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It’d been weeks since Dorian joined the Inquisition, and he hadn’t been this homesick in a long time.

Skyhold was an acceptable place to call home, for now, as he prepared to fight Corypheus alongside quite the hodgepodge of people.

The Inquisitor, or Herald of Andraste for the devout, was a surprisingly conscientious leader and a sophisticated strategist. His rise from insignificance to become the newest and most formidable power in all of Thedas was stuff that legends were made of.

Dorian knew better than to pin his success solely on the magical mark he bore in the palm of his hand. The man was a fine leader and Dorian trusted his decisions implicitly.

Which was not to say that they were on friendly terms. Dorian had come to a rueful acceptance that the man didn’t very much like him. After their initial and very hectic first meeting in the midst of a crisis, Trevelyan had sought him out for questioning.

Dorian remembered gesticulating emphatically, answering all the Inquisitor's queries with reasonable honesty, when Trevelyan’s eyes widened an instant - in alarm? - before turning away. Though he’d quickly recovered, it was not quite quick enough to escape Dorian's notice.

Was it the defence of slavery in his home country? Was it admitting involvement in developing time-bending magic? Or did his sympathy toward his former mentor, Alexius, appeared a warning sign that he was not to be trusted?

Whatever it was that offended the Inquisitor’s delicate sensibilities, it mattered little in the grand scheme of things. He wasn’t here to make friends anyway.

Still, Dorian had hoped the leader of the Inquisition wouldn’t have found his presence off-putting, too 'Tevinter-y' and all, even if everyone else did. But from the way the man had been actively avoided him, and only inviting him to take part in the briefest of missions...

Well, he wasn’t dense. He could tell when his company was unwanted.

Besides, Dorian thought with an indignant sniff, the feeling was entirely mutual.

There was something…off about the Inquisitor that he couldn’t quite put his finger on. His dour demeanour aside, it was as though a shimmer of sourness followed him wherever he went, rather like fish that had been left out for too long in the sun.

Dorian knew he wasn’t the only one who noticed. Once, he'd even caught Vivienne angle her head away discreetly when Trevelyan spoke with her about some lost tomes.  

Dorian wrinkled his nose at the memory. It must be poor hygiene. Southerners seemed to hold dear this practice of not bathing - perhaps even a noble-born Free Matcher like Trevelyan found it perfectly natural to smell like barn animals.

Dorian watched from his nook in the library the subject of his reflections spar with The Iron Bull. The two figures circled one another in the training pit, kicking up sand and dust as theirs swords clashed again and again.

Trevelyan was a tall man - standing at least several inches over six feet, he commanded a powerful presence. But even from a distance, Dorian could tell it was strenuous exercise for a human to train with a Qunari as big as the Bull. Trevelyan's skills were certainly being put to the test.

The warrior's white shirt clung to his body in damp patches, outlining his broad shoulders and narrow waist. If Dorian squinted he could almost see through the thin tunic as the fabric slowly turned translucent to reveal strong muscles under strain wielding the greatsword, slicing and blocking.

He tried to commit all that to memory…for later.

After all, he didn’t have to like the man to appreciate his more palatable attributes.

 

* * *

 
When Dorian was finally asked to go on a mission with the Inquisitor, after being sidelined for weeks, he didn’t think it would mean herding cattle in the Hinterlands.

“I know it is imperative that we win the good will of the local populace,” he began, “and not that I’m not grateful to be out of Skyhold now and again, but is it absolutely necessary that we degrade ourselves to doing farmers' work?”

The Iron Bull frowned, shifting the weight of his brand new axe on his shoulder. “There is nothing degrading about growing your own food.”

“You know what I mean,” Dorian scoffed. “Look at us here! You are arguably our strongest warrior-”

Arguably?”

Dorian rolled his eyes. “And Solas here is clearly our second best mage.” He snuck a glance at the elf and was slightly annoyed at the lack of reaction.

“Then, we have the Inquisitor, the bearer of the the powerful mark of the Fade,” Dorian continued. “And, of course, yours truly – only one of the most gifted mages in recent Tevinter history. My question is: do they really need the best the Inquisition has to offer to find a druffalo name Druffy?”

 The Iron Bull grunted. “Less talking, more walking, Vint.”

Trevelyan said nothing and continued marching forward, keeping his eyes trained on the trek. But there was slight smile tinging his lips, and it warmed Dorian to think that at least the Herald of bloody Andraste found him amusing.  

Half-hour later, Dorian realised rather belatedly why the Inquisitor had assembled the best team he could to search for the blasted animal.

The fade rift nestled in the Forannan Ravine was the most challenging one they had encountered yet, spewing hoards of demons that simply refused to die. Hooded despair demons twirled around them, shooting deadly ice beams. Terror demons trampled upon them, left deep claw marks on their armours as they ducked and dodged the worst of the attacks.

After what felt like hours, with everyone pushed to their limits – even Iron Bull passed out at one point, but he’d never admit to it – they finally vanquished the last of those wretched things and safely closed the rift.

Completely drained and sopped in demon goo, Dorian barely caught the healing potion Trevelyan threw in his direction. He downed it in one draught, feeling a little more renewed after.

“What about you?” Dorian asked when Trevelyan turned to walk away, touching a bleeding gash on his side gingerly.

“That was the last one.” He waved the concern away. “I only have to be up and standing until the rift closes anyway.”

Dorian stared at the man’s retreating back, the empty vial heavy in his hand.

 

* * *

“Where is the Inquisitor?” Dorian asked out loud to no one in particular.

They had successfully reunited Druffy with its worried owner, thankfully encountering no further demon attacks. If only the damned beast didn’t take an age to follow them across the ravine, it wouldn’t have been nightfall already by the time they settled at camp.

Dorian hadn’t seen Trevelyan since their return. He wasn’t really worried, but the wound on his side did look a bit nasty.

“Bull?”

The Qunari shrugged, busy scrubbing the muck off of his axe. “Try the river. He had blood all over him. Maybe he went to clean up.”

Trevelyan bathing? With actual water? Dorian couldn’t fathom missing out on such a monumental event, and certainly not one as pleasing to the eye.

He made his way back to the ravine where, only mere hours ago, was swarming with demons. Now, with the rift closed, the eerie green glow of the river gave way to the pale yellow of moonlight, glimmering invitingly.

Dorian looked up – the moons were so much larger and brighter than what he’s used to back in Tevinter. Out here in the arse end of Ferelden, there were no brightly lit towers, no ever-burning magefires, and no slaves carrying torches to light the way. In this moment, it was just him and the light Maker saw fit to bestow upon his children.

A splash in the river pulled him back to reality, as Trevelyan emerged from underwater. He was shirtless, save for the leather bracers that he never seemed to take off his wrists. His bronze skin glistened as water rivulets cascaded, finding their paths down the sculpted landscape of his massive, muscular body.

Dorian’s mouth went dry as he watched the man draw his fingers through his hair, slicking back wet tendrils. Trevelyan was breathtakingly beautiful.

And smelly.

The odd, acidic scent had returned, stronger than it'd been before. The stench hung heavy in the air, and Dorian was glad to have it break the spell. Maker only knew how much he absolutely did not want to feel anything for the man beyond basic appreciation for well-toned male physique.

He cleared his throat before speaking. “My dear Inquisitor, have you considered using herbal soaps for that stink? Or at least give your armpits an extra scrub?”

Trevelyan looked positively startled at his voice, and Dorian couldn’t quite hide the smirk at having snuck up on a seasoned warrior.

Before he could begin his rant about how he could have easily been an assassin, he noticed the Inquisitor had his hands pressed to his injured side, and a faint glow slowly dissipating under his palms.

“Dorian.” Trevelyan's eyes were riveted on him. “What are you doing here?”

“What in Maker’s name are you doing? You’re not trying to heal your wound with the mark, are you?” A beat later, curiosity won over. “Wait, can it?”

“No, I wasn’t. Did you need something?”

“But there was a strange glow-”

“The mark sometimes has a mind of its own. You needn’t be troubled by it.” Trevelyan held up his left hand, the anchor now dimmed to flicker of green. “We both had a long day, best if we return to camp quickly. I’ll be right behind you.”

Dorian knew that that was Trevelyan’s polite way of telling him to shut it and leave. If only the man didn't speak with him with the most guarded countenance, with the most measured voice. Oh how he wished they had the rapport so he could prod and pry until Trevelyan spilled all his secrets. Among other things, his brain added rather unhelpfully. 

He allowed himself one more glance at the Inquisitor’s delightful display of flesh, and bowed courteously before turning on his heels to march back to camp.

Chapter Text

Between drinking with Iron Bull and his rambunctious Chargers, and games of Wicked Grace with Varric, Dorian was having a marvellous time at Skyhold’s best tavern. Skyhold’s only tavern.

“Prepare to beg for mercy, Varric! I believe I have this one!” Dorian was hovering in that happy space between inebriation and ebullience, having been imbibing a large quantity of mulled wine that Cabot the barkeep made especially for the inner circle. As awful as it was, it kept him warm and merry.

“Bluff all you want, Sparkler,” Varric said as he took a long pull of ale. “I know your tell.”

“Perish the thought! I don't have tells,” Dorian protested loudly, sitting up straighter and schooling his features to what should look like cool disinterest.

“You fidget more when you get the good cards,” the dwarf drawled, smirking at the frown already appearing on Dorian's face. “And you’re not so great at hiding your true feelings either.”

“Preposterous! I can be as inscrutable as Andraste herself if I wanted to be.”

“You? Inscrutable? No way,” Varric laughed. “Our fearless leader, on the other hand-”

“Thank the Maker, you've noticed too! And here I wondered if I was the only one who thought he was an odd duck! He's just so…placid isn't quite the right word. But I don’t think I’ve ever seen him laugh, not even once. And the smell! Don’t get me started on that appalling-”

“Woah Sparkler, tell us how you really feel.” Varric picked up another card from the deck, pausing. “Wait. What smell?”

“You know, that lovely bouquet of rotten fish and Maker knows what else. I'm surprised flowers don't wilt as he walks past.” Dorian took a sip of the now cooled wine, careful to avoid bits of cloves floating on the surface.

Varric looked him oddly, brows furrowing. “I never noticed. And I have shared a tent with him plenty of times.”

Dorian frowned. “Bull? Surely your Ben-Hassrath sensitivity could detect a scent most foul.”

“Nope. Smells like good ol’ regular human to me!” Bull answered before pushing past them to refill his tankard.

“But I am positive that at least Vivienne has-”

“Ah ha! Four of a kind! I think I win this round again.”

Dorian mouth hung open. “Now hold on a moment, that one didn't count! We were discussing important business here.”

Varric leaned back and drained the rest of his ale in one long drag. “No can do. I won, fair and square. The Inquisitor’s bathing habits are hardly my business. They shouldn’t be yours either, Sparkler. Unless you want to take it upon yourself to give him a sponge bath.”

Images of that night at the river came flooding back. Slick, wet skin, begging to be touched. Droplets of water gathered on dark lashes, on half-parted lips.

Heat pooled in the base of Dorian's belly, and slowly made its presence known in his face.

“You need a moment alone, Sparkler?” Varric said, almost too cheerily.

And that's when Dorian knew it was time to make a dignified exit while he still could.

“And the dwarf plays dirty. Again.” He stood abruptly and threw a sovereign at Varric, who caught it effortlessly. 

He stormed out of the tavern; the sting of the bitter chill did precious little to chase away the unwanted, intrusive thoughts. But he welcomed it anyway.

 

* * *

 

Two weeks since the Hinterlands, Dorian received through Lady Montilyet an official request to attend the ball at the Winter Palace.

He wasn’t certain exactly why he was extended an invitation - he was quite sure, given how their last conversation went - that it wasn't because the Inquisitor found him charming, or his company invigorating. Perhaps Trevelyan thought his noble upbringing and his experience in dealing with scheming, manipulative upper crust of Tevinter society could help the Inquisition come out of the Game relatively unscathed. 

It wasn’t until he was standing in the guest garden on the palace terrace that he'd realised he hadn’t spoken with the Inquisitor in a fair while. Not properly anyway. Not since -

He shook his head to clear the daydream away and guzzled down his spicy punch. No complications, Pavus.

From the corner of his eye, he could see the spectacularly clothed version of his vision approaching. Ugh. Perfect.

Trevelyan’s stride was sure and graceful. He held a glass of wine by the stem, nodding at the giggly trio of Empress Celene's ladies-in-waiting as he walked past. He looked every bit the noble leader that he was – Dorian took a tentative whiff – and smelled it too. For once, Trevelyan wasn't carrying with him a cloud of horrible stench. 

“My dear Inquisitor,” he began, smiling widely, “don’t you look dashing tonight.”

Trevelyan's lips curved upwards as he dipped his head. “Why thank you.”

“And I see you’ve been properly introduced to a bath tub. Finally.” Dorian performed an elaborate bow. “My sincerest congratulations.”

“I’m glad my presence no longer offends you," Trevelyan replied with a soft laugh. Dorian decided that he rather liked the sound.

“Your company has always been a delight, Inquisitor. Even more so now that I can breathe easier,” Dorian said, only half-joking, looking everywhere else but the man’s lips, moist and stained a dark crimson by the Orlesian red he was drinking.

His eyes fell on Trevelyan’s leather bracers: a new pair - thick red stitchings on polished, black leather with silver clasps. 

“On the other hand, these dreadful things you insist on wearing all the time are positively tragic,” said Dorian.

He dragged an index finger playfully across the smooth surface of the offending article. He hooked a finger under one of the straps, but before he could ease it off, Trevelyan visibly recoiled. The moment of awkward tension only broke when Trevelyan cleared his throat.

“Regrettably, these are a necessity for me. They stabilise my wrists.” His tone was light, but Dorian sensed the strain in his voice. The wonderful air of frivolity they had enjoyed a moment ago snuffed out like a candle.

Was that too much teasing? Acting too familiar? What did he do wrong?

A light touch at the elbow interrupted Dorian’s inner panic. Fingers warm even through the fabric of the coat. His eyes flickered to Trevelyan’s face, apology on the tip of his tongue – but Trevelyan gave him this quiet look, and the words were stolen from him.

“I am sorry," Trevelyan said softly and turned to leave before Dorian could ask what for.

He shivered from the sudden absence of the man's comforting warmth, his mind a whirlwind of confusion.

 

Never let it be said that no Tevinter ever shed blood fighting the war against Corypheus. Dorian had just spent the past three hours running around the palace, unearthing mitigating evidence, hunting down demons and killing assassins just so Empress Celene could keep her pretty crown.

A full-blown civil war very narrowly averted, he felt that he'd earned a tête-à-tête, as the Orlesians would say, with the Inquisitor, after a night of excitement.

He spotted his target alone on one of the many elegant balconies overlooking the gardens. The Inquisitor seemed wistful, gazing into the horizon with unseeing eyes, thick with a careworn melancholy that Dorian was not ashamed to admit he found...alluring.

Dorian knocked on the ornate doorframe to announce his presence. “There was an ancient dowager looking for you, said she had twelve daughters. I told her you’d left already. You can thank me later. Or now. But you look lost in thought. Something on your mind?”

Trevelyan only turned slightly to acknowledge him. “Things went according to plan for once. I couldn’t be happier.”

“Yes, I can see you’re jumping for joy right now.”

The Inquisitor gave him a quick sidelong glance, a soft smile surfacing. “You are a formidable mage, Dorian. I am glad you’re on our side.”

Dorian let the change of subject slide. Slowly, he sauntered to where Trevelyan stood, close enough to count the freckles on his nose.

“Finally noticed, did you? What tipped you off? The dozen assassins lying dead in the gardens? Or is it my magnetic yet lethal charm?” 

“I have always noticed.” The confession was so quiet that for a moment, Dorian thought he'd imagined it.

His eyes flitted to Trevelyan’s lips before he could stop himself. They looked so soft, so inviting; he’d only need to lean in to have a taste. Dorian wondered if a quick, friendly kiss between comrades would really be that improper.

A loud cheer from inside the ballroom broke the silence, and with it, the spell that held them. Trevelyan took a small step backward, putting some space between them. And Dorian knew, as certain as the sun would rise, that the moment was lost and the walls were back up, once again.

Chapter Text

The Emerald Graves was a lovely place despite the morbid name. Dorian rather enjoyed the fresh air and warm sunshine – if only they’d brought proper food with them, this could almost be a picnic.

“What do you think, Sparkler? Ten royals says the next thing we run into farts fire.”

Dorian turned to the dwarf, who wiggled his eyebrows. “Very well, Varric. I’ll take that bet. I win either way.”

Unfortunately for Varric, their attackers did not fart fire, although they were no less deadly than the sort that did.

Dorian knew they were in serious trouble as soon as Iron Bull’s axe cleaved past the one-eyed giant and hit the nearby brontos, sparking an aggressive stampede. Varric tried to veer away from the onslaught but was knocked out in the commotion. The Iron Bull, who barely had time to recover his axe, clashed with the beasts fearlessly, slaughtering at least one of them with his bare hands before falling victim to the giant’s crushing rock.

The Inquisitor used the Mark of the Rift to weed out the weaker ones, magical energy crackling in the air as he continued his assault on the giant. He wielded his broadsword, now stained with black blood, with vigour and might. But Dorian could tell he was slowing down, fatigued.

They were overrun.

Andraste's Herald and his brave companions perished not at the hands of the Elder One, but under the hooves of cud-chewing beasts - oh, the bards would love this one.

Dorian leaned heavily on his staff, silently cursing their misfortune. Blood seeped from underneath his Royal Sea Silk armour, turning into slow-moving streams down his arms and onto his hands. Soon, he’d have trouble keeping a firm grip on his weapon.

From the corner of his eye, he saw a large bronto charging toward him. Wounded and enraged by the pain, the animal broke into delirious trampling at full speed, blood-pinked foam whipping from its mouth by the rush.

He had only one spell left in him. Conjuring up the last of his mana, Dorian called upon the spirits of the Fade, elated that his injuries were temporarily soothed by the welcoming embrace of the Veil, and then extended his hand to cast a protective barrier spell.

On Trevelyan.

Then he slammed his eyes shut and braced for impact.

It hurt more than he’d expected.

 

What felt like an age was probably only a few minutes. Dorian winced as he regained consciousness, then realised he couldn’t move, lying face down on the ground. He mustered up enough energy to crack open one eye.

He was there - Trevelyan stood only paces in front of him, panting heavily as he shielded Dorian from the rock-throwing giant.

The warrior was close enough for Dorian to make out the blisters on Trevelyan's hands, angry and weeping. He stood tall, but his posture betrayed him, shoulders slumped in lethargy; his whole body heaving as he took large, desperate breaths. With his cheek squashed into the earth, Dorian could feel every thunderous footstep as the giant stomped towards them.

