pariswriter: (Default)
Title:  Moving On...
Author:  ParisWriter
Game:  Dragon Age: Origins/Dragon Age 2
Summary:  Cullen, now Knight-Captain of Kirkwall's Circle of Magi, prepares for an encounter with the woman he still loves... Only to discover she's moved on with someone else.
Rating:  T/PG-13
Characters:  Cullen; Varia Surana; Alistair
Disclaimer:  All characters from the Dragon Age series ©BioWare. Varia Surana belongs to me.
Content Warning:  Spoilers for The Broken Circle quest in Dragon Age: Origins (if the Warden was a female mage); Spoilers for Anders' condition in DA2


Moving On...

"Have you heard? The Hero of Ferelden is here."

"Really?"

"She's in Knight-Commander Meredith's office right now."

"What business do the Wardens have here?"

"No idea, but let me tell you: the Knight-Commander did not look too happy about it."

"Of course not! The Hero of Ferlden's a mage, isn't she?"

Cullen tried his best to drown out the conversation of the two recruits gossiping near his usual post in the Gallows courtyard, but he couldn't help listening in. As soon as he'd heard the title, 'Hero of Ferelden,' his attention had been cemented to every word that passed through their lips. He knew of who they were speaking even before they said the Hero was a mage. They'd been in love once, after all, back when he'd been softer on the mages and unable to see the true evil which lurked just beneath the surface of all of them.

"Say, didn't Knight-Captain Cullen used to have a thing for her?"

"All right, that's enough!" Cullen finally spoke up, turning hardened green eyes upon the them. "Gossip is a sin in the eyes of the Maker, and I will not have you two spreading rumors about myself or any other superior officer of this order. Understood?"

"Yes, ser!" the two recruits cried out before scurrying off in opposite directions in order to return to their duties.

Cullen sighed deeply and pinched the bridge of his nose. He had no idea how the rumors of him having been in love with a mage at Kinloch Hold had been started. Granted, it was the truth, but to the knights under his command it was nothing more than a story they came up with to explain why he had been transferred to the Gallows. He supposed it was better than the one going around Ferelden, which pegged him as a killer who had gone mad and slaughtered a dozen mages at the tower, but the fact that the rumors in Kirkwall were actually true hit him harder than being branded a murderer ever could.

He still remembered the last time he'd seen his beloved Varia on that fateful day. He'd been in that magical prison of Uldred's for Maker knows how long, being tortured by visions of his love and what he had wanted for them for so long, only to have their special moment stolen from them thanks to her best friend turning out to be a blood mage and her being taken away to become a Grey Warden. He'd mourned for her when Uldred and Wynne returned to the tower with news of the betrayal at Ostagar and the death of every Grey Warden in Ferelden. Then that blasted abomination had used his own grief and love for her against him in the most horribly twisted way. He'd remained strong against the temptations of the desire demon, but only barely. Several times, he had nearly given in to his desire to touch her, to hold her again and kiss her and make her his the way he had planned to that night before everything went wrong and he was forced to watch her walk away from him forever.

It hadn't been forever, though. As luck would have it, she and another Grey Warden had survived the attack on Ostagar. He should have been overjoyed when he saw her standing before him again, alive and just as beautiful as he remembered. He'd thought she was another illusion of the demon, though – at first, anyway. Then, once he realized she was really there, all manner of negative emotions had spilled out from within him. He'd denounced her, called their love a sin, and told her she was no different from those who had imprisoned him. He didn't care about the look of shock on her face or the sadness in her eyes. All he could think about was that blasted demon tempting him with visions of her offering herself to him, and his own weakness which had nearly caused him to give in to his long-kept desires. He was a knight of the templar order, a servant of the Maker, and he could not afford such weakness when it was his duty to protect the innocent from such evil. So he had cast her away without a second thought.

It wasn't until after Greagoir had decided to send him to Kirkwall that what he'd done finally hit him. He'd found his sister's amulet lying amongst the rocks near the edge of Lake Calenhad once Kester had docked on the far shore, glimmering in the light of the moon above. He'd given it to Varia as a token of his affection for her, and she'd worn it every day since. He could just imagine her standing on the shore after what he had said to her, staring at the tower and crying before ripping the necklace off and casting it away into the lake the way he had cast her and their love away from him. That was the moment he realized the horrible mistake he'd made, but it was too late to change things.

Now, perhaps, he would finally get a chance to set things right between them. He knew they could  never be together again like they once were because of his new station – no matter how much a part of his heart would always long for it – but at least he could make sure she was doing well and let her know he held no true feelings of animosity toward her.

