is a door which has a hand lettered sign on it which reads enter at your own risk!!! He chuckles, then shoves his hands in his pockets. “That your room, is it?”

“Yeah,” Cullen says, the smile evident in his voice. “You wanna..?”

“Yeah. I mean, if it’s alright…”

“Yeah,” Cullen says. Samson’s stomach gives a little flip. It feels… private, secret, some sort of rite they’re about to embark on. But Cullen’s walking forward, opening the door, so Samson follows him, crossing the threshold a beat after Cullen.

 

It’s a small room, made to feel smaller by the sheer volume of posters on the walls. Every inch is covered. Samson looks up, staring around, oblivious to the grin on his face. “Fuck,” he breathes, “Is your dad okay with you havin’ all of this up?”

“Yeah,” Cullen says, sounding puzzled. “Why wouldn’t he be?”

Samson shrugs, still looking around. There, a huge gig poster for Last Warden Standing, from the last time they toured Denerim, back before the blight started. There, a promotional poster for Killer of Birds at their last album release. Cut out articles from Everite and Phillium are tacked over the small desk — Samson takes a step closer, seeing one on Greagor and another on the lead guitarist for Pile of Filth. He grins, looking at Cullen. “This is pretty cool.”

Cullen shrugs, looking pleased. Then he frowns slightly, and steps around Samson, brushing past him. He twitches the coverlet of the bed up, then turns, looking embarrassed. “Um…” he says, then looks away.

 

A brief mental image of Cullen, in bed, asleep, his mouth open slightly, hands in loose fists, flits across Samson’s minds eye, and he swallows, then clears his throat, and looks up at the posters again. “Where’d you get that LWS one from?”

“Mia got it for me,” Cullen says from behind him. “She saw them in Denerim. She goes to college there.”

“Huh,” Samson says and turns, grinning. “Your sister is kind of cool.”

Cullen laughs. “I guess ,” he mumbles. There’s a pause, then Cullen looks at the door. “Better go,” he says quietly, “Mum’ll call us soon.” He pauses again, then takes a deep breath. “Lee…”

“Yeah?”

But Cullen is quiet. Eventually, he licks his lip and shrugs. “Doesn’t matter,” he says, then smiles. “Let’s go.”

 

There’s so much he wants to say. It feels… safe here, safe to say some of the things he’s been feeling, some of the things he hates, some of the things he hasn’t shared before. But it feels as if it’s lodged somewhere between his chest and his throat, and though he scowls with the effort, nothing comes. Cullen watches him worriedly, then gestures to the door and tries a smile. “Come on,” he says softly, and Samson nods.

Chapter Text

Listen; well, you can feel it, can’t you? The beat goes

all through your chest and up, out                                        away from here

 

the sound of footsteps on the staircase

no, not that it’s the

it’s the drums

motherfucker is out of time again ,               Maker’s Ar s e it’s fuckin’

                                                                                                    fu

                                                                                                        ck

                                                                                                            ed

                                                                                                       it’s all fuckin’ fucked.

 

                                         s     l    e    e    e    e    e    e    e    p.

 

Where is here?

You don’t know.

 

                                            s   s     l   l     e   e      e  e    p   p.


-|||-

 

Listen; that’s your heart, that is. The beat hammers in your ears, your chest, there’s no air in your lungs and his face

What did you say to me, boy?

                            Nothing, I didn’t say            i swear, nothing dad.

 

better be nothing, you little punk. you don’t disrespect me.

 

yes, dad.

 

                                                  looms in the back of your mind’s eye. It’s always there, but most of the time the blue blots it out; makes it so that you’re not so afraid, so that you don’t feel so fucking powerless. No — the blue changes all that, turns it on its head, twists the knife and points it out at the world instead. Takes the fear away. But today, he seems ever-present, even though you haven’t seen your Father in years; today, it seems like you’re trying to will him back to life         one last time.

 

It just… doesn’t seem real, and there’s every possibility that it’s not, the way your mind’s been lately. Everything seems like a waking dream — the sound of the crowd, the feel of your guitar’s weight against your body, touch of hands on you, in your hair, slick of spit across skin — nothing means anything, nothing is real. It’s… crazy, isn’t it? And Maker, there’s a great thought, that you might be going crazy. But for now, don’t worry about it. Tighten the tourniquet a little; try and find a vein. That’s enough to take your mind off it all for a bit. Veins are hard to find in your arms now, and in your feet. Maker, hurry, hurry, you can feel the shivers starting, your heartbeat seems louder than ever, louder than the drums, l ou  der than lo u d e rrrrr th aaaaan

 

Oh, Lee! Nice to see you again. Are you looking for Cullen?

[Just nod, Owain’s nice but…]

Huh, well… he’s out with his mother at the moment. You’re welcome to wait, if you want? They won’t be long.

[Another nod]

 

Man of few words, aren’t you? [His smile is nice, but there’s something in the look in his eyes that worries Samson.] Lee… you mind if I ask you something? It’s personal, so you

don’t need to answer.

[Oh shit, here it comes. Clear your throat] Sure thing, Mr Rutherford. Owain, I mean.

It’s alright, son. [He pauses, and that look on his face intensifies before he asks] How’s Len been? He seems to have... changed. His mum and I are a bit worried. If he was in trouble, you’d tell us,

wouldn’t you?

Why? Aren’t you both in trouble now? You and Cullen both? Fuck, maybe even Otto and Meredith too… maybe everyone. White Chant’s not supporting metal like it used to, the last album was good but Envy’s cracking apart at the seams and Failed Harrowing broke up after theirs didn’t break even and there isn’t much support for new bands anymore and  and

                 and

                       push that needle in. Push the plunger down; feel the blue begin its travels through your system. It’s enough, only just enough, so enjoy it while   it lasts.

 

-|||-

 

Listen. The sound of his breathing, here in the dark behind your eyes is good, comforting. Or is it the sound of your own? It hardly matters. What matters is the feeling of rightness within you. Breathe in, breathe out — that gentle rhythm. What were you thinking about? Faces swim into your head, but you can’t put names to them — an angry man, rage and terror in equal measure written on his face. A smiling man, who seems to care for you… but you can never be certain. It doesn’t matter. Nothing matters, not really. As long as there’s this: this comfort, this peace. You could forget everything else, apart from this moment, this peace when you think he’s by your side, and it wouldn’t matter a bit. Not to you.

Chapter Text

And it feels so heavy, so good, to be drowning in this way. Samson sucks a deep breath in, relishing the feel of it in his lungs. Meeran grins, lizard-like, at him from the opposite corner and he grins back. This is it , he says, he thinks he says, and

 

His hand on her throat, underneath the blankets. She’s not awake.

