Cullen wasn't sure, as he had only really held affection for two people, but he couldn't help but wonder if he had something of a thing for the Amell family..
The first, of course, being a mage of Kinloch Hold. Camryn. Dark, quiet, angry at the world, with a dirty laugh for things that probably shouldn't be deemed amusing.
He used to think of her as exotic , until he overheard her putting some other poor fellow in his place for labelling her so. She was - in her own words - "Ferelden-born and about as exotic as a mabari."
Nothing ever happened between the two. She never showed any kind of interest in Cullen, nor anybody else, though he was sure she found much humour in the way he blushed and tripped over himself in her presence. She'd roll her eyes and tut at him, occasionally letting out the shortest snort of laughter when he was making a particular fool of himself. He knew he had no chance, he wasn't such a fool as to not see that. When the maleficar rose up and the circle fell he was imprisoned, taunted and tortured. He was shown things he both feared and desired. He was shown Camryn, offering herself freely. He wanted to indulge, to give in, but he knew in his heart that it was not her, that he could never if it wasn't truly her, even if it never would be.
And then, when he finally came back to his senses, she was gone. He assumed her to be one of the charred corpses or fleshy sacs plastering the walls; lost to the evil of blood magic. He didn't let himself mourn, not for any mage, not after what they did.
Time passed, and he soon found himself transferred across the sea, h opeful that a change of scenery would be good for him. Though not too hopeful; he would still be spending his days surrounded by mages, after all.
About a year after the Blight's end, a name began cropping up again and again around Kirkwall - Hawke - and it wasn't long before he met the bearer - or rather, bearers, plural - of the name. A young woman, full of smiles, laughter, and off-hand comments that you wouldn't realise were insults until too late. Her brother was her opposite; taciturn, brooding, he complained about his sister and they poked at one another as siblings do, but he still followed her, dedicating what time he had to himself to her causes.
At first glance, Lilah’s resemblance was more obvious - dark skin, deep brown eyes, hair that was longer and curls that were looser but still familiar, a body that was pleasantly curved and curling tattoos across her face. Carver had the skin and eyes, but he was tall, very well-built, long hair that was dreaded together and angular features about his face.
It was personality that won out. Carver had those same mannerisms, the tut, the roll of the eyes and the tiniest of snorts at his sister's wit - when it wasn't aimed at him. Cullen was quietly pleased to find that Carver would come and talk to him while Lilah went about her business in the Gallows. He shared Cullen's dislike of mages, though to less of an extreme. It seemed that, more than anything, he found them to be an annoyance; not to be feared, but still avoided where possible.
They became closer and Cullen found a familiar feeling settling into his chest. It was different too; with Camryn, he had feared getting into trouble for fraternising with a mage, not to mention her own obvious rejection of him. Carver was safe, and came to Cullen willingly - more and more so without even the excuse of following his sister. Cullen began rehearsing in his head how he might begin explaining his feelings. He knew that the Hawkes had an expedition into the Deep Roads planned and if he was to tell Carver, it would probably be best to do it before they left.
Just his luck, he never got the chance. He had resolved to confess upon Carver's next visit, but it never came and he found out later - too late - that the expedition had been funded and left early. All he could do now was wait and pray to the Maker for their safe return. Every night he said a prayer, a small wish, until the name 'Hawke' was abuzz about the city of Kirkwall once again.
The group had returned, pockets and packs laden with riches beyond any refugee's wildest dreams - except possibly, those of one as ambitious as Lilah Hawke herself. Cullen was tempted to use his free time to find and greet them, but he held back, waiting for the Hawkes to inevitably involve themselves in Gallows business again. And they did, only Cullen was dismayed to find Lilah's usual entourage changed. There was the dwarf and the pirate, but no Carver. In his usual place was, instead, Guard-Captain Aveline who, whilst offering polite greeting, wasn’t exactly pleased to see him like Carver might have been. Or he hoped he would have been, anyway.
The group went about whatever business they had, paying Cullen no mind until he pushed himself to go over as they made to leave. What little conversation he'd had with Lilah herself had been less than pleasant, it seemed awkward to talk with her without her brother shadowing her, and she seemed less than pleased to be approached by the Templar, but her expression softened when he asked of Carver's whereabouts.
Her face fell and the atmosphere immediately changed. The rest of Hawke’s entourage all exchanged uncomfortable, pained glances until she finally spoke. "He’s… gone ," was all she said, followed by an apology and a quick exit. It took all of Cullen's self-control to keep his emotions under check. He was still on duty, after all, he couldn't well begin lamenting yet another missed chance whilst on guard. He only just managed to hold himself together until he was alone in his Captain's quarters.
More time went by. The Qunari, after all that time, all that pressure building, finally turned on the city and the Arishok was defeated in single combat by none other than Lilah Hawke. The Chantry was destroyed and the Knight-Commander declared a war on the mages. Hawke brought her down and, just as Cullen was tiring of hearing the name, vanished from the city. There was an uprising of mages everywhere. A conclave organised by the Divine herself. It all went wrong, of course.
