Where had the day gone? The Inquisitor watched from her balcony as the daylight quickly faded in a magnificent blaze of orange, red and pink, the horizon narrowing into a vivid gold line. Lavellan rarely got a moment to herself these days. She had once believed that after Corypheus was defeated she would have the chance to catch her breath, but Thedas had other plans for her. This new world she had helped bring forth was still in its infancy; fragile, impressionable, in desperate need of care and direction. All eyes looked to her to pave the way, to help them rebuild. You can do this, she sighed, taking in a long, cleansing breath. The sky had given up the stars hidden in its depths and the space surrounding her began to glisten. Her thoughts drifted to her love, was he looking up at the same sea of stars from the Hissing Wastes? He could not return to her soon enough. They had seldom been apart in the weeks since her final battle with the Magister and things never felt right in his absence.
Lavellan was jolted away from thoughts of the Commander by a distant tapping at her door. What is it now? She scurried down the stairs. Just under the door was a note, she carefully lifted it from the floor and broke the seal to reveal its contents.
Your presence is requested in the kitchen at your earliest convenience. There appears to be a situation requiring your attention.
A friend? She stared at the parchment in her hand, re-reading it once, then again. How odd. She hadn’t the slightest clue what matter could possibly have need of her in the kitchen. Last time she attempted anything domestic she nearly burnt the whole place to the ground, it took weeks to scrub the char from the stones. Was Josephine planning another party? It was the first she had heard of anything like that! Although she was terrible at keeping track of her appointments. Please no! If she had to sit across from one more self-entitled, blithering dignitary this week she was going to scream!
The Inquisitor hunted down her most comfortable slippers and haphazardly placed them on her feet. She would deal with this quickly, whatever it was, so that she could come back to her room and curl up in bed. The kitchen was not far, but it meant crossing through the main hall toward Josephine’s office. She moved swiftly, nodding and giving a quick wave at anyone who glanced her way. She did notice Varric across the floor, smiling at her quite mischievously… she smiled back. What’s with him? Is he in on this? It was hard to tell, Varric pretty much always looked like he'd just been caught with his hand in the cookie jar.
She turned the corner and made her way down the stairs toward the lower levels of Skyhold. Lavellan’s curiosity began to stir as she tromped awkwardly down the steps. Though a slight imposition, she did find this note rather exciting. Surprises for the Inquisitor were not usually pleasant. Please let this be pleasant. Her heels skidded to halt as she entered the room. The common area was adorned with dozens of candlesticks, their flames newly lit. Arbor blessing had been weaved throughout the room. The air was thick with a rich floral scent that rested ever so sweetly on her nose. A handful of Vandal aria lay scattered across the table, beautiful, delicate… and unusual. She ran her fingers around one of the blooms. But… it’s rarely found outside the… Hissing Wastes. Cullen!! There was a sharp pounding in her chest, her stomach dropped, a twisted mess of nervous anticipation. She was undone. Without a thought her legs began to rush toward the kitchen. Just as she was about to tear through the door, something made her pause. Collect yourself Quinn, you are the Inquisitor, he is your Commander, you cannot look so eager, don’t you dare attack him! I mean it!
She heard shuffling in the next room, the sound of metal clanking, then a tortured groan. ‘Maker! What did I get myself into,' the familiar voice grumbled. The Inquisitor carefully gripped the door and cracked it just enough to peek in stealthily. The room was coated in a fine layer of white powder, an impressive array of bowls lay scattered to and fro, blobs of brightly colored crème painted the work table.
“Hello?” She asked, giving the door a quick knock. She watched as the apron clad figure in the room twirled toward her.
“Quinn!” Cullen shouted, a flash of panic across his face. “No, no no. You shouldn’t be here! Not yet.”
“But I received a note. Was it not you who sent for me? I thought you wouldn’t be back for a few more days!” She had to pommel the urge to tackle her beloved and bury him in a sea of kisses.
“Forgive me, I am sorry for the deception. Things are not going quite as I’d planned.” He wiped his brow and moved to hide something behind him. “Love, would you do me a great kindness and take a seat just outside for me, the table should be set.”
“What? You’re sending me away, already? But…” she huffed, disappointed at being put off, “don’t you dare keep me waiting long, it’s too unkind!” Her face curled into a childish frown.
“I promise, just a moment longer dear.” He made his way to the door and planted a swift kiss upon her lips. He tasted of flour and sugar, as if he needed to be more delicious, she thought. “Now go!” Cullen said, forcefully inching the door to a close.
