“And we were having such a good day,” commented Treva mournfully after Cullen had finished reading the letter aloud. Slumping back into her chair with both hands folded over the six-and-a-half month swell of her belly, she closed her eyes. “This could sabotage everything we’ve worked for these months.”
The sound of something hitting the desk made her open her eyes and she was more than a little startled to find him leaning on it, his face buried in his hands. Sitting up, Treva leaned forward and reached out as far as she could across the desk.
After a moment he let his hands fall but his eyes never rose from the surface of the desk. That haunted gaze stayed there even as he reached out and cautiously laid one hand over hers. She sought for the proper words of reassurance but found none, only a very quiet, “Talk to me.”
He finally lifted his gaze then and said, “You can’t be here when they arrive. Not in the Gallows, maybe not in Kirkwall.”
“I’m not running.”
“Treva ,” he hissed and his half-furious, half-terrified tone made her heart sink in her chest. “They would arrest you and there would be nothing I could do. This isn’t like dealing with Meredith. Even at the end, she was still a known quantity compared to the contingent that’s coming.”
“Cullen,” Treva began slowly, “I can’t…I won’t …leave my mages . I promised. And this…” She paused to take a deep breath, trying to still the panic working to swell inside of her. “This is my home now. I can’t lose another one. I can’t.”
“Maker preserve, woman, I’m trying to keep you safe!”
He sighed in exasperation and rose from his chair, moving to the window that looked down on one of the Gallows’ smaller courtyards. As he placed his hands on the windowsill, she found her eyes drawn to the broad line of his shoulders and the play of muscles underneath his tunic then dropped her gaze to her lap guiltily. Siegfried had warned her that one of the things she might experience as her pregnancy progressed was her emotions going wild on her.
What terrified her was that it maybe wasn’t just crazed feelings. The man standing at the window had become one of the anchors in her life, perhaps the only reason she hadn’t gone mad. They had become close friends and she cared about him.
As he seemed to care about her.
What made her feel irrationally guilty was feeling for another man so soon after Anders.
Treva started to open her mouth when he abruptly turned, shaking his head as he regarded her in full-blown frustration. “At least leave the Gallows until they’ve come and gone,” stated Cullen, his voice weary.
“And leave you to face the full-force of them alone?”
Angry now, she rose from her seat and very slowly walked around the desk towards him. As he stared at her, looking all too unsure of what she was doing, she breathed, “No.”
“Cullen,” she said sharply, her voice carrying the tone of command she’d fostered through so many battles over the years. He jerked at the sound, soldier’s reflexes automatically bringing him to near attention, and then scowled down at her. Treva stared back at him and asked, “When, in all the years you’ve known me, have I left one of my friends behind?”
He blinked, slowly, then answered quietly, “Never.”
“And what,” she demanded, “makes you think I’m going to change now?” When he didn’t answer and simply stood there looking down at her, she lifted a hand and cautiously pressed her fingers against his chest. “You told me that I was not alone.”
“Then what you need to remember,” she pressed as she lifted her eyes to meet his own, “is that neither are you.”
Cullen just stood there, staring down at her for a moment with an expression on his face that she couldn’t put words to. Then he shook his head, chuckling weakly, and said, “Very well. The matter stands that they might recognize you, though, Treva.”
“Might,” she repeated with hard emphasis. “So far as I’m aware, there’s never been any solid description of me put out anywhere. And, you know as well as I, that with Varric’s stories I shift through appearances as much as anyone or anything else.”
“True,” he grumbled.
Treva just smiled up at him then stepped back, letting her hand fall to her side and trying not to mourn the severed connection between them. “And who would expect the Champion of Kirkwall to have stayed in the city? Let alone to be living in the Gallows? We did prepare for this eventuality, if you recall.”
He snorted then Cullen nodded heavily as he agreed, “Yes, we did. Still…be careful, Treva.”
“I’ve survived most of my life as an apostate on the run,” she noted with a broad smile and confidence that she didn’t quite feel. She put it on for him anyway, to try and reassure. “I think I can slip past the notice of a few templars and Chantry officials for a week.”
Cullen sighed then haphazardly flipped a hand at her belly. “And what of the child? One of them will ask, you know.”
Folding her hands over the swell of her child, Treva moved to sink back into her chair as she answered simply, “I’ll lie.” When he just stared at her pointedly, she sighed and added, “Oh, and of course I’ll promise to send the babe away to another Circle because mages can never ever have family because it would break precious Chantry hearts to have them be happy.”
“Well, I wouldn’t say it in so many words,” he commented with a smile as he moved to retake his own seat. Then he frowned seriously and said, “I’ll send our still lingering loyalists out for duties while the contingent is here. The last thing we need is one of them blowing our cover.”
Thinking of the loyalists still in the ranks made her think of the former Knight-Commander and she asked quietly, “And what do we tell them if they ask what happened to Meredith?”
Cullen’s eyes narrowed and she found a great deal of strength in his quiet response.
All of their worries ended up turning out to be for naught. The contingent came and went through the Gallows and Kirkwall with little fanfare and even littler issue. Treva and Cullen – with some help from Varric as well as their mages and templars – had put on quite the show for them, well representing a Circle that was in good hands and decidedly not in need of annulment.
In fact, the biggest thing that happened while they were in the city was that Cullen was apparently officially the Knight-Commander of Kirkwall and she’d gotten approval as a replacement for Orsino. Despite the fact that the First Enchanter position didn’t require it – as Cullen had noted before, it was generally a position decided by the mages themselves – it had made them breathe a little easier.
“Well,” began Treva as they stood side-by-side on the stone pier watching the ship that contingent had arrived on traveling across the harbor, “that went better than expected.”
“So it did,” he commented softly. She frowned at his answer and turned to look up at him curiously. After a long moment he sighed and said, “I don’t expect our peace to last, Treva. Especially not with the news that they carried about the other Circles.”
The word that Mother Augustine had used – revolt – seemed to burn in Treva’s mind as she recalled it. And the fact that there were whispers of her, of how her hand in things had saved the mages from the wrath of their templar jailors, disturbed her. More-so in the fact that they were using her to incite rebellion when it was the last thing she’d ever wanted.
“Maybe not,” she finally managed to say. “But I’ll be damned if I don’t try to make things better before the world tries to destroy itself.” Smiling weakly, she asked, “Still with me?”
Cullen nodded and smiled as he answered, “Until the end.”