Or was she up against the wall? Either way… It’s not right, he wants to tell Cullen that, but

Cullen knows; doesn’t he?

 

but if he knows… then

why

why is he

 

Blinking his eyes open into the dim light of Meeran’s scuzzy apartment, and there’s someone else there. Dark hair; tall guy, talking quickly, looking to score. “...All the rockstars out tonight, looking for a little holiness,” Meeran laughs, and the man looks at him, frustration on his face. He knows that kid. Who is it? Then the man sneers at him, mutters, “Lee Samson,” and Samson knows.

“Fader, right? You’re Carver’s brother. Thought he was a bit young for Last Warden Standing… but he knows his chops, I’ll give him that.”

“Generous,” the man shrugs, and turns back to Meeran, who opens his arms.

“All I got is dust,” he says, and smirks. “Correction… all I got for you is dust.”

“Oh, come on ,” the Fader guy, whatever-Hawke, says to Meeran, and Samson shakes his head.

“Don’t be an arse, Meeran,” he growls. “G’won. He’s payin’. Get him what he needs.” Someone says something, but Samson doesn’t catch it — his eyes are closing again and he

 

feels good, Maker, so fucking good, it’s not anything like it was before. And it’s his,

it’s all his,

nothing can take this away from him.

Nothing else matters, because they’re here, they’ve made it, he can’t even think for the screaming of the crowd, he feels like he could bear anything just to feel this again and

 

Blinks his eyes open again. Still Meeran’s; he can sense the presence of the dealer, standing stock still, staring out the window into the night. Typical Kirkwaller paranoia. The dark-haired man is still there, standing in silence, staring at him like he’s meant to say something. So Samson gives a lazy smile and says, “Whatcha still standing there for?” Meeran jerks like he’s been shocked and turns to look at Samson, who nods. Meeran looks blank for a moment, then grins uncertainly and shuffles off to get the dark-haired man

Hawke

yeah, him, get him what he needs.

 

“You’re Carver’s brother, ain’t ya?” Samson asks. This holy water is cut to shit, he feels like the words are almost chewy , but something in him propels them out of him anyway. “Nice kid, that one. Nervy as fuck though. Bit young for LWS, but he’s good at what he does.”

“Uh,” the dark-haired man says, then his eyes narrow. “Lee Samson,” he says, as if he’s just recognised him. “What in the Void are you doing in my town?”

Samson feels himself shrug. “I don’t know,” he says, then his eyes are closing again and he

 

sweet, oh maker, he tastes so sweet burnt sugar in his mouth

rough hands on his neck

smooth skin under one hand, the waist of Cullen’s jeans tight around his forearm

oh maker fuck maker

his tongue, maker they’re so high right now, what if this is just just

 

what if the others find out?



“What are you bunch of bastards doing in my town?”

Samson swallows and grins, blinking slowly at Hawke. His mind shapes the words, pulls them from the air, from recesses inside himself that the holy water opens up, places he didn’t even know he had and

hair in his fist

taste like sugar

 

Maker, his mouth is dry. He licks his lips, wonders why the memory of the taste of candyfloss is so strong, and grins at the dark haired man again, who shifts from foot-to-foot and glares at him angrily. “What are you bunch of bastards doing in my town?”

Slowly, Samson shakes his head. “Jus’ one bastard. Rest of the band ain’t comin’ up til Justinian.” He almost tells this stranger about Maddox for a second, about seeing him in the ward today, about the terrifying blank look in his eyes. As soon as he’s thought it though, the thought disappears — it’s like the lyrium eats it. Samson wonders when he last ate; he honestly can’t remember. The stranger is continuing to stare at him, and Samson grins.

“Most of us are Marchers, y’know. ‘S only Len that’s not. Sure, we went to school in Fereldan, but…”

 

“Yes, Miss.”

The look on her face

the taste of the stale air of the schoolroom in the back of his throat

He shrugs and tells her:  “Got it in a fight.”

She sighs, pinched, disapproving.

“Your behaviour is disgusting, Mr Samson. This black eye aside, your uniform shirt is in a disgraceful state. Get the collar fixed by tomorrow, or I will be taking the matter to the principal. You know we do not tolerate this state of affairs at Temple Collegiate.”

He nods. It’s nothing he hasn’t heard before, nothing he can’t

 

Meeran’s got his back to him. Twitchy little fucker, that one. At the edge of Samson’s high, there’s something

Cullen.

something he can’t quite

Maddox.

it’s right there, if he could just put his finger on it.



He gives up on the thought, losing himself to the warmth of the lyrium in his bones, turning them liquid, elevating everything, cushioning it, dulling all the edges. His mouth moves, he feels it, but it hardly matters. A bitter-sounding voice, it could be anyone’s

not just anyone’s, not his, not Cullen’s, he’d know that voice anywhere

and Samson knows he says something in reply. The door slams, and he smiles. His breath is bright blue in his lungs, full of light, gone in a moment.





Chapter Text


“Lee.”

He rolls over and throws an arm over his eyes. “Lee,” the voice says again, “Wake up.”

“Fuck off,” he growls, rolling over again, away from whoever it is that has the audacity to wake him up. “Fuck off , you…”

A hand on his flesh, cold feel of skin against his own. “It’s Mads. They said you’d want to know.”

 

That brings him awake. Some hotel room, some nameless White Chant serf in front of him. She looks frightened and pale in the dim light of the room. He clears his throat and rubs his eyes, then sits up. “I’m awake,” he mutters.

 

Hang on. Is he awake? He doesn’t know. It seems so much like a dream. Blearily, he looks around for his works, hoping they’re close, needing to fix. The woman holds out a telephone, it’s long cord dangling, and tells him, “Here.”

Slowly, he looks up at her. For a moment, he almost tells her no, he’s not taking any calls until he’s had his blue, and then one thought bursts inside his mind: Mads . He takes the cream-coloured handset from her and puts it to his ear. Silence, then he asks, “Hello?”

 

“Mr Samson?” It’s a Marcher accent, a clipped woman’s voice. “It’s Doctor Anderson. I have some bad news about your friend, Maddox.”

Samson swallows hard. “Yeah?” he asks, his voice gruff with sleep still. “What?”

“First of all, are you sitting down? This is…”

“Just… just tell me, huh?”

The voice at the other end hesitates, and Samson covers his eyes with one hand. An audible intake of breath, then the doctor says, “His condition has deteriorated significantly since we last spoke. It’s… unlikely that he’ll ever recover the mental capacity that he had prior to the accident…”

The voice continues talking, telling him details, but Samson isn’t registering them any longer. That’s it then. Mads. He’s a… a fucking… he’s a… he’s…

 

No. No. Not that.

