It was all a dream.
It had to be because it was unbelievable.
Nothing so fantastic has ever happened in Cullen’s life.
Yet, when Cullen opened his eyes as dawn’s stained light streamed through his loft’s dilapidated roof, he realized it was all real. His left cheek laid against his cotton-stuffed pillow. His exposed ear noted the song of morning birds circling above Skyhold, while dawn’s rays shined through the birch sampling’s branches rooted in the stone wall. The sunshine just right to highlight the waves of red and brown frizz that tickled his lips. Soft breathes pulsed slowly against his bare neck. The commander’s amber eyes slowly opened, studying the wavy long bangs that masked the being lying beside him.
A brief moment of anxiety rose up inside the ex-templar, waiting for the form to shift into a desire demon. He feared the Fade’s nightmares will taint his heart’s desires ever after his nightly templar mental and psychological meditations. He prepared himself to begin reciting the proper chants to fight the demon’s actions. It will shift to its true form as soon as it realizes he did not buy into its false form.
It never happened.
The commander searched his memory for an explanation. He adjusted his free right arm enough to pinch his side. Pain. He was wake. This was not the Fade. There was only one woman he will ever want to share his bed with, and those distinctive auburn curls confirmed that person was actually there. Eve slept peacefully beside him.
With each lethargic blink, Cullen accepted this was reality, a new majestic reality.
Last night was real. This morning was real. She was real.
Cullen waited for Evie by a spider thread. Once she returned from the Emerald Graves, the commander knew she would never treat him the same way ever again. She did not look him in the eye. She winced when he spoke. Anything that reminded her of their shared moments brought anguish. Cullen concluded he was the worst person in her life, more than he believed before. The unfeeling and mute Evie was the new norm. The woman he cared about was dead and beyond help.
The commander went into self-preservation mode. Before he drowned in sorrow and disappointment, Cullen needed to pull himself up and serve his duty to the Inquisition and himself. However, finding his original purpose was extremely difficult. The waters were muddy and unclear. Cullen’s urges for atonement mixed with Evie like a whirlpool uniting with the bottom of an abyss. He felt atonement was unobtainable without her. His battle with lyrium addiction was unbearable without her presence. By unconsciously being a part of his life before the Conclave, Evie weaved herself into his goals like a knitted blanket. To deny her would be rejecting the few years since he turned against Meredith’s instability. Essentially, Cullen would return to that harden, mage-hating man he wanted to avoid.
That struggle was for not though. When the fire mage raced into the commander’s office and slammed the reinforced door close, Cullen thought he died and went to the heavens. She looked a mess, pressing her full body weight against the tower door like she was barring everyone else out. Her unkempt wavy hair dripped water, gleaming in the torchlight. Her face flushed like she just escaped an unwinnable battle with no makeup to hide behind. She wore that alluring sparring outfit from two months ago, his personal favorite. Her belt was unfastened in front of those tight tan pants. All her fine tailored dresses and armor were fine, but Maker, that ensemble was perfect, matching her personality and soul completely.
Cullen braced himself for the worst. Evie only entered his office—especially so late a bell—if there was an emergency, she was hiding, or she required his expertise. He held his professional demeanor, using that title he hated to say and she loathed to hear. Her eyes flashed open. He could not breathe. Her eyes were bright, shimmering orbs of light that housed the Fade and his dreams. He could read her expression, her mind through those burning green eyes dyed by the Anchor. She told him to call her ‘Eve’. Her voice cracked and stammered. Those few short words had life. Maker be praise, Eve was alive.
Evie stared at him for a few minutes just as he waited to wake. Cullen must have fallen asleep at his desk again. The Fade, that demonic place, was teasing him. The desire demons were showing him what he yearned for so long. Cullen chanted and prayed every night to see Evie’s beautiful eyes again. He yearned to hear her snorts when she laughed too much, her snarky comments and jabs in the War Room, and constant need to set everything on fire when her fierce temper spun out of control.
Cullen stilled himself when he asked if she needed something. Maybe it would break the demon and let him wake. Words poured out of Evie’s mouth, declarations he wanted to hear on the battlements months ago. Damn the demons. Damn the Fade. Leave him alone!
