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Sticks and Yarn

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Ellie likes to crochet. Her grandmother had taught her when she was very young, and ever since then, the feeling of soft yarn flowing through her fingers calms her, and reminds her of those carefree days of her youth, crammed on a log by the fire next to her grandmother. She would hold the yarn as grandma rolled it into a ball, picking at the knots and tangles with her smaller fingers. Grandmother told her it would train her hands to be nimble, and Ellie had learned that it did help with her bow.

In Haven, she would climb up on the wall by Varric's campfire, and listen to him tell stories to everyone who passed by. She had some coarse ram’s wool that she wove at night when she had trouble sleeping, and a rough crochet hook she had carved from a spare branch. Everything in Haven was covered in snow, and she found herself crocheting dozens of pairs of thick socks - big wooly red socks for the troops, squishy brown ones for Scout Harding, and a lovely striped pair for Cassandra. The Seeker had thanked her in her gruff, grouchy way, but every time they camped on the road, Ellie could see the green and blue stripes peeking out over Cassandra's boots.

 *~*

When they were forced out of Haven, Ellie was very thankful she was wearing her favorite gloves. Her grandmother had made them just before she had left home for the Conclave. They were warm but thin, and had a flap that made them fingerless when necessary, so they wouldn't get in the way of her bow and arrows. She was sure they were the only reason she hadn't lost a finger or two to frostbite. After her talk with Mother Giselle, Blackwall approached.

"My lady," he greeted her.

"Blackwall," she replied. "Thank you for your help evacuating Haven. I am told that you carried several of the children to safety."

She was certain she detected a blush under his beard, which made her smile. "I did nothing anyone else would not have done," he replied. His blush intensified for a moment. "I did notice," he said, then paused, as if unsure what he wanted to say. "Here," he finally said, thrusting a package at her.

"What's this?" Ellie asked, pulling the edges apart to look inside.

Blackwall ran a hand through his hair, resting it on the back of his neck. "While you were…resting, it occurred to me you had to leave all your things behind. I know how much you enjoy working with your hands, so I…"

Inside the package were several neatly wrapped balls of yarn, and a set of carved crochet hooks. "Blackwall, these are beautiful! Did you make them yourself?"

He nodded, looking sheepish. "Carving relaxes me," he said. "The yarn came from some old sweaters."

"Thank you," Ellie said. "Truly, these are wonderful, I will treasure them," she added, tucking the hooks into her lock picking belt as Blackwall nodded and walked away.

*~*

There wasn't a lot of spare time to crochet during their trek through the mountains. What time she did have, Ellie spent mending holes in socks and sweaters, trying to keep them all from freezing to death as they slowly made their way among the snowy peaks. She was thankful that Solas, Dorian and Vivienne were all well versed in warming spells. She assumed that's why Solas never complained of the cold, even as he walked, barefoot, atop the crunchy snow.

"Don't your feet freeze?" She'd asked him once, her own toes quite cold and wet from the snow sneaking in above the tops of her boots.

Solas had smirked at her. "Oh, I am quite used to the cold," he assured her, "but my ears do sometimes get a bit chilly at high elevations."

Soon after that, they reached Skyhold, and all their attention had been put into cleaning it up and making it habitable.

Ellie loved Skyhold. There were so many nooks and crannies to explore, so many places where she felt she must be the only person in a thousand years who knew about that spot. Those spots were precious to her, now that she'd been made the Inquisitor.

She didn't mind being the Inquisitor. Someone had to do it, and she was willing. But now that she was important, everyone wanted to talk to her. All the time. So finding those places of solace, where she could be at peace for a while, was precious to her.

One of her favorite places was atop the platform in Solas' office at the base of the rotunda. She would take her yarn up and focus on the rhythm of her fingers for a while. Granted, she wasn't truly alone, but Solas was good company. He would let her be as he painted, or did some bit of serious research, and was happy to tell her stories if she wanted to talk.

After one of his stories - her favorite one about the spirit who paired all the village girls with the good boys - Ellie slid down the ladder and approached Solas, who was studying a piece of a shard at his desk. "I made you something," she said, handing him the gift she'd been working on for the last few days.

Solas unfolded it, smiling as he held up a hat, made of pale blue yarn with white wisps woven in like clouds in the sky. "Thank you," he said, giving her a curious look.

"Your ears get a bit chilly at higher elevations," she reminded him with a teasing smile. "I added some ear flaps." She reached over and flicked the fuzzy ball on top of the hat. "And a pompom. That part's not to keep your ears warm - that's just for fun," she grinned.

