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Cullen was late to the morning council. Getting out of bed proved to be a difficult task, and her warm body and feather-light kisses made it no easier. She was certainly more of an early bird than he was. Habits from living Dalish, she had told him. The little elf had managed to pepper him with kisses, rise, and dress before he so much as set a foot to the cold stone floor. She and the other Lady advisors were surely patiently waiting for him.

The large door creaked loudly as he pushed it open. The small banter around the war table ceased, the three Inquisition ladies turning to the Commander as he wandered in.

Leliana smirked, “Ah. There you are.”

“Sleep in again, Commander?”

Cullen’s eyes met the Spymaster and Ambassadors, but his gaze quickly left them to rest on the third woman standing there. She was smiling at him, leaning on her hip, arms folded across her chest. Her golden eyes caught the morning sun, the rays shattering against her iris and reflecting back all the brilliant color. Hair a dark halo around her face, reaching far down her back and complementing her smooth olive skin. Maker, she was perfect, and he couldn’t help but leave a kiss on her forehead before rounding the table to stand between Leliana and Josephine. He didn’t bother glancing in their direction, he surely could predict the smirking expressions they were sharing with one another.

“Well then, now that you’re here-” Josephine cleared her throat before continuing, “- A Lord Mercier has requested a meeting with the Inquisitor. A discussion of alliance, he claims. I thought it best that the entire council is involved in this arrangement so I told him I would allow his discussion to be made during this morning's meeting.”

Cullen snorted, “Another offer of alliance?”

“We do need all the help we can get.” Leliana chimed.

“Yes, but from this Lord Mercier? I may not know many nobles, but I can’t say I have heard of him.”

“His lands and title are small, compared to others. But he does have a certain degree of influence over the trade markets in Orlais,” Josephine tilted her feather quill towards Cullen, “He may be worth our time.”

“Hearing him out won’t hurt.” The Inquisitor added, smiling to each of her advisors. Nylah turned to a runner standing against the stone walls of the room, “Invite Lord Mercier to the War Room please, the council wishes to hear his proposal.”

“Yes, my lady.” And with that the runner sped off.

It didn’t take long before the large doors were swinging open again. Cullen hardly managed to hold back his snort. The man, in a frilly jacket and obnoxious hat, walking with a certain pompous arrogance in his step. All those things together, Cullen decided he already disliked this Lord Mercier.

“My lady Inquisitor, how honored I am to meet you.” The Lord bowed dramatically in front of Nylah, reaching for her hand and placing a kiss to her glove.

“The honor is mine, Lord Mercier.”

“I’ve heard many grand tales of your accomplishments, your worship. What marvelous tales they are, indeed.”

Cullen resisted the urge to roll his eyes. This noble was like all the others; a boot-kisser. Thankfully such tactics had little to no effect on Nylah.

“All exaggerated, I’m sure.” Nylah’s half-hearted laughter echoed in the large room.

“Ah, humility. Such a rare trait in grand leaders these days, how refreshing to witness it amongst the most powerful. And might I add, the stories hardly portray your beauty accurately. What a positively stunning creature you are.”

“You flatter me.”

Nylah’s voice fell flat and Cullen noticed the flicker of annoyance in her bright eyes, and her false smile was all to easy for him to spot. Slender fingers were flexing furiously in her glove, a clear sign she had very little tolerance for such ridiculousness this early morning. He wanted to ease her stress, fill her twitching hands with his and hold her close. Yet, Lord Mercier seemed oblivious to what was so obvious to Cullen, and he continued on with his high praises.

“My Lord, perhaps we could move onto the alliance you wanted to discuss?” Josephine interjected.

“Ah yes, I apologize, my lady.”

Nylah raised her hand and offered another false smile, “No need.” The lord cleared his throat and stood up taller, “Well, Inquisitor, as your Ambassador may have informed you, I am the Lord of my household, and I have extended our reach to many trading companies in Orlais. And with your fortress being in a secluded mountain, I’m certain better trade would be of great use to you.”

“It certainly could be, but connections like those don’t come freely. What do you ask for in return?”

“Smart woman you are-” Cullen could see Nylah fighting the urge to roll her eyes, and the sight brought a smirk to his lips, “But in fact, my lady Inquisitor, I ask for nothing of importance, simply an alliance brought together by marriage.”

“Who's marriage?”

“Ours, my lady.”

Cullen’s heart dropped to the floor. His mouth opened in shock, ready to interject loudly. What he would tell this Lord. That she would not be married off for the sake of alliance. That it was cruel to expect her to except this. That she was his, and no one else in all of Thedas could have her. But with a flash of her stern golden eyes, he resisted, clamping his mouth shut tight. He flexed his jaw, eyes narrowed to slits as his hands sought a deathly grip on the hilt of his sword.

