Of All the Days
He woke up to a noise.
The sun was up, just barely, just enough to light the room but not distinctly, a watery sort of early morning light. Was it a dream? Forcing his eyes to stay open, he momentarily didn’t recognize the soft blue sheets, the plaid comforter on top of him, and then he felt a weight against his chest, a bump under his neck, and he was overcome with warmth as he touched Eleanor’s arms, crossed firmly over his chest as though protecting him from something unseen as she held him. He wiggled around a bit, not wanting her to let go, but wanting to see her face as she slept. Eleanor’s eyelids looked soft, but her brows were furrowed, her lips were pursed as though she was contemplating something dire. What was she dreaming? Was she safe in there? He wanted to reach out, to touch her hair in a wonderful state of disarray, a state he knew she would hate, but the sound came again, and Eleanor’s eyelids fluttered.
No, he thought to himself, whatever you are, don’t wake her. Let her sleep.
“Cullen?” his name drifted down to him, and this pieces fit together in his head. Dorian. Dorian was back, pounding on Cullen’s bedroom door. Where, of course, Cullen was not.
Reluctantly, the commander pulled himself away from Eleanor, feeling her body heat grow farther and farther away as he slid toward the edge of the bed. It felt like something was being taken from him. He found his boxers, found his jeans, and tugged them quickly on, not bothering with anything else. He just wanted to keep Dorian from banging on the door again, to keep him from waking Eleanor up.
Cullen pulled open her bedroom door and Swiffer slunk quickly inside with an offended mrrp as though the kitten was angry with Cullen for having kept her out of Eleanor’s bedroom all night. Cullen smiled at the small creature and shut the door behind him when he left.
“Dorian,” he called up the stairs, his voice a harsh whisper. “I’m down here.”
He heard the mage’s footfalls in the hallway, and then saw him as he began to descend the stairs. He looked no worse for wear, not as such, but he did look very tired. Despite the darkness of his skin, Cullen could see heavy circles under Pavus’ eyes, not something he was used to seeing on the mage.
Dorian’s brow furrowed when he saw Cullen standing at the foot of the stairs, and Cullen realized he hadn’t even looked at himself in a mirror yet. His hair was almost certainly tragic. He never had had that shave. He hadn’t remembered Eleanor having been very rough, but in his bare-chestedness, he didn’t know if maybe he was sporting bite marks, scratches. He didn’t think so. He hoped not. To deflect from his own appearance, he asked Dorian, “You look tired. What happened? What took so long?”
Dorian shook his head. “I might not be the best one to tell you.”
“Hm?” Cullen asked. “Is the rotation here? Do we have a report?”
“In a manner of speaking,” said a voice, coming from the direction of the kitchen. It was low and smooth, and Cullen would have known it anywhere.
“Varric,” Cullen said, without his eyes even moving to look at the dwarf.
Cullen started the coffee, stole a pack of cigarettes from the freezer and a lighter from the junk drawer. He told Varric and Dorian to wait in the kitchen. He knew Eleanor would want to be awake for this.
“Of all the days,” he mumbled, padding wearily down the hallway. His arms were sore, legs were unwilling. He could have laid in bed with Eleanor for hours, stayed there longer still for a different reason. But instead, this. It wasn’t that Cullen didn’t like Varric. Varric was a likeable guy. A likeable guy who could give you ten thousand words and not one of them would be a straight answer. He shook his head, holding his cigarette between his teeth as he slowly pushed open Eleanor’s bedroom door.
She was tangled up in the covers. The air in the room was a bit chilly, and Cullen went to the window, open just a crack, and pushed it shut. He went into her bathroom to do the same. He didn’t think there would be much opportunity to leave those open again.
Balancing his smoke on the rim of the ashtray, Cullen reached out and pushed Eleanor’s tangled hair away from her face, kneeling on the edge of the mattress to bend down slowly and kiss her cheek. She stirred, made a sound like something small and soft.
“Hey, Ellie. Time to wake up,” he said, and she responded by reaching out a hand and wrapping it around his arm.
“Come back,” she said groggily.
“Flames, I wish I could. Something’s come up,” he told her, and her eyes opened, her head lifted just a bit.
“Something big?” she asked. Yes, she was awake now, her consciousness focused.
For a split second, hate colored his vision; she shouldn’t have to know to wake up suddenly, shouldn’t have to focus her mind so quickly on dire circumstance. Damn and blast, he thought. She should be able to sleep. But she was ready, was already rubbing her eyes to force away the comfort that he had already had to leave behind. “Could be,” he said.
Eleanor smiled a small smile, propping herself up on her elbow. “Can it wait two minutes?”
He returned her expression, and his mind calmed. “It should.”
She sat up now, the sheets falling away from her body, revealing her bare skin in the sunlight. She reached out, pulled him onto the bed, pressing their bodies together, and she kissed him, long and slow, telling him in one action that last night wasn’t a one-off, that she might not mind if it was a two- or three- or four-off.
When she pulled away, she said, “I’ve gotta brush my teeth,” and he laughed. Eleanor was no romantic. She swung her legs over the side of the and Cullen watched, not at all subtly, the muscles in her back, her legs, her ass, as she walked to the bathroom. He bit his bottom lip, he squeezed shut his eyes, and quickly he grabbed his shirt from the floor, pulling it over his head.
Eleanor looked at herself in the mirror, appraising her bare body as she scrubbed her teeth. Her lips were sore from kissing, her legs were sore from pushing, her sex was sore from him. She felt amazing. Felt like she looked amazing. She smiled around the toothbrush, backing up and turning in the mirror. Her breasts were full and pert; maybe not firm or perky but she could see why he wanted them. The pooch of her tummy from being too fond of bread and ice cream even though her ribs stuck out just a few inches above seemed exactly right, even if on every previous occasion she had hated it. She slipped a hand between her legs and touched herself, biting the toothbrush. She was still hot and wet from last night, maybe hot and wet all over again. She knew they would have more time for each other, but she wanted more time right now. Of course Dorian would come back right then, when she could have not needed to bother with removing her clothes, or Cullen’s, could have just pulled him on top of her, into her again, gone more slowly this time…
She had to stop. She spat into the sink, rinsed her brush, washed her mouth out and splashed her face with cold, cold water, a poor excuse for a cold shower, or any shower, and went back into her bedroom to pull on clothes, while Cullen sucked his cigarette down to nothing. Eleanor took a ponytail holder from the nightstand and whipped her hair into a braid at what Cullen was sure was inhuman speed, and she gave him a long once-over, sighing.
“Alright,” she said. “Let’s go save the fucking world.”