"Do not tell secrets to those whose faith and silence you have not already tested." —Elizabeth the I
"Pompous ass," Cullen spat before turning away from the campfire in disgust. He'd had enough of watching that Altus Mage strut his arrogant strapping self all over the camp. The same arrogance, which deluded him into thinking he entertained the troops by telling outlandish stories that were obviously lies.
A few years in the military would have ironed that bravado right out of him. Taught him to wear a uniform, instead of those ridiculous, shiny leather things, which did more to show off his brawny arms than protect him. Any archer worth his salt could see the glint of that shiny metal across a battlefield. Was he that arrogant? The damn mage was a target nothing more. Only an egotistical fool refused to wear armor in the field. No one could predict where an arrow might land or an errant sword slash. Not that the man would ever get that close to a fight. Wouldn't want to mess up that hair or ruffle his mustache. What about the constant presence of fire on the battlefield? The whole world was burning, and he strutted around half naked as if nothing would dare mar the smooth skin stretched taut over firm muscles.
The next thirty minutes were spent making his routine nightly inspection. The early fall evening did nothing to cool the growing frustration at the arrogant man clinging to his every thought. Why did he care? He didn't care, and that was that. After a quick salute to the tower guard, Cullen headed to his quarters for a much-needed drink and sleep. The door to his quarters banged open as he entered heading straight for the bottle of wine sitting on his small writing desk.
"Pompous ass," he muttered, liking the sound of it more and more. He yanked off this leather cloak and sent it spinning to a nearby chair.
"True, but I'm told it's a lovely pompous ass. And now, my dear sir, about those feathers. You strut around the camp like a rooster in a hen house. Not enough hens to make it worth the bother. Unless, of course, it's not the hens. Yes?"
Cullen whirled in the darkened room toward the unexpected sound. Just enough light from the small fireplace to watch the handsome mage push himself off the wall and sauntered toward Cullen. The light colored eyes reflected the flames from the fire and candlelight. Cullen tried and failed to look away from those eyes that could pin Cullen where he stood.
"Your speculations are meaningless and your behavior frivolous," he managed to say in a mouth suddenly dry.
"Flirting, Mister Rutherford?"
"Maker, save me from civilians." Cullen responded, slamming his hand against the mantle.
"I care nothing for rank, so don't expect all the little niceties."
"It's called respect."
"Where I come from — for all its faults — respect is earned."
"That's rich coming from you." Cullen poured himself a cup of wine and downed it in one gulp. "The spoiled Tevinter mage."
"Am I making you nervous, Commander?"
"Get out of my quarters."
The mage stopped Cullen from pouring more wine by placing his hand over the cup.
"No need for drunkenness," he said with a voice so rich with innuendo Cullen leaned into its promise. Rarely serious, Dorian's voice seem always filled with cheeky humor or cynicism. Life was dangerous, his world held nothing but duty, and too often death hovered over his shoulder. The tension of the responsibility he carried on his neck and shoulders like a yoke began loosen its grip. The Commander couldn't afford those emotions, they weren't part of his make-up. On the battlefield, he often noticed Dorian's comments lightened the moment, pulled them from exhaustion or invited courage just when needed.
"Just here to talk. Unless you want—"
"—want what?" He shot back. Maker, he was tired. "Talk about fashion?"
"If you wish." Dorian placed one finger on Cullen's right shoulder. "The feathers hide your broad shoulders and the firm line of your jaw. While the black color looks divine me, it does nothing for you." Dorian smiled that endearing crooked smile of his and dragged a finger down Cullen's jaw line. "And in battle, the cape hinders your field of vision."
"What does that matter? I'm not allowed to fight."
"Of course, not. You're too important. Your leadership abilities, experience and all that." Dorian lowered his voice, his fingertips smoothing his mustache. He cast a sideways glance at Cullen. "And, I would see you kept safe."
Cullen shoved the man away and determinedly walked the five steps to the other side of his quarters. Slamming the poker against the smoldering wood, he stoked up the fire and said over his shoulder, "I don't need to be kept safe, and I don't know why you're here. That lieutenant can't take his eyes off you. Go talk to him and take that bottle with you."
"That lieutenant is looking for a daddy," the mage laughed. "And I'm no one's daddy. Curious, however. What makes you think I'm here for seduction."
"I don't," Cullen shrugged off the leather cuirass and belt. Under the linen shirt, his chest heaved as if he'd just come from a fight. The light color suited his complexion and brown eyes. With a long sigh, Cullen tried again, "I'd like to get some sleep. Why are you still here?"
"Because, there's a question you want to ask me."
What question?" Cullen's voice grated across the small space. He toed off his boots and kicked them into the corner. "Maker's breath, never mind. Will you please leave?"
"You've been a soldier your whole life. Yes?"
"Silence, I beg you."
But Dorian wouldn't listen, he couldn't hear Cullen's words. Words he needed to say forced themselves out over Cullen's objections.
"You are no longer a Templar, yet you remain cloistered. Denying yourself pleasures of any kind." Dorian moved to stand directly behind the agitated man. "Cullen, all things are possible with me. And, although you don't trust me now. Perhaps in time, I might earn your trust, and you'll see the spoiled Tevinter mage is a merely a man, just like you who too often must hold himself apart. Who feels, just as you do, the oppressive weight of expectation is sometimes too much of a burden."
"I'm a soldier. My duty, my responsibility…Do you even know what that's like, Dorian? Their very lives are my responsibility. I have to make sure there's enough food, lodging, weapons. We must be battle ready if the Inquisitor calls on us."
