Moment of Fluff
Something brushed over my face, coaxing open my eye sticky with sleep. Black feathers fluttered through the air jolting me awake. My fingers reached for a weapon that wasn't there as the bird landed upon a table beside the bed.
Table. Bed. Furs. This wasn't a campsite. The pounding in my heart slowed while the bird pivoted its head around, curiously taking in the surroundings. It wasn't one of Leliana's ravens; this bird was much smaller with black and green feathers molting across the floor. Flocks of them flitted in and out of the stones of Skyhold, thieving every bit of straw and shiny piece they could for nests. A bit like Cole, but without the hat.
The bed creaked from my rolling over to face the bird ruffling itself next to a half burned candle. Inching a finger near, its clockwork head snapped to me. The beak flared open and a monstrous noise like a strangulated goose erupted from its vibrating throat. Rather than rear back in terror, I glared at it, holding my hand out unwilling to back down to a two ounce sparrow. Unimpressed by my response, the bird took wing, littering the last of its molting feathers. Circling above my head, it flew out the hole still in the roof. Early dawn broke through the hole, as well as the sky vermin, and a massive sapling growing off the walls. Beside me slumbered the reason nature offered up a wakeup call.
Sliding deeper under the fur, my body molded around his, flesh to flesh. Lightly, my fingers trailed the muscles knotted across his shoulders, for once relaxed. I pressed my lips against the back of his neck and he stirred. His hand reached up to cup mine that was exploring his chest for any hidden quests.
"I didn't mean to wake you," I whispered.
Cullen flipped over so those honey eyes faced me. A tender smile greeted me as he ran a finger down my cheek. "You didn't. I was already awake."
"Oh?" My fingers slipped down his chest, tenderly stroking a knotted patch of pale skin. Mage fire was all he said to explain it. But the never ending war of mage versus templar, magic and demons, was inconsequential here. With his pinkie, he began to trace along my vallaslin, drawing upon my forehead the dips and swirls of the blood tattoo. "I've been awake for some time," he said, his lower lip pouting as he concentrated on my pattern.
"And you didn't get up?"
"Rise and dress while you still sleep? That seems rude," he said nonchalantly, but I scoffed at the jibe. He was never going to let me live that one down.
"I had an early meeting to keep with Josephine. I didn't anticipate spending the night intensely debriefing the commander. Besides, I assumed you knew how to get out of your own bed without assistance."
Cullen sighed, his fingers breaking from my marks to slide down my body and curl around my hip. Leaning deeper into him, I felt a familiar stir rising to attention as my lips sought out his. Fluttering across his skin still slick with night sweat, my fingers marked the highlights of his terrain. A bicep here. An ab there. I paused just above the best part and ruffled through his pubic hair.
Rearing back in false surprise he cried, "Inquisitor!"
I groaned, "None of that here, unless you want me to start ordering you around, commander?"
"You are a dangerous temptation," he sighed, placing his forehead upon mine.
"I'm not hearing a no," I countered.
Cullen chortled, and in a surprise move, pushed into my hip rolling me onto my back. I surrendered, moving with his body until he straddled me, triumph lifting that scar upon his lip. A curious look took over and he trailed a finger from my cheek down my throat, and circled around the swell of my breast.
There was such concentration upon his brow, I had to ask, "Yes?"
"It is a, well, um, I used to wonder if your tattoos were..."
I nodded, having heard the same question from far less savory lips. "If they went all the way down?" I finished for him.
A bright blush lit up his cheeks, "If that's wrong to ask, I was just thinking that you're so...and they're a part of you...I'm sorry."
Inching up, I patted his cheek, the blush warm beneath my fingers, "It is offensive to my people, but I'll allow it because you're damn fine naked." Cullen smiled, picked my hand up in his own, and leaned down towards me for a kiss.
Inches from me he twisted his head to the side. "Why are there feathers on the bed?" To demonstrate his question, he drew one of the black ones across my vision.
