"I have to go now," Cassandra repeated, her voice wavering.
He sat on his bed hunched over, his eyes refusing to look at her. The thoughts in his head were racing, and he could almost hear his heart tearing itself apart. This had been a long time coming, and he knew that, but now that it had become a reality, it drew every breath out of his lungs.
She bowed her head, and dropped her case onto the floor, "I'm sorry."
"Don't be." He murmured, evading the sight of her. Maker, I can't do this, he thought.
He heard her footsteps draw closer to him. He almost shivered at the thought of her touch and the idea that it would be last time she would.
"Brady, please," Her hand grazed his cheek softly, making it impossible for him to not look up at her. He took her in, every aspect of her. Her honey eyes that sulked at his eye contact. Her lips, lips he believed were his forever to try to make smile or laugh. Her cheekbones that framed her face both delicately and perfectly.
"Cassandra," He let her name escape his lips. It tasted so bitter on his tongue. Never had he thought the day would come where her name would sound like a sour note that eluded his mouth.
A single tear rolled down her face, glistening in the sunlight and resting against the scar that made a home on the side of her face. She stroked his cheek with her thumb and placed one final kiss on his forehead. She turned away and grabbed her case off of the floor and proceeded to descend the staircase.
He heard his bedroom door close and he slowly raised himself from his bed and paced for a moment. Out of anger, he aggressively punched his wall in disdain. The wall left his knuckles bleeding, but the pain in his hand didn't distract him from the heaviness in his chest.
Maker, why? he thought to himself, I've given you everything. Take anything but her.
His plea was desperate and loud enough to shake the heavens, but the Maker didn't answer.
His body moved like an entity to his balcony. He saw the caravan at the entrance of Skyhold. The beautiful scenery of the mountains almost mocked him, creating such a beautiful panorama for what he felt like was a grim scene. His eyes caught the main staircase to Skyhold, and he saw Cassandra descend with such a grace to her. He knew he'd be better off looking away, not taking in the sight, but it was a beautiful disaster that he couldn't tear his eyes away from. Leliana was escorting her to the caravan, while Cullen and Josephine stood beside it, waiting for their goodbyes. Cassandra bid what he thought was a goodbye to Leliana by hugging her, then moving on to Cullen and Josephine. Cullen helped her case into the caravan to join the others, and nodded his head with respect to her. Josephine pulled her into a tight hug, after that, she allowed the seeker to climb into the caravan. He watched it depart slowly off of the bridge and onto the distance. He bowed his head and gripped the railing tightly.
In the distance, all three of his advisers looked up to his balcony, and watched their broken inquisitor emit such a sight of defeat.
"You should talk to him," Josephine spoke up, directing her comment to Cullen.
"Me?" He pointed at himself and turned his body to her, "I'm not good at these kind of things. You're the romantic, you talk to him."
Leliana's eyes lingered on the inquisitor, "Poor man. We need to do something."
Cullen glanced back up at the balcony, "I agree. He cannot lead the inquisition distracted."
Josephine thought for a moment then looked over at Leliana, "What did The Hero of Ferelden do when Lady Morrigan left?"
"He was... not himself... for some time. But, when he needed to go to Amaranthine, he was fully invested at the task at hand as the Warden-Commander."
Cullen scoffed, "You cannot really compare the two situations. If I'm not mistaken, they eventually found each other. The inquisitor does not even have the luxury of chance. They have truly lost each other forever."
"Well," Josephine sighed, "We are all going up there and checking up on him."
"I have work to-"
Leliana cut him off, "Cullen, he is our friend. I agree with Josie, we should at least see where his head is."
"Very well," Cullen began walking to the main staircase. He turned back to them for a second, "But I assure you, he will not be in the mood to talk about this."
They reached the main door to his quarters, and the feeling of nervousness rushed through them. They heard nothing on the other side of the door, but were certain that Brady was in there.
"Should we knock?" Josephine asked.
Cullen shrugged, "What if he wants be alone?"
"Just open the door, Commander." Leliana urged, her arms crossing her chest.
"Alright, alright." His hand gripped the knob and swung the door open. He allowed Josephine and Leliana to walk in front and followed them up the short staircase.
Brady sat on his couch hunched over, holding a closed book in his hand. He was thumbing the cover, completely lost in his own thoughts.
"Inquisitor," Josephine sighed with a hint of pity in her voice.
"Do you need me in the war room?" He said, sounding like a disembodied voice. His eyes stayed fixed on the book's cover.
"No, Brady," Cullen walked over and stood over him, "We- wanted to make sure you were okay."
