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He’s seven years old and he wants to be a templar. To this end, he has procured a stick he deems worthy of being his sword, and carries it everywhere. His parents despair.

You don’t even know what that means, they say. He does. He knows.

He shows his sword to the templars of the local Chantry, and they all laugh at him - except for one. She ruffles his hair and tells him solemnly that it’s an excellent training sword. He doesn’t want a training sword, he wants a real sword. He no longer considers the stick worthy.

The templar crouches down to his level and skilfully forestalls his childish disappointment by letting him try on her helmet. It’s incredibly heavy, and he struggles to keep his balance. It’s amazing. He puffs his chest out proudly as she determinedly keeps a straight face, humming in amused approval.

“Let me try the rest too,” he begs, and then she does laugh.

“Come back when you’re a few more feet off the ground,” she teases, so he does exactly that.

 

-

 

He’s twenty-nine years old and he is no longer a templar, insomuch as he ever can be. That is, he left the name and rank behind, but that’s almost entirely cosmetic.

Later, he will tell it as Cassandra asking him to join the Inquisition, but in reality, it’s barely even a question.

“This is no place for you,” she tells him sternly, having marched into his office without invitation. He’s inclined to agree, but reluctant to risk destroying what precious little order he has managed to scrabble together. He can’t just abandon that.

“And the Inquisition is?”

“Yes,” she says, simple as that. He likes her. He believes in her cause. If he didn’t have so many other obligations -

“I need some time,” he says, “there are arrangements, I must - several weeks, perhaps.”

“Of course.” She nods, satisfied. “Take all the time you need.”

He’s surprised. “Really? I’m sure there are others who-”

“No,” Cassandra says impatiently, “that’s why we need you.”

 

-

 

He’s thirteen years old and he’s grown the few feet he was so hoping for, though he’s yet to actually fill out in any other direction. It’ll have to do, and he’s not above begging.

His mother cries a little, the only flaw in his otherwise glowing victory. He hadn’t - he hadn’t thought -

“I’ll write to you every week,” he promises. It’s all he can offer.

“You won’t,” Mia says, punctuating her preemptive reprimand with a pinch. “You’ll forget!”

He yelps at the pinch. “I won’t, I swear!”

More often than not, he forgets to write.

 

-

 

He’s thirty years old and he’s the Commander of the Inquisition and the Herald of Andraste has just walked out of a hole in the sky. Maybe.

“A Dalish apostate,” Leliana murmurs, “that will be hard to sell.”

“We’re not selling anything,” Cullen tells her, annoyed. “There’s a problem, she has the solution. Belief needn’t come into it.”

Leliana and Josephine exchange pitying looks. He hates it when they do that.

 

-

 

He doesn’t know what to call her. ‘Herald’ clearly sits uneasily with her, ‘Lavellan’ feels a little perfunctory, so he mostly ends up nodding awkwardly by way of greeting. Awkward, he reasons, but hopefully not presumptuous.

He had always supposed the Dalish reasonably knowledgeable - if at a wary distance - of the Order, but she has questions. Too many of them. His answers are perhaps more curt than he intends, but even so, they do little to curb her poorly disguised curiosity. Curiosity about the Order, possibly, or curiosity about him. Perhaps she’s wary. It seems impossible to escape his Templar epithet, even when…

Well, even when he’d rather hoped he could.

“So, how does it work, exactly?” she asks. “If I were to use magic right now, could you stop me? Just like that?”

It occurs to him that he’s not altogether quite sure what he could do any more, but that’s not an answer he’s prepared to give. “That’s the idea, yes.”

“Can you show me?”

He hesitates just a moment too long, and she tilts her head to one side questioningly. He clears his throat.

“I’d rather not,” he says finally, reluctantly, and she nods slowly.

“Of course,” she says, “that was - I apologise.”

He’s made her uncomfortable. “No need.”

“In retrospect, it was an odd request,” she says, which he has to snort at.

“A first from a mage,” he concedes dryly, and she laughs surprisingly freely.

 

-

 

He's sixteen and he has a crush. It's embarrassing. It's inappropriate, officially, but he's no longer so naive as to think that means as much to most. It matters to him, at any rate.

She’s a mage, and she’s pretty and he’s sixteen, and she takes the time to talk to him and be kind, and it perhaps isn’t much but it feels like the world. It’s all very innocent. He has no intention of - of anything, of course, so he’s rather caught off guard by how much of a nuisance it is. There’s a lot of babbling and blushing and being mercilessly teased, and he’s a little horrified at how his own feelings have chosen to betray him. He’s a templar, or at least, he soon will be. He doesn't have time for this. He can't - he won't.

