“Dorian! Dorian! For the love of… call him off !”
Dorian, who only happens to be walking past, pouts and scoops up the still-hissing feline, stroking the sleek grey fur and murmuring into it's ear. The animal instantly looks up at him, it’s green eyes gleaming, beginning to purr as Dorian says, “Cullen, honestly, that dog of yours…”
“Look at her!” Cullen kneels in the dirt and clasps the shaking, drooling dog to his chest. He coos softly, “It’s alright, Macha, it’s fine, he’s gone, he’s gone…”
The cat hisses again from Dorian’s arms as the dog looks over her shoulder. Quivering, Macha almost leaps into Cullen’s arms, or tries to, only suceeding in knocking him into the dirt to land on top of him, whining. Dorian tries to suppress his laughter and fails miserably. “Oh Cullen, you have to admit that was impeccable comedic timing. It isn’t Candesco’s fault that you’ve got the wimpiest war-dog in all of Thedas.” He strokes the cat under the chin, and grins at it, “And you didn’t even show your claws, did you? Naughty Candesco, you should pick on someone your own size.” He laughs again, and continues to tickle the cat under the chin, the animal purring contentedly. He shakes his head and smiles at Cullen, who glares at him from the ground, the shivering dog still on top of him. His voice heavy with irritation, Cullen asks, “Can’t you control that animal a bit better?”
“It’s not my animal that’s just knocked me on my arse for all Skyhold to see, Commander. But… I suppose, if you like, we could perhaps train them to be more… tolerant of each other?”
Cullen narrows his eyes, thinking it over. “I suppose that might be a good idea. They’ll be seeing a bit of each other, after all.” He harrumphs, clearing his throat and adds, “You know. Just around the place. Because… they happen to both live here.”
Dorian snorts once and frowns at Cullen, trying to hide his confusion. “I suppose” he says neutrally - Cullen is so fumbling he’s never really sure if he’s being flirted with or if the man is just a social moron. “How about we play chess - day after next? I’m meant to be helping Vivienne with something tomorrow.” He rolls his eyes in a bored manner, and tucks the cat closer to his chest. “I swear, that woman - so much style, but so little grace. Anyway, we could play in one of the rooms still to be refinished, in case of...” he smirks, “ cat astrophe.”
“A-Alright.” Cullen is trying to push Macha off him, but the dog won’t be shifted, not while the cat is still so close, and Cullen mutters to her “Maker’s breath, girl, show a little backbone.” He manages to sit up a little, and squints up at Dorian to say “That sounds fine. There is one just down from my office, on the parapet, if you don’t mind?”
“Not at all, Commander. After midday alright with you?”
Cullen is in the yard with Macha the next morning, throwing a stick for her to chase. As the animal bounds back to him, the stick clutched in her teeth, spit flying from her jaws, Cullen thinks that she looks happy. A simple life, being a dog, he reflects, and wishes that his own could be so simple. He sighs, and tries to wrestle the partly chewed up stick from Macha, who growls in a friendly fashion and wrestles back. Cullen holds it in both hands and says “Macha, release” in a firm voice. Mabari bond with their partners for life, but an important part of the bond is the training, and Cullen has to admit that he’s been getting lax with Macha; in part due to the long hours that he must now work, but the sickness of withdrawal took a physical toll on him as well. As a result, Macha has taken a step backwards, and her socialisation still leaves a lot to be desired. However, she drops the stick at his second command, and then, when Cullen hefts it again, bounds off in pursuit happily enough.
Dorian moans as he pulls a dessicated mouse head from his shoe with two fingers, and glares at the cat. “Candesco,” he says warningly, “I thought we talked about this.” The cat doesn’t even deign to look at him, just continues to lick his leg busily. Dorian flicks the mouses head at the cat, and it hits him on the forehead. Candesco glances up at Dorian, his tongue still protruding from his mouth, a very slight affronted expression on his face. And then he goes back to licking his leg, as if the whole thing never happened. Dorian sighs.
