I will see you again, Cullen. I promise.
Cullen sighed, balling up the paper in the palm of his hand and leaning back against the chair of his office. She'd kept her promise, having cut through fifty or so abominations, demons and blood mages in order to get to the top of the Tower where he had been magically imprisoned. She had tried to comfort him- to tell him that he had done well, lasting so long through their tortures. But he had only insulted her. Begged her to kill the very people she had known and loved since she had arrived at the Tower as a child.
Stupid, Cullen thought bitterly, I was such a child. She had tried to speak with him afterward as well, but he heard none of it. He simply told her that he had wished to be recruited to fight the Blight with the others and sent her away.
Now, so many years later, he could see his mistakes. The first mistake was falling in love with Ellie in the first place, maybe, but that was the only mistake he could do nothing about. There was something about her that he simply could not resist. The smile she gave him when they passed each other in the hallways, the way her brow creased when she concentrated on a book, the sway of her hips beneath those silky blue robes… Best not to finish that thought.
"Knight-Commander Cullen, Ser!" a voice said and Cullen looked up, "There is a woman here to see you. Says it's important."
"Go ahead and send her in." Cullen answered simply and the boy nodded before he ran from the room, the door shutting behind him. Cullen sighed, trying not to imagine some boring, Orlesian noblewoman with a mole on her lip complaining about the 'quality of protection' that the Templars were providing. Since the Champion of Kirkwall aided the mages and fled the Deep Marches, people had been coming to Cullen as if he were the Viscount himself rather than just Meredith's replacement.
He dropped the crumpled paper into the trash tin beside the desk, instantly regretting the decision. He leaned over and pulled it out again, smoothing the worn, cream-colored paper and setting it face-down on the desk beneath a paper weight. He'd never be able to part with it, he knew, just like he would never be able to part with the memory of her.
There was a knock on the door and Cullen nodded. Then he realized that the one knocking would not be able to see him and he cleared his throat, "You may enter!" he called, trying to sound welcoming. The door cracked open but Cullen was pretending to be busy reading a paper that he was pretty sure was written in Antivan. Finally he sighed, setting the paper on to the desk and looking up, only to lose his ability to speak.
"I am Warden-Commander Ellie Amell and- Andraste's ass, is that you Cullen?" Ellie said, her voice going from stern and low to the sweet, melodic voice he remembered so well. As if her words were being strummed from a harp.
"You came here to see the Knight-Commander without knowing his name?" Cullen asked, but he was unable to hold the awe from his voice. Not from her not bothering to ask for his name, but just from Ellie herself. She was taller now, though not by much, with long, pale blonde hair done in braids down her back. Her wide, green eyes matched those of May Hawke's, though on Ellie they seemed so much brighter. Not that Cullen wasn't biased about it.
"Well… I just sort of figured it wouldn't make a difference. I mean, so you're name's Joe. That's great. Tells me nothing about you, though. Now I sort of wish I had asked. I mean, I would have shown up here hours earlier!" she said cheerily, grinning at the Templar, "Knight-Commander Cullen, though. Pretty spiffy. And what do you know, I'm Warden-Commander now."
"Humble as ever, I see." Cullen jested lightly, standing, though unsure if he should approach her. He was still waiting for her to get angry with how he'd treated her the last time they'd seen each other.
"Well, I did sort of kill an Archdemon. And saved Amaranthine from a crazy Broodmother. I think I deserve some egotism, don't you?" she laughed, and Cullen found himself joining in. "Maker, you look different! I keep looking at you and wondering where the time went. I mean, you're not as… cute? But that doesn't seem right because you're plenty attractive… I guess you're just older. You're not a boy, but a man." she sighed, "Seems like everyone's growing up around me. You should have seen Alistair before I chained him to the throne! All he used to do was talk about cheese and play with my mabari, Cody, but now he's a big strong manly King. And here you are… being a big strong manly Knight-Commander… Point being that it's good to see you again, Cullen."
"And you, Ellie. But what did you come here for, exactly?" he asked, and she blinked.
"Oh! On behalf of King Alistair of Ferelden, I came to find out about the events surrounding May Hawke and any of her companions. Specifically I want to know about her lover, Anders." she spoke the last name without trying to hide the venom.
"I take it you've met." Cullen pointed out.
"I conscripted him into the Wardens to save his life. Obviously this was a mistake, seeing all the trouble he's caused." Ellie said.
"He's destroyed the Circle, yes, but didn't your King attempt to abolish the Circle of Magi in Ferelden?" Cullen asked, tone firm.
"He did. Successfully." Ellie said curtly, "I had just finished up negotiating with Greagoire when word of the… explosion came to Alistair. He sent me to investigate, though I found out quite a bit on my journey here. Hence my knowledge of May Hake and Anders. Will you share with me the information you've managed to collect?"
"There isn't much, I'm afraid. Not much that is relevant, anyway."
"Doesn't matter. I need a copy of everything you have to take with me back to Ferelden."