Unexpectedly, Trevelyan dropped his heavy sword on the ground with a loud thud.

Kaffas. What's the man doing? He'd get himself killed!

Dorian could only watch in shocked horror when the Inquisitor, unarmed, headed for the advancing giant.

Trevelyan looked around furtively, as though to make sure no one was watching, then ripped off his leather bracers and flexed his fingers.

The warrior drew a deep breath, then summoned a rolling ball of mage-fire and hurled it toward the giant. The monster roared in pain at the contact, thrashing its gnarly limbs, while Trevelyan took the chance to rain upon it bolts and lightning.

Dorian’s eyes widened in disbelief. No. It can't be...

The vile odour of burnt flesh and rotten fish was the last thing Dorian could remember before darkness took over again.

 

The sound of Iron Bull’s roaring laughter woke him. He sat up with a jolt, briefly disoriented, hissing at the dull sting in his shoulder.

They were back at camp. Dorian had no recollection of how they got back here, but he supposed it wasn’t too far-fetched to assume Trevelyan had something to do with it. He was, after all, the only man left standing.

He pushed himself off the bedroll, mindful of the wound on his shoulder, and lifted the tent flap. The warmth of the late morning sun rejuvenated him a little.

“About time you woke up, Sleeping Beauty!” Bull boomed with a wide grin on his face, giving Dorian a light slap on the uninjured side as he trudged closer to the fire.

“I hope you’re hungry, Sparkler,” Varric nodded at a half-cooked carcass that was roasting deliciously on the spit. “August Ram. Courtesy of the Inquisitor.”

They both looked a little rumpled and far more subdued than usual, a few nasty lacerations on their faces and hands, but otherwise none the worse for wear.

“As much as I would love to lunch with my esteemed colleagues, I must first have a word with the Inquisitor. Privately.” Dorian turned to the man in question. “If you please.”

Trevelyan nodded with only a note of hesitance, and followed Dorian wordlessly to the pathway that led them out of the camp.

 

Once they arrived at a secluded stretch of the forest, Dorian found himself a seat against a fallen tree, easing himself down gently.

Trevelyan followed suit, sitting across from him. His gaze was steady, measured, but not without a hint of curiosity.

They sat in silence for a moment while Dorian debated whether to start the conversation light, with friendly banter and a thank you for saving his life, or-

“I saw you. Yesterday.” Dorian heard himself say. Patience was never really his strong suit.

“Saw me?”

“Yes. You! Using magic. To defeat the giant. Ring a bell?”

To his credit, Trevelyan only raised his eyebrow slightly, his face betraying nothing else. It's no wonder Varric didn’t like playing cards with the man.

“I did no such thing. You must be mistaken,” Trevelyan said evenly. 

“Do not take me for a fool,” Dorian fumed. “I saw you brandishing fire and lightning, as surely as any mage does! Who are you?”

A slight flicker of emotion crossed Trevelyan's eyes before he averted his gaze. But he said nothing.

“Do you not trust me?” A note of sadness crept in Dorian’s voice, an uninvited guest.

Trevelyan closed his eyes at that, and drew a small breath.

A bubble of anger coursed through Dorian. Clearly after all this time, the Inquisitor still saw him as the Tevinter mage. Not an ally, and certainly not a friend. The thought hurt more than he allowed himself to admit.

“Very well then. I’ll-"

“I do trust you,” Trevelyan broke in, quiet but firm. He dragged himself to sit closer to Dorian by the heels of his boots. “I suppose now is as good a time as any.”

With his still blistered fingers, Trevelyan began undoing the multiple straps on his leather bracers, the black ones he'd been wearing since Winter Palace.

“Solas enchanted these for me. I had them made just in time for the ball.”

Solas?

“I'd asked him for something more capable of concealing the amulets’ energy.”

Amulets?” Dorian felt stupid repeating Trevelyan's words. He didn't know what he'd expected, but it certainly wasn't that.

There was a shadow of a smile on Trevelyan’s lips. “Yes, after you complained about my…stink in the Hinterlands.” 

With that, he let the bracers fall to the grassy ground. Immediately, a rotten stench engulfed them. No, it wasn't a smell that was assaulting his senses - this putrid energy floated ambient in the air, and it sang in his head in foul warning.

Dorian gasped at the sudden realisation of what it was. He had only read about the archaic practice, one that was thought lost along with the rest of Elvhenan.

His gaze fell to Trevelyan's forearms: circular protrusions under the skin, small like quail-eggs, sat in the centre of both his inner wrists. The scars were neat, and over the years the muscle tissues had absorbed the foreign objects unevenly, giving them a lopsided appearance.

The scholar within wanted to reach out, to touch; but his magic screeched inside of him in warning, willing his body to stay away.

These were amulets, imbued with ancient elven magic, grafted directly into open flesh. They worked to subdue the connection with the Fade, making it difficult for the subject to draw its power.

“Do they still hurt?” he asked after a while.

“Only when I use magic. It can feel like…drowning when I pull too much too quickly. It's not very pleasant," Trevelyan replied stiffly. “And there is the side effect.”

“Side effect?”

“These amulets bind my magic and obstruct my access to the Fade-”

Maker's Breath…

“It’s same thing, isn’t it? You’ve been made-” Dorian swallowed hard, unable to say the word. “That is why you’re always so, so-”

Trevelyan cocked an eyebrow. “Before you finish that sentence, I’ll have you know that these amulets do not make me Tranquil. My emotions and passions are somewhat…constrained, but I still have them.”

Dorian shook his head. “But why? Was Ostwick’s Circle truly that terrible? Must you subject yourself to this?”

“I displayed immense magical abilities at a very young age, far greater than anyone my family had seen at the time. I first entered the Fade on my own as a small child, without knowing what I was doing. And I- I wandered into my parents’ dreams and I changed things-”

“You’re a dreamer,” Dorian breathed. “That’s incredible! Even in Tevinter, somniari are exceedingly rare!”

“Fear drove my parents to send me away, to an elven priestess when I was only eight years old.” Trevelyan’s eyes glazed over, lost in distant memory. “I don’t blame them. What I did was irreparable. It was perhaps best for everyone involved. As far as I’m concerned, Nehra was the only family I ever really had.” He traced an embedded amulet with his thumb. “She was as wise as she was kind.”

“You loved her,” Dorian said quietly, after a while. It wasn’t really a question. He already knew the answer.

“Yes, I did,” Trevelyan’s smile was fond. “She was the most beautiful woman I’d ever laid eyes on. Never mind I was only eight at the time and she was a hundred years older. The moment I became of age, I’d asked her for her hand in marriage.”

Trevelyan looked down at his palm, where the fade mark shone dully. With a flick of the wrist, he conjured a small, bright flame that licked at his fingers. It looked like a golden crown atop a green meadow. He toyed with the fire for a moment before sailing it to a dry log near them, where it blossomed into a healthy blaze.

“And?”

“She’d said no,” Trevelyan sighed, but not unhappily. “She was gracious enough to let me down gently, but it didn’t matter. I remember sulking for days after the rejection.”

Dorian bit back a chuckle. “And why, pray tell, would she turn down a strapping young man like yourself? It seemed positively like the perfect fairytale.”

Trevelyan turned his gaze to Dorian, eyes tender in a way he’d never seen before.

“She said she’d foreseen my future. And that I was meant for someone else.”

The fire crackled noisily.

Chapter Text

Dorian chose to deflect, because that was safe. Uncomplicated.

“Any fair maiden in all realms of Thedas would be lucky to have your heart, Inquisitor.” And he knew it to be the truth.

Trevelyan ignored his remark. Instead he gestured to Dorian's bandaged shoulder. “Shall I heal that for you?”

Feeling slightly flustered, Dorian couldn’t find his voice to respond, so he nodded.

Trevelyan made quick work of refastening the bracers, once again muzzling the stifling pungency of the amulets. Dorian immediately found it easier to breathe; astonished at his own magic’s instinctive warning to ensure its survival.

Trevelyan moved closer and folded his hands over Dorian’s shoulder. Calloused fingers skimmed feather light on the exposed skin of his clavicle, Trevelyan was careful not to apply too much pressure on the still weeping wound. Dorian stiffened his muscles to resist the reflexive shudder.

A soft glow radiated under Trevelyan’s palms and Dorian felt a gentle heat beneath the bandages, sinking deep under his skin. Then, the curious sensation of flesh and sinews knitting, coaxed by healing magic to fuse together anew.

Trevelyan’s eyes fell shut in concentration, so Dorian let his eyes roam freely across the profile of his face; taking in the regal slope of his nose, his perfectly high cheekbones, and the small, faded scar on his bottom lip that Dorian had never noticed until now.

Now, those plump lips curled into an amused smile. With a start, Dorian lifted his eyes and caught Trevelyan’s mirthful sidelong glance.

“All done," he said.

Dorian cleared his throat and averted his gaze. “My thanks, Inquisitor.”

He tested his shoulder cautiously and was relieved that it no longer hurt. “So…that night in the Hinterlands, I take it you were healing yourself?”

Trevelyan rolled back to sit on his heels, idly picking at an embrium flower, the blisters on his hands had also healed by the looks of it.

“Yes, I was,” he admitted. “I thought I was alone. Imagine my surprise when I found out otherwise.”

“Surprise? You are one of the most unflappable men I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet. Calm as a millpond when you chased me out of there!”

“I've been told that my surprised face looks a lot like my normal face,” said Trevelyan.

“Oh! He jests!” Dorian guffawed. This side of Trevelyan was new. He liked it.

“Only with the right company,” Trevelyan said mildly, standing up.

If it were anyone else, Dorian would have readily flirted, harmless and immensely enjoyable - though even better should there be a tumble in the hay at the end of it.

But this was different.

Besides the glaringly obvious reason - evil Tevinter mage sleeping with the Herald of Andraste? How scandalous! - Dorian wouldn’t wish to impose himself on someone whose emotional faculties were compromised. As corrupt as he was, there were still lines he wouldn’t cross, no matter how tempting.

Dorian pushed the ache – practically an old friend by now – that bloomed in his chest quickly aside.

“I thank you for your trust, Inquisitor. Your friendship is a gift I won’t soon forget.”

And he meant every word.

* * *

 

“Solas! I was hoping to speak with you privately, if you have a moment.”

Dorian found the reclusive mage in his study on the ground floor of the rotunda, moving about with the sort of grace only elves possessed. Sometimes, it was easy to forget the shoddily-dressed man was a powerful mage, one who could travel through time and wander around ancient cities as they rose and fell. There was a lot of knowledge in the realm of the Old Gods to be learned from him, but today Dorian had something else in mind.

“Oh?” Solas said lightly, his features carefully arranged in a neutral expression. “What business would a Tevinter have with a humble elf?”

Dorian winced internally, saying, “Care to join me on the ramparts?”

 

Once they were safely out of everyone’s earshot, for the rotunda was really just one giant room, Dorian turned to Solas.

“The Inquisitor has told me about his…condition, and that you helped him with enchanting the leather bracers he so dearly loves.”

A calculated pause. “I see.”

“I was hoping you could tell me more about them. The magic behind it, that is.”

Solas gave him a long look before casting his eyes down the battlements. “I am afraid I cannot tell you anything without the Inquisitor’s permission. To do so would be a grave violation of his trust.”

Though disappointed, Dorian couldn’t fault him for his integrity. “Fair enough. I understand.”

“As you can appreciate, they are very few people whom he trusts implicitly. I see that you have now joined that very small circle.”

“Who else knows?”

“I cannot say.”

They stood silent for a moment, and watched Cole, in his large silly hat, down at the refugee camp giving out bread and soup to the newly arrived.

Solas was always so still, his eyes unblinking, as though he observed the waking world the same way he did in the Fade. When he spoke again, his voice was gentler.

“What I can tell you is my theory that the anchor is interfering with his magic, and made the original bracers' enchantment more unstable. I speculate that is the reason why I was able to detect the emanation in the first place. I suppose you did too.”

Dorian let out a sharp breath. “To think the whole time I thought he just needed a bath.”

“It is different for every mage. Our innate connection to the Fade protects us, sending us signals to avoid any danger to itself. The Inquisitor's amulets are one such threat. Depending on the person it could be a scent, a noise, even a feeling. What you think you smelled is unique to you, being the thing that would most deter you from getting close.”

“You’re saying that out of everything in the entire world, my magic thinks rotten fish is the thing that I hate most?” 

Solas actually laughed a little at that. “Yes.”

“What’s yours? Your personal warning beacon?”

“Just a foreboding sense of dread. I am afraid mine is dull in comparison.”

Dorian harrumphed. “I wonder what Vivienne’s is. Knowing her, she probably hears the screams of ugly outfits.”

* * *

“They look good together, don't they?”

“Who?” Blackwall asked, even if his eyes were already trained on one of the subjects.

“Them! The Inquisitor and Josephine obviously,” Varric said. “Surely even you two can see they make an attractive couple.”

They were in Val Royeaux, where the Inquisitor had just offered practically everything the Inquisition had at their disposal, short of volunteering himself, to ensure Minister Bellise would assist in voiding the assassins’ contract for Josephine’s head.

Josephine, naturally, was beyond grateful. The Inquisitor had chosen to jump through numerous political hoops to resolve this the way she wanted – the way she understood as a diplomat – instead of the more clandestine methods at Leliana’s suggestion. The twosome chatted quietly at the docks, with Josephine’s delighted giggles occasionally pealing through the salty sea breeze.

Dorian sniffed at Varric’s blatant attempt to get a reaction out of him. He wondered whether it’s because he was an easy target, or that Varric could tell something had changed. Everyone seemed to have noticed that Trevelyan was no longer avoiding him; sometimes they even spoke and shared a quiet laugh in Dorian’s alcove in the library. And apparently that was enough fodder for gossip these days.

Blackwall shuffled awkwardly next to him, and Dorian inwardly rolled his eyes. The man was clearly infatuated with the lovely Lady Montilyet but either too shy or pigheaded to do anything about it.

“I suppose they do, Varric,” Dorian said. “Though I’d always pegged Josephine as someone who liked burly men. You know, strong, dependable and magnificently beardy.”

“Really?”  Blackwall said without looking away. “You really think so?” 

“I don’t know, Sparkler. She seems to like the Inquisitor just fine.” Varric pointed his chin at Josephine’s hand resting delicately on Trevelyan’s arm.

Dorian had to admit to himself, they really did look good together. Were he to hazard a guess, she was perfectly Trevelyan’s type: if anyone in the Inquisition were 'as kind as she was wise', it’d have to be their lady diplomat.

There was a sick churning in his stomach that he refused to name, but he’d show none of it. Instead, he’d plaster his most charming smile on his face, and he would squawk and tease poor Blackwall about his little crush. Because that was how things were done.

 

* * *

 

It was several days later when the Inquisitor paid Dorian another visit in the library. He was so engrossed in his book, A Magical Guide to the Wisdom Teaching of the Ancient Elven, that he hadn’t noticed the man standing there until he spoke.

“Interesting choice of reading material, Dorian.”

Kaffas. He looked up, and was a little relieved to see a faint smile on Trevelyan's lips.

“Ah yes. I chanced upon it when I was cataloguing the books in the underground library. Nothing terribly fascinating in here though, I’m afraid.”

Trevelyan levelled him with a knowing look and he knew he was caught. Dorian tried not to look too guilty.

Despite his own academic - and personal interests if he were being honest - in learning more about the amulets, Dorian swore to himself he’d refrained from pestering Trevelyan to divulge more than he already did. Not when finally Trevelyan’s smiles came to him more easily these days and, if Dorian were lucky, an amused chuckle to a particularly funny story.  The way Trevelyan’s head tilted as mirth spread from eyes to the curved corner of his lips - each one of these laughs was a gift to Dorian.

Though Dorian didn’t feel much like laughing when these words came tumbling out of the Inquisitor’s mouth.

“I have a letter. It’s from your father.”

Chapter Text

Their voices still rang in his head.

You tried to change me!

I only wanted what was best for you.

You wanted the best for you! For your fucking legacy.

Dorian rubbed his eyes again.

His reunion with the elder Pavus was mentally exhausting to say the least. It was beginning to feel like no matter how far he ran, how may seas he crossed, he would never really outrun his father's hold over him.

He hated that the self-assured person he thought he’d finally become was instantly reduced to a quivering heap by Halward's presence alone. He hated that he still wanted his father’s approval. He hated that he still craved his love and affection. Even after all this time, even after all that Halward's done.

Dorian breathed a sigh of relief when he’d heard the backdoor to the tavern close. The Gull and Lantern was too far small a space for two Pavuses.

After a tumultuous start, Dorian had allowed the man to say his piece at Trevelyan’s gentle suggestion. He wished the Inquisitor didn’t have to witness the embarrassing family squabble, but, at the same time, pleased that he could return the gesture in some way – of entrusting the man with one of his own secrets.

A very small part of him appreciated his father’s attempt to reconcile, even if his approach was less than desirable. But the hurt was too much.

He’d learned not to hope for love a long time ago. He supposed he never really knew it - not when even his own parents failed to teach him that particular lesson. And if this was the only kind of love his father was capable of giving him – well, it had already done enough damage. Dorian wanted nothing more to do with it.

He choked back the lump rising in his throat, trying and failing to shut out the memory of Halward’s sneer when fifteen-year-old Dorian, in a moment of weakness, confessed that he’d thought of ending his own life.

Oh but I know you’d never go through with it, my son. You lack the requisite grit.

Tears prickled behind his eyes.

 

When he felt a bit more composed, Dorian pushed himself up from the chair and went to the front door.

It warmed him to see that Trevelyan never left the spot he promised he’d be, under a tree across where the tavern was. Dorian gave him a small wave. Trevelyan moved toward him with a warrior’s gait, strong and resolute.

He stopped an arm’s length away, his eyes scanning Dorian's face as though taking in every detail.

Dorian tried for a waned smile, but he could see worry in Trevelyan’s eyes – he’s getting better at reading him now – so he imagined it wasn’t a real success.

“Are you alright?” Trevelyan asked. He was standing so close, Dorian could reach out and -

“No, Not really.”

Dorian blinked in surprise when Trevelyan wrapped his arms around him, gathering him into a loose embrace.

This ridiculous man, barely a stranger only a month ago, his own emotions perpetually bound by magic, was giving him a hug. Dorian would have laughed at the absurdity if he didn’t feel the sting of tears as they began blurring his vision. 

He did not return the hug, but he allowed himself to bury his nose in Trevelyan’s neck, taking comfort in his warmth and the steady beat of his pulse. Dorian's heart swelled with fullness of gratitude.

* * *

It appeared that Magister Pavus had paid for the entire month’s use of the Gull and Lantern. Dorian would much rather sleep in a real bed in a proper house than slumming it at camp, so he suggested that they stay in the rooms upstairs for the night. 