“Come on , you stupid mutt.” More whining from outside the door, then a scrabble of claws on stone. The door is thrown open, and Dorian sees Cullen, red-faced and straining on Macha’s lead as he tries to haul her bodily over the threshold. “Do you need help, Commander?” Dorian smirks from over the top of his book, then yelps as Candesco, who has been sitting in his lap, suddenly flattens his ears against his head and digs his claws hard into Dorian’s thigh. He hisses, his hackles rising as his back arches. Macha whines and struggles harder against the lead. Cullen has to wrap one end of the leather cord around his fist again, and he looks over his shoulder at Dorian to say “Maybe this isn’t such a good idea.”
“Cullen. We have to show these animals of ours that they must learn to get along. Even if one is possibly a sadist.” He flicks Candesco on the ear, and the cat almost appears to smile through his teeth. He hisses again, and yowls. “That wasn’t a compliment, you imbecile.” Cullen gives a massive wrench on Macha’s lead, and they both stumble over the threshold, Cullen kicking at the door to close it. Macha immediately throws herself against the wood, which shivers but stays intact. She whines again at Cullen, staring into his face with a look which can only be described as pitiful. He looks back at her crossly and says “He’s right you know. It’s for your own good.” Dorian, meanwhile, has been holding Candesco across his lap, frowning rather grimly as the cat tries to get off him, digging his claws still further into his leg. Dorian leans forward and tips the chessboard open with one hand, putting his chest against the cat’s body in order to hold him more firmly in place and mutters “This is good for you too, you know. Cruelty has its place, but you have to learn to pick your battles.” He grimaces and says to Cullen “I hope this is worth ruining my pants for. Can’t get claw holes out of leather, you know.”
“You should try getting dried up drool out of fur.”
“Getting dried up anything out of fur is impossible.” Dorian looks across at Cullen from placing the pieces on the board and beams in a rather lascivious fashion before saying, “Trust me.”
Cullen just rolls his eyes and scratches Macha behind her ears. He is squatting in the doorway, the massive dog lying right across the threshold, still quivering. Rather proud of himself, he arches an eyebrow at Dorian and says “Notice anything about me?”
Your honey-coloured eyes. The way your lips move very slightly when you read. Your hair catching the light across the dining hall. The way you can command an army with confidence but the slightest flirtation reduces you to a bumbling, adorable mess. All of these are on the tip of Dorian’s tongue, but they come out as “And what were you expecting me to notice, exactly?”
“I didn’t blush. You made a comment about… er… you know. Fur. And… er… fluids .”
“Yes I did. And from your statement, it seems you got the innuendo. But it hardly counts, Commander.” He raises an eyebrow and smirks “You’re blushing now, you see.”
Cullen sighs and continues to pet Macha. Dorian watches him watching the dog for a moment longer, and then turns his attention back to the board. He has assumed, as is their usual practice, that he will play black and Cullen white. He looks up at Cullen briefly again, once the last piece is arranged, and then back down to the cat in his lap. Candesco has settled slightly, though his posture is still far from relaxed. Dorian decides that he can live with that, and tickles the cat under his chin, until the animal begins to purr, albeit reluctantly. He smiles to himself.
