Chapter 1: Before
"You know that's not your heart right?"
Cassandra looked down at the flower pinned wonkily to the top of her leather sleeve. "It was as close as I could get," she said, self consciously.
"Ah yes, the breastplate," said Iron Bull, cheerfully emphasising the word breast. "Never bother with those myself. Not that I'd want to pin a flower to my skin either... Josephine should have gotten you a paper flower. Then you could have stuck it on there with glue!"
"Too subtle," said Sera. "Should be a big label. Property of Josephine Mon teedle yay the fourth. Or whatever her name is."
"I am trying to train," said Cassandra, through gritted teeth. Knowing that Sera and Iron Bull both knew the courtship was false did not make this conversation the slightest bit less embarrassing.
"Don't let us stop you." Sera turned back to Iron Bull. "So. I'm thinking...a brass band. To follow Cassandra around playing love songs. Super romantic, right?"
"Sounds good to me! But we qunari never bother with all this courtship nonsense, so what would I know."
Sera gasped. "You don't? But then...what do you do with all your brass bands?"
"So I hear that I have you to blame for this foolishness," said Cassandra.
"I am trying to save your life," said Leliana, "You could stand to be a little more grateful. There is too much danger in assassinating Lord Elias directly, the repercussions were it linked back to the Inquisition would be dire. And this way is more fun." She gave a sharp smile.
"For you, perhaps."
"There are worse fates than being given flowers by a pretty girl, Cassandra. It is Josephine I feel sorry for. Forced to pretend to be in love, and with you. What will people think of her tastes?"
"Ha," said Cassandra, without humour. She was sure there had been a time when Leliana's friendly teasing had seemed a little more...friendly. "But you two are close...does it not worry you what this will do to Josephine's reputation? Asides from implying that she has poor taste in women."
"Her reputation? For what, having a discreet affair? Being romantic? There is no shame in such things."
"I suppose not." She should not have expected an Orlesian to understand.
"But...you are right," said Leliana, "I am very protective of Josie. She is a good friend, and I have known her since she was very young. If she was to take a lover...I would want them to be someone I trusted, who I knew would not take advantage of her or break her heart." She gave Cassandra a significant look. "The criteria for a false lover are similar. "
"Leliana...of course I would never...even if I was attracted to her, which I am not, the very idea..."
"I know," said Leliana with a smile. "I did say I trusted you."
"I...suppose you did," said Cassandra. "Thank you."
"But do be careful. She has an affectionate heart, and you are not entirely unattractive, in the right light."
Cassandra snorted in disbelief. Not that she considered herself ugly, by any means, but she doubted anyone in Josephine's position would find Cassandra's awkward flailing attractive, unless they had very poor taste in women indeed.
"I promise to do my best not to be too charming," said Cassandra.
Leliana gave her an affectionate pat on the hand. "That is all I ask."
Chapter 2: After
"Under the breastplate, huh? That'll work."
Cassandra jumped. "How did you..."
"I am a spy, you know. And you keep touching yourself there and looking wistful. I guess you could just be thinking wow I sure do have a nice breastplate but...I'm thinking flower."
"Note actually," said Cassandra. It had come in a sealed envelope this morning, and was far from the most flowery or articulate of the many Josephine had sent. But it was Cassandra's favourite, and she had wanted to keep it near her.
"So the guy's dead and you're still sending notes..." He grinned. "Nice."
Cassandra felt herself smiling goofily despite herself. "Yes," she said. "It is."
"So," said Leliana. Cassandra had known her long enough to recognise how much anger was hidden in that one word.
"I take it you've heard," said Cassandra. She thought about telling Leliana that it was none of her business, but after the Conclave...she understood why Leliana might feel protective towards one of her few remaining friends.
"Yes," said Leliana. "Josie told me that you are...in love with her? Or possibly not in love with her at all? Apparently you cannot decide. Which seems...unfortunate." She enunciated each word with icy precision.
"Is she...did she seem upset?"
Leliana just glowered at her. "I distinctly remember having a conversation where I said I trusted you not to break her heart. Was I wrong?"
Cassandra gave a sad sigh. "I wish I could tell you," she said. "I wish I....I did not mean for this to happen! But...I care for Josephine, deeply. I cannot say yet if we can be together...in reality, instead of just pretend. But am willing to try. And even if in the end we must part, I will always..." The idea was so sad Cassandra could not continue. What would it do to Josephine if Cassandra could not love her in the end? What would it do to Cassandra?
"Do you love her?" Leliana stepped closer to Cassandra, her eyes a challenge.
Cassandra did not flinch. "Yes. At least...I think so."
"You think so? That is....Ugh!" Leliana threw her hands in the air and turned to walk a few steps away. "This is all my fault. You were right, a pretend relationship was a terrible idea. And I should have realised sooner that Josephine's feelings had become sincere. Let alone yours. You were never that convincing an actor."
"It...It wasn't such a terrible idea," said Cassandra. "We did successfully defeat Elias, without scandal or unnecessary bloodshed. And..." She resisted the urge to hide her face in her hands. If there was one person she did not feel like discussing her love life with..."I cannot entirely regret...that Josephine and I have the chance....the chance at love, now. Even if it may fail."
Leliana looked at her with calculating eyes. "I see," she said. "So what happens now?"
"I know you are protective of Josephine," said Cassandra. "But I have told her how I feel, as much as I understand it myself. And she has told me how she feels. How we proceed from there...is between her and I."
"Of course," said Leliana, as if the last few minutes of shouting had never happened. "I wish you both the best of luck. And you are...a good woman, Cassandra. You deserve to be happy. If you cannot find that happiness with Josephine...I will understand that you did your best."
"Thank you," said Cassandra.
"And to answer your question..." Leliana smiled. "Josephine was not very upset. One might even describe her as cautiously optimistic."
Cassandra sighed in relief and Leliana laughed. "Oh, you are adorable. Go on then. But I will be watching you!"
"Tell me I can write a book about this."
"Come on. It was great enough when it was just the Seeker pretending to be in love with the Ambassador. But then you went and actually fell in love? That's hilarious!"
Cassandra's expression made Varric take a step back.
"Did I say hilarious? I meant...heartwarming! Inspiring!"
"Go away, Varric."
As she walked away she could her him shouting "I'll give you ten percent!"