“My lord-” Nylah added curtly, her fingers flexing more furiously than before, “-are you quite certain you’ve thought this through.”

“Why yes, Herald, I have. A marriage between the Mercier household and Inquisition would be beneficial for us both.”
Josephine opened her mouth to retort as well but Nylah held up a hand to stop her.

“Have you considered the fact that my leadership may be temporary?”

“Oh I have, your worship, but under the protection of my family, you shall not worry about losing your position. We will keep you in power.”

Nylah turned to Josephine, silently asking for her to speak.

“Well, I'm afraid, My lord, that the Inquisition is a movement, not an official leadership. We are here to fight a war, not gain power so we might rule over others.” Josephine calmly stated, although Cullen could see the withheld fire in her eyes as well. The only one who didn't seem bothered by this Lords offer was Leliana, who wore an amused smirk, listening intently into the conversation.

“Well that, my lady, would be a mistake. You have built an impressive organization, and you have an immense amount of power and influence. To throw it all away would be a waste.”

“A waste, perhaps, to you,” Nylah's voice quipped, cutting to a sharp edge, her anger finally spilling. The confident Lord seemed to lose some pride, visibly flinching as she continued, “but I am not here to please you. If it is necessary to leave my position and disband, I will do what I must.”

“B-but, My lady I-"

“Tell me, my lord,” Cullen smirked, amused at her hissed words making the Lord shrink further away, “don't Orlesians despise elves? Why would you want to marry me?”

“You're the Inquisitor.”

“So my heritage means nothing to you?”

“W-well I-"

“It doesn't.” She answered for him, her eyes ablaze, her words like lightning, just like the magic she wielded. “The only thing that matters to you is my title, my power. My people have been given nothing, left to live in rotting slums or deep in the forests. They have been mistreated by your people for years, but as soon as we step high into the ranks of power, you want to take advantage of it. Conveniently you no longer care about the shape of my ears.”

“N-no, my lady-"

“I'm also a mage, does that not matter to you?”

“Your worship, p-please-"

“No. You'll stand there and call mages a threat, lock them in towers, but when one finally has power? That's when you care.”

“I-Inquisitor...I-"

“Do not speak to me, I've heard enough. Lord Mercier, the Inquisition refuses your offer.” Pride flooded Cullen, and a sense of relief. Of course he knew she would refuse, but seeing the arrogant Lord now, reduced to a pitiful, trembling heap just from the power of his lady’s words, it was immensely satisfying.

“M-my lady, perhaps you should ask your advisors before refusing the offer so quickly?”

Cullen couldn't help but snort. This man thought that he still had a chance? This foolish Lords insistence made his blood boil hot, as if this man didn't care about what the Inquisitor thought, as if he thought her advisors would just send her off to be married. Ridiculous. Nylah's eyes flashed rebelliously, as if the same thoughts were running through her mind. But she turned to her advisors anyway, nodding to each of them.

“Very well, I shall. Josephine?”

“Your worship, this marriage would offer no significant gain for the Inquisition that we couldn't get elsewhere. I agree with your refusal.”

“Thank you Ambassador. Leliana?”

Leliana acknowledged the Inquisitor respectfully, turning to Lord Mercier, who was looking more defeated by the minute, “My lord, although you have offered quite the entertaining spectacle this morning, I must agree with the Inquisitors decision.”

“Thank you, Spymaster.”

And finally, her golden eyes finally turned to him, “Cullen?” Curiosity filled her gaze, surely very intrigued with what he would say, now that he had the chance. But he found words not adequate enough to make this Lord truly understand how absurd his offer was, how selfish and cruel. How to make him understand that she was his already, this Lord had no chance. So, to the surprise of even himself, he marched around the table, cupped Nylah's face in his hands, and bent to capture her lips in a searing kiss. Simultaneously, the room filled with Nylah's giggles against his lips, Lord Merciers loud gasp, and the Spymaster and Ambassadors own stifled laughter. He held the kiss for much longer then was appropriate, though in all truth the kiss itself was hardly appropriate; even daring to move his mouth against hers and deepen the kiss. He was like a man possessed, this was so completely out of character for him. But something about that noble stirred something inside him; something possessive, dominating.

He was almost afraid to break the kiss, worried what her reaction to this outburst would be. But once he did, though, looking down into her eyes, she wasn't upset. Amused, was probably the right word. Stunned as well. She was smiling brightly at him and reaching for his hand. Together, they turned to face the Lord again. A crushing understanding had dawned on the man's face. He had lost, clearly, whatever foolish hope he had of gaining the Inquisitor’s power and influence had been squandered.

