Cullen rubbed his forehead as he read through the latest report from Rylen. He missed having his Second around but Rylen was far more valuable placed where he was. The Western Approach was a long way from Skyhold and the troops in the region needed to be able to get decisions and orders in a timely manner, with only the important things referred back to Cullen and the Inquisitor. Cadash had nodded in agreement when Cullen had first floated the idea and he’d felt a now-familiar relief at the dwarven Inquisitor’s pragmatism. He’d been dubious about the Carta dwarf at first but Cadash had turned out to be the mostly un-Carta-like Carta dwarf Cullen had ever encountered. No wonder he got along so well with Varric.
“You have not been resting, have you?”
Cullen’s head jerked up in surprise and he stared at the elf standing in the doorway to his office. He blinked as he dragged his mind out of the Western Approach.
“Fenris. You weren’t due back for days…”
“We encountered one of the dwarven merchants in the Hinterlands,” Fenris said as he walked into the room, closing the door behind him. “He was willing to give us a lift and you are evading my question.”
Cullen sighed and looked down at the paperwork on his desk a little guiltily. He had promised Fenris he would take better care of himself while he was away and he didn’t really have an excuse as to why he hadn’t other than falling into old, bad habits.
When Fenris had walked into Skyhold six months ago in the vanguard of a group of refugees, Cullen had been surprised to say the very least. It had been pure coincidence that he’d been in the lower courtyard when they’d arrived. He hadn’t seen Fenris since the battle against Meredith and the last he’d heard Fenris had left Kirkwall. He had no idea where he’d gone but he certainly hadn’t expected him to turn up in Skyhold. From the look on Fenris’ face when he’d seen him, his own presence here had been unexpected as well.
Over the next few days, they’d ended up talking, either over a tankard (on Cullen’s part) and a goblet (on Fenris’) in the Herald’s Rest or in his office. He sometimes wondered if it would have happened that way if Varric had been there but Varric had been out with the Inquisitor. So Fenris had come to him with his questions about the Inquisition and those in it. It had been interesting, both the conversations and watching Fenris integrate into the Inquisition. He’d been surprised when Fenris stayed, especially after he’d shown no interest in Cadash’s invitation to join his inner circle. But he had stayed and when he’d come to Cullen, asking for something to do, Cullen couldn’t deny that there were plenty of tasks well-suited to the elven warrior.
He’d thought that would be that but that was when Fenris’ markings had raised their head. Cullen had seen the markings back in Kirkwall but hadn’t known they were lyrium. Between the lyrium he had been taking back then and the way the Gallows had been, he hadn’t sensed that about them. But now, with his withdrawal seemingly finally ebbing into something bearable, they had rung out like a bell. Cullen had been worried at first, afraid they would interfere with his efforts, but the more time he spent with Fenris, the less that seemed like a concern. He could certainly sense the lyrium in them but… that was it. He didn’t feel drawn to them nor did they intensify his occasional bouts of cravings. Unfortunately, they also didn’t assuage them either but he’d never expected that. He was just pleased they didn’t make things worse.
He also hadn’t expected to feel so drawn to Fenris. He’d worried at first that it was the lyrium but after dismissing that, he had to admit that he just… liked the elf. Fenris was stoic and stubborn while also being dryly amusing and surprisingly perceptive. He had a good grasp of tactics and strategy and Cullen had started speaking to him about things and asking for his advice and even implementing his suggestions. He hadn’t expected it to go any further and had been just pleased to have made another friend, something he’d never had much skill with over the years.
But then Fenris had come to him late one night, clearly drunk but not overly so. Fenris had quirked a smile when he’d mentioned that and just told him he’d needed the liquid courage. When Cullen had asked what for, he’d ended up with a lap full of warm, slightly wriggly elf and… well, he hadn’t gotten any more work done that evening. He’d woken the next morning, expecting to find Fenris had left but instead he’d been curled up in his bed, fast asleep and looking exceedingly comfortable. Cullen hadn’t known what to make of it and had been too afraid to ask. Thankfully for both of them, Fenris was a little more adept, though far more bluntly spoken. The conversation had been very much to the point and the end result was that Fenris more than had the right to comment on Cullen’s poor habits.