"I see," he laughed. "Thank you." He jammed the hat on his head, and she laughed as the tips of his ears turned pink.

"You're welcome," she said, tying the hat on and giving him a brief hug before skipping up the stairs in search of Dorian.

*~*

Later that month, after delivering another installment of “smutty literature” to Cassandra, Ellie climbed the stairs next to the Seeker and made her way to the nearby balcony, looking forward to some solitary crochet time. Instead, she found Alistair, newly arrived from Crestwood, looking weary. “Inquisitor,” he greeted her. “Care to join me?” he asked, gesturing towards a small table laden with wine, bread, and a staggering amount of cheese.

“Of course,” she smiled, putting her satchel of yarn down next to a stack of copies of “Hard in Hightown”. As she did so, she noticed Alistair wince and rub his temples. “Headache?” she asked, going to sit next to him.

He shook his head. “The Calling,” he answered. “The quiet here makes it louder.”

Ellie cocked her head, thinking. “You said it was better when you’re talking, or concentrating on something, yes?” she asked. At his nod, she continued. “So why don’t we sit and enjoy some cheese, and you can tell me stories that are not Blight or Grey Warden related, and I can teach you how to crochet.”

Alistair gave her a skeptical look. “Crochet? With the little sticks and the yarn? I wouldn’t want to accidentally crush your things, Inquisitor.”

She smiled, and pulled out a thick hook, the width of her thumb. “Nonsense, they’re quite sturdy. You’ll be fine,” she assured him. “And please, Alistair, call me Ellie. All this “Inquisitor” talk makes me sound much more important than I am – they still send me into the wilderness for rocks and herbs every other day. I’ve been nearly trampled by a druffalo three times this week alone.”

He laughed. “As you wish, Ellie.” He reached for a knife and started carving thick slices of cheese as she poured the wine and broke the bread into large pieces.

Three hours later, the wine was gone, as was an alarming amount of the cheese, and Alistair was holding a new pair of socks. Not a pair of his own creation – his attempt were somewhat square-shaped, and oddly lumpy, and had been discarded in frustration an hour in. Instead, Alistair had talked about growing up as a templar recruit and his inability to ever find a clean pair of socks in his pack, all while eating most of the cheese, and Ellie had crocheted and told him about the dragon they’d faced the last time they were in the Hinterlands, and how the Iron Bull had been so excited afterward that he’d insisted they drag the dragon maw home to make a throne out of it. “Because everyone wants to sit in the mouth of a giant dead beast,” she’d joked. “I think instead I’ll gift it to Bull for Satinalia – I’ll have it installed in the Charger’s corner of the tavern.”

The sun was growing low, and Ellie still needed to meet with her advisors. “So, Varric mentioned that perhaps there might be a game of Wicked Grace tonight. Would you like to join us?” she asked.

“I would be delighted,” Alistair agreed, smiling.

“We should track down some coffee, then, after all that wine,” she said. “It’s never a good idea to show up for Wicked Grace already tipsy. People tend to lose their clothes that way.”

He snickered. “That sounds like a story I need to hear,” he said, gesturing towards the stairs. “After you, my lady.”

*~*

Wicked Grace had gone much like the first time. Cullen was still determined to “gain back his honor”, and once again went home with no clothes. Honestly, it was the best part of Ellie’s week. The man had shoulders that never quit. But she had noticed that he was constantly in his full armor. It couldn’t possibly be comfortable.

This morning, her head had ached enough that she’d sent her apologies to her advisors, cancelled their early morning meeting, then grabbed her yarn and hooks and headed down to the tiny library next to the kitchen for some quiet time.

She had propped the door with a book – it was a bit stuffy inside, but also, the door liked to glue itself shut from the inside. She had found that out the hard way their first week, when she had been shut inside for an hour before Cole found her and let her out.

So this morning, door propped, she collapsed into the soft chair next to the table, cleared off a few spider webs, and pulled out her yarn. She had some nice, warm druffalo yarn that she’d spun on their trip to Crestwood. It was the perfect color – brown with hints of red. She’d actually spun it because it reminded her of Cullen’s mantle – it would be just right to make him a nice, thick scarf.

She’d been working for several hours. She had finished the scarf, and nearly finished a second project for herself. She was just starting to think that maybe she should pop over to the kitchen for some cookies, when she heard the door creak open.

“Inquisitor? Ellie?” she heard.

