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Inclined to Explore

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“Think I know what your problem is, Dorian.”

“I have only the one?”

“You see a man who's burned out -who left his people, and entire life, behind- and for what?”

“You're not suggesting we're similar?”

“How's that mirror treating you? Pretty picture isn't it.”

“I may vomit.”

“Wait! Wait! I'll flex a little for you! Make it easier. Mmm. Quite the Stink-eye you've got going, Dorian.”

“You stand there, flexing your muscles, huffing like some beast of burden with no thought save 'conquest'!”

“That's right. These big, muscled hands could tear those robes off while you struggled; helpless in my grip. I'd pin you down, and as you gripped my horns, I. Would. Conquer. You.”

“Ahhh... What?!

“Oh? Is that not where we're going?”

“No! It was very much not!”

“I'm just saying, Dorian; you carry around this picture of the Qunari in your mind. Like, you see us as this forbidden, terrible, thing. And you're inclined to do the forbidden.”

“I have no idea what you're talking about.”

“All I'm saying is: you ever want to explore that, my door is always open.”

“You are impossible! This is-! Urrgh!”

“Good! I like that energy! Stoke those fires Big Guy!”

Chapter 1:

Admitting to a Taste


Dorian grimaced as he swallowed down another long pull of the damned beer. He leveled a glare at the flagon in the middle table like it was personally insulting him; like it was somehow the pot-bellied-bottle's fault he'd gone and taken a liking to the damn Ferelden brew.

In actuality, Varric was the one responsible for his having developed a taste for the ale. After all, the dwarf was the one who'd ordered the vile stuff and then insisted Dorian try it over that first friendly game of cards. He'd accepted the first tankard, begrudgingly. The second, to be polite. The third, because he was still thirsty… and by the fourth he'd been numb enough that he'd quite forgotten he didn't care for the stuff, and may have -possibly- admitted it had a rather simplistic sort of charm about it… Before Dorian had realized, he'd been knocking the stuff back with greedy abandon for the better part of that first evening.

Now he was addicted.

He couldn't help it. The damn drink was bitter and wooden and positively foul and yet… the more he drank the more he came to crave it.

He'd be mortified if anyone ever found out. He'd out right deny it if anyone were to ever ask. He'd insist -if pressed- he only drank it because it was what his compatriots were buying and he wouldn't wish to seem ungrateful. Maker knows, he'd never be caught dead ordering anything so pedestrian for himself. So, inorder to feed his addiction, it had come to this; he made his excuses to come down to the tavern with Varric and proceeded to sit making very polite chit-chat with the dwarf while he waited for the Deshyr to offer him a drink, which beeing the good host he was the dwarf inevitablly did. which Dorian, being the gracious guest he was, politely accepted.

Of course he complained bitterly at the dwarf for his bourgeoisie taste, the entire time he then spent eagerly pouring himself cup after cup of the stuff.

Vile treacherous tosh that had no right being as addictive as it was. Luring him in with its dark and forbidden appeal: that tempting heady aroma as he raised the cup to his mouth, the way the thick frothing head felt as it passed over his lips and washed over his tongue with that simplistic rustic flavour. It was so incredibly plebeian; rough and ridiculously, -shamefully- common.

And Dorian loved it.

Of course, it helped that it had a kick similar to that qunari brute, wielding his massive weap-

NO. No. Wrong. New direction, Dorian, you came down here to stop thinking about that barbaric imbecile. The mage hurriedly grabbed his unruly thoughts by the horns bef-

Damn it man! Stop! Dorian felt the furrow between his brows deepen as he, once again, glared at the bottle as though it were solely responsible for leading his thoughts back toward The Bull and his idiotic - ham-handed- attempts at flirting

Hhmph. 'Ham-handed' now there’s an apt analogy, he thought, his mind turning to those big over-sized hands, good for nothing but ruthlessly grabbing hold of equally over-sized swords and slamming them deep into his opponents. They certainly wouldn't have any skill beyond a strong unbreakable grip, like iron bars squeezing around the hilt…

Venhedis! ENOUGH!

“You doin' alright over there, Sparkler?” Varric asked, as he cocked an inquiring eyebrow across the table at his drinking partner.

“Perfectly fine, Varric. Why do you ask?” Dorian sniffed, and affected not to notice the shrewd, knowing look the dwarf was continuing to level him with.