He buries his feelings as deep as he knows how, but not deep enough.

 

-

 

He's twenty-nine years old and he is once again facing his own mortality. Daring it, even.

He sets his jaw. “You will need to watch me. If you see the smallest sign that I -”

“Yes, yes,” Cassandra says impatiently, looking faintly annoyed at the whole debacle. Not, he suspects, because she disapproves, but because she considered the conversation finished when he first told her he was going to stop taking it. Perhaps she sees no point in further pontification, but he needs to be clear. He has to be.

“Promise me,” he says fervently, and she looks up again.

“I will do whatever is necessary,” she says, and he nods shortly. He keeps his fists clenched to stop the shaking.

“Good.”

 

-

 

He really does want to write back to Mia, but he doesn't know where he could possibly begin. He doesn't wish to worry her, but he doesn't want to lie.

Brother, she writes, your ability to reduce months to a terse sentence is nothing short of terrifying.

He misses her.

 

-

 

He is thirteen years old and his brother is pressing a coin into his palm. For luck, he says. He closes his hand around it tightly.

 

-

 

He’s eighteen years old and they’re handing him his first draught of lyrium. His armour sits heavy on his shoulders but he isn’t worried.

It doesn’t taste much like anything, and he doesn’t think much of anything as he takes it. Later, he will think of it as a burden, a necessary sacrifice. Even later, he will think of it in stronger, more damning terms. But now... he thinks very little. It’s an honour, and his duty.

He’s so young. He doesn't know.

 

-

 

He's thirty years old and by rights he ought to be dead, but instead he's alive and freezing and trudging through knee-deep snow as part of a desperate search party.

He feels like he sent her to her death.

It is an intense relief to carry her back into their camp, to present the Herald miraculously alive. She doesn’t awaken on the journey, which is another relief. Her ice cold hand curls on his chest somewhere near his thumping heart, and in that moment he believes.

He hopes she wakes up to disapprove.

 

-

 

He’s nineteen years old and all of his friends are dead and he wishes he were dead too and he does not want this memory back

 

-

 

He’s thirty and he’s sitting bolt upright in bed breathing heavily yet again, sheets damp. He’s fine. He feels terrible. He’s fine.

It takes him a moment to adjust, to remember he’s in Skyhold. He swings his feet over the side of the bed and lets his head fall into his hands.

He has to tell her. He doesn’t want to. It’s no one’s business but his own, and until  - unless - it reaches the point where it affects the Inquisition, there’s a part of him that would rather not invite himself to constant scrutiny. He scrutinises himself quite enough for the both of them.

He has to tell her.

 

-

 

“Are you in pain?” she asks quietly, and though he appreciates the sentiment more than he can say, he wishes she hadn’t. It’s not - pain isn’t the thing, really. Though yes, he is. Perhaps he should be glad it isn’t so evident that she needn’t even ask.

“Are you?” he says instead, and she looks puzzled.

“Am I?”

“The mark,” he says, gesturing at her hand. “Doesn’t it hurt?”

“Oh,” she says, “that old thing.” Laughter tugs at the corners of his mouth. “Not really. It stings a little when I use it, but I find that the demons sting a little more.”

“I can imagine.”

“It mostly just feels strange,” she says, flexing her fingers . “Sort of - like it's pinching.”

“That sounds unpleasant.”

“Hardly,” she says, and looks back up at him with a suddenly serious expression. “Cullen, if there’s anything I can do -”

“I - thank you. But no, there isn’t.”

“And the pain?”

“Is manageable,” he says firmly. She nods, and makes for the door. “Inquisitor.” It rolls off his tongue, and he rather likes it.

“Commander,” she says, amused now. Maker knows he inspires that in her, apparently. She pauses at the threshold. “There’s just one thing -”

He raises an eyebrow questioningly.

“ - tell me you don’t sleep up there.”

Cullen is lost. “Why?”

She rolls her eyes. “There’s a hole in the roof.”

“It’s… well ventilated.”

“It’s barely habitable,” she insists, but is clearly very much entertained.

He is indignant nonetheless. “I like it here.”

“There are plenty of perfectly good beds in Skyhold,” she says, “all with fully functional ceilings.”

“I have a perfectly good bed here,” he says, which makes her raise her eyebrows for some baffling reason.

“I’ll take your word for it,” she says, and ducks out the door. He’s glad she can’t see his ears turning red with belated understanding.