Putting her project aside, she called out, “In here!” The door opened further, and she heard boots on the stairs. “Don’t let the door…”

And then she heard the door clang shut.

“…close.”

*~*

“What do you mean, the door jams? Why have we not fixed this?” Cullen asked a few minutes later, still pulling on the handle in the hopes that the eighth time was the charm.

Ellie rolled her eyes. “You mean, why haven’t we fixed the door to the library nobody uses before we fix the ceiling of our Commander's office? Or build a hospital, instead of leaving our injured on the ground inside the main gate? Yes, the semi-functioning library door is clearly our top priority.”

“My ceiling is fine,” Cullen grumbled. “Other things should come first.”

“Cullen,” Ellie chided. “Jim tells me that it rains and snows ON YOU when you sleep. That is ridiculous. We are moving your ceiling up the list, whether you like it or not. Or, you can move into a room with no holes.” She paused, and gave him a wicked grin. “If you can’t find one, you can move into my room – there is certainly room to house the whole Inquisition in there.”

“Into your roo…that's ridiculous! I couldn’t possibly!" he spluttered, face quite red, then sighed in defeat. "Fine. We can move it up the list.”

“Good!” Ellie replied, pleased. “Now that that’s settled, how are we going to get out of here?”

“We could beat on the wall to the kitchen – if we make enough noise, they may hear us.”

Ellie shook her head. “There’s nobody there – breakfast was over hours ago. I was about to sneak in for some cookies, because I knew it would be empty.” Her stomach chose that time to groan, reminding her again that she hadn’t eaten anything since yesterday afternoon’s cheese feast with Alistair.

Cullen reached into his pocket and pulled out a few cookies, handing them to her. “I noticed you weren’t at breakfast this morning – I thought once I found you, you might be hungry,” he explained, rubbing the back of his neck self-consciously.

She smiled at him, taking a bite. “Ooh, lemon! My favorite! Thank you!” she exclaimed, mouth still full of cookie. He laughed and brushed a few crumbs off his armor. Ellie blushed and swallowed quickly. “Oops,” she said. “Here, let me help you with that.” She swiped at his armor, getting most of the crumbs out of his fur mantle.

“What were you doing down here, anyway?” Cullen asked, changing the subject.

“Hiding from Orlesian nobles,” she answered honestly. “Also, crocheting. Actually, I made you something." Ellie reached behind her and picked up the scarf she'd finished earlier. "You don't need to wear armor all the time, surely," she teased, reaching up on tiptoe to wrap the soft scarf around his neck.

"You made something…for me?" he asked shyly, blushing furiously. She nodded, still holding on to the ends of the scarf, a pleased smile on her lips. "I…nobody's made me anything since I was a little boy. I will…treasure this. Thank you, Ellie."

"It was my pleasure," she replied, finally letting go and moving back.

"What else were you working on?" Cullen asked, stepping over to the table and picking up the other project.

"Oh! I made myself a hood," Ellie explained, taking it from him and pulling it over her head. She pushed the hood back and it settled around her neck like a cowl.

Cullen studied her for a moment. "That looks…a lot like my mantle," he observed, noticing her blush at his statement. "Ellie?"

She blushed harder. "I just - it always looks so soft, and I had some extra yarn, and it made me think of you, and…oh, shut up!" she laughed, pushing at his shoulder lightly as he approached her with a smirk.

"And do you often think of me while you're gone?" he asked, his voice growing deeper as he stepped closer, backing her against the bookshelves.

She nodded, swallowing hard. "Cullen, I…"

"Inquisitor! Are you in here? The Commander was looking for you!" The door flung open, Scout Jim stepping inside, eyes on the book he had picked up from the floor outside.

The two of them sprang apart, Ellie shifting nervously, Cullen looking irritated.

"Oh! Looks like he found you!" Jim said, completely oblivious to the tension in the room. "You should be careful with this door, though - it sticks," he commented. "I'll just prop it open with this book for you."

She laughed. "Yes, thank you, Jim. Was there anything else?" she asked, gathering her things.

"No, that was all. Just helping out the Commander," he replied. After one last glance at the Commander, who was still glaring at him, he turned and hurried out.

Ellie finished loading her yarn and hooks into her satchel, and started for the door, giving a startled squeak when Cullen grabbed her arm to stop her.

"We will finish this conversation, Ellie," he said, his voice now a low growl.

She smiled and raised her hood. "I look forward to it, Cullen," she murmured, then leaned forward, kissing his cheek. "Soon." With that, she walked out.

Cullen watched her go, nodding in agreement.

"Soon."