He looked up and scoped out his three advisers who stood in his room painted with sympathetic faces. "I'll be alright."
Leliana sat next to him on the couch, and placed a supportive hand on top of his bruised knuckles, "I cannot imagine what you are going through, but you are not all alone. We all lost Cassandra today."
"I knew this was going to happen eventually. I thought I was prepared for this," He looked into Leliana's concerned eyes, "But then she leaves Varric's awful romance novel here and it makes me want to track her down and just bring her back to where she truly belongs."
"She is going to do great things for the Chantry, and for all of Thedas," Cullen remarked, "I understand that the circumstances are unfortunate, but you were right to support her. Remember, she wanted to change the world, even if that meant she had to do it herself."
"Thank you for your concerns, but I'm okay," He stood up and walked over to his desk, placing the book inside one of the drawers. "I understand I need to keep a level head at my position, and I refuse to lose my focus on our goals because of personal matters. I just- need some time alone."
"Of course, Inquisitor." Leliana nodded her head, and began to head down the stairs.
"If you need anything, Brady, you know where to find us. All of us." Josephine added.
"Thank you Ambassador," He shot her a weak grin.
When they left, he collapsed into his desk chair and took a deep breath, and blew out the air like it was dispelling every single thought in his head.
That night he buried himself into the paperwork, answering requisitions and replying to letters personally. The candle that sat politely on his desk was the only light in his room. He ran his fingers through his hair and exhaled deeply, pinching the bridge of his nose to suppress the headache he felt coming on.
A knock on his door occupied his attention. He spoke up flatly, "I'm busy."
"It's me." The voice called out from behind the door. Brady recognized the voice to be Varric. He would've welcomed him into his quarters on any occasion, as Varric was a close friend and formidable ally. But tonight, he didn't feel like engaging in conversation with anyone, not even Varric.
"Varric," Brady replied, "I really can't tonight."
"Boss, if anybody needs a drink, it's you. Come on, let's go to the tavern. Get your mind off of things with something strong."
Brady stood up, defeated, and greeted Varric at the door, "As long as your buying."
"Alright, now that depends on how many mugs it takes for you to forget," Varric chuckled.
Brady cracked a fake smile, and allowed Varric to lead the way.
"Two mugs of your strongest mead," Varric ordered the bartender.
He nodded and fetched them two drinks quickly.
Brady picked up his mug and drank it to the bottom like water, "Another, please."
Varric watched him in astonishment take each mug served to him to the face while Varric still held his first mug.
Brady belched, "Come on, Varric. Catch up!"
Varric laughed at the inquisitor, "I'm not going to be able to catch up with you at this rate."
Loud footsteps echoed behind them and Brady turned around to greet them, "Bull, take a seat. First one to the floor has to pay for tomorrow night's drinks."
"I'll take you up on that," He gestured for the bartender to serve him a drink. "I see drowning our sorrows is the way to go, right, boss?"
Brady finished another mug, "I'm fine, Bull. Really. Don't make me sound like Blackwall."
"Did someone say my name?" Blackwall called out, entering the tavern with Sera.
"Someone pour me a drink, yeah?" Sera demanded, and the bartender nodded his head, calling over one of his serving wenches over to help him accommodate everybody in the tavern.
They joined the rest of Brady's company and one after another finished countless mugs of ale.
Brady stood up and stumbled a bit, but then proceeded to speak, "I feel like dancing, anyone feel like dancing?"
"Dancing. Ooohh, that sounds fun! Hit it, minstrel lady!" Sera shot up from her seat and joined the inquisitor in dancing around the tavern while the minstrel played a catchy melody.
"You're quite good at this!" She yelled over the music.
"Only with a couple drinks in me," He smiled.
"A couple?" Bull interjected, "You're hogging all of the ale!"
"Seriously, Boss, you alone are bleeding this place dry," Varric quipped.
He laughed at them, and continued to dance, roping in agents of the inquisition and serving girls alike to join in the fun.
Varric mumbled under his breath, "This might've been a bad idea."
Blackwall overheard Varric, "Oh, come on, look at him. He's having a good time. He needed this considering the Chantry has his girlfriend."
They both looked at their inquisitor, their eyes widening at all of the women that were dancing with him, and Sera, alike. Sera was dancing close to one of Bull's Chargers while a serving girl had her hands on the inquisitor, finding every excuse possible to touch him. Brady noticed, and didn't object, but was having too much fun with the rest of the dancing tavern to pay her too much mind.
The door swung open and let in a cold wind. The Inquisition's advisers stood in the threshold, their eyes widening at the sight they were seeing.