Dorian could tell Trevelyan was only vaguely listening to his complaints about those flopping tents and thin bedrolls: he paced around the bar tables, round the edge of the counter, arms stretched out in front of him ceremoniously.

“What in Maker’s name are you doing?” Dorian groused, plopping himself on a stool.

Shhh.”

Dorian gasped in mock offence. “Did the Herald of Andraste and saviour of all humanity just shush me?”

Trevelyan favoured him with a withering glare and Dorian chortled, silently grateful for the levity.

“If you must know, I’m looking for-” Trevelyan disappeared for a moment behind the bar counter, then resurfaced again with two dusty bottles, dark eyes sparkling with triumph, “-these.”

Dorian took one from him and uncorked it before bringing it to his nose. Mmm…well-aged single malt whisky.

“How did you know they were there?” Dorian asked, already reaching over to pick up two tumblers.

“It’s a…special skill that I have. Finding things. Especially alcohol.”

Dorian chuckled, then realised Trevelyan wasn’t laughing. “Wait, you’re serious?”

Trevelyan shot him a look, a flash of defence crossed his face.

“I assure you, Inquisitor, I bear nothing but scholarly interests,” Dorian smiled brightly, the picture of innocence.

Trevelyan narrowed his eyes while he busied his hands wiping the dusty bottles clean with a cloth. “Mm-hmm.”

“Oh indulge me, will you?” Dorian pleaded. “In case you didn’t notice, I’ve had a very harrowing day.”

He knew he’d won by the resigned set of Trevelyan’s mouth.

“I sometimes hear this ding in my head,” Trevelyan said as he sat himself on the stool beside him. Dorian had to force himself to not curl instinctively into the solid heat of Trevelyan's proximity.

“A ding.

Trevelyan cleared his throat, looking a bit self-conscious. “Yes.”

Dorian’s grin grew wider. “You hear a ding in your head when you’re near alcohol?”  

“Well, only the good stuff,” Trevelyan replied amiably.

Dorian tried to bite back a snort, but gave into it, bursting out in earnest laughter. A heartbeat later, Trevelyan joined him.

 

 

The whisky burnt its way down his throat, and he relished the delicious pain. Whoever said drinking yourself into oblivion didn’t solve anything probably wasn’t drinking enough.

“He says we’re alike. Too much pride.” Dorian laughed, but there was no mirth in the sound. “I don’t know if I can forgive him.”

With most of the whisky gone, he felt mellowed enough to talk about what had transpired in the afternoon. Trevelyan was a good listener. He offered neither advice, nor judgement, only a supportive presence and drinking company.

Dorian swirled the amber liquid in his tumbler, temporarily mesmerised by the way it caught the light before downing that last finger of liquid in one gulp. The alcohol churning in his veins anaesthetised the ache, but not the feeling of utter aloneness. No family, no friends - he had no one but himself. 

“Maker knows what you must think of me now. After that whole display.” Dorian slid the empty glass to the table's edge and rested his forehead on folded arms. Exhaling slowly, he stole a peek at Trevelyan next to him. 

The Inquisitor's face was flushed from drinking, his usual decorum slipping with each sip. Dorian had never seen the man slouch before, and yet there he was. A small frown furrowed his brow, as if troubled by what Dorian had said, or demons of his own. Perhaps both.

“We will always carry the scars wrought by the sins of our fathers, Dorian. I don't think less of you. More, if possible.” Trevelyan leaned down so he could look straight into Dorian's eyes, his voice soft but sincere. “It’s not easy to abandon tradition and walk your own path. I admire your bravery. Truly.”

Dorian felt moisture in his eyes, his resolve crumbling.

Oh Maker, his father was right. He now realised how right he was.

I am weak. I am so, so weak.

Dorian let out a small sob and surged forward to press his lips to Trevelyan’s.

 

Chapter Text

Dorian had often imagined what it would be like to kiss Trevelyan, usually in the dead of night when deft hands slipped under covers.

Reality was far better than he could have envisioned. His mind sang when he slipped his tongue into Trevelyan’s mouth, lost between those soft, pliant lips. Dorian relished the taste of him against the bite of hard liquor, and the swallowed eagerly the soft gasp of surprise.

With a muffled moan, he slanted his lips over Trevelyan’s and brought his hand up to cup the back of his neck, deepening the kiss. He knew it was wrong, but Trevelyan's lips parted for him and he could no longer stop. He clung onto Trevelyan and kissed him harder, taking more, needing more, to keep himself from drowning.

Anytime now, Dorian thought, he’d shove me off of him and walk out.

But Trevelyan began kissing him back. Slowly, consentingly, letting Dorian take whatever he needed, let him take comfort in him. The kiss went on, nipping and suckling and surrendering to the desperate need to connect. To feel something.

When they finally broke apart, breathless and bewildered, Dorian felt his heart in his throat. He licked his lips, savouring the lingering sensation of the kiss. He watched Trevelyan from under his lashes, cheeks flushed red. Swallowing thickly, he whispered, “Forgive me. That was terribly uncouth.”

Trevelyan’s mouth glistened with their shared saliva, his gaze was dark, and Dorian wanted to kiss him again.

The rough pad of Trevelyan's thumb wiped away tears Dorian didn’t realise he was shedding. “You’re not alone, Dorian.” Trevelyan gently tugged him into his arms. “Not anymore.”

His words severed the last thread of Dorian's reserve, and it snapped like a wire pulled too tight. Dorian crumpled in Trevelyan’s embrace, his shoulders shaking as he cried. For everything that was and everything that could have been, and everything that would never be.

When his tears finally ran dry, he burrowed himself snugly into Trevelyan’s arms. He felt the faint kiss pressed to his temple, but sleep pulled at him too strongly fora response. He would not remember it come morning.

 

* * *

Dorian woke up in a lumpy bed with a stomping headache that rivalled an Exalted March. He groaned, a pathetic, broken sound, and gathered the blankets tighter around his body, willing the world to stop spinning.

A ray of golden sun broke through the tattered curtains, cutting a pillar of light into the dark room. Dust motes shone like stars in their own tiny universe, and reminded Dorian of childhood mornings in Qarinus. The pillow might be stiffer and the blankets mustier, but the ubiquitousness of simple things like dust clouds and warm breezes took him back to a more innocent time. A different sort of time magic, perhaps.      

Within his cocoon of self-pity and wallowing, how his night ended came back to him in a rush. He flushed hotly - it would be easy to blame it all on alcohol, but he’d be lying to Trevelyan. And to himself.

He should apologise to the Inquisitor. But the list of offences was long, so where should he begin? The drunkenness? The undignified blubbering? Or-

Full lips tugging gently, teeth grazing just hard enough to make his breath catch, eager tongues caressing…

Dorian groaned again at the memory and buried his face in the pillow. Looking at the man in the eye would be a challenge on its own.

 

Still feeling a little worse for wear, he rolled ungracefully out of bed. He looked around for his boots and found them set neatly in the corner of the room.

Right. Of course Trevelyan had to carry him upstairs, remove his boots and tuck him in bed. Dorian found it difficult to shake the intimacy of the whole thing, and the flare of embarrassment rose again like a fever.

He found the Inquisitor sitting at one of the tables in the otherwise empty tavern downstairs, poring over some missives while eating a pear with a knife. Trevelyan looked up from his work when he heard Dorian reach the last step.

“Good morning,” he said, rather formally. “Did you sleep well?”

“Ah yes, I did.” The answer came out feebler than Dorian had intended.

Filled with trepidation, he plodded slowly to the table and took a seat across from Trevelyan, who looked like he’d just risen himself - his eyes still hooded and weighed down by sleep, and he had a faint crease on his cheek. Dorian tried not to stare at it.

Trevelyan slid a mug over to him. “This will help with the headache. It’s elfroot tea.” 

Dorian took a small sip. The tea was warm and soothed his sore throat.

“Thank you for putting me to bed. I can’t imagine it being easy or pleasant,” he grimaced. “I had conducted myself poorly last night. I took advantage of your friendship and it was wrong of me. I am sorry.”

When Trevelyan didn’t immediately say anything, Dorian prepared for the worst. He had hoped for forgiveness, or at the very least, not to be kicked out of the Inquisition. Although he was certain corrupting the Herald of Andraste was grounds enough to expel him. 

His father’s voice rang in his head despite all his efforts to silence it. Debauched filth! You’re no son of mine!

“You’d break it if you squeezed it any harder.”

Dorian blinked owlishly at Trevelyan for a moment before realising he was talking about the mug, on the brink of shattering between his white-knuckled hands.

“Oh yes, um, pardon me," he said quickly, returning the mug to the table in the most delicate manner, the way his tutor taught him even before his fingers were long enough to grasp a teacup properly.

Trevelyan drew a small breath and rose from his chair. He rounded the corner of the table and without a word, pressed his lips to Dorian’s in a soft kiss. Dorian made a small noise when he tasted the sweet nectar of pears on the Inquisitor's tongue, and his eyes fell close.

It wasn’t a long kiss, but it was enough to set his blood alight, and enough to quiet the voices of ghosts past.

“I believe that makes us even,” said Trevelyan, and he went back to reading his documents in his seat as though nothing was out of the ordinary. “We leave in an hour. See to it that you’re ready by then.”

Dorian’s mind was racing too quickly to respond with anything other than a dazed nod.

 

* * *

 

They had a late lunch of roast pheasants and lemon tarts by the scenic Lake Luthias, while their horses grazed lazily nearby. Trevelyan had pilfered the food from the tavern’s kitchen, no doubt originally prepared for father and his retinue.

The lemon tarts weren’t as sweet as the ones Dorian was used to back home, as sugar was hard to come by in the South, but they were no less delicious.

Trevelyan pulled out another pear from his travelling sack, cutting it into slices with a small paring knife before offered him one. The sweet fragrance of the fruit tantalised him, a saccharine reminder of its flavour in someone else’s mouth. Dorian declined, a little more abrupt than necessary. His lips still prickled from grazing against Trevelyan's scruff.

“It’s a lovely day today, isn’t it?” he said instead, feeling a little foolish commenting on something so prosaic as the weather. 

“It is.”

“Are you quite fond of the bucolic life? You seem more at ease whenever you’re out and about,” Dorian heard himself say.

“It’s something I’m used to,” Trevelyan said, wiping his sticky fingers on a clean cloth. “We were on the run for a while, Nehra and I, and a few of her clansmen.”

“Who were you running from?”

“Someone who had found out about me. What I was. We knew it was a possibility that word would spread. They were…curious, in the most violent way possible, about how a Free Marcher could have been born a dreamer.”

“Remember how I said there was a Trevelyan in the Pavus family tree? Maybe the magic skipped several generations. It’s not unheard of.”

“Pity you weren’t there to tell them that then. Because they hunted us like dogs.”

Something in his tone made Dorian wince internally.

“To throw them off the scent, Nehra suggested a ritual that would mute my abilities. The amulets worked for a while.”

“For a while?”

Trevelyan nodded. “They eventually caught up with us. Nehra sent me off on some errand in town one day. By the time I returned to camp, everyone was dead. She knew they were coming, and she sent me away.

“For a very long time, I didn’t understand why she’d sacrifice herself and her entire clan to save me.” He held up his left hand, the mark glowed darkly under his skin. “I suppose I do now. She had known all along. My destiny.”

It was indecent, he was well aware, but Dorian couldn’t fight the pang of envy for a woman long gone from this world.

To have loved and still be loved, even in death. He wondered if it was worth a life cut short, if it was as magical and wonderful as fairytales had people believe. Dorian hardly dared to hope for the same, but he, with every shred of his being, ached for it nonetheless.

When the last of the meal was finished, they gathered up their belongings and began their journey back to Skyhold. They rode in silence, each deep in their own thoughts.

Chapter Text

The Inquisitor had been on a weeklong mission closing rifts and rebuilding the town of Crestwood.

It felt too quiet, with half of the Inquisition’s inner circle gone, but Dorian had used his time judiciously. He dove into investigation, working his old contacts in Minrathous, and yielded very fruitful intelligence - he'd found the exact location of the third Venatori camp in Exalted Plains.

It would bring Dorian some peace to finally extinguish the last of these deluded extremists puttering about in the South.

His back was sore from sitting at the desk for so many hours. This sad piece of furniture they dared call a chair did his spine no favours. He briefly entertained the idea of magicking his plush armchair across the floor to the desk, but lethargy won out. Pushing away the books and maps, Dorian made himself just enough room on the desk to lay his head on folded arms.

He was just beginning to dose off when the caws of the crows roused him, and the low voices of the Inquisitor and Leliana drifting from above brought him to full wakefulness.

So the Inquisition party had returned.

Without dwelling on the thought too much, Dorian allowed himself the liberty to admit he'd missed Trevelyan a little. Even if they hadn’t had the chance for a proper conversation since Redcliffe, with the Inquisitor busy readying his journey to Crestwood - there was a newfound closeness between them. Not because Dorian now knew the feel of Trevelyan's lips – though that certainly didn’t hurt – but the realisation that someone who’d seen him at his lowest ebb, most broken, had stood by him.

Dorian luxuriated in a full body stretch. He plodded about the shelves, returning the books to their rightful places.

It would be nice to have a chat again, after so long.

* * *

 

“You can’t be serious!” Dorian laughed then choked on his ale, his eyes watering from the coughing fit that followed. When he'd regained his composure, he croaked, “What do you mean you only know two spells?”

Trevelyan let out a small laugh. “It means exactly that. Flashfire and chain lightning - I can cast a grand total of two spells. I was never taught more than that. No wait, three, actually, if you count healing.”

Under the dim light of blazing torches, the gold-gilded buttons on Trevelyan's dark-blue doublet gleamed invitingly, his dark breeches fitted him to perfection.

Even with his warmest robe on, Dorian was freezing, sitting on the ledge in the broken part of the prison in Skyhold. But there were few places in the fortress where they could speak freely. Trevelyan seldom invited him to drink - on the same night of his return no less – and it’d be most ill-mannered to decline such an offer.

“What a bloody waste,” Dorian said, though there was no real bite to his words. “All that potential and he’s only learnt three paltry spells! That's like getting the Iron Bull to kill someone with a rusty spoon!”

“I’d bet good coin that Iron Bull is just as deadly with a rusty spoon as he is with an axe.”

“I’ll thank you not to give him any more ideas. I’d rather not wake up with a spoon in my eye. He’s been goading me for weeks now for a fight.” Dorian took in a breath of the icy air, feeling the sting in his nose. He sipped at his bottle of ale, but wished for hot mulled wine instead. Or even better, a warm body to cuddle up to.

“He tries to get a reaction out of you because he likes you, Dorian.”

The ale nearly came out of his nose as Dorian coughed and sputtered. “I beg your pardon?” That last note certainly didn’t reach a pitch quite that high. It couldn't have.

“You have to admit there’s a certain poetry to it. It seems positively like the perfect fairytale.” Trevelyan smiled at his own clumsy mimicry of Dorian’s words, said not long ago.

“You must be joking.”

A odd sort of silence fell between them. Only the howls of mountain wolves could be heard from this corner of Skyhold.

“Why not?” said Trevelyan, and his voice grew detached and didactic. “The Iron Bull is a decent man. It’d be a mistake to write him off just because he’s Qunari.” 

Dorian narrowed his eyes. “Where exactly is this going?” He’s suddenly conscious of his high collar, too hotly constrictive.

“You should seize the opportunity to be happy, even just for a little while, even if it doesn’t come in a way you expect.”

In hindsight, Dorian wished he hadn’t said anything. It was much too soon, and delivered all wrong. If only his voice didn’t waver, and his throat didn’t bob from nervousness, he could have passed it off as a joke. But -

“What if Iron Bull wasn’t the person I want?”

Trevelyan shook his head. He set his bottle of ale on the ground, his voice bit with easy apathy. “I know what you seek, Dorian, but I cannot give it.”

Words he'd heard countless times back home.

He was suddenly reminded why he didn’t want to go down this road to begin with. The familiar squeeze of humiliation crept in his chest, he felt like he was being held underwater.

“I’m not seeking anything that wasn’t freely reciprocated! You kissed me back, and then you kissed me again the next day!” he said hotly. “I don’t enjoy being toyed with.”

Dorian regretted the outburst the moment it left his mouth. He’d shown his cards too soon, and he could almost hear Varric’s I told you so’s in his head.

The alcohol-fuelled fire burnt like acid in his belly. His skin felt too small, too tight to contain him.

Trevelyan’s eyes were hard when he spoke, all the affection from a moment ago dissipated like warm breaths in the frigid air. “That mistake was mine and mine only. You were upset and I only meant to comfort you. I never intended it to go this far.” He looked away. “I’m sorry you thought otherwise.”

“I don’t need anyone's pity!” Dorian spat. “And especially not from you. You made me believe that I wasn’t alone! That I could trust you with my-” He couldn't hide the quaver in his voice. A sharp inhale. “Evidently, I was mistaken.”

Dorian’s flexed his fingers - he wanted to set this infuriating man on fire so he could burn free of the absurd web Trevelyan’s trapped them both in. It was either that or a good old-fashioned punch in the face.

He decided to do neither. With a grunt, Dorian sprang up from his sitting position and kicked the empty ale bottle toward the open mountains. It didn’t fly very far, landing beneath the waterfall with a small splash before shattering on the hard surface under the current.

He turned on his heels and marched out of the prison, not sparing a second glance at Trevelyan. What he needed was more alcohol and better company - and he knew he’d find both at the tavern.

* * *

 

It appeared that he had arrived at the perfect time.

Iron Bull and his Chargers’ raucous laughter and jeering sailed across the crowded tavern, the party already well lubricated with alcohol. Bull’s lieutenant, Krem, had just won some silver arm-wrestling a young templar Dorian didn’t recognise. Bull bellowed a deep-bellied 'Ha!', slapping Krem's back and ruffled his hair like a proud parent.

Dorian slid onto a stool at the bar and asked Cabot for a large mug of mulled wine. His hands were chilled to the bone, and the warm mug made his fingertips tingly. It was an odd sensation - one that he never knew until he came to the bitter cold south.

It took three more mulled wines and two tankards of ale before Iron Bull made his way to him. By then, Dorian was merrily inebriated. He beamed at the man, who dropped onto the stool next to him.

“So…how come you aren’t arm-wrestling anyone? Afraid to cripple the entire Inquisition army?”

Iron Bull snorted. “Not much challenge arm-wrestling puny humans.”

“Hmm. Pity. I’m looking for a wrestling partner myself and you were on the top of my list.”

Bull slowly blinked at him with his one good eye, his mouth agape, the large tankard stopped midway to his mouth.

“Are you suggesting what I think you’re suggesting?”

“That’s for me to know and for you to find out, Qunari.”

