She wakes, and she’s not startled to find herself in a strange bed. There’s no moment of sleep-bleared confusion, no profound moment where the events of the night before come flooding back in some vivid rush; this isn’t one of Varric’s stories, after all. She simply wakes, and breathes, and he is there beside her; and it’s hard to imagine that it hasn’t always been this way.
He looks like a stranger, dappled by the warm dawn light that spills across the bed, but there’s little surprise in that, either. She lies beside him, watching the gentle rise and fall of his chest as he dozes peacefully, and for the moment he’s not Commander Cullen, but something softer, something untouched. His face, slack in sleep, looks impossibly young, a time-travel glimpse into some part of his life before, before the weight of duty etched lines into his brow and carved hollow circles beneath his eyes. His hair has been mussed into a glorious halo of bedhead overnight, separated into a mess of golden ringlets that spill across the pillow, and she smiles as she reaches out to gently run her fingers through one of the curls. This man truly is a stranger, so different from the carefully ordered Commander that she knows by day.
For a moment, she’s afraid to even breathe, reluctant to risk waking him. When he wakes, whatever magic the dawn light weaves will be broken, and he will become Commander Cullen again.
She likes Commander Cullen immensely … but Maker, she loves this man. This man who, somewhere halfway to the bed, sent some piece of armor or another crashing to the floor and let the weight of the world slip unnoticed with it, sliding gently from his shoulders to pool like fallen velvet on the rug. She loves this Cullen, fiercely and beyond all reason, this man who held her through the night with such unabashed wonder, such quiet and profound joy, that it was easy to forget that he’d ever been anything else but this, soft and new.
She can hear activity begin to stir beyond the broken ceiling, and she knows she should get out of bed, begin the task of dressing and preparing for her day. Slip out before she’s seen, out of some wistful desire to keep this theirs for another day or two more before Skyhold’s prodigious rumor mill inevitably gets hold of it.
But Maker, a moment like this feels too rare and precious to step away from. A gift she somehow can’t believe that she’s been given, in simply seeing him soft-eyed and smiling in his sleep.
She stays. And when he wakes, there’s no moment of confusion, no alarm at finding someone in his bed. There’s simply the crook of a sleepy smile as he turns his face into the pillow, a single amber eye peeking out from the tangle of his curls, a soft murmur of greeting.
She stays, and reaches for his hand, carefully threading her fingers with his; an anchor, as he drifts through this gentle liminal space, back to himself.
She stays, until he is her Commander again.