A/N: Playing as a mage is fun. The mage-templar dynamic within the Circle is very intriguing, I think. And Cullen... I want to give him a hug. This is set just before the Surana's harrowing.
The stalwart defender of the Ferelden people. Upholder of the Chantry's sacred laws. An impenetrable fortress standing against the abominable threat of demons. He was meant to be all these things and more. And thus did Cullen's thoughts flow, during long hours of standing in one place and glaring at mages.
He was supposed to be the epitome of the Chantry's strength and righteousness. As Templar Brannagh had lectured only last week, Cullen should be immovable, unfeeling. If a pretty elven mage asked him if he was too hot in his armour, he should not start blithering incoherently at her, crimson-faced and sweat-slick. Instead, if he replied at all, it should be with a curt: 'No, Maker watch over you' and that would be the end of it. Despite this, Cullen found himself being drawn into conversations with a certain pretty elven mage – in which she would invariably say something provocative, he would flush red and then be sweaty and distracted for a while after she departed.
His infatuation was a source of both amusement and irritation amongst the other templars and mages. In an 'us and them' atmosphere, mages would believe it favouritism and templars would see it as a breach of duty. And everyone knew that Cullen let her get away with far too much.
The corridor he was supervising wasn't growing any more interesting, though Cullen didn't want to complain. What with a spate of vandalism in the templars' and Senior Enchanters' quarters lately, preventing apprentices from ascending to the upper levels of the Tower was an important task.
Most of the apprentices, after seeing a templar on guard gave up even before trying, so his job had been easy so far.
This relative complacency was shattered as Eve emerged from the apprentice quarters. In a matter of seconds, his armour was too tight, constricting his breathing; his face was prickling with heat; his throat was dry and threatening to strangle him.
With a bite of irritation, he noticed that squirrely apprentice Jowan lurking behind her. Cullen was sure that he was the one orchestrating these pranks, and Eve just happened to be swept up in his misbehaviour. Putting beetles in Senior Enchanter Leorah's bed, or pouring grease into all the templar helmets on the third floor while they slept, just didn't seem like something she was capable of. Not with those warm eyes and that inviting smile.
Oh Maker, she was approaching him.
Cullen made an attempt to stand up straight. Servants of the Maker did not slouch. Even so, he rather thought that the Maker would be more concerned about the questionable thoughts in Cullen's head than the correctness of his posture.
Jowan slunk off elsewhere and Cullen tracked his departure, making sure the apprentice didn't intend to pull some stunt at his expense.
"Hello Cullen," Eve greeted, beaming as she often did when he saw her.
He tried to respond, but choked on his tongue. Instead, he settled for a nervous smile.
"How are you?" she continued. "Has Greagoir forgiven you yet?"
Cullen winced. His lecture from Templar Brannagh had been a result of Greagoir's displeasure at finding out someone had cut holes in all of his socks. There was no proof of the culprit, but Eve and Jowan were always prime suspects – and for good reason. As a result, Cullen was frequently reprimanded for his lack of vigilance; after all, how could he stalk Eve around the Tower and yet never catch her in the act? It was something that didn't endear him to his templar brethren.
"It's completely unfair of him to suspect you like that," Eve complained, beautiful in her righteous indignation. "It's not as though he has any proof. And everyone knows you're an excellent templar – you'd never be party to something like that."
"Y-you really think so?" Cullen gave into the feeling swimming around in his stomach.
"Of course. You're such a good person." She edged a little closer, casting glance down the deserted corridor. "Gerda was telling me the other day about this tapestry in the bathroom, which she says is actually covering a peephole, and that the templars use it so that they can watch us while we bathe..."
Cullen choked on his tongue again. He knew all about that. Templar Carroll had tricked him into coming and peeking through, and he had received quite an eyeful. It was disgraceful, a complete mockery of their templar vows... but it had still been hard to tear his gaze away once he had spotted Eve. He'd prayed ceaselessly for the Maker's forgiveness after that. And strength. He really needed to pray for that.
