The net two days kept Leona busy with things she was not actually sure were her affair. She was quite certain Josephine did not need her opinion on which supply lines would be most efficient and lucrative, just as Leliana hardly required her input on new equipment for her scouts. Not only was Leona unqualified, the matters were positively trivial. Still, she found herself perusing so many different types of fletching she was sure she'd be dreaming about feathers for a week, and couldn't see straight enough to read one more calculated report by the second afternoon.
But, it did keep her from dwelling too long on the last conversation she'd had with Cullen. One that she could have written off as a dream if not for Cole's patient presence perched on the edge of her desk late that morning.
"You were very tired," he explained. "You wouldn't have heard if someone had come in."
Leona would have laughed if not for the fact that an assassin had made an attempt on her ambassador's life in the very keep.
Once reports were filed and fletching selected, the afternoon found her in the stables, clicking a greeting to the occupant of the last stall. "Uther." The creature's bones creaked as its hoofs tapped an excited rhythm, turning to face her. Leona ducked the blade as its head came into view. "That's my lovely." She gave the leathery snout of her undead mount a pat. Blue-grey hide tapered to a peaked mouth, skin stretched over bone, impaled on a rusted blade. "How would you like to head out to the Hinterlands tomorrow? Cassandra says you'll terrify the refugees, but if we skirt around… what do you say?" Uther whinnied, a dry rasp through a creaking esophagus, and tossed his head to her hand. Leona ducked the blade again. "With any luck, we'll terrify some Templars."
"It's an alarming beast, I'll give it that." Blackwall was leaning in the doorway.
She chuckled. "He's the best-tempered mount here!"
"Doesn't mean it's not horrifying."
"Oh, Blackwall doesn't mean it." The mage pressed her face to the side of Uther's neck, and he stayed patiently still, a soft nicker like sticks clacking together. The horse's skin was finest leather on her cheek, but it did smell like a marsh, no matter how many times she bathed and oiled him. "You're magnificent."
"I very much meant it." The warden smiled, shaking his head. "Couldn't pay me to ride the thing, but if you like it, more power to you—though I'm afraid it ruins your 'Herald of Andraste' image just a bit."
"Good." She grinned. "I ought to get a little back for that ridiculous title."
Blackwall nodded slowly, arms folded. "I'll admit, I'd rather you than me."
The mage's brows arched to her hairline. "Thanks for that."
He chuckled. "I wasn't here to contest you, though—just to let you know that Cassandra wanted to talk to you in the training yard for a moment."
Leona sighed. "Did she say why?"
"Nope, and I knew better than to ask."
"She probably wants somebody to hit."
He arched a brow and straightened in the doorway. "Does she do that often? I thought it was just me."
"Just when she gets tired of hitting a fixed target and wants to practice on a barrier."
Cassandra had no interest in a livelier target, as it turned out. She sheathed her sword as soon as Leona approached.
"Answer me honestly." The mage could not help but cringe a bit. She couldn't recall having done anything untoward recently.
The Seeker narrowed her eyes. "Have you been sleeping, Inquisitor?"
Sleeping? Sure, she'd made that midnight trip to the armory, but last night she had at least stayed in her quarters with a book and a bottle of the rum Varric had acquired from his pirate friend. "Some," Leona said slowly. "Why?"
"Because we can't put our fates in the hands of someone suffering sleeplessness. You'll start making mistakes."
"Ah, I see." A grin crept up across the mage's lips. "Wouldn't want anyone to catch on."
Cassandra frowned. "I'm sorry…?"
Leona winked. "You do care."
"Ugh." The Seeker shook her head. "Joke all you like, but this is a serious matter. Whatever you need to get you through the nights, I suggest you do it. I understand the nightmares are probably worse with that... thing, but please, go see Solas or have tea brought to your room, or something. Soon. Before tonight."
"And have you had this talk with the Commander?"
Cassandra furrowed her brow.
"I am aware of the Commander's nightmares, and he assured me he is working through them. Perhaps you'd like to talk to him, Trevelyan.
It was not a request.
"I'm not sure I'm better qualified, but—"
"But you will."
Leona could have sworn that was a smile sneaking up the corner of Cassandra's mouth, eyes glittering.
And then it was gone. "Before supper would probably be best, Inquisitor."
The mage tipped her hand from her head like a hat. "As you say, Seeker."
Leona hesitated before the door, sunlight glaring down on the top of her head, warming it down to her scalp. He may not wish to speak yet; she had no intention of discussing sleeplessness. That was bad enough. She should go. Selfish. The whole thing was just selfish.
She knocked, and strode into the office.
"…the report delivered, and we'll go from there—" Cullen's eyes flicked past the scout to her, outlined in the doorway. "—Inquisitor." He nodded, and she returned the gesture, lips curved in a smile. "You're dismissed," he told the young man. "Remember the report." The runner saluted, arm across his light breastplate, and closed the door Leona had left open to the bustle and breeze of the courtyard. It thudded against the frame, leaving Cullen and Leona staring across the entirely-too-small space. Ten paces. Too few. Too many.
"You are well, I trust, Lady Trevelyan?" He greeted her with a small smile. A good sign, she supposed. The formality didn't necessarily signal trouble.
"Do you have some time?" She returned the smile twofold. Easy. Open.
"I can certainly make some. Walk with me?"
Anywhere. No—thoughts like that weren't helping at all. "Of course."