“…I am falling for you so deeply that it scares me.”
A desire demon would never admit it was scared to love him. It would just state it without panic or sorrow. This person was begging, searching his face for some confirmation to her hopes. Cullen took a deep breath, while masking his unsureness behind his commander austerity. Oranges and cloves. Evie’s words in Redcliffe rang through his mistrusting mind. Demons cannot replicate smells. Maker’s breath, this was Evie!
Cullen’s feet carried him forward, while his mind screamed that it could be all a lie, a dream that betrayed his senses. The woman before him looked like she was going to run away. Like so many times before, Cullen automatically reached out for her before she fell or disappeared. His ink-stained hand grasped her bicep, while the other lifted her chin. He leaned down with little finesse and pressed his lips to the quivering soft pink lines.
This was Evie.
Evie’s lips tasted better than her lipstick on that Carnel wine bottle. With each breath, Cullen’s nostrils smelled her glorious familiar scent. Her sun-kissed chin and cheek felt smooth against his rough hand. His grip tightened on her arm until he heard the door ring fall out of her other hand. It moved up his breastplate, to his shoulder and neck, and into his hair. This felt right. This is where they belonged in each other arms with their lips pressed together in perfect unity.
Cullen smirked, resting his right arm above his head, taping the headboard with his knuckle and bringing him back to the present. His other arm tightened beneath Evie’s neck. She abandoned the spare pillow, using his bicep and shoulder to rest her sleeping head. Her marked hand rested on his abdomen and gripped his thinning night tunic, while her other clasped his arm wrapped around her shoulders. She never just rested her hands on him, but clung to him tightly like he would disappear somehow. Corypheus himself could not drag him away from her now.
Cullen gently kissed the top of the woman’s head. His nose nuzzled against her wavy hair, taking a deep breath of her orange and clove scent. The commander hesitated to allow her to stay last night. All the other times she slept in his bed, he stayed away just in case he had a night terror. For the first time in years, Cullen placed his broadsword and boot knife on the other side of the room to avoid drawing the blades to cut down any foe that emerged from his nightmares. He remembered times in the Gallows’ barracks where he drew his waiting weapon and frightened Samson. The thought of Samson nearly pissing himself brought a brief smile to the commander’s face, but he definitely did not want to scare the woman he cared for deeply the first night they slept in the same bed. Thank the Maker, he did not dream during the night. He forced himself to sleep lightly to avoid the Fade. Besides, his reality was more pleasant and comforting. He still felt rested and relaxed despite not sleeping deeply. Evie always had that effect on him, especially since neither person hid their feelings anymore.
This woman must have read Cullen’s mind. Evie asked to take it slow. From her pitch, she was extremely nervous and unprepared for a romantic relationship. It confirmed Leliana’s observations that she would have never acted on her emotions unless Cullen said his own. They never spoke about past involvements, only that Cullen never took those silly vows of celibacy. Maker, this woman loved making him feel and act like an idiot.
Evie’s blabbering explained she did not understand love, but admitted she cared for him. Being betrothed to Rian was surprising, but she was a noble. Their world was messed up. He heard of cases of inbreeding to keep royal bloodlines ‘pure.’ Learning her lack of sexual past actually relieved him a little. He knew Circles were tight, restricting walls of sexual tension with little regard to how many partners a person could have at one moment. However, Evie’s not participating in such affairs should have not surprised him. Evie never trusted anyone so why would she have a relationship in the Circle.
However, Cullen could not shake that something happened to her that pushed all romantic feelings back. How she admitted she was scarred from lashings and her phrase ‘other events in my life’ worried the commander. She admitted she had more secrets to share. Maker, there were worse things that happened to this beautiful woman?
Evie’s sealed file flickered through his mind’s eye.
Nausea rose up inside the ex-templar. Cullen’s imagination flashed multiple incidences of physical, mental, emotional, and sexual abuse, some he investigated as a knight-captain in the Gallows. Any of those possibilities nearly caused Cullen to purge. He pushed the thoughts aside. Evie was right though. He had his own secrets that he was not ready to declare. Some of those possible scenarios he personally committed against mages because Meredith told him it was the right thing to do. Nothing like rape or murder, but still very serious offences.
Maya Amell flashed to mind.
