Seeing Nehna lying next to her the following morning made Sera lurch slightly when she realised it wasn't a dream. It was real, and all this was real too. She had a lover, a woman who really loved her; Nehna wasn't in it for just sex - she'd made that clear enough, seeing how it had taken them a while to actually get there - and it certainly wasn't for money. Sera snorted at that; the Inquisitor, who had some of the richest coffers and supporters in southern Thedas, being in anything for the money was stupid enough, but she wondered if Nehna was even familiar with the concept. She wasn't sure just how sheltered the Dalish were from the politics and intrigues that spiderwebbed through Thedas's landscape, but she couldn't imagine Nehna being that kind of woman. That sort of shrewd selfishness was more for the likes of Vivienne, she reckoned.
Still, watching her lover sleep soundly was quite sweet. Nehna's hair billowed out from underneath her like a little cloud, the consequence of tossing from side to side and constantly shaking it out of the way, and Sera had the strong, irresistible urge to stroke it, to wind her fingers through the inky tendrils and smooth it out of the way.
As she was gently doing so, Nehna murmured something and turned to her side, rendering Sera's efforts moot as her hair moved with her. Still, she could only laugh - very quietly, of course - and watch her with a mixture of affection and amusement. She didn't think the Inquisitor, the Herald of Andraste in all her shining glory, had ever been watched this intimately before, and that only amused her further.
Eventually her elbows started creaking as she tried to move, her whole body stiff and aching, and Sera swore to herself as she tried to slide closer to Nehna and wrap her arms around the other woman. She could practically feel the heat radiating off her; was that a mage thing, or a blankets thing? Both is alright, I guess, she thought to herself, then stopped.
This growing complacency with Nehna's magic was... new. It wasn't weird anymore, not exactly - it was more of a 'still getting used to it' scenario, except she'd found herself actually getting used to it for quite some time now. It no longer made her hair stand on end when Nehna lit fires with a flick of her wrist, or the way that little wisps sometimes followed her around playfully until she distracted them with sparks, or half the other magic things she did. It wasn't scary anymore. Of course, the random apostates they sometimes still found lurking in wait were still scary, but that was different. They were dangerous, whereas Nehna was...
Well, she is dangerous, just to the right people, she reminded herself. Nehna was skilled with combat magic, no matter how much she liked to modestly say otherwise, and the conflicts happening around them all the time had only brought that into sharper focus and honed them even further. Her lover could really hold her own, she reckoned, and when Sera was shooting arrows and Nehna was busy exploding things and their hits combined.... Wow. Sometimes she even enchanted Sera's arrows midair to burst into flames that crackled across their enemies better than any of her Tempest potions could, and that was pretty awesome to watch, too.
She's one of the good ones. That wasn't doing her enough credit, though. Sera screwed up her face, trying to think of the strongest compliment she could give her lover, when suddenly Nehna was wide awake and looking at her, utterly amused.
"Try not to think too hard, love," she said, a grin cracking across her face. "I don't want you to get wrinkles too early."
"Haha, so you're the funny one, now?" Sera grinned back, seeing her lover snort in reply. "Good morning, Nehna," she whispered, suddenly overcome by emotion.
"Good morning, Sera," Nehna smiled, pulling her down with a giggle as their mouths clashed together a little, angling herself so she could kiss back properly. Her lover hummed appreciatively, but as they pulled apart she noticed Sera's cheeks were wet. "What's wrong?" She was alarmed at how suddenly the mood had changed, but Sera shook her head with a sad smile and rubbed her tears away with the back of her hand, hiccupping a little as she looked down at her with such an adoring expression it made Nehna's heart melt.
"You're not just one of the good ones," she murmured, caressing Nehna's cheek so softly she may as well have been silk. "You're the best. Too bloody good."
"Too good?" Sera said that often, and it always made her a little anxious. Still, she tried lighting the mood anyway. "Well, that's only because you make me that way. I've got all your goodness in me, too."
Her lover's face crinkled up, and for a second Nehna was afraid more tears might come. Then Sera grinned at her. "There's my honey tongue. All those words: you trying to make me melt or something?"
