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Your gains depend on your losses

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She learns about it, like many things, in a novel.

Not one of Varric’s, thankfully, something Antivan she had found in the library when Dorian wasn’t there to judge her reading choices. There is more drama in this, less romance and she hadn’t actually expected the sex scene – not that is was unwelcome – or the for the heroine to have pierced nipples.

Nor was she expecting that to intrigue her so much.

Cassandra isn’t really built to deal with this, with these thoughts, even with her relationship with Josephine.

Josephine who is sweet and slow with her. Accepting. Experienced.

Josephine would’ve known people pierced their nipples and she wonders if she has ever considered it. The author is Antivan after all. She wouldn’t dare ask though, she still struggles to have any sort of discussion about their sex life; Josephine has to drag every word out of her as she blushes bright red. Cassandra wishes she wasn’t like this, wishes it were easier but she’s glad to have Josephine.

Still, the nipple piercing thing preys on her mind.

She manages to keep it to herself for the most part, but the book is never returned to the library. She’s embarrassed to admit she reads it over and over, when she’s apart from Josephine. She takes it away with her, reads whenever she’s alone in a tent. Just that scene.

She imagines Josephine in the heroine’s place.

Spread out on her bed, in nothing but her small clothes, garters and stocking. A bar threaded through each dark nipple, glinting gold in the firelight. They are always warm to the touch, Josephine is always warm in bed, cold everywhere else and complains about it endlessly much to Cassandra’s amusement. Cassandra never feels the cold, not until she’s pressed against Josephine.

She imagines being pressed up against her and spending long moments playing with the bars in her nipples, trying not to touch her flesh, listening to the little gasps and moans she makes. Josephine is exceptionally sensitive, especially her breasts and Cassandra always marvels at it, at their differences. She wonders if it’s because Josephine is so very soft, inside and out and if this makes her more sensitive than Cassandra.

Cassandra needs more than Josephine, her skin is hard, scarred, and she always needs pushing harder.

Though she has noticed, thinking about Josephine with nipple piercings moves things along a lot quicker than usual. And a little more intensely than she can usually manage on her own too.

She brushes it off at first, her reactions to it, doesn’t even mention it to Josephine. Or the book at all. There is nothing wrong between them, she does not need to acknowledge. It is merely fantasy. Her reality is satisfying enough.

It’s not what brings her to see Leliana in her tower late at night.

There are many topics for them to discuss, their friendship is long-standing, even with their differences. Cassandra had noticed an increased interested in her friendship with Josephine, and her current relationship with the woman. She understands that Josephine is her friend too, and in fact, their friendship is longer and closer than Cassandra’s own relationship with either of the women.

She isn’t jealous, but she certainly feels like she is missing something.

Still, mostly they discuss the chantry, the future of it, a debate they had before the Divine died and one that has continued with more importance now. Cassandra enjoys their debates, their differences of opinion on the matter, like many others, make for an interesting evening.

At least, when she’s not distracted.

Leliana, as always, notices.

She doesn’t say anything at first. She merely steers the conversation away from the Chantry, away from anything serious and onto more frivolous things. Something she knows frustrates Cassandra but does anyway. Cassandra has little time for frivolity...unless it is something Josephine enjoys and wishes to share with her.

This is a confession Leliana has dragged from her.

And now she will pull out another and Cassandra’s lips are a firm line and the spymaster laughs.

“Oh Cassandra, you always look so dour when you have secrets.”

“My secrets are my own.”

“And they will remain so my dear seeker but you would feel better if you were to tell someone.” Cassandra grunts, but Leliana is not done. “That person need not be me, not now you have Josephine...unless, it involves Josephine.”

“In a manner,” she admits.

“Then you should speak to her.”

There is no reason for her not to, Cassandra knows this and knows she won’t be rejected but the fear of’s strong and off-putting. She knows neither woman would judge her, nor reject her and laugh at her but there is less risk with Leliana. If she were to lose Josephine she is not sure she would survive.

“I have an...interest,” she tries.

“An interest?”


Leliana sighs.

“I’ll need a little more Cassandra.”

“A...sexual interest.”

“A kink, you have a kink, is that all?” Leliana says.

“A kink?”

