She wasn't wearing anything. She had been, definitely, but now…she just wasn't. Somewhere in between, "Andraste's mercy, does it feel hot to you?" and "Yes, so pants should come off," she had become very, very naked.

And he was on top of her, almost close to her state of undress. In a way, he didn't know who she was. Her name, her status, it was somewhere in his head, on the tip of his tongue, but it flitted away, and he just wanted her.

"Please don't tell me I have to teach you," she murmured, and she was doing this thing with her fingers that involved touching and squeezing, and something that was probably illegal in most towns.

"I-I-no," he said—grunted, really. He nudged her hips. "Templars…we r-release. Need a release." Maker's balls, he didn't want to talk.

He lowered his head, nipping at her neck, enjoying the way her skin trembled beneath him.

"Good, good," she whispered. "It's like dancing, really. Or sparring, even. Except, you know, in the horizontal position."

He chose that moment to kiss her, if anything to shut her up, and she arched into him, her breasts cold against his skin. It was hot, so hot, even though it was night time, and his skin seemed to burn. There was an itch in his stomach, a hunger, and it twisted and churned.

She gasped as he entered her. She whispered something, a name, maybe, he couldn't hear. All he could feel was her, and, Andraste help him, he wanted to die like this: blissfully.

*

Being a Templar wasn't as exciting as recruiters made it out to be. Yes, you had a nice roof over your head, a warm meal three times a day, but a lot of that day consisted of standing in a hallway and, well, and just waiting.

Cullen lived in the Tower for most of his life, and, if he had to add up the numbers, he was confident to say he had spent three quarters of that time waiting—waiting for a mage to step out of line, waiting for the walls to shake, waiting for everything to burn down.

It took him fifteen years for it all to happen.

But! In those years, he had mastered the art of watching. Not understanding, really, because it's hard to understand people when you're barely one yourself sometimes. And, Maker's sweat, it was hard to read a mage because they talked in magic, not in words, and a Templar had no business understanding magic.

Cullen understood movement. The tensing of muscles, the arch of an eyebrow, the rise and fall of a chest, those he could follow. And he knew that Morrigan's arrival had brought a lot of unsaid conversation.

Alistair, for example, had spent the past two hours walking on Annabelle's right side, leaving ample space between him and the witch-mage.

Annabelle, who's movements were fluid, was a little more subtle. Her calves would only tense when Cullen got too close. She would turn her head, give a half-smile of nervousness, and then her pace would quicken by a fraction so there would be more space in between of the.

Morrigan did not change. She walked upright, never looking at the ground, her eyes focused on some faraway object. She threw insults at Alistair when he spoke, but she never looked at him, and it didn't seem like it took much effort for her to rile him up. Plus, Cullen knew, she was with child; a slip of the tongue from Annabelle. It showed a bit in her shoulders, tightened and stiff.

Even Zevran, Cullen could see, had changed. Even though the rogue offered comment after comment ("Morrigan, I hear there are wonderful things magic can do for the sexual libido." "Yes, Zevran. Such as I could make your penis explode."), Cullen could see his fists clench, grazing his daggers, as though he expected a fight.

But, even though Cullen could see all of that, he didn't understand why. At some point the dynamic had shifted, and not just because he had bedded Annabelle (an experience he was sure no one else knew).

"We r-release. Need a release."

He cursed himself. How could he have let that happen? Templars were supposed to be under control, in body and mind. Greagoir, discreetely, approved visits to brothels, since it was the easiest way for a Templar to rid themselves of impure thoughts. It avoided Templars and mages from…fraternizing.

"Tell us, Cullen, you must have enjoyed the touches of a girl once."

Cullen jerked to attention. Of course, it was Zevran who wanted to know.

"N-no, I-Templars can't," Cullen said. That's right, give them the standard answer. Templar manual, page 23, Templars may not lay in a sexual manner. Page 56, a Templar serves only the Maker and his bride.

"Yes, yes, that is what you say," continued Zevran. "But I have heard stories. Templars in the Pearl, Templars with hidden wives." He grinned. "Templars with mages."

"A Templar can never have a relationship with a mage," Cullen said, appalled. "To do so…to do so is a violation of the Chantry and a Templar's teachings."

"You forget, Zevran, the Tower is a prison for all those in it, not just mages," Morrigan said.

"Have you ever been to the Tower?" Cullen sneered.

Morrigan laughed. "Of course not, Templar. Do I look like a bird who will let itself be imprisoned?"

"Tch, to never be able to be with someone," said Alistair. "Good thing Duncan got me out of there." He looked at Annabelle.

"Oh, do spare us from those puppy dog eyes, Alistair," Morrigan said.

"Hrm, so you spend your life in a Tower, with so many delectable women and men," Zevran continued. "You watch them, and they watch you, and you never lay a finger on them. You must be ready to explode."

Annabelle blushed, but no one took notice.

"Mages…go through many challenges," Cullen settled for. "We Templars are there to ensure that they do not let their magic get the best of them."

"Ah, so there was a girl." Zevran grinned.

"She was a mage," Cullen said, feeling his voice come out rough. "She didn't make it past the…she couldn't leave the Fade. I had to stop."

"Kill her, you mean?" Morrigan held his gaze. There was something in those eyes that made Cullen grit his teeth, his hand holding onto the butt of his sword. "Yes, quite noble, sending young mages off to the Fade."

"There is nothing noble about being turned into an abomination," Cullen snapped.

"And, we're here!" Annabelle said. "Look, the town of Changhair!"

They had reached the bridge. A mixture of buildings and filth lay before them. The stench of death and pigs wafted in the air. It must have been market day because several people were out on the streets. They looked unclean and unshaven, even the women, and they bartered with grunts and accusations.

"What a beautiful town," Zevran said, drily. "This must be where Ferelden deposits its waste, yes?"