"Perhaps." They both giggled and the brief sadness passed as quickly as it had come. "You know, you could wake up here more often, too." Her tone was inviting and suggestive all at once, but Sera merely laughed.
"What? Me? All of Skyhold would talk about it." Her jaw jutted out stubbornly. "Still, they can't stop me. I'll come when I can." Sera giggled. "Oh, that wasn't even intended, but I'm not taking it back, oh no."
Nehna shook her head in amusement. "So, are we going to actually wake up now the sun's up and shining, or..."
Sera kissed her cheek. "We could," she admitted. "Or we could go sideways for a bit longer and then get up."
"You assume there'll only be one round, then?"
"Oh Maker, I've found a diamond here! Hush, you. Don't give me ideas."
Thoroughly sated and then thoroughly washed afterwards, Sera and Nehna were ready to meet the day. Nehna had applied a light scattering of makeup to her face while Sera opted to go with none at all, but both dressed simply - Sera just wore what she had from yesterday ('s not like it will kill me just a day longer, is it?'), while Nehna picked out a cotton blouse and red leggings with black boots that Sera eagerly laced up, pressing kisses to her knees and ankles every so often.
Nehna lifted her hands up above her head and yawned, smiling appreciatively. "It's not often I get a chance to just relax. There's always a meeting here, a mission there, and then all the endless letters." Clicking her tongue, she turned to face Sera and wiped all thoughts of work from her mind. "But I'm going to enjoy this day while I can for once. The weather's nice, too."
"And the company?" her lover offered hopefully, to which Nehna just chuckled and squeezed her hand.
"That's the cherry on the cake, Sera." I don't think I'll ever get tired of her saying my name like that. Never.
Walking through the courtyards hand in hand, they were met with respectful nods and salutes, but nobody came to bother her. Josephine had decreed that she could have this day off, at least, in light of all the pressures she'd faced recently, although the other woman had warned that these kind of one day breaks wouldn't be frequent, either.
Still, the temporary nature of it all didn't faze her. Nehna was so happy and calm that she could have sworn there were lutes being plucked each step she took; she felt as light as a breeze with Sera by her side, just taking in the scenery and ambience that normally she was denied the chance to.
Eventually they ended up in the tavern on the balcony by Sera's little room, kicking their feet off the side of the roof and smiling at one another. Sera rested her head in Nehna's shoulder and placed a hand on her thigh, but other than that the two women were content to just be still and quiet together, simply enjoying the moment.
It was rare, Sera noted, that she herself was this quiet either. She was always doing something: the brief, meagre attempts at what passed for 'work', yes, but a lot of pranks and messing around, too, until she was chucked out of the kitchen or wherever else she was by an angry team of servants who then welcomed her back with open arms a few days later. It wasn't often that she just sat still, doing nothing. The little sketches here and there, or even her clumsy, half-hearted efforts at plucking the lute that had somehow made its way to her room... even that was something, she acknowledged.
This? This was nothing, but a good nothing. A little oasis of calm, something you could dip your toes in every so often, but it never lasted that long. There was always something more.
She shook her head. I'm not thinking of that on a day like this. Sadly, Nehna felt the little motion against her collarbone, and any attempts Sera might have made at subtlety were gone when her lover looked down at her with an amused half-smile.
"What's up, wrigglebug?"
Sera giggled. "Wrigglebug? Really?"
"Well, you're all wriggly and antsy right now, so I figured -"
"Ah, you can't tell a good joke. That's the problem." She collapsed into a fit of laughter, covering her face with her hands and shaking her head. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry! It was really cute! But it just sounds so... so..." She laughed even harder this time until even Nehna joined in a little, still bemused.
"So if you get so many nicknames to call me, why don't I get any for you?" she asked, and Sera stuck her tongue out.
"You do, obviously. They just have to be good. Like... like not that for starters." She shook her head, still smiling widely.
"I'll think of something," Nehna promised earnestly.
"You loony." They stayed like that for a little longer, twining their legs together and enjoying the sunshine until Sera tapped her on the back. Nehna turned around with a quizzical expression, slightly amused by her lover's sudden excitement.
"You know what we need to make this day extra good, Inky?"