“Oh Maker,” Leliana mutters. “A kink is a sexual taste a person has, like bondage or -”

“I understand,” Cassandra cuts in and Leliana laughs then.

“And it is nothing to be ashamed of. I myself very much like-”

“Again, I understand.”

Leliana reaches out then, taking her hand.

“Whatever it is, I can guarantee Josephine has her own.”

That had not occurred to Cassandra. That Josephine might have things she likes in bed, particular things, things that haven’t spoken about yet.

“I should go,” she says, jumping up. Leliana nods and leans back in her own chair.

“Talk to her,” she repeats. “It’ll be fine.”

Cassandra nods and heads down the stairs.

She is pacing.

Josephine can’t quite tell what expression she wears when she paces so quickly but it doesn’t matter. The pacing is enough to tell her that something is wrong.

Still, she has come to learn to give Cassandra time, that pushing will not encourage the seeker to open up to her. Things with Cassandra go slowly, though Josephine does not complain. She enjoys the almost leisurely pace their relationship has followed. From acquaintances to friends to lovers. She would not change it, nor would she change Cassandra.

So she waits, until Cassandra finds her words, finds some words, to explain what is going on in her mind right now as she paces around Josephine’s chambers.

Luckily, they have all night and until then, Josephine can read a book she has spied Cassandra reading more than once. It is not unheard of for the seeker to reread books, though usually after sometime.

Not two or three times in a row.

“I have a question for you,” Cassandra says finally, and Josephine places the book on the side table.

“What is it my love,” she says. She pats the cushion of the settee next to her but Cassandra remains on her feet.

“Are there things you like...” she pauses, takes a breath and her cheeks blush bright red over her olive skin. “In bed?” she finishes and Josephine schools her smile into something a little more neutral that the Seeker cannot misinterpret as mocking.

“Of course,” she says, “you for one.”

The blush deepens, Josephine finds it adorable but would never tell her so.

“No, I mean, more specific things.”

“A few yes, I know we’ve never spoken of them, but I am in no way dissatisfied if that is your concern,” she says, and she reaches out for her hand to pull Cassandra closer, down onto the settee beside her.

“I’m glad,” she says.

Josephine knows where this is going, it was obvious from the first question and she kisses Cassandra on the lips, just gently, before asking the question.

“Is there something you like?” she asks.

There is, of course, Josephine knows, many things probably and she suspects Cassandra has never even considered that she might have preferences in bed or in partners even. Though, that perhaps in unfair as it was Cassandra who instigated things between them after all.

“You don’t have to tell me,” she says when Cassandra doesn’t answer. “And I would not judge you for anything you like.”

“I know.”

She relaxes a little, and Josephine is getting closer.

“It is in that book,” Cassandra tells her, nodding to the side table, and Josephine picks it back up, a little confused. She’s quite far in but there isn’t anything explicit in it as of yet. Cassandra takes it from her and flicks it open to some dog-eared pages two thirds in before handing it back to Josephine.

Josephine looks at her and reads it over. There is nothing different from any other romance book she’s read, and nothing different from what they have done either. She cannot quite glean from this what exactly it is that Cassandra likes that would cause her this much anxiety in talking about it.

“I don’t understand my love,” she says, voice low.

Cassandra points to a paragraph and Josephine re-reads it.

“The piercings.” Cassandra nods, seemingly unable to speak now. “This turns you on.”

“Yes,” she manages to get out.

“Is it something you would wish me to do?” she asks.

There is a change, a ripple that goes through Cassandra’s body and her jaw tenses and Josephine smiles at her. Cassandra’s arousal is subtle at the beginning but Josephine is well aware of the signs by now. Later, later it will be obvious, she is stunning in her pleasure but at the very beginning, she is like this.

Though, Josephine thinks her just as beautiful at the beginning.

“No!” Cassandra cries, “I would never ask you to do something like that for me,” she says and Josephine frowns.

“Even if I wanted to. For you.”


Josephine kisses her then, distracting her, feeling her body tense further and her hips shift slightly towards her. Her fists clench and unclench before her arms wrap around Josephine and she pulls her close.

“I will consider it,” she tells her and Cassandra smiles, breathes a sigh of relief, before kissing Josephine back.

