I'll Tell You Anything
They walked the rest of the way home in silence. There was nothing more they needed to say. Maybe Eleanor didn’t realize the full scope of what was happening, what had happened to her, but she had some inkling, Cullen was certain of that. He thought that he would instantly step up, take charge, put his old templar training to use, but he couldn’t. Didn’t want to. Only wanted to keep his arm where it was, wrapped around her back, holding her close as they stumbled along the gravel road that lead them back to the farm house. She was tired. She was scared. This was not the time.
And, if he were honest, he felt guilty. It was clear that he had brought something into her world - not him alone of course, the “he” that was encompassed by the Inquisition, the Breach, the Blight, all of this, but he was a party to it - that had changed her. There was no magic, here on Earth; there were no mages.
Except now there were. He was holding one, leading one up the stairs to her front porch, twisting the knob on her bedroom door to lay her exhausted body down in bed. That wouldn’t have been possible if there had never been a rift between worlds, and certainly he - they, the Inquisition, whatever - had to take some measure of responsibility for that. Had it affected others? Were there other things leaking through the rifts that he was equally as unprepared for as he was for this?
He couldn’t think about that now. He was too tired, and too drunk, and too busy settling Eleanor beneath the covers of her bed. She hadn’t even taken off her clothes; still clung to the fabric of the shirt that lay around her shoulders. She had only kicked off her shoes beside the bed. Cullen hadn’t even bothered clicking on her bedside lamp. Maker, she looked so small there, so drained. The faint light that filtered in from outside colored her blue and made her look dim and pale. Her eyes were already closed.
Cullen ran a hand along her brow, bent down and placed his own forehead to it, pressing his cheek against hers. She was cold. He shook his head and pulled off his own boots. He didn’t want to leave her alone like this, not if she’d been having dreams. Not those dreams.
He went around to the other side of the bed and laid down, on top of the blankets, and draped one arm over her small body. He felt her snuggle a little closer, but whether she was snuggling deeper under the covers or welcoming his frame next to hers on the bed he couldn’t say. Either way, she didn’t object.
The house remained quiet. Perhaps Dorian and the soldiers had remained behind. Perhaps they had bypassed the house and gone straight on to the barn, Cullen couldn’t say. It didn’t seem like the thing Dorian would do, but tonight that meant so little. So few things were what they seemed to be hours before.
The thoughts pummelled his brain until Cullen lost track of time, stopped looking at the little alarm clock on the nightstand behind him. He settled his cheek on the pillow, and let himself fall asleep.
She was gone in the morning. Cullen’s boots had been set side by side at the foot of the bed, and in some way, this comforted him, showed him that she had not minded his keeping watch while he slept. Though he wasn’t sure how much of a watch he could have been keeping; Cullen couldn’t remember ever having slept better. But he looked down at his boots on the floor and swung his legs over the side of Eleanor’s tall bed. He felt fine, but his mouth felt disgusting. His smacked his tongue against the roof of his mouth and made to leave the room, made to go upstairs and brush the taste of stale beer and staler cigarettes off of his teeth.
Cullen didn’t have to walk down the hall to go upstairs, only had to cross it, but even from this end, he could hear someone, presumably Eleanor, in the kitchen, banging around. He dashed up the steps and into the bathroom, hurriedly running toothbrush and paste over his teeth and tongue. Leaving the bathroom, he saw that Dorian’s door was closed; the mage must have returned at some point during the evening, but had waited long enough for Cullen and Eleanor to - to what? Cullen rolled his eyes. Whatever Dorian assumed, it had been incorrect. Unless Pavus had simply figured they’d need ten minutes of quiet to fall fast asleep.
Cullen wondered suddenly if Eleanor had dreamed, and in that moment, nothing was more important to him than asking her.
When he went back down to the kitchen, he found Eleanor not fixing breakfast, as he had assumed he would be, banging about as she was, but cleaning. Cleaning everything, top to bottom. She had washed every pan she owned, and they were stacked precariously in the dishrack, water dripping from them and back into the sink. There were dishrags slung on the backs of chairs, covered in dust; the walls, the ceiling, even the overhead fan seemed to sparkle.
And there was Eleanor now, on hands and knees on the floor, scrub brush gripped between all ten fingers, scrubbing every inch of the floor that her brush could reach. The tables and chairs were pulled away, pushed into corners that had already been scrubbed. Her hair was knotted tight high up on her head. She was dressed in the same t-shirt and jeans that she had worn to the bar last night. Sweat beaded on her forehead and even though she must have heard Cullen approach, Eleanor could not be moved to look up.
“Ellie?” he said, desperate somehow to tear her attention away from the bubbles on the floor. Her knuckles were red and her face was flushed. How long had she been at this? How long ago had she woken up?
She turned her head to look up at him, a string of bangs falling across her eyes. Her scrubbing only slowed to a hypnotic back and forth.
Cullen tugged off his dirty socks and left them in the hallway to pad cautiously across the damp tile floor. He knelt down next to her and laid one hand on top of her own, still clutching the scrub brush. “Looks good to me,” he encouraged her, and the look she gave him, the crooked half-smile, half-frown said that she knew, but she didn’t know what else could be done.
Taking the brush from her, he suggested, “Alright?” and she rolled her eyes in somewhat sullen agreement. He would have expected nothing less from her. She didn’t look worried, weary, worn-down at all. She looked intent, purposeful. She looked like she didn’t know quite what to do, so she was going to do absolutely everything she could.
They both stood, and Cullen chucked the brush skillfully into the sink. He took Eleanor into his arms and she laid her head against his chest as he let his chin prop on the top of her head. Cullen looked around and said, “It really does look good.”
“Yeah,” Eleanor answered, “It needed it. I figured I might as well do something worth-while.”
And then he remembered. How long ago was it that she had asked him how he had been sleeping. He thought she was being cute. Flames, he had brushed her off. He should have known right then. The logical part of his brain asked how, how could he have possibly known that she wasn’t just making small-talk as they cleaned up after breakfast. Why should he have suspected that this woman from Indiana, from a place that had never touched the Fade before now, was having dreams. Those dreams. He was a templar. Wasn’t that part of his training?
Eleanor had tipped her chin away from his chest to look up at him. “Hm?”
“I’ll… make some coffee. If…” how did he approach this question. How did he approach this entire subject with someone whose world was changing a little bit more every day.
She did it for him. “Cullen, I’ll tell you whatever you need to know. Fuck, I’ll tell you anything. I have no idea what’s going on with… me, anything, I don’t know. I don’t even know if I believe…” she shook her head. “I just want to take a shower. But I’ll take you up on that coffee,” and then, if exhaustion were hitting her very suddenly, “God, will I ever.” She stretched her arms up over her head and Cullen heard her spine make several audible pops. He noticed that when she reached up, he could see her ribs under her shirt now; had she always been so thin? There had been a softness to her, he thought, when they had first arrived. Now, looking again, as though seeing her for the first time after a long time away, she was all odd angles; elbows and fingers and jaw. Cullen hoped she would take a long shower. He hoped as well that he could make breakfast for her without mucking up all her hard work. Or burning the kitchen down.