Treva stared down at the twisted body for a moment then slowly lifted her eyes to Cullen. He too was staring down at what had been one of their most promising students while her blood slowly dripped from the end of the sword he held loosely in his hand. Ever achingly slow his eyes rose to meet hers and the pain in them was almost a physical blow.
It took everything she had to compact her emotions down and calmly leave the room to inform the Senior Enchanters who were standing outside. She held them tightly as they went through the motions of preparing the body for the funeral ceremony. That had been one of her stipulations on reinstating the Harrowing, that any mage who failed it would not simply be shuttled away, a ghost story for those left behind. They would do things properly and no one would wake up in the night from unknown terrors. She’d suffered through it with Anders on occasion and she would not do it again.
By the time they were done and had her body as well as that of another student who’d failed two days before on the carefully constructed pyre in the center of the main courtyard, she was nearly at the end of her rope. So when it began to rain, Treva snarled and lashed out with everything she had. As she brought the fire to life and begged and swore it to greater fury to ensure it consumed everything, she became aware of templar shields surrounding her. For the first time in her life that didn’t terrify her.
“First Enchanter,” murmured one of them quietly and she smiled as she recognized Keran’s voice.
“I’m fine,” she assured, her eyes on the pyre. When the shields didn’t move she turned around because she knew exactly who was behind her and reached out to touch the Sword of Mercy emblazoned on Cullen’s breastplate. He stared down at her for a moment then lifted a hand, carefully folding steel fingers over hers as he bowed his head.
A silent sigh seemed to ripple through the crowd and the templar shields lowered, allowing Treva to see the worried faces of her mages beyond them. Giving them a reassuring smile, she said, “I wasn’t about to let a little rain keep us from giving them a send-off.” Shifting her attention to the templars, she inclined her head respectfully. “My apologies if I worried you gentlemen.”
“Only a little, messere,” murmured one of the older men. He then straightened and looked at Cullen, asking, “Commander?”
“At ease for the night,” he answered quietly and Treva became all too aware of the fact that his eyes had never strayed from her. “We have new mages to celebrate tomorrow. Tonight we mourn those we’ve lost.”
There was a quiet murmur of acknowledgement from the men and the crowd dispersed, the mages lingering only slightly longer to wait for her nod of agreement. As they filtered away, leaving them alone at the edge of one of the walkways. Treva was silent for a moment, just watching the way the firelight flickered across Cullen’s face, then she asked, “Were you afraid?”
“For a moment.” He gently squeezed her hand before continuing, “Mostly because I know how much you hate this. And when you…Maker, Treva, when you lashed out with that streamer of fire and poured yourself into it, I thought I was about to lose you.”
“Lose me?” she repeated, frowning in confusion. “To demons?”
Cullen growled in frustration then released her hand, turning away from her as he threw up his arms. “To your own magic. It is possible, I’ve seen it happen when a mage overextends themselves. Dip too deep into that well and you start digging into your life force. And if you go too far…there’s no coming back.”
“I wasn’t even close to overextending, Cullen.” Shaking her head, she moved to stand beside him where she could see his face, which was shadowed now as he bowed his head. “I learned at the knee of a Circle-trained mage, remember? My father made sure all of that was drilled into my head.”
“You looked like they did,” he murmured. “Focused, intent, and I could feel you pouring yourself into the magic. For a moment I was right back there…”
Treva reached up then and touched his face, forcing him to turn and look at her. “This,” she said firmly, “is not the Tower.” He nodded as he leaned his face into her touch and she wondered, not for the first time, what it was that attracted her to broken men. Perhaps it really was, as Cullen had noted before, that she was just as emotionally unstable as they were.
Sighing, she reached for his hand and said, “Come. Let’s leave the fire to burn itself out and get somewhere warm ourselves.”
“Yours?” he questioned as he followed her gentle tug.
“Yours,” replied Treva with a shake of her head. “Orana agreed to stay this last night after she watched Mathis during the Harrowing. Practically insisted after I told her about Mariah.” She then cursed as she misjudged the walkway and stepped right out into the rain, halting in her tracks. Sputtering in surprise, she turned to peer back at Cullen where he stood still mostly dry, looking at her in amusement.
“Might as well commit to getting wet, my lady,” he commented wryly. She just arched an eyebrow at that and tugged at his arm. He laughed and obediently followed her into the rain, the downpour tinnily streaming down his armor. “You do realize I’m in metal armor?”
Nodding, she called an affirmative over her shoulder as she started moving again through the rain. Pulling them in under a walkway again, Treva pushed sodden hair back from her face and hurried onward towards his room. Given that she’d taken Meredith’s old room at his insistence, he was still in the quarters he’d held as Knight-Captain. While they were larger than the average templar’s quarters and even had a separate sleeping room, it wasn’t anywhere near the size of her own.
As they entered, she huffed at the sight of the unlit fire and moved in that direction first while he closed the door. Treva quickly poked the unused remnants of the fire as well as some new logs together and brought them to life with a flicker of fire from her fingertips. After quietly urging it to be a little higher so as to more quickly warm the chill from the room, she turned back towards Cullen.
He’d already set one gauntlet aside and had draped the sodden red sash across the back of a chair. Then he cursed, fingers fumbling over a buckle that held the skirt armor in place, before blinking as she started working on the set of buckles that secured his pauldrons. “I can get undressed myself, you know,” he said quietly.
Treva just smiled as she swiftly finished her work and pulled the pauldrons free. As she set them aside on the small table, she mused, “But it goes so much faster when I help you.”