They make love on the settee, the book forgotten but when Cassandra pays a little more attention to her nipples than usual, Josephine knows the piercings are not.

Leliana already knows what she wants.

Josephine finds this aspect of her friend very annoying. Luckily Leliana already knows this too and is not offended.

“I have a list and a book for you,” she says, handing over a small book with a piece of paper tucked into the pages. There is no title on the cover and spine, and it isn’t until Josephine opens it up that she discovers that it's a book on tattoo and piercing care.

“And the list?” she asks.

“People who can pierce nipples,” Leliana says, “reputable people. Discreet people.”

That is something Josephine does appreciate about Leliana. She knows all your secrets but she knows the value of discretion too. And this is not something Josephine would want to advertise to the world. More for Cassandra’s sake than her own.

“Why do you do these things Leliana?” she asks, sounding more admonishing than she means. Leliana chuckles.

“I love you both, dearly,” she says. “And Cassandra needs to explore.”

“I appreciate it,” Josephine says, tucking the book away into her belt. She will study it tonight, alone in her quarters. Do her own research into some of these people Leliana has recommended before she chooses one and goes ahead.

She’s not certain she should do this just yet. Or that she should do this without consulting Cassandra first. But at the same time, she wants to surprise her. The book that started all this has still not made its way back to the library and any mention of it sparks something in Cassandra and unrestrained her completely in a way that Josephine finds terribly addictive.

If she is this free and uninhibited just thinking about Josephine having pierced nipples she cannot wait to see her reaction to them in the flesh.

And, she must admit, the idea is a little arousing to her too.


Cassandra is very happy to be home.

She has been gone from Skyhold with the Inquisitor for far too long for her liking. They’d travelled far, right across Orlais to the Western Approach and spent weeks in the sand there. Normally she wouldn’t mind, wouldn’t even consider it a hardship but that was before her relationship with Josephine.

She should consider it a weakness, to miss her this much. To miss her to distraction almost but she feels emboldened by it, driven by it. Josephine has given her additional purpose.

And makes her happy.

She’s glad to be back and manages to take a little time to unpack and change and bathe. She can’t imagine spending a minute with Josephine after being on the road for so long without doing so. Without washing away the sand that has gotten into every piece of clothing, stuck to her skin, hidden itself away until she spends far too much time in the baths trying to chase it all away.

She feels better for it though, knows Josephine will appreciate it; even if she says otherwise.

It takes long enough that she has long past evening meal and even Josephine has retired to her chambers for the evening by time she is done, which is all the sweeter as far as Cassandra is concerned. She much prefers when their reunions are in private.

She’s in her robe on her bed when Cassandra lets herself in, wrapping the silk around her and jumping off the bed in fright is Cassandra is reading her right. She smiles though, moving quickly to embrace her, but keeping a little distance between their bodies. She smells faintly of elf root and the sweet perfume she favours and looks like something out of a book. As usual. Cassandra has missed that

“You’re back early,” she says, kissing her on the lips. “I had not expected you for two more weeks.”

“We pushed ourselves a little hard, I will admit,” she says. “Do not expect the Inquisitor to be at the War table tomorrow.”

Josephine smiles.

“I’m glad you’re back,” she says, “I have missed you,” she kisses her again and draws her towards the bed. “I imagine you’re exhausted.”

Cassandra considers a white lie because she has missed Josephine so terribly and wants to make love to her so badly but a yawn gives her away. Josephine chuckles and starts to remove the Seeker’s clothes, slowly, piece by piece.

“Sleep, I think,” she says, “an early night and a late morning, hmmm?”

Cassandra can’t disagree with that and lets Josephine continue to undress her until she is in her small clothes. She is led over to the bed and tucked in, but when she tries to pull her towards her, Josephine resists.

“One moment,” she says, and Cassandra relaxes into the soft cushions. She is still not quite used to how soft everything in Josephine's world is, including the woman herself, but she is enjoying it all the same. There is something indulgent about her entire relationship, and she treasures these moments.

Josephine turns her back to her, slips of her robe and slides a silk gown over her body before turning back around. She gets glimpses of her bare back, the frills of her small clothes, enjoys the thrill that goes through her even if she won’t do anything about it.

