Moment of Perfection
My foot snagged on a brick atop a pile of its brethren. Nearly six months since we moved into Skyhold and I still hadn't bothered to clear it out. I glared at them for a moment and sighed, exhaustion making the decision for me.
"I'll move you later," I muttered, climbing up the last stairs to my quarters, knowing it won't happen. There were far more important duties for the Inquisitor than a pile of loose bricks and some starlings nesting in the ceiling.
Weariness clouded my brow. The others who traveled with me barely made it through the hold's doors before collapsing in a heap. It wasn't supposed to go quite so badly, but that's the thing with dragons. Even when it goes according to plan, you're still fighting a damn dragon!
Steadying on the bannister, my head poked over the landing to find a balm for the rawest soul. The porcelain bath Josie surprised me with gurgled in the vast space between bed and fireplace. Steam still hissed off the water. No one should have known when we'd be back, but I spotted the ravens preceding us and convinced Sera to not shoot them out of the sky.
Dropping the bag brimming with elfroot (we always need the damn stuff) onto my bed, I twisted my shoulder's knots begging for a moment's relief. The rattling of bolts reverberated below me as someone yanked open the door, armored feet stomping up the stairs two at a time.
Sighing, I dipped my fingers into the tub. The siren call was overbearing. It was right here, waiting to soothe away a weeks worth of tramping around in the mud and muck. But I only trailed my fingers through the water, making little glyph symbols to pass the time as he rounded that first staircase and made for the second.
My lips curled as I heard him pause at the landing, his labored breathing trying to overcome the armor he insisted on wearing everywhere.
"Maker's breath, you could have told me you were back!" he grumbled.
"Hello, Cullen," I said, then turned towards him. His hands rested upon his sword hilt as he fiddled with it. "I'm back."
"I see that now."
"So there's nothing to worry about," I said, rising away from the tub.
"You traveled to fight a dragon, there's plenty to worry about."
I pulled back my sleeves, exposing dirty but undamaged flesh, "Look, no burn marks."
His whiskered chin jerked towards my head. "What about that?"
Sheepishly, I pulled off the helmet I forgot I still had on. A char pattern covered the top half and shattered one of the wings on the side. It was always kind of a stupid design and whipped in the wind. The dragon improved it. Self consciously, I tried to comb my flat hair into place, but he didn't care. Crossing heel to toe, Cullen reached out for the helmet. I dropped it into his hands so he could inspect the damage.
"Useless now," he declared, poking a finger into the char and denting deep into the compromised metal.
"I never liked it much anyway. She did me a favor." Those doleful eyes turned on me and my smirk wavered, "Cullen..."
His gloved hand worked through my knotted hair, trying to shape it. I ran my fingers along his arm, burrowing into the pelt across his shoulders.
"I know you worry..."
"Find me a man who wouldn't," he said, cupping around my jaw.
"Which is why I'll fight through the void to come back to you."
That delectable scar across his lips rose with his smile. Knotting my fingers through his shoulder pelts, I rose on my toes and kissed him. He stumbled for a moment, always tensing before letting himself give in. Cullen's hand slid around my waist, pulling me closer to him. The armor bit into my chest, but I ignored the pain.
Breaking free of my lips, he placed his forehead against mine and said, "Don't think I've forgiven you for stopping here before coming to see me."
"You were in a meeting. A big one with Duke de Something or Other," I waved my hands to mimic the mask, "What was I supposed to do, kick open the door, throw a dragon carcass on the table, and jump on top of you?"
He blinked slowly, then lifted a shoulder, "That is a tempting image."
Laughter jumbled in my throat, still scratchy from the dragon's fire. "Josie'd have my head on a platter, but, for you...I'll try. Next dragon hunt."
Cullen's soft smile fell. "You suspect there will be another?"
"Emprise, Crestwood, the Hissing Wastes, seems like the dragons are thicker than nugs in southern Thedas." I pulled away from his warm arms and sat upon the bed. Exhaustion rattled my bones as I tipped my head into my hands. "In truth, dragon hunting isn't something I fully feel comfortable with."
"Cassandra looks upon it as if she's fulfilling some ancient legacy. Solas grows quiet, insular..." from his eyebrow raise, I added, "more insular. As if we're destroying a piece of history. And Bull...It's probably best if you don't know about Bull and dragons."
He finally collapsed beside me and picked up my hands in his. "What of you?"
Sighing, I glanced towards the ceiling. The setting sun cast colors through the windows. From the prism of the cloudy skies, they danced upon the ceiling. "Dragons are dangerous and kill people. I'm in the profession of stopping people from being killed. Sometimes it's that simple."
"Ha," Cullen laughed once then burrowed his face into my shoulder. I'm certain I stank of bog, sweat, and that brimstone dragon odor, but he didn't pull away, only lay there. I ruffled through his hair, twisting it around my fingers.
We both snapped up. Cullen jumped off the bed and glared at the dwarven scout who snuck into the room undetected.
"What is it?"
"Comte de Ghislain is waiting for you," she said, holding out a report and trying to bury a blush across her cheeks.
"That blowhard's been waffling with us for weeks now!" Cullen cursed, yanking the report away from the scout.
"He says he's willing to sit down and discuss options, now."
"I'd like to discuss how far my boot can get up his ass," Cullen continued, batting at the report.
