The Sordid Tale of Meryell Verlen, Chapter 41

From the moment they arrived back at Skyhold during the last days of Kingsway, Meryell and every soul in the keep and the camps got swept up into the madness that was the preparations for Halamshiral. With only a month between them and the peace talks occurring at the Winter Palace during Satinalia, Josephine was having the equivalent of a never ending panic attack.

Or a mental breakdown. That was also an option.

To be honest, Meryell was feeling torn halfway between strangling the poor woman on general principle and forcing her to sit the fuck down for one Maker damned turn of a glass to simply breathe.

She didn’t do either option, however, because in what little free time she did have, she was keeping her own sodding fool from effectively sending himself into another lyrium attack due to putting himself through too much stress.

ornament

“You are going to kill yourself ,” she hissed to him during the last major repetition of such instances, dragging him through the space that lay between his office and the keep. “And don’t give me that fucking look. I sat down with Gil and had her explain this whole bit of shit spit so I know what I’m damned well talking about.”

Cullen grunted from behind her as they passed through Solas’ rotunda with only a mild glance and an arched eyebrow from the mage perched on the couch. As they stepped into the main hall, he grumbled, “You can’t even see me .”

“I know the fucking look, Cullen!”

As soon as her voice went high and shrill, he stopped abruptly and pulled her to a halt as well. It was, thankfully, late enough that there was no one left in the hall and the wall sconces that normally illuminated it were burning low. So she didn’t feel too overly exposed when he spun her around to face him and pulled her close. Meryell clutched at the fabric of his tunic immediately in response and pressed her forehead against the bone at the center of his chest as she let out several harsh breaths. After a moment, he squeezed her arms after his hands slid down from her shoulders and bent his head to kiss her hair.

Ir abelas ,” he murmured, his Elvish pronunciation much improved from practice with her. “ Forgive me , dear thief. I’m not…” He sighed heavily into her hair before finishing, “You know I’m not used to not pushing through the stress and pain. Old habits are hard to break.”

“I know but I…” She drew in a deep breath then let a torrent of words flow out of her that had nothing to do with the sentence she’d started. “Gil told me that even with the lyrium you can still have an attack. That another on top of the one you just came out of could be…detrimental. And we…we can’t lose you. I can’t lose you.”

His hands slid away from her arms and around to her back, cradling her lower back as he pulled her tightly against him.

“She told me the same thing as well,” Cullen intoned in a low voice. “I’ve been…Maker, I’ve been doing my best , love.” He let out a heavy sigh as his voice cracked on a single note and Meryell lifted her head then to look up at him. His gaze was fully away from her, eyes on the area of the main hall that held that damnable Inquisition throne, and his throat bounced as he swallowed hard. Then he did turn his face back down to her and said softly. “There’s only so much I can delegate.”

“I know.”

Sighing, Meryell leaned her head against his chest again and shuddered. When his arms tightened reflexively around her, she breathed, “I’m just so scared , Cullen.”

He barked a hoarse laugh and asked, “How do you think I felt when you ran out to face Corypheus?” Then his nose nuzzled at her hair before he bent enough to press a kiss against the top of one of her ears. “I had faith you’d come back.”

Freezing, she murmured, “And I said I had faith in you doing this.” Closing her eyes, she felt like a heel. Fuck the Maker and everything holy, she’d let her fear rule her as she’d watched him dig himself back down into a hole and let her forget . Let it make her sound as if she didn’t think he could do this. “Cullen, I…”

“Shh,” bid Cullen in response. “We’re all stressed, vhen’an .”

“That’s no excuse for me as good as shitting saying I’m afraid of you dying!”

One of his hands was on her chin then, gently pressing her to lift her head and wasn’t taking no was an answer when she resisted. When he finally brought her face up towards his, Cullen leaned down and kissed her softly. He cupped her cheek in his palm as he kept the kiss going in gentle but firm explorations of her lips and Meryell couldn’t help but press herself against him and whine as heat bloomed at her core.

