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by sun and candle-light

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It is dawn and they assemble in the lower courtyard, almost ready to leave Skyhold’s walls for the Emerald Graves. Varric is tired. The Iron Bull offers him a cup of freshly brewed coffee. Dorian stumbles past, running a hand through his hair and muttering something about hating the sunrise. Vivienne is fastening her saddlebags to the saddle of her mare. Herah is talking to Josephine several yards away, Josephine’s arms around the Inquisitor’s neck. Every few moments they pause to share a kiss, and the Iron Bull whistles at them. Herah gestures rudely in his general direction. Josephine giggles.

Leliana approaches Cassandra, a whetstone held in one hand. “For you,” she tells Cassandra, placing the whetstone in the Seeker’s saddlebags. “I knew you needed a new one, but you forgot, as usual.”

Cassandra finds herself smiling. “And you remembered,” she points out. You would, of course.

The spymaster gives a quiet laugh. “I always do,” she says. “Do you have everything?”

“I do now.”

Leliana nods, patting the neck of Cassandra’s stallion. Then she says, “Be careful, please.”

These are old words, words often repeated. This tradition of theirs first began during their time as Justinia’s Hands and they have kept it, for it is theirs and they find comfort in the words.

“I will,” Cassandra promises.

“Watch your neck.”

“Don’t wait up.”

“How tired I would be,” Leliana teases quietly, her shoulder brushing against one of Cassandra’s pauldrons, “given that you will be a week’s ride away.”

“Very funny.” Cassandra bumps her elbow against Leliana’s. “Make sure Sera doesn’t cause too much trouble. I understand she is quite annoyed that Herah is not bringing her to the Emerald Graves.”

“Annoyed is putting it lightly. I have a few jobs she can do, anyway.”

“Good.”

Josephine and Herah finally part, the Inquisitor reluctantly announcing that they should set forth. “Be safe,” Leliana murmurs, her hand reaching out to close around Cassandra’s gauntlet. “Write to me.”

“You’ll regret saying that,” Cassandra tells the spymaster, who gives another little laugh. Cassandra gathers the reins of her stallion, swinging up into the saddle easily. “I will see you when I get back.”

“You will. Fight well.”

Cassandra raises an eyebrow. “I always do, don’t I?”

“Debatable. I did win our last three sparring matches.”

“Well, that is true – but I will win our next match.”

“Of course you will,” Leliana murmurs, a hint of teasing in her tones. The Seeker rolls her eyes.

Herah calls for them to assemble. “Goodbye,” Cassandra says. “Don’t stay up all night. Have one of your spies bring you tea if you do end up working late.”

“They don’t make it as well as you do.” The spymaster’s hand lingers on Cassandra’s leg. “Goodbye,” she says, before dropping her hand and moving away. But her eyes remain locked with Cassandra’s.

The riders form up, then they ride out of Skyhold’s gate and onto the great bridge. Dorian yawns into his scarf and shades his eyes against the brilliance of the dawning sun. Vivienne and Varric strike up a conversation about some scandal in Val Royeaux. The Bull drinks the last of his coffee, then shoves the wooden cup into one of his saddlebags. Cassandra rides alongside Herah, who twists around and blows a kiss at Josephine.

Cassandra turns in the saddle, wondering if Leliana still stands in the lower courtyard. And she is, a figure clad in dark colours next to Josephine’s vivid blue-and-gold. Cassandra’s lips twitch and she raises a hand, not quite a wave, not quite a salute.

Leliana raises her hand in return. Write to me, she had said.

I will, Cassandra thinks. I will write. And I will tell you how I feel. If…if I can.

“You’re blushing,” Herah notes abruptly, now looking at Cassandra.

Cassandra frowns. “I am not,” she tells the Inquisitor.

“And now you are scowling. Honestly, though, there is only one person who can make you smile like that.” Herah gives her a knowing grin. “Leliana.”

.

A week and a half later, two letters arrive with Herah’s report. Leliana’s name is written on the front of one letter in a familiar hand.

Cassandra’s.

She reads the report first. There is nothing within that requires any sort of urgent action: Herah says they are progressing well in the Graves, and everything is going to plan. There other letter is also private, from Herah for Josephine, so Leliana sends a runner to inform the ambassador of this. Then, she turns her attention to her own private letter – the one from Cassandra.

Leliana,

I have never been good with my words. You know this quite well, I am sure, having been forced to suffer through the reading of my reports over the years. This letter is not a report, though.

This letter is personal.

I can hardly do the Emerald Graves justice with my description, but the forest is beautiful.  I wish you were here to see it. When we make camp for the night, Varric tells his stories and the Iron Bull drinks all our wine. Dorian and Vivienne pour over the artefacts and tomes we have taken from the Venatori and the Red Templars. Herah mopes and thinks of Josephine.

And I think of you.

I miss you. I miss your smile and your laughter. I miss the way you brush your shoulder against mine when I scowl too much. I miss training with you. I miss bringing you cups of tea when you stay up too late. I long to see you again, and I find myself eager to return to Skyhold.

I find myself eager to be in your company once more.

I miss you, Leliana. I miss you more than words can say.

