This is absolutely the worst idea ever.
Killeen Hanmount shifted her weight on her frozen feet, tucked her hands inside her sword-belt for whatever illusory warmth it might provide, and eyed her Commander's fur-collared cloak enviously as they stood side-by-side outside Haven's walls.
She'd teased him with the rest of them when he'd incautiously taken Varric's advice and entrusted his one-and-only bear pelt — title-less Templars don't get many opportunities for sport hunting — to a tailor who, it'd turned out, did most of his work for The Blooming Rose. Cullen'd had no choice but to swallow the humiliation and wear the multi-coloured result, beggars not being in the position to be choosy, but since they'd arrived in the frozen wastes of the Frostback Mountains, he'd been looking distinctly smug.
And warm. Distinctly warm.
"Remind me again why I'm here," she said, her breath puffing into fog in the frozen air. Surprised it doesn't freeze solid and fall straight to the ground. Snow. Fall straight to the snow.
"You couldn't turn down the chance to save the world?" Commander Cullen suggested.
"No, that's you. Try again."
"Travel to foreign lands, meet interesting people?"
"No, that's why I should have joined the merchant navy."
"You get seasick."
"There's that," she agreed. "Oh, wait, I remember now. I'm here because you asked me. Bastard."
He chuckled softly. "You were the one who agreed, Kill. You could've said no."
She couldn't have, though. That is about seven-eights of why this is absolutely the worst idea ever. They'd been friends of a sort since soon after Cullen had arrived in Kirkwall, the hello-how-are-you variety of friendship that makes people in armour easy with each other even if one of them is a Templar with shadows at the back of his gaze and the other is a lowly city guard. Fighting side by side against abominations loose in the streets had turned that into something more, shared memories becoming shared stories becoming sharing stories.
When Cassandra Pentaghast had persuaded him to leave Kirkwall and the Templars and help her try and save the world from the Mage Rebellion, Cullen had asked Killeen to help. I have no idea what the Inquisition's fighting forces will be like, he'd said. I need at least one shield I can trust — and probably help getting the rest into shape.
And she couldn't say no.
She could have said no to a friend, even to the really good friend he'd become since the nightmare of Kirkwall's fall.
But not to Cullen. The thought of him leaving, crossing the sea and perhaps getting himself killed or just finding a new life and never coming back had filled Killeen with panic.
Because little as she liked to admit it, even in the privacy of her own head, friendship was neither the beginning nor the end of her feelings for Cullen Rutherford.
In the privacy of her own head was the only place she was going to admit it. He'd never shown the slightest interest in her, and after one drunken evening of embarrassing confessions she understood he never would.
Hard to measure up to the Hero of Ferelden.
Harder still when said Hero was delicate … fragile, almost … I could have put my hands around her waist, if I'd ever dared and oneself was a strapping guard with shoulders like a blacksmith and a face that had been, at best, 'handsome' before an abomination's claws had shredded half of it.
But, even knowing that, Killeen had not been able to say no, had not been able to bear the idea of him turning and walking away and out of her life forever. If all she could be was his friend, she would take it, for every last second she could, and know that it was her shoulder beside his when shields were up and blades were out, and it was her shoulder he leant on when they'd both had a little too much to drink to be entirely steady on their feet. She was his friend, perhaps the closest he had, these days, the one who stood guard outside his tent on the road so that when she heard the nightmares starting she could slip inside and wake him before his screaming startled the camp, the one who heard in between the half-sentences and silences when he talked of the fall of the Circle Tower, the one who had the right to tease him about his cloak and call him a bastard.
If her Commander had had a lover, Killeen would still see more of him than any woman sharing his bed, would still understand him better than any soft-handed, delicate mage-girl could, would still spend all day and late into the evenings with him, training recruits, patrolling the camp, working out supply lines and solving the thousand tiny problems of a military encampment before any of them could turn into great big disasters.
Always, the two of them, side by side, until soldiers, seeing one of them, automatically looked for the other, until a messenger seeking Killeen would spot Cullen's much-more-recognisable golden hair and call out her name.
But it was harder than she thought, seeing him every day, all day, seeing him in the morning at the wash-troughs in the casual immodesty of fighting men and women, hearing his voice raised in command or lowered in a private joke. The pain of never seeing him again was beginning to seem like a bargain compared to the pain of never being seen by him, not really, not as she wanted to be seen.
Not as a soldier, one he trusted, one he relied on. Not as a friend, one he confided in, one he let see some of the scars he bore.
As a woman.
She sighed. "Absolutely the worst idea ever," she muttered.
And the sky split open.