I’m afraid of me dying,” he said quietly as he pulled away enough to speak. “Just as I’m afraid of you dying. We live dangerous lives, love, that is something that we both know all too well. Yet I…”

He trailed off and Meryell leaned into him, arching up so she could press a kiss against the scar on his lip. “What?” she asked softly.

“I look forward to the day all of this is over more than I fear either,” Cullen finished. “When we don’t have to spend our days worrying about lyrium or troop reports or when you’re leaving next. When we don’t have to be Inquisitor and Commander and can just be ourselves. Just Meryell and Cullen. That’s part of what makes me want to work so hard, besides the pain and the lyrium. I want to get there . With you.”

Blinking several times as her heart started fluttering wildly in her chest as his words, she breathed, “You…you think a long fucking way ahead, vhen’an .”

He just chuckled lightly and replied, “A lot longer than I used to. I didn’t…” Sighing, he stopped and tilted his head towards the door that led to her tower and asked, “Shall we go up, love? Assuming you weredragging me up to your room and not down to the prison to throw me off the waterfall.”

She blinked a little at the change of subject, wondering where he had been about to go, what he had been about to say. Then Meryell nodded and slowly pulled away from him even as she slipped her hand back into his. “Yes,” she intoned softly with a smile.

They moved past the pair of guards who were always stationed just inside the door of her tower with a pair of shy smiles. Cullen’s expression briefly turned into a glare as the woman, Seanna, giggled until her partner, Covell, hissed, “Ahn! It’s disrespectful to act like that around the Inquisitor and the Commander!”

As Meryell tugged him on up the stairs, they heard her reply, “But they’re adorable , Vell.”

“And you’re going to get us dismissed by saying our superiors are adorable.”

Laughing brightly, the sound echoing in the stairwell, Meryell turned to look back at Cullen, who was flushing brightly with embarrassment. Smiling, she stopped for a moment to turn back and kiss his forehead as she murmured, “They do it because they care, love.”

“Oh I know that,” he grumbled in reply as she went back to climbing the stairs. “Doesn’t make me feel any less awkward.”

“She only said it because it’s late.”

Cullen snorted at that. “I know , love. I’m not going to dismiss a soldier just because she called us adorable and embarrassed me. We’d be out of them in weeks.” As Meryell snorted at that and started digging in her pockets for the key to her door, he added, “She may end up digging latrines for the lower camps for a few days, though.”

Harsh ,” she commented before finally finding what she was seeking and slotted it into the door. As soon as they were inside and she locked it back behind them, she began to shiver and cursed, “Maferath’s shriveled ballsack, it’s colder than the Iron Lady’s cunt up here.”

“Colder than what ?” repeated Cullen as they moved up the small set of stairs into the room. Meryell didn’t answer immediately, choosing instead to move towards the fireplace to get it started. She could hear him behind her as he moved to pull the heavy curtains over the windows to attempt to stop the chill getting in through there and turned to look as he abruptly sputtered, “Varric calls Madame Vivienne Iron Lady .”

When she just nodded, he frowned and said, “That was rude.

“Given her attitude, I expect she’s fucking frozen inside,” grumbled Meryell as she grabbed the small firestarter from its little box on the mantle and bent to start the fire. She crouched there cursing for several moments as the scrap parchment she’d thrust into the center of the logs continually failed to catch. Finally she managed to catch a spark and rose to her feet after waiting to make sure that it actually moved to the carefully arranged logs, putting the little bit of flint and metal that she’d used to start it back into its box. Only then did she turned back towards Cullen to find him standing in the middle of the room, frowning sternly at her.

Sighing, she asked, “Should I not call her that even if she does seem like she’s the most cold-hearted bitch in the whole of Thedas,” as she tilted her head at him.

Cullen snorted and reached out for her, a movement that she took as an invitation. As she burrowed into the circle of his arms and his chest, he said, “Even then. She’s still a member of the Inquisition now.”