 

“Mr Samson? Are you still there?”

“Uh huh,” is all he manages, and the voice sighs.

“I appreciate that this is a lot to take in. He’s…”

“So… you think he’ll… like… can he still perform? Does he still… I mean, can he sing?”

That hesitation again, then the doctor speaks softly. “Mr Samson… he’s physically fine, he’s not...”

“Can you just…” He takes a breath, holds it, then sighs. “Just answer the question.”

“He can still sing. He’s still capable of it… but I have a feeling that that’s not really what you’re asking.” That pause again, then, “He… isn’t the same. But he remembers you, he knows who he is and what’s happened to him. I understand that with your… lifestyle and… other commitments, you may not be able to…”

“No. It’s not that. If Mads… Maddox, if he needs me, I’m here. Whatever he needs.” Samson swallows and narrows his eyes, “Thanks, doc. ‘Preciate the call. Can I talk to him?”

“Well…” the line is quiet, then a low crackle breaks it for a second as the doctor sighs. “No. I’m sorry.”

“Then… then can I come and see him? Please,” Samson mutters, and puts a hand over his eyes. “Just… please. Gimme a week, alright? I’ll be there, we’ll sort it out. C’mon doc. I know you don’ owe me any favours. But…”

A sigh on the line, and it crackles once more. “It’s a closed clinic, Mr Samson,” the doctor tells him, “And I don’t think…”

“Doc… please.” He hates the sound of his voice at that, hates to be begging this cunt for this. “I’m all he’s got. I mean… that’s why you called, right? And anyway,” Samson resists the tone of disgust entering his voice, “How’re you gonna ask for money otherwise?”

A long, fraught silence on the phone. Finally, the doctor sighs again. “That’s… hardly appropriate,” she huffs, and then is silent again. “Alright,” Doctor Anderson tells him, finally, sounding resigned. “A week. We can make that work.”

“‘Kay,” Samson agrees, and glances at the White Chant person, still standing there at his bedside as if they are trapped in amber. “I’ll be in touch, alright?”

“Alright,” Doctor Anderson repeats. “Well. If you’ve no questions at all, Mr Samson..?”

“Nah,” he says, then sniffs. “Thanks for callin’ doc.”

“That’s fine, Mr Samson. We’ll see you in a week, I suppose. Goodbye.”

“‘Bye,” he says, but the line has gone dead. Slowly, he puts the handset down once more into the cradle. He turns, picking the phone up as he does, and gives it wordlessly to the White Chant administrator. “I need a flight to Kirkwall,” he tells her. “Don’ tell the others. Just get it done, alright?”

“But, Lee, what about..?”

“Just get it done ,” he snarls. “Soon as you can, right?”

She nods, clearly frightened, and walks quickly around the bed, out of the room. Samson sighs, hearing her close the door behind him, then looks around himself. Various items from the night before clutter the space — empty liquor bottles, a goldfish bowl with nothing in it, a jumbo bag of crisps, open with its contents spewing out. There is trash everywhere, but none of it matters, because Samson’s eyes alight on his works and the need is there, suddenly omnipresent. He leans over, rolling out of bed, walking unsteadily toward them. It’s time to find a little oblivion.

 

-|||-

 

“Maker’s Balls, what crawled up your ass tonight, Lee?” Otto laughs. He stretches, his arms behind his chest, pale chest slick with sweat. Samson snorts.

“Just got shit on my mind, yeah?”

Otto chuckles, blinking a few times owlishly. His expression goes blank for a moment, then he asks, “You seen that new rep?”

Samson scowls, turning slightly. The green room is full, it’s hard to hear Otto over the noise of the roadies and the fans in the room, hard to concentrate on what he’s saying over the insistent hum of his increasing need, but there is no mistaking the look on Otto’s face. Samson smirks a little, then shrugs. “Yeah. I seen her.”

Otto’s smile stretches; becomes lizard-like. “I’m gonna fuck that,” he tells Samson, still smirking, “That slut wants it.”

Samson shrugs again. “Happy for ya,” he says, and looks toward the door. He feels itchy, impatient, and this room full of people isn’t helping that at all. He wishes, quite suddenly, that he could find Cullen. “Gotta go,” he says, and hears Otto laugh again as he walks away.

 

“...Just really love it,” the girl next to Cullen is telling him, staring up at him with eyes wide. Cullen’s not looking at her, just noodling with the guitar in his hands, one boot up on the sofa, supporting the body of it as he reclines into the back. He looks tired. Like you look such a peach yourself , Samson reminds himself, smirking slightly as he squats in front of Cullen. “Oi,” he says softly, “Can I talk to you?”

Cullen’s gaze lifts, and silently, he raises his eyebrows at Samson, then nods. Samson frowns. “Not here.”

Cullen sighs, a short huff of air. “Lee,” he whines, and the girl next to him shuffles a little closer to him on the sofa, as if she is making some claim. There’s loud laughter, Samson can hear Meredith at the heart of it, and he clenches his jaw and swallows. Cullen seems to register the girl’s presence — he frowns at her slightly, then glances at Samson. “Uh,” he says, then nods again, moving the guitar so that he can rise. “Yeah. Alright.”

 

Samson rises, feeling a little dizzy. He walks ahead of Cullen, down the corridor from the green room where they’re hanging out after the show. Maker, how many people are there here? He glares in passing at a member of the security team, who looks at him, puzzled. Dozy fucks, Samson thinks, jus’ let any old cunt in here…

“In here,” he tells Cullen, throwing open a door. It turns out to be a tiny office, miraculously unoccupied. He waits for Cullen to enter, then closes the door and turns. Without preamble, Samson tells Cullen, “Mads is a trank. Got a call from Kirkwall this morning. They’re tryin’ to stick him in a closed clinic or some shit… I’m goin’ up in a week.”

Cullen stares at him, eyes round in the gloom. For what seems a long time, he says nothing, then he repeats, “A week?”

Samson nods, then looks away. He suddenly can’t stand to see the look on Cullen’s face; not shock, not pity, just a vague kind of disinterest. “I just…” he begins, then Cullen speaks.

“So… is that it then?”

His lips slacken, mouth full of words: no you thoughtless cunt, it’s not! He’s alive, and I should be happy about it, but I’m all he’s got, and I’m worried that that ain’t enough! I don’t want him to have to rely on me! I can’t, I can’t do anything for him, and it’s not my fault but I…

Samson takes a breath, then exhales softly. “Yeah,” he says after a moment. “Just wanted you to know.”

Cullen nods slowly. “Hey,” he says, then clears his throat and looks away. In the low light, Samson can just see his throat work, then Cullen asks, “Anything I can do?”

