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A Night for Mantras

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When Dorian finally landed in the Fade, he found himself seated on a chaise, the likes of which he hadn't seen since Tevinter. Which was to say comfortable and stylish furniture that Southerns wouldn't know what to do with.

Fingers trailed along the back of Dorian's neck, only barely touching the skin but enough to leave goosebumps on Dorian's skin. Cullen came into Dorian's view with a blinding smile as he cupped Dorian's cheek.

Dorian hummed in his throat. "Marvelous as this is, I'm afraid I'm not in the mood for it tonight."

Hurt flashed in Cullen's eyes as he pulled his hand away. "Is something wrong?"

"Considering I'm asleep next to the man, I'd rather not wake up in any...compromising positions because a desire demon thought they could have a tumble with me."

A look of anger crossed 'Cullen's' face and the desire demon set itself on the chaise, straddling the mage beneath him. Dorian gave a slight sound of protest but allowed the demon to sit atop him. After all, the knowledge that this was not Cullen was helping his libido stay trampled down tremendously.

The demon pouted, the entire look rather ridiculous on the imposing Commander's face. No one wore full plate mail all the time and pouted. "And what's wrong with a quick tumble, my love?" The demon caressed Dorian's cheek, though the mage pulled away before its fingers could trail along his lips. "Ah. You think he'll love you."

"Now whoever said anything about love?"

'Cullen' smiled at Dorian as he brought his hands across the mage's suddenly unclothed chest. The demon placed a hand over the three blood magic scars Dorian bore across his heart. "In your life, no one."

Dorian threw a fireball at the demon before he even registered the motion. The desire demon was thrown back from Dorian, screaming as it clutched its face, having dropped Cullen's form from the shock of the attack. Dorian ignored its screams as he summoned his staff to his hands and threw a lightning cage over the beast.

"And we were having such a lovely time," Dorian said. It took less than a thought to don himself in his battle robes. The Southern mages may be terrified of their power, but he was raised where magic was lauded. Controlling the Fade was a skill he was taught since he first showed signs of magic. "Pity you had to go and ruin it."

The desire demon stayed down, still clutching its face in pain. It looked up, the purple glow about one of its eyes was dimmed where the fireball must have caught it. "He'll never stay with you," it hissed to Dorian. "Do you think he'll go with you to your home? Can you even go back?" The desire demon stood, mere inches from the lightning that kept it locked away. "What will he try to change about you?"

With a quick clench of his fist, Dorian bore the lightning cage down on the desire demon, turning from it before it started to scream. There were few instances when words weren't the correct course of action. Violent magic, however, happened to be a well used alternative in Dorian's life and it had yet to fail him.

"Then it's rather fortunate no one said anything about love," he said over his shoulder, walking away from the demon.

Dorian was able to walk in the Fade a while longer. His mana leaked from him, as it always did when he was less than pleased. It drew a few more demons to him, but none stupid enough to hang around an angry and in control mage.

And then suddenly Dorian was no longer in the Fade. Typically it shimmered and fell away like rain if he naturally woke up. This time he was yanked violently from the Fade to the waking world.

He was on his back, Cullen straddling his lap as the man held Dorian's wrists above his head and crushingly against the wall.

Dorian blinked a few times, just to be sure he wasn't in a new part of the Fade. If he was, it felt like the real world. Well, besides the handsome Commander astride his lap.

"Do you typically restrain mages who enter your bed, Commander?" Dorian asked lightly despite his heart hammering in his chest.

Cullen didn't reply, only tightened his grip on Dorian's wrists until the mage cried out. Magic was still surrounding Dorian, his anger in the Fade having a tangible effect on the outside world. That magic shot out in warning at Dorian's pain. Not to cause any pain to Cullen, of course, just an accidental sort of flair.

The flair rose around Dorian and Cullen for a second or two but not more than that before Dorian's connection to the Fade was ripped away from him. Torn completely and utterly free of him without any indication as to why.

