They were in a war table meeting when Cullen heard it. The deep, resounding blast from the horn on the ramparts that signalled friendly riders were approaching Skyhold. That means it’s him. It has to be. He’s finally returning to me. He’s finally home. His attention wandered far away from the current issue they were in the middle of discussing, hands impatiently shuffling the papers he was holding, amber eyes constantly darting to the door, body rigid, restless, and tense beneath his armor.
“… Cullen?” Ionna repeated, and he jumped back, startled, when he realized she was standing directly in front of him.
“Inquisitor, I… ah… my apologies. I let myself become distracted,” he answered as his cheeks flushed. He brought a hand up to rub at the back of his neck as he shifted his weight from foot to foot.
Ionna gently pulled the now heavily wrinkled papers out of his hands. “Go to him,” she murmured in immediate understanding, tilting her chin towards the door. She glanced over her shoulder at her own love with a sly wink. The corner of his mouth lifted in a small smile as Fenris snorted and shook his head fondly.
“Thank you,” Cullen whispered, squeezing her shoulder and disappearing in quick, ground-eating strides out the door.
“But Inquisitor, we have so much to discuss!” Josephine protested, tapping at her pages of notes with a quill.
“Josephine, my sweet, he needs this. You will get no further work from him until he sees Dorian again. He’s waited quite long enough, no?” She sidled up beside Fenris and snaked an arm around his waist. She tugged at his hip and motioned him towards the door. “We’ll continue this later, do not worry. A few more hours won’t cause the world to end.”
Cullen hurried up the steps to his tower, almost tripping in his haste. He cursed his choice of sleeping arrangements as he slowly made his way up the ladder to his sleeping area. He divested himself of his armor, years of practise allowing his fingers to make quick work of the buckles and straps that held it all in place. His shirt soon followed, and he gave himself a quick rub down with the icy water left in his wash basin before dressing in fresh clothing and checking his reflection in the mirror. Warm amber eyes stared back at him from a face that was finally beginning to fill out a bit. He was less gaunt now, not quite as pale, the effects of his lyrium withdrawal finally starting to become less noticeable. He had given up on shaving and let the coarse stubble on his face grow out into a short and surprisingly soft beard that also helped to fill out his face.
Dorian has always complained about my stubble… Will he like a full beard? Cullen ran a hand over it, combing unruly strands back into place and contemplating a quick shave. He finally shook his head and turned away from the mirror. There wasn’t enough time to do it properly without the risk of cutting himself in his haste. Besides, he rather liked how it made him look.
He also debated whether he should take the time to put his armor back on, but then firmly decided against it. Dorian had always hated that he wore it all the time, complaining that the metal was too cold and rough against his skin and refusing to give him any proper affection until he had taken it off. And how quickly he had always taken it off when Dorian offered such things…
Shaking his head to clear the wayward thoughts, Cullen made his way back down to his office and sat down at his desk. He picked up the nearest missive, intending to get a bit of work done while he waited for Dorian to reach the gates. He absently played with Dorian’s ring, one of his parting gifts to Cullen, the bejewelled head of the elegant snake set into the silver band soothing beneath his fingers. He read the same paragraph three times before putting the paper back down with a sigh, knowing that he would get nothing done until Dorian arrived. Instead, he picked up a book from the pile in the corner and began to idly flip through it. Right now, all he could do was wait.
I can’t believe it’s only been two years now that I’ve been away. It feels like a lifetime… Dorian’s thoughts wandered as the giant fortress slowly came into view in the distance. The years spent in Tevinter had been a struggle, made even worse by having to leave the love of his life behind. It had been like a vital piece of him was missing. He had received many offers of companionship, but they have served to make him feel even lonelier because no matter how beautiful or well-spoken the suitors were, none of them could compare to his blushing Commander. Letters were an unsatisfying alternative to Cullen’s deep, terribly Fereldan voice speaking softly into his ear. He had taken for granted Cullen’s calming presence, his loving companionship, his warm embrace at the end of a long day. Cullen brought warmth and light into his life, and without him he felt frozen and swallowed up by the darkness of his mind. Dorian hadn’t been able to catch more than a few scattered moments of sleep the first couple of weeks in Tevinter, his bed too cold and empty to allow him to truly relax and fall into a peaceful slumber.
He ran a hand nervously through the soft fuzz above one side of his ear, the longer silken strands at the top of his head tied back in a bun at the back of his head. He, Dorian Pavus, a powerful Tevinter mage, was nervous about seeing Cullen again. Nervous! Cullen truly affected him like no other person alive. Will he be as happy to see me as I will be to see him? Has he been eating and sleeping properly? Has he been too focused on his work to properly take care of himself? Have the withdrawal symptoms gotten any better? I miss that stupid brute of a man more than I ever thought possible…
He nodded to the guards once he reached the gate, vaguely recognizing one of them and making small talk with him while he waited for the gate to be opened. He had to clench the reigns tightly to hide the sudden trembling in his hands. He thanked the guards, steeling himself before gathering his courage and urging his mount to enter Skyhold.
