It's Not My Place to Decide
It took Eleanor a few more hours to finish up with the honeycombs, and a little while more to clean up all the wax paper, and the little drips and sticky spots that had somehow thwarted her efforts to keep clean. Cullen helped, mopping up little spots his boots would stick to when he noticed them, but mostly he stayed in the dining room, to the table heavy once again with documents, looking for anything that might indicate why Dorian would be gone so long. But all of Leliana’s recent missives, all of the reports from her agents, indicated nothing out of the ordinary, except perhaps that the Grey Wardens were not responding as quickly or frequently as the Inquisition might like. Even if that proved to be a problem, it shouldn't detain Dorian any longer than normal, not when there was work on this side of the Breach to be done. Sending forces into the ravine was almost certainly as urgent, if not more urgent, than hearing back from the Wardens, because without that reconnaissance, there was no reliable information to contact the Wardens with anyway.
When the kitchen had been returned to normal, when Eleanor had showered all of the sugar from her skin, she sat at one of the dining room chairs, waiting for Cullen to pick up his head, to finish reading through the same ten or so documents for a third time.
“Are you worried?” she asked him quietly.
He sighed. “I… No. I don’t think so. Not for him, anyway. Worried for…” and he moved his hands in a wide circle that indicated the house, the landscape, Thedas, anything that might be keeping the mage, “maybe. I can’t help but get the feeling that if Dorian himself needed to stay behind, that they couldn’t have just sent someone else to let us know. Or sent through the fresh solders. Even if our current troops can’t return home, if the Breach is closed behind new soldiers, they could at least rest. Take a few days without patrols.” Cullen shrugged, defeated. “I guess that’s not my place to decide.”
“It kinda is, though, isn’t it?” Eleanor offered.
He laughed, a single, dry laugh. “You’re right, it is. But from this side, there’s not much of a way for me to exercise my power.” He went around to her chair, let a hand rest on her arm.
“You’re worried something’s happened over there,” Eleanor said, reading the tense expression on his face.
“I can’t help but think it’s the only explanation.”
“I wish I could do something,” Eleanor said, half to Cullen, half to herself. What good was finding out you had magic if you couldn’t do anything with it?
He touched her hair, still damp from the shower. It would dry in soft, sea-like waves if she let it, if she didn’t go to bed with her hair still soggy and wake up with a fierce case of bedhead. Both were charming, at least to Cullen, but it was true that her dark brown waves were beautiful. Between that and her big, blue-grey eyes, she looked most almost like one of the Dalish than anything. But there were no elves here. No dwarves either. He had asked. Eleanor couldn’t even make a picture in her head of Qunari. What a strange world, Cullen mused, that had only such people in it. He wondered if maybe there were places that only had elves or dwarves or followers of the Qun.
“You’re doing plenty,” he assured her, and she was. For someone who was as new to this - all this, from the bottom up - as she was, there was not a single thing he could have asked of her. Most of the time, when he was not on patrol or getting reports to or from his troops, it was he who felt as though he was not pulling his weight. He remembered again the house, half-unpainted. Maybe it wouldn’t kill him to help her with that.
“I’m doing errands,” she said, dismissive of herself.
“They need to be done,” he said.
“I know,” she relented.
So much needed to be done, and Cullen looked up at the clock on the wall, as though checking the time would hurry Dorian home. He wanted to get started. They couldn’t just head down into the ravine; they needed time to prepare. He needed time to prepare. He needed…
Cullen stifled a yawn, the time on the clock only now sinking in. It was past eleven; not outrageously late, but late enough that, if Dorian did come back some time in the night or early the next morning, it would behoove the commander to have a good night’s rest under his belt. He couldn’t imagine how Eleanor, up since before the sun, was as awake as she seemed to be.
He rubbed his face with the lengths of his fingers, stubble scratchy beneath them. He could do with a shave, he thought. A shave and a cup of tea, the cool night air creeping in from the few last windows that Eleanor had left open a crack, just wide enough for Swiffer to slip in and out. A shave and a cup of tea indeed. Maybe not in that order.