Her touches had always been warm ever since he could remember, ever since he had first felt her calloused fingers against his skin.
Whether she was worried, excited or just genuinely curious in thought, Ailith's touches made him know that she was there and that she was real, sent by the Maker himself as others had believed her to be. It was the reputation she had amongst Thedas, one that let their enemies cower to the darkest corners in fear whilst allies stood proud with the knowledge that this person, the Inquisitor, would defeat all evil no matter what the cost was.
They had even sometimes forgotten that she was just another human being due to the courageous acts she had achieved, despite labelling her as a murderer of the Divine after they found her beneath the rocks and rubbles of what remained of the Conclave a few months ago. Still, she didn't disappoint them as she continued to do her duty as long as it solved problems and kept the innocent away from harm.
Even if it were just theoretically.
Her touches mirrored the emotions that dwelt within her hazel hues, but not everyone knew that because not everyone cared much for the person behind the title. She had seemed the same to all of them, their supposed Herald of Andraste; nothing more, nothing less. She fought and she killed, mercilessly as others had described her to be. Although he could never tell if they were saying that for better or for worse, for all he knew was that they were never quite true.
She fought to protect, she killed because they gave her no choice. But not once did she take one's life for the sake of her own pleasure nor without a better judgement. Even during the long meetings with the War Council, her endless thoughts of consequences escaped her lips before making a final decision. She calculated possible casualties within the Inquisition's scouts and soldiers, she asked questions that most were too afraid to ask and she looked at ways that simply avoided any form of abandonment.
However, they were in war and sacrifices were to be made, that she knew all too well and so did he.
Very much so, actually.
Ailith Trevelyan was no mage, but her touches could have said otherwise, especially if they were light and sincere. The first time he had felt it was back at Haven, when he wasn't quite sure of what to think of her. She was somewhat a peculiar woman (still is), doing the impossible as well as saying unexpected things during the most unexpected times.
They had been discussing plans over the war table, both Josephine and Leliana putting their input on the course of action they were to take. With the announcement of the revival of the Inquisition, word had spread fast throughout Ferelden to Orlais to lands that barely survived. There were those who believed in their cause and unsurprisingly, there were also those who went against them just because they saw their pride better than actually finding a way to close the hole in the sky.
"Idiots," She had called them, throwing a glance towards his way with a hint of a smile. But not a moment later, she began to act as if she were lightly brushing something off her cheek with a finger, whereas he had only watched her, blinking with eyebrows furrowed in confusion.
He hadn't seen anything out of the ordinary with her features after all.
"You uh... have something there."
"Oh," Cullen lifted a gloved hand to his face, imitating what she was doing seconds before. But when there was no prevail, Ailith walked around the table and reached out, doing the job for him.
That was when he had first felt the warmness of her touch, even if it were only for a brief moment.
"An eyelash," She showed him the tiny thing, a dimple deepening into the hollow of her cheek -- another thing he may have found himself adoring each time he saw it.
He murmured his thanks afterwards, clearing his throat as he managed to divert his attention to whatever they had been planning earlier. A certain colour threatened to make itself known, but he fought very hard to not make it happen.
Or so he thought.
After that event, small touches began to happen here and there.
She would tap him on the shoulder whilst he stood out in the training grounds, barking instructions to the newly recruited, correcting them where they were to be corrected. Other days it would be when they're handing reports to each other, their fingers touching ever so slightly beneath the paper. He heeded no mind to such, but it would be a lie if he said that he did not notice the lack of her presence around the place whenever she was visiting some odd location, adventuring as she had told him.
Needless to say that within a short amount of time, the Commander of the Inquisition forces had grown accustomed to the lady's touch without even knowing it.
When they lost Haven, when they spent hours waiting for her to somehow find them through the blizzard, Cullen had spent his time pacing back and forth in what was the comfort of their camp. There was fear swimming in the depths of his mind, an emotion that arose when he had left her to give them time to escape.
He should've stayed by her side.
Should've fought with her.
When the thoughts of guilt became too much, a heavy sigh escaped him and he began to walk towards the mountain with much haste.
"I'm going to look for her."
And so he did, found her just as she dropped to her knees in the snow. Relief had filled his chest at the sight of her, but he couldn't waver off the feeling of worry as he swiftly took off his cloak and wrapped it around the woman who had let herself act as a sacrifice just to let others live.
The warmth of her fingers was barely there as she touched his face, a weak smile spreading across hers. There was a clench around his gut as he felt the coldness against his skin, his mind instantly alerting him that something was awfully wrong.