He’s thirty years old and it’s entirely possible he has a crush, and he may no longer be a templar, but she's the Inquisitor and he still emphatically, absolutely, in no way has time for this.

 

-

 

He's eighteen years old and she still smiles at him. He still blushes. Everyone knows.

It’s time for her Harrowing, and though the mere thought of it knots his insides anxiously, he has no real reason to fear it. She’s very talented, they tell him, and he’s young - not a likely candidate for a higher profile Harrowing. But he cares, and he’s not yet old enough to know how to hide it, and everyone can see it.

It’s a punishment, or perhaps less severely, a reprimand meant to scare, not penalise. He is to do it, they tell him, and his veins are ice.

They single him out not because he’s alone in his indiscretion, or even for his poor handling of it - by all accounts, he has kept his distance admirably - they single him out because they want him to be better than even that. He’s always been so keen, so dutiful, so eager to all but erase himself to serve the Chantry. It’s a nudge, a gentle push. Reward and punishment for showing promise, and he doesn’t dream of questioning it. It’s his duty.

It’s crueller than he perhaps realises, but he’s naive and eighteen and he has never really allowed himself anything save for the worn down coin he keeps in his left boot.

So he clenches his sword with clammy palms and tells himself that she’d rather it was him. That she understands. That it wouldn’t be her anymore, that she wouldn’t want to live like that.

Afterwards, giddy with relief, he tells her that he was the chosen templar. He hopes only for a kind word, or a smile, some small validation - because after all that, he’s still learned nothing at all.

But this time, there isn’t a smile for him, just a look of fear and resentment. It wouldn’t have been personal, he pleads, but it doesn’t matter.

And that’s the real lesson.

She leaves the next week, which is probably for the best. She passed her test, and he passed his, but he knows with ashamed certainty how easily he could have failed.

 

-

 

He's nineteen years old and all his friends are dead and he wishes he was dead too and they throw her back in his face, his one mistake, his greatest shame - she's an abomination, a demon, he has to kill her - but as he drives his sword into her chest the visions change. She's just a girl. Gazing back at him with dead, empty eyes, damning him and condemning him -

he does not want this memory back

 

-

 

He’s twenty years old and Greenfell is suffocatingly quiet. It's not a punishment, it's a respite, but it punishes him all the same.

It's quiet and small and everyone knows exactly who it is that screams at night, though they are too polite to mention it. He doesn't particularly want to be back at Kinloch, but he can't bear another day here.

He begs to come back, and Greagoir frowns.

"Have they stopped?" he asks, and Cullen keeps his expression neutral. Of course they haven't, but at least now he knows what this is about.

"Weeks ago," he lies. He's desperate.

Two weeks later he's assigned to Kirkwall. He remembers to write to Mia, but the letter sounds flat even to him.

 

-

 

He’s thirty years old and she asks him what he would do if she became an abomination, cautiously, not quite looking at him, and he wishes she would just say what she means. Do you think I’m a monster? A time bomb?  She doesn't know about Kinloch, or at least, not the finer details.

He can’t give her a proper answer.

He can’t give himself a proper answer.

 

-

 

He’s eleven years old and he hides three of Mia’s chess pieces, feigning innocence unconvincingly while she hunts for them.

Eventually, she just gives him a long, hard look, and they play anyway. She is steely determination, and wipes the board clean despite her missing pieces.

He produces them silently and sheepishly when it’s all over, and she grins.

“One day, little brother,” she says, and ruffles his hair. "Next time, take my knights."

 

-

 

He’s twenty years old and Kirkwall feels bleak and unwelcoming and vast. Ferelden is an aching loss he forbids himself to feel; this is his home now. This is where he's most useful.

He’s summoned by the Knight-Commander on arrival, which he’s been dreading the entire journey. Whispers of ‘Kinloch ’ and ‘that’s him'  follow him down the corridors.

Meredith is an imposing figure who he will learn rarely exudes much warmth towards any of her subordinates, but she gives him something that no one else has quite been able to.

“Captain,” she says, and he inclines his head even as he wonders - not for the first time - what precisely  he has done that makes him worthy of promotion. He can only see his time in Greenfell and his shame at Kinloch, and not the years of devoted service and excellence. His vision is so tapered, so bleak.

There’s no preamble; she leans on her desk and leaps right in. “When I was younger,” she says, “my sister was possessed by a demon.”

Cullen freezes.

“She killed my entire family and nearly seventy other people before she was stopped.”

“I’m sorry,” he says, but she waves it away.