Dorian slipped off the stool and sauntered his way out of the tavern.

He made it to the back of the building when he heard Iron Bull follow, and was momentarily disorientated when large hands grabbed his shoulders and pushed him against the tavern wall. He quickly spun around to greet his assailant with a flirtatious smile and a provocative lip bite.

Seduction was not a game new to Dorian. He knew how to display himself in the most flattering light – an attractive promise to reckless debauchery. And when Iron Bull plunged his big tongue into his mouth, searching and demanding and conquering, Dorian knew he was desired. That knowledge placated him.

A small whine escaped his lips when Iron Bull pulled away suddenly, stepping back to put some distance between them. “Not that I’m complaining, Dorian,” he said with a slight pant in his voice. “But why now?”

Dorian made to grab Bull again but a big hand on his chest held him at bay. “Does it matter? It’s just sex, isn’t it? You’ve probably bedded all the barmaids in Skyhold. Surely you’d be open to something a little different.”

“Yes, Dorian, it matters to me. I’m up for it but I need to know you’re here for the right reasons. How drunk are you?”

“Not nearly drunk enough!”

“Why are you here?”

“The Inquisitor,” Dorian said with a sarcastic flourish and a wave of a hand, “told me that you liked me. So, I’m here to see how much.”

“Boss said that?”

Yes.” Dorian made to kiss Bull again but the giant grey hand didn’t budge.

“Not to kill the mood or anything, but I was under the impression that you two had something going on.”

“Nope,” said Dorian, popping the 'p'. “No thing. Nothing at all! It was all just a tragic misunderstanding. Now, do you want to fuck or not?”

Iron Bull's eyes shone in the darkness. “No. You’re drunk and you’re sad. We are not doing this.”

“Oh come off it! I can tell that you want me,” Dorian practically purred, and licked his lips.

Bull swallow thickly at the sight, but took another step back. “I’m not here to be your rebound guy, Dorian. You sort out your shit first. If you want to ride the bull, it’d be because you want me to fuck you so hard that you'd forget your own name, not someone else’s.”

And with that, he turned his back and headed back into Herald's Rest.

The warmth of Bull’s hand lingered on his chest, but all Dorian could feel in his drunken haze was the shame and guilt that followed.

Chapter Text

There was a knock on the door, but Dorian just couldn't find the will to care. He curled up into a tighter ball under the warm blankets and pressed his face further into the pillow. Whoever it was could kindly piss off.

Another burst of knocks and a lot of annoyed grunting from his end later, his visitor finally gave up and left him alone. With a contented sigh, he drifted back into another sticky sleep.

By the time Dorian rose and looked out the window, the sky was already painted fiery red by the setting sun. The snowy Frostback Mountains were bathed in beautiful coral light, like flames on dark coals, the illusion of warmth as deceiving as the human heart.

A quick splash in the washbasin, a short but thorough scrubbing of teeth, and then combing his hair and moustache to perfection. He pulled on his leather armour and looked into the mirror. There you are, Dorian Pavus! Good as new! 

 

His first task of the day - or evening really - was to pass on to Leliana the location of the Venatori camp.

The spymaster made her lair in the rotunda's rookery - it was kept dimly lit at all hours, a deliberate effort to make the already gloomy space appear even more sinister.

Like the rest of Skyhold, the stone walls had seen better days and the shelves could use some serious dusting. But Dorian knew this room held secrets that would shape the world, and the delicate-looking woman hunched over the table, gloved hands spread flat against its surface, was anything but – she could easily bring ruin upon anyone who crossed her, or the Inquisition.

“What can I do for you, Dorian?” Leliana asked without looking up from the reports.

“Where do I begin, Sister?” Dorian sighed deeply. “How about we start with softer beds? The ancient elves must’ve all had backs of steel judging from the mattresses they have here. My poor spine will thank you.”

“I shall mention that to the Inquisitor the next time he travels to Val Royeaux. What else?”

Fine, be boring then.” He held up the square of folded parchment between two fingers. “I’ve found the location of the third Venatori camp. Would you be so kind as to pass it along to His Worship?”

Leliana took the note and read it silently before nodding at him. “Good work. I’ll inform him once he returns.”

“Returns?”

“Inquisitor Trevelyan left Skyhold early this morning. You were invited as well, but my messenger said you declined.”

“Declined? I was just…sleeping off a hangover.” Dorian groaned and ran a palm across his face. “Where did he go?”

“Back to Ostwick.”

Ostwick? But why would he-“

“His mother has died, Dorian. We received word late last night.”

Oh Maker.

“His family wanted his presence at the burial,” she continued. “There was no time to waste if he were to reach Ostwick within the week.”

“Why of course they would! They want him now that he’s the leader of the Inquisition and the Herald of bloody Andraste,” he snapped, “like they gave a shit about him before!”

Leliana said nothing, but Dorian could feel her eyes on him, evaluating every word and every move. Always a spymaster.

“Who went with him?”

“Cassandra and Blackwall.”

He crossed his arms and glared out the narrow window. “I suppose it’s out of the question for me to take our fastest mount and try to catch up with them?”

“Discernment has always been one of your finer qualities, Altus.”

Dorian grimaced. “I have made a mess of things, haven’t I?”

Leliana regarded him with steady, unblinking eyes. “They’ll be back soon enough. Whatever it was that transpired between you two, you can make your amends then.”  

A beat of wings through air, and a messenger raven hopped onto the table, pecking at Leliana’s gloved finger. Wordlessly, she held its beak for a short moment in a gentle but firm, reprimand. The bird blinked and struggled but soon accepted the hold and quieted. Leliana relinquished her clinch, and when the raven nuzzled her hand, she flicked it in the face, sending it scrambling to fly back to its post with the others.

She turned back to Dorian. “Despite his shortcomings, the Inquisitor does care about his people. He holds everyone at arm’s length because he knows the cost of failing. You have to forgive him for that.”

Dorian scoffed. “And he told you all that?”

“He didn’t have to.” Leliana’s voice was pensive. “I see it because I too know the weight of that burden.”

 

* * *

By the time he exited the rotunda, darkness had truly settled upon Skyhold. The warm glow of the tavern was enticing, but tonight Dorian was heading there for more than its usual offerings.

He owed Iron Bull an apology.

Cabot sat a large mug of mulled wine on the counter the moment Dorian plopped himself on a stool. The man had been entirely too obliging to the evil Tevinter Magister - maybe the drink was laced with a slow-acting poison, which would really explain why Dorian seemed to have lost sound judgement as of late.

He thanked the barkeep nonetheless and took a small sip. It’s a different brew than the other night, with hints of orange and honey. The sweetness brought him some cheer.  

There was no arm-wrestling match tonight and the tavern was relatively quiet. But of course, the night was still young. Bull sat in his usual corner, nursing an over-sized stein of brackish ale by himself.

Dorian took another long pull from his mug before making his way across the room to sit beside the Qunari, who did not hide his smile.

“Heard you missed the call this morning, 'vint. Looks like you’re stuck here with the rest of us.”

“Ugnh, yes. I might have had a bit much to drink last night. It won’t happen again, I can assure you.”

“I’d say more than just a bit,” Bull chuckled under his breath.

Dorian bit his lip. Apologies didn’t come easily for him, but Bull deserved a proper one. “No, Bull, I wasn’t drunk enough to not know what I was doing. I am sorry. It was unworthy of me to accost you the way I did.”

Bull considered him behind a gulp of ale.

“You got it all wrong, 'vint,” he said, tilting Dorian’s face up with a finger under his chin. “You can accost me anywhere and anytime you like. I was that close to ripping your robes and taking you right then and there last night.” His tongue darted out to wet his lips, and Dorian was suddenly reminded of how it felt in his throat. “I wasn’t kidding when I said I can make you forget your own name.”

Bull released Dorian’s chin and leaned back in his chair. “But like I said, it needs to be for the right reason.”

Dorian felt his face warm, and judging from Bull’s pleased expression, the Qunari enjoyed watching him squirm. He had a snappy retort right on the tip of his tongue, but he swallowed it along with another mouthful of wine.

“You’re a sweet guy, Dorian,” Bull said, contemplating him with a rare softness. “Underneath all that posturing. It’s okay to let people see that Dorian sometimes, you know.”

Dorian much preferred it when he and Bull made snide remarks at each other. At least he knew where they stood then: Quanri and Tevinter, sworn enemies for eons, warrior and mage, the great divide that would never be bridged.

“Oh, pish posh. There is nothing remotely sweet about me.”

“Well, I know at least one now!” Bull laughed with a suggestive wiggle of his one eyebrow.

“You’re impossible!” Dorian scoffed, but he couldn’t curb the smile forming on his lips.

 

* * *

 

The Skyhold great horn sounded three weeks later, blaring across the fortress to announce the return of the Inquisition party, prompting a flurry of activities within the keep.

Dorian was in the underground library when he’d heard the horn, trying and failing to clean out the dust and cobwebs without destroying the delicate books. While Josephine did say they had people who did these things, Dorian would rather take on the task himself. There were quite a few worthwhile tomes here, written in ancient tongues, left behind by the elves when they abandoned Skyhold. It'd be a gross injustice to not treat them like the valuable treasures that they were.

He snuffed out the magical veilfire – far less likely to set the books aflame – then made his way up the stairs with a light spring in his step.

As per protocol, the Inquisition's three advisors would come down from their ivory towers to the main gate to receive their Inquisitor. Today, however, they found themselves in the presence of only his two companions, Cassandra and Blackwall.

“Where is the Inquisitor?” Leliana asked before Dorian could make the same query himself.

“He said he wanted to be alone, so we parted ways in the Hinterlands,” Blackwall said as he dismounted his horse, and the steed was quickly led away by a stablehand to be watered and fed.

Cullen balked. “What? You left the Inquisitor by himself?”

Cassandra made a noise that sounded like a cross between a grunt and a sigh. “We didn’t leave him there, Commander. His Worship ordered us to return to Skyhold without him. We tried to reason with him but he wouldn’t listen.”

“This is just bloody marvellous.” Cullen looked like he was ready to strangle someone, if not the Inquisitor himself. “What, may I ask, is he planning on doing there?”

Blackwall and Cassandra exchanged a look before she answered. “He said he needed to kill something. Blackwall here helpfully suggested bears.” She made a face. “Men.”

Josephine chuckled at Cassandra’s expression and Blackwall visibly turned to mush at the sound. It was all so incredibly twee that Dorian’s teeth hurt.

“Well, I suppose the Hinterlands is safe enough," Josephine said agreeably. "It’s mostly under the Inquisition’s protection and we have a good number of soldiers and camps there.”

“Look, everyone needs some time alone every now and then. If you were there and saw how he was, you would have let him go too.” Blackwall glowered at Cassandra, who begrudgingly nodded. “That man might be tough as a rock but family stuff is hard on the soul.”

Cullen pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed. “Did he at least say when he’s coming back?”

“He said he'd come back within the week,” said Cassandra.

Leliana nodded. “I’ll send some scouts to watch over him, but let’s leave him be for now.”

 

As the group dispersed to return to their duties, Dorian, instead of going back to the library, took a left and went to his room instead. He pulled out his travelling sack and began shoving clothes and socks in it.

“Bears! He went bear hunting! Alone! That…blighted fool. Who does that?”

He flitted about the room, grabbing healing potions and bandages, cramming them into the rapidly filling bag while muttering angrily under his breath.

A knock on his door interrupted his packing. Dorian opened the door, a little more forcefully than intended, to see Cole standing there with his hands deep in his pockets, blue eyes twinkling from under that ridiculously large hat.

“You’re going to him, aren’t you?”

Dorian learned some time ago there really was no point in lying to the spirit. “Yes, as a matter of fact, I am.”

“Oh good. You should take these to him.” Cole produced two small pears from his pants pockets and handed them to Dorian. “Pears make him happy. Like you make him happy.”

His heart lurched. “I make him happy?”

“Little golden sparrows trapped inside a cage, but they flutter about when you’re near,” Cole grinned. “Because you have been kissed by evening’s breath, Dorian.”

“Uh, yes. Very charming.” Dorian furrowed his brows, and looked back at the mess in his bed. “As much as I’d love to stay and solve that riddle, I really must be going. But thank you, Cole, I mean it.”

 

It was nightfall when he grabbed his staff and slung the overstuffed sack across his shoulder, sneaking past patrolling guards to find his way down to the stables. Dorian figured if he could steal the fastest horse they had and rode nonstop, he would arrive in the Hinterlands in a day’s time.

But it appeared he didn’t need to orchestrate a theft after all. Master Dennet was already standing by the main gate with a chestnut Taslin Strider saddled and readied. At Dorian’s raised eyebrows, the dour man said only two words: Sister Nightingale.

Dorian spun around to the direction of the rotunda and performed an elaborate bow of gratitude that wouldn’t be out of place in a royal court. He was certain that Leliana was watching, and would continue to until both he and his horse disappeared into the dark, snow-swirled night.

Chapter Text

Dorian arrived at the outskirts of the Hinterlands as the sun reached its zenith.

He was never an accomplished rider and the ache in his legs was a reminder of that. Even his horse was showing visible signs of weariness - its coat was darkened with sweat and it had begun to stagger under Dorian’s weight.

Fortunately, there were a number of Inquisition camps in the area. Dorian dismounted once they reached the nearest one at the Redcliffe Farms.

“My horse needs water and food,” he said to the soldier who came to greet him. “I’m here for the Inquisitor. Do you know where he is?”

“Not his exact location, my lord.” The young woman's salute was perfect and her tone duteous. Cullen had done a marvellous job training the new recruits. “But we've received orders from His Worship that no one is to go near the Upper Lake Camp. Our soldiers were transferred out of there yesterday afternoon to other camps. Perhaps you could start there, ser.”

Dorian left his horse with her and began his trek across the Hinterlands on foot. Months of cattle herding and rift closing and shard collecting had him quite familiar with the terrain, and it took little effort to reach the camp near Lake Luthias.

Just as the soldier had said, the encampment was deserted. The campfire was put out, the twin tents still stood but the entrances were tied shut. Pots and pans stacked haphazardly atop a chest, and all the tables were cleared of the usual requisition reports and potion equipment.    

Dorian unlaced the door flap of the closest tent and dropped his sack in a heap inside. The beddings and pillows were still strewn about. Thank the Maker - he was so exhausted from riding all night he practically collapsed on top of them.

Though he only meant to rest his eyes a little, Dorian fell asleep and did not wake until the muted whinny of a horse cut through the steady drone of the waterfall.

He quickly reached for his staff – one could never be too careful – and lifted a corner of the flap. The sun had already begun its descent behind the horizon, casting with orange and red hues on the eastern ridges.

The rhythmic trot reached his ears: it stopped just short of the camp, followed by a pained groan.

He's hurt.

Dorian darted out of the tent, staff in hand, to find Trevelyan looking like he’d been mauled by a whole family of bears, and maybe their cousins too. He wasn’t wearing proper armour, his light doublet was ripped and shredded, exposing skin covered in claw marks and bruises. There was a serious looking bite on his shoulder: the fabric of his shirt, darkened with blood, had dried into the mangled flesh where teeth had sunk.

The Inquisitor looked like a disaster.

“Have you gone completely mad?” Dorian shouted as he moved towards Trevelyan, who actually jumped a little, his eyes widened into saucers. “Did you go bear hunting without wearing any armour? Do you have a death wish? Have you absolutely no sense of self-preservation? What kind of idiot goes off hunting bears alone anyway? Have you forgotten that you’re the leader of the Inquisition? Remind me to smother Blackwall in his sleep for even suggesting it to you, but not before I smother you for heeding said suggestion!”

Trevelyan stood staring at him, seemingly overwhelmed by his tirade, so Dorian stopped talking long enough to shove a potion into his hands.

“Drink. I have plenty more in my bag.”

When Trevelyan made no move to take the tonic, Dorian frowned. “What’s wrong? You don’t need me to feed it to you, do you?”

“No, I don’t want it. But thank you.”

“What do you mean you don’t want it? You’re bleeding to death!” Dorian argued, gesturing to the gaping hole on Trevelyan's shoulder. “By the looks of it, you'd need more than one.”

“Like I said, I don't want the potion.”

He moved to leave, but Dorian grabbed his arm. “No, no, no. You’re not doing this. Not again.”

“Doing what, exactly?”

There was a note of irritation in Trevelyan's voice, but Dorian was undeterred. “That thing you do where you close up and hide behind your amulets as your excuse to not talk to anyone. You said you’re not a Tranquil, that you still have your emotions. Well then, prove it! Talk to me!”

Trevelyan regarded him with a challenging stare. The charged silence hung between them, then - 

“I don’t want to take the potion because it’ll take away the physical pain,” Trevelyan said with quiet hesitation. “I…need it. It helps ground me. Because sometimes it feels like there’s nothing inside.” He grasped at his chest through his shirt. “Or maybe there’s too much inside with nowhere to go. I...don’t know.” His voice was almost a whisper towards the end.

Dorian ignored the ghostly squeeze around his heart. He took the potion from Trevelyan, uncorked it and pushed it back into his hand.

“Just take one, then. It won’t heal everything up. Please, just one.” Dorian schooled his voice, a careful balance between a plea and a command, and was relieved when Trevelyan obediently drank the tonic. “Now, let’s get you cleaned up.”

 

* * *

 

Dorian drew the damp washcloth over the bloodied skin, a little harsher than was strictly necessary. The water in the washbasin was stained a deep crimson by the time he was done.

The smaller gashes had already healed, but the deep bite had yet to close up properly. The Inquisitor would need a poultice for this.

It was getting dark, so Dorian conjured a globe of magelight that hovered just under the ceiling of the tent. It was no easy task picking out the torn fabric lodged in the bite wound. It must be quite painful, with his fingers digging around the gaping holes, but Trevelyan didn’t flinch.

“Thank you, by the way,” he said as he pulled out strips of bandages from his sack. “For telling me.” 

He dressed the wound the best that he could, wrapping the cotton under Trevelyan's armpit and around the injured shoulder. It certainly didn’t look neat or pretty, but it was secure enough to hold.

“You deserved to know,” said Trevelyan. There was too much weight in his words, and Dorian didn’t know what to make of it. 

“I apologise for losing my temper the other day, I had no right to. I’m also very sorry about your mother, and my missing the trip to Ostwick. I had passed out from drink - a most inopportune time, evidently, to test the limits of my alcohol tolerance.”

So many things to apologise for - it occurred to Dorian that it had become quite a recurring theme with the Inquisitor.

“I am sorry as well for my behaviour.” Trevelyan glanced at him. “I was trying to be noble. I didn’t mean to cause you pain.”

After a long silence, Dorian finally summoned enough courage to ask what had to be asked. “Did you mean what you said?”

