Our Quarters - Chapter 3 - QuelleBelleVie (2024)

Chapter Text

How can today possibly feel longer than yesterday? Cora wonders as she opens the door that leads from the main hall toward her quarters. Poor sleep, maybe. Or spending three hours, Josephine seated beside her, writing and rewriting a letter to Celene and Gaspard. Early evening sun is shining through the windows as she traverses the stone walkways. Her gait is slower than usual from the fatigue that hangs over her like a pall. Even her ambassador had looked ragged when they’d finally sealed the missive.

“It should buy us some time,” Josie had said with a sigh. “Though we cannot put off negotiating troop placement with Orlais and Ferelden forever.”

“I’ve a feeling I’ll be off to see Alistair as soon as the first snows melt,” the Inquisitor had replied. At least, she thinks now as she half-drags her feet up the steps, that eventuality is at best five months away. She has not spoken to a monarch on their own soil since spending the longest week of her life in Halamshiral, and while Ferelden is not Orlais, she is nonetheless not looking forward to it.

She is still turning all of this over in her mind when, reaching the top of the stairs, she puts out a hand to steady herself against the divan. It’s become a habit when she enters her quarters, using the sofa for balance as she reaches down to pull off her boots. This evening, it has the opposite effect. Where she expects to find the soft velvet of the divan, her hand grasps only at air.

As she begins to stumble from preparing to lean her weight against nothing whatsoever, she meets Cullen’s gaze. Time seems to slow, her knees bending and his eyes widening in tandem. He bounds across the room, arms held out, but she manages to catch herself before falling to the floor. As soon as she realizes she’s going to remain upright, everything seems to return to its normal speed.

“I’m sorry!” he exclaims from half a meter in front of her. One hand comes to rest on her shoulder, the hesitant touch suggesting that he fears throwing her off-balance again. She blinks at him, then looks over at the empty space where the divan had sat just this morning. She turns to him once more and notices, for the first time, that the sofa is now halfway between the bed and fireplace. What’s more, Cullen’s armor stand is just a few meters away, near where the other end of the divan had been. Her heart swells in her chest, and, tears burning the backs of her eyes, she smiles at the absurdity of having such a reaction over someone having moved a sofa. “I ought to have given you a bit of warning. I apologize, dearest, I–”

“Why are you apologizing?” she asks, her smile turning into a laugh. “It’s hardly your fault that I had my head in the clouds.” He brings his other hand up and gives her upper arms a light squeeze. He looks, she sees as she searches his face, only somewhat mollified. There is still uncertainty, almost anxiety, tracing his features. Reigning in her laughter and softening her gaze, she says, “You did it. Changed things ’round, I mean.”

The creases in his brow slowly begin to dissipate. “I…I did,” he replies. “Just…well, just a bit. Because you asked.”

“Why do you look so concerned, love?” she asks, puzzled. Cora brings a hand to his cheek and, as always, he tilts his head into her touch. “Was it so difficult as all that?”

He studies her for a moment, tongue darting out to wet his lips, before he decides to speak.

“Since…well, since you became the Inquisitor, really, I…I have worked to try to ensure that I never…never usurped your position, or acted, or spoke – or, Maker, even thought – in a way that would suggest I believed myself above you,” he says. Then, eyes widening with the possible implications of this, continues, “And I never did, truly, apart from perhaps that first week after the Conclave, when we learned that you were an apostate, and that was wrong of me, of course, and I am sorry for any–”

“Cullen,” she interrupts, brushing a stray curl behind his ear. It’s been a long while since she’s lost him to his own mind; she will not do so tonight.

Her voice and touch pull him back to the present, and he takes a long, deep inhale. “What I mean to say–” he exhales “– is this. I have worried, since all this began, that I might say or do something that would cause you to…to question how I feel about you. Your trust in me is – has always been – a gift.” He takes her face in his hands, one palm cradling her cheek and the other ghosting over the thin, faint scar that runs from just above her left ear to her eyebrow.

Not long after Corypheus’ demise, they had been enjoying a rare day of rest in the bed a meter away from where they stand now. “Where is this from?” Cullen had asked, tracing the mark.

