A fluffy little ficlet dedicated to my Trevelyan mage and her Commander. Because even the strongest heroes need a good cry every once in a while.
Standard disclaimer applies.
It was stupid. It was impractical. Worse, it was vain. Everything she had withstood, everything she had rallied against, and this was what brought her to her knees. Adara blinked back the tears burning her eyes. She stared at her reflection in the mirror and saw the rumpled mess she had made of herself. She had managed to dress herself, with a great deal of fiddling and cursing, moderately well. If her shirt was a little askew, at least she had managed the buckles. Her empty sleeve hung awkwardly, but she figured a cloak or some creative tailoring might fix that. A bit of practice and she could get used to the look, she supposed. Maybe if she didn't think about it too hard... It was a small price to pay, really. What's an arm compared to the rest? But it was the mangled knot that adorned her head that she couldn't look away from.
For the most part, Adara fancied herself a practical woman. Maker knew she had given enough of herself. But she had always had her one point of indulgence. Her one nod to a life that might have been hers, had the world been a very different place. Her hair. She kept it impractically long for the number of battles she faced and loved little more than to twist it into intricate and elegant styles. She knew better than to try for knots or twists her first day out of bed, but she had thought she could manage just a simple braid. Three little strands. Easiest pattern in the world. Surely that wasn't too much to ask for? Was it some sort of punishment for her vanity? Had she not suffered enough for her sins?
The dagger on the edge of her dressing table glinted at her.
Cullen made his way up the winding staircase bearing his gift: breakfast, prepared with all of the Inquisitor's favorites. The Inquisitor. Adara. His wife. And didn't that just make his heart sing? Of all the things he never thought he would have, to finally be able to call the woman he adored his own was the most precious of all. He had no idea what mistake the balance of the cosmos had made in granting him that gift, but he wasn't about to argue.
His thoughts were bent on spoiling her, indulging in a lazy day with just the two of them. About the last thing he expected to find upon reaching the top (all 169 blighted stairs), was the love of his life holding a dagger poised near her throat. Now, Cullen was rarely one to jump to conclusions, but he had ample reason to be feeling overprotective of his love just then. Before he could credit it, the carefully prepared breakfast tray was clattering on the flagstone floor and his hand was wrapped around her much smaller wrist.
It was a mark of how upset she was that she had not even noticed Cullen enter the room.
"What," he managed to choke out around the pulsing thunder of his heart in his throat. "Do you think you are doing?"
She shook her head, the shock quickly fading and being replaced by her looming breakdown.
"Adara." How he managed to sound both pleading and demanding all at once, she would never know.
"Cutting my hair." Maker, she hated the way she sounded when she was close to tears. But she hated that flicker of vulnerability in his eyes even more.
Cullen swore an oath even as his grip slackened. He ran a hand over his face. "Why?"
Her lip trembled ever so slightly and her tears threatened to overflow. "I- I can't even braid it!"
As though speaking the words aloud was the final push, Adara dropped the dagger and threw herself bodily at Cullen, jerking her wrist free and wrapping her arm around him.
There were a lot of things he could have said to that. Quite a few he wanted to say. Yet when faced with the tears of a woman who had refused to cry even in the face of a missing arm, a woman who had boldly faced down demons and ancient abominations and dragons, Cullen found that he could not say a thing. Instead, he held her while she sobbed over her hair, and probably quite a few other things that she would never admit to on pain of death. He held her until her tears had run dry and her shudders had stopped and then he held her a little while longer.
Slowly, he pulled back just far enough so he could see her face.
"If I wasn't a bad enough mess before, I'm sure I could set some manner of record now," she tried to joke, but even she could tell it fell flat.
Cullen tilted her face toward him and ran gentle thumbs over her cheeks, wiping away the last of the moisture. He waited until she met his eyes. "You are beautiful."
Her eyes, she was certain, were red and puffy and she knew for a fact that she was not a pretty crier. "Liar."
He just smiled at her, his lovely golden eyes radiating enough warmth and sincerity to make her breath catch, and said, "You are always beautiful."
She huffed a brief laugh and closed her eyes, head sinking to his chest for a few moments. It seemed she did have a couple more tears in her, after all.
"Here," he said, pulling away with a gentle kiss to her forehead. He came back a moment later with a damp cloth from her basin, neatly sidestepping the mess that had once been breakfast. He supposed he would have to clean that up. Later.
Adara took the proffered cloth and wiped the itchy salt from her face, quietly handing it back to him when she had finished. This was a side of her lover that she had never seen before. He had always been protective where he felt it was warranted, but she had never seen him quite so…tender. It left her a little off balance and oddly bashful. They were married, damn it. She should not still feel as though she were a young girl being waited upon by her first sweetheart.
So busy, was she, being shy that she didn't notice at first when Cullen picked up her brush and gathered her hair behind her. She did, however, notice the first stroke of the brush. Startled, she met his eyes in the mirror. Focusing on his work, he ducked his head.
"My sister, Mia, broke her arm when we were kids," he explained, answering the unvoiced question in her eyes. "She made me help her with her hair every day for weeks." Slowly, with a great deal of patience and a surprising amount of care, he untangled the rat's nest she had made. It was unexpectedly soothing. She could not remember the last time anyone had brushed her hair for her. Warmth spread through her chest, washing her frustrations away.
"I can't manage anything as fancy as Josephine or Leliana could do for you, but I think I remember how to braid."
Damned if she didn't feel a blush creeping across her cheeks.
After he had finished, Adara lightly touched the finished braid. It was simple, but effective. Almost shyly, she met his gaze. "Thank you, Cullen." The words were quiet, but the feeling behind them was forceful. He smiled, and the warmth had her breath catching in her throat.
"Don't thank me yet. You haven't seen what happened to our breakfast." Her eyes flicked to the floor behind him and she laughed.
"Oh, dear," poorly concealed mirth covered her features. "I suppose that means we shall be dining downstairs this morning."