No sooner had he considered clearing the air between them than he spotted her walking briskly out of the small shopping area the tranquil mages and some of the enchanters had set up outside the templars' quarters. Her golden hair shone in the sun, the natural red highlights standing out brilliantly, while her eyes glowed softly in the familiar silver color he had loved to gaze upon. Her full lips were pressed together in a scowl, a small crease of frustration imprinted on her porcelain skin between her brows, but she still looked every bit as enchanting as she had the first day he'd laid eyes upon her.

"Varia!"

Cullen stopped in his tracks when the man calling her name rushed up behind her and grasped her gently by her arm to stop her storming off. He wasn't even aware he'd been moving toward her until his momentum died and he nearly pitched face-forward to the ground.

He knew the man, of course, all too well. Alistair had been training at the Denerim chantry for two years prior to his own arrival. He'd never gone through with taking his vows, though, as far as Cullen knew. The Revered Mother wouldn't allow him to, but she would never tell anyone why – not even Alistair, himself. As such, he'd only been marginally surprised when he saw Alistair accompanying her at the tower. He might not have had what it took to become a full-fledged templar, but the man was a skilled warrior and Cullen knew he was likely a good Warden. But what he hadn't realized then was something which was becoming very clear to him now, before his very eyes.

"How dare that bitch think she can talk to me like that!" Varia complained, no doubt referring to Meredith.

"You're a mage, she's a templar," Alistar reminded her in a soothing voice, his other hand coming up to rest on her opposite arm as he turned her to face him. "Did you really expect her to treat you any differently?"

"I suppose not," she said, then closed her eyes and let out a deep sigh before looking up at him. "Thank you for stepping in there, by the way. I'm not sure she would have listened to my request, had it come from me."

"He's your friend," Alistair told her, his hands beginning to slowly move up and down her arms in a gentle caress. "You want to protect him. I understand that. Though I still think we should have dragged him back to Amaranthine with us, considering what he's done."

"Keep your voice down," she warned him, looking about nervously at the templars standing about the courtyard. "It won't matter if he's got an order of protection from the Grey Wardens on him if they find out he's an abomination. They'd kill him without a second thought."

"That happens, and the Knight-Commander's life is forfeit," Alistair told her, earning himself a questioning glance. "I um... Kinda informed her that you're related to a very skilled Crow."

"Now you're using Zevran to threaten people in powerful positions?" she asked him with a sly grin, reaching up to wrap her slender arms around his neck. "And here I thought I was the only one who did that."

"She's just a lowly templar commander, though," Alistair replied, grinning at her and sliding his arms around her waist. "You, my dear, used him to threaten a queen."

"It's worked so far, hasn't it?"

"It's only been two years," he reminded her. "Give it some time."

"Oh, you know you love it when I'm a bitch to people you don't like," she teased him, pressing her body closer to his.

"That I do."

Cullen couldn't really tell what was being said between them, but their body language was more than enough to give away their relationship to one another. He'd heard the rumors, of course, about King Maric's bastard son giving up his birthright because he had taken his fellow Warden as a lover and wished to remain with her in the order. Until he saw the undeniable attraction between them, however, he had just brushed those off as more inane rumors concocted by the bored nobles in Kirkwall who so hated all Fereldans.

He remained motionless through the exchange between them, not wanting to interrupt, but when his former fellow templar kissed the woman he had loved, it was more than he could bear. He walked over to them amidst the loud whispers of the knights in his charge – though he wasn't sure it was the two of them kissing in the middle of the Gallows courtyard or his moving to intercept them which had them all talking – and loudly cleared his throat once he reached them.

"C-Cullen?" Varia gasped upon pulling away from Alistair and seeing him standing there. "I... What are you doing here?"

"I am Knight-Captain of this Circle," he informed her, his voice coming out colder than he would have liked. "It is my duty to keep the order here, so I would appreciate it if you two would cease in this overt public display of affection."

"Oh... Yes, of course," Varia agreed, pulling herself out of Alistair's grasp and bowing her head in shame.

The three of them stood there awkwardly for a moment. Varia stared quietly at her hands, fussing with the ring she was wearing, totally oblivious to the silent exchange going on between the two men next to her. Cullen was glaring at Alistair, as if accusing him of breaking the vows he had never even taken by being with her. Alistair simply glared back and placed his arm around Varia's waist, calling the other man out on his jealousy without saying a single word.