“'Oh, I don't know. Maybe because your glaring at a perfectly innocent bottle like it just offered to-” the dwarf smirked “-'conquer' you.”

Vishante kaffas!” Dorian hissed, “Must you bring up th-tha-that lumbering simpleton’sboorish attempt at flirting?”

“Ha! You call that flirting?” The dwarf barked, “Sounded to me, more like he was propositioning you, Sparkler.”

“Yes well, it's not as if anyone ever accused 'The Iron Bull',” Dorian sneered as he spoke the qunari's name, “of having an overabundance of subtlety. Or tact, for that matter. Now can we - please- drop the subject?”

“What are we supposed to be droppin' now?” Came Blackwall's low-bred drawl as the man claimed the seat at the dwarf's side.

“Oh nothing.” Varric said, casually examining his gloved hand in a way Dorian trusted not at all. “Just The Bull offering to tear our sparkling friend here's clothes off of him, pin him down, and-”again the dwarfs eyes sparked with merriment as he said it, “-'Conquer' him, on our way back to Skyhold this afternoon.”

Fasta vass!” Dorian spat at the dwarf as Blackwall threw his head back and began laughing so hard tears sprang up in the hairy lummox's eyes. “Is it not bad enough my having that great blundering oaf spouting his ill-attempts at seduction out on the road?! Must I now, also, suffer through you repeating it verbatim to everyone who so much as glances this way?”

“Hazards of associating with a story teller, Sparkler.” The dwarf said, with an indifferent shrug of his shoulders. “When the interesting and funny shit happens, we can't help but want to share it with the world.”

“It was neither interesting nor funny! It was obnoxious. And I'd really rather 'the world' not hear any more of it, thank you all the same.” Dorian muttered sullenly.

“Maybe not from your end of it; but from where I sat, it was grade-fucking-A hilarious. Prime stuff! Far too good to be wasted.”

“Alright! Now, I must hear the rest of it.” Blackwall managed around his continued guffawing “Com'on, dwarf, spill.”

“For the Maker's sake! Don't!” Dorian pleaded, but Varric was already plowing ahead with the tale for his captive audience of one.

“So, no shit, we'd just stopped by that stream where it crosses the path so that the horses might take a drink when I hear Tiny and Sparkler here, bickering.”

“Nothing new there.” Came Blackwall's comment with a sage nod of his bearded head.

Dorian jumped at the chance to end things there by hastily agreeing with the warden's assessment. “Precisely! There's nothing new in me and The Bull bickering; so how about you do us all a favor, Varric, and stop talking.”

“Right, you'd think so wouldn't you?” Varric said with a nod to Blackwall, before continuing on as though Dorian hadn't spoken at all. “Now normally I just tune them out, but this time I glance over; 'cause Sparkler is sounding pretty hot under the collar and I'm wondering if I'm gonna need to drag Her Inquisitorialness out of her day dreaming, so she can bash their heads together in a minute. And what do you suppose I see, hmm?”

“Go on.” Blackwall said encouragingly, when it became clear the dwarf is waiting for the prompt; milking the tale in the telling.

“Do stop.” Dorian moaned dejectedly into the table top, where he’d buried his face in his arms trying to hide the hot flush of embarrassment he could feel spreading over his cheeks.

Again, the dwarf acted as though Dorian hadn't spoken. “Well, Tiny's gone and backed our poor Sparkler right up against one of those big trees and he's doing that preening thing he does. You know the one, right? Where he starts posturing and puffing out that chest of his?” When Blackwall noded the dwarf continued “And Sparkler here is looking - mesmerized by all that brawny-”

“I was NOT!” Dorian's indignant shout carried across the whole tavern when he whipped his head up at the, frankly alarming, left turn the dwarf had taken in his re-telling of the event in question. The sudden quite that greats his outburst sees him blushing hotly before hissing rebelliously. “I was doing no such thing, Varric.”

“Dorian, if you looked any harder, every time The Bull so much as flexed a bicep in your vicinity, he'd be walking around Skyhold covered in bruises in the shape of your eyes.” Blackwall drawled leaning back in his chair with a smirk for getting to see the normally cool, composed, and oh-so-superior, mage with his feathers properly ruffled for once.

“I know, right?!” Came Varric's eager agreement, and once again both men fell to laughing at the look of affronted indignation that had settled over Dorian’s features

“Fine, if that is how you want to be; I'm leaving.” Dorian said with an offended sniff, “If you two are intent on behaving like nothing more than a pair of snickering juveniles, who am I to stop you?" Dorian stood in a huff, snagging the three-quarter full flagon of beer as he did so before he turned his back on the chortling pair.