Cullen kept kissing the top of sleeping Evie’s head, trying to control his panic. His pounding heart might wake her prematurely. His first love lived in Skyhold. It would not take long for Evie to piece together Cullen and Maya knew one another ten years ago. Evie’s observant nature could piece the most obscure facts together to reveal a disturbing picture. The woman already knew Cullen served at Kinloch Hold, Maya’s Circle. The Council of Magi were reviewing all mages’ files that were salvaged from fallen Circles. They looked for abuse cases where a surviving templar or leader should be trialed and punished accordingly. If they investigated Maya’s branding, he could be discovered. What would Evie say? Could she forgive him? A part of Cullen just wanted to tell her right then to avoid the fallout. No. They just admitted their feelings and agreed to have a slow relationship. They had not developed a foundation to stand upon yet.
Everything will unfold in time. Cullen needed to trust the Maker when to unbar the dark battered door in the back of his mind. Right now, the present is what mattered. Evie would be leaving tomorrow for the Western Approach. Blood magic and the Venatori awaited her. She needed his support and prepare for the worst. The mage explained she had some experience with that horrible magic, but nothing compared with Kirkwall. Maybe today he can give her some suggestions to protect her.
A second damning revelation crossed Cullen’s mind: Veronica Hawke.
“Fuck…” Cullen whispered so lightly his own ears barely heard the words. His right hand pinched the bridge of his nose, while his gulping Adam’s apple bobbed like a fishing lore.
The Champion of Kirkwall will smell their newfound relationship like a wild mabari in heat. She vowed years ago to expose everything Cullen ignored and committed. Hawke declared she will warn every mage who crossed his path of his vicious deeds until she was blue in the face. Thank the Maker Evie had a good head on her shoulders. No matter what Hawke tells her inevitably, the fire mage will filtered out the bullshit from the truth. Even then, the truth will be horrible, specifically about Hawke’s cousin, Maya. Cullen will not be there to explain himself. Evie never makes conclusions or judgement without hearing both sides of the story. Yet, what could Cullen say to convince her? Once again, Cullen must rely on the Maker support him and Evie. He could not control other people, but he could show his full devotion and passionate feelings to the woman lying beside him.
Cullen squeezed Evie’s shoulder tightly in a strong hug before releasing and laying his hand on hers against his stomach. The mage whimpered a little, rubbing her nose against his chest. His Lady shifted a little. Her pink tongue wetted her lips as she buried her face into his shoulder. Cullen grinned, watching her slowly stir awake. Her fingers pulled at his loose tunic, balling it in her glowing palm. Her right hand broke free from under his arm and rubbed her bright green eyes. Afterwards, her hand naturally pushed her untamed bangs out of her face. She sighed and slowly returned to the Fade. The man embraced her again so her shoulder nearly touched his chest. That forced Evie to lift her head and open her groggy shimmering eyes.
Cullen loved those big green rifts that pulled him into her orbit.
“Good morning.” Cullen smirked as she blinked up at him slowly.
Evie dropped her head, lifted her left arm around Cullen’s neck, and pulled her body close. She buried her face in the crook of his neck. Her jaw rubbed against his three-day stubble, lightly kissing his skin. “You’re mistaken. Not morning. Go back to sleep.” The woman muttered in a defiant childlike voice.
Cullen cackled a few times deep in his chest. “Unfortunately, yes, it’s morning. Can’t you see the sunlight through the roof?”
Without looking, Evie gave the roof hole the middle finger, muttering into his neck. “That’s getting fixed as soon as soon as I get up, which will be in the next age. We are staying like this until Skyhold falls apart around us.”
“I wish we could.” Cullen kissed the top of her head, petting her waves and curls down and out of his vision. “Although, I like the idea of just lounging around with you today.”
“Then it’s settle.” She concluded, kissing his cheek and wrapping her arms around his neck tightly.