Trevelyan poked at his freshly bandaged shoulder. He pressed it until a blot of red bloomed from beneath his fingers, a dark blush on the white linen. Dorian resisted the urge to swat the hand away.

“There is a great chasm that lies within my heart. I can see from across all that is to feel - sometimes I can even wet my feet in its ocean, and pretend that is enough. But almost always I feel like a spectator in this sport we call humanity. And the worst of all, I can’t even bring myself to feel sad about it.”

Trevelyan’s hand stilled. His chest rose and fell as he drew in a breath. His voice was hoarse, as if on the verge of tears, but his eyes were dry.

“I saw the withered body of the woman I had driven mad, the same woman who had given me life. And I did not shed one tear. If I can’t give myself fully to mourn the death of my own mother, what good am I when it comes to matters of the heart?”

Dorian’s breath hitched when Trevelyan turned to him, and brushed the curve of his cheek with the rough pad of his fingertip, then tracing a path along his brow, the beauty spot by his eye, to the corner of his lips.   

“Still...” he whispered, leaning in, “I do so selfishly want what I can’t fully return.”

He kissed him then. It was at once possessive and tender, and Dorian’s eyes fluttered close in the agony of pleasure.

Angling his mouth hard against Dorian’s, Trevelyan curled his hand around the back of his head and buried his fingers in the dark hair, deepening the kiss. Dorian flicked his tongue against Trevelyan’s, and the way the Inquisitor moaned at the contact sent a tingling rush down his spine.

Trevelyan’s lips left his and began trailing wet, open-mouthed kisses along the smooth line of Dorian’s jaw, traversing the column of his throat to find the spot where his neck met his collarbone. Trevelyan bit the delicate skin gently before soothing the nip with a hot kiss. Dorian yelped in surprise, and his body shuddered.

“We should stop,” Dorian said between breathless kisses, “you’re hurt.”

“I don’t want to stop,” Trevelyan murmured into Dorian’s mouth, wrapping his arms around his waist and pulling him flush against him. “Unless you want me to.”

The promise of what was to come churned hotly in Dorian's gut. Trevelyan’s eyes were dark with unbridled lust: lips swollen and kiss-bitten, his body vibrated with barely restrained intensity. It was a sight that Dorian never thought he’d see outside of his favourite fantasies, let alone be the reason for it.

It struck Dorian, all in a moment, that he would give Trevelyan anything with everything that he had. A port in a storm - if that were all Trevelyan needed, even if that was all Dorian could be to him, then he would have it.

“No, don’t stop,” he breathed, and parted his lips to another fervent kiss.

The thin padding of the bedroll was uncomfortable but neither of them noticed. Spellbound by entwined fingers in clasped hands pressed to the ground, trembling limbs and exchanged breaths, and slick bodies rocking against each other, eagerly seeking more friction.

It might not be love, not the way either of them saw it. But when Trevelyan sighed Dorian’s name between gasps and moans, calloused hands gripping his hips hard enough to bruise as they fell apart in pleasure; and when Trevelyan quivered and collapsed on him, nestling his face in his neck and dropping languid kisses on his skin...

It felt close enough. 

Chapter Text

Dorian couldn’t remember the last time he woke in someone’s arms.

Hovering in that peaceful place between dreaming and wakefulness, he could feel the ebbing pull of the Fade, whilst the steady breathing of his makeshift pillow anchored him there a little longer than usual.

Nestled against Trevelyan’s side as he was, with his head resting on his bare chest, Dorian was torn between the delicious body heat and the growing discomfort of a clavicle digging into the side of his face. Though the scent of the Trevelyan’s skin, mingled with the smell of recent sex, was a pleasant, if not slightly obscene, consolation.

Naturally, with morning came logical thinking and good sense. Dorian wondered if he could slink his way onto a separate bedroll without rousing Trevelyan. He’d rather not have the dreaded morning-after talk. Waking up wrapped in each other's arms was never part of the plan, and he was already treading dangerous waters.

“Stop moving,” Trevelyan murmured, voice still raspy with sleep. He tightened his arm around Dorian’s waist and pulled him closer.

“Yes, good morning to you too. I should really -”

“Shhh.” Trevelyan threw his other arm over his closed eyes. “I’m trying to enjoy the moment.”

Right then. Trevelyan wasn’t a morning person – another piece of the puzzle to the great enigma that was the Inquisitor. Dorian wondered how many people had seen him like this: dishevelled and lazy, hair terribly sex-mussed, his face soft from sleep. Before the mark touched him, before the amulets, there was a man who didn’t care for mornings, loved pears, and kissed like he was saying mine, mine, mine.

Dorian laid his head down again, though a little higher onto an actual pillow to take the pressure off the shoulder wound. “I’m beginning to feel like you’re always shushing me.”

Trevelyan made a noncommittal noise, but his lips quirked into a sleepy smile.

“How are you feeling?”

“Better. Thank you.”

“So, how many bears, exactly, did you murder yesterday?”

“Two. I was tracking a third but ran into a druffalo bull instead. I had to make a run for it.” He sounded as frustrated as he was allowed. “Shame you weren’t there to cast a barrier on me this time. I know what you did, you know, back at the Emerald Graves.”

Dorian considered this for a moment, and then rolled over onto Trevelyan, who finally opened his eyes. “It wasn’t fun being skewered by a bronto, I must admit,” he smirked down at Trevelyan.

The Inquisitor reached up, his thumb traced the shape of Dorian’s mouth, lingering on the slight indent on his bottom lip. “Thank you, nonetheless,” he said, and the smallest of smiles graced his face. There was something he wasn’t saying, but Dorian decided not to push it.  

Dorian leaned down for a kiss, chaste by last night’s standard, until Trevelyan’s mouth parted in answer, then Dorian slipped his tongue in, pushing and teasing. What was he, if not an opportunist?

He rolled his hips into Trevelyan's and was rewarded with a pleasing groan. But before he could take things any further, Trevelyan’s stomach gave a loud growl.

“Tsk, tsk. It seems you’re hungry for something other than me,” Dorian chastised in mock disapproval. “Shame on you.”

Trevelyan’s deep laugh rumbled through his body, and atop of him as he was, Dorian felt every single tremor. “I haven’t eaten since yesterday morning,” he confessed.

“Well, then. Let’s remedy that, shall we?”

 

They sat by the roaring campfire, breaking their fast with cheese and bread that Trevelyan had brought back with him from Ostwick.

“...and the amount of grease you use to oil the cheese wheel would dictate how fast, or slow, it goes,” Trevelyan said between bites of food. “It’s a fine balance. An art, really.”

“You Marchers roll your cheeses down a hill and call it a sport? How quaint,” Dorian snickered. “So, are we eating a winner?” He popped another piece in his mouth. It was actually rather good.

“It’s a tradition, not a competition. And it’s more strenuous than you think. People have been injured in the past, some seriously. Fortunately, our cheeses are as famous for their flavour as they are for their sturdiness.”

“Hmm…same could be said about Ostwick men, if you ask me.”

Dorian could swear there was a faint blush across Trevelyan’s cheekbones, but surely that’s impossible.

“I did try to invite you to come along,” Trevelyan replied, a gleam of amusement in his eyes. “Imagine, you could’ve had a larger sample size.” 

Dorian goggled at the man. “And that wouldn’t bother you at all.”

“I wouldn’t have liked it, but I would have been…supportive.”

“And now?”

Dorian’s heart might have skipped a beat at the undisguised heat in Trevelyan’s eyes. “I’d prefer it if you didn’t.” 

“Well, we’d never know now, would we?”

“I suppose not.”

Dorian cleared his throat, eager to redirect the thick tension elsewhere. “Oh! I almost forgot. I came bearing gifts, actually. I’ll go fetch them.”

He headed for the tent, rummaging through his sack to find the pears, wrapped carefully in his clothes. .

“From our friendly resident spirit, Cole.” He pushed the fruits into Trevelyan’s hands when returned, sitting down by the campfire.

Trevelyan knitted his brows and looked fixedly at the pears, as though he was counting each and every individual brown spot on the smooth skin.

“Something wrong?”

“Forgive me. I just didn’t think Cole could…read me. He couldn't before.” Trevelyan shook his head, as if clearing an imaginary fog. “Pears were the last thing my mother and I ate together, when she was still her. It’s one of the happier memories I have of her.”

He brought the fruits to his nose and inhaled the perfume greedily. “I wish I had the chance to say goodbye.”

Dorian scooted closer and rested his chin on Trevelyan’s uninjured shoulder. “I'm sorry.”

“Me too.”

“You know, Cole left a wooden duck on my bed some time ago. I had a similar one with wheels when I was a child – a gift from my father. I used to drag it behind me with a twine everywhere I went, along the hallway, up and down the stairs. Drove everyone absolutely mad but I didn’t care. I just loved the way the wheels made that clacking noise.”

Trevelyan smiled, turning his face to Dorian to gave him a little peck on the nose. Dorian crinkled his nose playfully, earning a full smile from the other man. Feeling overcome by a swell of affection, Dorian leaned in and pressed a soft kiss to Trevelyan’s mouth.

Physical pleasures were one thing, but this was an entirely different beast altogether. The Tevinter in him knew not to expect any more - and yet, despite that small voice of warning inside, he wanted to chase that one wink of perfect bliss after another, while he was still permitted to.

 

 

The afternoon sun was warm on his bare skin. Dorian arched his back, lost in the pleasure of Trevelyan's deep thrusts. It still felt unreal, to see Trevelyan flushed and writhing under him, lips red and damp, dark eyes hazy as he moved with him, moved for him.

The rush of water muffled their sounds of passion, and Dorian was glad that Trevelyan had the foresight to discharge all the soldiers in the area. A wash of breeze brushed against them, carrying over a fine mist from the waterfall, cooling their joined bodies.

A hand ran up his chest to cup his cheek, and Dorian closed his eyes and leaned into it, catching the thumb between his teeth before taking it into his mouth, sucking hard. His heart was full from something that felt dangerous, and he took the time to memorize every groan, stroke and kiss he was given.   

Trevelyan pulled his head down, their tongues met sloppily, hungry for more contact, and broke off only when Dorian threw his head back. 

“Please,” he panted. The whimper at the back of his throat gave sound to his need, as Trevelyan's rhythm became more urgent, sending an explosion of sensations through his body. “Don’t stop…don’t stop.” 

And Trevelyan didn’t, until bursts of white light flashed behind Dorian's eyes as he came undone. 

They bathed together under the waterfall, and lazed under the sun to dry, basking in its munificence. The smell of raw earth and the tickle of grass on his skin were given brand new meanings as they shared slow, languid kisses.

It was the most perfect day.

And it was the memory of this day Dorian held on to when everything began to fall apart.

 

* * *

 

Emprise du Lion. A place that distressed Dorian physically because he could no longer tell if he still had his ten toes, or if they'd dropped off from the cold, and tormented mentally by the never-ending call of the red lyrium.

The colossal crystal deposits jutted out of the snowy grounds like bloodstained teeth, and foul magic curled around the jagged columns. They gave off an unnatural heat, and Dorian could hear their luring lullaby every time he walked pass one.

Varric had warned them to stay far, far away from the red lyrium, and Dorian was doing his best to heed his words. But he was a mage after all - his blood vibrated in exquisite harmony to the song – it was as unnerving as it was enticing. And judging by the way the dwarf flitted around him since the moment they'd arrived, Dorian realised perhaps he wasn’t hiding that glazed look on his face as well as he’d thought.

They fought their way across the snowy plains, cutting down droves of Red Templar Shadows and Horrors. It was dusk when they finally reclaimed the camp at the base of the Tower of Bone, surrounded by the corrupted bodies of the slain soldiers.

The red lyrium sprouting out of greyed skin looked even more ominous in the glow of the setting sun.

Feeling thoroughly worn, Dorian magicked the campfire alive and plonked himself on a crate in front of it. Not even the Maker himself could move him from the spot until he regained some feeling in his hands and feet.

He glimpsed Varric from the corner of his eye, as the dwarf scuffed his way across the ankle-deep snow toward him. With a content sigh, Varric heavily next to him. He gave Dorian a toothy grin, but Dorian saw thinly-veiled concern in those blue eyes.

Sighing, he said, “Varric, It’s all right. I'm fine. I’m not going to -”

“So, Sparkler, you and the Inquisitor, huh?”  

Dorian spluttered. “I beg your pardon?”

If Varric’s intention was to forcefully tear him out of the lyrium's enthrallment, well, that worked brilliantly.

“Come on.” The dwarf’s shit-eating grin was even more irritating than usual in the bitter cold. “You don’t need me to spell it out for you, do you?”

“I haven’t the faintest idea what you’re talking about.”

“Huh. Really? I swear I saw you go into the prison after him the other night.”

“Yes, for a friendly chat!” Dorian scowled. “Are we allowed to have those or have they been outlawed without my knowledge?”

“Oh, it certainly sounded friendly.” Varied wiggled his brows. “I’m guessing you don’t find him so stinky anymore now, hey?”

Dorian felt his ears burn. Just how much did the dwarf hear? He groaned and buried his face in his hands.

Varied bellowed a loud laugh. “Don’t get me wrong, Sparkler. I’m happy for you. You bagged the Inquisitor!”

“I didn’t bag the Inquisitor. We’re just…” Dorian came to a stop. A brief fling? Temporary distraction from an existential crisis? “I don’t know what we are. But whatever you think it is, it isn’t.”

“Whatever you tell yourself to help you sleep at night. Just know that the prison has an open door policy. Not the most private place to, you know,” Varric chortled. “Don’t worry, it was just me. No one else heard.”

Dorian risked a peek through his fingers at Trevelyan, who was going through requisition reports on the opposite side of the camp. His large hands, currently holding a stack of papers, were as strong as they looked. Dorian’s back was still tender from the uneven surface of the prison stonewall.

In truth, they hadn’t meant to desecrate their little hideout. It began with Trevelyan asking Dorian to teach him a simple frost spell. It took almost an hour, but by then Trevelyan could safely conjure a small globe of ice in his palm, the frozen fractals morphing and changing as he willed. And he looked so proud of himself.

Then, Dorian sent a small flame within the ice sphere. “Now, concentrate and keep the magic steady, pushing through just enough to maintain the shape so the fire doesn’t melt it.”

That part was harder.  Trevelyan had to cup his hands together to pool the magic as he stared intently at the churning ball ice and fire, lips moving silently with the new spell - it was impossible to not find the pure astonishment in his eyes utterly charming.

Before either of them knew it, Dorian was in Trevelyan’s lap, their clothes haphazardly pulled off, lips fused together in needy, ravenous kisses.

His fond reminisce was cut short by Cassandra’s arrival.

“It looks like we’ll be pushing forward tomorrow to capture the Suledin Keep,” she said, joining them in warming her hands by the fire.

For a fierce warrior, Cassandra moved about with a certain elegance that Dorian didn’t associate with those who chose brute force as their vocation. He admired the woman, from a distance of course: Cassandra had specialised templar skills and Dorian knew enough about Southern templars to stay far away from one.

Varric whistled. “That’s gonna be a hoot. Bianca and I will be ready to take down some more Red Templars bastards.”

Cassandra nodded. “I do not know why but I sense foulness in the air. We will be tested. I just hope the Inquisitor has the strength and fortitude to lead us through it.” She turned her attention to Dorian. “I never thanked you, for bringing the Inquisitor back safely. He seems…better.”

Dorian stole a glance at Varric, expecting to see a smug smirk on his face. But he, too, appeared to share Cassandra’s earnest appreciation.

So unused to receiving genuine gratitude – he was just getting used to everyone spitting in his direction – Dorian feigned a patrician cough. “It’s the least I could do after missing the trip entirely.”

There was a crunch of boots on snow behind him, and then someone draped a heavy coat on his shoulders. Dorian shivered when calloused fingers brushed the nape of his neck, and turned to see Trevelyan holding out two more furs to Varric and Cassandra.

“The Hinterlands’ finest,” Trevelyan said simply, by way of explanation.

“Thanks Inquisitor," Varric said, shrugging on the bear coat. "I would say you didn’t have to but I’d be lying. This place is a freezing hellhole."

Light snow had begun to fall, like tiny dancers in white tutus. Dorian would have found it beautiful if his ears didn’t hurt so much. He burrowed further under the fur. It was warm and soft, and thankfully did not smell like a dead animal.

Cassandra looked impressed. “You killed enough to make four coats?”

“With some difficulty, but yes,” Trevelyan replied.

And because Dorian was Dorian, he couldn’t help himself. “Well, if we’re splitting hairs, technically he made three and a half coats.”

“You’re just jealous of my short and cuddly stature, Sparkler," said Varric.

“Me? Jealous of you? Perish the thought!”

Cassandra rolled her eyes at their bickering. “Ser Michel said he’d like to fight alongside us. He shall meet us at the keep when we’re ready.”

Trevelyan nodded. “Tomorrow we leave at first light.”

“And that’s a cue for me to turn in for the night,” said Varric. “Seeker, I’m bunking with you.” 

“Oh? And why is that?”

“I don't know, I thought you might be interested in hearing some ideas I have for the next instalment of Swords and Shields.”

Cassandra’s permanent scowl melted away - the warrior disappeared instantly and a girl who blushed took her place. “Oh yes! I mean- Of course, it would be my pleasure.

“Sparkler, take it real easy okay? You know, early day and all.” Ooh no, he didn't just bloody wink at him.

Dorian glowered at the dwarf, who laughed as he stood up to leave. He couldn’t resist so he flicked a small zap of lightning at Varric’s behind and made him jump with a yowl. Varric made a rude gesture with his hand but did not turn back.

Trevelyan watched the exchange with a raised eyebrow. “What was that about?”

Ugh, Varric…might have overheard us the other night at the prison. He knows.”

“Oh.”

“Yes.”

“I think he overhead you, mainly.”

Dorian made a show of mock exasperation and held up a hand in warning, bright current crackling between his fingers. “Another word and you’d get it too.”

“Can you teach me how to do tha - Oww.”

“My word is my bond, my dear Inquisitor,” Dorian said with a sly smile. “And no. Not a chance.”

Chapter Text

The Suledin Keep was an imposing-looking fortress. Once it might have been the envy of many within the region. But now, it stood forgotten, ravaged by red lyrium and overrun by Red Templars.

Old elven magic still lied slumbering here, imbued in every stone and brick, biding its time until its masters returned to be brought back to life. Trevelyan could feel the amulets hum in correspondence, palpitating like twin hearts in his wrists. 

It grew uncomfortable, the pulsing beneath his skin, growing stronger as they neared the keep. He readjusted the leather bracers, loosening them slightly.

Dorian, who rode beside him, shot him a questioning look - he must have scented the leaking magic. Trevelyan shook his head and smiled in reassurance, holding up one wrist. Dorian arched one eyebrow and nodded.  

