“So Inquisitor,” Bull said. “As long as we’re talking about sex, let’s talk about why you aren’t getting any.”
Kate choked, as much from the foul taste of her drink as from the qunari mercenary’s words. She slammed her glass down on the table and blinked up at him with watery eyes.
“What?” she managed after a moment. The word came out on a gasp.
“We were talking about sex,” Bull explained patiently.
“You were talking about sex,” Kate said, pointing a finger at his face. “You were saying that killing dragons makes you want to, uh…” She stopped there, unable and unwilling to summarize Iron Bull’s feelings on the subject.
“Hoo, yeah, does it ever,” Bull said, stretching his neck to one side. “Uhhnnn…” He made some strange sound in his throat that had Kate wrinkling her nose in response.
“Really,” he nodded. “And hey, what about you? You fried that thing up. Never seen a mage go toe-to-toe with a dragon. Don’t tell me you weren’t completely turned on from that.”
“Uh, no,” Kate said, shaking her head, slowly. “Just trying not to die.” She hiccuped. “Not dying is good enough for me.”
“Huh,” Bull looked a bit disappointed in her, as if she’d failed some crucial test. “Then you must have been pent up from before.”
“Pent up from before?” Kate repeated each word very precisely - well, as precisely as she could, given how her tongue felt a bit numbed by the alcohol.
“Well, yeah,” he said, taking another swig. “I mean, you are looking to get laid, right?”
Kate blushed. “N-no,” she sputtered, nervously fingering the handle of her glass. “I’m the Inquisitor. With ice magics. I’m the cool, collected one, remember?” Another hiccup escaped her.
“Right,” Bull said, clearly disbelieving. “So, who’s it gonna be? Me?”
“Huh-wha?” Kate blanched.
“I’ll take that as a no. The Warden? Nah, I know.” Bull’s lips curled into a blue crescent of a grin. Then he said the name:
Kate felt her face burn hot.
“Uh, huh,” Bull nodded knowingly. “That’s it.”
“You’re quite mistaken,” Kate hiccuped. “The Commander and I…”
“Stare at each other all the time when you think the other one isn’t looking.”
Kate blinked. “He does?”
“You’d never make Ben Hassrath,” Bull muttered, shaking his head and taking another drink.
“Really?” Kate murmured, her lips curling into a hopeful, goofy smile. “You think he likes me?” She considered Bull’s words in a daze. Unfortunately, her daze was growing more dazed by the moment.
“Who cares about like?” the qunari beside her shrugged, “The commander needs to get some. You need to get some. So, hey, one and one together makes two, right?”
“So this is about arithmetic?” Kate slurred.
“He’s a good commander,” Bull explained, filling her glass, “You’re a good leader. Wish you weren’t a mage, of course. That ice shard stuff is creepy shit. But even so, I think you two should get together. Help each other take the edge off.”
“I think there’s a compliment in there somewhere,” Kate said, squinting into her glass as though, perhaps, the compliment was floating in the dregs at the bottom.
“The whole thing’s a compliment,” Bull said. “Drink up.”
Kate drank, then spat most of the drink back out on the table. She tried to un-taste the taste in her mouth, but failed. She also failed to remember what she and Bull had been talking about a few moments ago. Something about Cullen, right?
“So,” Bull was saying, “You gonna go see the commander tonight?”
“That’s it!” Kate said, stabbing a finger in the air in an ‘Aha!’ gesture. “I’m going to see Cullen,” she announced. Seeing Cullen was always good. Kate liked to see Cullen. He was very nice to look at.
“Good, good,” Bull nodded, and the movement of his head made Kate feel kind of dizzy. “You go enjoy the commander. I’m gonna go check in on the barmaids.”
Kate nodded and also stood. “Barmaids,” she repeated, swaying on her feet. “Sure. You do that. And I’ll go see Cullen. He had some reports -” here she paused and hiccuped - “that he wanted to talk to me about.”
“Reports?” Bull chuckled. “Yeah, you go enjoy those ‘reports’.”
“Right,” Kate nodded, giving him a sharp salute. “Thanks for the drinks, Bull.” And she wandered out of the tavern, only stumbling into a post once.
A minute or two later, Kate found herself standing outside of a door. It was a strong-looking door, she thought. And she knew this door - didn’t she? She knew this door because… That’s right! It was Cullen’s door. Kate grinned to herself. This was Cullen’s door. And she had come here to see Cullen because…
Well, she didn’t remember that part, but he would be glad to see her, yes? Yes. He always was, except when he wasn’t. There were those times he looked at her like he didn’t know what to say to her. Sometimes, she seriously thought he was confused by her. But she wasn’t all that confusing, was she? And surely he’d want to talk to her now? Yes. Yes, of course he would.
Kate started knocking on the door. There was no immediate answer, so she frowned and knocked harder. Really, she thought, irritably, how much did she have to pound on the door to get him to answer? Or maybe she should just go in?
Before she could make up her mind to do that, the commander suddenly appeared. Cullen yanked the door open, looking adorably rumpled. His hair was standing on end, his trousers were on backward, and he didn’t have on a shirt or shoes.
“Sweet Andraste,” Kate murmured, staring at his bare chest. Now that was a sight worth knocking for.
“What’s wrong?” he demanded, gripping her shoulder. “Are we under attack?”
“Attack?” she blinked at him. “Nooooo. No attack. I just came to your room. My feet led me here.” She laughed at that. That was funny. She grinned up into his face to find Cullen frowning at her. He paused, then sniffed at her face.
“Are you drunk?” he asked, his eyes narrowing.