“I don’t think you want to know,” Cora had replied with a grimace. He had responded by raising his eyebrows slightly, a sort of opening, or challenge. She had taken it. “From when I was a child. One of the templars…a cruel old man, probably half-gone on lyrium…he thought I was laughing at him. Backhanded me, gauntlet and all.”

He had winced, frowned, and, after snaking his arms around her, pulled her to him. He’d pressed his lips to the scar softly, then settled his cheek against her head. “I want to know everything about you,” he had whispered, “even the things that are hard to hear.”

When he brushes his thumb against it now, she understands his meaning without him needing to elaborate. “I am terrified that I will give you cause to believe that trust misplaced. It seems easier to…overcorrect than to risk it.”

“Cullen, you know that you needn’t be so…so cautious around me. Not after all this time,” she says with a sad smile.

“I know. And I am going to try…well…try not to try, I suppose.”

“You have never – not once – led me to believe you thought yourself somehow superior to me. I would remember. Back at the start, I would have absolutely relished having my assumptions about you proven correct,” Cora laughs, which in turn elicits a fond smile from him. She then looks at him seriously again. “But truly: I know how you think of me. Will you not tiptoe around because you’re afraid it might be otherwise?” He nods, looking at her in that soft, earnest way of his, then tilts her chin up for a kiss. When they part again, she smiles and gestures vaguely around. With no small amount of playful pomp, she asks, “In that spirit, would you like to show me what you’ve done?”

“Certainly. Right this way, Your Worship,” Cullen intones with mock gravity. He steps away, bows, and sweeps his arm out with such facetious panache that the Inquisitor is already laughing once more. Over the next several minutes, he puts on his best Lord Steward of Halamshiral voice and gives her a proper tour of the four or five minor changes to the room since she left it this morning. There is now a small table abutting his side of the bed, an old but sturdy thing he found in the loft. As she’d noticed earlier, his armor is nearby, propped up on its stand. One half of the wardrobe is now full with his (relatively few, all perfectly practical) garments, and his shaving supplies, soaps, pomade, comb, and the like are piled neatly in a basket beneath the wash basin by the full-length mirror.

And then there are the other, even smaller changes about which he makes no comment. The toes of the soft hide slippers he favors in the winter barely peek out from beneath the bed. His books line two of the heretofore empty shelves in the bookcases behind her desk. And on said desk, every one of her quills – most of which are, at any given time, hidden beneath piles of paper, lost beneath furniture, or lying mistakenly at the bottom of the waste bin after encountering an errant elbow – is in the cup where it ought to be. Just couldn’t help yourself from tidying up a bit, could you, Rutherford? she thinks with a private smile, and at the same moment notices that the bed is made.

She also finds that, even after relocating most of his things from the broom closet, he took it upon himself to clean the little enclave out. It is empty but for two small crates of (newly-organized) unused vials, jars, and bottles that had been stacked haphazardly in a corner near the table she uses for sorting and restocking her personal alchemical ingredients.

“And the pièce de résistance,” he says, fumbling the Orlesian pronunciation so horribly that a cackle bursts from her mouth. He makes a grand, sweeping gesture toward the divan. An old but lovely woven blanket, which until today had been stuffed into the bottom of the wardrobe, is draped invitingly across the sofa, and a handsome bearskin from the floor of the commander’s former tower bedroom is stretched beneath its clawed wooden legs. Illuminated by the glow of the hearthfire, it lends the cavernous room a coziness Cora wouldn’t have thought possible. She feels tears threaten again, and again the absurdity of this tickles her. It’s a sofa, Cordelia.

“You should move it back, of course, if–” The affected, proud formality of Cullen’s tone has disappeared, and he sounds like himself once more – uncertainty and all.

“And why would I want to do that?” she asks, turning to where he stands a half-step behind her and twining her fingers through his own. She lifts her chin up, and his lips tilt into a smile before he presses them to hers. The kiss is soft, long, indulgent. After waiting a great deal longer than either of them usually would, she slowly pushes her tongue into his mouth. A brief but unmistakable rumble escapes from Cullen’s core. Some moments later, she pulls back and regards him from beneath heavy eyelids. “I’ve not even tried it out.”