Josephine climbs into bed with her then, kissing her soundly until Cassandra groans, then yawns in quick succession.

“Sleep my love,” Josephine tells her, and Cassandra is already closing her eyes, “I will be here in the morning.”

Josephine is not there in the morning.

At least, not in bed.

She is sitting on a chaise lounge, reading a book and sipping some breakfast tea. A Nevarran blend they favour in Cumberland that Cassandra knows well. The scent of it fills the room, though it’s mixed with elf root again and Josephine’s perfume. Not that she minds.

She is disappointed that Josephine is dressed though, in her usual work attire not less and Cassandra wonders if it is still early enough to entice the woman back into bed. Though she knows she’s not one for seduction, Josephine seems to fall for what few charms she does seem to have.

Cassandra is realistic enough to realise that even she may not convince the ambassador to take a morning off work.

“There is no War Table meeting this morning love,” Josephine says, looking up from her book, “go back to sleep.”

“I would if you were here with me,” she says in what she hopes is a sexy tone but knowing it’s probably more of a harsh whisper. Josephine flushes a touch anyway and smiles.

“I would, but I do have other meetings to attend to this morning,” she rises and continues to speak even as Cassandra sits up. “I have managed to clear the evening for you however, I wish I could spend the day with you.” She sighs. “I had plans.”

“I apologise for ruining them my love,” she reaches out and Josephine comes closer and takes her hand. “How can I make it up to you?”

The ambassador leans over and kisses Cassandra on the lips, long and lingering and the Seeker thinks perhaps she can persuade her to come back to bed after all. She runs one hand up her side, finding a gap beneath her silk sash; she has come well acquainted with the complicated looking outfit.

She fingers the edges of her bra and Josephine pulls away suddenly, both women a little breathless. She pulls at her clothes, straightening them again and smiling.

“I have to go,” she says and by way of apology gives Cassandra another kiss, this time angling her body away and giggling as Cassandra’s disappointment.

“I will come and find you at midday meal,” she tells her.

“I will be with Comte Du Frion, and Ambassador Leroque.”

Cassandra doesn’t even hesitate when she speaks again.

“I will come anyway.”

Josephine smiles brightly, leaning down and kissing her on the cheek swiftly.

“I look forward to it.”

She’s gone then, out of her chambers and into Skyhold and despite her aching body, Cassandra rises to follow and start the day. She’s slow though, there is no rush, and she lets her limbs wake naturally which admittedly takes longer than most days. The ride back home was much harder than perhaps the Inquisitor is used to but Casandra used to take it all in her stride.

She’s not as young as she used to be.

Still, after a few laps of the yard and a few drills with a couple of Bull’s men and she’s a little better. Well enough that any stiffness has gone and she can walk easily to meet Josephine for lunch.

She’s not sure she can avoid Cassandra much longer.

Or at least avoid being naked with her.

Not that she particularly wants to avoid Cassandra in any way but her piercings aren’t quite healed and she isn’t sure how her love is going to react when she sees them. She can’t take the bars out them out until they’re healed and while the elf root has sped the process considerably there is still some time to go before they can be played with.

The idea sends a little frisson of pleasure through her.

Josephine can honestly say she wants this as much as Cassandra now.

Still, she’s only just been able to wear a corset again for the last week – thank the Maker – but she’s not willing to take Leliana’s suggestion of getting one of the mages to heal them. Exposing herself for expediency rather than necessity is not something she really wants to do and on top of that, she would rather no one else knew about the piercings.

The piercer and Leliana are two people too many as it is as far as she’s concerned.

The elf root rub will suffice.

After dinner, as Cassandra escorts her back to her chambers, the seeker urging her to leave dinner earlier than she would normally. The company is neither important nor interesting so she lets her and they meander back to her chambers.

Cassandra kisses her so soundly but still so shyly once the door is closed behind them. She is complicated, her seeker, wonderfully so.

“I’ve missed you, my love,” she says and the other woman blushes, bright red over her olive skin.

“Shall we have some tea?” Cassandra says, turning away from her and Josephine chuckles.

“No, no, come to bed, I have something to show you.”