A part of Cullen wanted to follow her lead. He fought his templar discipline against his personal wishes. “Eve, come on-“
Without warning, Evie leaned upwards and rubbed both hands through his bed hair rapidly, breaking all remaining control over his untamed curls. Cullen frantically attempted to stop her, but Evie kept batting his hands away and giggled mischievously like Sera when she played a practical joke. Without thinking, Cullen used his body weight to roll on top of her to restrain her, while penning both wrists above her head. His cheeks immediately flashed red as she continued to giggle beneath him happily. He felt every curve, mound, muscle, and bone in Evie’s body through her chuckles and movements beneath him. Shocked, he let go of her arms, too embarrassed and highly aware of their close positioning.
Evie grasped where his shoulders met his neck and slowly massaged his tight muscles. Each time her thumb brushed over his coarse stubble, Cullen quaked with anticipation. She ignored their very intimate arrangement, focusing her attention on the mess on top of his head. “You do have curls! Maker’s arse, they’re crazy! I thought my hair was wild!”
Cullen whined, resting his head her shoulder and heavily sighing. “Maker’s breath, Eve…” He ran his right hand through the blond strains in hopes to settle the wild mess. He used his left arm to hold himself up enough not to suffocate the beautiful woman below him and to hide his thickening morning length in his cloth pants. “You couldn’t just leave it alone…”
“I like it.”
Cullen immediately met Evie’s gaze. Her bangs cupped her cheek while she smiled gently up at him. Her waves and curling tips covered the pillow like a brown-red sea. The streaming sunlight highlighted her pale freckles across her cheekbones. Cullen held his breath, fighting the urge to kiss her passionately because he knew he could not control his desires right then.
“It’s like your coat mantle. A mane even, like a lion…of course not an Orlesian one. A Fereldan lion…” Evie tilted her head to the side a little while her smile grew. “Difficult to tame, rugged and somewhat uncivilized…but protective of what matters most, never wavering…” The woman’s marked hand touched Cullen’s cheek, skimming over his thick blond stubble and angular jawline until her thumb touched his upper lip scar. Her beaming face shifted to one of curiosity and yearning. “How did it happen?”
Cullen glanced away, pursing his lips. His earlier thoughts lingered in the dark corners of his mind, pressing on the mental door. “I will tell you sometime…” His tone was rough and low, almost a growl.
Evie nodded, leaning forward and kissing above his lip on the sensitive scar. Cullen felt each plump lip through the scar tissue, sending shockwaves through his whole body. Her fiery eyes met his with her head hovering above the pillow. “One day…we will identify each scar, tell their stories…and then kiss them away. Share our badges of honor, right?”
Cullen turned his face a little and kissed her palm on his cheek, then leaned down. His left hand cupped the nape of Evie’s neck, lifting her head off the pillow. His elbow relax and allowed his whole body lay on the mage. His lips married hers in the way he craved since she awoke. Evie immediately opened her mouth to invite his taste, his tongue. Moans escaped her, rattling Cullen’s hungry lips.
The womanly figure pressed against him strongly. Cullen understood why Evie stopped and complained about his breastplate last night. Maker, he felt every inch of her against him, wanting to touch and see each mound and worship it, not as the Herald or the Inquisitor, but as Eve Trevelyan. Her unbound breasts rubbed against his thin tunic, igniting a dark lust inside. Her hips grinded into his abdomen. She slid one leg out from under him so he laid completely on the other and her groin. Cullen stiffened more with each passing moment, responding to her movement with his own forceful thrusts.
The commander’s right hand grasped her hip, releasing another groan from deep inside her body. Primal instincts overruled the gentlemen in Cullen’s mind that hollered constantly to stop. His lips slowly meandered from her lips to her cheeks. They traveled to her jaw and down her soft, sensitive neck. Each touch made Evie buckle beneath him, while her hands fisted his tunic.
His curious hand remembered the silky skin he felt last night as his fingertips glided over her the lashing scars’ small ridges. However, his callused hand wanted to continue where he stopped, lifting Evie’s tunic a little to reach her side just by her free breast. Evie responded with great anticipation, jerking into his groin right as his index finger touched a small lump beneath her left mound. Cullen kissed her shoulder, edging her shirt upward. His aroused-self wanted to see what this lump was, knowing it was scar tissue by its thick texture. His lips wandered down her shoulder and hovered over her thin tunic until his dark eyes gazed upon her exposed left breast and the old wound beneath it. For a split second, Cullen admired her breast as absolutely perfection: not too big nor small, her nipple pink and puckered, waiting for his lips to suckle. It will fill his palm with a little extra escaping his grip, firm with just a little give. He will test that assumption in a second.