Huffing, Meryell grumbled, “Fine. Less rudeness towards the Frost Queen.” She then leaned her head against his chest and asked, “What was it you didn’t want to say down in the hall?”

When he didn’t immediately reply, she leaned back and frowned up at him. “Cullen?” she queried as he was looking anywhere but at her, chewing slightly on the inside of his lower lip.

“Hmm?” His eyes, soft amber in the light from the fire, flicked down to meet hers and then he smiled sheepishly. “Oh. I…well…”

Meryell slid her hands around his waist and rested her chin against his chest, waiting patiently for him to regather himself for whatever it was he had been going to say. It took him a long moment, in which he stood there awkwardly with one arm around her and the other rubbing at the back of his neck. Then he shook himself and moved to encircle her again, pulling her tightly against him.

“I never used to think of the future,” he intoned softly, his voice barely above a whisper. “After…after the Tower I thought…Maker, I thought I was broken. Shattered. I threw myself into the Order, into serving, because it was all I knew. I thought it was all that I was: to be a templar and hold the line against magic, to be the Chantry’s sword. And then…”

“Meredith,” she offered a little bleakly. Fuck, did she hate that woman.

Cullen chuckled and replied, “I was actually going to say Hawke. She…she was nothing like what an apostate was supposed to be. And she helped me, saved me, without even thinking about the fact that she was a mage and I was a templar on our first meeting. I’m sure it occurred to her after the fact but right then I was merely someone who needed her help.”

He paused and Meryell just blinked up at him before he went on.

“By all rights I should have taken her in but there was…I don’t know. I honestly don’t know what I saw in her. I knew she was a mage but I couldn’t bear the thought of bringing her in.” He bowed his head as he finished, “Taking her in would have broken her utterly and I…I couldn’t do that. I couldn’t…”

As he trailed off, the words choking in his throat, Meryell slid a hand up to cup his cheek in her hand. Their eyes met and she breathed, “You couldn’t bear the thought of doing the same thing to her that had been done to you.”

Cullen let out a gasp of breath then and nodded before he spoke up again. “I did it to others so easily though, even after that,” he went on, “but, yes, she was the start of breaking down the…Maker, the monster I’d become. Every year chipped away another bit of the parts of me that I let turn to stone, that I had refused to feel. I began to see what was being done and to want something better than just hate and fear. It wasn’t what the Order was supposed to be. It wasn’t what I had ever meant to be.”

She wanted to say something – fuck, part of her wanted to ask if he’d had the same sort of infatuation with Treva Hawke that he’d had with Kath Surana – but Meryell chose to remain silent. If he had, she wouldn’t care since it was in the past but right then was no place to ask that question. Instead she brought her other arm up so she could arch up onto her toes and wrap her arms around his neck. Just as she did, he abruptly moved with a growl, his hands sliding down to grasp her thighs and lift her up. His nose bumped awkwardly against hers right before she realized what he wanted and then Meryell was pulling herself close, winding her arms tight around his neck and clinging with her legs as he kissed her like a man drowning.

When he pulled back, Cullen leaned his forehead against hers and shook , as he stood there breathing heavily with her in his arms.

“After everything in Kirkwall, I still thought that there was nothing left to cling to but the Order…but it had betrayed me. My brothers and sisters had betrayed themselves . What did I owe to them when they had done such harm? What did I owe them when they would have just abandoned me ?” His voice was rough and harsh, old anger and rage making it shake as much as he was. Meryell kissed him lightly and he let out a breath before saying, “And then…Cassandra. She gave me an out. Service to a better cause, a noble cause. To no longer have to be a sword to be wielded by those in power but to be my own . Yet…still…I thought of only duty, just simply duty to a different cause.”

“Until?” queried Meryell softly, her heart abruptly pounding again. She was certain he could feel it hammering himself with the way their chests were pressed together.