Dorian scrambled to rediscover the connection to the Fade. The pathway he'd been traversing easily since he was fucking eight. It was as if his very breath had been taken away--something vital and constant rent from his existence.

"Cullen!" he shouted absentmindedly, struggling in the man's ever tightening grasp. Dorian tried to call lightning to his hands but all that came was a small spark, barely enough to startle a man let alone force him to drop his grasp.

He started shouting Cullen's name like a mantra, only barely aware that he was saying anything. He futility called on his magic, on the connection to the Fade that had always been there.

It was too much like magebane; the taste that was always on his tongue. Like slaves holding him down as his father pressed a knife to his heart. Like betrayal.

His breaths started coming faster as he felt himself caving in on himself, on memories he didn't want to sink into again.

"CULLEN!" Dorian shouted once more, louder as he cast all his magic in one last spell, lightning curling about his fingers weakly.

Even with only the barest of lightning, it lit the room up enough so that Dorian could see the moment Cullen's eyes opened. The grip on his wrists loosened but didn't release him completely.

The man above him looked confused, staring at Dorian as if he didn't know what he was seeing. "Cullen," Dorian said, unable to keep the waver out of his voice. He tried to reach for his magic but there was nothing left. The sparks died at his fingers as the last of his mana was used.

"Maker's breath!" Cullen scrambled off of the mage as if he were burnt. Dorian's connection to the Fade slammed back into him. It wasn't the trickle of magic coming back to him like magebane had been, but a veritable dam breaking that held back a tidal wave.

A quiet sob escaped Dorian as he called ice to his fingers. It came naturally and easily, just like it always had.

Cullen said something but Dorian wasn't paying attention. He was calling shapes of ice to his hands, if only to reassure himself that he still could. Then came lightning. Fire. Fear. Dorian ran through the scales of spells that he learned in the Circle of Carastes. He could do the scales without thought, often did when he was deep in thought like it was a nervous tic. This time he focused on each spell, each basic incantation and rune.

He did his basic five minute scales four times. His connection to the Fade never wavered. It was as if it had never been severed at all.

So, Dorian thought, that's a Silence. He sat up, fingers still running through the basic runes. The commander, the man who shouldn't be able to cast Silence--and wasn't that a question for the ages--was no longer in the room with him.

There was a noise from the floor below him, a low voice he couldn't quite make out. Dorian swung his legs over the bed and stepped to the ladder.

It was Cullen. Of course it was Cullen, but the voice was still too far away to make out the words. Dorian stepped onto the ladder, ignoring his shaking hands and climbing down each rung slowly.

"I'm sorry," Cullen was saying. It was a mantra, repeated with only the barest pause in between its repetition.

When Dorian landed on the floor, he turned to see the Commander sitting at his desk, head staring at his hands. One was clasped tightly around one of the fingers of the other hand.

Dorian's ring.

"I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry."

Dorian's feet carried him to the man and he kneeled in front of him. Cullen didn't even noticed, his focus on the ring that was rapidly running out of the enchantment. He continued to repeat his apologies, apologies he must have been uttering since he left the bed.

"You'll wear the enchantment out like that," Dorian said. Cullen jumped in the chair, startled out of his panic attack by Dorian's voice. He looked up to Dorian and Dorian's heart clenched. Cullen was shaking, his entire frame trembling in the chair as he looked at Dorian with the most desolate expression Dorian had ever seen.

"May I?" Dorian asked quietly and held out his hand to Cullen. If his own hand were shaking, well, that was a fact Dorian could ignore.

With a vicious pull, Cullen yanked off the ring and thrust it into Dorian's hand. "Dorian, I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to-. I didn't even know I could-. Can you-?"

"Hush," Dorian said, because if he had to think about it....He couldn't think about it.

The enchantment that Dorian put on the ring was of his own making and required more thought and concentration than the basic magic scales. He overturned his hand and a ball of light hovered above it. It was easy to funnel into the green gem, the rune etched on the back of the stone easily recognizing its like in magic.