Well! She certainly hadn’t seen that coming! It must have been quite an ordeal to sneak him back in to Skyhold without her knowledge. Who else had a hand in this? Upon making her way to the table she noticed there were two tiny place cards marked in Cullen’s unmistakeable hand - ‘My Beautiful Lavellan' and ‘Your Loyal Commander’- . You’d never guess he’d grown up shielded away from the courtships typical to one’s youth. He had managed to blossom into an exceedingly charming man. Quinn sometimes wondered if he used to smuggle books about daring princes and forbidden love in to his quarters. She could picture the young Templar Knight secretly reading by candlelight until the wee hours of morning, tucking the contraband under his pillow before going to bed. Maybe it was because his circumstances had never allowed him a relationship before, but he doted on her with boyish enthusiasm. It made her feel sixteen again; nervous, painfully obvious, impulsive at times, like she could never hold him close enough. She plopped down in her assigned seat and began fidgeting with her thumbs.
What was he up to? He had sure gone through an awful lot of trouble. It was weird seeing him out of his armor, in fact she was sure this was first time outside of the bedroom that she had seen him without his full regalia. Lavellan moved a hand up to comb through her hair, then she checked her breath. Gods! Why didn’t I straighten up before I came down here? I must look an awful mess. For goodness sake, slippers, I wore slippers! She had known the Commander for a year now and she was amazed at the way he still managed to fluster her.
Quinn glanced around the table, there was bottle of wine she had collected from her travels with a note that read, “Hope you don’t mind, I heard this was an excellent vintage - Cullen.” Breaking out the good stuff is he?… the plot thickens. She tried to will her fingers to stop shaking, but to no avail. She was at her most vulnerable when he was around, a fact of which her body was all too aware. She had grown up fantasizing about love, as she imagined every one does, but she found it odd that no one had mentioned how scary it truly was. To be so open with someone, to have them see all of you, the deepest parts, the gritty truths, the ones you try to hide from the world. To be that intimate and then know that they could reject you for it, or worse, that they could love you for it. Then you worry about unleashing that darkness inside of you against them, even though you would willingly die before intentionally trying to hurt them. Her happiness had become intrinsically linked to his well being, it was exhilarating, terrifying and all consuming. The thought of being without him was far worse than any evil she had faced in battle. She wanted to be with him every waking moment and when he was near she couldn't focus on anything else.
Cullen emerged from the kitchen clutching a huge white pedestal with the most magnificent three tiered cake, it was glazed in chocolate and trimmed with pearls of mint green crème. She watched as he navigated the floor between them, he wavered back and forth slightly as he worked to keep his balance. A sigh of relief escaped them both as he laid it to rest on the table.
“Happy Anniversary Inquisitor!”
“Anniversary?” Gods!! I forgot an anniversary, this is so embarassing?!! She blushed.
“My darling, it has been one hundred glorious days since we said I love you.” He reached down and lifted the backside of her hand to his lips.
She shook her head in disbelief. How did he remember that? “Cullen… you… you made this for us? I didn’t know even you could bake. This is amazing!”
“That makes two of us then. It was only possible with plenty of direction from Chef Olivier. I remembered how the tiny chocolate cakes at the Winter Palace were your favorite and I wanted to surprise you. Josephine helped me procure some of the more difficult items. It took, a bit longer than I had intended and it’s not the caliber I was going for, but…”
“Nonsense, it’s absolutely perfect!” she exclaimed, ogling the display in front of her. Then she realized she had no conceivable way of reciprocating his thoughtfulness and lowered her head . “I… I didn’t get you anything, I didn’t even realize… I can’t believe that you did all of this for me. I’m terrible my love.” She hopped up and threw herself around him, a lump building in the back of her throat. Her foot lifted off the ground as she kissed his cheek. “I love chocolate cake.”
“Really, it isn’t much. I would have preferred to steal you away somewhere, just the two of us, but I know how much you are needed at your here. I can barely break away for more than an hour myself,” he said, stroking her cheek with his thumb as he gently brushed a few stray hairs away from her face.
“No, this beats everything. We’ll get our chance to travel one day, after all of this settles down, but no one has ever baked me a cake before!” Her lips met his and lingered there for a moment. He smiled, she loved his smile. It had changed so much from the time they had met. It used to be heavy, veiled by a layer of pain that he always seemed to carry with him. But lately, the lyrium withdrawals had been less and less. He seemed to have found some degree of personal redemption serving the Inquisition, he was more calm, at peace. Now his smile radiated from the inside out, a warm, deep, welcoming smile that flashed through his entire face.
She felt him pull back. Perhaps she had been too swept up before to notice, but a line of sweat had begun to pool along his forehead and his pupils were slightly dilated.