"Cookies," Sera breathed, then giggled. She leapt up and scampered away in the direction of the tavern's kitchen. Nehna sighed and rolled her eyes. This wouldn't bode well for Cabot and the cook. Sera's attempts at baking, or cooking anything really, often turned out more disastrous than even the bloodiest fights they'd been in - it would be safer being around a dragon than letting her have free range around an oven. Or fire in general. Or just food.
Oh you, she thought as she creakily got to her feet - why do I sound like an old woman? - and walked after her.
It turned out that Sera hadn't burnt anything by the time Nehna reached the kitchen after all, but Cabot was shaking his head grimly. "You know she's a customer, right? I know she lives upstairs and all, but..." The dwarf just sighed and went back to polishing tankards, muttering something about nugs and stubbornness.
Sera had predictably made a mess of the table. The cutters had been dumped in a pile as the elf got to work making dough. Nehna noted that she was trying to evenly measure out the ingredients, but she remembered the last batch had been quite salty. Maybe I should help. Just in the background, so she doesn't think I'm insulting her.
"How's it all going, then?" she asked.
Sera turned around with a gleam in her eye. "They're going to be really good. Can't you just smell that?" She sniffed the air dramatically. "I mean... you can't right now, I guess, because the dough's not ready, but... eurgh, you know what I mean!" She patted the worktable space next to her. "Want to help? You can make the dough while I do the icing, yeah?"
Icing? "Sure thing." Nehna rolled her sleeves up and went over to look at the ingredients. As she'd suspected, Sera had gone a little heavy on the savoury and sparingly with the sweet. When her lover wasn't looking, she put half of the salt back in its jar and added an extra pinch of sugar for good measure, just to make sure. After a bit more preparation, the sugar cookie dough was ready.
"Okay, we'll make a clean batch of about three first, just to make sure it doesn't get burnt or anything like that, right? So I'll just make a little more dough to the side, start on that properly and then -"
Sera swatted her arm with a ladle. It wasn't a hard tap, but the message was clear. "Come on, Nehna. These are fun cookies, not serious cookies. If you want everything to go perfectly, you ask a baker. But if you want to just mess around a little where nothing matters much -" she came closer and tapped her cheek "- then you bake with me. Then it's all good." Sera went back to her bowl of icing, humming as she poured in dyes without a care for any measurements. Seeing Nehna watch her, she rolled her eyes mock-dramatically but spoke in a much gentler tone this time.
"Just relax. Let it happen. It's alright, Inky. You don't have to be the mighty Inquisitor all the time, perfect at everything. Mistakes happen, but it's okay."
Nehna stopped to think for a while. She'd thought they'd been going for perfection, trying to make the best cookies they could to iron out the bad taste, so to speak, that Lady Emmald had left behind. She'd thought that making everything work properly would erase any bad memories so that they could make new ones. Better ones.
But that didn't matter. Sera didn't want rigid measurements or rules, not just for a little fun. That's what this was, after all, she realised. No ulterior motive, no trying to compensate for childhood trauma, although she suspected that was there, too, subconsciously at least. This was just how it appeared - messing around in the kitchen, throwing things at each other and giggling - and to overthink it would mean it wasn't fun anymore. Worse, it wouldn't be the light-hearted little moment Sera had planned... even if it wasn't planned, technically.
"Okay, Sera," Nehna smiled. "Fun cookies it is." Her lover gave her a grateful, reassuring smile before the two women went back to their respective tasks. Nehna even added a little more salt, just because.
Eventually the cookies were all done and shaped, ready to be iced. There had been enough dough for four, so they agreed they'd both ice two each. Sera drew bees and hearts, along with "Nehna and Sera forever." Nehna tried something a little more intricate, going for elven style murals with flowing vines and leaves, and even tried writing "Ar lath ma, vhenan" in the Elvish script. She hadn't written in it much, admittedly, beyond sessions with Solas, so she felt nervous after she put the icing away and finished.
Sera, on the other hand, was very impressed. "Even if it is elfy shite," she said with a slightly dismissive gesture, "you make it look pretty." She put the cookies on a tray and slid them into the oven.
"So it's alright, then?"
"Of course! Anything and everything is alright in Sera's kitchen." Or rather, the kitchen she'd taken over from the servants, who were politely occupying themselves at the other end of the room and pretending not to notice anything.