The scar was long starting at her mid-sternum and cupped her left breast until it dissipated to her mid-right side beneath her ribcage. Cullen’s amber eyes flicked upwards at Evie, noticing she was panting against his tangled hair. Her eyes showed terror and apprehension like he will pull away and be repulsed by the site. The commander prayed his face did not show his surprise and questioning stare, quickly shifting his expression to a reassuring smile. The man above her did the only thing he thought to do. He began kissing the full length of the scar from her side to in between her breasts, his soften lips barely touching her sensitive skin. His stubble created responding goosebumps in his wake.
“One day we’ll trade story about our badges of honor.” Cullen sang, beaming gently at the frightened woman from between her breasts, one covered by her tunic and the other begging for his grasp. Evie’s expression shifted immediately to a timid pursed smile. She nodded once. Tears welled up in her thankful eyes.
Cullen’s amber gaze shifted back the path he kissed. More scars became obvious, many at different stages of healing or disappearing. One specifically caught his attention with its pink hue by her lower hip, knowing too well its origin. Haven. He quickly ignored them all. The man did not want to frighten his Lady again with his searching eyes. Instead, Cullen kissed the end of the cupping scar between her breasts again, longer than the first peck.
The swordsman’s rough thumb grazed her left nipple, tweaking it alive. Evie arched her back and gasped, alerting the man she wanted more. That curious hand grasped her breast softly first and made a conclusion. His observation was correct. It was absolutely perfect. His experimenting hand then pulsed repeatedly like when Cullen rubbed Evie’s neck that relaxed her months ago. It had the desired effect, exciting the woman who clawed his lower back and shoulder blade. She fanatically tugged his tunic upward to explore him. Cullen’s lips hovered over the rose pink peak, allowing his panting breaths to tickle her nipple and urging the flustered woman to sigh more.
Evie tensed beneath him. Cullen’s face immediately glanced at the shut loft door, mentally cussing at every single thing existing in Thedas. On instinct, he pulled her tunic down to protect her modesty. Cullen pulled himself up to Evie’s face, hugging her tightly. He did not need to see her eyes. She was shaking, frightened that she would have to become the Inquisitor when she simply wished to enjoy being with him.
Thoughts and facts raced through the commander’s mind. He locked the doors before he came to bed. He left a few missives in his specialized mailbox outside the main door so no one would disturb him before he emerged that morning. He typically was up at this time, but it was common for him not to leave his tower until after everyone had breakfast. Why would someone be looking for him?
“Commander Cullen? Are you awake?”
Thank the Maker it was not that damn runner’s voice. He would throw that nitwit off the battlements. Cullen pushed himself off Evie and kissed her forehead. He crawled to a sitting position beside her. “I’ll go see what is going on. Stay here. It will be okay.” Evie bit her bottom lip, breathing heavily to bury her nerves and concerns.
Cullen grabbed his boots and slipped them on quickly unsure if the person at his door had a set of keys. He pulled down his tunic, glancing over his shoulder at the woman lying in his bed. Evie warily smiled at him, leaning forward on her elbows. The morning sun caught her facial silhouette perfectly. Maker, she was beautiful with her swollen lips and glowing cheeks. For a brief moment, the ex-templar just wanted to push his footlocker over the loft hatch and return to her side. However if he did not respond soon, more prying eyes will find a way in and discover them together. Reluctantly, he forced himself away. The commander grabbed the trapdoor handle and jumped down to his office.
Upon landing, Cullen’s soft nature changed to his harden commanding guise. He growled deep in his chest, adjusting his throbbing length in his pants. A few giggles escaped above him. Evie probably thought about the mabari joke, stale as it was. Fishing through his desktop covered with stacks of paperwork he wanted to avoid today and Evie’s jacket, Cullen found his key ring and leafed through the skeleton keys for the proper one.
“Commander? Are you alright?”
Fumbling with the door lock, the commander flew the door open, showing his disheveled state to the Inquisition sergeant knocking on the tower door. “What?!”
