Weeks before the Conclave left no idle time, which suited Evelyn fine, as she ran around the small town with a fast growing list of requested supplies. It yielded no time to think about what today was, or how she'd bring in yet another year in by herself. No one to remember and pester her with a gift when she explicitly said not to get her one. And nobody to ignore her wishes to do what he wanted anyway, leading into a small argument about how the two of them needed to save their coin, not spend it on something neither had any room to carry.
Rylen swore he'd make it up to her somehow. Frankly, she would settle for the simple present of seeing his face again, their schedules too hectic to spend any real time together. The last they saw one another was almost a month and a half before, only in passing between missions. Yes, this arrangement was better than not seeing each other at all like when the Starkhaven Circle fell, but she missed him dearly. Even a fight with him was better than his absence.
No shortage in work, though, Evelyn darting here and there, throwing herself into whatever tasks Cullen assigned her. The Commander required her in Haven for the time being, and the opportunity to rest from the constant traveling came appreciated.
When she handed Cullen her detailed supply list, he gave her an odd glance. Oh no, she thought. He knows what today is.
Sure enough, Cullen gave a rather large smile as he took the report. “Isn't today your birthday?”
“I'd rather not make it a big deal, if it's all the same to you.” She kept her voice low, careful not to let any of the lingering recruits hear their conversation. The last thing she needed was for this information to spread through the ranks.
Cullen gave a curt nod. “Of course,” he said, and she knew he'd respect her decision. But then his smile returned, breaking the seriousness in his face. “But I did get you a present.”
She groaned, slapping her hand to her forehead. Why? She didn't need anything, and it wasn't as though she ever got him anything. Though that was probably for the best, given her habit of picking out bad gifts. “Is it too late to take it back?”
“I'm afraid not.” Cullen inclined his head toward the Chantry. “I left it in the war room, if you don't mind going to retrieve it. And then take the rest of the day off.”
“I want to work,” she murmured, already stomping her way across the yard. Why would he get her anything? It did strike her as odd, but who knew, maybe he felt generous this year. They weren't the best of friends, but did the Commander actually have friends other than her and Rylen? Possibly Hawke. But after that? She didn't think so.
One of the newest recruits jogged up to her, his breath coming out in small visible puffs. “Lieutenant Trevelyan, I had something I wanted to add to that list of yours.” A Nevarran recruit, judging by the accent.
“I already gave it to Cullen,” she replied, her frown deepening. No matter how hard she tried when assigned to order supplies, she always managed to miss something or someone. “You'll have to go to him if it's important.”
“Oh.” The recruit's face fell, as though intimidated by the prospect of talking with the Commander. “I guess it can wait until the next one.”
Her eyes flickered to the Chantry. Her present could wait, though her curiosity stayed piqued. “Just tell me.” The recruit needed to get over his intimidation eventually, but this gave Evelyn a chance to continue with duties, even if Cullen reprimanded her when she returned.
“Well, it's…” The recruit leaned over and whispered in Evelyn's ear.
“Oh … oh!” Evelyn stepped back, away from the blushing recruit. “Yeah, I can arrange for more of those.”
“Please don't tell anyone,” the recruit said, eyes to the ground as he scuffed the toe of his boot. “This is my chance for a fresh start.”
“Of course. But he doesn't inquire into orders for those.” Evelyn grinned and clapped the recruit on the shoulder. “It's a fresh start for all of us. Don't fret, your secret's safe with me.” She started back to where the Commander stood, directing the soldiers, but then paused to turn back to the recruit. “What's your name anyway?”
An idea sprung to her mind. “Do me a favor, Alex? There's some kind of present sitting on the table in the war room. Can you grab it for me while I go talk to the Commander?”
Alex nodded with enthusiasm. “A present? What does it look like?”
“I have no idea.” Evelyn started to walk back toward the training field. “I'm sure you'll figure it out.” With that, she dashed back to Cullen.