Yours faithfully,

Cassandra.

.

Josephine, of course, takes one look at Leliana and realises that something has happened. “Is everything alright? You seem very thoughtful, but not angry. Relieved? Who is the letter from?”

“Cassandra,” Leliana murmurs, her eyes returning to the letter. “She sent me this. Here, read it.”

Josephine reads the letter quickly, her eyes lighting up. “She wrote that?” Josephine is delighted, seizing Leliana’s hands and squeezing them. “Oh, how romantic! You return her affections, of course—”

“Of course,” Leliana says. Then, her fingers tightening around Josephine’s, she breathes, “I do. I return her affections. Josephine, I do.”

“It is about time you admitted it, you know. Between all those teasing smirks and longing glances – well. Oh, Leliana! Are you going to tell her how you feel?”

“Yes,” Leliana says, her lips curving up as she speaks. “Yes. I am.”

.

The Inquisitor and her companions return at night. Leliana and Josephine walk down to the lower courtyard together – well, Leliana walks and Josephine almost skips, her eyes bright and hands clasped together. “Please don’t fall down the stairs,” Leliana warns, taking one of Josephine’s arms. “You don’t want to celebrate Herah’s return in the infirmary with a cracked skull.”

“Oh, quiet. I will not fall.” They descend the stairs. Herah spots them and calls out in delight, striding across the courtyard to meet them. Josephine laughs and throws herself into Herah’s arms, burying her face in the Inquisitor’s neck. Leliana murmurs a greeting and continues on.

The Iron Bull has a new scar. Varric has a bruise fading on his cheek. Dorian and Vivienne head up the stairs to the upper courtyard, carrying their saddlebags over their shoulders and discussing magical theories.

“Spymaster,” Vivienne says, pausing midstep, “I received the most delightful letter from an acquaintance in Val Royeaux. It is filled with rumours and scandalous facts. You must read it, for this information will surely be useful.”

“It always is,” Leliana answers. Vivienne smiles and moves on, conjuring a small fireball and flinging it at Dorian’s heels when he tells her to hurry up.

Leliana turns back around, eyes searching.  Then Cassandra is there, moving away from her horse and across the courtyard towards Leliana. “You got the letter?” she asks, softly, hesitantly. “I thought it might be better to write, at first…I find that when I try to speak of such personal things I do not say what I want to say, and I make a mess of the entire thing.” A breath. “So I wrote. Did you…?”

“I think of you too,” Leliana says, stepping closer. “And I miss you when you are gone. I miss you so much. When I see you riding through Skyhold’s gate, Cassandra, I am so glad to see you return, safe and whole.” Cassandra’s face softens. Leliana places her hands upon the Seeker’s pauldrons. “I have never told you,” she admits, “but when we train in the upper courtyard and the sun hits you – I just want to stop and stare at you forever. And at night, when you read your books in the rookery, the candle-light casts the softest glow upon your face, and I am entranced.”

The hesitance disappears. In its place is a certain gladness. “Is that why you stare?” Cassandra asks.

Leliana’s lips twitch. “It is. Did you think you had something on your face?”

“Tease,” Cassandra says affectionately. “I do like it when you tease me, Leliana – when we first met, I did not, but now? I like it.”

“I should do it more often, then.”

Cassandra smiles. Leliana finds herself reaching out, her thumb brushing away a spot of soot.

“Welcome home,” the spymaster whispers, her lips curving into a smile.

Cassandra covers Leliana’s hand with her own. “It is good to be back,” she says.

.

Later, when the candle on Leliana’s desk burns low and the ravens sleep, Cassandra enters the rookery quietly with a cup of tea in each hand. “Here,” she murmurs, placing one cup before Leliana. “Two sugars, no cream.”

“Thank you,” Leliana says, sitting back and running a hand through her hair. “I just finished going over these reports. What time is it?”

“Late. You should probably sleep.”

“Probably,” Leliana admits. “But…”

“But?”

She stands, gently taking Cassandra’s cup and also placing that upon her desk. “I wanted to say welcome home,” Leliana says softly. “Properly, this time.”

She reaches out, fingers curling around the high collar of Cassandra’s leather jerkin. Cassandra moves closer, her arms circling the spymaster’s waist. The Seeker is warm, and her grey eyes soften as she gazes at Leliana, who closes the distance between them and brushes their lips together.

It is soft, at first – and then Cassandra tightens her grip and deepens the kiss after a moment, her lips slanting over Leliana’s, the sudden change almost robbing the spymaster of her breath. So she tugs at Cassandra’s collar and tilts her head, sliding her tongue alongside Cassandra’s, relishing in the wordless plea that the Seeker releases. More. Cassandra gasps. Leliana runs her tongue along Cassandra’s lower lip, takes it between her teeth, tugging it for a moment before releasing it.  

Then Leliana draws back, hands moving up to Cassandra’s jaw, thumbs brushing over the Seeker’s skin.

“That was quite the welcome,” Cassandra says, breathless and pleased. “Maker, I can’t think straight.”

Leliana just laughs and pulls her in for another kiss.

The candle-flame flickers. The ravens sleep.

And they are together.