"Because a certain commander of the Inquisition can't be arsed to fix a hole in his own roof."
Cullen rolled the feather pinched in his fingers, hypnotized by the black iridescence. "It is not a major issue."
"Not until a bird flies in and shits all over you while you're sleeping," I said. He shrugged, glancing towards one of the holes. The massive one with a tree prodding through it. I suspected a bird's nest roosted in the second based upon the peeping every morning.
"You know I have a perfectly sound roof over top my own massive room with a warm bed."
He didn't look up from the feather, "I am aware." A but hung unsaid in the air.
Rather than get an answer, I twisted my head towards the hole and asked, "What do you do when it rains?" I'd wondered since I first spotted the hole after we moved into Skyhold.
"I put out a basin, which I can use to wash up in the morning."
"There are greater concerns than the state of the roof over my head." He placed the feather upon the nightstand already covered in the things and slid his body off mine. Cold seeped in to rattle my flesh as he moved away. I reached out, snagging his fingers before he fully escaped. Eyes, broken by monsters still prowling at the edges of his mind, twisted back to me. Using his own body as leverage, I pulled myself up and -- knotting his curly hair around my fingers -- I brought his forehead to mine.
Cullen sighed, "In truth, I didn't have much reason to use my bed until recent." A smile curled up that scarred lip, but I knew it was forced. Patting his cheek, I pulled him closer.
"Maybe you should make up for lost time." His body waffled until I pulled out my secret weapon and waggled my eyebrows thrice. Laughing, Cullen crumpled into me, pushing my body down with his deeper into the straw mattress. His hand circled around my breast while mine drifted down his lower back to cup his ass.
Hinges rattled below, the door squeaking as a voice called out, "Commander?"
"Shit," I cursed, flopping my head back. I recognized the voice of Cullen's early riser. She was a great solider, always quick with the reports, giving 110% for the cause, and made a decent shield wall. But at the moment I wished the dwarf dead with every fiber of my being.
He mouthed a silent apology to me, then raised his voice, "I'll be down in a moment!"
"I can wait, Ser," she shouted back.
Welp, so much for that. Cullen rose from me, yanking up his piles of discarded armor and slotting it on as quickly as possible. Still, despite losing the interactive portion, I at least enjoyed watching the show. In his haste, he knotted the cape portion upon an arm and spun around trying to catch it. Rising from the bed, I grabbed him and fixed it, unfurling the fabric so it dangled properly. Or at least how he wore it. I swore off shemlan fashion after the orlesian ball. Proper and common sense didn't seem to come in their wheelhouse.
He hugged me one last time, the cold metal biting into my naked flesh, then slid down the ladder. "What is it?" his voice ordered, denying anything untoward like a nude inquisitor exited just above their heads.
Soldier babble and reports I'd hear the gist of later hovered below - all very important things I'd bother to care about in the war room. Rolling away from the warmth of the bed, I stepped cautiously upon the floorboards. At least my dalish hunting tactics kept my feet light and the hastily nailed up floor from creaking or cracking in half. My own clothes were shed in three piles. I prodded the first for the under armor I wore around Skyhold. It first began out of exhaustion as the wounds from a fall through a mountain needed breathing room outside of armor, but after no one batted an eye, I took to wearing the leather pajamas at all times. It went from comfort to curiosity if anyone would call me on it, to stubbornness, to routine. It was all I wore about the hold now.
Except when I first returned.
After buttoning up the tunic, (and checking the massive rows of buttons) I turned to the second pile where a set of chainmail glistened in the early light. I'd only meant to tell Cullen that we were back, saved the town, brought back some dawnstone samples, and Solas didn't bring any baby spirits to nurse back to health. But the welcome home quickly grew more welcoming and now I faced a pile of my armor sitting in the commander's quarters.
Shrugging, I picked up the chainmail and slipped it over my head, then belted the green tunic over top that. Carrying it seemed more suspect than wearing it around. Silence reigned below; the soldier must have moved on. Probably was sent to give Josephine the report so I could look over it.