“That,” he says, one of his palms coming to rest against the small of her back, “can be ameliorated.” He dives back in to kiss her again, fiercely this time, and he takes her wholly into his arms. Over the next several minutes, they break apart only twice: first, so that he might divest Cora of her tunic and trousers, and then once more so that she might return the favor.

Maker’s f*cking breath, she thinks, panting breaths through her nose to avoid coming up for air. The way he wraps himself around her, hands roaming wildly, as though he absolutely must have every inch of his skin against hers. She wonders absently whether they’ve drawn closer to the divan during their fumbling so that she might pull him down on top of her.

At that moment, she feels the brush of fabric against the backs of her calves. Cullen pulls away and takes a half step back, holding onto one of her hands in a polite, almost genteel manner entirely unlike the ravenous grasping of moments ago.

“Take your ease, my lady,” he says, mock-gravity returning, and sweeps his free hand in the air before the divan. He keeps hold of her fingers as she sits down at its center. The blanket draped over the sofa is even softer than she had expected against her almost-bare frame.

“Oh, that is much better,” Cullen says as he pauses to take in the sight of her. He kneels in front of the divan, stretches his arms out along either side of her seated form, and slips his hands under her arse. He pulls her forward until she is perched on the very edge of the cushion. After planting a single kiss on each of her kneecaps, he fastens his arms around her calves and pulls them slowly apart, creating a space for himself between her legs.

“Are your knees—“

“Perfectly fine tonight, love,” he reassures her with a kiss to her inner thigh. Then, nodding down in the direction of the floor, “And this pelt is a great deal softer than one might expect.”

“Your furniture rearrangement continues to be a resounding success,” she says with a grin.

He looks at her with mock skepticism. “That remains to be seen. Our trial has only just begun.”

“Then by all means,” she replies, inching her thighs a bit further apart.

Cullen throws her a mischievous smirk as he ducks down to her yet-unkissed thigh and presses his lips to her skin. He continues going back and forth between each of her legs, his mouth drawing ever closer to the soft cotton of her smallclothes. He plants a kiss atop a circle of damp fabric, prompting her to shiver, before twining his fingers into the ties at her hips and tugging.

After tossing the last of her clothing to the side, he looks up at her once more. It fills her with a sense of wonder bordering on giddiness that the fondness in his gaze has not dimmed even as they’ve grown comfortable with one another. His eyes are no less bright than the first time they made love, and it makes her chest ache. Maker, but this man has turned her into a romantic.

A light sheen of sweat has formed at his brow, and she glances over his shoulder to the fireplace. “Are you certain you’re comfortable? Is the fire not cooking your back?” she asks.

“It will burn down soon enough,” he replies, leaning his head against the inside of her left knee, “but I rather like it. The concept of a warm bedroom is still a novelty, after all. And anyway” – at this, the heat of his gaze rivals the flames dancing at his back – “I’m far more interested in what is before me than whatever is behind.”

Cora’s breath catches in her throat. Coming from anyone else – including her, she thinks – this sort of cheeky bedroom talk would sound saccharine and insincere. Instead, it sets her ablaze. His effect on her must be obvious, because the last thing she sees on his mouth is a devilish grin.

Swiftly and seamlessly, he pulls one of her thighs over his shoulder, slides his palms beneath her bum, and pulls her forward so that she is barely sitting on the edge of the divan. A moment after she leans back against the pillows strewn atop the seat, he is slowly taking her wetness into his mouth along the entire length of her slit. She gasps, just as she does every time his tongue first makes contact with her sex.

She lets her head fall back and her free leg fall open, and a low moan escapes her lips. Cullen seems to consider this an invitation. He pulls away for just a moment to part her labia with the fingers of one hand, then ducks back into her. He plants long, wet kisses along her vulva, half-teasing her with flicks of his tongue against her skin. After a minute that feels like an hour, he licks her broadly - and torturously slowly - several times.

“Can you…” she says breathlessly as she threads her fingertips into the curls at his crown. She finds that words are slipping away from her before she can properly grasp them. Instead, she puts the finger of her free hand in the air and makes a circling motion. “…do the…with your tongue…”

The vibration of his chuckling against her makes her shiver. He glances up at her, a sly smile in his eyes, before settling back in to draw circles around her cl*tor*s with his tongue.

