Leliana began her morning much like she had begun most mornings since Aedan had woken up. She woke, she bathed, and she dressed. These days that meant a heavy fur coat to ward off the cold winter winds. She missed the weather in Orlais. It would be warm there, even now. Or not, but it would be Orlais, and things would just feel less dreary. In Ferelden everything was just so … heavy. The buildings were oppressive in their sturdy construction, built thick and strong like the people the buildings protected. Fereldans were a rough people, and sometimes she thought they had been carved right out of the same rock as their fortresses. Even the furs felt overdone to her. Instead of something sleek and soft and stylish like the rabbit furs she knew were popular this year they invariably chose the heaviest, darkest, and ugliest bear furs to drape over their shoulders like barbarians. She had to remind herself that the Fereldans were really only a couple of centuries out of their barbarian days, and so her comparison was even more pertinent than she'd given herself credit for.

The furs she had been given by the Couslands fit the stereotype perfectly. Today was Wednesday. If someone had told her that the bear had been caught on Monday, skinned on Tuesday, and presented to her this morning she'd have believed it. She sighed and pulled on the smelly thing. At least it was warm.

She pushed open the heavy oak door and immediately felt the chill of the morning cut through her face. She had to give the bearskin she wore its due: despite the exposed parts of her body instantly freezing, everything that the fur covered was nice and warm. As she fought her way to the kitchen through the snow that was already several inches deep she tried not to think about the monstrosities she wore on her feet. If Fereldans had little sense of style when it came to their cloaks, they had absolutely none when it came to their footwear.

She trudged the short distance to her destination, running into very few servants. It was scarcely dawn, so only the cooks and the soldiers were up at this hour. Those that she did pass she smiled at and greeted warmly by name. One soldier in particular, a handsome man named Aerd, always seemed to be patrolling the area around this particular door at this particular time. Leliana smiled at him, knowing full well why he made sure to be in this spot every morning when she walked by.

"It is a beautiful morning, is it not?" she said merrily, trying to make conversation. Aerd never spoke to her. She'd hadn't had to ask around to realize that the man was brave enough to deliberately run into her but far too shy to attempt to strike up a conversation. Striking up one for him seemed the polite thing to do.

Aerd nodded quickly and pretended to inspect his polearm. Ah, well. Maybe tomorrow. She smiled one last time at the timid guard and made the rest of the way to the kitchens, where she picked up the tray of warm food and tea that they always had waiting for her. This had been her routine for weeks, and shy guards were not the only ones who had picked up on her pattern. She thanked the cooks and made her way to the wing where Aedan stayed. All had agreed it best that the Warden headed back to familiar ground to recover, and so three days after he'd awoken the two of them had left by secret coach for Highever. Alistair had wanted to send half the army to escort him, but he'd refused to go if anyone were to know. Leliana assured Alistair that she would keep him safe. Alistair had assumed Aedan just wanted his privacy, as it was very hard for a man like him to come to terms with his sudden (and hopefully temporary, by mercy of the Maker) infirmity. Deep in Leliana's heart, she suspected it had more to do with his plan to go after Morrigan again. Leliana hadn't brought that up with Alistair. She felt that she should have, but she wanted to push that unpleasantness out of her head and keep it buried out of sight for as long as she could. She wanted this. She needed this. Even if it's only pretend?

Leliana didn't knock on Aedan's door when she arrived; she never did. She used her key to open the door. She did it because it made her feel close to him. He'd never commented on it, so it didn't seem to bother him. It helped her pretend.

What she saw as she crossed the threshold made her want to burst with joy and sick with worry at the same time: Aedan was fully dressed and putting on a bearskin cloak similar to hers. Why do the women of this country consent to looking like uncivilized men? His and mine could have been made from the same bear for all the difference one could tell! She set the tray down and smiled, her happiness at seeing him so well outwardly overpowering the fear that stabbed at her insides. "Going somewhere?" she asked without a hint of the trepidation she felt.

"Yep," he said as he finished lacing his boots, "outside."

"Oh!" Leliana's face brightened and she felt that weightlessness that came with joy and relief at the reprieve of bad news. It took her a moment to realize she hadn't said anything else. Without missing any more beats, she handed him his tea. "I'm glad you feel up to it. It is terribly cold outside," she pouted. He smiled like she hoped he would.

"Well," he said after a moment, "at least you have that lovely fur coat to keep you warm. It looks very…Fereldan," he finished mischievously. He knew how much she hated Fereldan fashion, or lack thereof.

Leliana scrunched up her face and puffed up with a haughty retort, but deflated before she could unleash her barrage of superior taste. He had been trying to goad her, and he'd nearly succeeded. He really must be feeling well after all, if he is making jokes like that!

"Relax, Lel, you look like you might explode. You look great, really," he said with just the slightest twitch in his jaw.

I knew it, I look as hideous as I feel. She changed the subject. "So, where outside do you intend to go?"

"Where would you like to go?" he asked as he took a sip of the tea she'd handed him. He looked impressed. She'd hoped he would; she'd managed to get ahold of some that was imported from Orlais.

She thought about it for a moment. "Do you think you feel up to walking the cliffs along the shore? I have never seen them but even in Orlais I had heard of them. I would so love to sing about them from firsthand knowledge."

"That sounds like fun. We'll find out one way or the other whether I'm up for it, yes?"

"Sure," she replied dubiously. She had an uninvited image of the Warden falling off the cliffs in a sudden fit of weakness.

"That's the spirit, Lel! Come on, this is exactly what I need after being cooped up inside for so long. The cold air will do me good."

"Fereldans," she muttered under her breath and followed Aedan down the corridor and into the frosty morning.