The lines on her face had increased since reaching Skyhold. The journey had taken its toll on not just her, but her companions and the refugees. They had lost several people on the way; some young, some old. Every loss making the days seem longer, and the weight on her shoulders growing heavier.
She tried her best to not let it show, but the bags under her eyes said it all. Even after several days in the safety of Skyhold's walls, people were still sick and dying. Despite her advisors being against it, she would visit the infirmary daily to sit with its patients.
"You need rest," Josephine would insist, meeting her on the steps leading down to the tents. While her papers caught in the wind, she would hastily try to grab them. Trying to stay in pace with the Inquisitor was quite the challenge.
"I'm the Inquisitor now. I can't turn my back on the people," she would answer with her head held high, never looking back. "They need me now more than ever."
Her voice that was used to yell out commands was now soft as silk. As she ducked into the tents and made her rounds, she would always notice when a new patient had entered. Kneeling down to their bed cot, she held their frail hands and would whisper a song to them. Her voice radiated a sense of sacredness and purity. Many had never seen a Dalish elf before, let alone hear them sings songs that were so foreign. But each patient would lay and listen.
Before rising to leave, she would touch her lips to the patient's forehead. She could never stay long, as there were many people to see. Taking the time to visit all she could, she raised the spirits of those around her and earned the respect of many.
She never did it for the attention. In fact, she never wanted to be spotted. Wearing simple clothes, she tried to blend in as best as she could. It never worked since she had an aura of authority around her now. Her face was tattooed, her stormy eyes were unlike any others, and her ears were hard to miss. Even with a hood, her pointed long ears stuck out to the side.
Not long after visiting, she retired to her chambers for the night. Crawling up the last set of stairs until she reached her bed, she would lazily remove her outer armor and put her pajamas on. She lit a small candle on her dresser and opened a window to let a light breeze in the room.
She lay awake in bed thinking of who would be missing from their tent the next day. She would stifle a cry, telling herself to stop becoming so attached to those she may lose. She'd known loss. Much like a bad dream, it would show up from the shadows and take.
She should know by now. But that young heart yearns for more. More life, more hope, more love. That's what she wanted to give, all she had.
Hearing a knock on her door, she ignored it hoping that the person would just leave. She heard the slow creak as the door closed behind whoever had entered.
"I know you're awake up there," said the unmistakable husky voice.
It was Cullen, the commander. They cared for each other but were taking it slow.
"How may I help you, Commander? Have you come to tuck me in?" she questioned, with a hint of laughter in her voice. She quickly wiped her tears away and sat up in her bed.
"I am just checking on you. I saw you sneak through the grounds earlier, trying not to be spotted. I figured you would like a small midnight snack," he blushed lightly, sitting on the edge of her bed and handing her a small box.
She raised an eyebrow and took the box from his hands. "What have you done, Commander Cullen?"
Opening the gift, she found a small piece of apple pie. One of her favorite desserts from the kitchen.
She lifted the box to her nose and sniffed in the familiar scent. She wanted to savor the smell as best she could. It was rare that she had time to grab more than a quick meal, and she often didn't eat sweets. These meals were often hot and heavy to keep the people warm through these cold days. She had greatly missed sitting for a meal, but she had been so busy for so long.
Cullen tilts his head and looks into her eyes. While smiling he says, "I shall leave you be. Please get some rest. Don't forget about the meeting in the morning."
Before he could stand, she grabbed his arm and pulled him back down before saying, "No, please stay. I need to talk to you."
She blinks away tears, and Cullen sits back down. He moves closer to her and rests his hand on her back. "You can tell me anything."
They share pie as she went over her day of visitation. She spoke of the young man who had passed on, the young child who had caught a sickness, and the older woman who was slowly recovering from her journey. Before long, the pie was gone and she lay back in her bed. Slowly dozing off, Cullen drapes her blanket over her before shutting the open window. As he walks down the stairs and leaves her quarters, she smiles and feels the weight of her duties lift off her.
She knows that this is what she wants. He gave her life. He gave her hope. And he gave her love.