Cullen cleared his throat, "Um, Inquisitor." His voice was lost to the loud music and cheery people.
"This is... different," Josephine commented.
Leliana smiled at the sight, but then dropped her face to look more serious, "So much for some 'time alone'... I'll fetch him."
She maneuvered through the crowd skillfully until she reached the inquisitor. She placed her hand on his shoulder, and he spun around to see who had touched him.
"Leliana!" He beamed, showcasing a bright smile that brought out his dimples.
"Inquisitor, there are important matters we need to discuss-"
He took a hold of her gloved hand and spun her around, "C'mon Spymaster," He said with a grin, "You officially have a night off. Dance with me."
She couldn't help but smile at the notion, but she looked over at her other advisers, who were showing disapproval. She began to pull her hand away from him.
Brady noticed, and acted, "Hey ladies, Commander Cullen and our ambassador love to dance. Why don't you bring them out to the dance floor?"
The flock of women who were once crowded around the inquisitor rushed over to Cullen and Josephine, dragging them away from the door to join in on the fun.
Cullen instead evaded the dancing and joined the rest of the men at the bar while Josephine flung her clipboard onto a table, let down her hair, and began dancing to the music that flooded the tavern.
Noticing his idea worked, he redirected his attention back at Leliana, "It's not a real party until somebody's small clothes are pinned to a chantry board, right?"
She laughed at him, "We'll see about that, Inquisitor."
"Now," He held out his hand to her, "what about that dance?"
Her eyes connected with his reached out hand, the grin on his face surprisingly warm and welcoming. She looked back at him, his eyes a little hazy from the alcohol, but sparkling in the tavern lighting, "I have matters to attend to."
He sneered playfully at her, until his attention was stolen by a tavern patron that tugged on his arm and pleaded for a dance. When he entertained the patron's request, he managed to steal a glance back over to where Leliana was standing no longer.
Brady woke up with a throbbing in his head. The sun mocked him and made him feel sick with its piercing light through his stained windows. His body had given up on him and he couldn't manage to sit up. His fingers squeezed the sides of his temples while his eyes welded shut. After succumbing to his headache, he reached a hand out to the other side of his bed, but felt nothing. A spot that once held his very heart was vacated and mocked him, as it was left still neatly made.
He exhaled painfully and groaned. He recalled what he remembered last night and recalled it as a good time, but all of the alcohol in the world wouldn't allow him to forget the fact that Cassandra was gone.
A raven perched itself on his balcony. Knowing that was Leliana's subtle way to tell him it was time to begin the day, he used all of his strength to lift himself off the bed and throw on some clothes. He walked out to the balcony while buttoning his jacket up. The Inquisition was well into the day, with the daily soldier training in the courtyard already over.
Its well past noon, He thought, They're going to kill me.
He rushed down to the main hall and then down to the hallway into the war room. When he walked in, all but one of his advisers were sluggish. Cullen looking away from the light and Josephine rubbing her temples.
Leliana chuckled at them, "At least you all had fun."
Cullen groaned, "This is why I rarely drink."
"Please, keep your voices down." Josephine pleaded.
"Let's get through this meeting so we can all recover, alright?" Brady spoke up, and began discussions on war table missions.
When all the advisers said their piece and were assigned to certain tasks to command, the meeting was adjourned.
They all started to hear out of the room, until Brady spoke up, "Leliana, a moment?"
Cullen and Josephine looked behind them with a sense of confusion, but then continued out of the room.
"Of course, Inquisitor." She walked a little more into the room to hear what he had to say.
"May I ask you a question?" He said politely, leaning on the table and crossing his arms.
"Of course. What is it?" She inquired.
"How do you do it?" She looked bewildered until he elaborated, "keep everything so in check... Your emotions, mostly."
"Practice. When I was a bard, I had to wear a mask to hide who I was. I became a different person when I needed to be, blocking out who I truly was and felt," she looked down at her shoes, but then back at him with a sense of gratitude, "But you stopped me from becoming something I was not."
"So you're saying becoming someone other than yourself is dangerous..."
"We all have our masks, Inquisitor. The one we wear in public, the one we wear with our friends. Our only true face is when we are alone sometimes."
"There's wisdom in that," He acknowledged, "Thank you."
"Just remember," she placed a hand on his shoulder, "You are a good person, and a wonderful leader. Do not think that you need to change. I have learned it is best to stay true to yourself."
"Your help is appreciated, spymaster." He bowed his head.
She retracted his hand and smiled warmly, "Anytime, inquisitor."