“Oh, f*ck…yes, that,” she manages.

He does not hurry, the lines he traces around her center remaining wide and lazy for a time. She resists the urge to pull him tight against her, to beg aggression from him; as much as it feels like he’s teasing her, she knows by now that his tempered ministrations have their place.

During their first few months together, she had sometimes found herself getting frustrated at how slow Cullen’s love-making was. Not on their first nights of being reunited after some time apart, of course; that initial coupling was always swift and heated. But thereafter, when that first, desperate f*ck was done, he had inevitably wanted to take his time. Such a concept had been entirely foreign to Cora. Prior to being with him, her sexual history had been nothing but hurried, clandestine encounters, both participants often half-clothed and half-standing. Life in the Circle had necessitated it.

Even after she had come to understand how satisfying it could be not to speed toward an org*sm, it had taken her body and mind a rather long time to grow used to the change of pace. She still sometimes has to remind herself that they have time, all the time that they want, and no one to whom they must answer for how they spend it.

He slips his tongue inside her, and she opens her eyes to see that he has reached a hand down to stroke himself. Still, he remains unhurried as he refocuses his attention on her cl*t. He meets her gaze, eyes hooded, and moves through several variations of licking and sucking until she bites at her bottom lip and nods. “Mmm…hmmm. Like that,” she says, breath catching in her throat.

Cora feels his lips close around the engorged nub while the flat of his tongue presses against it. As her pleasure begins to build, she bucks her hips against his mouth.

“Harder,” she gasps, and he complies, sucking at her so fervently that she can hear an indecent squelch as he adjusts his lips slightly. He places one hand on her abdomen and uses the other to grasp the thigh sitting atop his shoulder. He continues to work at her, mouth around her even as she comes. He holds them both steady through her org*sm, and, in the absence of being able to writhe, she cries out.

When each wave has subsided and she is working to catch her breath, Cullen pulls his face from between her legs. He wipes at his mouth, which boasts a highly satisfied grin, then turns and presses his lips to her inner thigh.

“So,” he says, panting slightly and darting his tongue out over his bottom lip, “is this a good place for the sofa?”

She bursts into laughter, then sits up and runs a hand through his now-messy hair. As her chuckling becomes a sly smile, she leans toward him and says, voice low, “Why don’t you try it out for yourself?”

He is up off his knees so quickly that he nearly stumbles, which sets Cora to laughing once again. She rises and, hooking the fingers of one hand into the waistband of his breeches, loosens his untied laces further. With a great deal more dexterity than she expected, she manages to pull his trousers down and maneuver him onto the divan almost simultaneously.

She pauses for a moment, her back to the fire, to look at him. He, too, is letting his eyes roam over her body, and when his gaze again meets hers, she sees a wild yearning there. “Hello, handsome,” she says as she steps toward the sofa and mounts it, knees on either side of his legs. She cups his chin in her hand and tilts it up. Her other hand braced over his shoulder against the back of the divan, she leans down and presses her open lips to his.

Cullen places his hands at her waist, then snakes them around to her back and pulls her forward until his hardened co*ck is pressed between their stomachs. She rolls her hips forward, tightening the squeeze, and whispers, “It feels as though you’re already quite enjoying the new furniture placement.”

“Or the company,” he replies, reaching up to kiss her again.

“Did the divan seem to wobble at all when you moved it?” Cora asks, feigning a sudden inquisitiveness.

He blinks, brow creasing in confusion. “I…well, I suppose I was not paying a great deal of attention, but I don’t believe it did.”

“Seems sturdy, then, would you say?” She grins as the perplexity on his face gives way to understanding.

“I think so,” he replies, smirking up at her, “but perhaps we ought to test it, just to be sure.”

“A fine idea, Commander,” she says as she sits back slightly, creating just enough space between them to reach down and take him in hand. He takes a sharp, small breath at her touch, which draws another smile from her. Maker, she hopes she never gets entirely used to the hundred little ways his body responds to hers. The delight in his eyes, the trust in his posture, his manner of submitting to her touch without question because he knows how well she has learned what pleases him. As she strokes his co*ck, passing her thumb over the head on every upward thrust, she can feel her own arousal beginning to stir once more.