Yes , please. Stay with me — hold me. I need someone to be close to.

“Nah,” Samson grins, then shrugs. “I’ll be alright. Looked like you were onto a good thing with that chick. Sorry.”

Cullen snorts a laugh. “It’s alright,” he says, then looks at Samson and rolls his eyes. He seems about to say something, then appears to change his mind, asking instead, “You scored?”

“Not yet. You wanna…?”

“Yeah,” Cullen smiles; really smiles at him, and Samson smiles back. In spite of everything, there’s still Cullen. There’s still the blue, and there’s still the band. Whatever he has to deal with with Maddox, he can do it. As long as there’s that.

Chapter Text

Under the light of the moon now — out where the air feels thin and the sounds from inside the barracks are muffled. Samson takes a drag on the cigarette and hands it back to Maddox, who smiles as he takes it. “Hey,” he says quietly, “Can I ask you something?”

Samson grunts and rubs his cheek. Rough again — he’d better shave before school tomorrow. “Yeah,” he says slowly, “You can ask.”

Maddox laughs a little. He clears his throat and murmurs, “Are you fucking Cullen? Or… is it something else?”

For a moment, Samson is stunned into silence. Ire rises within him, ire and chagrin, and shame… but then he remembers: this is Maddox. So instead of getting up and walking away, he shifts, the concrete cold under his ass and nods, then shrugs. “I… yeah. I mean… I dunno. He… I think… he said he loved me. Loves me, I mean.”

Maddox makes a small noise, and his eyebrows rise. Another pause, then he takes a long drag on the cigarette. On the exhale, he sighs, “Maker’s Arse, Lee.” He snorts a laugh, though his eyes are worried. Then he shrugs and hands the cigarette back to Samson, before asking, “You believe him?”

 

Samson smokes in silence for a while, then sighs out a shaky breath. Maddox waits a while longer, then says, “I’m just askin’, Lee. You two are… weird together. You’re a good guy, tryin’ to seem like you’re not. He’s… the opposite. I dunno. I don’t know anything about it.” When Samson remains quiet, Maddox sighs and says, “Has he told anyone? You haven’t told me, so…”

Samson shakes his head. “I don’t wanna push him,” he mumbles. “You know what Meredith’s like. I can take it… but…”

Maddox makes a noise of disgust. “He can’t. Maker, Lee… he’s a fuckin’ pussy. And… I mean…” Briefly, it seems as if Maddox is lost for words, and then he sighs angrily. “If he won’t stand up for you now, then fuck him. Fuck whatever he thinks love is. Because it’s not that.” Another pause as Maddox looks away, before he crushes the cigarette out against the concrete. “That’s not love, Lee.”

 

“Like you’d know,” Samson retorts, the words regretted as soon as they’re out. Maddox only laughs, folding his arms around his legs, drawn up tight to his chest. “Yeah, I would,” he says. “I love her, she loves me. Her name’s Sonya. I don’t care who knows it, even though in Circle, we’re not supposed to fraternise.” Maddox looks at Samson, and there’s something in his eyes that looks almost like pity. “I know that it’s a risk. But when she tells me that she loves me, she looks at me in this…” He laughs, shakes his head as if he cannot quite believe it. “Like… like I was everything to her. And… she’s not high when she tells me, and I’m not… we’re not scared to tell each other how we feel, or to be… you know, weak. With each other.” Maddox sighs, glances at Samson then away again. “Look,” he says finally, “I’m not pretending to be a fucking authority on love or anything. But it seems to me… I mean, what does Cullen want from you? What do you want from him? Are you getting it?”

No . But the word won’t come; defence crowds it out, and instead of that one, short, brutal word, Samson finds himself telling Maddox, “I don’t know, alright? Why’s he have to want anything from me? We have a good time, Mads, and y’know, maybe he’s right, maybe it’s not a good idea to, y’know. Tell people. We don’t, like…” Samson sneers and bites his lip, then blurts, “We’ve jerked each other off, but no-one’s had a dick up their arse or whatever. I mean… I’m not… y’know. I’m not a fuckin’... you know.”

Again, that raised eyebrow, then Maddox exhales, shakes his head. He pauses, shifts his position a little, then says quietly, “Dude, I wouldn’t give a shit if you were. People who like your music wouldn’t give a shit either. Sure, Meredith would give you ten types of grief about it, but she’s a cunt, so who cares what she thinks? I mean, unless you’re planning on fucking on stage…” He laughs a little, to show it is a joke, but all Samson can manage is a weak smile. Maddox huffs out a breath and says quietly, “I don’t know. This feels like trouble. He feels like trouble.” He shrugs again and repeats, “I dunno. I guess I just don’t like him.”

 

“Yeah? That ‘cause you think he’s bad news, do ya? Or is it because you’re jealous?” Samson hisses, leaning forward slightly, opening his hands. Maddox looks away, his lip curled, and Samson snorts. “Whatever. See ya ‘round, Mads.”

Maddox remains still, looking away, ignoring Samson as he rises to his feet. Samson dusts off his jeans, irritation and shame still curling in his chest. He turns, meaning to go back to the barracks, see if he can get into a fight or something — anything to relieve this stress. But before he makes it more than five steps, he feels a hand on his shoulder.

“Lee… I’m sorry,” Maddox tells him, and his mouth twists as he shrugs. “I was out of line.”

“Yeah, you were,” Samson tells him, then snorts again. There’s a moment of silence, then Maddox raises his eyebrows and holds out his arms. “C’mere,” he tells him, and Samson laughs. They hug briefly, slap each other on the back, then step away. Samson is about to turn, to head back toward the barracks; but Maddox stays still. “Just… one more question, then I’ll drop it forever. Okay?”

Samson swallows, his stomach tensing, eyes narrowing. Maddox takes a deep breath. “If… if you love him, and… stuff, and you end up telling people… and your Dad finds out… what will you do? Do you have somewhere to go?”

 

Samson sniffs and gives Maddox a half-smile. “Dunno,” he answers truthfully. Maddox’s face falls; his mouth opens slightly and his brow creases. But before he can speak, Samson laughs. “‘S’alright, Mads. I’m a big boy. I can take care of m’self.”

It’s bluster and they both know it. But in spite of the fact that the worry in his eyes never shifts, Maddox smiles at Samson and rolls his eyes. “C’mon,” he says, “You’re making me miss Burdens of the Fallen, you dick. You and your fuckin’ love life.”

Samson laughs again, and together they trudge back toward the barracks, once more toward the sound of music.

 

Chapter Text

His

      sleep is

          

                                       all nightmares now, he

       he can’t breathe,

                                                        he needs it.