“It’s why I asked for you, Captain. I need someone who understands the cost of failure.” Her eyes pierce right through him. “You do understand, don’t you?”

“I do,” he says, and feels something a little like fervour returning to him, bit by bit. It’s a terrible thing that will eat away at him, but he doesn’t know that now. He’s grateful to her, for not mentioning details, for not asking for details, but for accepting what she does know, and giving it back to him. No one else has been able to so neatly parcel his experiences and allow him to use them. Meredith gives him that.

It’s easier to think of mages in this way. It’s simpler.

 

-

 

He’s thirty years old and he’s the Commander of the Inquisition and she is the Inquisitor and he feels like he’s stealing someone else’s precious moment, kissing her. He pulls back slightly, a little overwhelmed, but she chases his mouth with hers indignantly. His chest feels too full.

Maybe he can keep this.

 

-

 

She leans on his desk when she talks to him, making innocuous excuses to drop by at every possible opportunity. Not that he minds terribly, but it’s a little indiscreet. If that even matters.

“So,” she says, drumming her fingers on the desk, “about the other day…”

He can’t help but smile. “Yes?”

“I’m concerned that we never debriefed.”

“How lax of me,” he says, bringing one hand to rest on her hip. “Perhaps now is a good time?”

“Watch out, Commander,” she says, her voice carefully playful. “Alone with a dangerous mage.”

He knows what she’s asking. It’s a long answer, and some day he will give it to her. When they have more time, and when he doesn’t want to kiss her quite so much.

“With any luck,” he says instead, dry as sand, and it’s the right thing to say, judging by her smile. He pulls one glove off so he can stroke her cheek with his thumb as he kisses her, backing her gently into his desk. If they could just find a few moments to -

There’s a knock at the door and they jump apart unconvincingly. He grinds his teeth.

 

-

 

He’s nineteen years old and all of his friends are dead and maybe he’s dead too, and she’s there, again. Covered in blood - oh, Maker - her eyes sharp and dangerous. It’s not her. Leave me. He squeezes his eyes shut, but it’s of little use.

He’s lost count of the days. The weeks? Maybe longer. Maybe he’ll die. Maybe -

he does not want this memory back

 

-

 

He is twenty-one years old and he can’t stop the nightmares, though the only one who knows that is Samson, who is unlucky enough to share a wall with him.

“Bit young for that, aren’t you?” he says, and Cullen frowns at him.

“What do you mean?”

“Not usually another twenty years until the lyrium dreams kick in,” Samson says, far too casually for someone with such a vested interest in how this will play out. He's taking it too, after all.

Cullen feels sick. “The lyrium dreams?”

Samson smiles humourlessly. “You didn’t know?”

He rubs his temples. “I know that eventually the lyrium use catches up with you -”

“But you can’t’ve been taking it that long.”

“They’re not lyrium dreams,” Cullen says shortly. He likes Samson well enough, but he’s not getting into this with him.

“In that case, lyrium helps, in the short term.”

Cullen snorts. “Does it?” They’ve hardly improved. The frequency has abated a little, but the intensity has not let up.

“Then take more,” Samson says, looking just past him to a spot on the wall. “It’d help.”

Cullen is lucky, by way of position, to be on a relatively small lyrium ration. It’s sufficient to keep him dependent, but not so much as to render him less effective. The lower ranks are not always so lucky. “I don’t think the Knight-Commander would approve a higher dose to ensure me a good night’s sleep, somehow.”

“Never mind the bleedin’ Knight-Commander,” Samson says, wrinkling his nose. “I can get you some.”

This makes things difficult. Cullen pinches his nose; he supposes he ought to report him, but he won’t. It’s a well-intentioned offer. “You can?”

“Just say the word.”

He doesn’t take him up on it in the end, but he considers it. Maker, he considers it.

 

-

 

He is thirty years old and he is having a bad day. To put it mildly.

There are bad days, and there are worse days. It’s a bleak truth that no one need know but him, and he’s frustrated that even a little of it is seeping through his carefully guarded cover.

He doesn’t want her to see this, because - because he’s made a bad call, and he knows it. He doesn’t need the Inquisitor to come in and tell him what he ought to be doing, what his duty should be, because he knows. He knows all too well. It’s selfish and idiotic and she has to tell him that. It’s her duty. She has to correct Cassandra’s indulgence.

And perhaps things are a little mixed up, because she’s his Inquisitor, and his friend, and his… well, his something else.

