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the voice of your eyes

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Cassandra, stretched out naked in bed, is a sight to behold--especially now, drowsy and relaxed. Cassandra looks completely relaxed so very seldom that Josephine cannot help but preen, just a little and within the privacy of her own head, at having accomplished it.

(Being Josephine, she also cannot help but think how to improve the picture. There is no improving on Cassandra, of course, but if the blanket draped up over her shoulder was deep red it would better complement her coloring. Or furs; Cassandra drowsing beneath a blanket of thick fur would be a work of art--and entirely justifiable, practically speaking, in a place as cold as Skyhold.)

Cassandra lifts her head a little and cocks an eyebrow, making it clear that Josephine's attention has not gone unnoticed. Josephine doesn't try to pretend she wasn't looking (why should she? she alone of everyone is permitted to look, and that is a privilege not to be ashamed of), but rolls over to settle her chin in one hand and says, "Hold still a moment, I want to look at your eyes."

It is a testament to her faith in Josephine that Cassandra holds still for an entire three seconds before blinking and sighing, covering what Josephine knows to be embarrassment with a veneer of annoyance. "What for?"

"I want to see what color they are." This is not a lie. She has been trying to figure it out for weeks now. "When I first met you, I thought they were brown. But when I saw you training, mornings in the yard, they looked golden. And yesterday when the Herald was passing judgment in the hall I would have sworn they were red."

"You were watching so closely?" There's genuine surprise in Cassandra's tone.

"Of course," Josephine says, and adds with a note of mischief, "I do enjoy watching you, that should not shock you by now."

Cassandra rolls her eyes, but she does hold still. (Josephine is... perhaps the best word is 'unnerved,' by how indifferent Cassandra seems to be to her own beauty--indifferent, or possibly outright unaware, although it's hard to see how that could be possible: the woman must have seen herself in a mirror at least once.)

"Topaz," she says after a moment. "No, amber. Deep amber as you find along the Nevarran coast of the Waking Sea. I suppose that's appropriate." The look Cassandra is giving her is deeply skeptical. "Or honey, that very dark expensive honey they import from Rivain." Now both of Cassandra's eyebrows are up, that arch are-you-kidding-me expression she does so well. "Lion's eyes, I think. Not that I've ever seen a lion's eyes, I mean, I'm guessing. Or griffon's eyes."

"Griffons," Cassandra says, "are extinct."

"I'm aware of that." Josephine tents her chin in her fingers and keeps looking. They really are very beautiful eyes, that elusive in-between color that they are, and Cassandra's eyelashes are long and very black even without the aid of makeup. Women in the Antivan court spend hours with paint to achieve something far less lovely than what Cassandra manages with no more complex toilette than soap and water. Josephine is very lucky indeed. "What color would you say they are?"

"I wouldn't."

Josephine smiles, and Cassandra smiles back with a reflexive happiness that sends warmth spiraling up from Josephine's belly to her heart. The thing it has taken her a long time to learn about Cassandra is that quite often her impatience and sarcasm are a thin layer, fragile as the skin of ice over a lake--and the emotions they conceal are as drowningly deep as that lake. "Humor me," Josephine says.

"All right. Hazel, I suppose. I had never really thought about it."

"Mm." Josephine settles down, cheek against the pillow. "Thank you for indulging me. Having very ordinary eyes myself, I fear I must live vicariously through you."

Cassandra's eyebrows draw together. "You have lovely eyes," she says.

"Thank you, but I'm well aware of what my best features are and are not, and my eyes are simply and uninterestingly brown. The fashion in Antiva is for green eyes, that or very black without a hint of lighter color."

Cassandra makes a noise that, succinctly and with one nonverbal syllable, dismisses the entire concept of fashion and possibly also of Antiva. She rolls onto her back, looking up at the ceiling, and Josephine settles deeper under the blanket, ready for sleep.

But then Cassandra rolls over again, flipping their positions so that she's the one bending over Josephine now. (In this position it is impossible not to remember how strong Cassandra is--the sculpted power of her arm holding her up and the tight line of muscle down her abdomen are clearly and wonderfully visible. Josephine has no fear whatever that Cassandra would ever hurt her, even accidentally, but she cannot but admit that it is thrilling to see the strength her lover has at her casual command.)

Cassandra's voice, when she speaks, is low and melodious, and it takes Josephine a moment to realize that she's reciting. "In the deep glens of her eyes, like forests wild and distant, she keeps her secrets and carries lightly the beauty of her heart," she says.

Josephine realizes that her mouth has gone dry. She has to wet her lips to say, "Is that poetry?"

"Verienne D'Soirette of Orlais," Cassandra says. "In translation. I am better with the words of others than with my own." And then, more softly, "But even poetry cannot do you justice entirely, Josephine."

"Oh," Josephine says in a small voice. This she has not yet gotten used to, that Cassandra will rebuff flirtation and dismiss teasing and act the pragmatist and then come up suddenly out of nowhere with something like that. But then, it is not in Cassandra's nature to do anything in half-measures. Whatever she does she does with her whole heart. "Thank you. It's beautiful."

Cassandra says nothing, but with her free hand touches Josephine's cheek lightly and then kisses her. The kiss is softer than most people would ever guess from Cassandra, the woman who walks through fire and fights dragons on foot. Those who do know of her softer side debate endlessly which is the 'real' Cassandra: the woman who barks orders and hacks training dummies to pieces and is so resolute she seems to be made of stone, or the woman who reads soppy romances and memorizes poetry and likes rose petals in her bath.

Josephine is fairly sure that she knows the truth: Cassandra is both. There is no contradiction, and therein lies the secret. But she keeps it to herself. Some things, as Cassandra would surely say, are more powerful when left unsaid. So she slips her fingers into Cassandra’s short silky hair and kisses her back, reveling in the fact that she need not, after all, choose between strength and softness.