 

                                                                               maker

                                                                                fuck.

                                                                                       where is he?

red stone

the red stone, the sound of feedback

was that Fader? Or is it Dreadnought?

 

                      the sound of screaming, and

the smell of smoke on the wind off the bay

                     the sound of screaming, and

oh maker the smell of smoke on the wind

the wind off the bay

Oh. That’s right.

                        Kirkwall.

 

It seems like weeks ago, or maybe years, even though it was only yesterday. It was the second day of what was meant to be a three day festival — or was it the first day of two? In any case, they’d played as the afternoon began to wane, the sunlight hitting the water, reflecting it up and seemingly directly into Samson’s eyes as he sang. Hot and cold, bought and sold, a heart hard as gold… are you satisfied?

they always like that one

yeah, everyone always sings along

I’ve sung that song so many times it’s lost

all it’s meaning.

 

It doesn’t matter. He’d fixed not that long before they went on stage — but these days, getting high only ever feels like breaking even. He squeezes his eyes closed tighter under the covers, blindly groping for Cullen; it doesn’t feel right, nothing feels right anymore, but if he could just…

                     just for one moment                   just touch him

 

but it’s cold. Cullen’s gone.

 

                                                                  Terror claws its hands into Samson’s lungs, constricts his throat and he swallows. He tries to tell himself he’s just paranoid, it’s just the come down but something

                                                           something feels

“Oi, Rutherford!”

that gormless look, the hunted expression on his face

like I was gonna hit him

 

I’d never

 

Samson slits his eyes open, tries to raise a hand to rub the sleep from them. He can’t manage it; everything feels slow, heavy. Eventually, he manages to push himself up onto his elbow and notices something white resting on the pillow that Cullen’s vacated sometime in the night.

White paper on white cotton

rats in the walls

                                                                             why’m I thinkin’ of that?

maker, the moonlight that night      it was so bright in his hair

made it look like

something holy

something

 

It takes him a few minutes, but Samson realises that there’s writing on the paper in front of him. No , he thinks, that sudden terror rising again within him, no . But he cannot stop his hand from reaching for it, cannot stop his widening eyes from seeing the words before him, no matter how they swim:

 

 

Lee,

I can’t do this anymore. I have to get clean, and I can’t do that with you or with RDVD. We tried, but it’s not working, I feel like there’s nothing that I can give you that’s more important than the blue to you; I feel like I can’t help you if I won’t even help myself.

I’ll let Chant know that I quit and I left a message for Meredith and for Otto. 

Please don’t try to contact me.

Cullen.

please don’t try to contact me

please don’t try to contact me

please don’t

please

i quit

i can’t help you

i can’t

i won’t

 

Samson exhales in a rush, then gasps a breath. Without meaning to, he shakes his head. The words sing in his mind, dancing, whirling, and he finds that he can’t stop them, he wants desperately to do something, to… to hit something, to scream, but there’s nothing. It’s as if he’s left his body behind, and all that exists is this unfulfilled need, desperate, torturous, pervasive. Once more, Samson exhales, but more slowly this time. He re-reads the note, then places it reverently back on the pillow and shifts until he can lie down next to it. It’s cruel, and he knows it — cruel and full of cowardice, for Cullen not to even to have the guts to tell him to his face. But he finds he is not angry, or truly even sad; only numb.

 

He lies on his back, staring at the ceiling, for a very long time.






Chapter Text

“Don’ worry so much,” Samson laughs, glancing at Cullen. The sun strikes the surface of the ocean, so far below them, down the cliffs as they race in this rented car with the top down, toward their destination. “They don’t give a shit what we do.”

“I know that,” Cullen tells him, then reaches over to squeeze his thigh. Samson can’t help the grin on his face at that, the way his stomach tightens when Cullen leaves his hand there. It feels like delight, this emotion inside of him… but also like a species of relief. Not now , he tells himself, just enjoy the moment.

 

They drive in quiet for a while, just the noise of the tires on the road and the call of gulls, circling above them. The guardrail at the side of the road is a thin reminder of the sheer drop on the other side; treacherous perhaps, but the view, all that ocean marching away to the horizon, is breathtaking. Samson glances at it, and the feeling in his chest grows — the weight of Cullen’s hand on his leg as he drives, the sight of the ocean, the knowledge of where they are going, the fact that it will be just the two of them for three whole days… there’s a little house waiting for them at the other end of this highway, close to the Orlesian border, and it’s theirs. The plan, such as it is, is to chill out, fuck a lot, and get their equilibrium back; Kirkwall festival is in four days, and Samson feels that he and Cullen are owed a bit of time. His grin broadens, and again he glances at Cullen briefly, Cullen with his sunglasses on, smiling gently, the wind whipping his hair back so that it flicks and dances, almost as if for joy.

 

The silence doesn’t last for long. From the corner of his eye, Samson sees Cullen lean forward a little, and he removes his hand from Samson’s leg to poke at the car stereo. It blares to life in the middle of a pop song, the lyrics just touch my cheek before seeming to leap into the air before Cullen grimaces and turns the dial away from the station. “Sorry,” he says, over the sound of static, “Didn’t know it would be that loud. You don’t mind, do you?”

“Nah,” Samson says, laughing under his breath. Neither of them is very used to silence; or at least, silence is more tolerable with music. Cullen moves the dial, searching for a station. There’s a DJ’s voice, talking briefly about some competition that the station is running, then the disembodied voice announces over an electronic introduction in a minor key, “And here’s that Lycanthrope single everyone’s talking about. You’re listening to KR-95, straight out of Kirkwall.”

“Huh,” Cullen says, and makes to change the station, but Samson puts his hand out to stop him.

“I haven’t heard it yet,” he says, “Just for a minute, yeah?”

Cullen snorts, smiling gently, and sits back in his seat. He looks out of the window, and Samson turns his attention back to the road.

 

Because of the noise of the car, he misses much of the first verses, catching only the electronic stutter of the drums. It’s not until the chorus that he catches the words: See I keep lying to myself… don’t know what else there is to do… if I could be somebody else… well I guess I would for you.

Samson shifts, suddenly uncomfortable. “‘S’alright,” he says begrudgingly, and Cullen sniffs.

“Yeah, I don’t know what he’s doing with all that electronic stuff in there,” he mutters, then shrugs. “It’s been getting a lot of attention though. You know. In…”

“Philliam?” Samson scoffs. “That stupid rag wouldn’t know music if it bit it.”

Cullen laughs, and raises his hand, puts it back on Samson’s thigh. “In Everite, actually. But you’re right. Hey… is this okay?”

