“Alone at last.” Hadynne remarked as she pushed the heavy oak door closed as the last of Cullen’s captains left. The ex-templar offered her a little quirk of the lips in lieu of a proper smile, his attention still focused on the papers rustling about on his desk.
Hadynne slid the heavy iron bolts on the door into place slowly, careful not to take her eyes off of Cullen. The Commander remained oblivious - clearly deep in though over something else.
In slow, measured steps, Hadynne crossed the room, the heels of her shoes clicking against the stone floor. Her gait was practiced and graceful, and she knew the sway of her hips had caught the attention of courtiers and templars alike when she used it gliding through the Great Hall. As she drew close, Cullen looked up, almost absently.
“I… ah…. Forgive me, my mind was elsewhere.” Cullen fumbled, his cheeks growing pink as he met Hadynne’s gaze.
“Is it something I can help with?” Hadynne asked curiously, peering around one of Cullen’s strong arms. His desk was a mess of scattered papers, reports, and maps - there was no way to tell at a glance what he had been so engrossed in.
“You need not worry yourself over it just yet. Just a few unconfirmed reports and a gut feeling… We will know more in a few days when Leliana’s scouts return.” Cullen responded, dashing a hand through his hair. He must have had a long day, as he had already removed his armor and pauldrons when she had arrived. He was clad in his loose cotton shirt, trousers, and those odd boots he favored. He had rolled the sleeves of his shirt up, baring muscled forearms and big, square hands.
Cullen turned to face Hadynne rather than his desk, and a slow smile crept across his face as he looked at her. Slowly, he reached a calloused hand out to cup her face.
“Maker’s breath, you are beautiful.” Cullen didn’t give Hadynne a chance to respond, following his statement with a long, slow kiss. Every time he kissed her, Hadynne marveled at how soft his lips were. She had to admit she had spent a decent amount of time staring at them as he spoke, and had expected them to be rough (what with the scar) and perhaps a bit chapped. They were soft and smooth, and delightfully warm and pliant. He was a bit uncertain, unpracticed with them but she supposed the same could be said for her.
Hadynne felt her lips curl into a smile against Cullen’s as his fingers whispered over her shoulders and down her arms.
“It seems you need a distraction.” Hadynne purred as she advanced on Cullen, pressing him back until he bumped into the edge of his cluttered desk. He put his hands out to steady himself, slipping awkwardly on a few loose papers. As he fumbled about, his cheeks flaring red, Hadynne’s lips wandered along his strong jawline and skipped over his neck like a rock on a still pond.
Hadynne’s nimble hands pulled the knot of Cullen’s shirt loose, seeking his warm golden skin as her lips soon followed. She planted sweet, tiny kisses across his collarbones, and down his sternum until the wide-neckline of his shirt prohibited further progress.
Sneaky, slender fingers had found the hem of Cullen’s shirt, raking over him and pushing the tunic up to expose a scarred, muscled torso. Hadynne’s kisses continued here, venturing up and over subtly defined abdominals and dipping down between. She sunk slowly to a crouch, a graceful, smooth movement that had her skirts pooling around her.
Hadynne’s kisses lingered on a particularly nasty looking scar, and she pushed down the welling sadness at what her commander had overcome. And still so far to go. All she could hope for was to travel down that path beside him (not in front or behind, she would have an equal) as long as he would have her. Her roving lips brushed over the curve of his hip-bone, and Cullen made the softest of sighs, his body curling against her hands and trailing kisses.
Hadynne’s curious hands brushed against the band of his trousers, fingertips lighting on the straining laces, pulled tight by Cullen’s growing excitement. She pulled lightly, brushing a kiss over the very edge of the pants, intention clear.
“Hadynne!” Cullen exclaimed suddenly, jerking backwards, brushing her away, his eyes wide in surprise. The mood evaporated, and Hadynne’s chest felt tight- as if all of the air had rushed out of the room. She felt her own cheeks flush - a rare occurrence. She was new to this sort of thing - but she had read a few of Cassandra’s smutty novels. Had she done something wrong?
“Oh! I’m so sorry! I’m not very… that is… I don’t… What did I do wrong?” she sputtered, confused as she looked up at Cullen, who had knocked into the edge of his desk, and pulled away from her as much as he could with such an obstacle.
“No! It’s not…You didn’t…” Cullen responded, his hand at the back of his neck as he struggled for an explanation. His failed attempt ended in a low growl.
“I apologize if I overstepped-“ Hadynne began again, feeling her face grow a deeper shade of red. She really had no idea how these things worked. It was useful (and a bit fun) to pretend she did, to feign confidence, and to adopt a flirtatious nature that afforded her certain… advantages in court. But when it was just her, alone with Cullen, it was hard to hide her own naivety. Even if she could… she would not hide anything from Cullen.
