Biting down on the cork, Cullen opened a bottle of whiskey and drank it down, letting the burn flow over his tongue and wash away the bitter taste of his nightly herbal brew. It wasn’t a recommended idea; meds and liquor cancel each other out. The healer had warned him of such a thing, to keep away from the bottle while he’s recovering, but if sipping at whiskey to clear his mouth of elderflower between his teeth was a vice then he didn’t find it such a terrible vice to have.
Swishing the liquid around in his mouth, Cullen leaned against the cold wall and felt the howling wind seep in between the stones. It was a nasty night, the sort where the air cut past skin and muscle and weeded its way into the bone. A signal for a blizzard, no doubt. He’d have to warn Josephine of it in the morning and start the preparation for that. With the wind thrashing against his tower and his mind on the question of whether or not the soldiers were dressed for a new storm, he hardly heard the rattle at his door.
It was late, the door locked, yet he listened as a hand was laid upon the latch and lifted it and watched as the door shook against the bolt. Cullen raised his brow. Who was so insistent at this hour that they would try to force themselves against his lock–surely the scouts knew better unless it was urgent. And if it was, surely they would knock.
Cullen waited, taking another swig.
There was silence and following that was the light scrape of nails trailing down the wood. It fought again, this time yanking the latch with desperation, trying to command it open just by its desire alone. Then, it stopped and no more did the sounds come.
Cullen frowned, placing the bottle on the desk, and thought it best to leave whatever it was to its own devices. As strange as it was, he was far too tired to go yelling at some tenacious scout who didn’t know their place.
Who else would appear at such an hour?
Who else but…?
Far more hurry in his step than he would like to admit, Cullen went to the door and stumbled as he unlocked the iron lock. The wind smacked him in the face as he wrenched it open and squinted into the vast darkness. A shape lingered at the bottom of the steps and cowered at the vicious cry of the wind. It was far too dark to make out any features but when it moved, when it swerved around toward him, he simply knew who it was.
The figure froze and as his eyes adjusted, he saw the glow of her eyes–no, eye, it was only one now–darting from his face to the ground.
“You’re awake.” She answered, her voice hoarse as if she had been screaming and peeling the inside of her throat raw.
“…I was about to turn in.” He took a step down but stopped as she flinched back, sighing “What…are you doing here?” The tone was far more exhausted, his words far more accusatory, then he had intended. He was frustrated in a way, more than usual–it was she who had spurned from his touch these last few weeks, refusing to let him into her quarters or even her heart, avoiding him at all hours of the day. Now, she was here of her own volition and yet she was acted as if she was still wounded and he was the one with the blade.
He tried to remember, as he swallowed his own hurt, that not long ago he had been doing the same to her. He didn’t like being on the other side of the table.
Eurydice shifted and he could see the shapes of her fingers at her chest, no doubt fiddling and twisting in her hair. “I…I could not sleep…I…” She rasped, trailing off, too embarrassed by how weak her voice had become. “It was unimportant. I apologize for disturbing you.” She began to turn away.
“If you have come to me, it is not unimportant. Please, have at me, do what you want…” He stumbled and then stopped, noticing that has the cold wind rushed passed them, Eurydice wrapped her arms around herself and shivered. For all she wore was her wrinkled night shift which clung to her as thin and freezing as water.
Anxiety bloomed at the center of his chest as Cullen went down the steps, snapping at her, “Are you mad? What were you thinking, coming out here in that?” He extended his arms to her, wanting nothing more than to gather her up and shield her before she turned deathly blue. “Come in, warm yourself before you catch your death!”
But as his hands inched toward her arms, Eurydice moved from his reach, “No! Do not touch me!” She exclaimed, then, as she must have caught the shock on his face or felt the shattering of her own voice within her, muttered lowly, “I do not want to be touched…”
Maker, what was he to do? He thought about it for weeks; how he would repay her, give her the same comfort she gave him, say the words to fight the trauma that nagged at her so, that he would do all he could to clear her mind–but now she came to him, he found himself nothing but a useless oaf, mucking up at all turns. There, she had built a new wall–new skin to heal over these injuries of hers–and he felt like all he could do was slam his fists bloody against it, trying to rip it apart to get to her.
Looking at his hand, Cullen tried his best to mask the hurt twisting his features.
“…If…perhaps you do not wish to come in for your sake, then you can come in for mine?” He offered carefully, “The night terrors still haunt me. I would better withstand them if I wasn’t…alone.”
Eurydice moved her head and he felt her looking at him, tracing her eye over his body. He held his breath waiting for her answer, terrified that she would turn him away again. But, to his surprise, she stepped toward him and said, “I…am not a child…I shouldn’t need you to…or you shouldn’t need me… but…”
He hesitated trying to touch her again, his hand hovering over her face, but when she gave no inclination of moving away, Cullen gently brushed a finger through her hair and moved it out of her face. He caught a glimpse of the ugly rigid scar underneath. “I know. Use me anyway…”
Eurydice relaxed and when he offered his open hand, she rested her cheek against his palm. “Talk to me? The voices from the well. They are always around, saying things I can not understand. I can not rest, even when I close my eyes.” She squeezed her eyes closed, no doubt hearing those whispers now, having them fill her ears, their secrets burst through the cracks of her skull, and all she seemed to able to do to get away from them was bury her face farther until his hand–trying to hear his heart’s pulsing over the hymns of her ancient past. “Talk to me. I do not care about what. I just want to hear the sound of your voice until I fall asleep. Please, Cullen, give me peace.”
She looked at him with misted eyes, her hands wrapped around his wrist, trying to keep him there and Cullen felt so broken. He was her Commander, her love–he promised his life to her–what was the point of all this if he couldn’t even protect from monsters in her own mind? What was he could for?
It was so damn small, almost worthless.
But he would give it to her.
Cullen pressed his forehead to hers and the touch of her cold bare skin sent goosebumps across his skin. “Anything you wish, love.” He said, wrapping his arm around her waist and ushering her inside.