The crackle of the fire resonated through the dim office as Josephine stifled a giggle. “Leliana please, I need to focus on these trade agreements,” she said as the redhead reached over and toyed with her loose locks of hair. Leliana was sitting on the edge of Josephine’s desk with a sly grin.
“You can work on those while I’m here, no?” Leliana asked while she twirled one of Josephine’s dark curls around her finger.
“You know very well that I cannot, you are distracting and it is difficult to focus when you make me—”
“Flustered?” Leliana asked teasingly.
“Yes, precisely,” Josephine replied with a huff.
“Oh but you’re so cute when you’re flustered,” Leliana insisted. “Your cheeks turn a lovely shade of red and you stumble over your words in the most endearing way.” She leaned over and whispered into Josephine’s ear, “It’s all so very tempting.”
Josephine’s face darkened to crimson and she fumbled with her quill. “Well-I, uh—oh goodness,” she stammered.
Leliana laughed brightly. “See? Just as I said.”
As Josephine cleared her throat and tried to stop blushing, the office door opened and Varric peaked his head in.
“Hey Ruffles—oh, hey Nightingale—we’re about to start a game of Wicked Grace and we need our star player; you in?” he asked.
“Oh, yes! I nearly forgot you had planned that for tonight, I will be there as soon as I put away these documents,” Josephine answered, organizing the parchments into a pile.
“You’re welcome to join us too, Nightingale. Maybe you’ll be able to give Josephine a run for her money,” Varric added.
“Oh no that’s alright, I’ll—” Leliana started as she stood from the desk.
“Join us,” Josephine finished for her, grabbing her hand to keep her from leaving. Varric nodded and closed the door with a smirk. “I will not let you spend another night alone in that cold rookery, Leliana.”
Leliana sighed and sat back down on the desk. “Josie really, I have work I must do.”
“Oh? And here I thought your only job was to make me blush. We can make time for a game with friends,” Josephine countered. “You used to love playing Wicked Grace; you taught me everything I know, after all.”
“I don’t know, Josie…”
Josephine leaned in close, teasing her lips against Leliana’s before whispering, “If you join us, I promise I’ll make it up to you later.”
It was now Leliana’s turn to feel flustered, her breath catching as Josephine’s lips traced along her jaw.
“Alright, let’s go,” she said, making Josephine laugh as she grabbed her hand and led her towards the door.
* * *
“Nightingale, you decided to join us!” he said, smiling as he handed them each a fresh mug of ale.
“I figured Josie could use an audience when she wins everything you have to your name,” Leliana called back to him over the group’s commotion.
“Hey, I’m not the one who thought it was a good idea to bet my clothes last time, that was Curly!” Varric laughed, defending himself. Leliana smiled back at him and took a swig of ale. The group finally settled down after a few more jokes and drinks poured.
“Alright, now that everyone’s ready; Josephine, do you want to be dealer again?” Varric asked as he handed the deck of cards to her.
“Maker, no! Don’t give her that kind of advantage again,” Cullen protested from across the table.
Josephine smirked. “Scared, Commander?”
“No, don’t be ridiculous! We just deserve a fair chance, is all,” Cullen defended.
Leliana nearly rolled her eyes. “Don’t bet what you aren’t ready to lose, Cullen.”
“So don’t bet your clothing this time; no one wants to see that again,” Layne Trevelyan teased from where he sat beside Cassandra.
“Speak for yourself, Inquisitor!” Dorian replied, eliciting laughter from around the table. Cullen groaned and dropped his head to his hands.
As they played, pitchers of ale were passed around the table and stories were shared to receptions of uproarious laughter. As Varric finished a tale about Hawke and Isabela running from the Kirkwall city guard after being caught for ‘public indecency,’ Josephine pushed a small pile of silvers into the center of the table.
“Would anyone like to raise?” she asked with a sly smirk. Everyone groaned, knowing this meant they were doomed for this hand.
As the game continued, Cassandra quietly observed her red-haired colleague, noticing how Leliana would occasionally lean over and whisper comments to Josephine, making her laugh and pecking her ear and cheek with small kisses. When Josephine won a round—which was more often than not—Leliana would reach over and squeeze her hand with an encouraging smile.