I patted down my stomach, checking the hastily looped belt, and glanced back at the ransacked bed still covered in feathers. Only a hundred feet away was my massive bed with a proper roof over top and enough floor space for my clan to camp out should the need arise. Yet we kept winding up back here. Next time I'm suggesting the commander needs to make an emergency meeting with the Inquisitor in her quarters.
Hooking onto the ladder, I climbed down properly, my bare feet slipping down the rungs. It was a true battle of wits Josephine employed to get me into shoes for the ball. How humans can stand those things I'll never understand. Why not slip leather mittens over your hands while you're at it?
Midway down the ladder, Cullen's voice started up, "Right, if we move the forces further north along the coastline..."
"There are reports of giant spiders," the dwarf piped up. I froze, clinging tightly to the ladder. Peering down my feet, I tried to spy either of them, but all I could make out was the floor and hints of a shadow. Continuing my path seemed the only course now. With a breath silenced in my lungs, I worked quickly but silently down.
"Bring a sword," Cullen said, brushing off the giant spider report.
"And if they're poisonous?"
"Bring more swords," he added, getting a chuckle from her. Then he looked up and caught my eye. Panic gripped his face but the dwarf didn't notice, she was still peering over the map laid out across the desk, prodding at a pick.
I held a finger up to my mouth and touched the floor with a foot. Cullen nodded his head and smiled. He coughed to cover up the jangle of my mail and pointed to some other section of the map, "What about the state of our forces there?"
"In Antiva?" she asked.
Creeping towards the door, I pressed into the latch, willing it to be silent for once. Perhaps it was the creators or even Andraste for once looking out, but it softly lifted - the door didn't even whine from the pressure.
"Ah, yes, well, Antiva could offer up many different options for...things for the Inquisition," Cullen stumbled to cover for me.
Standing in the doorway, I caught his blushing eye and mouthed "love you." He smiled and added back, "vhenan."
Stepping into the sunlight, my body froze as the soft voice of the soldier called out. "Good morning, Inquisitor."
My head dropped as I mumbled, "Morning." Slamming the door shut harder than I needed to, I perambulated in the direction of my room to change out of my incriminating armor. Running would be undignified for the Inquisitor and also draw far too much attention. Still, with each person I passed every bob of the head and hearty greeting came with a secret smile at the end. Somehow I kept a burning blush off my cheeks, but could only manage a curt, "Morning" to everyone I saw.
Taking the scenic route deposited me in front of the tavern. A few of the mages sat outside it, digging into the dirt with a staff, when the door blew open and an elf ran right through them. She didn't pause even as her feet skidded through the inscribing; only turned back to sneer at the magic sloshed through the mud.
"Sera?" I foolishly called to her.
She whipped around and nodded her head, then turned to glare at the mages back to their scribing. A demonic grin filled her face as she turned towards me. "Whatcha waitin' for? Ain't gonna have much left if we don't hurry."
"What are you talking about? What's left?"
Snorting, she jumped ahead of me, jogging in place towards the main hall, "Waffles, duh."
"I'm certain the chef will have more food for breakfast." Skyhold's stores were hardly waning after the generous donations from the Imperial Army.
Sera snorted, "Psh, pancakes ain't worth running for."
"But waffles are?" I stumbled, trying to both literally and metaphorically keep up with her.
She tossed her head, unable to understand my inability to appreciate proper breakfast foods. "You ain't coming from your fancy pants room, then? Been prodding around in the armory?"
"Excuse me?" Dwarven merchants rolled a small cart past me, the pots jangling up the incline. Sera glared at it for daring to usurp her waffle position, but she paused to turn around and elaborate on her innuendo.
"Getting in some morning exercises? Saluting the general? Donning the velvet hat? Forget where I heard that one. Not important. What? Should I be more elfy elf? Were you capturing some elven glory holes?"