There were very few people lingering in the courtyard when he came in. He didn’t pay much attention to it, as he hadn’t expected anything less. He scanned the faces of those present, searching for golden hair and amber eyes. His heart clenched slightly in sadness as he failed to spot Cullen waiting for him. Dorian shook himself mentally. Cullen was the Commander of the Inquisition’s forces. He couldn’t just abandon his duties whenever he pleased. He had priorities, after all. It didn’t stop him from feeling disappointed, though. His list of priorities probably doesn’t include me anymore… he’s probably moved on to bigger and better things… He sighed a little at his melancholy train of thought and slowly dismounted, wincing at the soreness of his muscles from the long ride.
He turned to take one last hopeful look around, and suddenly Cullen was there, helping him pull the saddlebags from his horse. He’s here. Here. In the flesh. Close enough to finally touch. He was waiting for me. The soft, adoring smile he gave Dorian told him all that he needed to know. It reassured him more than any words could have.
Cullen took Dorian’s wrist, bringing his hand up to his mouth and placing a soft kiss against his palm. “Dorian,” he breathed.
“Cullen,” Dorian whispered back. For a moment they stood frozen, their hands their only point of contact, each eagerly drinking in the sight of the other. Finally, Dorian couldn’t stand it any longer. Uncaring of the curious, watchful eyes around them, he threw himself into Cullen’s arms. He sighed softly as his arms tightened around Cullen’s shoulders, their bodies fitting perfectly together. The small part of Dorian’s mind that was actually functioning properly at this point was immensely grateful that Cullen had decided to forego his armour for their reunion.
Cullen eagerly returned his embrace, his face hidden against Dorian’s neck. The scent of cinnamon and spices and something uniquely Dorian filled his nostrils and made him sigh in relief. His mind had started to forget the scent even as he desperately tried to cling to each and every piece of Dorian he could. He had almost forgotten how soothing Dorian’s presence was.
After a long moment Dorian forced himself to loosen his hold on Cullen so he could lean back and look him over once more. “You actually grew a beard!” Dorian exclaimed as it finally registered that there was no coarse stubble rubbing against his neck. He reached up to run his fingers through it, tugging gently when he reached the slightly curled ends.
“I didn’t have anyone around to complain about my stubble marring their perfect skin, so I decided to let it be for once,” Cullen teased. “Do… do you like it?”
“I think I actually do. It makes you look more like the rugged, barbaric Fereldan that you are, but I suppose that I am rather attracted to that sort of man.”
“And what about you? Your hair, it’s gotten so long,” Cullen murmured with a fond smile.
“It was the latest fashion in Tevinter, so of course I had to go along with it to keep up appearances. Besides, I think it makes me look rather dashing. Don’t you agree?”
Cullen reached back and released Dorian’s hair from the bun, gently combing his fingers through the dark strands that fell half way down his neck, his fingernails scraping lightly along the shaved sides above each ear. “You always look dashing. But yes, I do love it.”
“Of course you do. You love everything about me.”
“I do.” Cullen chuckled and rested his forehead against Dorian’s, closing his eyes. This beautiful man had stolen his heart, ensnared his soul, taken over every part of his life. “I… it’s so hard to believe that this isn’t just part of the reoccurring dream I’ve had ever since you left. I keep thinking that I am going to wake up any moment now, staring over at your empty side of the bed, cold and alone. It’s so hard to believe that this is real, that you are actually here. I feared this day would never come. I was worried you would never come back,” he whispered.
Dorian cupped the side of Cullen’s face, his thumb brushing over the scar above his lip. “This isn’t a dream, Cullen. It’s real. I’m here,” he replied with the smile he reserved just for Cullen. He blinked furiously to hold back the tears that threatened to spill as the strength of their combined emotions washed over him, the sudden lump in his throat making it hard to speak. “I’m here in the flesh, and I’m never going to leave your side like that again. I’m here now, for good this time.”
Blinking, Cullen could only stare at Dorian for a moment. “What about Tevinter? You were dead set on going back and trying to make it a better place. What about your goals? What about your home?”
Dorian laughed lightly. “I learned one of the most important lessons of my life while I was there, Cullen. I finally understood that I had found a place where I was wanted, where I was needed, a place where I belonged. Sadly, it took me leaving to come to that important realization. This place I found has nothing to do with my homeland at all because I don’t belong there anymore. Cullen, my home is wherever you are. Right now, I am home.”
Cullen drew in a sharp breath at his words, his throat tight with emotion. He surged forward, pulling Dorian into a crushing embrace once more as he leaned forward to claim his lips in a passionate kiss. He poured all of the pent up emotions from the past two years into the kiss, an unspoken litany against his lips: I was so upset that you left. That you left us. That you were able to pull yourself away from me so easily. I was hurt, betrayed, lost. I thought you didn’t want this anymore. I thought you didn’t want me anymore. I thought that I wasn’t good enough for you. I prayed that you would come back every single day. I was beginning to lose hope, until you finally sent the letter announcing you were coming home. Please never leave again. Please don’t leave me. I need you. I love you. Please. Please...
He ignored the many eyes that looked on in a mixture of amusement and surprise. It didn’t matter. They didn’t matter. The only thing that mattered was that Dorian was back with him, back in his arms. Dorian was home.