"Are you well?" Dorian asked. Deflect. It was what he'd always been taught to do. Deflect and appear to rise as you fall.

"Am I-?!" Cullen shouted, a hand coming over his face. "Dorian, I cast Silence on you!"

"Admittedly not how I wanted to wake up when I went to bed with a half naked ex-Templar, but I'm hardly going to blame you. It's not like you meant to." Dorian smiled as he fell apart, the suffocating feel of the lack of his magic seeping back into him.

"But I stil-"

"Commander," Dorian interrupted harshly. Cullen was collapsing in on himself, wearing the guilt with ease. Andraste's tits, but this man would blame himself for the Blight itself.

As much as Dorian hated himself for it, seeing Cullen's guilt eased some of Dorian's pain.

"You were not yourself," Dorian said, for both his and Cullen's benefit. "I understand this and I forgive you, though there is nothing to forgive. So I will ask again, despite my loathing to repeat myself, are you well?"

Cullen hadn't meant it. Couldn't have meant to cast Silence. Maker above, but Dorian thought Cullen would look less destroyed if he'd started lyrium again. He hadn't meant it. Not like his father had meant it.

"No," Cullen said softly. "I'm not."

"Do you want to talk about it?"

"Kinloch Hold," Cullen said. Dorian blinked in surprise at the fast response. He'd heard of Kinloch insomuch as he knew the Hero had been there with Cullen. Beyond that, it was a barbaric Southern Circle and that was the extent of his knowledge. "It was taken over by abominations. The Templars--my friends--were slaughtered. I was tortured, they tried to break my mind and I- How can you be the same person after that?"

Oh.

Oh.

Dorian was going to murder the idiot who transferred Cullen to Kirkwall after that.

"You can't, Commander," Dorian said and took the man's hand. It wasn't enough. Dorian wanted to pull the man close to him. To kiss the wounds and the memories away. "I'm sorry for what happened."

How empty words were. 'I'm sorry' for a past that couldn't be changed. Scars that couldn't be erased.

"I am too. I called for the Right of Annulment but it fell on deaf ears. Luckily. Selene didn't speak with me for years after that. I don't think she's ever forgiven me for it."

"You were tortured, Commander," Dorian said. Anger welled up for the Hero. For someone who killed more than her fair share of people she didn't agree with, it seemed rather hypocritical of her to hold a grudge. Especially considering what state of mind Cullen must have been in.

"You weren't in your right mind and no one can blame you for that. You are more than your past and more than your lyrium withdrawals now. You are the man who survived demons infiltrating his mind and did not break. While those instances help define you, they are not you."

And wasn't it a perfect night for repeated mantras?

Dorian placed his snake ring back on Cullen's finger, despite Cullen's soft protests. "Shall we go back to bed?"

"I'll sleep down here." Well, that was a rather quick answer.

"Perish the thought! There's no room for both of us in that chair," Dorian said as he stood and extended his hand to Cullen.

Don't make me go back alone, Dorian thought. He wasn't going to read into why he needed the man who cast Silence on him to go back to bed with him. Maybe it was the guilt. Not many people had sincerely apologized for wronging him.

"Experiencing a Templar's Silence was never exactly on my to-do list, and let's hope it never happens again, but I will not fault you for instinct. As I said--and how many times must I repeat myself?--I forgive you."

Cullen frowned but took the mage's hand. Dorian smiled at Cullen. There was a small voice in the back of Dorian's mind telling him to pull back. To leave this man to his chair. It was a voice that sounded suspiciously like his mother and thank Andraste he'd stopped listening to her ages ago.

Using his thumb, Dorian maneuvered his thumb over Cullen's and pressed them both firmly into the green gem.

Peace flowed through Dorian from the enchantment. Cullen gave Dorian a watery smile that even Lavellan would have been able to see through. "To bed?" he asked.

Thank the Maker no one said anything about love.