He waits for the judgement that never comes, struggling to stay upright as he clutches the edge of his desk, and stumbles a little when instead, she gives him permission to make his own decision.

The Inquisition is fighting something bigger than any of them can possibly imagine, and yet time and time again, it allows him something so small and yet so enormous as making this one, simple choice. 

 

-

 

He’s nineteen years old and there’s a certain irony in it being her to rescue him, her to be the first real thing he sees, after so long of seeing twisted imitations. He doesn’t believe it at first.

And still - still, after everything, he wishes -

He begs her to kill them, but she looks down at him with only concerned pity.

 

-

 

He is twenty-nine years old and he is feeling every single weary year.

Cassandra looks up impatiently when he doesn't answer, expression softening a little when she does. She’s never used her Seeker abilities on him, of course, but his body feels it nonetheless. Perhaps it’s his imagination, perhaps she’s just naturally compelling. He doesn't want to meet her eyes, but he finds himself doing so anyway. He wonders what she sees in them, though he won't ever ask. She takes him in with one sweeping glance; his damp forehead, pale lips, wild eyes.

“I imagine it will get worse before it gets better,” she says, probably intending to be comforting. It’s not, especially. It isn’t one of her strengths.

The world ripples around him.

“Or worse before it gets worse,” Cullen mutters, and Cassandra gives him a sharp look.

But she doesn’t contradict him, and he clenches his teeth.

 

-

 

He is thirty years old and he wants a future that is all his, for the first time. He's learning how to be selfish. And a large part of that is her, but he can’t quite give her all the credit. She is perhaps the most selfish thing he wants, however, because she's the Inquisitor and her time is precious and he really can’t bring himself to care.

They finally have a moment alone and although he has, as previously established, a perfectly good bed of his own, he finds himself pushing everything off his desk and lifting her onto it. He likes the way she laughs delightedly, and he can’t help but enjoy the way his responsibilities flutter onto the floor, giving him permission to not care for at least a short while.

She is, as with everything else, a little impatient. So he paces her, pushes her back into the desk and catches her wrists.

“Slow down,” he murmurs, and she makes an exasperated sound, but grins all the same.

“No.”

Yes,” he says, and kisses her slowly, like the world maybe isn’t ending, like he maybe isn’t living on borrowed time, like there’s maybe not a war to fight and they’ve all the time in the world.

After a while, he lets go of her wrists, and she starts unbuckling and unclasping and all manner of un-doing, and it’s his turn to groan in exasperation. She laughs.

“I don’t even understand how this attaches,” she mutters, grumbling into his ear as he mouths at her neck and finds his own way under her clothes. It’s considerably easier. More grumbling, and then “ahah!” as she shifts beneath him purposefully.

He catches her hands again. “Wait.” She looks as if she might say something, but he brings one palm to his mouth and kisses it softly. “Just - wait.”

“I’m waiting,” she says, gently enough that it’s not impatient. He kisses her fingertips one by one, kisses the inside of her wrist and up her arm as her fingers tangle in his hair. “I’m here.”

He wants more than just the necessary garments removed, he wants to press against her with nothing between them. It’s been so long since he was close to anyone, and he needs to keep this, to commit everything to memory, so that he can’t forget, even if -

It’s a mild night, but mild is relative when you’re at the top of a mountain, and the hairs on her arms prickle as he pushes her tunic away. She doesn’t shiver.

“Cold?”

“Not really,” she breathes, her breath misting in the air. He kisses the hollow of her neck and mouths silent words he won’t allow himself to say out loud.

He skims one hand down her stomach, over her thigh, and then further, where he waits with his thumb rubbing circles at the soft crease of her leg. She moves her hips ever so slightly, and he pushes a finger in, gently and almost tentatively. She exhales in a rush, her nails digging into the back of his neck. She pushes up against his palm, and he takes the hint, whispering foolish endearments in her ear as he moves in her more and more insistently.

She grabs his wrist in warning. “Cullen, I’ll -”

“Yes,” he says simply, trailing kisses behind her ear. She’s quiet like she’s always quiet, like how she pads softly into his room before he even knows she’s there, or how she places the markers on the war table with gentle care, or how she speaks in low, soft tones when she’s asking how he’s feeling. Her breath catches, and then she closes her eyes, and he presses his forehead to hers as she makes one single, soft little noise. He loves her more than he thought he ever could.

She stills, and he slides his fingers out and kisses her with the barest touch of lips. She smiles, brushes her thumbs across his cheekbones. And then -

“I’m waiting,” she says, teasing this time.