Frowning, Cassandra

follows her in her bedroom and lets Josephine sit her on the end of her bed, sinking into the soft covers and mattress. Josephine takes a deep breath and begins to undress, neither rushing nor making a show of it. While she knows her seeker enjoys watching her, tonight is not the night for it. The revelation will be enough.

She leaves takes her corset off, sighing. The squeeze is tolerable but with the healing piercings, the relief of removing it is tenfold. She leaves her shift on, the thin material coming down to the frilly edges of her underwear. Cassandra reaches out but pulls back before she touches her, waiting patiently.

Only here is Cassandra patient. Only with Josephine.

“What is it you have to show me my love?” she says instead.

Grabbing the edges of her shift, she slowly lifts it over her head and drops it to the floor. She takes a deep breath and holds it, suddenly terrified she’s done the wrong thing as Cassandra’s eyes sweep over her body.

There is silence, then Cassandra stands suddenly towering over her fully clothed in her lighter evening wear but no less intimidating for it.

“Josephine,” she breathes, reverent as ever and she released her breath, a little dizzy from lack of air and the dark look on her lover’s face as she stares at Josephine’s breasts and the little gold bars threaded through each nipple. Cassandra reaches out to touch but she grabs her arm to stop her.

“Wait,” she gasps and the seeker snatches her hand away. “They’re still healing, I have many weeks left before you can play with them.”

Her voice is still a whisper, harsher than she would like and her breath hitches when Cassandra finally looks at her face.

The love there is something else. She can’t quite handle it. Feels like weeping from it alone.

The Cassandra cups a breast and she sighs.

“You did this for me?”

Josephine can only nod as Cassandra brushes her thumb over the soft skin of her breast, far, far from her nipple. They harden, taut and slightly painful as the new piercings pulled at the sensitive flesh.

It’s not an unwelcome feeling but she doesn’t want to risk anything.

“Thank you.”

She moved them, pulls away and Josephine follows her hand for a moment before she realises what she’s done. Cassandra simply smiles at her and begins to undress, with that same shy slowness she always exhibits. Even as Josephine is wet and almost naked before her. She removed her own underwear and is tempted to help Cassandra finish removing her clothes but usually with the two of them it takes longer. The seeker is quick and efficient in undressing.

When she is done, she reaches out again, cups Josephine’s centre this time, one hand covering her pulsing flesh for a mere moment.

“you like this too?” she asks, nodding at the piercings and Josephine smiles.

“I like you,” she says, then amends, “I love you.”

Cassandra kisses her again and the ambassador urges her back onto the bed, straddling her strong thighs. The seeker bends her head to dot kisses over her chest, down her breasts, avoiding her nipples and their glinting gold piercings.

“Thank you,” Cassandra says again, looking up at her and kissing her on the lips, hands wandering down her body. She is not bolder in her physical affections, but she has learnt, has come to know Josephine’s body, her pleasure, like her own.

Her fingers slip down, slide over wet flesh as Josephine shifts back, arching slightly as Cassandra presses down on her clit and makes her cry out. It’s not going to take much, she thinks, and with anyone else she’d be embarrassed but with Cassandra, it’s simply a gift, an honour.

She doesn’t even have to ask, and one long finger slides into her body, followed by a second and when she can open her eyes again, Cassandra is watching her, not her breasts like she expected.

She should’ve known better.

Josephine screams as she comes, she can’t help it, and Cassandra simply holds her through, fingers pressed deep inside her, one hand cupping her breasts gently. Eyes on her face and she is so in love and tells the seeker so in harsh whispered words.

Cassandra lays her down on the bed and she drifts off to sleep before she remembers that this wasn’t supposed to be for her.

Cassandra smiles as Josephine wakes, slowly coming back to her. She’s only been asleep for a few minutes, and in that time she has shifted them further up the soft bed and settled her love in her arms.

Her eyes open, once, twice and she blushes and closes them again, burying her face in Cassandra’s neck. The seeker chuckles. She is always gratified when Josephine enjoys the meagre abilities she has in bed.

“Sorry,” she mumbles, finally looking up at her, smiling.

“I have told you before love, never apologise for that.”

“This is supposed to be for you,” she says, “not me.”

Cassandra shakes her head, ready to argue but instead kisses her soundly.