It was rather amazing how quickly Dorian had learned to read him, with a perceptiveness that arrowed through the echoes of his limited emotions to the core of who he was. 

It had be a while since Trevelyan had someone he could communicate with without the need for words. Not that it ever stopped that chatterbox from breaking into a rant when the mood struck him. But Trevelyan was grateful: enduring the Dorian’s incessant chiding was a small price to pay for what he got in return.

 

Michel de Chevin, chevalier and disgraced champion to Empress Celene, was already at the gates when they arrived.

“Inquisitor, I thank you for your assistance. The demon, Imshael, and its garden of Red Templars have made the fortress their nest. If you are ready I’m eager to end this vile creature once and for all.”

A woman’s whisperings drifted through Trevelyan’s consciousness, the familiar susurration caressed his mind like delicate fingers that he once knew. The hairs on the back on his neck prickled.

He closed his eyes and opened them slowly. The voice had receded into the deepest trench it could find, and lay down discouraged.

“Lead the way, Ser Michel,” he heard himself say.

 

The lower gardens were devoid of any signs of enemy presence. Dozens of tents stood abandoned - they could easily fit a small army in here, but where had they all gone?

“I don’t like this,” Varric drawled from behind him. “It’s too quiet.”

They pushed forward cautiously, and arrived at a small clearing. Dorian picked up a stray note on a crate.

“Bloody fantastic. They’ve been conducting experiments.” He gestured to a large, lumpy mass inside one of enclosures. A dead giant. “One of the test subjects, I presume. Those would be hard to kill if they’re successful.”

“So we found the heart of the red lyirum operation,” Cassandra said, voice grim.

Trevelyan reached over his shoulder and drew his greatsword. “Let’s hunt some giants, then.”

As if on cue, a bloodcurdling roar ripped through the stillness of the wintry air.

They sprinted across snow and ice, and came face to face with an infected giant. The beast’s shoulders heaved with every laboured breath, long tusks protruding from either side of its mouth. It let out another hair-raising bellow, ropes of drool trickling down from the slacked jaws.

“Dorian?” Trevelyan said, making a be-my-guest gesture with one hand.

The mage flashed him a smile. “Let’s give it something to write home about, shall we?”

With a single sweep of his staff, Dorian launched a shimmery dome of time magic that mushroomed like a storm cloud, slowing everything in its path. The dull drone of the spell brushed past Trevelyan as he raced to the feet of giant, and brought his greatsword down onto one gangly leg, then skidded across to strike the other kneecap with a heavy blow by the pommel.

The beast howled and stomped in furore, flailing its arms in slow motion. Cassandra blocked the swiping strike with her shield, but was sent back several yards from the impact. Ser Michel charged from behind the giant and drove his sword in its heel before effortlessly escaping the return journey of the arm.

Varric took the opportunity to rain arrows onto the giant’s head, while Dorian alternated between casting glyphs that snapped beneath its feet and throwing fireballs that curved beautifully to pummel its back.

The haste dome flickered thinly, signalling its nearing expiration. Trevelyan sped up his assault, hauling himself up onto a rock and vaulted himself high into the air. He swung his greatsword in a crescent arc and brought it down onto the giant's vast head. He felt his teeth rattle with the force.

This ought to have brought the monster down to its knees, but the lyrium infection had strengthened it, and with the dome winking out of existence, the giant found enough time to swat Trevelyan away as if he were a nuisance housefly, before stomping a massive foot down on him.

Trevelyan felt a rib crack under the heavy armour, Dorian’s barrier blinking in only a second too late. He lied there, panting from the pain, as the monster turned its attention to Cassandra. It balled its fists together and struck her with the full force of its weight.

“Back me up!” he heard her cry. Trevelyan gritted his teeth and rolled himself back up to his feet. The giant had found itself a large boulder, and aimed it at Varric and Dorian’s direction. Ser Michel’s desperate attacks at the monster's legs were all but ignored.

Trevelyan called on the Mark of the Rift and it exploded in a grisly corona of emerald light. He watched through the green haze as the giant let out a wail and dropped the rock, and collapsed into a smouldering heap. Cassandra wasted no time to rush to its side and slit its throat with one long movement, drawing a crimson streak in the air with her sword.

“Well, that was easy,” Dorian said as he came to him. “Are you all right?”

Trevelyan nodded, his breath short and hard from the mounting pain in his torso. “We should - ”

An arrow whistled past his ear. Another missed Dorian by a hair’s breadth. He spun around quickly - two Red Templar marksmen had restrung and were now taking aim at them again.

Trevelyan let out a war cry and sprinted toward the one closest to him. With a low growl, he slashed the archer’s chest wide open before beheading him in one fell swoop. He launched himself onto his next target, his job made easier when Dorian’s glyph seized the templar into a frozen statue.

But their triumph was short-lived.

He heard the whir of rocks flying before he saw them, followed by the unmistakable ululation of even more giants. Shoving Dorian out of the way, Trevelyan reeled back just in time to brace for the hard collision, the momentum of the projectile rock knocking him flat on his back. His vision blurred and he lost his grasp on his sword.

A large hand closed around his neck and Trevelyan gasped as he was picked up like a rag doll and flung into a wall.  

And then it all went black.

* * *

Trevelyan came to, feeling as if his chest had caved into his lungs, and his head stuffed full of cotton wool. He sat up gingerly, wincing, and chains rattling noisily as he leaned against a wet stone wall.

The cell smelled of old blood and recent death. The only source of light was through a small window, unavailingly high, and a brazier of burning logs by the door.

He swallowed, throat muscles working against the iron collar. The heavy ring of metal bit into his skin, and it was chained to the ground just on the short side so he could not stand fully. His arms were bound behind his back, the manacles thick enough to hold a Qunari. 

He bit his lip when sharp pain shot through his right hand - broken fingers most probably - and on his dominant sword hand no less. He inhaled cautiously; the cracked rib was also starting to bother him.

He couldn’t tell how long it’d been since his capture. Had the others managed to escape? He would hope they had, but he knew them well. They wouldn't retreat – not with him in enemy hands – even if it were the wise thing to do.

Trevelyan tried to quash it, but Dorian’s face flashed through his mind anyway.

 

Before he could begin to plan his breakout, the prison door swung open and an unremarkable-looking man sailed in with a genial smile.

“Inquisitor! Welcome to my humble abode. I am Imshael, at your service,” the demon said with a courtly bow, arms wide open as though receiving a good friend. “I must apologise for the seemingly excessive restraints. Your reputation as an invulnerable warrior precedes you and, well, one can never be too careful, can we?”

Trevelyan stood as tall as the chains allowed. Appearances mattered and he had every intention of greeting the demon like the noble leader that he was. “And yet here we are,” he said in a measured tone. “Evidently, I’m not as invulnerable as everyone seems to think.”

Imshael sneered. “I would normally offer my visitors a choice of riches, power or virgins. I wonder which is it you’d choose, oh Herald of Andraste.”

“Well, I have no use for riches, I already have the ultimate power in palm of my hand, and if we were to be honest, virgins are overrated in my opinion. So where does that leave us?”

“Seeing how you’re currently more prisoner than guest, I’d say we skip that part.” Imshael took a step closer. “My master, Coreypheus, was very pleased to hear about your capture. He wants me to kill you.”

“I have no doubt about that. But killing me like this is too…banal for you, isn’t it?”

“Oh, you. Too clever for your own good,” the demon tittered. “I’d rather watch you suffer first, then feed on your fear, before I cut off your hand as an offering to Corypheus. When the world crumbles around you and everything you care about is tainted by evil, then I’ll kill you.”

“Sounds unnecessarily complicated,” Trevelyan replied casually. “Why don’t you just come over and lop off my hand now?”

Imshael smiled. Another step.

If only Trevelyan could get Imshael close enough, he could drop the rift mark then hit it with some crude but effective fireballs. He suddenly wished he’d learned more spells from Dorian, instead of being sidetracked by more…pleasurable activities.

“No, I’d rather start with torturing your friends in front of you.” Imshael's grin was smug. “Bring him in!”  

Two Red Templar guards dragged in a struggling form between them. Trevelyan's heart lurched in his chest. Dorian.

He was gagged and bound, but relief was written all over his face when he saw Trevelyan. 

Trevelyan tore his eyes away from Dorian, and levelled Imshael with a cool stare. “Out of everyone you could have brought, you choose the Vint magister? You aren’t very bright, are you?”

“You forget, Inquisitor, that I can see through you,” Imshael said blithely. It pulled Dorian by the hair, lifting his head up. “I know who he is to you.”

“He’s no one to me.”

“Oh, so he doesn’t know?” Imshael looked delighted. “Well, this just makes the whole thing even more decadent.”

“All he is, is a good mage, if not a little…” Trevelyan forced an unkind smile, “mouthy.” He felt, rather than saw, Dorian’s glare from across the room. He knew he’d hear an earful later, if they got out of this alive.

Imshael cackled. “That’s true! He killed two of my Horrors before I broke his jaw.” It sighed happily. “What a satisfying way to stop a mage from casting.”

Only then did Trevelyan notice the swelling on Dorian’s face, obscured by the bloodied cloth that muzzled him.

He lunged at Imshael, pitting his full strength against the unyielding chains. The restraints clattered like peals of shimmery giggles, mocking him and the futility of his effort. “Leave him be and I’ll grant you a quick death, demon.”

“Choice. Spirit. If you please.” Imshael motioned to one of the guards, who brought in a small urn. “No disrespect, Inquisitor, but I don’t think you’re in any position to threaten me. I will taste your fear, Trevelyan. I can only imagine how delicious it must be.”

Imshael produced a small knife from his cloak. His teeth shone with a mad gleam. “It’d be like nectar on my tongue, a sea breeze on my skin…I want to bathe in it!” With that last word, it sunk the blade into Dorian’s shoulder. His muffled scream tore through Trevelyan.

“Now...” Imshael reached into the urn and picked up a small red rock. “Let’s sow some seeds.”

“Stop. Let him go. Take me instead.” Trevelyan’s voice was even, but the terror he felt inside made him ill.

“Ah, but I already have you,” the demon said before roughly pushing the lyrium into Dorian’s wound. The mage gasped in pain behind the gag, his eyes welling with tears.

“It won’t take long,” Imshael sing-songed, and booted Dorian to the ground.

Trevelyan’s body trembled in cold fury. It was an unfamiliar sensation, its ferocity surprising even him. He threw himself against his restraints again, but the shackles only dug further into him, scraping his skin raw.

He had only one final card to play.

He had sworn to never break the promise, and the only link left that tethered him to a dead woman he loved. Severing the connection meant never to hear her voice again, or to feel her phantom touch on his face - it would be the end of everything they had.

But between a shadow of a memory, and a very much alive Dorian -

I’m sorry, Nehra.

Trevelyan wriggled his leather bracers loose behind his back, made easier from his earlier adjustments, and plunged his nails into the raised flesh.

“Inquisitor? I’m not feeling nearly enough fear from you. A lot of anger though.” Imshael grabbed Dorian under his jaw. “Just think, in mere moments you’ll see this pretty face encased in red lyrium forever. Isn’t that wonderful?”

Trevelyan worked faster behind him, and soon he felt the release, followed by a warm gush of blood.

One more to go.

“When I get my hands on you, Imshael, you’d wish you had never met me. I promise you’ll die a painful death.”

His fingers, now slippery with blood, struggled to gouge out the second amulet. It was absorbed deep into his flesh, and it was taking longer than the first. After what felt like hours, but was surely only minutes, he laughed when he felt another stream of warm blood run down his forearm.

At once, Trevelyan felt a thousand ghostly hands on him, tugging and dragging him toward the Fade. The swirl of pulsating magic curled around him like a relentless lover. His head felt dense, and a surge of uncontrolled emotions plundered his mind.

With something that felt like physical effort, he honed in on one – vengeance.

He did not know how to wield his magic, certainly not with any finesse or control that mages could. What he did have was a deep well of mana, torrents and torrents of raw untapped power that he would unleash on his enemy and crush it under the sheer weight of the deluge.

Without realising how he’d done it, Trevelyan phased out of his shackles and blurred forth to stand before Imshael. Before the demon could react, Trevelyan’s left hand darted out and seized it by its throat, his anchor shone brightly green.

“My word is my bond,” Trevelyan hissed. Imshael’s eyes widened in panic as his right hand brushed its face. With a sickening crunch, Trevelyan tore its jaw bone right off, and threw the appendage carelessly behind him.

Die,” he commanded and called on the emerald halo of the rift.

Imshael screeched and thrashed in pain, shifting between its other demonic forms like quicksilver – fear, rage, pride – over and over, as it desperately tried to break free of Trevelyan’s death grip.

The mark burned so hot that flecks of skin flaked from Trevelyan’s hand. The hollows on his wrists gushed with fresh blood; the crimson ribbons wafted into the green glow of his magic, turning into vapours.

He felt no pain, only an indescribable exhilaration that urged even more power into the mark. However unrefined his magic was, it was indomitable and violent. It ought to have alarmed him how good this brutal bombardment on his body and mind felt. But in this moment, all he knew was the morbid glee he got from incinerating this monster from the inside.

The distressed squeals came to an abrupt stop when all that Imshael was made of was obliterated, and Trevelyan crushed the remaining husk of the demon and saw it rupture like a cloud of dark ash.

The green fire on his arm subsided, leaving behind a charred hand. Trevelyan barely registered the silhouettes of the two Red Templar guards burned into the walls.

A faint groan brought him back to reality. With a start, he staggered to Dorian's prone form and sank to his knees. The mage was barely conscious.

Trevelyan didn’t dare touch him, not with his magic still so volatile.

“Stay still," he croaked, his voice hoarse with exhaustion. 

He brushed his fingers over Dorian’s neck, making only the lightest contact. It took every drop of concentration he had to control the slow, steady stream of healing magic. Trevelyan gritted his teeth under the strain – he was the dam between the flood and Dorian, and if he weren’t careful Dorian could be ripped to pieces by the onslaught.

Trevelyan watched as a snake of light sluggishly nudged the red rock out of the wound, and sewn the flesh together. The swelling on his cheek subsided, fractured bones realigned and mended.

“Dorian,” he sighed in relief, “you’ll be all right.”

Utterly spent, he severed the link and fell on his back. The bursts of frenzied energy behind his eyes returned. The inviting hands of the Fade reappeared, beckoning him to go with them.

This time, Trevelyan couldn’t find it in him to not follow.

Chapter Text

The first thing Dorian noticed was a low voice humming softly a calming tune that sounded vaguely familiar. Then he remembered he had hands, and feet, and legs and most definitely a very well-toned torso, but found it difficult to move any of those things.

He blinked blearily back to consciousness, slowly adjusting to the light. The ceiling was one he didn’t recognise, old stones and cobwebs, and the air was cold on his face.

His tongue felt heavy, but he could open his mouth so he croaked the first words that came to mind. “Not much of a singer, are you?”

He heard Iron Bull snort, his heavy footfalls echoed loudly before a large shadow fell on Dorian. Then, a rough hand pressed to his forehand.

“How you feeling?”

“Just peachy.” Dorian cleared his throat and resisted the urge to cough. “Tell me, how does a Qunari know a Tevinter lullaby anyway?”

“Learned it from a Vint I was sleeping with in Seheron. Pretty little thing,” Bull replied, grinning. “Not as pretty as you though.”

Dorian tried to roll his eyes but it just made him dizzy. He winced when Bull's big hand trace the side of his jaw. 

“How does it look?” he asked. Damn that demon, Imshael. Not the face. Never the face.

“A little red. But nothing some good hard liquor won’t fix.” Bull retracted his hand and sat on a stool next to the bed.

“Is everyone all right?”

“Yeah, all things considered.”

“Where is this place?”

“Still in Suledin Keep. Found you a room here after we sacked the fort. Good thing Cassandra broke out first and had a head start.”

We?”

“Oh, Solas and Cole are here too. We came as quickly as we could. Killed all the Red Templars and took the keep.”

“But…how?”

“Solas said Boss came to him in his dream. You’d have to explain that one to me later. Some mage bullshit,” Iron Bull grunted. “Did you know? This whole time?”

So it did happen. All of it. A terrible sense of dread rose up inside him. With some effort, he threw back the blankets and pushed himself up, bare feet dangling off the bed.

“I need to see the Inquisitor.”

“You can see him but he can’t see you. He hasn’t woken yet. I’m supposed to tell the others when you wake. We could use some answers.”

Dorian nodded. “No time like the present.”

 

It was easier to appreciate the interior of the keep when you’re not being dragged through it. The residential wing was located inside the citadel, far away from the dungeons, with a spectacular view of the terrace where Inquisition soldiers had set up the armour and weapon stations.

Unlike Skyhold, which was a touch on the austere side, the Suledin Keep had a regal and esoteric feel to it. It wasn’t anything obvious like plush carpeting or billowing curtains. But the intricate engravings on every single cobblestone beneath Dorian’s boots, in the short walk from his room to the main hall; the twinkle of magic he felt every time he passed a threshold; and large glazed windows of which their placement was carefully calculated to maximize sunlight and heat in this snow-bitten country, were all testaments to how important this keep was to its original elven owners.

Dorian was still wobbly on his feet, so he walked with one hand on the wall, fingers trailing the grooves between the ashlar stones, as he tried his best to keep up with Bull’s long gait.

They reached the ornate wooden door to the main hall and Bull pushed it open gently, mindful of the worn hinges.

“And the man with all the answers arrives,” Varric announced, looking a little rough around the edges. “Care to fill us in with what went down in that cell, Sparkler?”

“Before anything else, how’s the Inquisitor?”

“He has yet to wake,” Solas reported. “But outwardly he appears to be in good health. Though the amulets are no longer within him.”

“He took them out to access the Fade when Imshael infected me with red lyrium.”

Varric balked. “You had red lyrium in you?”

“I’m all right. The Inquisitor healed me.”

“Sparkler, there is no healing a red lyrium infection. That just isn’t done!”

Dorian’s hand flew instinctively to his shoulder, where the only sign of his ordeal was a slight tingle of newly repaired flesh. “It wasn't in me long enough to take hold.”

Cassandra looked bewildered, her scowl even more pronounced with fatigue. “You’re saying that the Inquisitor healed you and killed Imshael all on his own? How is it possible?”

Dorian raised a hand to still her. “I take it you already know that the Inquisitor has magical abilities, which he has been hiding with elven amulets.”

“Yes, Solas told us as much,” she said, shaking her head. “It’s hard to believe he is a dreamer. But we are grateful that he sought help - Varric and I had trouble finding you two after we broke out of our cells. But even if he were a mage-”

“He’s not a mage,” he interrupted, “which is precisely the problem. He didn’t know what he was doing. He had no idea what he was doing.”