The soldier swallowed, bracing himself. Cullen knew his face demonstrated his frustration and displeasure. “P-Pardon me, S-sir. Knight-Lieutenant Hugh requires y-your assistance.”
“Why?” The commander snapped like a rabid animal. “What is so seriously that he cannot handle on his own?!”
“T-the tavern, S-sir.” The lieutenant stammered and pointed below. His gloved hand shook with fright. “S-some interlopers angered the Inquisitor’s c-comrades.”
Maker’s fucking breath. Of course it would be a bar fight. Immediately, Cullen’s thoughts shifted to protect the fire mage above him. “Has anyone contacted the Inquisitor?”
The soldier shook his head frantically. “N-no. I-I was going there after c-contacting you, C-Commander.”
“Don’t.” Cullen barked, running his fingers through his curly hair. Maker’s breath, he can only imagine how its tossed state alarmed the guard more than usual. “I will do it myself. Report to Lady Montilyet, Sister Nightingale, and Seeker Pentaghast. Tell them the Herald and I will meet them there.”
“Understood, S-sir!” The sergeant straightened his back and saluted. With a flick of Cullen’s wrist, he took off running across the bridge.
Cullen sighed, closing the door slowly until he heard the door latch click. He squeezed his eyes tightly closed and pinched his nose. Of all the things to happen now. A few moments passed until he heard a thud to his right. He glanced at the noise, watching Evie tie her unkempt hair back into a top bun. She had put on her boots and tucked in her tunic into her fastened belt. Between her perky breasts, hanging out of the tunic’s untied v-opening, was her amber pendant, her signet ring, and now a silver object Cullen had never seen. She shoved it back inside the shirt, while adjusting the tangled chain. The mage walked to his desk and retrieved her leather jacket.
“You heard all that?” Cullen questioned, watching the woman dress properly.
“Iron Bull and Sera at it again, probably.” Evie assumed, while rolling her head around her shoulders and loosening her tight neck muscles. “Sera probably played another prank, and the victim is looking for revenge. Give me five minutes before you come to my tower?”
Cullen blinked. “You’re not going to get across Skyhold without someone seeing you. I was just going to escort you like we met somewhere.”
Evie smirked a little, reaching into her jacket pocket. “A part of me was still ‘alive’ in the Exalted Plains.” Cullen threw the woman a confused look, wishing for an explanation.
The mage held a silver ring between her thumb and index finger. Cullen stared at her perplexed, watching curiously as she slipped the ring onto her middle finger. Immediately, she disappeared, only noticing her outline if the nearby sunlight from his office windows hit at a specific angle. “An enchanted ring…”
“I found it on a dead Venatori. The bastards somehow got their hands on many Circle-restricted objects. After my red lyrium sickness, I had Dorian test if it was potentially harmful, but he assured me it was completely harmless.” Evie pulled off the ring, magically reappearing. “It responses to a mage’s Fade connection. It uses a small amount of mana to hold the illusion. Between Fade-stepping and this, no one will know I was here.”
“Thought of everything, I see?” Cullen chuckled, shaking his head.
“Thus why I did not run away before dawn.” The woman approached him with a sexy saunter to her step. Once pressed against his body, Evie stood on the balls of her feet, her arms around his neck, and kissed him fervently like she will never see him again. She only lowered herself after successfully clearing any wandering thoughts from Cullen’s mind. His stunned gaze met her sparking rifts. “I am keeping this secret for us and us alone. People will discover in time, but I will not let them poison my genuine smile.”
“Gossip spreads like fire throughout the barracks.” Cullen sighed, kissing her forehead. “Yet, if there was nothing to talk about…” No, he will not let their relationship be tainted like their sparring match.
“Good thing I like playing with fire…” Evie mischievously cooed, taking the key ring from his hand. “Let’s keep this to ourselves as long as possible, okay?”
Cullen nodded, smiling at the lovely woman in his arms. “I would rather my—our personal business remained our own anyway. It’s been a long time since I held anything as important as you. I cherish every single moment with you, Eve. I hope I can show you now more than ever what you mean to me. ”
Evie’s genuine smile graced her face, pecking his lips again before she turned to the side door. She quickly unlocked it. “See you in a few minutes, Commander.”
“Of course, Inquisitor.”