The dwarven scout's eyes only crossed to me a few times, but I could read the prayer on her lips, "Thank the ancestors they weren't naked." Otherwise, she focused fully on her raging commander.
"I will be going now," she said inching away. Getting halfway down the first staircase she called out a "Sir!" then ran for it.
Cullen sighed, still poring over the vellum.
"Well, that should keep the troops entertained for awhile," I said, rising off the bed.
"This damn Comte's been flooding us with missives swearing support then yanking it at the last moment," Cullen shouted.
"Uh huh," I muttered, my fingers working the buttons across my vest. It hit the floor with a thud that didn't distract the commander too absorbed in his problems.
"And every time I insist we ignore him, Leliana returns with another report insisting he's the connection we need."
"Right," I continued. "Where's that damn...ah here it is," I unknotted the chains binding the last of the leather to my skin and shook it off.
The sound of twenty pounds of dragon hide hitting the floor was enough to catch Cullen's attention and he finally broke from his reading to find me naked. I placed a hand on my hip and asked sweetly, "Anything else about the Comte?"
"The what?" he shook his head, trying to will himself to look away. "Oh, yes, the Comte..." His voice trailed off as I picked the report from his fingers to glance over it. Most of it was in the curly script of our ex-Bard, but there were a few jagged marks where Cullen vehemently disagreed with her. Occasionally to the point of smashing a quill in the margins.
"What do you think?" he asked after a time.
"I think..." I tossed the report onto the bed, "I will be taking a much deserved bath and that my commander should join me."
His eyes closed softly as he exasperated, "You tempt me so, but..."
"But what?" I asked, "This Comte is clearly playing the game. Why not play it back and leave him waiting for a few hours...or more?"
His scar rose at the thought I placed in his mind of the Comte frothing with rage at having to wait, or perhaps it was from my bare flesh. "I have a lot of work to do..."
"Cullen," I said, waving at my chest. Before he could answer, I turned towards the tub and slid a leg in. The heat bit into my unprepared flesh, but it adjusted quickly, aching for the relief across my muscles. Slowly, I added the rest of my body, carefully sliding down the side of the tub so not to slip. My toes poked out of the water, one nail still missing courtesy of a chevalier hoof.
Flailing in my periphery caused me to turn in time to watch the scrumptious ass of my commander as he wiggled out of his armor. The boots seemed to be giving him a right problem, which gave me a better show.
I slid forward across the tub pulling my knees up to my chest. A muscular forearm landed beside me across the tub's rim and I trailed my fingers across the nearly invisible hair. Cullen steadied himself before climbing in behind me, his legs sliding around my hips. I leaned back onto him, his warmth more intoxicating than the bath's. He reached an arm around me, pulling me into a hug. My head slipped back, settling upon his shoulder as my eyes slipped closed.
With his left arm still guarding me, his right hand slid down my arm laid across the tub's lip. The deep gouging from a mage fire gone awry, healed into a callous dug into my flesh, but I didn't mind. I wanted to kiss every scar on his body, every hurt in his brain, just to soothe for a moment in this unending world.
"I really shouldn't stay long."
"Uh huh," I muttered, nuzzling deeper into his chest, "bits of you claim otherwise."
He laughed, "Just because I wish to doesn't mean I should."
"Cullen, take a moment. Relax. Enjoy this lovely pair of breasts."
"If you insist," he said kissing my neck and cupping around said breasts.
"Isn't this much better than running after some Orlesian nob or calibrating the trebuchets?"
He paused in his light kisses and whispered, "Do you have to ask?"
"It can't be all dragons and comtes. Sometimes it's just you, me, no clothes, a tub...and an unlocked door."
I expected him to bolt from my epiphany, but he slid lower into the tub and wrapped both arms around me. He buried his face into my shoulder and whispered, "Forget the door. This is perfect."
I tried to turn but he held me fast, "You better not be an envy demon that assumed Cullen's face."
"And if I were?"
Reaching my arm towards the artfully arranged towels for the soap, I mused, "Wouldn't be the first time I've fought demons nude."
"A very long story I have to be much drunker to tell." The soap slipped from my fingers and plopped into the tub, disappearing into the piles of legs. Searching caused more water to slosh onto the ground.
"I was thinking," Cullen started, first lightly rubbing my shoulders, then digging deeper into the knots. "Perhaps the next time you decide to go on a dragon hunt, I could accompany you."
"It would keep me from worrying about you."
"You wouldn't worry here, you would worry there while dodging fireballs. Have you ever fought a dragon?"
He paused his massage in thought, "Oddly, once. In the circle tower in Ferelden a mage kept a pet dragonling. It was a disaster after it sprayed all over the library and nested in the wall."
I patted his hand and said, "The high ones are a tiny bit trickier than a baby dragon. If you're going to come with, we might need to start you out on something smaller."
"Like a pack of nugs."
Cullen snorted, his fingers trailing across my hips. "It's good to know what my Inquisitor thinks of my combat skills."
I twisted around in the tub and reached my sopping hand to his chin, rubbing across the eternal whiskers. "I happen to think quite highly of your skills," I purred before pulling him down for a kiss.
As I slid away for air, I asked, "Still want to run back to the Comte?"
"Never," and he wrapped me tight in his arms, never wanting to let go. I squeezed him back twice as hard.