Cole, who had been so quietly listening, muttered under his breath. “So much blood, bright red streamers dancing through the air. Now it has touched me, so warm yet so heavy…'No, Father, stop. I can’t breathe!'”   

Dorian tasted bile in the back of his throat and closed his eyes, willing visions of old to go away.

“Blood magic,” Solas finished for him. “When the Inquisitor took out the amulets he unwittingly invoked blood magic. And now he is lost in the Fade.”

Iron Bull let out a long whistle. “How 'bout that? Our Inquisitor is an apostate and a blood mage. That’s gonna go down well.”

“He’s not a blood mage,” Dorian snapped. “And as much as I abhor the idea of blood magic, if he didn’t do what he did, I wouldn’t be standing here talking to you right now.”

Through the cracks between the large windows and the stones in the hall, the shrill squeal of the wintry wind sounded deafening to Dorian’s ears when all of them fell silent at once.

Eventually, Solas spoke. “Magic thrives on use. A mage who fears his magic cannot master it. When the demons come calling, he will not have the strength to deny them.”

“What are you saying?” Iron Bull asked, though it sounded less like a genuine question and more of a confirmation of his suspicion.

Dorian suddenly felt queasy, the implication hitting him with such force it left him reeling. “He could be possessed and become an abomination,” he said quietly.

 

* * *

“What do you mean you’re going too?”

“Which part of ‘I’m going into the Fade with Solas’ was it hard for you to understand?”

“The entire thing,” Iron Bull retorted. “Solas can go on his own. They’re both dreamers, they can find each other. You don’t need to put yourself in there.”

Dorian was back in his temporary bedchamber. Time was of the essence and he needed to prepare for the crossing, but Bull seemed very determined to make the process as challenging as possible.

They had all agreed that Solas would need to go find Trevelyan and bring him back, somehow. Dorian did not miss the scowl on Bull’s face when he volunteered to go with the elven mage.

Dorian unbuttoned the flap of his bag and tipped the contents out on the bed in a messy pile. “Aren’t you forgetting that I’m the reason why the Inquisitor is stuck in the Fade to begin with?”

“So he saved you. That was his call.”

“And this is my call.”

“What’s this? Are you trying to prove something? I saw you, Dorian. You looked like you were going to have a heart attack when Cole reminded you of the blood magic.”

“Do not presume to know me,” Dorian snarled, turning to meet Bull’s eye. “You know nothing about my life or what I’ve been through.”

Iron Bull levelled him with a stare, his one eye shone with a strange light. “I know enough to give a crap. You heard Solas – the Inquisitor has no training, he's never gone through the Harrowing and he’s a fucking dreamer. You go in there? One mistake and he’d ruin you. You could come back wrong!”

It wasn’t like Dorian hadn’t considered the risks - he had heard straight from Trevelyan’s mouth that he had driven his mother mad. Though Dorian would very much like to keep his sanity intact, not being part of the rescue effort was not an option.

An untrained dreamer with true potentiality and powers like Trevelyan would be a prized catch in the Fade. Demons of all kinds would flock to him like wolves to a wounded ram, scrambling to trap him into possession once they discovered who he was.

And there’s no way he’d let that happen.

Iron Bull’s hand snapped forward to grab Dorian’s elbow but he dodged it easily. He fixed the man a glare. “I’m going, with or without your approval.”

Their loaded staring contest was beginning feel tiresome when Bull finally spoke again. “I’m guessing things have changed between you two since that night outside the tavern?”

“They have,” said Dorian quietly, and turned back to his task at hand.

He finally found the small vial, tucked inside one of his woollen socks. A gentle shake and the liquid came to life, emitting a faint blue glow.

“Just be careful,” he heard Bull say. “Don’t make me kill you.” 

 

* * *

 

In the perfect world, Dorian would have had the time to take a bath, shave, moisturise, and change into fresh robes after spending several shitty days in a dank dungeon. Between being held captive and beaten and tortured, he was certain that he looked as miserable as he felt.

Lyrium in hand, he hurried upstairs to the solar, a grand chamber with oriel windows, where the others were already waiting.

The stone fireplace roared on one side of the room, popping and spitting invitingly. A large bed, early Orlesian-looking and embellished with carved wooden on-lays, sat in the centre of the room. Under the lush woollen blankets, in a befitting shade of royal blue, lay Trevelyan.

Dorian moved toward the bed, past Varric, Cassandra, Cole and a very glum Bull, who looked on wordlessly. To anyone else, the Inquisitor seemed as though he was in a deep slumber. But Dorian knew better. Trevelyan fidgeted in his sleep and ground his teeth: this man lying before him was too still, too quiet.

Dorian’s fingertips skimmed one exposed forearm, lightly tracing the ugly scars that marred the otherwise smooth skin. He could make out where the fingernails had dug in, the lacerations had cauterized into a mess of oddly healed tissue.

“Where are the amulets?” he asked.

“They are little more than smouldered clumps of metal and stones,” Solas said from the other side of the bed. “But I have them in a safe place.”

Dorian nodded and took a deep breath to steel himself. “So how do we proceed?”

“You take the lyrium, then go to sleep. I shall come to you in the Fade.”

“I’m sure I don’t need to caution you to be careful, Dorian,” Cassandra began. “I’d rather not lose any more of my friends.”

“I’m with the Seeker,” Varric echoed. “Stay sharp, Sparkler.”

“Oh, you Southerners. Always with the melodrama.” Dorian teased, but his smile was one of gratitude.

They pulled out the trundle cot from underneath the bed, intended for a personal valet or servant, and Dorian sat in it. He uncorked the vial and swallowed the blue liquid, bristling a little at the intense attention from every conscious person in the room.

“Shouldn’t you and I hold hands or something?” Dorian wondered aloud as he waited for the lyrium to take effect.

“Only if you are feeling particularly lonely,” Solas replied, deadpan as ever.

Dorian glowered at the elf. “Fine. Let’s just get on with it.”

After a short while, he felt the gentle lull of the Fade envelop him. He slumped onto his side, and took a settling breath. Before he succumbed to the clutches of sleep completely, Dorian reached up and slid his hand into Trevelyan’s, the solid warmth of his palm grounding Dorian as the lyrium carried him into a world where nothing was real.

“I had no idea,” Cassandra whispered as her eyes fell on their joined hands.

“If there was one person who could find the Inquisitor in time, it’d be Sparkler. Let’s hope you don’t have to use that sword, Seeker," said Varric.

 

* * *

For a very brief moment, Dorian was confused as he began the dream already in motion.

He didn’t know what he was walking toward, just that his legs carried him through a small trail in a forest. The leaves on the trees were different shades of purple, and the grass under his boots was a deep navy blue. 

A few birds flitted by overhead, their wings glittered gold and red in the sunlight.

Dorian made himself stop before he got any more lost, and he did. Rules were different here in the Fade, so he was slightly relieved that he had found control once again.

The gentle tug at his body was insistent, like a rope tied around his heart that was pulled by invisible hands. Fascinating. Dorian had never felt anything quite like this before in the Fade. Maybe it was Solas trying to reunite them - a homing call of sorts.  At any rate, standing alone in this giant expanse of oddly-hued forest made him restless, so he allowed the magical pull to guide him and he began walking once again.

Soon, he arrived at a defoliated area, where a thatched stone hovel stood. The small cottage looked like it belonged to a farmer, and really could use a fresh coat of paint. 

The pulling stopped here.

With only a mere thought - because he was an excellent mage - Dorian conjured his staff in his hands. He drew powers that flowed in the threads that which wove the Fade, like collecting dews from spun silk.

He went up to the weathered wooden door and made to push it open, until his hand fell right through and he stumbled into the farmhouse. He let out a yelp and caught himself just in time to keep from tumbling across the floor.

And then he saw him.

Trevelyan strode across the room, all muscle and naked, picking up a pitcher of water from a small table and drank straight from it. He couldn’t have been older than twenty here – his face still soft with youth - and he didn’t seem to notice Dorian's sudden appearance.

Dorian was not a saint - his eyes followed the path of a stray bead of water as it rolled from Trevelyan’s lip, down his chin and onto his broad chest, still unblemished from the battle scars Dorian had become so familiar with.

He willed himself not to trail further down, because surely that would be…wrong.

Instead his gaze fell on Trevelyan’s wrists. No amulets. No scars. Nothing but smooth skin and corded veins.

Ah… so this was a memory. Trevelyan’s memory. At least he was in the right place.

Behind him, a woman’s voice rang like soft bells. “Haven’t I taught you better manners than that?”

A petite elven woman, with a white sheet wrapped around her middle, traipsed gracefully to where Trevelyan stood. Her skin was a lovely mahogany brown, warm and dark and reminded Dorian of the black hellebores in his mother’s flower garden back in Qarinus. Her curly hair framed her ethereal face like an ebony halo.

When Trevelyan broke into a wide, boyish grin, and silenced her admonishment with a heated kiss, the elf’s cheeks deepened into an alluring blush.

“You’ve taught me many things, Nehra. Sadly, proper manners will always be the one thing I struggle with.”

Nehra shook her head in response, though with a fond smile. “They will say I turned a nobleman’s son into a savage.”

Dorian watched the future Inquisitor bend down to nip at his lover’s shoulder, with a wicked glint in his eyes. “Oh, I’m a savage all right.”

She swatted at his chest.

Trevelyan’s laugh was loud and genuine, and Dorian realized with a pang that it was the first time he’d heard him laugh like this. The whole display was so painfully intimate. He was an uninvited spectator to this clearly private moment between the lovers. Seeing this side of Trevelyan, so spirited and in love and alive made his heart full and ache in equal measure.

“For the last time, Nehra, will you marry me?” Trevelyan’s fingers danced on her bare back, trailing the straight column of her spine.

Nehra’s laugh was light and melodic. “For the last time, no.”

Dorian didn’t know Trevelyan was capable of pouting, and yet there he was. “I will never stop asking, you know.”

“I know.”

“I love you, and you seem to love me enough,” Trevelyan said with a wry smile. “Why won’t you just say yes and save me the heartache.”

“And I told you many times, dear one. You’re meant for another.”

“But -”

“As if kissed by the evening’s breath,” Nehra said softly as she picked up a small piece of charcoal from a woodpile nearby and stood on her tip-toes to reach Trevelyan’s face. Gently, she pressed a dark mark on his right cheek before stepping back to admire her handiwork. Trevelyan’s dumbfounded expression made her giggle.

Suddenly Dorian found it hard to breathe.

He stared, in stunned incredulity, as Trevelyan scrubbed at his face with a scowl, smudging the dot. “Well, this is rather vague, isn’t it? Does the Maker expect me to proposition everyone I see with a spot by their eye?”

Nehra laid one hand over where his heart was. Her smile was warm and kind. “You wouldn’t need to. Like metals drawn to a magnetite, your soul will lead you to them.”

Trevelyan looped his arms around the diminutive elf, and made a non-committal grunt.

She rested her chin on his chest and peered up at him. “Have you given much thought about what we discussed?”

“Yes. The Venatori draw closer each day. It’s a matter of time before they find us again. It's the only way.”

“You know things will be different after that.”

“If it means keeping us safe, it’s worth everything.”

She pressed a feather-light kiss near his heart. “All right. I will have the amulets crafted as soon as possible.”

Chapter Text

“Dorian.” 

He turned, and found Solas standing under a giant purple oak looking at him oddly. “What are you doing?” the elf asked.

The hovel had disappeared, along with it images of Trevelyan and Nehra. Only strangely coloured trees surrounded him, once again.

He must have looked a little foolish, standing there, staring into space.

You’re meant for another… Kissed by the evening’s breath… The Venatori…

Dorian shut his eyes for a moment to steady himself, his mouth dry.

Clearing his throat, he said, “I believe I’d stepped into one of the Inquisitor’s memories.”

“Does it provide any clues as to the Inquisitor's location?”

“No, not really.” Dorian would rather not share what he saw with Solas. “It’s an old memory with the elven priestess.”

“The one who planted the amulets?”

“One and only.”

“I see.” Solas contemplated him for a fraction of a second too long, and suddenly Dorian wondered how much he knew about Nehra and Trevelyan, or, as a matter of fact, about him and Trevelyan.

His collar felt tight at the thought of Solas having wandered into a stray memory of them that was...less innocent in nature.

Nevertheless, Solas turned his gaze towards one particular direction and announced that it was the right way. So they began walking.

The navy blue grass gradually tapered off as the ground turned to a dull orange. The trees looked different here too: the leaves were sparse and greyed, as if their colours had been stripped. Even the sun seemed dimmer in this part of the dream.

Faint echoes of a child’s cries rang, though they sounded garbled, as if heard from underwater. Dorian swallowed thickly. He'd read about the superstitious practice of nearly drowning magically inclined children to ‘drain’ them of magic. It, of course, resulted in more dead children than anything worthy of the torture. He had no idea Trevelyan was a survivor of the barbaric custom.

He marched straight ahead without looking at the source of the wails. It would be improper to pry.

It took a little longer to leave this particular area, but Solas seemed to know exactly where to go so Dorian followed quietly. They arrived at a crossroad, where the markers were not so much road signs as diverging colours of the grass, each spanning toward a different direction.

Solas pointed at what looked like east, judging from the sun, but this was the Fade and there was no such thing as the east. They walked briskly.

Dorian squinted into the distance. “Does it strike you as strange that we haven’t encountered one single spirit or demon so far?”

“That could mean only one thing,” Solas replied. “They are congregating near the Inquisitor.”

 

Time moved differently in the Fade, and Dorian had his own way of tracking it. Years of practice and all that. But here, inside Trevelyan’s dreamer mind, there was no way to tell how long it'd been or whether it's night or day in the waking world. It was as if this place was actively erasing Dorian’s awareness, slowly corrupting his judgement.

The continued sameness of his footfalls was lulling him into a trance-like state. Every thud, every swish of grass, began to blend into one other. Soon, he felt like he was walking on air, and a warm giddiness took over, sending him into a fit of rather undignified giggles.

A sharp sting on his face reeled him back. His hand flew to his cheek. “Ow!”

“Get a hold of yourself!” Solas practically shouted. “You cannot afford to let your guard down. A dreamer’s mind is powerful and will try to cannibalise your consciousness the first chance it gets.”

“Yes, yes,” Dorian said quickly, rubbing at the side of his cheek. “I got carried away. Apologies.”

“Let us quickly move on. We are not far now.”

Indeed, in only mere moments, they saw their first demons. Terror, despair and hunger – seven of them formed a loose circle, keeping a wide berth from the centre on an open field. They snarled and taunted, slithering from the sidelines, but never dared to chance closer.

As Dorian and Solas neared, they could finally see past the demons’ insistent circling. A woman loomed over Trevelyan, her arms draped around him in a loving embrace. The vibrant hue of her hair, the light freckles across the bridge of her nose, the curve of her full lips... she was the very spitting image of Trevelyan.

Long fingers danced over his face as she spoke into his ear. Dorian couldn’t hear her voice but whatever she said made Trevelyan smile. He watched her with such tenderness and longing it made Dorian’s heart clench.  

“Desire demon,” Solas whispered next to him. “It's no wonder the others are keeping their distance. Shall we?”

Dorian nodded and swung his staff in a smooth arc. “Thought you’d never ask.”

They sprinted toward the flock. A series of fire glyphs crackled hotly beneath two of the despair demons, their black cloaks went up into flames immediately.       

Seeing Trevelyan surrounded by demons, all vying for his soul roused a deep need for violence within Dorian. He raised his arm and curled his fingers like talons. Within his palm, he forged a fireball so massive he thought he might singe his hair. With a growl, he hurled it at a terror demon, watching it immolate with great satisfaction. Clenching his fist, he moved his hand left and the fire followed the path of his command, colliding into a despair demon gliding by and it too was caught in the inferno. The pained screech was music to his ears.

The despair demon’s grey skin peeled from the blaze, but its agony was cut short as Solas summoned a stonefist and crushed it to the ground, killing it instantly.

It was almost an unfair fight, as the two mages drew mana greedily from the boundless energy of the Fade, setting all their enemies ablaze. Every thread of this air was charged with magic. It was intoxicating if you knew how to control it. Dorian’s entire body tingled from the thrill as he brought upon the demons murderous devastation, blow after blow.

Soon, only the burning remnants of demonic corpses were left, everything else consumed by fire.

With the idling demons vanquished, Dorian and Solas turned their attention to their final target.

The desire demon, now cradling Trevelyan’s head against her bosom protectively, bellowed, “Stay away! He’s mine.”

“Inquisitor!” Solas called. “We are here to take you back to the real world. This woman is a demon and cannot be trusted.”

Trevelyan never took his eyes off of the woman. “I’m well aware. Thank you, Solas.” The desire demon fawned over him, placing fond kisses on his forehead. “I can scarcely remember my mother ever looking at me like this, or kissed me, or hold me. But it’s nice to pretend, isn’t it?”

The demon laughed sweetly. “If you’d let me have you, you won’t have to pretend anymore, my sweet boy. You will have me all to yourself.”

Kaffas!”  Dorian snarled. “Over my dead body, demon filth!” 

“Oh, silly human.” She cocked her head. So very eerie to see a face so similar to Trevelyan’s on a demon. “Do you really think he’d pick you over the maternal love he’s craved all his life?”

Dorian paled; the truth of her words sliced through him like a hot blade. He took an unconscious step back, body trembling.

Trevelyan’s hand ran up to touch his mother’s face, and the demon leaned into it, cooing gently, “I can give him everything he’s ever wanted. Everything.”

“Please. Don’t... Don’t succumb to this illusion.” Dorian felt the sting of tears behind his eyes. Choose me, he wanted to say. Choose me. But the words were prickly burs in his throat.

“Mother?” Trevelyan sounded so young, so eager.

Was this it? Had he already lost him?

The demon cupped the Inquisitor’s face with a delighted giggle. “Yes, my son.”

Trevelyan’s fingers danced on the elegant curve of her throat. “I really do wish this was real.” He pressed down on her windpipe. “I have missed you, dearly.”

The demon squealed when his hand cinched around her throat. “Goodbye, Mother.”

He flung her onto the ground and made his way towards Dorian and Solas.

“Kill it.”

They didn’t need to be told twice.

* * *

 

Dorian woke with a jolt. He sat up quickly and was met with Varric, Cassandra and Bull's questioning stares.

“Morning, Sparkler. How did it go?”

His hand was still in Trevelyan’s, and Dorian shook it firmly. “Wake up, you lazy bastard!”

An annoyed groan was the only response he received. And then the hand slipped away from his to shield its owner from sunlight.

Dorian laughed, relief surged through him like balm on a raw wound.

Mornings. Trevelyan never really did like mornings.