“Well, I have discussed the idea with my advisors,” Nylah wiped her bottom lip with the pad of her thumb, much to Cullen's amusement, “and they all agree that this alliance would be a misjudgment on my part. Thank you for the offer Lord Mercier, but I'm afraid I must decline. Good day.”

And with that, the thoroughly thrashed Lord Mercier hobbled out of the room, the pride he had entered with diminished as he scurried away in defeat.

“Well, that was...interesting,” Josephine cleared her throat, “I never thought the idea of having marriage alliance within the Inquisition would gain momentum.”

Nylah nodded, “Doesn't seem very practical.”

“No, but you handled him well.”

“Did I?” Nylah laughed, “I think I might've gotten a little carried away.”

“I believe the Commander is the one who got carried away.” Leliana quipped.

Embarrassment rushed into his cheeks and the tips of his ears, burning hot. Giggles from all three women filled the room again, only managing to deepen his blush. Indeed he had gotten carried away. Very carried away. Maker, there would be no end to this one, of that he was certain.

“E-excuse us, ladies, but I must speak with the Inquisitor.”

Ignoring their knowing smirks, he pulled Nylah out of the war room. He lead her quickly through Skyhold, paying no heed to the blathering nobles gathered in the hall, trying to get his attention. He didn't care about them, he had enough of entitled nobles for one day. What he did care about was getting this little elf alone; fast.

He pushed open the tower door, trying to make his way up the stairs. But Nylah pulled back on his arm, forcing him to turn around.

“Cullen what has gotten into you?!”

And in an instant he was on her, backing her into the wooden frame of the door, cupping her face and using his larger stature to keep her pinned. He couldn't resist anymore, Lord Mercier had his blood pumping, fire burned in his veins, fire only she could sate. He needed her, and he told her. Hot and raspy in her ear, he told her he needed her, craved her.

Nylah cut him off with a fierce press of her mouth, “Ma’vheraan,” she purred.

“To think I would let that arrogant bastard get his hands on you.” he shook his head, “I would never allow it.”

“He was a fool,” She replied, leaning for his mouth again, “and he never stood a chance against you, my lion.”

“You're mine.” he growled against her lips, possession taking over his actions again, “Tell me you're mine.” She gasped quietly, her eyes lifting to his. He stared into their depths as her gaze grew dark, pupils dilating until only a sliver of gold was left encircling them.

“I am yours. All yours.”

The purr in her voice possessed his mind, and the rest was a blur. A blur of rushing up the stone steps, peeling one anothers clothing away, and collapsing on their fancy bed in a frenzy of fervorous kisses. Cullen had a certain air of dominance about him, kissing her hard and demanding, his hands wandering and kneading every inch of her silky olive skin. He spread her legs and gave her his mouth. He was drunk; drunk on her taste, her smell, the lovely sounds he pulled from her with the swirling of his tongue and the steady rhythm of his fingers. It left him dizzy, his desire stiff and wanting.

He kissed her again, once she met several ends from his ministrations. He kissed her, her arousal still painting his lips. He wanted her to taste herself, to taste his claim on her, another reminder she was his and no one else's.

And he told her, with low growled words, that he loved her. That he loved her more than anything in this world. And with her I love you too, they became one. He buried himself deep, moving slow and kissing her face. His demeanor changed; he wasn't possessing or claiming her body anymore, rather painting her skin with steady caresses, keeping his hips at slow rhythm. He wanted to take his time now. Making love to her was bliss. Ecstasy. Lost in a euphoria, with just her there to hold him to reality. No, he could not rush this; this was perfect.

They found their end together, whispering love and praise in each others ear. Her skin was hot under his satisfied kisses, her breathing harsh as her fingers ran through his sweaty hair. He pulled her into his arms, and she relaxed her head against his chest, his hands drawing small circles across her back. The laid there in silence, listening to one another's slowing breaths and the howling of mountain air outside. Quiet, until Nylah's soft giggles startled him back into reality.

“Why are you laughing?”

“I'm going to start inviting more Orlesians to Skyhold,” she replied, lifting her head to flash him a devilish smirk.

Cullen groaned, “Why in all of Thedas would you want to do that?”

Nylah giggled to herself again, “I've never seen you so - possessive. If Orlesians are what makes you so, I'll gladly invite some more.”

Cullen shook his head with a chuckle, “Maker’s breath, women. You're insatiable.”

“Me?” Nylah scoffed, “Are you aware of your behavior this morning? I'm not the insatiable one!”

“Fair point.”

Their joined laughter filled the room, interrupted by some more lazy kissing, until they finally collapsed in each other's arms, completely exhaustand utterly boneless

“I love you.” he whispered, burying his nose in her hair.

“I love you too, you crazy man.”