“It’s not that.” Cullen interrupted her, exasperated.
“Maker’s breath. Hadynne, you’re the HERALD of Andraste. CHOSEN of the Maker. You… you… You shouldn’t be on your knees for anyone. You shouldn’t… I… I will not degrade…”
“Cullen!” Hadynne snapped, her eyes glinting dangerously. This again. How many times in the past weeks had she been told by others what she should not or could not do? All because of this cursed title! Her heart was fluttering against her ribs- no longer in embarrassment, but in a rising anger. Hadynne was long since tired of this pedestal she had found herself on. She drew herself up to a standing position with little difficulty. She was quite agile for a mage in a fancy dress. In another life, she might have had the agility and dexterity to be a rogue.
“Cullen, I am a woman. A human woman. Flesh and blood. I belong to no one but myself. The only reason I allow that ridiculous title is because I find it useful to get what I want.”
“I know that. But to me… to me you are the chosen of Andraste.” Cullen’s voice was soft, and hesitant. They didn’t discuss his faith often. Cullen was a former templar, and Hadynne had figured the unshakable faith in the Maker came with the uniform. As for the Chantry itself - well, she had been pleased to see he had no love for those such as Roderick. Cullen knew Hadynne was skeptical of the Chantry-enforced teachings. She still believed in the Maker, and occasionally she would sweep into his office smelling like wax and incense, and he would know she had been praying. Once, he could have even sworn he’d heard her mumble a bit of the chant under her breath. But he had not pushed, and she had not volunteered.
“Cullen I’m not… I’m just me.” Hadynne broke the long silence with soft words as she coaxed calm back into her fraying nerves.
“But you’re more than that.”
“No! No I am not! If this… If I was anyone else… anyone at all… this would not be an issue for you.” Hadynne felt herself turn away from him as her voice cracked from stress and anger. Hurt mingled between the two emotions, edged in guilt as she knew she was right. The problem here was her. Had she died at the conclave - they might have found another way to seal the rifts. Cullen might have gone on perfectly content to lead the Inquisition’s armies. He might have met a regular woman with no extraordinary fate - no fade anchor on her hand - no darkspawn magister and archdemon hunting her. He might have been happy.
“Anyone else would not be you.” Cullen tried, reaching toward her, but Hadynne shrugged off his hand. Vivienne had warned her. People were drawn to power - was that what this was?
“Hadynne. The things that make you a great Inquisitor, and the things that drew Andraste to choosing you - that’s who you are. And those are the things I love about you. It couldn’t have been anyone else.” Cullen’s voice was soft, reassuring, and strangely confident. He hadn’t stuttered or wavered once. But Hadynne’s ear caught on one word, and she hung on it, her stomach dropping clear to her toes. ‘Those are the things I love about you’.
“And if I told you it was not Andraste who saved me at Haven but the Divine…or, a spirit in her form? I’m not sure… but it was not Andraste.” Hadynne challenged, over her shoulder as she sauntered over to the window behind Cullen’s desk.
“You don’t know what drew that spirit to you. The Maker can work with hidden hands.” Cullen countered almost automatically, as if he’d already has this discussion with himself. He followed Hadynne to the window, keeping a respectful distance.
“Then if I was chosen for this - and I do not concede that I was - should my choices still not be my own?” Seeing Cullen’s confused and hesitant expression as she whirled on him, Hadynne pressed on. “I go to the Chantry. I ask for help or guidance with my choices. I get silence. The choice is mine. I am on my own. If the Maker chooses to trust me to make the right choices with myself… shouldn’t you?”
“I apologize. I had not… thought of it that way.”
“I just don’t want to be held up as some mystical figure. I’m just me. I’m confused and scared most of the time. But I pretend like I know what I’m doing. I smile and I wave and I saunter around like I have a clue. Andraste is a stone statue, but me- I’m a person. And I just… I just want you.” Hadynne punctuated her heartfelt confession by throwing herself face-first into Cullen’s shoulder. He caught her, crushing her small frame in a tight hug.
“You have me.”
After several long moments of close silence, Cullen chuckled into Hadynne’s hair. He pressed a kiss over her ear, and the hand that was not encircling her waist smoothed her few fly-away hairs. He failed to fight off a yawn, his whole body quivering as he tried to suppress it.
“You should get some rest.” Hadynne said, not missing her cue. She withdrew from the hug delicately, but Cullen caught her arm with a gentle, shy smile.
“Would you like to stay?”