Looking back, Cullen was surprised how quickly it all passed. Ten - maybe more - years since he had been a lowly knight at the fall of the Ferelden Circle, and now he was here, Commander of the Inquisition. Hawke had made a return, much to Cassandra's ire - he knew she had spent so long looking for her. Had things gone her way, Hawke would be the one leading them. As it was, the one proclaimed Inquisitor was a girl - far too young, in his opinion - with an Antivan accent, Dalish tattoos and a rather confusing background involving the Dalish, Antivan slave traders and the Hero of Ferelden.
With Hawke came a surprise though. A face he had spent over a decade assuming he would never see. But there she was, in the royal blue armours of the Grey Wardens; Camryn Amell. He almost fell to his knees before her in his relief. She took much amusement in his shock, but was kind enough to speak to him alone.
“I left the Circle with Enchanter Wynne,” Camryn explained curtly and Cullen cursed himself for never considering it might be Amell when he had been told that Wynne had left with ‘ one of the younger mages ’. Perhaps he just hadn’t dared hope. She had travelled with the Hero of Ferelden, joining the Wardens after the Blight had ended, where she was now acting Warden Commander until the Hero of Ferelden's return - which she was insistent would happen, no matter how long it had already been.
“I feel a fool. I thought-”
“Well, you know what ‘thought’ did.”
“Followed a muck-cart and thought it were a wedding.”
There was little time for joking and reminiscing though; they had to make their move on Adamant. Everything happened so fast, he could barely believe when he was told that the Inquisitor had led them through the Fade itself until he saw the state of the group.
The Inquisitor was clutching at Cassandra’s arm, eyes wide and confused, making her seem even younger than she already was. Solas was trying to console the spirit, Cole, who seemed surprisingly upset about returning to the Fade in such a way. Camryn was quiet, and Cullen soon realised why - there was one missing from the group. Hawke had given herself as a distraction whilst they escaped.
“She blamed herself,” Camryn said after some silence on the journey back to Skyhold, “for everybody she lost. Her father and her sister, back in Lothering, Carver contracting the Blight in the Deep Roads and the ugly business with her mother and that blood mage.” Cullen nodded, remembering the uproar surrounding that particular incident. He’d never really been fond of Hawke, but he wasn’t heartless, he felt for her after that.
“In the Fade, we almost didn’t get out. A demon blocked our path and we knew that the only way out was for one of us to make a sacrifice. I almost gave myself. Seemed a Warden-ish thing to do, but she didn’t give me a chance. She said…” Camryn paused, looking solemn, “she said she couldn't let me die for her too. That she wouldn’t let another of her family be lost.”
He had to ask how they had found out their relation - they were both obviously of Rivaini heritage, but then so was the pirate captain that Hawke had been involved with, it didn’t automatically mean they were related.
“When Carver contracted the Blight in the Deep Roads, they brought him to us. Any later and he probably would have succumbed, the lucky bastard.”
It tooks Cullen a few moments to process the information. Carver hadn’t died . He'd done it again, assuming the worst, making no effort to find out more than the vague information he was given and now he was kicking himself for it. Carver was very much alive, a Grey Warden and Cullen wasn't even sure how to take the information, besides weeping one or two tears of relief quietly beneath his helmet.
He only wished seeing Carver again had been under better circumstances. He was in the yard, discussing the Inquisition’s army with the Herald, when there was a commotion at the gate. There he was; Carver, being held by two of the guards as he shouted, demanding to see his sister, his cousin, Varric, anybody who could assure him that Lilah was still alive. Cullen watched from a distance as Camryn and Varric tried to calm him and decided to keep the distance for the moment. He didn't want to cause more hurt whilst Carver came to terms with what had happened.
He was surprised, but happy, to find Carver came to him first, knocking on the door of his office and standing in the doorway, looking unsure how to start. He looked older, more mature, but as soon as he opened his mouth, Cullen knew it was the same old Carver.
“I s’pose I should apologise. I meant to write you but-,” Carver simply shrugged and looked solemn, but Cullen could bear no ill will, “everything in the Deep Roads happened so quickly and the Wardens don’t leave much in the way of free time.”
“I should be the one apologising. I assumed the worst - not for the first time - when it would have been so easy to only ask after you,” he felt a fool, but he was truly more relieved than anything. He knew it would be inappropriate to try and rekindle whatever they’d started back in Kirkwall, so many years ago, when Carver was still recovering from such a tragedy. That Carver was alive at all was enough for him. No, he kept his feelings to himself, unsure if they were even still the same after so long, but Cullen couldn't help the tiniest hope that, even if everything was madness in the world right then, there was still a chance of some kind of happiness for him. He would make no assumptions though; not after what it had done to him before.