“I enjoyed it,” she states and Josephine smiles, moves to lie on top of her but hisses as her sensitive nipples as pressed against Cassandra’s breasts.

“Are they sore?”

“A little,” she says, “I had hoped they would be a little more healed by time you returned.”

“But I was early,” Cassandra says.

“I have been using a rub to speed the healing up but without a mage, I can only heal so fast.”

Cassandra doesn’t like the idea of getting a mage to heal...this, know Josephine doesn’t either or she would’ve done so by now. She tamps down the jealousy, irrational as it is, and nods to the tub of cream on the vanity.

“Elf root?” she asks.


She untangles herself from Josephine, standing and fetching the rub. The smell hits her as soon as she unscrews the lid, bringing it back over to the bed.

“I kept smelling it on you, mixed with your perfume, it was...different.”

“I know, it’s not overly pleasant, but I not so obvious with some air flow. My office windows have been open every day for weeks now.”

Cassandra chuckles, dipping her fingers into the light green mixture and stirring them around. She lifts them out and lets a little drop onto Josephine’s breast. She gasps as the cold cream hits her hot nipple, shivering a little.

“You don’t have to,” she whispers as Cassandra starts to run her fingers around Josephine’s nipple slowly, rubbing the thick cream into the areola in wide circles at first, avoiding the very tips and the piercing within them at first, unsure if she can even tough them doing this.

Josephine is breathing hard, chest rising and falling quickly but Cassandra follows the movements, massaging the cream into her skin. The smell over elf root quickly fills the room, but she doesn’t mind it, she’s more than used to it over the years.

“I want to,” she replies finally when she’s done with the first nipple. She looks up at Josephine’s flushed face, they’re both breathing hard, and the pulse between her thigh won’t be ignored for much longer but she wants to do this, wants to finish this for.

For herself and for Josephine.

She dips her fingers into the cream again, and this time she presses her fingers directly to Josephine’s other nipple. It’s a little warmer but the ambassador still gasps as it touches her skin. She follows the same pattern as before, large circles that decrease, over and over, until she is rubbing the very tip, the cream all but absorbed and both women panting.

“Josephine,” she moans, she can’t help it and Josephine pulls her up and kisses her, laying her along her body for a moment before she rolls her over.

“Is it everything you wanted love?” she asks her and Cassandra nods, can’t really do anything else as Josephine kisses her on the lips one last time before sliding slowly down her body, dotting kisses over her olive skin.

She takes one tight nipple into her mouth and Cassandra is pretty sure she is going to pass out as she feels Josephine’s fingers at her centre, just resting over her sensitive flesh. She tilts her hips up into her loves hand but she doesn’t move, doesn’t press or push. She simply holds it there while she pays attention to her breasts.

“Josephine,” she husks and Josephine smiles against her skin.

“Already so close?”

She can’t get anymore sound out of her mouth and in response thrusts her hips up harder, into Josephine’s hand. Fingers press into the wetness there and she groans. Josephine looks up at her, Cassandra can feel her watching her as she plays with her clit, just a touch, then another, until she is circling the swollen nub and Cassandra can’t help the shift of her hips as she follows the movement of Josephine’s hands.

She needs more, goes to voice it but Josephine is already there, hot wash of breath over her wet flesh before she presses her tongue into her body.

It’s not going to take much, she’s already losing her grip on her senses, everything centred on Josephine’s lips and tongue as she brings her pleasure.

Just a little more.

She might’ve said the words out loud, Josephine teasing flicks of her tongue become broad long strokes and then she’s sucking on her clit and Cassandra is screaming for the first time ever. The sound makes Josephine sit up, snatching her face away from between the seeker’s lips and replacing her tongue with her fingers again to push her through the last of her orgasm and watch her face as she comes harder than either of them can remember.

Cassandra hears her saying something to her, but the blood is rushing through her head, pulse pounding and then there is silence.

She wakes the next morning.

She’s never screamed and never fallen to sleep afterwards. At least not so quickly or for so long.

The sun is definitely up though, filtering through the stained glass of Josephine's bedroom windows. She is wrapped up in blankets and Josephine and the smell of elf root is gone, the little pot back in its place on the dresser, their clothes folded neatly beside it.

Josephine is still asleep beside her, curled into her,