Cullen watches the smile spread over Dorian’s face, and it’s like a beam of sunlight shining between thunderheads. It’s not rare to see Dorian smile, but this smile has a softness to it that is not often apparent - often Cullen sees the smile Dorian uses as more of a pulling on of armour than an exposure of weakness. He decides he likes this smile, and wonders how he could see it more often. Then his mind slips sideways, and he catches himself thinking about what it would feel like to press his own lips into that smile, and suddenly there is a knot in his stomach and his heart skips a beat. Macha whines, and Cullen realises he has gripped her short brown fur tighter than he should have, and he resumes stroking her, muttering under his breath to her. She looks at him once, and seems to grin slightly in her doggy fashion, then lumbers up from her supine position. Very, very gingerly, almost canting sideways, she walks to where Dorian and Candesco sit on a box in front of the chessboard. “Cullen…” Dorian whispers, clearly watching the dog approach the cat, but Cullen shushes him to silence, eyes rapt. Macha approaches Candesco until the cat squints at her, and then she stops and sits so that they are facing each other. Candesco tilts his head to the side, eyes gleaming with interest, and then pushes his nose into the air, sniffing. Macha imitates the gesture, and then lolls her tongue out, licking the spit from her jaws in a lazy fashion. Candesco, still watching the dog, brings his front paw tentatively up to his mouth and gives it a lick, then rubs it behind his ear. Both Dorian and Cullen are silent, watching the animals. Macha, slowly again, never taking her eyes off Candesco, lowers her head between her front paws, resting it on the ground. Her back legs follow until she is laying fully on the floor. Candesco watches her, and after considering briefly, leaps lightly from Dorian’s lap. Both Dorian and Cullen tense, still watching, but the animals seem to be relaxing into a cautious acceptance. Candesco circles around the dog and when he is in front of Cullen, his nose twitches and he sits, observing Cullen closely with his pale green eyes. He lowers his head slightly, almost seeming to bow, and Cullen watches the nostrils flare as the animal scents him. The cat rises and continues around the curve of the dogs body, but when he is half way up the length of it he turns, looking at Cullen, almost seeming to say “Come on, are you playing chess or what?” Cullen grins slightly and rises, and Candesco sits again, this time on the floor next to Macha, who snuffles slightly into her paws and looks at Cullen as he takes a seat on the box opposite the chessboard. She wiggles a little deeper into the space between her paws and barks once, very softly, almost as if in approval.
“Oh my… Holy Andraste!” Dorian moans, and rolls his head around on his shoulders, eyes closed, “That feels so good.”
good.” Cullen leans forward, gives an annoyed huff, and stretches his hand out.
“Only for you. Don’t worry, you’ll get used to it. I certainly did.”
“I won’t get used to it.” Cullen sets his white dragon back in the middle of the board, having just snatched it out of Dorian’s fingertips. “You can’t get used to losing. Otherwise, why play at all?”
“Why indeed?” Dorian smirks at Cullen, then drops his eyes. He begins to collect his black pieces from Cullen’s side of the board. As loath as he is to admit it, Cullen was notably distracted during the game, letting chances go unanswered. He is reaching for a black fort on Cullen’s side of the board just as Cullen reaches across for his white phoenix when their fingers brush, just the lightest touch. Dorian immediately flinches back slightly, but Cullen stills, their fingers only a hair’s breadth apart. The moment stretches, the very air seeming to coagulate around them, and then Cullen moves his hand forward into Dorian’s, grasping it lightly. Dorian feels a little lightheaded, and everything that rises to his lips to say sounds stupid in his head, so he says nothing. Cullen swallows loudly. The silence stretches around them until Cullen breathes Dorian’s name, and Dorian looks up at him to see those amber eyes are locked on him, Cullen’s expression serious. “I hope…” he says, very quietly, still holding Dorian’s hand, “I hope that what I want to ask won’t… offend you.”
Dorian bites his lip, hard. After a moment he manages to blurt out, almost tripping over the words, “It depends on what you want to ask. Why don’t you ask, and we’ll see if it’s so very… offensive?” He’s pleased that by the end of the sentence he manages to sound at least a little more like himself. Cullen takes a deep breath and says, still looking at Dorian “I was wondering… if… I might kiss you?”
In answer, Dorian takes his hand from Cullen’s, rises and kicks the box with the chess pieces on it out of the way. Everything tips to the floor with a crash, and the animals half awake, looking to their masters. Dorian steps across the distance as Cullen rises as well. As their lips come together, Macha gives a contented snuffle and puts her head back down on her paws. Candesco watches the two men for a moment longer, then stretches his limbs, arching his body into the dog’s warmth. He yawns.