"Cullen, you remember Alistair," Varia said when she felt his arm wrap possessively around her, reminding her of his presence. "He's my second-in-command in the Wardens, now."

"And her husband," Alistair added.

"And my husband," she amended herself.

"Your..." Cullen's anger evaporated as he turned to look at her, and she held up her left hand to show him the silver and garnet ring she wore upon her wedding finger. Her eyes soon followed suit, moving upwards to meet his, and he suddenly felt even more foolish for what he'd said that day in the tower.

All this time he was wondering if she had been thinking about him the way he'd been thinking about her, holding on to the childish notion that somehow they would be able to reconcile one day and be together again even though he knew it was impossible. Meanwhile, she had moved on. Maybe she had felt the same way too, at first, but it was apparent those feelings were now long gone. He should have known she wouldn't wait for him to change his mind and find his way back to her – not after the way he'd treated her – but there had still been that tiniest glimmer of hope in the back of his mind.

"Congratulations," he managed to say after a moment, his voice quiet and full of regret. "I hope you're happy."

"I am," Varia assured him, and he was surprised by the lack of venom in her voice. She had apparently forgiven him for what he'd done, somewhere along the way. At least there was that.

"Cullen, I--"

"No," he cut her off, holding up both of his hands. "There's no need to explain or apologize. I understand. I treated you horribly that day in the tower, and for that I apologize. I'm happy that you've found someone who cares for you."

Varia nodded, and another awkward silence fell over the three of them. Cullen didn't know what else to say. What did one say when faced with the woman they still loved and the man she had chosen to spend the rest of her life with? He was painfully aware of all the eyes which were now watching them, and he knew that even more rumors would begin surrounding him before the day was out.

"We should get going," Alistair said after a bit. "Orlais is still a ways off."

"Right," Varia agreed with a nod. Cullen wanted to ask why they were going to Orlais, but it was likely some sort of Warden business. Even if it wasn't, he really had no place asking what their plans were.

"Besides, I can't wait to get out of these robes," she complained, fidgeting about. "What are the Wardens making them out of now? Wool? They itch so much more than the old ones did."

Alistair chuckled and pulled his wife closer to his side, leaning down to whisper to her just loud enough that Cullen could hear.

"I don't know what they're made out of, love, but I certainly can't wait to get you out of them, either."

Varia jabbed her elbow into his side and glared at him, her cheeks and ears tinging pink. He merely winked at her and placed a kiss at the corner of her mouth before releasing her and starting on his way out of the Gallows. Cullen watched him walking away, his fingers clenching and unclenching at his sides and his mouth set in a firm scowl at the way the younger man blatantly flaunted the fact that he was with the woman his fellow templar had once loved and so carelessly thrown away.

"Coming?"

"Just a second," she told him, and Alistair nodded in understanding before moving away to give her and Cullen some privacy.

"He's quite a character, isn't he?" Cullen muttered under his breath, watching the other man walk away until Varia reached up and gently cupped his cheek in her hand. She turned his face to hers, and their eyes met as they had so many times before in their moments alone together at the tower.

"I just wanted you to know something," she told him quietly, taking a step closer to him, and he noticed tears staring to form in her eyes. "I love Alistair, with all my heart. But you were my first love, and you'll always carry a piece of my heart with you. Seeing you like this, how much that ordeal you went through has changed you... It hurts me so much more than you can imagine. Please take care of yourself, Cullen. I have enough in my life to worry about right now without wondering if you'll end up dead when all of the tension here finally boils over."

She leaned up and kissed his cheek, lingering for a moment, then pulled away and gave him a weak smile as she wiped at her eyes with her hand before going to her husband near the main gate of the courtyard. Cullen watched the two of them join hands and leave, their blue and grey uniforms fading into the distance, and he finally understood how she must have felt that day because it was likely the same feeling he was experiencing now.

She, too, held a piece of his heart – even though she had decided she was better off without him – and with each step she took as she walked away from him he could feel that part of his heart shattering into smaller and smaller pieces. The difference between them, however, was that she had found a way to move on. He knew he should do the same, but he didn't have the faintest idea how to begin. Perhaps he never would be able to begin.

Taking a slow, deep breath, he once more shoved his feelings for her to the back of his mind and locked them away within the impenetrable fortress that was his duty to the Maker. He knew it was the only way he could get on with his life. Thinking about what might have been with her would only make him weak and lead him to trouble.

Even so, he knew he would never fully succeed in extinguishing the torch bearing her name which still burned brightly within his heart.
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