“Oh come on now, Sparkler! It's nothing to be ashamed of!” The dwarf called out behind him, trying and failing to keep the laughter from his voice “Hey! That's my beer you're storming off with, you know!”

Dorian ignored them as he exited the tavern, ducking around the remaining bits of scaffolding in the courtyard and made his way toward the battlements where he proceeded to drink the beer he'd stolen at a pace that he knew was unwise. However, now that his first two attempts at distracting himself had failed so spectacularly, he had little choice but to fall back in his third and final recourse – get roaring drunk, and hope he passed out before he could do anything too mortifying.

He tried to keep his mind as blank and empty as possible as he mechanically went about draining the flagon. He tried not to think about the dwarf and Blackwall laughing at him back in the tavern, as Varric no doubt went about finishing his distastefully embellished version of that afternoon's events. He tried to ignore the way they’d both been so quick to agree that his eyes tended to linger on The Bull's muscle bound form: his chest, his back, those big strong hands…


'These big, muscled hands could tear those robes off while you struggled, helpless in my grip...'


Oh for fuck’s sake! Enough already! He cursed at the direction of his thoughts, yet again. Damn that Bull! Those stupid, pestilent, words of his had wormed there way into Dorian's mind, and try as he might, he'd not been able to silence them. Company and drinking had been his second endeavor to do so. He'd first attempted to shake them off by immersing himself in a book, but that hen-pecking Chantry Mother had been hovering again and every time she'd fidgeted it had dragged him out of his reading and he'd found his thoughts drifting back to-


'...and as you gripped my horns...'


Yes, yes that. Dorian's lip curled in a contemptuous sneer as he waved his hand about his head as though he could physically banish the insubstantial words, and accompanying images, which invaded his mind the moment he dropped his guard. When that -predictably- did nothing for his problems, he took another long pull from the bottle.

After the distraction of books had failed him, he'd briefly considered simply heading straight to his bed in an attempt to sleep it off. Problem with that idea was he'd known that if he sought his bed -without first seeing to being properly inebriated or exhausted- he was liable to do something… unseemly in the process of getting to sleep.

Now understand, it wasn't the prospect of spending some alone time with only his right hand for company that bothered him -Maker only knew, it was about the only action he'd seen since coming south- but with the way The Bull's taunting had taken to festering in his mind... well, let's just say, he was rather concerned as to just what might end up fueling such an activity. The shame of wanking off to that great hulking savage would stay with him for weeks, and with the damned qunari's Ben-Hassrath training he was too perceptive for Dorian's comfort; likely, he'd take one look at Dorian's face come morning and know. What was worse! The sadistic bastard would undoubtedly call him out on it, in front of everyone.

He could practically hear it now; some poorly disguised stab about the amount of time he spent 'polishing his staff' or the like.

Better to just avoid that whole mess.

Dorian took another swig and was surprised at how far he had to raise the flagon. He held it up and looked at it, a little blurrily, impressed to note that it was now three-quarters empty as opposed to full.

Well, I guess that should just about do it, he thought, if I start heading back now I should be able to make it back to my bed just in time to fall into it.

He turned, only marginally unstable, and blinked owlishly for a moment at all the activity that suddenly seemed to be happening on the wall.

Oh. Right. Must be the changing of the watch.

Dorian started for nearest stairwell, passing a couple of guardsmen who were having a bit of chat before parting ways. He noticed that the one coming off his shift was a particularly handsome specimen; one of those heavy-set full plate types, with a common, rugged, sort of handsomeness about his face.

Perhaps that was what he needed. A bit of company to take his mind off things. A flair of anticipatory excitement flashed through him and Dorian felt his heart rate skip a beat at the prospect. Yes that was just what the healer called for; a bit of fun to deal with his frustrations, and he'd finally be able to rid himself of this preposterous obsession with the stupid gray behemoth.

His course decided, Dorian, stretched his legs a bit so that when the guard waved a farewell to his relief, Dorian was squarely in front of him; walking with a little extra 'come hither' swagger in his hips. When he made the bottom of the steps he stopped, leaned up against the lintel, and waited for the fellow to catch him up. He positioned himself just so: arms over his chest, shoulders back, and hip cocked ever so slightly to the side. When the man's dreamy farmer's eyes met his own Dorian hit him with his best sultry smile.