"Sera," I groaned. There were a dozen ways I could ask her to refrain from broadcasting her insinuations to the entire army, and I knew none of them would work.
Her steps fumbled, the bounce slowing as she turned back to me. "What? You and Cully-Wully riding each other up and down the mountain is supposed to be some big secret? Cat's long out of the bag."
"It's..." Something caught my eye, pulling me away from her inquisitive face. I knew a burn skirted up my cheeks rising to highlight the vallaslin, but I tried to play it off by chasing an invisible butterfly. Sera's hand patted my arm, and I turned back to her. Compassion filled those mischievous eyes as she peered into me.
"I think it's great."
"Sure, nothing pisses off the elfy elves like one of us macking all over someone who's not one of 'em. 'It ruins the proper order of the bloodlines, can't return to what we once were, blah blah blah.'"
Patting her hand, I sighed, "Thanks, I suppose." I jerked my chin up to the landing, "Better get to breakfast before it's all gone."
Sera jerked away, the spring back in her step, "Ooh, waffles!" She scampered up the incline and through the doors, batting around the merchants and one of the visiting nobility hovering outside the door. The woman shifted aside to let me pass, but her massive skirt still snagged against my hip, jangling my mail. It was enough to raise the heads of just about everyone gathered for a meal.
I waved, summoning the false bravado I wore as a child when mocking the keeper. It got me through most of the meetings with dignitaries and nobility.
Both tables overran with piled platters, elbows reaching across and around each other to slide goodies onto them. The chairs creaked from bodies crammed into every slot. I could barely spy the options through limbs and fancy headwear flapping about. After a quick deference to the Inquisitor, they returned to their meal, metal clanging against clay and whatever else could be used for dinnerware.
Sera yanked back a chair and plopped beside Bull. Rather than acquire a plate, the qunari grabbed up one of the serving platters and piled thirty waffles on top. Dorian kept side eyeing the monstrous tower of breakfast while carefully sawing away at a small egg tart.
"Oi, give up some of those!" Sera cried, pointing to Bull's stash.
He shook his horns, "Should have gotten here earlier." Grinning, he grabbed five waffles in his fist and jammed them into his mouth. Gobs of un-chewed waffle slobbered off the sides of his mouth, spattering onto the table.
Dorian paled, placing his utensils down, "I shall never be able to eat again."
"Here," Blackwall rose up from his seat across the table and slid two of his waffles onto Sera's plate. "I can't stand the things."
"Then why did you grab them?" Dorian asked. Blackwall shrugged and upended a pot of gatlok sauce onto his eggs. Dorian turned around to eye up Josephine sitting beside Leliana. "Oh, I understand. Our lady ambassador is a fan."
"I don't know what you mean," Blackwall mumbled, egg and hot sauce dripping down his beard.
Dorian shuddered at the second display driving him to possible starvation, "Barbarians."
The object of Blackwall's fascination rose from her seat, but she waved to me not him, "Inquisitor!"
Smiling politely I made my way for her. Behind I heard Sera call out, "Pass the mustard."
A curious part of me wanted to see if she was really planning on drenching her coveted waffled in mustard, but the part that didn't wish to starve kept me focused ahead and walking towards Josephine. Much like Dorian, she had a lone tart upon her plate circled by a single slice of melon. Cassandra grunted at the meager offerings, tearing into the remains of some bird's leg from last night.
"Lady Inquisitor," Josephine said. She began to rise, but I held up my hand to stop her. There wasn't room for me at the table, so I propped my foot up on a barrel and leaned. Very inquistorinel.
"Don't worry Josie, I'm not that hungry."
"I'm sorry," she said, and then unearthed her clipboard from the floor where it was safest. "I must have missed it. Was there an outing you planned for today? I don't have anything on the schedule."
"What?" I leaned back, then drifted down to the armor I was still wearing, "Oh, that. No, I was taking a walk early this morning and I heard a wyvern. Flapping around the battlements. But it ran off deeper into the woods. So I thought I'd slip out and kill it before it did any damage to stuff."