Cullen glanced at Eve, who was watching him intently. He couldn't wipe that image from his mind and he was sure she knew it, as though it was emblazoned on his crimson face.
"I-I don't–" he spluttered. "What I mean is, I n-never looked–"
"Don't worry about it." She gave him a wry grin. "We peek into the templars bathroom while they bathe too. It's certainly... interesting, seeing what's under all that armour."
He stared at her through astonished and embarrassed eyes.
"I've never seen you in there yet, Cullen," she murmured, barely audible. Her eyes roved up and down his templar uniform, and he repressed the urge to fold his hands over himself to preserve his modesty.
"Uh... uh..." Cullen stared determinedly at the wall, scraping through his mind for an appropriate topic for a conversation change. Magic? Andraste? The weather? Maker, anything! He couldn't let anything untoward happen, or Greagoir would have his head on a plate. And what about his templar vows: chastity, austerity, poverty, diligence and piety – and above all, the ability to resist temptations, which were the foundation of demons' ability to transform people into abominations.
"Is something wrong?"
Maker, when did she get that close? He could make out the individual flecks of amber in her dark eyes. He could count the eyelashes that framed them. Her smooth, plump lips.
Cullen choked for the third time since she came over, coughing directly into her face. He'd never been more mortified... well, except for a few minutes earlier when she'd insinuated that she wanted see him naked.
"I-I'm just... um. How's your mouse?"
Eve arched an eyebrow. "My mouse?"
"Yes. You, ah, mentioned it before."
"Oh!" She laughed, taking half a step backwards. "You mean my pet mouse? Oh, a templar killed him, he said Mouse might get possessed by a demon. It's the stupidest thing I've ever heard."
"A-actually, a cat was possessed by a d-d-demon. Before. A few weeks ago, I mean. Three templars were killed. The Knight-C-Commander said a captive a-apostate might've caused it. But there was no proof."
"How awful," she replied, frowning at him. "Sometimes I forget how dangerous it is for templars. You're so very brave."
Cullen gave her a strained smile. The conversation seemed to be drifting back towards that uncomfortable place.
"I really like talking with you," Eve told him.
"Oh. Uh... me... too."
"There's something I want to show you." She moved down the corridor, beckoning him to follow.
"I-I can't. I have to guard the stairs."
Eve smiled reassuringly, returning to his side. She entwined her fingers around his arm, gently but firmly guiding him from the door. "It won't take long, I promise. But it's very important."
"N-no. I'm sorry. I can't leave."
She frowned, momentarily frustrated, but she quickly wiped the expression and replaced it with a smile. Cullen breathed a sigh of relief. He had been strong. Whatever nefarious deeds she'd planned on doing with him had now been averted. They could just talk, friendly and innocent. That was all he wanted.
But... she didn't seem to be giving up so easily. Eve moved closer, far too close, her hands planted assuredly upon his metal breastplate. She pushed him backwards with abnormal strength –magic perhaps – and his back smacked into the wall. She advanced. Cullen froze. Nothing the templars had been trained for had said anything about this.
Her seeking mouth met his, and Cullen succumbed to the warmth of her soft lips. He'd pictured this – he'd scolded himself and sought penance from the Maker for it, but nowhere in his fevered imagination had it ever seemed possible.
Eve grabbed a fistful of his robes, inching them upwards. The intent was clear and it shocked him out of his blissful stupor. What was she doing? They were in the middle of a corridor – someone might see them! More importantly, this was wrong – he was a templar and she a mage! He was succumbing to temptation. He had to be strong-willed, to resist. He had to get out of here!
Cullen forcefully pushed her backwards, eyes wide. Eve stared at him. Her expression mirrored his; surprise and guilt.
"I-I thought you wanted to," she said hesitantly, "I thought you liked me."
"I do! I want... no, I mean... it, uh." He shuddered. Eve's face fell, looking hurt and bemused by his reaction. Her eyes scrunched up, brow furrowed. Oh, Maker, were those... tears?
