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It’s late in the night and they drink in the rookery, where ravens sleep in the rafters and cages, and scouts and agents sprawl across barrels and on the floor, dozing or talking quietly. The two of them sit at Leliana’s table – a hasty construction of rough pine planks – and work their way through a bottle of wine with questionable origins. “If this is Antivan then I will eat my boot,” Cassandra declares, and Leliana’s laugh is quiet and amused.

“Come,” the spymaster says, when the bottle is empty and so are their goblets, “let us go outside.”

Outside, a cold northern wind stirs through their hair and clothing. They lean against the stone balcony and look out upon the sleeping fortress. Cassandra’s shoulder brushes against Leliana’s, and for a moment she wonders if she should move away, but then Leliana is leaning against her with a quiet sigh, and so Cassandra stays where she is.

“We have come far,” the spymaster notes eventually.

The wind picks up again, raising goose bumps on the bare skin of Cassandra’s forearms. She shivers a little, and Leliana presses closer – Cassandra circles her arm around the spymaster’s waist in response to this, an almost instinctive movement. Yet there is also a part of her that consciously wants to do such a thing... and now she is.

“We have come far indeed,” Cassandra murmurs, and she means it in more ways than one.

Leliana turns a little, and their faces are suddenly close – close enough that Cassandra can feel the warm caress of Leliana’s breath upon her cheek, close enough that she could turn her head and catch Leliana’s lips with her own—

—and she does, softly, hesitantly. It is completely unlike the kisses in the tales of romance she reads, where first kisses are passionate and demanding. No, this is delicate and careful, a mere brush of the lips yet so much more. Cassandra's heart is beating loud in her chest; her palms are slightly clammy and she hopes that Leliana will not pull away.

Leliana does not draw back. She caresses Cassandra’s cheek, a feather-light touch, and sighs sweetly against Cassandra’s lips. They kiss again, Cassandra’s hands light upon the spymaster’s hips, then pressing firmer. Leliana's lips slant against hers and the kiss deepens: she can taste Leliana's mouth now, wine and heat and it is dizzying, like taking a breathe of fresh air when your lungs have been starved of it.

“I need you to promise me something,” Leliana whispers when they finally draw apart. There is a hint of vulnerability in those sky-blue eyes. “Every time you ride through Skyhold’s gate… I worry. Just… just come back to me, please.”

I can't lose you too. These are the words that are unspoken, the words that Cassandra knows all the same.

“I will always return to your side,” Cassandra promises. She captures the hand that rests upon her cheek, and turns it so she may press her lips to Leliana’s knuckles. “Always.”

"Good." A slow, sweet smile. Then their lips are meeting again, and the air does not feel so cold now.

Not when they are together.