Lita stared at the bottom of the bunk above her, resisting every urge to send a minor, or not so minor, fire spell burning through the aged wood slats. Jowan had a cold and his usual snoring had graduated from bothersome to unbearable. It wasn't his fault, but that didn't make her sleepless irritation go away. She pulled her extra pillow over her face and groaned into it. Another grumbling roar echoed down from over her head, muffled not even a little bit by the soft, down-filled cloth, and she gave up.
Dropping the pillow, she swung her feet over the side of the bed and hissed as her bare feet came into contact with the cold stone floor. During the day the Tower was always the perfect temperature, regulated by magic. But at night they didn't bother to waste the power needed to maintain such spells while they slept. Lita kept slippers under her bed for her somewhat-regular nighttime wanderings and she pulled them out now, tucking her feet into the fur-lined leather with a happy sigh.
Jowan grunted, rolling nearly off the edge of his mattress, and she shot him a dirty look. If she wasn't terrified of her Harrowing, she'd want it over and done with tomorrow just so she could get some rest.
Reaching down, she grabbed the blanket Maggie had knitted her for Satinalia and wrapped it around her shoulders. Closing her eyes, she concentrated. Invisibility wasn't a good option for sneaking around a tower full of armed men and women trained to detect and combat magic. But she and Maggie had developed their own little trick. Not invisibility, but insignificance. Magic that encouraged passivity, made them seem unworthy of attention. She pulled this magic over her now, tucking it around her like the blanket, and then headed for the door.
The Templar on duty barely glanced at her, clearly aware of her presence and just as clearly indifferent. Lita hid her satisfied smile in the rich blue folds of her blanket and padded down the hallway toward the library.
She was almost there, the tall shelves visible in the dim gloom of the hallway, when a hand touched her shoulder and she choked on a scream. Soft giggles reached her ears and she spun, punching her best friend in the shoulder. "Andraste's ass," she whispered as loud as she dared. "Are you trying to kill me?"
Maggie was grinning at her, brown eyes sparkling with merriment. "Of course not, darling. It's not my fault you weren't paying attention," she whispered back, her full lips curving into a smirk.
Lita glared, then reached out and grabbed her hand, pulling her through the doorway and into the library where the permanent noise-dampening wards etched into the stone walls would shield them from notice. She reached up and flicked the taller girl on the nose. "You're mean," she declared.
Maggie pouted at her, sticking out her lower lip and widening her eyes to near-comical proportions. Lita scoffed, carefully ignoring the strong desire to lean up and pull that lip into her mouth.
She knew other apprentices fooled around. She knew Maggie and Anders had had a thing for a while. But Maggie was her best friend, the closest thing she had to family. The only person who shared all of her fears and anger and secret wishes for a life outside the Tower. And Lita wasn't going to risk all of that just because she couldn't stop fantasizing about what her best friend tasted like.
"So why are you so restless? I know you didn't have any of Anders 'special study potion.'" Maggie rolled her eyes and Lita grinned.
"That's because I'm smarter than you. Which is why I don't need any special potions that keep me up for three days straight."
Maggie sighed dramatically. "That's true. Your genius is unquestioned. Clearly only a brilliant mage could turn every other apprentice pink for a week."
"It was an accident!"
Their eyes met and they started laughing at the same time. When her giggles subsided, Lita scrunched up her nose. "It wasn't a potion, it was the lack of one. Jowan refuses healing and his snoring sounds like an angry dragon."
"Aww, was he hurting your ears?" Her best friend asked teasingly, reaching out to run her fingers lightly up the shell of Lita's ear, gently tapping the pointed tip. Lita shivered, her skin flushing as she leaned into the touch, every nerve in her body flaring to sudden awareness. Her breath caught in her throat as she realized what she'd done, but she couldn't bring herself to pull away.
Maggie's eyes widened and she stepped closer, her palm coming up to cup Lita's cheek as she continued to tease the tip of Lita's ear with her thumb and forefinger. "Does that feel good?" she asked, her voice low and soft like Lita'd never heard it before.
Lita couldn't look away from Maggie's suddenly intent gaze. "Yes," she whispered.
"Lita," Maggie stopped, biting her lip as something vulnerable flickered across her face before fading into familiar determination. "Lita, can I kiss you?"
The air in the room suddenly felt heavy, the tips of Lita's fingers tingling as a dozen answers flashed through her mind and were immediately discarded. She hadn't let herself want this, but now...how could she say no? In the moment it took Maggie's eyes start to dim, Lita decided not to speak at all. Instead she leaned forward, sliding her hands into Maggie's rich auburn curls to pull her down to Lita's height.
Her friend’s lips were soft and warm and Lita felt like she was on fire, dizzy with emotions and sensations she hadn’t dared hope for. Maggie’s hand was still cradling her face and the other had slipped inside Lita’s blanket to curve around her waist and pull her closer. Lita stood on her toes, slippers sliding down her ankles, her hands tangled in Maggie’s hair as she strove to be as close as possible. Maggie’s mouth opened, wet heat that made Lita gasp, heart racing with desire and sudden fear.
Maggie pulled away, allowing Lita to settle back on her heels. Her thumb traced over Lita’s bottom lip and her eyes were dark with arousal and concern. “Are you okay? Was that okay?”
Lita smiled. “It was more than okay. It was perfect.” Maggie smiled back, the skin around her eyes crinkling with relief and Lita didn’t think she’d ever been so beautiful. “I just, what if the Templars see? We’re not supposed to-”
“Be happy?” Maggie interrupted, lips twisting bitterly. Lita nodded, her hands coming down to grip Maggie’s.
“I don’t want you to get in trouble. Or worse. You know they’ve split couples up before. Rhona got send to a Tower in the Free Marches after they caught her and Hayden together.”
“We’ll be careful,” Maggie said, her voice firm with determination and a familiar glint of mischief in her eyes. “We’re smarter than them. And we know how to hide.” She grimaced. “And honestly, since the two of us are a lot less likely to pop out any brand new mages if we’re with each other, they won’t care as much.”
“Maker forbid we have families,” Lita muttered, just as bitter.
Maggie squeezed her hands then dropped them so she could cup Lita’s face. “You are my family. You and Anders and Petri and even Jowan. And the only way I’m leaving this Tower is if I’m leaving it with you.”
The only response Lita had to that declaration was to lean up for another kiss, her fingers still laced with Maggie’s, a silent vow of agreement. The walls were still there, the barred doors, the armored guards with their watchful eyes. But they could have this, this quiet intimate moment, in which the only things that mattered were the softness of Maggie’s skin, the hitch in her breath when Lita scraped nails against the nape of her neck, the warmth of her body.
And one day, they would be free to do this in the sunlight.