"No!" he cried, trying not to make the situation worse. "I didn't mean – you're really... but I can't!"
She backed away, running with blurred vision up the stairs and away from him. Cullen started after her, wondering how he could fix this. It was so disorienting.
He made his way up the staircase too slowly, weighed down by heavy armour. By the time he'd ascended the stairs Eve had disappeared. It was vital that he find her and somehow resolve the situation. He couldn't bear the thought of hurting her like this, despite the fact that she'd brought it on herself.
Aside from that fact, she might tell Jowan or one of the apprentices about what had happened. And he knew how those mages were incurable gossips – after all, there was little else to do in the tower. He searched the libraries, keeping away from the proper mages' quarters. The chances of her entering those were slim. He checked a laboratory, but it was only inhabited by a few mages. They regarded him with curious expressions as he darted in and out of rooms, searching. He briefly considered that she might be in the Chapel, but that was wishful thinking. He didn't even bother going to look.
He checked the store room, but only the Tranquil were there. There wasn't anywhere else he could think she might go. Except... the First Enchanter? No, it couldn't be possible. No student would willingly turn themselves in to Irving for such transgressions. However, the First Enchanter was quite fond of Eve – in fact, Cullen had heard some interesting rumours about their relationship, though he doubted their truth. If she made it sound as though Cullen was the guilty party, then she might convince Irving that she was innocent. Would she honestly do that to him? In this state of emotional turmoil, he wasn't sure. He'd also heard a fair bit from the other templars about the danger of emotional women, though he had never expected to face it in anything other than a professional capacity.
Cullen headed towards the First Enchanter's office. He couldn't just barge in – even Knight-Commander Greagoir gave Irving the courtesy of a polite knock on the door.
Therefore, he approached the closed wooden door and hovered outside, seeing if he could hear anything. It seemed quiet, but it was hard to tell through the thick wood. Cullen edged a little closer, pressing an ear to the door. Silence. Perhaps Eve wasn't in there after all – but then, where might she be?
"Templar Cullen, is there some reason why you're listening at my door?"
Cullen flinched, looking guiltily over his shoulder at the questioning old man behind him. Despite the straggly beard and hair – not to mention the smell of tea that clung to his robes – all of which gave him the air of a kindly grandfather, the First Enchanter was not to be crossed. Irving was a mage above all else, and if he saw a templar snooping about his quarters, he might suspect the worst.
"First Enchanter, I was just... I mean, I was looking–"
"Aren't you supposed to be supervising the apprentice staircase?" Irving asked, although he already knew the answer. His eyes twinkled with amusement and knowing. "Perhaps you should return. It would be a sad end to your templar career if the Knight-Commander caught you shirking your duties."
Cullen stiffened in horror. The stairs. The whole time he had been rushing around the second floor, the stairs had been unguarded and apprentices could be milling about everywhere even as he stood here. He had to get back before something happened.
"Yes, First Enchanter," he replied hastily. "I'll return there immediately." Cullen walked briskly down the corridor, knowing the old mage's eyes were on his back. As soon as he was sure he was out of Irving's line of vision, he sprinted back towards the stairs, passing the watching templars and small groups of mages.
He reached his guard spot and was relieved to see that no one was about. Perhaps he had gotten lucky. Of course, now he was bathed in sweat and his heart was hammering wildly.
The wiles of mages. A ridiculous number of lectures had been given to templars about that, but it didn't stop Cullen from being manipulated. He wondered for a dismal second if Eve's attempt to seduce him had just been a ploy to remove him from his guard spot. He should be hoping so – it might reinforce the lesson that mages were tricky and needed to be watched. If it was just part of a trick then he might not long for her so much, but if she felt the same way then he might end up thinking about her even more. Cullen didn't think anyone could fake the hurt in her face when he'd rejected her, but he honestly didn't know.
In any case, he was back on watch now and he would have more than enough time to consider his misdemeanours and pray silently for the Maker's forgiveness.