His arms tightened around her before he breathed, “Until you , dear thief. You…” Cullen paused to take a breath and shifted his grip on her, clutching at her thighs as if he never wanted to let go. “You looked at me as a man before anything else. You’ve never let me back down from the things I’ve done but also never let me take blame utterly for them. And you’ve seen me at some of my worse and you’re still here.

“So, yes ,” he went on hurriedly, his voice cracking a little, “I’m thinking far ahead. Because…because I love you, Meryell Verlen, and I never intend on letting you go. Wherever I end up after this is over, I want you there. Or wherever you go, I want to be there with you.”

“Cullen,” she breathed, shaking her head a little.

Suddenly he turned his head away, cheeks flushed, as he awkwardly stammered, “Of course, I-I don’t know what you…”

Meryell didn’t hesitate to pull herself hard against him, to twist around and capture his mouth with her own. He grunted in surprise before letting out a pleased hum as she delved her tongue into his mouth, his own rising to war with hers as he began to move. They were abruptly vertical a moment later as he just fell back onto the bed and she took the opportunity of the new position to shift downward. As she ground her hips down over the obvious bulge of his cock, Cullen jerked his hips reflexively up into her and growled as she moaned into his mouth response.

Before things went too far, she pulled back and brought her hands to his face, stroking the few lines at the edges of his eyes before she breathed, “You think I don’t feel the same?”

“I think,” he grunted in reply, “that I sometimes still wonder why this beautiful woman chose to stay with a man as broken as me.”

“Then I would reply,” she softly intoned as she laid herself down on top of him, “with the question of why such a handsome man would choose to stay with a rude little shit like me.”

“Do I need to answer?” asked Cullen with a smile as he lifted a hand to run his fingers through her hair. His fingertips idly brushed over her ear and for the first time in so long she did not flinch at the touch. It didn’t even register that she should. “Must I remind her of all the things she’s done?”

Meryell smiled and replied, “I think I might need a bit of a refresher. Do you , ser?”

He was grinning now as his other hand gripped her hip, his own shuddering underneath her. “I think I might just,” he answered, his voice shaking a little. Though hopefully this time from far different emotions than it had earlier.

“Well…I think I can help with that.”

She sat up then, arching herself back before grinding down on him again, causing him to moan and grip her hips hard enough to bruise as he thrust up against her again. Gasping, Meryell managed to pull her tunic over her head and tossed it aside before she loosened the bindings of her breastband and let it follow.

Maker’s breath .”

“Nevermind him,” she hissed, leaning forward to kiss him. As she leaned back, resting on all fours above him with her breasts on full display, Meryell added, “He has no involvement in this.”

“Beg to fucking differ,” grunted Cullen before he pulled her down on top of him. His mouth found one of her nipples and sucked, causing her to gasp and writhe against him. He took his time as well, trading between the two until she was practically crying from the sensations, her legs shaking as the space between them ached to be filled. When he finally lifted her up, placing her back into a sitting position on top of him, he smirked as he said, “I prefer to think he brought you here. To me. Exactly when I needed you the most.”

“That so?” Meryell gasped as she swayed headily in his grip, her body too limp to hold herself up. “I’d thank him for doing the same if I believed in him.” She somehow managed to pluck at his shirt and managed to add, “Right now you’re wearing too many damned clothes.”

Laughing, Cullen replied, “Says the woman still wearing her pants!” He did, however, lift her up so he could wriggle out from under her, leaving her lying supine on the bed as he rolled to his feet. She just laid there blinking for a moment, feeling her body hum and watching him as he tugged his long-sleeved shirt off and let it drop immediately to the floor. When he toed off his boots standing up and began undoing the buckle of his belt, she realized that she should start doing the same or she was going to be the one behind.

Meryell managed to kick off her boots and wriggle out of her pants, but just as she hooked her fingers into the fabric of her smallclothes to jerk them downward, a warm hand stopped her. Cullen leaned over her, delightfully bare except for his own smalls (though they did nothing to hide what was within them), and breathed, “Let me, vhen’an .”