Gently, he squeezes Samson’s leg; Samson grins and glances at him. “Yeah. ‘Course.”

“‘Kay,” Cullen says, smiling and looks away. Against every instinct, Samson keeps watching him, willing himself to remember every moment of this, Cullen with his hair dancing, Cullen with his sunglasses on, one hand on his thigh, but all he can hear is that echoing refrain: if I could be somebody else… then I guess I would for you.

Chapter Text

Hot in here, this little green room after the show. Everything feels dense, the Nevarran night alive with light, with people. Who cares how the show tonight went — it’s over, that’s the important thing, because now he can fix, thank the Maker, all he wants is a little bit of blue, or even better, some of that new shit, that red shit. Meredith went off her head last time they did that, but fuck… he loved it. Yeah. More of that. That’s what he needs.

 

It’s later than he meant it to be when he returns to the hotel. The keycard slips through his fingers twice

                                                                                            [scrape of it on the woodwork of the door, the soft noise as it hits the carpet: somehow these are what he remembers later]

and he swears under his breath. He’d meant to surprise Cullen, but if he’s awake, then maybe that’s not such a bad thing. Samson’s not about to force the issue, but Cullen’s been

[hesitant, trying to tell him something without saying anything: somehow, he knows that’s what Cullen’s trying to do, but has no idea how to help him get the words out]

fucking distant lately, and in his lyrium-haze, Samson thinks he might have a solution to that.

 

The suite is dark, and it’s hot, so hot, hot enough that Samson is acutely aware of his body’s response to it: sweat beading up under his arms and on the back of his neck. For some reason, it excites him too, the deep, primal heat, the rich darkness of the room with the shades drawn, the red and white lights from outside filtered enough to give nuance, no detail. Slowly, Samson makes his way to the bed and climbs on, encountering Cullen’s body under the blankets almost immediately. Cullen grunts and tries to turn over, one hand coming out and up, shoving at Samson weakly.

“Lee, for fuck’s sake, get off,” he mutters, sounding cross. “‘M tryin’ to sleep.”

“Yeah well, sleep’s for pussies...” There’s his own laughter, loud in the dark. “Just lemme…”

 

A frustrated noise, then Cullen pushes Samson back roughly, rolls over and puts on the light. The suite blazes suddenly, and Samson blinks, then grins with slitted eyes. “C’mon,” he says, and gestures to his cock. “For old times sake?”

        [that taste, he’ll always taste of sugar to Samson, spun sugar, light and hesitant on his tongue, gone in a moment]

“Fuck you,” Cullen growls. “Get out.”

Samson laughs. “Make me,” he challenges, grinning. For a moment, they blink at each other in the light, Samson feels his smile fading, and then it’s

[Samson moves forward quickly, his hands strong on Cullen’s chest, his shoulders, he’s struggling underneath, trying to get out of bed, to hurt him but his legs are tangled in the sheets and he can’t. He thrashes underneath Samson’s body, and Samson presses him down, Cullen’s body twisted underneath him, both of them grunting, Cullen’s skin slick underneath Samson’s hands. It’s so hot , so hot, and the noises Cullen’s making — he’s never been noisy, neither of them are, but it’s just… it’s animal , this is, fucking just… animal. Samson shifts his grip, into Cullen’s hair, pushes him in the shoulder to make him roll over completely, pulls his hair hard. Cullen gasps, struggles again, every muscle tight. Some dim part of Samson sees Cullen’s eye roll to the side, watching him, his expression fraught. “Lee,” he whispers, and Samson tugs on his hair again, straddling his hips.]

 all movement, until somehow, his hair is in Samson’s fist and Samson’s leaning down, rubbing their bodies together, his cock against the cleft of Cullen’s arse. He can feel his own excitement, the pleasure coiling in his guts, lower, in his cock, feel the tension that the friction is eliciting and yet… and yet… He grimaces, pulls back a little and reaches down, tugs at his own cock roughly. It’s soft, the skin clammy; a shiver of sudden revulsion passes over him. Quickly, he pulls his hand out of his pants, hesitates for a moment, then reaches around to the front of Cullen’s hip, hauls him up

        [he can’t remember how he got this strong, he’s never been able to do that before]

        and slips the hand inside the waist of Cullen’s pants, finds his cock. “Stay still,” he growls, shifting to get more comfortable on his knees behind Cullen, one hand still tight in his hair. Cullen whimpers, tries to jerk free and takes a sharp breath when Samson pulls his hair back harder and tightens his grip on his cock. “Stay still ,” he says again, and Cullen says nothing, closing his eyes. Slowly, he begins to stroke Cullen, feels him stiffening in his hand. Everything else drops away and he closes his eyes, pulls back his handful of Cullen’s hair, it’s

[not too late

it’s not too late

it’s not too late to change

 

sorry baby ]

 

                                             not right, fuck, this isn’t right, what is he doing? Roughly, he releases Cullen, scrambling backward on the bed, he can feel his eyes going round with fright, the tightening in his stomach which was lust and now is just bitter, there’s nothing pure here, not any more, not for him. Sorry baby , those words, they’re in his throat, but he can’t, he can’t say them. Cullen moves slowly, turning, but Samson’s turning as well, moving off the bed to

[“Lee, wait,” he begins, but no, no, it’s not right, he can’t bear to]

put both feet on the floor. He thinks he hears Cullen say something, but shame is all in his head now, there’s nothing left. The door closes behind him and he blinks in the light, then hangs his head and hurries away, folding his arms over his chest, wishing things could be different, knowing they cannot.

Chapter Text

she’s not awake                            shit

                                                                     this can’t be happening.

                                                                                          

                                                                                       it’s not real. go back to sleep.

 

Samson blinks his eyes, wants to close them again as soon as he’s done it. He can hear the rhythmic squeaking of the mattress next to his, see Cullen’s shape moving. The girl he’s with… she’s not making any noise at all.

 

                                                                                  If he never says anything

      if he   if he never tells

 

He’d passed out early in the festivities. Red Dogs of Violent Death are big enough to command large venues now and a decent tour, and White Chant will get them anything they want — but they still skimp on separate rooms. It’s alright. Samson doesn’t mind. Invariably, he rooms with Cullen, and as much as it hurts sometimes, Samson finds he’s getting used to it.

 

Oh Maker, fuck, she’s saying something now, or trying to. “Shh,” Cullen whispers, panting, “Shh, it’s alright, shh…”

“Cullen?” the girl slurs, then whimpers. “What are you..?”