He did not ask about the order she placed, but his gaze, weary of her return, spoke of his aggravation before his words got the chance. “I told you to stop working.”
“This couldn't wait,” she grinned. “You know, a great present would be to let me train the recruits and you make the lists.”
A scowl crossed his face. “You're scheduled for tomorrow. Take the day off, Trevelyan. That's an order.”
Evelyn stuck her tongue out at him when he turned his back, then started back toward the gates. Her mind buzzed with her own aggravation. What was she supposed to do all damn day if she wasn't allowed to work?
Alex met her at the top of the stairs, out of breath once more. “Lieutenant, I-”
Her eyes searched for a box of some kind, some clue to this mysterious present, but the kid held nothing in his hands. “Did you go to the war room like I asked?”
He nodded after a flicker of hesitation. “It was … you need to go yourself to retrieve it.”
A large present then. Evelyn raised her hand to dismiss him, but if it was too large and heavy, she'd need the help to move it. What in Andraste's name did Cullen give her? “You might as well stay and help me carry it.”
Alex's face flushed a deep red, almost like he grew embarrassed. “I don't think that will be a problem, Lieutenant.” Before she could inquire further, he dashed away, out toward the training fields.
“Huh,” Evelyn muttered to herself before directing toward the Chantry. The recruit's suspicious response nagged at her. Something was up.
When she reached the war room, she faltered, her hand lingering on the door knob. Why did she suddenly grow so nervous? It was only a stupid birthday present. But her heart hammered in her chest so loud that it drowned out the sounds of Haven. Swallowing the rather large lump that formed in her throat, she pushed the door open.
Her eyes immediately fell to the tall figure sitting on the edge of the table, a wide grin on his tattooed face. “Hey there, Evie,” Rylen said, the rich brogue of his accent replacing the sound of her heart.
She leapt into his awaiting arms, a cry in her throat as she crushed him against her. The smell of the roads clung to his skin, and given the state of his curls and the thickness of his incoming beard, she wagered he got in only an hour or so beforehand. “Ry,” she purred, all she managed to let out before his lips seized hers. Weeks worth of yearning poured out into the breath of their kiss, the force of it shoving her until her back slammed against the wall. His hands followed the curve of her body until coming to grip her backside, hands digging in and allowing her to jump up and wrap her legs around his waist.
Her mouth spoke of the time without him, what he missed with his absence, the longing she felt for his return. Lips opening with little prodding of the tongue, as though to swallow each other whole. Heat blooming anywhere he touched her, even through her clothes. Her hands raking through his curls, allowing no full retreat. The hair of his beard scratching her cheeks, her lips, her chin. He withdrew only to dive back in, soft moans rising from their throats as they groped and felt their way back into the familiarity of one another.
When her lips buzzed with satisfaction, she leaned away, his mouth trailing after her to press fluttery kisses along her face. “How long?”
“A week.” Another kiss, this one harder, teeth nipping at her bottom lip. “Not a bad present, aye?” His hands moved away from her rear to cup both her cheeks, thumbs brushing along her cheekbones. “Cullen arranged it.”
“I'll have to thank him then,” she responded, offering another kiss of her own to the corner of his mouth. A stirring in her brain said to move out of the war room to a more private location. Maker forbid the Divine walked in on them. Careful, she unwrapped her legs from around his waist, though not letting her hands stray from around the back of his neck.
“Maker's breath, did I miss you, Evie.” His lips blazed against hers once more, shorter this time, as if sensing where her thoughts lingered. “I set my tent back from camp to give us some privacy. Cullen said he'd give you off the rest of the day?”
She nodded then gifted herself one more kiss. “The Commander might be better at presents than you,” she teased, slipping her hand into his as they left the room.
“Aye. I'll have to make it up next year.”
With her free hand, she swatted at his chest. “You'll do no such thing. This is the only gift I ever want from you.”
He paused in their walk to his tent, dragging her back into his arms. “Then me you shall have,” he grinned, capturing her lips. Maybe birthdays weren't so bad after all.