“Only if I get to do yours too,” she replied, sliding her hand across the bed to touch his thigh. The muscle twitched underneath her palm and she smiled, feeling absolutely glorious in that she got that sort of reaction by touch alone. That and she hadn’t had a chance yet to see him utterly naked or to touch all of him.

“I believe we can have an accord,” purred Cullen before he bent to kiss her. Then he smiled, color high in his cheeks, before he breathed, “May I…Maker…I want…” Abruptly he closed his eyes and let his head drop to where it rested on her breasts.

“Fuck, this was easier in my head.”

Laughing, she pulled him back up to her, kissing him gently, and asked, “What do you want to do, love? I’m yours. Whatever you fucking want.”

That seemed to embolden him and he blurted out, “Taste you.”

Meryell frowned because she hadn’t heard that term before then his thumb hooked in her smalls and he cast a brief look down towards…oh. Oh . Maker’s aching cock and Andraste’s dripping cunt, she owed that widow from Kirkwall a fucking gift of some kind. Gold, jewels, a damned dragon skull… something .

Half the men she’d bedded in her life hadn’t even known how to please a woman there. And most of the rest were shit at it.

Rylen deserved something too because he’d been the one to urge Cullen to start that whole thing.

Yes ,” she breathed, before adding with a smile, “Are you looking to make all my imaginings about us come true, vhen’an ?”

Cullen smiled, the expression a little shy and a bit wicked all at once, as he replied, “I might.” Then he lifted her, shifting her up the bed until she was resting mostly on her pillows, and sprawled himself out below her. His shoulders were even with her hips now and she could already feel her thigh muscles twitching with anticipation.

He glanced up at her, eyes bright and she quietly locked that particular image away: of him lying below her, the warm glow of the now blazing fire dancing across his skin, his hair mussed from its usual careful confines and turning back to its natural curls, and his eyes nearly black, the amber a thin line around the outer edges. Then Cullen hooked both hands into her smalls and pulled them down her legs without much ceremony, tossing them aside without looking away from her once. As he lifted her leg over his shoulder and shifted over, his nostrils flaring a little, she let out a breathy little gasp.

She felt his fingers touching her, carefully sifting through the dark curls to find what they hid, then one delved into her. Meryell arched up off of the bed as Cullen crooked a finger inside her cunt, a Tevene curse spilling from her tongue without thought to what she was saying. Then she felt cold air, followed swiftly by warm breath, and then her entire world dissolved as he closed his mouth over the aching bud within her sex. He licked it – once, twice, three times – with the flat of his tongue and she curled her hands into his hair. Then he hummed, the vibrations rippling through her, and Meryell felt his hands grip her hips tightly before he sucked on that most sensitive part of her.

Cullen! ” she gasped, trying to buck her hips into his face but he held fast. “Please. Please! ” Meryell tugged at his hair, pawed at his shoulders, and ground her heels into the small of his back as he just laid there suckling on her. Her hands then found his hair again and she whined, “ Maker and his fucking Bride, please!

“Soon,” he rumbled, his voice slightly muffled by where he was at. Then his mouth was purely focused on her again, alternating between licking and sucking and swirling his tongue around her. She swore that she lost track of time in the wake of the sensations as the aching heat between her thighs built, urged onward and upward by the wicked man between them. Meryell sobbed and swore as she felt the peak coming, her legs shaking so hard that she couldn’t clench them around him like she wanted to. She was ready to fall over the crest of that peak, feeling like a glass rolling towards the edge of a table, just waiting for the moment of shattering .

Then Cullen pulled away and she nearly screamed .

Meryell somehow managed to notice through the haze of lust that had taken over almost every thought that he was breathing hard as he rose over her. He bent to kiss her then and she tasted herself on his lips, warm and a little salty.