“I don’t sleep as well without you,” he finally said with a wry smile.
Pink stained Fenris’ cheeks and looked away momentarily. “Flattery will not distract me.”
“It’s the truth,” Cullen replied.
Fenris grunted but he looked pleased as well. That expression faded when he looked at Cullen again. “You have a headache.”
Cullen sighed. “I always have a headache. It just varies as to its source.”
Fenris rolled his eyes. “It’s late. You’re done for the night.”
“I can’t. I have so much to do.”
“The Inquisitor says otherwise.”
Cullen blinked. “What?”
Fenris shucked off his sword and leaned it against the wall next to the old practise dummy. “I spoke to Cadash. He met me at the gates.” He strolled over and halted at the side of the desk. “He told me you needed to be stopped.”
Cullen snorted despite himself and smiled wryly. That was one of Cadash’s favourite phrases, usually said in a joking matter when it came to friends and colleagues. “Do I now?”
Amusement grew on Fenris’ face. “You do. And according to a little bird, you have been working far too hard since I left.”
Cullen sighed and rubbed the back of his neck. “Leliana is incorrigible.”
Fenris chuckled. “That could be said about almost everyone here.” He arched an eyebrow. “Why are you arguing with me?”
Cullen glanced over at the piles of paper on his desk. “Because of that,” he said with a wave of his hand.
“None of that is urgent,” Fenris replied. “You’ve already dealt with anything urgent. Not to mention the less urgent things. All that’s left there are the things that can wait.”
Cullen looked away. Fenris was right, of course. Everything that needed to be handled with any kind of urgency had been either dealt with or was waiting for further information. He honestly wasn’t sure why he was arguing except out of sheer habit. A glance back at his desk reminded him of the one thing he did still need to deal with now that Fenris was back.
“Oh, there is something,” he said slowly and when Fenris cocked his head, he continued. “Hawke’s coming back here. She and Stroud have scouted out the Warden fortress in the Western Approach. Stroud is staying to keep an eye on things and Hawke’s coming back to give us a report.”
As he watched, Fenris grimaced and shifted slightly. Fenris hadn’t been in Skyhold when Hawke had been here before. The elven warrior hadn’t arrived until a couple of days after Hawke had left. Cullen had the impression Fenris wasn’t upset about that. They’d never really discussed Hawke since they’d become friends and certainly not since they’d become lovers. Cullen didn’t like thinking about his days in Kirkwall and Fenris had never raised the subject.
“I’ll have to talk to her,” Fenris said reluctantly.
Cullen frowned a little. “I thought you were friends.”
“We are,” Fenris replied. He then sighed and smiled wryly. “We just… have some fundamental differences of opinions on some things.”
“Like the Abomination,” Fenris said with a scowl. “Anders,” he clarified when Cullen looked blankly at him.
“Ah,” Cullen said. “I knew she and Anders were… involved.”
Fenris snorted. “As much as anyone could be involved with him given how self-absorbed he is,” he said sourly. He then waved a hand. “But that’s neither here nor there. I’ll be pleased to see Hawke. She just… fusses.”
“I noticed she did that,” Cullen said with a chuckle. “That’s not a bad thing, surely?”
Fenris shrugged but Cullen saw the small smile on his face. “Only when she nagged me about the corpses in the house.”
Cullen frowned and opened his mouth then closed it just as quickly. “You know what… I don’t think I want to know.”
Fenris chuckled at that and finally closed the gap between them. “Wise man.”
Cullen licked his lips as Fenris came to a halt directly in front of him. Fenris was tall for an elf and there was an oddly spicy scent about him – something like lyrium and yet so different as to be no comparison – that Cullen had come to associate with comfort and happiness. And pleasure, if he was honest with himself.
“I was hoping for a warmer welcome home,” Fenris said, his lips curving into a private smile that he rarely shared with others.
Cullen swallowed and decided that he could call it a night. “That… that could be arranged.”
“Good,” Fenris said before he turned on one heel and headed for the ladder leading up. “Lock the doors.”
Cullen watched Fenris climb the ladder with a smile then shook his head as he went to follow orders. Tomorrow was undoubtedly going to bring new headaches and new demands on his time but for now, he could leave the title of Commander behind and simply enjoy some time with his lover.