Cullen reared back in surprise when Dorian knocked the glass of wine he’d been about to take a drink from out of his hand. The glass shattered on the floor and the red wine looked alarmingly like blood against the cream tiles.
He looked at his lover with surprise. “Dorian… what?”
Dorian swallowed hard and grimaced as Maevaris began to usher the rest of the guests out of the room with some alacrity.
“Concentrate, Cullen. On the wine,” the mage said with a pained expression.
Cullen frowned in confusion then did as Dorian had asked. Now that he wasn’t distracted by the crowd and the music and everything that had been going on in the room, he could feel what Dorian had obviously already known. His wine had been spiked. With lyrium.
Not red lyrium. It didn’t have that unsettling hum to it. No, this was ordinary lyrium but it was just as dangerous to Cullen.
He stepped back from the tainted wine even though it was no danger to him splattered all over the floor. He licked his lips and realised his hands were shaking. Not because he craved the lyrium – there was still a tiny thread of want at the back of his mind but it was easily ignored these days – but because of how close he’d come to having all his hard work and suffering undone.
He looked over at Dorian and saw the same fear and worry he was feeling. He wasn’t sure which of them moved first, perhaps they even moved at the same time, but in a flash, he was being held as tightly by Dorian as he was holding him.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered, nuzzling into the shorn patch of hair on the side of Dorian’s head. His lover wore his hair longer these days but still kept the side shorn, as much because Cullen liked it as because of the fashion. “I should have been paying more attention.”
Dorian gave a gasping laugh. “Please, Cullen, do not apologise. I… I knew something was afoot tonight but I never thought…” He broke off into something that was almost a sob. “I never thought they’d target you. And certainly not… not like that.”
Cullen pulled back a little and cradled Dorian’s face in his hands. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
Dorian smiled weakly and swallowed hard. Cullen could tell he was trying to think of a lie that might work before he finally conceded that only the truth would do.
“I was afraid if I told you, that if you realised how relentless this sort of thing is…” Dorian swallowed and rubbed his cheek against Cullen’s hand as though trying to gather his courage to continue.
“You were afraid I’d leave,” Cullen finished for him.
Dorian nodded miserably and Cullen leaned in to kiss him.
“Dorian, I love you. I knew what it was going to be like when I said I’d come with you. I’m not helpless against these people, especially if I’m warned beforehand that I need to be alert.” He paused and sighed and kissed Dorian again, chuckling a little when the mage clung tightly to him. “I’m not going to leave you. In fact…”
Cullen untangled himself from Dorian and fumbled for a moment with the unfamiliar clothes he was wearing. Dorian had insisted he wear more traditional Tevinter clothing for the party tonight and while he couldn’t deny it was cooler and more comfortable than his normal clothes, it had that peculiar combination of many straps and buckles and buttons and oddly revealing sections that made him feel slightly awkward in it. Though from the look in Dorian’s eyes earlier, he appreciated Cullen’s efforts.
He pulled out the small box he’d been carrying around for about four weeks now, opened it to reveal the simple, elegant ring inside and went down on one knee, glad they were clear of the spilled wine and shattered glass, and took a deep breath, hoping he could get the words out without stuttering or tripping over his own tongue.
“Dorian Pavus, would you do me the honour of marrying me?”
Dorian stared at him with wide, disbelieving eyes then he glanced at the spilled wine and shattered glass then back at the ring Cullen was holding. He even glanced over at the door as if to determine whether this was a joke. Cullen merely held his breath and waited as patiently as he dared for Dorian to realise that, yes, he was serious.
“I… truly?” Dorian said in a small, wondering voice.
Cullen smiled. “Yes.” He began to have some second thoughts based on Dorian’s hesitant reaction. “I mean, I know what you’re trying to do here in Tevinter and I’ll understand if you have to say no because of that. I… I don’t want to…”
“No!” Dorian yelped then he pulled Cullen to his feet and grabbed at his hands, his expression pleading. “I mean, yes. I… I want to marry you. And… and I don’t care about the damn Magisterium. They can have a collective fit of apoplexy for all I care.” He went silent for a moment then continued plaintively, “You really want to marry me?”
Cullen smiled. “More than anything else in the world.”
The smile he got in return was… radiant. There was truly no other word for it. He’d seen many smiles on Dorian’s face, had been responsible for a good deal of those smiles, but he’d never seen one like this before and he hoped he’d see it a lot from now on. It was… happiness. Sheer, unadulterated happiness, unaffected by any of Dorian’s normal worries and fears.
He laughed when Dorian plucked the ring out of the box and examined it for a moment. The mage pulled off the rings he was wearing on his finger and put this one on.
“This is of remarkably good taste, Amatus,” he said in something close to his normal manner and Cullen pulled him into an embrace. “Did someone help you?”
“I feel like I should be offended at that,” Cullen said dryly. “But as Mae helped me, I suppose I can’t really complain.”
Dorian kissed him fervently and they were lost in each other for a while.
“It wasn’t your fashion sense I fell in love with, Amatus,” Dorian said tartly when they finally separated then he frowned. “I’ll have to get you a ring. But I have those meetings tomorrow. Maybe I can get Mae to take them without me…”
He fell silent when Cullen kissed him again then gave the man an outraged look when they parted.
“Are you going to do that all the time now that we’re getting married?”
“I was thinking about it,” Cullen said with a smirk.
Dorian pretended to scowl. “Hmph. Well, alright then.”
Cullen chuckled and pulled Dorian close. “We should go and tell Mae and everyone else.”
“I love causing a scandal,” Dorian said with a wicked grin though Cullen could still see the wonder and joy in his eyes.
“It’ll probably also get a reaction from whoever spiked my wine,” Cullen added as they headed for the door.
“Hmm, good point,” Dorian said. “Alright. I’ll cause the scandal, you watch their reactions.”
Cullen laughed as they headed out of the room. “Isn’t that what we always do?”