He gestured toward the door to the ramparts and opened it for her. Leona strode through, Cullen close on her heels, and they settled into a comfortable pace, crisp breeze ruffling his furs and her robes. Voices burbled from below, echoing over stone and whispering on the wind. The commander's hand found its way to his neck, rubbing absently. "It isn't terribly cold for the season," he observed.
Leona arched an eyebrow. "It's all right, Cullen—I can safely say I didn't come up here to talk about the weather."
"Ah." She could almost hear the unspoken I was afraid of that. "Of course."
"I think you know why I came up."
He dropped his arm. Stopped in the middle of the rampart, gazed over the battlements. "I do." He sighed. He met her eyes, strong this time, gentle, unfaltering. "What would you have of me?"
Everything. Leona tilted her head. His eyes were honeyed in the sunlight, the creases in his brow shadowed, too deep for a young man. Too much for such a short lifetime. "How do you feel, Cullen?"
"More deeply than I thought I could."
"For a mage?"
"For anyone, after… everything." His hand found hers. "But yes: for a mage. I… after the other night… I understand if you'd rather—"
"No." He blinked, but the corner of his mouth sneaked up.
"I still love the man you are, whatever man you've been."
Hazel eyes softened, the lines eased, all but smoothed from his visage, angular cheeks and scarred mouth, curls stirring in the breeze off the mountains. "Love?"
It was finally Leona's turn for cheeks to heat, a red blush creeping up from her neck to her ears. "Well—I've only been trying to get your attention since—"
He was suddenly right there, head bowed, nose just a breath from hers, their fingers lacing together, leather and plate, battlements at her back and surely she was still asleep-? "Somehow I have a feeling that development is a recent one, nonetheless." His fingers tightened around hers. "One I'm not unhappy about, I'll admit. I do—I want to try—" The tip of his nose slid along hers, and she could feel his breath on her lips. She shivered.
Awake, after all.
Oh. Leona wasn't sure she'd ever heard that tone outside battle before. He was looming over the recruit so fast she wasn't sure she'd seen him move.
"I have the new reports, ser—" The poor boy hadn't seen yet, eyes on the bundle in his hands.
"What do you want?" That was through gritted teeth, and Leona desperately wished she could see his face, but the line of his shoulders told her enough…
"Ser, you asked for the reports right aw—"And then the runner looked up from his bundle. The color drained from his face. Confusion. He looked to the Commander. He looked to her, and Leona did her best to appear nonchalant.
The poor boy caught on anyway. He put one foot behind him. "—iiiin your office. Reports. In your office." His other foot followed. Again. Again, toward the tower door. "Right away. I'll…" And then he was running and ducking like a hunted fennec. The heavy oak slammed behind him.
Cullen's back was perfectly straight, a tense line against the stone. She suppressed a sigh. Close, so close. She could be satisfied with that. "If now is a bad time I can—"
Lips. Lips on hers, chapped, scarred, gentle, insistent, perfect. Stone at her back, plate armor pressing and pinching against her hips, leather-clad fingers pressing, grasping at robes and her fingers tangled in the fur of his mantle, soles arching up to press her mouth more soundly on his, her tongue tasted the seam and he gasped, he found her tongue, clumsy, tasting of metal and tea and his skin smelled of leather; he tasted of the end of a storm, when the breeze blew cool and damp, lighting yet flashing, far in the distance over the hills, like a song as the fire crackles and sizzles and the last drops of rain are wrung from the sky and patter on canvas and canopy.
His mouth left hers with a gasp, but his hands held her as though they were content to never let her down from this battlement until the walls and the mountain crumbled around them. Leona found she could get used to that notion.
The sheepish smile on his lips told her he could grow accustomed, too. "That was… very nice. I'm sorry, I—"
"Don't be sorry. Please." Her long fingers, twisted in the fur at his shoulders, curled into fists.
Cullen's hands lightly, unconsciously, traced her sides, smoothing out the folds in her robe, tucked around her belt. "Then I won't." His brows arched, as though the truth of the words came as a surprise. A touch of wonder colored his tone as he repeated: "I'm not."
She laughed, loud and straight from the soul. "Good."
He chuckled, low and sweet. "I can't say I haven't thought about how this would go," he admitted.
"And I can say this was brilliant." Leona tilted her head, eyes crinkled with mirth. "But—"
Cullen arched his brows, a smile playing on his lips. "But?"
She grinned. "I might need another kiss to be sure."
A flush crept into his cheeks, and it warmed her down to her boots.
"As my lady wishes."
"About fucking time." Blackwall folded his arms and settled against the sapling, but a stone's throw from the well. He had quite the lovely view of the Inquisitor and her Commander entwined against the crystalline horizon.
"I'll say." Varric grinned. "I've gotta hand it to you, Cassandra—how you called it, I don't know, but I'll be damned if you didn't get it spot on."
The woman in question shrugged. "I have my ways." She was smiling, but it was clear she would say no more. "Maybe they'll be less distracted now that they don't have to dance around each other from now on."
The dwarf snorted. "Are you sure you read the romance serial? By all accounts, this should make them more distracted."
Cassandra gave a resolute nod. "They'll be happier."
"And they should sleep better."
The writer and the warrior glanced sidelong at the warden, but it did nothing to wipe away his cheeky grin. "In the words of that Fereldan poet our dear Inquisitor likes so much:
What is love? 'tis not hereafter;
Present mirth hath present laughter;
What's to come is still unsure;
In delay there lies no plenty;
Then come kiss me, sweet and twenty,
Youth's a stuff will not endure."