(Nell’s view, Cullen’s will come later, but they both turned out a lot longer than I anticipated and Cullen’s is even longer since he’s much more of a head talker then Nell is, but either way here’s this one and I hope you all like it!)
Her head was cold.
She made a face against it and turned to press her nose into the pillow, her breath in the small cove she created warming the very tip of her face.
After a moment she felt the covers that she had cocooned herself in being pulled down further.
She grumbled at the voice and pressed herself further into the pillow. “Go away.”
“It’s nearly noon.”
“I killed a darkspawn magister, I am allowed to sleep until noon.”
She could almost hear the chuckle that accompanied another tug. “That was over two weeks ago. Josephine has informed me that you have spent enough time holed up, and you have to come and meet with the nobles who have arrived whether you want to or not.”
She grumbled again.
“She also told me to tell you that you have to act friendly.”
She groaned at the words and flipped over, her hands grasping at the covers and giving them a halfhearted tug back up as she studied the blond man standing beside the bed.
“I’m always friendly.”
He stared at her a moment before laughing, and since the sound never failed to amuse her she couldn’t help grinning in response.
“Go ahead, pull the other one.”
“Well, I’m not mean.”
They smiled at each other another for a few seconds before she gave an exaggerated sigh and flopped herself from the bed. “Fine. Fine.”
She staggered past him and into the changing room, shooting her words back over her shoulder. “But you have to come with me.”
She could hear him moving closer to the door before he replied. “I have work I need to do with the troops that are about to head out.”
She frowned at him as she pulled the shirt of her under armor over her arms and began buttoning it.
“I wasn’t aware of any troop movement.”
“Because you’ve been holed up for the past two weeks.”
She scrunched her nose at him before moving forward to kiss his chin. “Don’t act like you weren’t holed up here with me most of the time.”
He slid his arms around her waist and it suddenly hit her that he wasn’t dressed in his usual armor. She blinked at him and stepped back a bit to look down at his chest and shoulders where there was a distinct lack of fur.
“What are you wearing?”
He dropped his hands from her hips and looked away while tugging at the hem of his blue tailored coat.
A few members of the band, including Harry, were going to be
in Los Angeles for the week for work. They would be working in the studio
writing and recording. My publicist, Teresa, told me I had to go to dinner with
them at least once and then be seen with Harry around town a few more times
before they left. This meant we would be going on coffee dates and lunch dates.
I was fine with going to dinner with the other members, but knowing I had to
put on a fake smile and deal with a fake relationship with Harry made an
unpleasant feeling in my stomach and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Thankfully
Liz was still with me for a few days so I was going to drag her with me.
She glared at the circle mage for a good thirty seconds, hating everything about everything that came out of her mouth, before finally replying.
“I appreciate that you want to help us, Lady Vivienne, and I am also trying my best to respect you for being so firm in your ideals… but I don’t like you.”
The woman stared down at her, somehow making her expression both pitying and condescending at the same time. ”I hope I will be able to live through such disregard. Now off with you, Darling, you are looking very tired. Perhaps you should rest?”
Nell was very sure she growled before stalking to the door of the Chantry.
Stupid, preening… Orlesian.
“Is everything alright?”
A hand landed above hers on the wood of the door, pushing it open before she had the chance, she looked up at it then followed the arm it was attached to until she got to Commander Cullen’s curious face.
She waited until they had stepped outside before answering him, her hands making fists in her hair a moment. ”I should probably let you know, so that someone is aware, I cannot promise that I won’t strangle that woman in her sleep before all of this is over.”
“Lady Vivienne, spawn of a demon, either works.”
He looked back at the Chantry, a tilted smile forming. ”I find her quite refreshing myself.”
She made a sound of disgust that would probably make Cassandra proud, her arms folding over her chest as she muttered out a reply. ”She’s about as refreshing as a dragon flying out of my ass.”
She didn’t expect the laugh that followed her words. It was… adorable, like he was a teenager who had just seen someone slip in the mud. She looked back at him in time to see him swipe a hand over his mouth, a cough coming out in some wasted attempt to distract from the sound.
“My apologies, Herald. I just… didn’t expect that mental image.”
Mythal preserve her, it wasn’t fair. How was she supposed to focus on the job at hand when she knew that he existed? That he laughed like that? All she wanted now was to know how she could get him to do it again.
“Not-not that I was picturing anything about your… um…That is-”
The stutter made her smile before interrupting him. ”You’re kind of an awkward person aren’t you, Commander.”