Vhen’an ,” he breathed, his voice shaking. Then his hand found hers and lifted it up to rest her fingers at his hip, where his smallclothes hid the last piece of him away from her. “ Please.

“Fuck,” she hissed and hooked her fingers onto one side. Meryell took a moment to shake her head, trying to clear some of the haze, then reached up to grasp the other side. She then grumbled, “Should’ve done this earlier ,” before working to tug them down from around his hips.

Cullen just laughed breathlessly, “Hindsight.” Then his hand closed over hers as she couldn’t quite manage to get his smalls off from their position and shifted so he could get do so himself. As soon as he let them fall off the edge of the bed, she was dragging him down on top of her with a snarl from her throat and an exclamation of surprise from his.

His full weight coming down on her without any sort of bracing on his part was a bit of a shock, driving her into the mattress with a wordless exclamation of surprise. It was exactly what she wanted, however, and when he tried to lift himself up, she clung to him tightly.

“Meryell, Meryell ,” he hissed, still trying to pull away. “Maker’s breath, woman…did I…” He finally got an elbow braced underneath him and sat up, wild eyed, his curls even more askew than usual. “Did I hurt you?”

“The only thing hurting me,” she snarled back as she lifted her hips to grind against his cock where it was trapped between them along her belly, “is that you’re not fucking me .”

“I do not fuck ,” he growled back before he dove down to kiss her soundly. Meryell tried to arch her hips again but this time Cullen used his weight against her, pinning her to the mattress. She whined in the back of her throat even as she responded to the kiss, needing him to do something else, anything else .

Immediately after she thought that, he did exactly that. Cullen brought his knees up underneath him as he wrapped his arms around her and growled, “Hold on.” She locked her ankles behind the small of his back and her arms around his neck in response and gasped as he straightened up, kneeling on the bed with her in his arms. His cock bumped teasingly against her core then he was moving again.

As soon as he was underneath her with her sitting astride his chest, her ass brushing the shaft of his cock, she knew what he was about. Smiling slyly, Meryell braced her hands on his chest and slowly moved backwards, rubbing herself over the part of him that was paying a rather lot of attention to what was going on. He made a choking noise and then his hands closed over her hips, stopping her motion.

For a moment they just sat there, their heavy breaths the only sound in the room beyond the crackling of the fire, then he growled again, “I don’t fuck. Not you. Not ever.”

Leaning forward so her breasts were flattened against his chest, she kissed his collarbone and asked, “What then?”

“Love,” he replied, almost absently smoothing his fingers over her hips where his grip from earlier had surely bruised her. Cullen’s face was open and honest as he laid beneath her, flushed and needy. “This is nothing so crude.”

Her mood, which had been a little sharp in its neediness, softened in the face of that. Smiling, Meryell brought a hand up to touch his face and breathed, “No, nothing so crude, vhen’an . This is…”

Ir’ina’lan’ehn ,” he supplied with a sly smile. As Meryell sat up in surprise, he nodded almost to himself before adding in Common, “So very beautiful.”

“I didn’t teach you that word,” she said softly. When he kept smiling up at her, she leaned forward slightly and asked, “Did you…did you ask Folke to teach you?”

“I did,” he returned as he slowly ran his hands up her sides, sliding them over her arms and shoulders until he could cup her face in his hands. Cullen’s smile was broad and bright as he added, “I wanted to tell you in your tongue how lovely you are. How beautiful this is. That you let me touch you, let me love you , when I deserve none of it. It is a gift. You are a gift. And I don’t ever intend on letting you go.”

Meryell just stared down at him for a moment, her throat tight with emotion, before she brought her hands down to rest on his chest. “ Ir’ina’lan’ehn ,” she breathed. Then she rose up onto her knees so his cock slipped underneath her and gasped, “You are all I need, vhen’an .”

Meryell ,” breathed Cullen then he was reaching between them, grasping himself in his hand and carefully positioning himself against her opening. She threw back her head, whining, before she slowly began to sink down onto him.