The soldier’s face gained a little extra color, but he then -unfortunately- gave the tiniest shake of his head before offering a very polite nod and continuing on his way. Dorian pouted a moment after him, but shrugged off the sting of rejection easily enough with another drink.

There, see, that's how it's done, he thought, perhaps a touch vindictively as he made his way past the barracks where the Inquisition's soldiers and The Bull's Chargers took their rest. A little subtlety and finesse never hurt anyone, quite the opposite, in fact! No need for either of us to be embarrassed.  I made an offer, he refused.  We both walk away, none the worse for it . (Well, if you didn't count the part where the prospect of 'slumming' with one of Cullen's soldier boys had left Dorian rather uncomfortable in the trouser department, that is) . You don't see me shouting 'Hey handsome, why not come give the 'vint a ride!' at  the top of my lungs. There's no need for-


'I'd pin you down. And as you griped my horns...'


Exactly! Who in their right mind says a thing like that? Let alone in front of everyone. Dorian fumed. It wouldn't have been so bad if The Bull had just demonstrated a little restraint; a smidgen of discretion!

Dorian took another swig from the flagon and stopped to stare in the direction of the tower where the officers of all the different forces under the Inquisition’s command were housed. Where The Bull was housed. Where he slept. Where he was likely preparing for sleep right now.

What does that even entail? Maker knows it isn't as if he ever bathes, judging by the smell. He probably just strips to the skin before falling into the bed to sleep in the nude. Dorian thought with a derisive little snort.

Thoughts of that huge scarred and muscled form lying naked on a bed did nothing to suppress Dorian's lingering arousal. Quite the opposite. The thought of all that raw power lying there, exhausted -spent- after…


'I. Would. Conquer . You.'


Dorian swallowed thickly closing his eyes against a swell of hot desire in the pit of his stomach. Fasta vass! Why was that thought suddenly so appealing? When had it changed from repulsive to … intriguing?

It's all His fault. Being so damned heavy handed with the imagery. I'd never be so crass! Dorian snarled in his head as he turned and started walking with determined -angry!- strides toward The Bull's rooms. And that beast has the gall to suggest we're similar! US! Me and Him! Ha!

They were nothing alike! Dorian Pavus had nothing in common with an unwashed, ill-bred, dirty great...Ox-man! And he was going to inform him of exactly that! Right this very instant! He didn't care if The Bull was likely going to be in a foul temper if disturbed, -and possibly naked as the day he was born- Dorian, was going to set that dim-witted lummox straight right now!




The Iron Bull had just shrugged off the last of his armor strapping when there came a loud pounding at his door. With an exasperated snarl he turned back toward the door to his quarters muttering threats upon the head of whichever of The Chargers was come to bother him. It had been a long trip back to the hold, and an even longer evening, sorting through his people, and he'd been looking forward to a solid night's rest in a real bed.

Again, there came that pounding.

"Alright! I'm coming!" He shouted at it as he ducked through the door from his wash chamber, careful not to smack his horns on the lintel. Recently, he'd made something of a game out of seeing whether he could actually knock out some of the more decrepit door frames around Skyhold before the masons hired by the Inquisition, got a chance to fix them; but he'd had to stop. His horns had started to ache as a result of his little game, and Horn-ache was no picnic even under the best of circumstances; and the prevalent cold of the deep south, had nothing to do with those.

Thud. Thud. Thud!

"If this is for anything less than a high dragon attacking the hold so help me I'll skin-" He wrenched open the door in a rush only to be shocked into silence when a rather drunk Dorian barged through it."Wha-Dorian?"

"You're wrong, you know, we are nothing alike!" The man stated with a dramatic wave of his hands; nearly smacking The Bull up the side of his face with the near empty bottle he was clutching. "I, for one, am a man of action, not to mention unimpeachable wit, refined tastes, sinful good looks and charm beyond measure; Where as you!-" he whirled and pointed an accusatory finger at the big warrior, "You, on the other hand, are simply a great, hulking, uncivilized, uncouth, brute! Comprised of nothing more tha-than... Than hot air and muscles!" The slightly drunken flush to the man's cheeks darkened with the 'and muscles' part of that, his eyes dropping down to taking in the sight of said muscles as though unable to help himself.