"A wyvern?" Josie cried, excited at the possibilities. Cassandra snorted at my poor lie, but it was Varric whose eyes I felt boring into the side of my head.
"A mountain wyvern, I guess. Very dangerous, with its poison and fangs and things..."
"I'm glad you stopped it before it attacked the retinue coming up from Halamshiral," Josephine smiled at me.
Leliana smiled, "Oh, Josie."
"I'll explain later," the spymaster said, digging through her bowl of oatmeal. It was all she ate every morning.
Varric shoved back his plate and rose, "My compliments to whoever convinced the chef to get back in the kitchen after Cole's visit." I inched away to give him a chance to exit, but he stopped and looked up at me, "A word if you don't mind, your Inquisitorilness."
"Of course," I said to him, bowing to the remaining of my advisers.
Trailing behind Varric towards the empty throne I couldn't help but overhear Cassandra snicker, "Mountain wyvern." It was going to be a long day.
I leaned down closer to the dwarf as he whispered, "Not the worst story I've heard. Mythical beasts always sell well, though you shoulda added something with a bit more oomph like its ability to spit acid or launch baby dragons from its mouth."
"How do you know it's a story?" I tried to dance away from the obvious, doing so well at it already.
Varric eyed me up, "Give me some credit. No, the story wasn't bad, but you've got to work better on your presentation. Maybe throw a bit of hot sauce around for wyvern blood, run in panting. Actually, that wouldn't help your case. But your biggest downfall was what's missing behind you?"
"Why, what's--?" I reached around my shoulder and my hand snagged on air. "Oh, creators..." My daggers, I forgot my own bloody daggers.
"It's the little things that'll trip you up every time," Varric continued. He surveyed our friends scattered across the hall. Even Vivienne bothered to show up, a wall of nobility surrounding and protecting her. Not that that stopped Sera from trying to lob bits of whipped cream at her, all of which sizzled and burned in midair.
"Look, I've been meaning to tell you this," Varric began. "Maybe it's not my place to be saying, but we're glad to see you happy. Both of you. Shit, if anyone needed a hug, it's Curly. You just went beyond the call of duty."
"Varric, I --"
"Yeah, yeah, Inquisitor shit. All that big untouchable hero stuff. I get it. You need 'em to be bigger than life and unbreakable. But then there's all that downtime between saving the world, stopping a demon army, putting up with fancy Orlesian parties. And you two work together. At least you can get that scowl off his face once in awhile. Thought it was a permanent fixture until you came along."
At the end of the hall, Cullen and the dwarven scout -- as well as another dozen or so Skyhold residents -- appeared. He glanced around through the breakfasting faces, then spotted me. Waving my errant daggers towards me, a soft smile filled his face.
"Varric," I said, patting him on the shoulder, "thanks. I needed that."
"No problem," he said. I stepped away from him, towards the commander. "And we can work on your story telling skills later!"
Cullen turned around, indicating the masses, and said, "Busier than I expected." I didn't answer, only stepped closer to him. He held out my daggers, "Thought you might still need these."
Reaching out, my fingers slotted around the handles; but I pushed them aside and rose up to meet Cullen. A moment's confusion knitted his brow as I plunged onto his lips. He stood helpless and lost, but began to return the favor. Inquisitor and commander making out in front of the entire hold. It started small, just a tiny clap here, a whoop there, but the avalanche began and took on a life of its own. All of the hall broke into applause and cries of joy.
I opened one eye and glanced towards Vivienne and her retinue of nobles. Almost all of the hall. But even she had a small smirk across her frosty face. Cullen broke from the kiss, unable to withstand all the scrutiny. Fervently staring at the now bemused audience, he whispered, "What was that all about?"
"I'm tired of being the hero, I wanted to just be me."
"All right?" he stumbled, but slipped an arm around my shoulders, pulling me into a side hug.
I inched up on my tiptoes and whispered, "By the way, tonight, it's my place not yours."