He blushed at the observation and looked away, his hand coming up to rub at his neck in a way she had learned meant he was embarrassed. ”Not usually.”
“Somehow I don’t believe that. Don’t worry though, I think I like it. However, I should warn you, if you ever snort with your laugh I will be forced to… what is it you Chantry people call it- ah, yes, marry you.”
His blush deepened, and his hand stayed at his neck, but his eyes turned back to her, interest evident. ”Is that not what the Dalish do?”
She shook her head and dropped her arms to her sides. ”No, well, we don’t call it that. We have a Joining ceremony and whatnot, but it wouldn’t work for you, not being Dalish and all. Besides, I couldn’t see you running around in the forest. You might get twigs in your hair and then where would we be?”
She gave him a friendly pat on the arm as he lowered it. ”So it would have to be marrying.”
“That is good to know, My Lady.”
“But you don’t have to worry about it as long as you never snort.”
He stared at her for a few seconds before speaking again. ”I will keep that in mind.”
His voice was low enough and his gaze serious enough that she shifted uncomfortably, her cheeks growing warm, and gave a laugh of her own, though it was a weak, nervous thing.
When had he gotten the upper hand?
She gave a shake of her head, her hands automatically reaching to where the staff on her back would be even when she should have remembered that it wasn’t there.
Grasping air, she made a point to not look back at him and the small smile that she just knew would be there.
“Right, well, I’m sure you need to get back to work.”
She took a deliberate step away from him but paused when he spoke again.
Still not meeting his gaze, she half turned to stare at the tents that were behind him. ”Yes?”
“It seems you are a bit awkward also.”
She grumbled some reply that had his smile widening, not that she was paying attention to it out of the corner of her eye, before turning to walk away.
Creators, she didn’t want to think about the fact that he might be right.
Nell said the words like they were an apology, and perhaps they were.
She had come to him last in her round of goodbyes, eyes shadowed and words tense with the emotions that he knew she wouldn’t speak of.
He had an hour.
An hour before she stepped back through the mirror, an hour before he might never see her again.
He didn’t want to waste any of it.
It had been hard to send her after Corypheus, even with soldiers at her back and her friends at her side, but even through his fear he’d had hope. Hope in the Maker, hope in the mark, hope in her.
Cullen didn’t let himself look at her arm as her drew her closer, didn’t let himself see the sickly green glow that was slowly taking over; the pulse of it painful enough, he knew, to keep her expression strained and her attention not quite focused. He also didn’t let himself see how pale she was, or how exhaustion carved itself into her skin, or the deep purple smudged around bloodshot eyes. Instead he pulled her toward him, and buried his face into her neck.
He knew her, knew the smell of her, the feel of her in his arms, and the taste of her against his tongue; he remembered every smile, every gesture, every sound that was his alone, but he made himself try and memorize it all over again.
And then Nell’s fingers were flexing into his back, and her face was pushing itself further into his shoulder and he knew, just like he knew everything else about her, she was trying to do the same thing.
An hour wasn’t enough.
It wasn’t nearly enough when you had hoped, dreamed, counted on a lifetime. It wasn’t enough when you knew that what waited after could likely feel like an eternity if they weren’t there with you. It wasn’t enough when you would continue to age, change, live, while they stayed always the same in your mind, lost to dreams and hopes that died along with them.
It wasn’t enough, and it wasn’t fair.
Cullen’s arms tightened on their own, some vain attempt to pull her into him, make her a part of him, so that this wouldn’t have to end. He wouldn’t have to let go of her, wouldn’t have to watch her pull away, and wouldn’t have to chance her going somewhere that they both knew he couldn’t follow.
Not now, not yet.
“I love you.”
Precious word, coming from her.
“I love you so much. I’m sorry.”
Cullen wasn’t sure what the apology was for. Wasn’t sure if she meant to say she was sorry for leaving him, or if she was sorry for making him love her in the first place. As if she could have stopped him.
But apologies weren’t needed, not for this, not for them, and so he made himself release her, his hands coming up to skim over her leather clad arms as he searched for words to make her understand.
“I’m not. You are the best thing that could have ever happened to me. I could live a thousand more lifetimes and I will never forget a single moment of this, of us, not a single heartbeat.”
And then she was pulling him back down, her lips cutting off his continued declarations of love, and if they both pretended that their hands did not slip over suddenly damp skin as they cupped each other’s faces it mattered little.
“If I can come back, I will,” Nell murmured, the words felt more than heard as their breath mixed between them. She knew that he wouldn’t want false bravado, though she so often defaulted to it, and so simply gave what she could.