“It’s alright,” Cullen tells her again, “It’s…”

“No,” the girl whines, “no, please…”

There’s a sudden movement then, and Samson hears a muffled gasp. “Shut up, bitch,” Cullen hisses, and something in Samson drops right away. It can’t be real, it can’t be

                                                                      he should stop it stop it he needs to get    

                              up right now needs to stop it Stop ss s sstop it it’s not real no it’s real

it’s real, alright, he can

    oh Maker, the sound of the bed

                            and she’s crying, he thinks she might be crying, she’s trying not to but

 

he can hear Cullen’s voice

not what he’s saying but

it sounds so    so strange.

 

“Puh-puh- please ,” the girl gasps in between muffled sobs. Cullen shifts again, the rhythm of his movements in the bed picking up pace now and Samson can feel it, the knot in his stomach, the words in his throat, choking him, simple words they are, words like stop it, cullen, stop .

 

Stop it, Cullen, stop. Stop it, Cullen, stop. Stop it, Cullen, stop. Stopitstopitstopitstopstopstop pplease, stop, please — the thoughts come so fast now, in the same rhythm as the squeaks of the mattress and the hard breathing of the girl in the bed, of the grunts Cullen’s making now, and Maker, please, just let this stop, Samson wants to put the blankets over his head, he wants to get up, have the fucking balls to get up, do something, anything to let Cullen know he’s here, he’s awake and listening to this.

 

“Holy shit ,” Cullen groans, and the girl, oh Maker, she is sobbing now, quietly though. There’s no more words from her. Samson wishes he could swallow, but his mouth feels so dry, all the words are gone from him as the sound of Cullen’s thrusting crescendos and there’s the tell-tale intake of breath

me, oh Maker, he used to make that sound with me

as he comes. Samson only just resists the urge to pull his knees closer to his chest, tries very hard not to make a sound or move a muscle

you’ve got to tell him, fucks sake, just say something SAY SOMETHING it’s not too

it’s not too late

it’s not too late

it’s too late.

even as the girl scrambles out of the bed, even as the sound of Cullen’s voice slurring something ( sorry baby?) permeates his consciousness.

 

There’s the loud slam of the door, and Samson’s chest constricts. He hears Cullen’s weight shift again in the bed, the soft sound of his feet hitting the floor. There’s a sigh, a moment of silence, then the sound of Cullen’s mattress creaking as his weight is redistributed. A long silence, then; Samson holds his breath… and then, the soft noise of Cullen turning over in his bed once more. The silence stretches, is still around them. From outside the hotel, far below on the street, a siren howls.

Chapter Text

What if he doesn’t come?

He’ll come. He said he

He said he loved you once, and then he left, he fucking LEFT YOU remember?

Yeah. But that was a long time ago

and you should have forgiven him by now

Fuck that, I

Then what’s the point? If you’re not gonna forgive him, what’s the point?

 

Samson rubs his chest. Haven’s always cold, but the wind feels especially bitter tonight. They’d played a good set; the old stuff always gets a good reaction, but the new stuff seems to be slower to catch on. But Maker, that Skyhold crowd were strange — half of ‘em seemed to be more in it for the politics than the music. Maybe that was always the case, and he’d just never noticed. It’s a shame, if it’s true. Samson thinks that his band are making the best work they’ve produced in years.

 

Are you even the same band?

Maybe not. Now that Otto and Meredith are out, he’s the only one left of the original line up. Meredith will fight it. But

Fuck Meredith.

 

Samson laughs a little under his breath, then shifts from foot-to-foot. Is this him coming now? He watches the man approach; his beanie is crammed onto his head, shoulders hunched and head lowered so that Samson can’t see his hair or his face… but that walk… he’d know it anywhere. Cullen .

He came.

There’s a knot in his stomach, oh Maker, it’s

it’s him, shit, he can’t do this, he can’t, it’s been too long what if he

what if

what if he

 

The half-thought trembles in his head, almost formed. Samson knows what it wants to turn into, and for a moment, the force of it nearly has him stepping backward, into the shadow of the building. But instead of giving in to that particular desire, he shuffles, planting his feet and raising his chin, watching as the other man approaches. When he’s about ten paces away, Cullen raises his own head, and slows. He keeps walking, looking directly at Samson… and when he is five paces away, he stops. He clears his throat, then asks, “Good gig?”

“Yeah,” Samson croaks, then snorts a laugh. There’s a pause, then he sighs. “Fuckin’ Void, Len. I…”

But the words won’t come. The wind moans through the awning of the hotel, and Samson sniffs, gestures behind himself. “C’mon. Can we walk or something? Cold out here.”

Cullen nods, the scar in his lip twisting as he smiles a little. He looks up at the hotel and the smile widens. “Pretty fancy digs, Lee.”

“You know it,” Samson smirks. “Nothin’ but the best, yeah?”

 

It’s not the hotel either of their bands are staying in, but old habits die hard. As they begin walking, Samson watches from the corner of his eye as Cullen rubs the back of his neck. His hair is a little shorter than Samson remembers it, but still past his shoulders, still beautiful. Samson ducks his head, concentrating on the footpath, then mutters, “Sorry, Len.”

“What are you sorry about?” Cullen asks, then makes a small, sad noise in the back of his throat. There’s a pause, then he mumbles, “Just let me talk, alright? I feel like this is long overdue.”

Samson nods. Cullen sighs, then shoves both his hands into his pockets. “You were the only real thing I ever had, Lee. And I’m sorry I’ve been too proud, too fucking stupid, to… I don’t know, acknowledge that. Ever. I’m so sorry I hurt you, and I’m so sorry that I never told anyone about us. I thought it would be easier that way. But… it wasn’t.” He takes a shallow, sharp breath and sighs again. “I miss you.”

 

Samson smiles bitterly and clenches his jaw against the feel of tears prickling in the corners of his eyes. Two instincts war within him — the first, to shrug it off, say that there was never an apology necessary and hope that this will change something. But a different part of him whispers that by letting Cullen off in this way, he changes nothing, he replicates the same behaviour over again. So Samson keeps his peace, thinking, until Cullen glances at him and asks, “Lee?”

“Yeah,” Samson mumbles, and clears his throat. Sometimes this kind of thing is easier if you don’t have to look at the other person, so he doesn’t raise his eyes from the concrete as he says, “Yeah. Well. It wasn’t, was it? Not easier.” He sniffs. “Dunno, Len. I’m still… I know I wasn’t exactly a peach to be around a lot of the time, and I know I dragged you down…”

“Lee, no, I…”

“Lemme finish, huh?” He frowns and glances at Cullen, who nods, looking miserable. “I did. I wanted you to stay exactly as you were, ‘cause I was terrified that if you changed… if you weren’t on the blue anymore, I mean… you’d leave. And I guess I was scared too that… if I didn’t do what you wanted, y’know, about tellin’ people… you’d leave too. So… yeah.”