“Heavens!” Cullen said, reaching out to grab her arms. “I almost forgot the topper! I am hopeless. Excuse me, it will be just a moment! Don’t - go - anywhere!” She swatted his bum as he inched away, then he went full sprint toward the kitchen.
“Honestly, I don’t even know how I put up with you,” she shouted after him, rolling her eyes. He returned after a moment, carrying the most beautiful aria, perhaps the biggest she had ever seen! He applied it the center of the cake, adorning it like a beautiful ivory crown, the perfect finishing touch. She stared at it for a moment, enjoying it’s sweet honeyed scent. Cullen started to cough behind her, she could hear his breaths growing more shallow and she watched as he began to scratch the back of his left calf with his foot.“Are you ok? You aren’t allergic are you?” Cullen flinched as he rubbed the back of his neck, shaking his head no.
He doesn’t look so good, maybe it was too warm in the kitchen? She searched his gaze, he was staring at the cake. “No really, you seem pale. Are you dehydrated? How long were you down here?"
"Quinn, I'm fine, truly," he said with a nervous laugh.
"It's not the cake, is it? You can’t possibly be embarrassed, it’s remarkable!” She assured him turning back toward the table, when a faint glimmer caught her eye. Quinn’s toes began to curl as she felt the blood rush frantically from her extremities directly to her head, her tongue felt like a massive ball of cotton in her mouth. She turned to face him once more only to find that he had dropped to one knee. Her nails dug into the edge of the table as she suddenly forgot how to stand. Cullen’s piercing amber eyes were transfixed on hers.
He shook his head side to side and jiggled his arms all the way down through his fingertips before he began. “Quinn,” he took her hand, “I could not have known how my life would change the day that I met you on the field, but I knew that it had. When I was yet unworthy of your presence, you chose to give me direction and purpose. You have stood by me and helped me through my darkest hours, believing in me when I thought I was beyond saving. Your strength and compassion inspire me and your mercy and integrity compel me to be better than I am. In all of my days combined I have never laughed so much as I do when I am with you, yet I could weep at the mere sight of your beauty. Your kisses electrify me and your absence plagues me - - I guess what I am trying to say is, I don’t know how much time either of us has left on this God forsaken planet, but I know I want to live every possible moment with you. Quinn’las Suledin Lavellan, will you do me the great honor of being my wife?”
She choked back the tears fighting to burst their way forth. Every attempt to form a sentence in her head met with failure, so she did what she could, she nodded…. a neck breaking, chill inducing nod.
“Yes?… That’s a yes?? Yes! I love you so madly,” he laughed, lifting her at the waist and twirling her around the room. Her Commander smelled of chocolate and sweat and wood smoke, he kissed her tenderly, as if for the first time, and gently placed her feet back on the ground. He grabbed the ring and carefully placed it upon her left hand. She examined the gem. Dawnstone… my favorite. It stood alone in a simple setting, clean and elegant, with cuts so precise she knew only Dagna could be capable of such perfection. This would be the outward symbol of their internal vows, a message for any and all to know that she was the future Mrs. Rutherford. Yeah, I could get used to that alright . Her face threatened to rip apart from the width of her grin. He kissed the lingering tears from her eyes and she ran her fingers through his disheveled hair.
“I love you Cullen, more than you could possibly know. You’ve entered my world so completely, I can scarcely remember what it was like without you in it. Now I’ll never have to again. When you’re with me, I feel capable of anything, like it’s us against the world. How did I get so lucky?”
He held her tight. “I find that I ask myself the same thing each and every day. Now, my bride-to-be, are you ready for the bigger question… what on earth are we going to do with all of this cake?”
“An excellent question! It’s almost too good to eat.”
“One thought occurred to me my love. Perhaps we could share? I had a group in mind. You’ll get the first slice of course, you have my word.”
“I had better.” She said.
Cullen cupped his hands to his mouth and shouted, “ She said yes!!!”
Cheering and shouting began bellowing through the corridor. Not a moment later a parade of happy faces came rolling down the stairwell. Varric and Dorian fought to reach her first, resulting in a three way hug. She watched as a misty-eyed Cassandra threw her arms around her new fiancee, followed by a firm handshake and a pat on the back. Josephine marveled at the cake, gushing over Cullen’s success. The rest kept pouring in, Bull, Sera, Leliana, Cole, Vivienne they were all there to celebrate their union. She reached out her hand, searching through the crowd for his and there it was, ready to meet hers, he never left her wanting. They locked fingers and exchanged a sideways glance, she felt his grip tighten. She couldn’t dream a more perfect moment. There was only thing left to do.“Who’s ready to eat??” she said.