A slow predatory grin spread across The Bull's lips and it only grew wider when Dorian suddenly averted his gaze; the flush on his cheeks growing even darker under The Bull's scrutiny. Slowly, without ever taking his eye off the human, he shut the door and very deliberately sent the bolt home. It made him want to lick his lips, the way the mage swallowed nervously at the action.

"Those are some pretty big words coming from such a small man." The Bull drawled, "It almost sounds like you're trying to provoke me, Dorian." Then, without telegraphing the move, he closed the distance between them, slamming the smaller human up against the wall with ease. "So tell me, little 'vint , have you come to be conquered by the big bad Qunari?" Their faces were mere inches apart, the scent of the alcohol, heavy on the mage's breath, was a tantalizing temptation to The Bull's senses; making him eager for a taste.

The Bull waited -his one good eye boring into the mage's hazel pair- as the human tried to come to terms with his desire. The war was clearly still being waged inside Dorian’s head; A feirce battle between the man's lust and his curiosity. Between his own perceived moral and social superiority, and his baser -more primal- wants. The Bull watched, as these forces fought a pitched battle behind the 'vint's eyes, and he waited. He could be patient a little longer.

That Dorian would ask him to take that next step -to tip the balance in favor of that carnal curiosity- was an inevitable, foregone, conclusion.




Dorian's head was spinning and it wasn't from the beer, at least, not entirely so.

How had this happened? He'd come here to tell The Bull off for being insufferable and somehow he'd ended up letting the brute lock him in the room with him and pin him up against the wall. What was more! It felt as if that had been his primary intention all along!

Perhaps it had been.

His marked disappointment when The Bull had answered his door, shy no extra clothing beyond his 'armour', had been a bit of a shock to Dorian. Well, rather more than a bit really, it had been enough of a letdown he'd lost his train of thought and had, had to improvise his carefully planned out speech anew. Maker's Breath had he really opened with being a 'man of action'?

For a few moments they stayed like that: frozen in a tableau of Dorian's indecision. The Bull bent low, his face hovering over Dorian's own, one huge brawny arm held across the mage's chest, pressing him tight into the wall; forcing Dorian up onto his toes, and making breathing an act just this side of uncomfortable. The Bull's one steel blue eye locked and held Dorian’s; searching, almost as though he could see the internal struggle raging within.

“So, what do you say, Pavus,” The Bull murmured, his face drawing minutely closer to Dorian's own, his breath ghosting over the Altus’ lips in the hint of a promise, “you want to ride The Bull?”

And the last of Dorian’s reservations shattered under the strain, and he confessed the truth; that was exactly what he wanted.

"Right. You going to stand there all night and talk about it or-" The Bull cut him off with a kiss that could have boiled granite with its heat. There was no hesitation, no subtlety, to it at all; all passion, and fire, and dominance. Hot breath mixing and mingling; teeth and lips clashing in a simple primal lust. Dorian found himself completely lost in it, barely able to think or react -or even breathe- under the intensity. He was so far gone, he didn't notice when the bottle slid from his suddenly nerveless fingers to shatter at their feet. He didn't notice when his -now empty- hands came up to clutch at The Bull's head, fingers skating over thick pointed ears before pressing The Bull's mouth even tighter to his own. In fact, so lost in that kiss was he, that Dorian barely even noticed it when The Bull hoisted him bodily into the air, wrapping the human's legs around his waist, to better suport the mage as he pulled him clear of the wall. Until that kiss was broken, Dorian was the next thing to oblivious, to it all.

he came back to reality in a hurry, however, when the kiss was broken, and he found himself being slammed down onto the mattress of The Bull's bed. The straw mattress. Well, hadn't he been eager to 'slum' with that solider earlier? Well, if being fucked by a  Tal-Vashoth savage on a pile of hay wasn't the epitome of slumming it, then Dorian didn't know what was.

His attention was, again, called back to the moment when the great hulking form of The Bull once more loomed over him. One of his too-big hands braced on the bedding, making the mattress dent under the weight of his enormity.

"Last chance, Dorian. You can leave now, no hard feelings, no questions asked, but if you stay... I don't want to hear any whining about mistakes and poor judgment, come morning."

Dorian stared up at Bull's one remaining eye and asked himself the same questions he'd asked himself every other time he allowed himself to fall into another's bed.

'Would he regret this?' Probably.

'Was he going to let that stop him?' Never.

After all, what was the point of life, if you didn't bother living it.