Treva sighed and flicked her fingers across the skirts of the robes she was wearing for the third or fourth time since they’d boarded the boat that fluttered between the Gallows and the main docks of Kirkwall. Next to her Cullen chuckled and asked, “Issues?”
“I hate robes,” she answered. “Can’t a woman get a sensible pair of pants? No, no, apparently that’s not done in the Circle.” Sighing again, she looked up at him whilst she shifted a sleeping Mathis in his sling . “Why didn’t I just wear my Champion armor?”
“Because you specifically told me that you wanted to be here in your office of First Enchanter, not the Champion,” he replied with a smile. “Which is why we found you robes.”
She honestly tried not to notice how the smile lit up his face and made him seem years younger. Or how it made her heart hammer against her ribs just that little bit faster. Mostly because with Mathis approaching five months old now, she couldn’t honestly tell herself that it was just overactive emotions from her pregnancy hanging over.
Especially not after she’d quietly approached Siegfried with a query about such a thing and him checking her over and declaring her perfectly fit.
“A question though, Treva.”
Shaking her head, she blinked at him curiously and asked, “What?”
Cullen inclined his head towards the sleeping boy, saying, “Are you sure you want to bring Mathis with us? From what I can recall of accompanying Meredith once or twice to these sort of things, the nobles have a bad habit of getting noisy.”
Arching an eyebrow, she replied, “And how is that going to be different from him sitting with me while I’m teaching a rambunctious bunch of children how to not set themselves on fire?”
There was silence for a moment as he absorbed that answer then he quietly noted, “Fair point.”
Treva smiled brilliantly – while ignoring the way his cheeks flushed and the warmth that curled in her belly in response – then turned her attention to the swiftly approaching docks. There was a familiar form waiting there for them and she lifted a hand in greeting while calling out his name. When she finally stepped off of the boat after it was moored, Varric chuckled then extended his arms in mock shock towards her.
“Curly, you managed to get her in a dress!”
“Robes!” she growled as she swatted the dwarf’s shoulder. “And Cullen didn’t get me into anything.”
“Has he gotten you out of anything?” asked Varric with a suggestive smirk.
Cullen made a noise in his throat from almost directly behind her and Treva froze before slowly turning her head to look at him with wide eyes. He was standing there with his arms neatly folded behind his back and, despite the embarrassed pink clinging to his cheeks, he inclined his head to Varric in greeting.
“Shall we?” he asked and she sincerely hoped that she imagined his voice cracking just the slightest bit. Flinching with embarrassment, she nodded meekly then was surprised when he extended an arm towards her. Treva cautiously slid her arm into his, all the while trying not to look up at him and ignore Varric’s quiet snickering, as they started on their trek towards Hightown.
As they passed through Lowtown near the Hanged Man, the dwarf parted from them with a quiet, “You be good now, kids. I’ve got some business to take care of.” With that he was gone and she silently fumed as she wondered if business was his latest book while wondering what idea he might have taken from the tangle that was her life this time.
They stayed silent as they weaved their way through Lowtown, Treva periodically nodding or calling greetings to the people she knew, until they reached the stairs that led up to Hightown. As they mounted them, Cullen’s quiet voice shattered the silence.
“Is there something I should know?”
She startled and turned to look at him, blinking slowly before she rediscovered the ability to speak. “No?” she replied, instantly regretting it as it had been more a question than an answer. Sighing, Treva began, “Cullen, I…”
“Treva,” he intoned gently, “I do have eyes.”
Suddenly embarrassed beyond belief, she lifted a hand to cover her face and asked, “How long?” The insufferable man next to her had the nerve to chuckle and lift his free hand to gently pat hers where it rested in the crook of his arm.
“Since your third or fourth month. I actually spoke to Siegfried about it as I was worried it was…odd…for you to be expressing such so soon after Anders.” He then smiled, continuing, “He assured me it was normal for your emotions to be having their way with you right then and making you behave oddly – his words not mine – and then threatened to set me on fire.”
Treva arched her eyebrows at that, trying to imagine the mild-mannered older man threatening anyone. Cullen noticed and laughed, the sound bright amongst the still drab walls that followed them up out of Lowtown.
He shook his head as he said, “He was worried I might take advantage of you.”
“You?” she gasped. Even given the words expressed the first time they’d met, she’d never believed that Cullen would cause harm to a mage. “How could Siegfried even think such a thing?”