Cullen cranes his neck up so that he can kiss hers. She can hear his breathing grow ragged. She tilts her head down until her lips barely brush the tip of his ear and whispers, “Touch me.” This elicits a low, gravelly assent, and she feels his fingers slide along the curls at her mons. She raises herself up just enough to place the tip of him into her entrance, then lowers herself slowly until she has fully sheathed him. He lets out a low moan against her clavicle, his fingers stuttering as they slip between her labia.

Cora rocks herself against him, experimenting a bit with rhythm before she finds something satisfying. Cullen’s face moves to devour one of her breasts, his tongue darting broadly across her nipple for a few seconds before he closes his lips around it and begins to suck.

It’s impressive, really, she thinks, the way his mouth and fingers are able to work seemingly independently of his mind and of one another. She must remember to bring it up the next time he expresses worry that the absence of lyrium has dulled him in some way or other.

When she feels herself approaching a second org*sm, she momentarily abandons her vertical movement and begins to grind her pelvis against Cullen’s hand. She hesitates for a moment when she realizes this, then, in an attempt at generosity, resumes riding him. The hand on her hip squeezes, and he moves his mouth to her ear.

“Take it,” he whispers hoarsely, stuttering breath hot against her skin. He does not specify what ‘it’ means; nor does he need to. Her pleasure. Control. Whatever she desires. All of these things.

She considers him a selfless lover, and he is, but she also knows that what he gives is returned to him twofold. Watching her as she comes, and knowing that it is his doing, sets him absolutely ablaze. Feeling her come around him? He will cry out her name loudly enough to rattle the glass panes in the balcony doors.

And so she does as he asks, one hand digging into his shoulder and the other bracing against the back of the divan as she moves desperately against his hand. He holds his hand steady, palm at her pubic bone and sword hilt-calloused fingers pressed against her cl*t. A moment before she reaches her climax, she drops her sweat-soaked forehead down to his. He looks briefly startled by this; she is more likely to have her head thrown back or her eyes closed at such a moment.

Cora’s decision to hold his gaze has its intended effect. As soon as he feels the shudder and squeeze of her org*sm, his own is upon him. His mouth falls open with some combination of shock at its suddenness and pleasure at its power.

Maker…Cora…f*ck,” he cries, the hand at her hip sliding up to her back. She can feel his nails scratch lightly at her skin as he struggles for purchase before giving up and simply pressing his palm against her and pulling her toward him.

When her breathing begins to steady, she lets herself melt against him. She snakes both arms around his neck and rests her cheek against his wild curls. “You know,” she says, “I’m not sure whether I ought to be offended that my name was the second thing out of your mouth, or honored that it was uttered in the same breath as a god’s.”

Cullen chuckles and gives her bum a squeeze. “Blasphemy seems inconsequential when you’re riding my co*ck, love.”

She pulls her head back to give him a mischievous grin. “I do so love it when you say filthy things, Commander.”

He tilts his chin up for a kiss, and she obliges. It is long, and tender, and full of the same pleasant exhaustion now settling over them both. When she pulls back, he is regarding her with both affection and a fair amount of solemnity. “However unaccustomed I am to…to…domesticity, might one call it? Or…living alongside another person? And however nervous I might be about fouling the whole thing up, I…I do love this. The…” He looks from side to side for a moment as though the words he seeks might be physically lying around nearby. “...the act of…making a life. With you.”

She gazes fondly down at him and takes his head between her hands. “I love you, Cullen.”

“And I love you.”

“And I think the divan should stay right here.”

“An admirable performance tonight, truly.”

“Oh, thank you,” Cora says facetiously, bending to kiss him again.

He smirks. “I was talking about the sofa, but you did wonderfully as well.”

“I can still send you back to that tower, you know.”

“Mercy, Inquisit–”

She presses her lips to his, granting his request in the sweetest of ways.

Our Quarters - Chapter 3 - QuelleBelleVie (2024)
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