A beat of silence, then Cullen sighs. “So I became like your dad. You didn’t want me to leave, but I couldn’t stay without hurting you.”

“I guess,” Samson half-admits. “I tried to rehab after you left. Tried it twice, in fact. Between tours, y’know. Meredith had just overdosed again, the really bad one, remember?”

Cullen nods. “I think so.”

“Yeah,” Samson continues. “It didn’t take. I’m still usin’, Len. And, I mean, I know you’re clean… so…” He sighs angrily at himself, then forces the next phrase out, “If you can’t be around me, then I understand. I’m not gonna do that again. And if this… if this is more than one night… or whatever, then I need to make sure you’re…” He clenches his jaw again, his stomach churning, then says, “I don’t wanna do that again. Not to you, not to me. It ain’t fair to either of us. And I…”

 

“Lee.” Cullen stops walking, standing in the middle of the pavement, staring at him. Samson stops, turns to face him, words dying in his throat. There’s silence between them for a moment, the sound of a rhythm from some club or other breaking the quiet. There’s always music happening in Haven, but neither of them notice.

Chapter Text

“Mr Samson?” the receptionist asks, “He’s ready for you.”

Samson nods and rises. It’s been a long time coming, this. Everyone gets there in their own time, remember what Hawke said , he reminds himself, and swallows hard. The synthetic that he’s been using instead of the red doesn’t do much as far as he’s concerned, but he takes it anyway. Replacing habits with other habits — writing more, getting into the studio, working out. Eating well, taking care of himself. He’s still not really sure why. What is there to work for now?

 

“Hey doc,” he mutters, closing the door behind himself. The man behind the desk rises, pushes his glasses up his nose and crosses the carpet, hand out.

“Nice to meet you,” he says, “I’m Paul. What would you like me to call you?”

Samson clears his throat. “Lee,” he says quietly. Paul smiles and nods, then gestures to a grey sofa in the middle of the office, set facing a single armchair.

“So,” he says, after they’re both seated. “I’d like to say first of all that this is a tough thing that you’re embarking on. Nobody’s journey is easy, and everyone’s is different. We’re going to take our time with this, and I want you to take the steps that you’re comfortable to take. But first of all, Lee, I’d really like you to talk me through what brought you here.”

“Uh,” Samson begins, and resists the urge to say something disparaging or flippant. Paul waits, a small, welcoming smile on his lips, his hands clasped loosely around a closed notebook. Samson clears his throat and says, “I’m a lyrium addict. Most of my life. I… done the physical rehab stuff, and I’ve been clean for a year. But I got a friend… or, a guy I know, sort of… he’s been one too. And he said… this might be a good idea. That it might help. With… some other stuff. Life stuff.”

The therapist makes a small noise, an assenting noise, but says nothing. Samson squirms a little on the sofa, itches his arm, then blurts into the silence, “My… my… uh, my… he left. Left me, I mean. About three months ago. We couldn’t make it work. It wasn’t working for him.”

Paul nods and looks at Samson, who blinks. He can feel tears close, fuck this, this is already too fucking hard, he feels stupid and he’s only been in this seat for five seconds. He wants to leave so badly, to run away and never come back. “There’s other stuff,” he says through gritted teeth, “My dad was a cunt, and y’know, stuff like that. I see some of his shit goin’ on up here, you know?” He gestures to his temple and sighs, feeling tense. “And… and my… uh… yeah, he… he was… the love of my life… but  there was a lot of shit going on between us too. Like… yeah. I just… feel like I need to take care of that.” He smiles grimly, then laughs, beginning to cry. “Better late than never, you know?”

 

Paul nods again and reaches behind himself, wordlessly putting a box of tissues onto the small table between them. Samson sniffs, struggles with himself, and wipes his nose on his sleeve, then sighs, waiting. Paul raises his eyebrows slightly, his expression neutral, then asks, “The person you keep referring to as yours … You seem to be struggling to define your relationship to each other.”

“Yeah,” Samson admits and is silent for a time. Paul waits. “I never… he wasn’t mine, not really. I think… I wished he was. But we never… y’know, were…” he laughs uncomfortably, “We did everything together. He was my best friend, and I loved him better than I ever loved anyone else, but I hated him like a motherfucker too sometimes. He was the most… just…” Samson struggles again, briefly, then gives up and shrugs. Paul nods.

“Your relationship was complex.”

“You could say that,” Samson says, a little irritated. Paul waits again, eyebrows raised slightly, but Samson remains silent. Eventually, Paul asks, “Would it be easier if you call him by his name?”

Samson shakes his head quickly. Even thinking Cullen’s name is still fraught. He swallows. “‘S’not really him I’m here to talk about,” he mutters, hating himself for the petulance in his tone.

Paul nods, then cocks his head. “I understand your reluctance,” he says quietly. There’s a small pause, then he asks, “How did you come to lyrium at first? You said you’d used most of your life.”

“Yeah,” Samson agrees. “I started at school, I think. Uh… I was in a band. We got successful really young — signed with Chant, White Chant that is, when I was seventeen.” He feels the old pride in his chest, frowning slightly when Paul says nothing. Not a metal fan, Samson thinks to himself, and sighs. “Home was shit, so I suppose I started to get out of my head. Then, y’know, touring… and everyone was doing it… it just… got normal, I guess. Until it wasn’t.” He laughs bitterly. “Pretty borin’ story, huh?”

Paul smiles cryptically, still watching Samson. The implication is clear — go on . Samson blinks, then scowls and looks at his hands. “I… started forgetting stuff, and not realising I'd forgotten it. Things have started to come back, a bit... but… I don’t know which memories are real anymore, and which are legends I just been telling myself for so long… they feel true, y’know? And I know that that ain’t right. And… I know I probably won’t get them back, even if I never touch lyrium for the rest of my life.” He hesitates, clenches his jaw, then sighs. “There’s a lot of things I won’t get back.”

Paul makes a small noise and Samson looks up. “You may not,” Paul tells him, “But you’re here. You’re moving forward; recognition of the past is important, but Lee, you have a future too.”

Slowly, Samson nods, then shrugs. “Yeah,” he says, and falls silent. The future seems too far away, all that time stretching into nothingness, into death. He looks into his lap at his hands, feeling the weight of it, then Paul clears his throat and Samson looks up. “One step at a time,” Paul says softly, “That’s all anyone can do.”

Samson nods again. “Sure,” he says softly. The future; it’s a terrifying thought, but when the past is a place he doesn’t know anymore, what else does he have? He continues to gaze at his hands, clasped together tightly in his lap, and listens to the silence.