He laughs, runs his hands down under her thighs to behind her knees, drawing them up. She twists her fingers in his hair and laughs with him, breathless and bright. The desk is hard and cold where she is warm and soft, and he’s fairly sure there’s still another pot of ink on there somewhere, but it hardly matters.

He slips into her smoothly as she locks her ankles at the small of his back, and she makes another quiet little noise into his mouth. They kiss unhurriedly, barely even moving until she scrapes her fingers down his back and arches into him. Then he does move, burying his face in the crook of her neck, their breaths coming in a syncopated rhythm with hers hot by his ear.

They end up with their fingers interlocked, Cullen’s hands pressing hers against the desk just above their heads, which is how he comes, forehead pressed to hers. He says her name over and over, a benediction in his mouth, and he’d be embarrassed if she wasn’t kissing the words away eagerly and replacing them with her own, some Elven words he knows and some he doesn’t, but all tender.

Afterwards, they tangle up in his sheets and the stars shine through the hole in his roof. He’s so happy he’s almost afraid of it, running his fingers through her hair as she squints up to find her favourite constellation. She curls up against his chest and sleeps with one hand tucked in his, and he falls asleep more carelessly than he has in a long time.

 

-

 

He is nineteen years old and all his friends are dead and he will be dead soon too -

he’s thirty he’s thirty he’s thirty he’s thirty this isn’t real

 

-

 

He’s thirteen years old and he’s going to be a templar, but he’s lying in a strange bed with the steady breathing of strangers coming from all directions, and this is what he wants, but he’s a little homesick and he’s trying hard not to cry. This is what he wants. He takes a deep breath and focuses on his purpose in being here, the calling he has felt the pull of for so long already.

He’s thirty years old and he’s not a templar and he doesn’t even really miss it. There’s a bloody big hole in his roof and he can see the stars but there’s no one beside him, and it’s strange, he thinks, that it feels like there's something missing, after so long without anything to miss.

 

-

 

The problem with Mia is that even with a few hundred miles, infrequent visits, and a good handful of uncommunicative years between them, she still knows him far too well. And the problem with that is that he’s going to have to write her a proper letter, and he’s terrible at it.

 

My meddlesome sister,

It hardly seems that you need my input on the matter. You provide a most comprehensive overview of events, especially considering you weren't actually there. I'm not sure I could convince you otherwise.

As it happens -

 

He’s frowning down at the paper so intently he doesn’t notice her enter, jumping despite himself when there’s a soft noise by his ear.

“A letter?” She perches on the edge of his desk.

“Yes.” He rubs his temples wearily, which she notes with a sharp glance, but says nothing. “For my sister - if I ever actually write the damn thing, that is.”

“Well,” she says, tapping her fingers on the desk with a knowing air, “if it’s juicy Inquisition gossip she’s after, I heard a scandalous rumour today about the Inquisitor and the Commander, if you can believe it.”

“Imagine that,” he says dryly. “How ridiculous. Where would they even find the time?”

“Creatively, I should think,” she says, and he reaches for her with a low chuckle, pulling her into his lap.

“Come to think of it, I have a minute now.”

“I really don’t,” she says, but she kisses him anyway.

 

-

 

- as it happens, you're more or less correct. Don’t let it go to your head.

I'll save you the trouble of further long distance interrogation: I care for her a great deal. Is that sufficient to satisfy your curiosity? I suspect not. When, Maker willing, we all get out of this alive, I'll be sure to introduce you. Save your questions - I'm confident you'll find her more forthcoming than I am. (I'll save you the trouble of responding to that too: who isn’t?)

I've been a terrible brother, for more years than I care to count. Since leaving the Order, so many things have changed, and I hope this can be one of them. I won't promise to write more often (you know how abysmal I am at sticking to that) but I would like to promise to work at it. Please don't fall over in surprise.

Your loving brother who is still very much alive (will that do?)

Cullen

 

-

 

He is nineteen years old and all of his friends are dead and it would be a mercy to die with them and he can’t -

- and he’s thirty and he’s nineteen but he’s thirty, but there’s a part of him that will always be nineteen, and there are some memories you can never outrun.

He’s thirty.

He can endure it.

 

-

 

He’s thirty and he kisses her on the steps in full view of everyone, because he’s alive, she’s alive, and that’s reason enough not to care at all. He is allowed this.

He doesn’t know what happens next, but he’ll fight to find out.

 

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He’s seven years old and he wants to be a templar. He wants to protect people. He wants -

It’s all a little more complicated that finding the right stick, but he doesn’t know that yet.