Surprisingly it hadn’t been as hard as she’d thought to make plans right under Cullen’s nose. A quick note to Orana had assured her someone to watch Mathis for the night, another to Varric had secured enough alcohol to take down an ogre, and a whispered word to Knight-Captain Tomas about what anniversary was coming up had cemented his participation.
Really the hardest task Treva had was cornering the man.
By the time she’d finally tracked him down in his office, the atmosphere of the Gallows felt taut as a wire merely from all of the templars and mages trying to be as unobtrusive as possible. As Siegfried had explained to her last year during the anniversary, despite the fact that they trusted Cullen, some of them were still wary of him during that time. Even Siegfried had admitted that, as someone who knew the reality of the sordid tale, he was surprised Cullen was sane and understood how he dealt with it.
This year Treva intended to not let the man mourn alone.
“I have a proposal,” she opened with as she closed the door behind her. When Cullen didn’t look up from his desk and whatever he was writing, she strode across the room. “Cullen,” she said firmly as she placed both hands on the desk and leaned forward.
He looked up then, just a bare flicker of his eyes, then asked, “Your proposal?”
Treva smiled and reached out to touch his right hand, stilling its motion and more fully drawing his attention to her. As she finally caught his gaze with her own, she lifted her hand to his cheek and gently said, “I remember what today is the start of.”
“So help me if the next words out of your mouth are that you can handle it on your own, I will slap you,” she interrupted fiercely. When he looked up at her in confusion, Treva continued, “I’ve already seen how you react to this. There’s nothing to hide from me, Cullen.”
He closed his eyes at that and bowed his head while growling out, “I hate making you deal with this. With me.”
“The point of being together is to deal with each others baggage.”
Cullen lifted his head to look at her at that and arched an eyebrow as he asked, “And how are you planning to do such?”
Treva just smiled in response and leaned down to kiss him, humming as he returned it immediately and set her toes curling. “You and I,” she replied, “are going to take the night and possibly all of tomorrow off and get dead rotten drunk. We’re going to mourn, cry, laugh, and probably fuck each others brains out as well at some point during that.”
He blinked several times at her bluntness then murmured, “We have jobs.”
“Tomas already said he could take your workload and I’m intending on hauling Siegfried in to cover my half. Honestly, Cullen, we really don’t do that much anymore other than read paperwork and occasionally sign something.” Treva cocked her head to the side then and added, “Orana’s watching Mathis. Our jobs are secure. And, best yet, Varric procured us more alcohol than we can possibly drink in one night and it’s just waiting for us.”
There was silence in response for a moment and she could see him warring between arguing with her and just following along. Finally he sighed and sat down his quill, rising from his chair and moving around the desk. She smiled and turned to face him, her buttocks pressing against the edge of the desk as he placed his hands on either side of her hips. Looking down at her for a long moment, he let out a small huff of laughter and shook his head.
“You’re sure you want to deal with me drunk? I’m told I get incredibly melancholy.”
“Dear,” Treva replied firmly, “I had my best friend procure us alcohol.”
“I thought so.”
Cullen shook his head then asked, “And where are we having this personal party of ours?”
Smiling, she replied, “Your quarters.” He let out an exasperated sigh, shaking his head in what was most likely disbelief, but still smiled as she took his hand and led him out of the office. She just smiled back in return and noted each and every one of the grateful glances tossed her way when they passed someone in the halls.
And, very quietly, she hoped that next year and every one after that maybe they wouldn’t have to mourn the anniversary of the rebellion in Ferelden’s Circle so much.
“She stood there looking so lost. That’s what I remember most.”
Treva nodded and ran her fingers through Cullen’s hair as she lifted her glass to her lips again. She was sitting on the low cushioned bench that had somehow found it’s way into his room recently with him laid out on it with his head in her lap. His own glass dangled loosely from the arm that hung off the bench.
“Cullen,” she breathed, “you don’t have to tell me now.”
He shook his head at that, lifting his arm to gently touch her cheek. “I do,” he intoned quietly. “I should have done it before I asked to court you.”
Cullen closed his eyes, as if in pain, and his lips moved but no sound seemed to come out. He seemed to say whatever he was trying to say again and again, mouthing it silently, then his eyes snapped open. “You remind me of her,” he said quietly. “She cared too much too.”
His fingers then trailed across her cheek, gently touching her nose before drifting downward to caress her lips drunkenly as he mumbled, “I imagined kissing her once too. Never did it though. Never had the chance.”
Never stilling the motion of her fingers in his hair, Treva asked softly, “Who was she?”
“Elena,” he replied. Then his eyes closed again as he continued a breath later, “Amell. Her name was Amell.”
The surname thrummed through her for a moment – how many families were there in Thedas with that name – then she breathed, “I…was she…were we…Cullen, were we kin?”
He just shook his head, eyes screwed shut now. “I don’t know, I don’t know,” he answered hurriedly. “I never asked, never got to know her, never got the chance beyond hello and goodbye. Fraternization wasn’t allowed. I wanted to know, to ask, but I was too young to think of rebellion then.”