"A man in your position is always on duty. Yes? Never a moment—"
—"Yes, yes, yes! Is that what you want to hear?" Cullen turned so suddenly he had to grab Dorian to keep from knocking him over. So close, that when Dorian spoke again, Cullen felt the warm siren call of his breath on his cheek. The room closed around the two men; firelight bathed them in muted colors of red and orange. Their bodies leaned toward the other in anticipation.
"What? Ask for a moment? An hour? No, duty? No, responsibility? Not possible."
"Bend your head just a little, and you will find the answer to your question."
Cullen shook his head stepped away from temptation. "You're a mage…"
"Bloody Templars," Dorian shot back. "You hide behind religious bigotry to cover what you want? Do you imagine I need to ask for what I want, Commander? Perhaps that lieutenant might prove serviceable for the night. " Dorian shrugged himself away from the blond man, surprised at how much Cullen's comment hurt. "I expected more from you, Commander." Dorian turned at the door, "Sleep well if you can."
Before he could open the door, the mage found himself flipped around and pinned to the wall.
"Now, that's a little more like it."
"Then silence me, sir. I should like to see you try."
The reflective eyes the color of a calm sea pulled him in. The powerful scent of leather and sweat poured off the mage igniting Cullen's long-buried need. With a keening cry, Cullen trapped the man's head in his hands.
"Why do you torment me?" Cullen pushed his body into Dorian's, flattening himself against the mage. The mage shifted spreading his legs allowing Cullen to press closer. With the fear of sin battling against his attraction to this man, Cullen wasn't gentle when he pushed the mage's head back and covered his mouth with his hungry lips. Flames of desire licked at Cullen's flesh, melting the guilt and kindling the need for more. Heated blood raced through him in preparation, but he never allowed these needs fulfillment. Never. Long years of denial and withdrawal from Lyrium left him dizzy and confused. Blinking his eyes to clear his thoughts the only thing he could see was Dorian's mouth, and he hungered for it.
"Maker, please." Cullen lifted Dorian away from the door and wrapped him in his arms. Finally, his chest heaving and hands fisted into the mage's leather clothes, Cullen broke the kiss and dropped his head to the mage's shoulder,
"I'm sorry... I didn't mean... please go."
"Lovely man, do not despair," Dorian whispered against Cullen's cheek. "I've been a port in the storm before. I would be yours. If you'll let me."
Cullen dug his fingers into Dorian's biceps and in a tone of voice, which failed to match the strength of his grip, "I cannot."
Dorian slipped his hands over Cullen's lower back and felt Cullen give in when he bumped himself the mage's hip. Wrapping his palm around Cullen's cheek. "Let me give you that moment."
Seduction in Tevinter meant sharing a goblet of wine or a meaningful glance across the room. No complications, find a quiet place for the necessary amount of time and enjoy the moment. Had he ever actually seduced a man, been inspired to quiet a troubled spirit, and taken care not spook the object of his desire? The answer was no because most men and women, to be honest, threw themselves at him. This was different. This was a growing need in him to offer succor and soothe a worried brow.
How very odd.
And what would he do with this great golden-eyed blond afterward? Would his generosity earn him a grateful puppy dog? Yes, he'd experienced that too. But the Inquisition, archdemons, and all that rot, made the stakes too high for that kind of distraction.
But the man was distraction itself. All powerful muscles, golden sunlight, and commanding presence. He could wield a sword like a man born to it, lead and encourage men. Yet, it was the haunted exhausted eyes that pulled Dorian in and made him step close enough to look inside. What he found surprised him because it was also the quick mind and the innocence. The fact Cullen could beat him at chess, that he was better educated and damn the man, better read.
Cullen shifted against him, pulling him from his thoughts. A hand covered his and a voice spoke softly against his cheek, "Please go. I don't want your pity."
Pity? No, Dorian realized with a thump of his heart. "I offer no pity, Commander."
"What do you offer?" The Commander demanded, his heart beating a terrified staccato threatening to burst his ribs.
"A moment ago your kiss was filled with anger and frustration. How long has it been since anyone kissed you with passion?"
"Passion?" Cullen huffed a laugh of derision. "Templar training… the Lyrium… What it does to us. You don't understand."
Dorian tipped the man's chin up, "And, you worry what they would do to you if they found out your dirty little secret." Cullen sagged against him. Of course, that was it. Dorian stayed still. If he wanted to pull Cullen against him, now was not the time. Patience.
"We are not so different, you and I," the mage ventured, rubbing his cheek against the Templar's. "Both of us trapped in a lifestyle not completely of our own making. Yes?"
"Mage, you see too much."
"Your secret is quite safe with me. Perhaps we shall both unlock a few secrets tonight."
Cullen stiffened and braced his arms against the door frame.
"Or," Dorian chuckled softly, "just a small one or two?"
Cullen lifted his eyes and Dorian took that as a definite maybe and pressed his lips to Cullen's.
"N-no it's just weakness…" Cullen said his voice whispered in hoarse tones.
"Your body burns, the hands twisted into my shirt do not feel weak. Indeed, exactly like they might tear me apart. But you cannot hurt me. You don't trust me because I am a mage, yet you won't allow me to move away from this door. Your body betrays the restrictions and fears your mind places on itself."
Dorian pulled the laces of his shirt open and placed Cullen's hands on his bared neck. "I have no arguments left," Dorian said, looking directly into the golden eyes. "Don't make me leave. If you won't do this for me, then do it for yourself. I am yours to command."Start writing here ...