“Unfortunately there were some unsavory rumors that followed me out of Ferelden,” he answered darkly. “You’ve probably overheard a few by now.”
“Heard, yes. Believed, no.”
He smiled at that and inclined his head respectfully. She imagined suddenly that there weren’t many people that had believed the best of him over the years, especially not knowing what he’d gone through in Ferelden. Or those who had simply seen him as a power-grabber, given that he’d become Knight-Captain not long after his arrival in Kirkwall.
Cullen sighed as they reached the top of the stairs and said, “I gave him my solemn oath that I’d be professional with you until you were emotionally stable again. Though given what both of us have been through in our lives, I’m not really sure exactly what stable is.”
Treva couldn’t help but to laugh at that, nodding in solidarity. She then nervously looked up at him as she realized exactly what he’d said and asked softly, “And what was your intent to do at that point?”
“Well,” he began and she could hear the nervous little stutter he got when he was well and truly off balance starting, “if you would have it, my lady, I would ask if I could court you. Properly.”
For a moment she just stared up at him as he expertly steered them through the Hightown market, her heart hammering against her ribs and her mouth feeling suddenly as dry as a desert. Treva then realized that he’d moved them into a side-street and that Cullen was holding both of her hands in his own gauntleted ones, staring down at her like a man lost.
After a moment she managed to lick her lips and breathe, “I…I never imagined you’d feel the same. I mean, I knew you cared but I never dreamed…”
“That a templar would dare do more towards a mage?” he asked, seeming to regain some of his ground. He chuckled, closing his eyes, then almost sadly said, “You aren’t the first mage I’ve cared for, Treva.”
She froze then said, “In Ferelden? Before?” An instant later she felt bad for prying and stammered, “You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to.”
“And if I do?”
Treva blinked then answered, “Then standing in the open in a Hightown street probably isn’t the best place.”
At that Cullen laughed and nodded, saying, “When you are right, you are right.” He then smiled shyly and asked, “May I court you?”
“Are you certain you want this?”
“Treva, I am fully aware of everything that comes with you, Varric and the rest included. Along with your very overprotective younger brother who is no doubt going to threaten me when he returns from Starkhaven.” His eyes then darted down to Mathis as he added, “As well as this young lad.”
She gnawed at her lip, indecisive for a moment, then blurted, “I want him to know who his father is.”
Cullen just blinked at her for a moment then nodded solemnly. “I respect that and think it for the best. Should Mathis come to have magic, his father might be one of the better lessons for what not to do with it.” He then blanched and closed his eyes as he hurriedly said, “I honestly mean no disrespect for Anders but he…”
“Cullen,” Treva interrupted, shaking her head. “I, more than anyone, know what Anders became at the end. You haven’t offended me.”
For some reason the relief in his voice made her laugh and it caused some of the tightness that had gathered in her chest during the past months to loosen. Smiling up at him, she squeezed his steel-clad fingers before saying, “Ser Cullen, you have my permission. And good luck to you as my mother always told me I would never be easy for a noble man to court.”
His bright, pleased smile was almost blinding and when he bowed just slightly, bringing both of her hands up to his lips to kiss them, Treva felt her stomach flutter wildly. “A good thing then,” Cullen purred before he drew away, “that I am only a simple man and not a noble.” Honestly she wondered if he knew what effect he had on her in that moment.
He then straightened as he said, “Now, I believe we have a meeting to get to. I seriously doubt our new Viscount would be happy if the people who sponsored her to the nobility were late.” As he released her hands, Cullen extended his arm again to her and she smiled as she took it.
“Aveline,” said Treva smartly as they restarted their trek through Hightown, “has long been aware that I rarely if ever get anywhere on time. I’ll have you know that she’d been wont to comment that I’d be late to my own funeral.”
That brought a chuckle out of the man and she smiled at the sound, no longer so afraid to admit that she liked it. Turning to look up at him as they passed by the Amell estate, she murmured, “Thank you.”
Cullen frowned and asked, “For what?”
There wasn’t really a way she could put everything that she wanted to say into words. How could she thank him for allowing her to stay in the Gallows, for understanding that she couldn’t stand to go home? For supporting her suggested changes and including his own that she hadn’t thought of because she’d never lived in a Circle? How could she express how much it had meant to have someone to talk to in the dead of night when the rest of the Gallows was asleep? Someone who would listen to her rant and prattle and occasionally tell her fears? There weren’t words for that.
“Everything,” she finally answered because there was no other.