"Herald," The title was whispered alongside the passing wind as he slowly stood up, shifting her comfortably with an arm under her knees and the other beneath her back, "You're okay now, we've got you."
It was a night he dreaded, the first time he found himself yearning for her warm touch rather than those of ice.
But soon days turned into weeks, weeks turned into months and as time progressed, so did they. Skyhold had welcomed them with its rugged look and broken roofs by then, gradually becoming a home of some sort. Their conversations happened often whenever she returned from who knows where they had sent her, and maybe he had even found himself glancing to her lips as she spoke. But of course that was something he could not admit to himself, let alone to anyone. He had his duties and so did she, what did he have that she could possibly want anyway?
The thought haunted him whenever she clouded his mind no matter how hard he attempted to hide it, specifically during the days when she would be out scouting areas and closing rifts (or so she says according to her letters). And alongside that thought was the worry of whether she was coming back. He had kept it to himself, knowing that she was fully capable of doing such, though in the end, someone would always point out his silent concern for their beloved Inquisitor.
"She's coming back, don't worry Commander," They would tell him.
"Ah, yes, of course," He would reply in the most casual way.
And she did come back after a week or two with stories rolling off her tongue as if she were an excited child telling her parents of a blooming rose she had found in their garden; except replace the 'blooming rose' with 'a horde giant spiders' and change 'found' to 'defeated'. It was quite a life she was leading and yet it seemed like she enjoyed it regardless of all the tasks that were being dropped into her box of responsibilities. There were so many people that had requested the Inquisition's aid and he -- the Council did their best to make things a lot easier for her. It did seem endless with each noble requesting for their support in some way, sometimes even for her own appearance for an event they were holding. But even so, the Inquisitor did not falter and he continues on to wonder how she does it.
She even found the time to play a game of chess with him just when he thought she was busy with everyone in Skyhold asking to speak with her about rearrangements and other whatnots he took no interests in.
"We should spend more time together."
"I would like that."
"... you said that."
And soon after the game, something more than a touch happened.
Up in the battlements they stood, things finally coming into view as she told him of her feelings and he with his. Sure, an interruption occurred midway through much to his annoyance, but he got what he wanted in the end.
His lips against hers.
It was something he had been wishing to do for a long time, longer than he should admit.
And so, what was once a tap on a shoulder became a strong hold of an embrace every time she came back from putting her life on the line. And what were once lingering touches became fingers interlacing with each other as they strolled around the fortress whenever she told him to take a break from the day's work, even if it were just for five minutes.
Although it could never have been just for five minutes.
He found comfort around her, even in doing the most simplest gestures such as a peck on his cheek or a gentle massage on his temples whenever he was experiencing withdrawal troubles.
Her touches had always been his favourite kind ever since he could remember, ever since he realised how much he needed it.
Not to forget about the night that became so much more than simple kisses and feathery touches.
Skin against skin.
Lips clashing with the other.
It was the night that had let him forget about the nightmares and the pain for once, and helped him remember that he was completely and utterly in love with the woman he held in his arms.
But the safe dreams didn't last for long as the bad memories swarmed him just as it always did. He was screaming in his mind, demons calling out for his name, tempting him just as they did ten years before. It had been such a long time since, but what had happened in the Ferelden circle was simply something one could not forget.
Thirty bodies laid around him, all lifeless and still.
How could anyone forget that?
He gasped for breath as he awoke, eyes widening immediately as he felt his heart beating quite fast. He was awake, he wasn't locked in a room, he hadn't let himself be wrapped around the fingers of a demon. Tensed shoulders relaxed, his breathing fell at ease, head laid back down onto the pillow below him.
And for the first time, he wasn't alone.
Ailith was there, a warm hand against his cheek with disquiet in her eyes.
No, he wasn't alone.
"I love you, you know that... right?" The words sounded so sweet and real that he would've held onto them forever if he was given a chance.
"I love you too."
It was out and so was his heart, something he never thought was possible considering the complications that happened in his past and the problems that threatened their future.
On the other hand, it was a blissful thing; the love he felt with every touch she made.
And it was the thing he was afraid to lose the most.
So when she had set out to face Corypheus, he waited for her patiently with fear hanging by a thread. He walked back and forth in his quarters, sometimes heading to the small altar they had in the garden with a prayer leaving his lips.
A plea to be exact, for the Maker to bring her back to him just as He had sent her during the time they needed someone most.
And even then, he needed her. He needed to feel the touch only she could give, for only with her he had fell in love with.