Given that it had been a little while since she’d had any partner in bed besides her own fingers, there was pressure for several breaths as she stretched around him. He certainly wasn’t the largest she’d taken but she’d learned long ago that it wasn’t about size .

It was what you knew how to do with it.

Cullen was shaking and shuddering underneath her as her cunt slowly embraced his cock, his fingers digging tightly into her hips and his teeth clenched. She could feel his hips twitching, resisting the animalistic need to thrust up into her, instead letting her descend at her own pace. Meryell smiled and laid her hands over his, squeezing the tense palms and rubbing the back of his hands soothingly.

Then he was there , fitted utterly inside her to the hilt, and she closed her eyes for a moment to just luxuriate in the feel of him. A moment later Cullen cursed and thrust his hips up into her and Meryell gasped before her own rocked instinctively into him in return. That pulled a groan out of him that made her pulse jump and her toes curl and she wanted more .

Looking down at him, she breathed, “ Go ,” before she rolled her hips.

The word and motion seemed to spark a chain reaction. Abruptly Cullen’s teeth were bared and he growled her name before bucking up into her again. She arched her back and cried his name as he released one of her hips to touch her breasts, stroking and teasing. It was like a wildfire between them, blazing forth from a single flame and catching point after point, thing after thing, burning higher and brighter until it was a beacon in the night.

Meryell gasped his name desperately as she ground down onto him and in the next moment felt his hand at the crux of her legs, fingers delving into the wet curls. His calloused thumb found that swollen knot at the head of her cunt and, with one quick swipe, she was gone . If their first time of actually touching without clothes between them had felt like falling and flying at the same time, this was something she couldn’t put words to. Couldn’t put feelings to other than it consumed her, body and soul.

And it kept pulsing through her, leaving her gasping and grinding desperately against him, as Cullen chased his own completion beneath her. Meryell wished she could help him as he’d helped her but she could tell from the frantic snapping of his hips that he was close. So close, in fact, that he came with a shout a bare second after she’d wished she could help him, fingers clutching hard into her hips. Three more weaker thrusts followed before he collapsed weakly onto the bed, his chest heaving and his eyes closed.

Maker ,” he breathed and Meryell smiled before she groaned as she moved towards the space next to him. He slid out of her easily thanks to their combined juices and her legs shook violently before she collapsed next to Cullen, aching but more than sated.

As she cuddled up next to him and rested her head on his shoulder, tracing nonsense patterns over his chest, she said softly, “Still not here.”

Cullen let out a tired laugh at that and curled his arm around her, lightly smoothing his fingers over her hip. “No,” he replied, “but I’ve got something better.”

“Oh?”

He turned his head to smile down at her then pressed a kiss to her forehead.

“I’ve got you .”

“Why, vhen’an ,” teased Meryell, “I think that was almost blasphemous.”

“I think the Maker will understand,” he replied with another tired laugh.

She merely hummed in reply, sleep and exhaustion already dragging her down into the Fade, when a chill ran over her. Meryell yelped and flicked her fingers against Cullen’s side, saying sharply, “Cover. Your hot nature is not going to save us from the cold.”

He laughed at that and they spent an awkward moment freeing the folded down blankets from underneath them. As Cullen finally managed to pull them up over them, he rolled over onto his side and pulled her close, sliding his leg between hers as he kissed her forehead. Sighing contentedly, Meryell burrowed into his chest and wrapped her arms around him as she could already feel the heat he put off warming the once cold space around them.

She then tipped her head up, bumping his chin with her nose, and murmured, “ Ar lath ‘ma vhen’an.

At lath ‘ma ,” Cullen rumbled back, his voice already rough with sleep.

Two breaths later, they were both gone, sleeping the sleep of the well and truly exhausted.

ornament

Elven/Elvhen Translations

ir’ina’lan’ehn – gorgeous, very beautiful

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