Cassandra felt a warm fondness as she watched the two women; she hadn’t seen Leliana smile that purely, that truly since their early days working together under the Divine. She supposed she knew about their relationship prior to now, but she’d respected their privacy enough not to pry. She was pleased to see them happy. She hoped it would stay that way.
The Inquisitor’s voice captivated the table as he regaled the tale of a happier experience in the Circle of Magi. The game continued on, cards moving fast and coin flowing freely, as everyone’s attention fell on Layne. During this distraction, Leliana noticed Josephine give up a couple rounds, although she had the cards needed to win. She smirked as she realized what her Antivan lover planned to do.
In rapid succession, Josephine laid out winning hands round after round, a smug smirk donning her lips. The piles of coin collected by her companions came streaming back to her amongst a chorus of defeated groans.
“Well shit, Ruffles! You’ve managed to fleece us all yet again,” Varric said with a laugh. “You’re truly just as crafty as you look.” He turned to Leliana and winked. “You’re one lucky lady, Nightingale.”
Leliana smiled broadly. “Oh, I absolutely am,” she replied before leaning over to kiss Josephine’s cheek.
Josephine flushed red as a small giggle escaped her. She turned as Leliana pulled away, pressing their lips quickly together, eliciting playful cheers and whistles from the group surrounding the table. They’d been trying to keep their relationship private; Leliana feared that being connected to her in such a way would put Josephine in danger, and nothing Josie said could dissuade her of this fear. Josephine had assumed that this secrecy included the Inquisition’s inner circle as well, but if they already seemed to know and Leliana was willing to acknowledge it, why not have some fun?
After a final round in which Cullen’s armor found itself lost to the group, the festivities simmered down and everyone disbanded for the evening. As most players went their separate ways, the Iron Bull and Dorian managed to slip away together to the teasing laugh of Sera. Cassandra stood with the Inquisitor, and turned just in time to see Josephine grab Leliana’s hand to lead her out of the Herald’s Rest, a mischievous hint to her smile.
* * *
“Is that so? What secret might that be?” Josephine asked. She stole a glance back at Leliana before leading her to the bedside.
“You had the cards to win those rounds.”
Josephine looked up at Leliana through her lashes, the picture of innocence. “I don’t have the faintest clue what you are referring to.”
Leliana let out a bright laugh and laid across the bed, bringing Josephine down with her. She positioned herself over Josephine and leaned down, pressing a slow kiss to her lips. “Well, what about the promise you made me earlier? Do you recall that?”
“Oh, now that I do remember,” Josephine murmured, her lips finding Leliana’s as her hands slid beneath her tunic. “I must say, I was surprised by how open you were tonight.” Leliana quirked her eyebrow in question. “About us, I mean.”
“Ah, yes. I’ll admit, I was hesitant at first. But I love you far too much to keep it to myself, Josie,” Leliana replied, brushing Josephine’s hair from her eyes before losing herself in their rich amber.
* * *
“A night alone with Lady Montilyet always seems to bring out your musical side,” Cassandra stated as she approached the table.
Leliana scoffed without looking up, carefully placing her quill back into the inkwell. “Do you often stalk me after I spend time with Josie?”
“One mustn’t need stalk you to notice the effect she has on you,” Cassandra countered, resting her hip against the table’s edge.
Leliana fell quiet at that, a small smile tugging at her lips. “Is there something you need, Cassandra?”
“Not precisely. I thought, perhaps—I wanted to say…” Cassandra paused, trying to find her words. “I know that it has been difficult for you since Justinia died.” She noticed how Leliana stiffened at that, and proceeded cautiously. “You were much closer to her than I, and I know that she was more than just the Divine to you; she was a mentor, she was family. I won’t pretend to understand the pain you are feeling. I just want to say that I’m happy you have Josephine.” Leliana met her gaze then, surprised. “It’s clear to anyone paying attention that she makes you happier than you’ve been in quite a long time; the happiest I’ve seen you since we became colleagues, in fact.” Cassandra hesitantly placed her hand on Leliana’s shoulder, reassuring. “It’s nice to see you happy again, Leliana. She’s good for you.” With that, Cassandra turned and descended from the rookery.
Leliana sat, looking at where her friend had been standing. A smile slowly peeked out from beneath the shadow of her hood, and she continued humming the tune she knew to be Josephine’s favorite song.