“Yes,” Kate said, nodding firmly. “Quite. I don’t think I’ve ever been this drunk before, and I don’t think I shall ever be quite this drunk again.” She grinned, then swayed, then nearly fell through the doorway.
“Maker’s breath,” Cullen said, catching her by the armpits. “What happened?”
“We killed a dragon!” she shouted happily, then realized how loud that was. “We killed a dragon,” she hissed in a whisper.
“That was three days ago.”
“We celebrated tonight.”
“We,” Cullen repeated. “‘We’ meaning you and an entire cask of ale?”
“No, no,” Kate said, awkwardly patting him on the arm. “Just me and Bull and something that tasted like earwax and burning.”
“Bull,” Cullen scowled. “I might have guessed. What did he give you?”
“Dunno,” Kate replied. “But I can’t feel my toes,” she added, looking down at her feet.
“Blast it,” Cullen said. “You’re in a state, aren’t you? Now, do I take you back to your quarters or…?”
Kate winced and grabbed her head. Suddenly, that drink was pounding at the inside of her skull. Drinks weren’t supposed to do that, right?
“And I can’t get you up a ladder like this,” Cullen finished, frowning. “Alright, let’s see what I can do with you.”
Kate woke on the ground. That wasn’t unusual, for she often did so. But instead of her bedroll being surrounded by the sound of birdsong and the soft glow of sunrise through the fabric of a tent, she saw shadows and sunlight and stone. She rolled on her back and winced. The whole world felt too real, too raw.
“Maker,” she groaned. “I think a nug left its droppings in my mouth.”
From somewhere to her right, she heard a low chuckle.
Oh, no, Kate froze. She knew that laugh. And that laugh had just heard her say something rude, and…
“Cullen?” Kate said, one eye cracked open. “That you?”
She heard, rather than saw his smile. “I take it you’re regretting the qunari ale?”
Yes, that was Cullen. His face appeared above her own, distant and fuzzy at first, then growing clearer as he crouched down over her.
“Is that what I drank?” she said, smacking her lips as if she could get the taste off of her tongue. “Oh yes, that’s what I drank.”
“Indeed.” He sounded like he was only a breath away from laughing at her.
Kate cringed with shame. She quickly placed her hands on her belly. To her relief, she found that she was still wearing all her clothes beneath the blankets. Well, she thought, that was good, right? Yes, that was good.
“Good morning,” she said, giving him a sheepish smile.
“Almost afternoon, actually,” he replied.
Kate looked around, her surroundings coming into focus. “Oh,” she nodded. “So it is. And, um, what am I doing on the floor of your office?”
“I believe that’s my question for you,” Cullen replied, the corner of his mouth going up. “You stumbled in here last night, drunk off your ars…um, behind. This was the best I could do for you under the circumstances.”
“Oh,” Kate said. And then, because the whole situation was too embarrassing and the light was too bright, she just said, “Oh,” again, and squinted up at him.
“Yes, well, if you’re awake, then perhaps you might go see Sister Leliana. She came in earlier, but I told her to let you sleep.”
“Wait,” Kate frowned, sitting up. “Sister Leliana knows I, um…”
“Oh yes,” Cullen replied, eyes twinkling. “Rylen and his men were also quite amused by your snoring during our morning debrief.”
Kate stared at him in horror. “Please tell me you’re joking.”
Cullen’s lips twitched. “I’m perfectly serious.”
Kate looked around, taking in her situation: sleeping in her clothes, makeshift bed on the floor, handsome soldier grinning down at her, totally amused by her idiocy. This really couldn’t get much worse, could it?
Kate cleared her throat and tried for a dignified tone. “You know,” she said. “This wasn’t exactly my plan when I went out for drinks last night.”
“I’d be concerned if it was,” Cullen chuckled. Kate just pressed her fingers to her eyes in utter mortification.
“Incidentally,” Cullen went on, “I’m curious, what was your plan in coming here?”
“I…” Kate broke off, staring up at him suddenly. It came back to her then: the conversation, the idea she’d had last night. Bull had given her some ale, he’d given her some advice and then Kate had come here in order to…
Kate was sure her face flushed the brightest pink. Time to make a quick escape, it seemed.
“Oh, it was nothing” Kate said, extracting herself from the bedclothes. “Reports, is all. You wanted to talk to me about reports. I thought I’d drop by.”
“Reports is it?” Cullen asked. His voice was neutral and she wasn’t looking at him. Kate instead hurriedly tried to fold up the blankets.
“But I think I’d better go,” she added. “Unless, you want to talk reports now.”
“Do you want to talk about reports?” Cullen asked. She thought she heard something else in that question, and when she looked up, he had leaned his head forward ever so slightly, as if trying to catch her eye. She swallowed.
“No!” she said, quickly. “No reports. I should leave and, uh, come back later. Or maybe not later. I’ll see you later. Goodbye, Commander.”
And with her dignity completely destroyed, Kate hurried out the door.
Cullen watched the door slam behind her, then looked back down at the half-folded bedroll she’d left behind. He had expected Kate to be a bit embarrassed when she woke up, but he had not expected her to be quite that flustered. Then again, he had not expected to see the usually composed and dignified Lady Trevelyan show up on his doorstep in such a state, either.
And why had she come here, Cullen wondered? From what he had heard, Bull had rolled his way through no fewer than four women at the tavern last night. And yet, the Inquisitor, happily drunk, had shown up at his door.
Cullen found he was staring wonderingly in the general direction of his doorknob. Well, he thought. Well, that was…something. He shook his head, then turned back to his desk. But as Cullen sat down to finish his reports, he found himself grinning once again. Yes, he thought, that was something. At the very least, it meant Kate was not with Bull. And that, he thought with a grin, meant he still had a chance.