A beat later he relaxed, slumping into her lap more fully, and wearily opened his eyes. “She was kind to me, to all of us in the Tower. Always said hello and goodbye and tried to get us to talk. I got teased mercilessly for being ‘smitten’ with her.”
Treva swallowed then murmured, “And then she was accused of conspiring with a blood mage.”
He nodded. “Her best friend. I think she was in love with him, looking back at it now. Jowan. I’m not sure what happened to him after everything. Wasn’t in a state to ask.”
Cullen grunted and sat up, lifting his glass to down the rest of its contents. He then rose and moved slowly across the room to pour himself another from the bottle of Nevarran whiskey he’d been working on through the night. She frowned and wondered what sort of box she’d opened asking that question as he took a long pull of the drink before leaning against the table.
When he finally turned around, Treva found that she dearly wanted to close it given the expression on his face.
“There is only one place you get sent after being exposed to blood magic,” he said quietly with his eyes shut.
Sudden gibbering fear rose up within her at those words because she knew the answer to that statement. Aeonar. Father had mentioned it all of twice, once to her when she was twelve and again six years later when the twins were the same age. She remembered the second occasion much more clearly than the first not only because it had brought back all that old fear but because it was one of the few times then that she and Carver had gotten along during their youth. That night neither of them had been able to sleep and had stayed up, sitting together outside their house under one of the great trees, and he had sworn that he’d never let any of them end up there.
Tipping her head back, Treva finished off the dredges of her own drink and rose. Walking over to where he was standing, she sat her glass down then reached past the bottle of mead she’d been working through all night to grab the bottle of Antivan brandy. The way this conversation was going, she definitely was in need for something stronger. As she opened it, she asked, “Do you know what happened to her?”
Cullen shook his head, replying, “I tried to find out a few times. Once when I was still in Ferelden at Greenfell and a handful of other times throughout the years when I managed to catch a ship heading that way. No one ever responded.” Shrugging, he continued after a moment, “I even tried once by way of asking about the Chantry sister that had been involved with Jowan. Even that didn’t get anything.”
At that she resealed the bottle of brandy and reached for the whiskey, lifting it up to drink straight from the bottle. As the liquid burned down her throat, she found him watching her and smiled bitterly before splashing whiskey into her glass.
His hand touched her arm then, the lightest of brushes that made her think he was expecting her to react badly. “Forgive me?” he asked.
“You didn’t send her to Aeonar,” insisted Treva. She then turned to look up at him, searching his oh-so-lost face for a moment, then lifted a hand to grasp his. As their fingers tangled together, she breathed, “If you hadn’t known, I might have never known what happened to her. Maker, Cullen, I would have never known she existed.”
Cullen relaxed a beat later then bent to kiss her as his other hand slipped from his glass to rise and tangle in her hair. She moaned in response, pressing her body against his and clutching to him as if he might disappear himself, lost like her unknown kin had been. When he pulled away, he smiled ever so sadly and she lifted a hand to touch his lips, wishing the simple touch could change the turn of his mouth.
“Whatever did I do in this life to deserve you?” he asked quietly.
Smiling sadly, Treva replied, “My father once told me that people rarely get what they deserve. Sometimes, though, they get exactly what they need. You were that for me, a good friend when I needed one most to lean on.”
“Only a friend?” Cullen asked with a slight smile.
“More now. And still exactly what I need,” she answered, rising on her toes to kiss him.
He chuckled and nodded before murmuring, “And I think you are the same for me.” Cullen then reached for his glass and lifted it, cocking his head slightly to the side as he asked, “A toast?”
Treva just smiled and retrieved her own glass, raising it to lightly touch it against his. “A toast to what?”
“To those lost,” he replied first. “To loves and kin and friends. To everyone we still have. To what we’ve built.” He then dipped his head and whispered, “To getting what I needed. And to the beautiful woman a broken man like me doesn’t deserve,” before he kissed her.
As he pulled away, she closed her eyes and breathed, “To the world growing wiser. To change.” Then she opened her eyes and smiled up at him. “And to the man who dared trust a shattered woman and helped put her back together.”
Cullen just blinked down at her for a moment then smiled warmly. A beat later he said softly, “I suppose we should drink now. Finish the toast and all.”
“We should,” she replied as she lifted her glass to her lips. Treva downed the whole of it and before the whiskey had finished burning down her throat, Cullen’s fingers were prying the glass from her hand. Then those fingers were sliding underneath the hem of her loose shirt, moving feverishly along her bare skin until they found the knots of her breastband.
As he worked at them, she moved her hands to his waist, quickly undoing his belt and tossing it away. The alcohol was forgotten moments later as they made their way towards his bed but Treva had one last coherent thought.
She’d gone into this night thinking that she was going to help fix him.
It turned out that they were both trying to fix each other and that was exactly the way it was supposed to be.