He arched his eyebrows at that and reached out with his bare hand to gently touch her face. “Treva,” he said quietly, “I’m not pushing you to do anything.”
“I know,” she answered with a breathless little sigh. “I want this. I want you.”
A shudder ran through him and Cullen hissed, “Say it again.”
Smiling, Treva easily flipped open the buckles on his other gauntlet and slid it off, setting it to the side with one hand as she twined the fingers of the other with his. “I want you,” she repeated. “Be a gentlemen and obey your lady.”
“However could I resist?” he purred before pulling her in close and then the warmth of his mouth devoured hers. Both of their motions grew somewhat frantic then as they strove to divest him of the damp armor that was between them. As he kicked the sodden skirts aside and worked to get out of the gambeson sticking resolutely to him, Treva loosened her belt. By the time she started pulling her soaking tunic over her head, warm hands were caressing her sides. Unable to help her groan, she reached out to tug at his shirt which was flat against his skin.
“Off,” she ordered.
He obliged and before the sodden cloth had hit the ground, her fingers were roving across the planes of his chest and belly. She found a collection of scars to look at closer later, a ticklish spot along his right side, and a decent thatch of reddish blonde hair. “Red?” she questioned while lifting her gaze to his very blond hair.
Cullen smiled down at her and replied, “My hair was a lot redder when I was younger. Getting so much sun these years in Kirkwall probably hasn’t helped keep the color much.”
“I find out new things about you all the time,” noted Treva with a laugh. As she slid her fingers downward, hooking them into the waistband of his pants, she asked, “What other secrets might I find?”
One of his hands covered hers then and he was suddenly pushing her backwards. As her back met the closed door and he pressed her against it, Treva was suddenly all too aware of how large a man he was. She’d known it really but it hadn’t been so starkly obvious until now. Cullen was not all that much taller than Anders had been but he was broader, plate armor and working with sword and shield giving him a muscle mass that her former lover just didn’t have.
As he pressed her against the door, his hands slid down her sides and it felt like they left a fever in their wake. Almost too neatly he loosened the ties on her own pants and began to free the wet cloth from its hold on her hips. While he worked it downward, he leaned close and whispered, “Why don’t you come and find them?”
Heat flared in her belly and Treva’s hands flew to work at his laces. The fabric of his pants seemed to cling to him almost teasingly so she simply let out a growl of frustration and jerked them open as much as she could. As she thrust her hand inside and grasped him, he groaned before following it with a breathless kiss.
By the time they separated, she had both hands on his shoulders as she worked to toe her boots off. “Bed,” she ordered in a growl as she succeeded. Cullen didn’t seem in any hurry, however, as he simply pressed her against the door while he worked the knots on her breastband loose. Treva arched her body against his as his sword calloused hands caressed her breasts, whining in the back of her throat. “Cullen,” she pleaded while trying to get traction and wrap a leg around him, “please. Please.”
“Treva,” he growled, his breath hot against her throat, and then he was lifting her up. As she wrapped her legs around him, she felt the still annoying presence of his pants and pressed herself against him to hiss in his ear about them. He snarled wordlessly in response and pinned her to the door again, devouring her mouth and plundering her breasts. When Cullen returned to her mouth, he kissed her soundly before saying shortly, “They’ll be gone in a moment.”
Treva felt the door leave her back then and pressed herself tightly against him, arching and writhing wildly. It made him stagger just enough to make her smile then she was flat on the bed and he was pulling away. Trying to work through the haze filling her mind at the moment was hard but she managed it, regaining enough control to watch Cullen with interest. When he finally tossed the pants aside and kicked the boots under the bed, she licked her lips while crooking one finger at him.
He came obediently, obviously trying to be more gentle than he had been as he lowered himself onto the bed. She hooked one leg around him in response and pulled his weight down on top of her while hissing into his ear, “I am not fragile.” Treva felt him shift and then he was pressing her down into the bed while his mouth descended onto hers again. Wrapping her legs around him, she pulled him closer and groaned when she inadvertently drew him inside of her. He groaned right along with her, both sounds lost in each other mouths as the sudden contact made the kiss all the more heated.
It wasn’t really clear who began moving first but it didn’t matter. Treva panted and pulled him in closer with her legs and hands, coaxing him to nearness with her lips. She said his name over and over again like it was a prayer, eyes closed as she begged and pleaded for him to love her. In return he gasped her name into her mouth between worshipping every inch he could touch with lips that were all too good at their task. She felt like he was a man dying of thirst and she was the one thing that would bring him refreshment.
Almost too soon she could feel the pressure building inside of her and hugged him close while breathlessly repeating his name right in his ear. When it broke and consumed her, fire that burned to her core and filled her, Treva swore she tasted the Fade on the back of her tongue. Moments later Cullen shuddered inside of her, breathing hard as he rolled to the side and brought her with him.
Curling up into his chest, she smiled and gently kissed him. When she received only a low moan in return, Treva asked, “Did I break you?”
There was a moment of silence then Cullen grunted as he wrapped an arm tightly around her while shifting just enough to pull out of her. Then he answered quietly with a smile, “Not yet. Still plenty of hours until the morning to try though.”
“Is that so?” she asked wryly.
“Mmhmm,” he hummed in response as he dipped his head to kiss her back. “After we sleep, though. That was quite a bit of work.”
Laughing, Treva nodded into the sheets before saying, “I’m going to hold you to that, Cullen.”
A low chuckle was all that answered her and Cullen quietly replying, “Of that I have no doubt, my lady.” All too satisfied with that response, she closed her eyes and let the low hum of her body and the thrumming of the rain outside lull her to sleep.