Cullen sighed, eyeing her. Her voice had returned to a colder, more metallic version of her voice. All business. But at the same time, there was something in her eyes that told Cullen that she was uncomfortable acting this way.
"You don't need to be so formal, Ellie." Cullen said finally, "I will deny you nothing."
"Nothing? Careful how you phrase things, you might get more than you bargained for." Ellie said cheekily, though she sat down in the chair across from his desk.
"Rumor has it that you know that form experience." Cullen said, a little more sharply than he meant it to sound, but the implication was there nonetheless.
"I… am not a blood mage. I thought about becoming one… but in the end, I am a healer. Wynne taught me. I am also an Arcane Warrior, even though I'm not in my armor today. I didn't even bring my sword! Ah! If I thought you'd be here I would have put in so much more effort. I would have tried to look as heroic as possible!"
"You have a sword?" Cullen asked curiously, unable to restrain himself.
"Of course! Spellweaver. And a dagger that I got back in Lothering. Thank the Maker I had them, too. The Archdemon was practically resistant to all of my wimpy fireballs." she rolled her eyes, "I never was much of a pyromancer."
"Yes, they used your incident with the bookcases as an example of something to look out for." Cullen recalled.
"They did? Oh, that just makes my day. Not that it wasn't a good day already. I mean, seeing you made it good. It was lousy before that. I was in this little joint called The Hanged Man? They didn't have any rooms, though! So I just pouted and looked pretty at the bar, dreading coming here because I thought I was going to have to argue with a bunch of jerks and threaten conscription until they gave me the information I needed."
"Threaten conscription?" Cullen inquired, eyebrow raised.
"Yep! How else do you think I get people to listen to me? I'm a short blonde girl with the most unintimidating glare imaginable." she grinned again and he smiled back.
"I'll go get someone to copy the information for you, then. I'll be back shortly." Cullen said, crossing the room. He managed to snag one of the Tranquil assistants and ask her if she'd be willing to. She said she would and started in the direction of the records room. Satisfied, Cullen returned to the office, only to stop dead in his tracks when the door was shut. There she stood, same woman that she was before he'd left, only now she was cradling a small paper in her hand, slightly crumbled from earlier that day that unmistakably easy to read.
"You kept this…?" she asked quietly, looking up at him, "But… why…? After what you said at the Tower, I thought… I knew you were upset, but, I still thought… But you kept this. It wasn't even something important, but it might have been the only thing I ever gave you…"
"I…" Was completely in love you? Still am? "have no words." Brilliant, Cullen. Very suave.
"I was in love with you, you know." she looked back down at the paper and sighed, placing it back on to the desk, face-down like he'd left it, before she covered it with the paper weight once more. "But I was a child. Silly of me, really, to think you felt the time. We can pretend I never found that, if you like."
"I don't want that." Cullen said quietly, and she looked up sharply.
"You made it clear how you felt about me, Cullen, don't string me along now that I can have you." she snapped, her words crisp and clear but her eyes were pleading. And sad.
"I was afraid." Cullen said sternly.
"Of what? Of magic?"
"Yes, of magic! You can't imagine what it was like! You fought an Archdemon head-on! Those blood mages didn't give me a chance to fight back. They dug through my memories. My thoughts. Every secret, every desire- it was theirs to use against me! I was helpless! Have you ever been helpless, Ellie? And you saw what was in that tower! You shouldn't need to ask if I was afraid, not after seeing those things!" he demanded, though he regretted yelling at her. Her face fell and she pursed her lips.
"I shouldn't have asked that. I'm sorry." she said quietly, "I know why you were afraid, Cullen… But are you still afraid? Of magic? Of… of mages?" she asked.
"I'm not afraid of you, Ellie. Not anymore." Cullen said kindly. She blinked.
"Then you…" slowly, she stepped forward. He didn't flinch when she lifted her hand to his cheek (even when he thought she was going to slap him, though she thankfully did not do so). Instead, she caressed his skin with her fingers, which were calloused from her years of fighting but still somehow soft. He closed his eyes, his own hand covering hers to trap it there when he felt like she was going to pull away. "I still love you, Cullen…" Ellie whispered and he opened his eyes to look at her in surprise. He didn't have a chance to say anything, though, seeing that her small but full lips covered his.
His eyes closed again as he pulled her against his armor, kissing her back. He was sure that the armor would be bothering her, but neither said anything as she wound her fingers into his hair, his hands on either side of her silk-draped hips. He pulled away reluctantly. "Ellie, are you sure?" he whispered.
"Don't ask stupid questions…" she mumbled, pressing her lips at the place that his neck met his shoulder and kissing there. He sucked in a breath and she felt her smile against his skin.
"I love you." he whispered.
"I was beginning to wonder…" she said thoughtfully, pulling back to meet his eyes, "And now that that's settled, is there any chance I can talk you out of this armor? I could always threaten conscription if you refused…" There was a mischievous glint in her eye that made Cullen wonder if she actually would, not that it mattered much.
"I will deny you nothing…" he said quietly, leaning down to kiss her once more.