Still, the intention was sweet, so Nehna kissed her cheek. "You know, I could give you vallaslin with the icing," she suggested teasingly. "I think you'd make a great Andruil, what with your bow and all."
Sera shuddered slightly, although pretended she hadn't. "Yeah. I guess. If it's just for fun, then..." She screwed up her face for a few seconds before giggling. "It's better that it's icing. Makes it less serious, more funny, because you know those loonies would just lose it completely seeing something like that -" she pointed to Nehna's own vallaslin "- with something like this!" She laughed heartily. "You can't take anything seriously if it's icing, so it's good. Gives you something to do while they're baking anyway, yeah? Besides, I think someone would die if they tried tattooing elfy dealies on me. They'd lose an eyeball. Or their actual balls."
Nehna laughed at that. Andruil was famously stubborn too, daring anyone to challenge her as she hunted. Well, right now Sera was daring anyone to take her seriously as she happily stripped the vallaslin of any significance while Nehna carefully applied streaks of red to her face. It both made her happy and hurt a little, and she wasn't sure why.
By the time she'd finished, the cookies smelt about ready too, and Sera's half-joking mocking tirade against the Creators was interrupted by her excitement.
"They're done! Oooh, you smell that? Smells like heaven." She sighed happily as she opened the oven, sliding on gloves impatiently as she firmly grasped the tray and nearly dropped it in her haste to reach the sugary goodness. "Ah, they look amazing. Smell amazing. Bet you they'll taste amazing." She picked up one - Nehna realised with a jolt it was one of hers - and nibbled at the edges before reluctantly putting it down. "Guess it needs a bit of time to cool down, though."
Sera screwed up her face, irritated at this flaw interrupting her plan, before lightening up again. "Ah, we can just put them on a plate and take them back upstairs with us! Plus then we'll be out of their hair." She shot the servants an apologetic glance, which they acknowledged politely. She placed the cookies down gently on the nearest empty plate, put her gloves near the washbowl and ran off with the plate, giggling like a child at Wintersend.
Nehna followed behind, amused as ever at her lover's antics. Sera was carefree, easy to please and even happier to please others. In both senses, she noted with a blush. Sure, maybe she was a little stubborn sometimes, or even immature. Yes, she definitely had a thing about the Dalish, and that wasn't something easy to gloss over.
But Sera was a joy to be around. There was always something going on around her, often even because of her; never a dull moment, then. Others often struggled to see behind her flaws, although Nehna hated to call anything about her lover a 'flaw.' Instead, it was just aspects of her personality and nature - the building blocks that made Sera, Sera - and to try to suppress one side in favour of the other, or to criticise and condemn, was to cherry-pick her right down to her very core.
She really did love Nehna, deeply and earnestly, and Nehna loved her back just as strongly, and certainly not in spite of anything, as some claimed. Nehna loved Sera for the sum of her being, 'flaws' and all. Besides, she wasn't perfect herself: wasn't she the one who, initially uncomfortable taking charge and giving out orders, now struggled to act in situations where she didn't feel in control? Or the one who had struggled to read for longer than she was willing to admit, having barely learnt the rudiments while on the road?
Not all of us are heaven-sent, she mused, or so faultless that the Maker himself takes us as his goddess and bride. But as Varric might say, it's the trying that counts.
Besides, it was difficult to be sad or contemplative when Sera was licking off her vallaslin, saying how tasty it was. "If all elfy stuff tasted this good or whatever, I think I could get into it more," she said, happily eating half of one of Nehna's cookies and winking. "Or maybe I'm just biased now. Don't think all the halla-humpers could taste half as good as you, anyway."
"Sera!" Despite her embarrassment and Sera's giggling (and follow-up filth), Nehna smiled. Her clan would probably be horrified to hear Andruil's arrows being likened to Sera's fingers as they 'hunted' - or if they weren't, Sera's hand gestures would certainly get the intended response - but she wouldn't have traded her lover for anything else. Or anyone else.
Even if she did succeed in somehow finding innuendo for each one of her gods. She was barely able to start talking about the Dread Wolf's fur before Nehna stuffed the other half of the cookie in Sera's mouth and smiled.