 

After a light meal and a well-deserved bath, Dorian finally felt right in his skin again. He stretched luxuriously in his chair by the fire, feeling a bit like a spoiled cat, and sighed happily when his spine cracked.

The great hall in the Suledin Keep was smaller than the one in Skyhold, and much of it was in ruins, devastated by years of foreign occupation and war.

Tonight, however, it served as a decent enough home for the Inquisition party. Bull had found half dozen caskets of wine in the cellar and now most of the soldiers were in the hall celebrating the taking of the keep. Varric had brought out his cards and was already on his way to winning a good number of sovereigns from poor Ser Michel and a few others.

Dorian looked around, searching for a particular figure. Trevelyan was present at dinner; he must have slipped away after that.

It would be a lie to say he wasn’t worried. The amulets were destroyed. Theoretically speaking, Trevelyan wouldn’t be the same person as he was. How much of the man he knew was indeed Trevelyan himself, and how much was the amulets’ influence?

Would he have to reaquaint himself with Trevelyan all over again? Redo every single conversation?

Dorian chewed at his lips. This thing - whatever this was between them - perhaps it wouldn’t be something the newly-liberated Trevelyan would want to continue. The possibility troubled him more than he cared to admit.

Dorian sat for exactly four minutes and twenty-eight seconds, staring into the embers of the hearth fire, before tearing himself from the warmth to head to the solar.

 

He ran up the stairs, two steps at a time, turned the corner and arrived back here at the door to highest room in the citadel. He knocked and waited until a muffled voice said ‘come in’, then he swung the door open with his usual flourish.

When in doubt, dazzle.

“How are you feeling, Inquisitor? The great hall felt awfully desolate without your presence.”

Trevelyan was at the table, ink and papyrus laid out around him. The sound of the nib scratching against parchment was a soothing hum - reminded him of his days as a student in Vyrantium.

“Fine,” he replied.

“Trying to put Varric out of business, I take it?”

Trevelyan shot him a wary glance. “No.”

Dorian ventured closer to him. “So what are you writing, then?”

“Nothing of import.”

A moment of awkward silence passed before Dorian crossed his arms over his chest and huffed, “And here I thought the amulets made you stoic. Perhaps it's your natural state, after all.”

A small scoff. “I’m angry, not stoic. There’s a difference.”

“At? Not me, I hope.”

Trevelyan put the quill down, dark ink pooling where the pen's tip rested. He stood. “Yes, as a matter of fact, I am angry at you.”

“Whatever for?”

Trevelyan's voice was tight with restrained temper. “I didn’t go through all that pain to save you from red lyrim, just to have you dive into my mind to risk your own life.”

“But-”

No! I told you what happened to my mother. You do not come into my mind.” The pounding in Dorian’s ears made Trevelyan’s voice sound further than it should. “You’re a fool for jumping into something you don’t understand.”

“You can’t seriously think I wouldn’t come after you!” 

“You could have died!” Trevelyan exploded, slamming a hand on the table. “I could’ve killed you!”

“Well you didn’t, did you? And Solas was there!”

“You should have let him come alone. I can’t believe he’d agreed to take you along. I didn’t need you in there.”

Fasta Vaas! You sound just like Bull!”

“Maybe he isn’t wrong, then! Maybe if you’d just listen for once-”

The chafing at Dorian's heart found expression in a burst of irritation.

“I am not some fucking damsel in distress who needs your protection and coddling!" he barked. "I ran away from home precisely to get away from people who thought they could dictate how I live my life. The last thing I need is for you or anyone else to tell me what I can or cannot do!”

“Oh, don’t be so fucking childish -”

And with that, Dorian’s control snapped. He charged at Trevelyan, swinging a balled fist and felt his knuckles connect squarely with Trevelyan’s jaw. Before the man could regain his composure, Dorian grabbed him by his collar and slammed him back against the wall.

Fuck you and your high-handed bullshit!” Dorian hissed.

Trevelyan’s eyes took on a ferocious glint. He shoved Dorian in the chest with both hands, making him stumble back a few steps. When Dorian threw another punch at him, he caught it easily. But then Dorian energized his fist – and the look on Trevelyan's face was just priceless – he was sent flying into the wall again.

Trevelyan used the wall as a support to stand up. Maker, did he just growl?  

A frisson of heat shot through Dorian. “What? Did you think these muscles were only for show? Do not make the mistake of underestimating me, Inquisitor.”

Trevelyan stuck two fingers in his mouth and they came out coated with red-tinged saliva. Dorian swallowed hard at the blaze of defiance in his eyes.

A pink tongue darted out to lick the split lip, and Dorian was momentarily distracted. Trevelyan took the opening and launched himself at Dorian, blocked his magic-charged hands along the way and tackled him to the floor. He pinned Dorian’s wrists above his head.

“Do you yield?” Trevelyan said hoarsely.

Dorian looked up at him. Trevelyan was panting heavily from exertion, his eyes dilated and wild. Blunt nails dug into Dorian’s skin, the exquisite hurt teasing the edges of pleasure. Dorian bit his lip to contain the moan that was begging to escape.

“Never,” was the only word Dorian managed to push out through the haze of lust before sending a course of current through his entire body. The shockwave threw Trevelyan back, and his hands sizzled with smoke.

For a dozen heartbeats, they stared each other in silence, the only sound their laboured breaths.  

Dorian wasn’t sure which one of them moved first, but he couldn’t bring himself to care. They lunged for each other, hands grasping and crashed their lips in a brutal, punishing kiss. Dorian felt only minutely guilty when he tasted copper on Trevelyan’s tongue, but the thought evaporated instantly when the Inquisitor’s teeth grazed his bottom lip and bit down in retribution.

A rush of exhilaration raced through his veins, his fingers twisting in Trevelyan’s hair and yanked his head back, hard enough to draw a grunt from the Inquisitor. And the bastard had the audacity to laugh. The gall.

Dorian’s hands clawed at Trevelyan’s shirt, tugging it off and raked his fingers down his exposed chest, leaving behind dull red lines. Dorian opened his mouth and Trevelyan grabbed his face with both hands, plunging his tongue in deep. Dorian responded in kind, teeth clashing and biting, attacking Trevelyan’s lips with the kind of aggression and frenzy that made the kiss taste like combat. It was fucking delicious.

Trevelyan groaned into his mouth when Dorian palmed him through his breeches.

“Mouthy my arse,” Dorian muttered between kisses, “I’ll show you mouthy.”

It didn’t take long for him to rid Trevelyan of the rest of his clothes. He pushed the Inquisitor down onto his back and dragged his tongue along the side of his cock, feeling the man shudder beneath him. Dorian took his time, lapping, teasing, lips brushing against the smooth head. A large hand snaked into his hair, gripping it tightly. He smirked at Trevelyan's obvious impatience.

Their eyes met. He knew how he must look to Trevelyan right now: flushed and sweaty, lips passion-swollen and wet, gliding lazily along his hard length. Dorian gave a light scrape of teeth, and relished in the sharp intake of breath before closing his mouth around Trevelyan and taking in as much as he could.

The sound Trevelyan made was so indecent it sent a bolt of need to Dorian's own cock. And it thrilled him to discover that the Inquisitor was a lot more vocal than he was before.

The hand in his hair tugged again, nails scraping his scalp, and Dorian was roughly pulled off of Trevelyan. Strong arms closed around him, then Trevelyan flipped them over. Dorian absolutely did not find the ease with which he did it at all arousing.

A soft mewl slipped out of Dorian when Trevelyan took his lips again, claiming his mouth in bruising, possessive kisses. The throbbing of his heart was loud in his ears as he fed on Trevelyan's mouth. He ran his hands over the warrior's back, relishing the shift of muscle and the warmth of his skin.

Dorian’s robes were ripped open in the front, and then Trevelyan nipping his way down his chest and stomach. Dorian’s eyes rolled back when he felt the slick heat of Trevelyan's mouth swallow him down, and he grew hotter and thicker with each swipe of that talented tongue.

Dorian let out a soft whimper when an oiled finger slowly breached his entrance. Trevelyan’s mouth released him, hand splayed wide across Dorian’s hipbone to keep him steady as he pumped the digit in and out of him, and then added another finger, then another.

Dorian writhed and moaned under his ministrations, flushing under the Trevelyan’s heated gaze. 

When Trevelyan finally pushed into him, in one urgent, hard stroke, Dorian thought he saw stars for a moment. His mouth dropped open in a soundless scream, and he gasped when Trevelyan sank his teeth hard into the pulse point of his neck. That was meant to hurt, and definitely meant to mark.

Were this Tevinter, Dorian would be in deep trouble. Wanton cries fell freely from his lips, the primal sounds of their bodies colliding filled the room, wet and filthy and obscene. Any reservations about being heard scattered like spilled mercury as Trevelyan hitched his hips higher and drove back in, faster and deeper, hitting that spot that made Dorian want to sob.

His fingernails left livid streaks on Trevelyan’s arms, bright red against the corded veins that popped under the tension. But the Inquisitor didn’t seem to notice, his eyes shone with naked lust, hips snapping, savagely chasing his finish.

The sheer ferocity of Trevelyan's need stirred something primal in Dorian. It was as though his own amulets – invisible shackles that were imposed upon him, social respectabilities and familial expectations – were shucked from within. In this moment, they were two people completely naked to each other, in mind and body.

It didn’t take long once Trevelyan wrapped his hand around Dorian’s cock, stroking him in time with his thrusts. From far away, Dorian thought he heard the sound of his own voice screaming as he climaxed, spending all over himself. Trevelyan followed soon after, slamming into him twice more before coming with a groan he didn’t try to hold back.

They lay there on the hard floor, legs quivering and hearts thumping loud enough to feel between them. Dorian lightly scratched at Trevelyan’s nape as the Inquisitor  pressed soft kisses over the teeth marks on his neck - an apology of sort. In the afterglow of their frantic coupling, all the aggression and hostility drained away like a dissipating storm.

With a soft sigh, Trevelyan buried face in the crook of Dorian's neck. 

And because Dorian wasn’t made of absorbent material, soon, he felt moisture rolling down his shoulder.

“You’re not…crying, are you?”

Trevelyan’s answer was muffled, but it sounded like a petulant ‘no’, though the sniffles afterward gave him away.

“Dear Maker, you are crying,” Dorian said, fretting. “Are you all right? Did I hurt you?”

Trevelyan shook his head against Dorian’s neck, refusing to meet his eyes. “I’m fine. It was just a little…overwhelming.”

“What was? The sex?”

“I haven’t…done this in a while. Not with all of me present.”

Dorian let out a soft laugh, and rubbed gentle circles on Trevelyan's back. “Well, we can have another tomorrow, if you like.”

“Now you’re just being patronising," Trevelyan scoffed.

“Are you still mad?”

“Yes.”

“You’d just have to get used to it. I would do it again in a heartbeat.”

“I know,” Trevelyan sighed heavily. “That’s what frightens me.”

“I can handle myself. See? I’d even bested you.”

“That’s because I was going easy on you.” Trevelyan propped himself up on his elbows to look at him. His eyes glistened with recent tears, but he was grinning. “I'd like to call a rematch.”

Dorian reached up to wipe away the remaining wetness on his cheeks. “By all means, if it ends the same way again, amatus.”

It had slipped out so easily Dorian only realised his blunder when Trevelyan looked at him with a raised eyebrow.

He waved the unvoiced query away. “It’s a Tevene term of endearment. Pay it no mind.”

“What does it mean?”

Dorian looked away and ran a hand through his hair, now damp. “It means ‘my flea’. For someone you’re in a close relationship with, despite them being annoying at times.”

“That’s…not very flattering,” Trevelyan said, wrinkling his nose. 

“It’s the Tevinter way. What can I say?”                 

It was getting cold on the floor, so they helped each other up. They managed a perfunctory scrub with a wash cloth and a basin of water before flopping into the inviting bed.

Trevelyan looked so contented, an indolent afterglow smile playing at his lips. Naturally, Dorian would find this the perfect time to broach a sensitive topic. Hit them while their guard’s down, as they’d say.

“When I was in your dream in the Fade,” Dorian began, “I saw some of your memories.”

“Of course you did.” Trevelyan was already snuggling deeper into the pillow. 

“And Nehra was in one of them. She spoke of foreseeing your…intended.” A slight pause before he added, “Kiss of the evening’s breath?”

“Mm-hmm.” Trevelyan peered up at him, catching on to where this was leading.

“Well? Do you think the prophecy is real?

“It doesn’t matter whether it’s real or not, as long as I believe it is.” Trevelyan brushed a fingertip at Dorian’s cheek, where the beauty mark was. “And I do.”

Dorian did not just melt at his touch, at the soft cadence of his voice. Pish!

“When…did you know?”

“I noticed it when I first spoke with you in the library, after Haven’s collapse.”

“I remember that!” Dorian flicked at Trevelyan's arm. “You couldn’t scramble off quick enough that day. I thought I’d said something to offend you.”

“Well, your views on slavery did need some work...”

“Yes, yes, and I have grown as a person since then, thank you very much.”

“I avoided you because I didn’t know you,” Trevelyan said with a laugh of boyish honesty, “and I didn’t know what to do with you.”

“And now?”

“Now,” Trevelyan blinked drowsily, with a smile that held a softness that wasn't there before, “I’m your flea.”

Chapter Text

Dorian,” Trevelyan growled through clenched teeth, “I can’t…I can't hold it in any longer!”

“Don’t you dare stop!” Dorian barked. “Not when we’re so close!”

“It’s too much…I have to - ”

“If you stop now, I swear I will set you on fire!” Dorian turned his head, taking in the Inquisitor’s struggling form. Sweat beaded at his hairline and the vein on his forehead visibly pulsed - it's clear the man wasn’t going to last much longer.

Despite that, Dorian urged, “Just a little more! Almost there.”

Trevelyan grunted in frustration but nodded, repositioning his hold.

“Tell me again, Sparkler.” Varric’s usually relaxed voice was laced with a slight note of panic. “Why are you guys doing this now in the middle of a fight, and not, let’s say, wait until we get back to Skyhold?” He fired another perfect shot at his demonic target.

“Well!” Dorian said as he dodged a beam from a despair demon, and then cast another barrier to protect Trevelyan. “From what I’ve witnessed, the Inquisitor’s magic seems to be most potent when he’s under stress! What better time than now?”

Bull’s axe sailed in front of Dorian and lodged itself into the despair demon’s skull. He scoffed, “You sure about that?”

The Qunari jerked a thumb in the Inquisitor’s direction just as the man lost his grip on the sword, the weight of the magic that whirled around the blade bowed down the tip, launching a hurricane of fiery blaze towards an unsuspecting snoufleur. The poor animal was completely disintegrated without so much as a squeak, along with a swath of forest behind it.

Trevelyan looked across at Dorian and gave a slight shrug with a sheepish grin, before bringing his blade down on a charging terror demon, sans magic. He was a lot more successful this time.

Dorian sighed in exasperation. This was proving a lot more difficult than he had anticipated.

It had been a week since he’d jumped into Trevelyan’s mind with Solas to pull him out of his slumber, and they were still in Emprise du Lion, closing rifts and freeing villagers held captive in the Sahrnia Quarry.

They had left the relative comfort of Suledin Keep, and had been travelling light across the snow-bitten country. It’s wise, he supposed. The sooner they finished their work here, the sooner they could get back to Skyhold – where, as absurd as it sounded for a fortress perched on a snow mountain – he could curl up in his favourite armchair and be reminded the meaning of warmth again.

To distract himself from the biting cold, he began tutoring Trevelyan in the ways of magic. With the amulets gone, Trevelyan was bursting with the stuff. It rolled off him like molten lava, sweltering and consuming. All that energy needed a release, an outlet. And so they began their lessons. Not that they’d achieved much success…so far.

 

After the rift was sealed, the group made their way back to camp to settle in for the night.

Dorian sat heavily in front of the fire with a grunt, utterly drained from casting barriers for someone who was, for all intents and purposes, completely useless in today’s brawl.

“Well, that went spectacularly well," he muttered, much too tired to keep his annoyance out of his voice.

“I told you I couldn't hold it anymore,” Trevelyan narrowed his eyes at him accusingly. The warrior dropped his sword beside him and rolled on his back with a wince. “I think I might have sprained something. This magic thing is so exhausting.”

He was asleep within minutes.

When dinner was ready, a hearty stew of ram and barley with carrots, Varric nudged the Inquisitor was his foot. Trevelyan mumbled something unintelligible and curled up on his side.

“Sparkler, I think you broke him.”

Dorian scoffed as he filled his bowl. “Hardly.”

“No, I don’t mean just today,” Varric said. “Where did the dashingly stoic hero go? Who are my readers supposed to root for now?”

His voice took on a dramatic lilt as he began his soliloquy. “Standoffish and unemotional, the Inquisitor displays a cold front to face the cruel world. But he was only waiting for the right moment to reveal his warm and gentle heart. And only to his one true love.”

The dwarf made a face. “Now he just reminds me of my third uncle who drank too much. You did this, Sparkler.”

Dorian laughed a little. “That was all him, all along, Varric. We just didn’t get to see it. Seems like there’s a lot we didn’t know about our lord Inquisitor.”

Iron Bull stopped spooning stew in his mouth long enough to snort at that, shaking his head. “Some more than others.”

Dorian frowned. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“He’s been holding out on us, Dorian.” The Qunari waved his spoon around as he spoke. “First he’s a mage, then he’s a dreamer and now he’s a fucking dreamer mage who can use blood magic. Shouldn’t that concern you at least a little? Or does that not matter anymore because you’re sleeping with him?”

An acrid anger flared from the pit of Dorian’s stomach, burning him like hot tar, and his palms hurt from forced restraint.

“Don’t you dare make assumptions about us.”

“Oh, so it’s an ‘us’ now. Cute.”

Okay kids,” Varric intervened, bringing his hands up in a gesture to quell the tension. Bless his soul. “Let’s play nice, now.”

Heavy silence descended upon them, thick with menace and contempt. Dorian stood up and dropped his bowl to the ground, hot soup spilling everywhere.

“It appears I’ve lost my appetite. If you’ll excuse me, I’m turning in for the night.”

He made himself walk slowly, head held high with perfect poise. He didn’t look back but he felt eyes following him until he went inside his tent.

 

The temperature plundered in the middle of the night and Dorian was roused from sleep by the sudden chill.  While the bear coat helped, his unprotected feet were still frozen numb under the thin blanket. He wiggled his toes inside his woollen socks, trying to get some sensation back into the digits.

Sighing, he turned on his side, hoping maybe to stick his feet in Trevelyan’s bedroll to steal some warmth. But all his was met with was an empty mattress.

Venhedis. Was he still lying outside on the ground?

Dorian made a disgruntled noise as he rose. He clutched the bear coat tightly around him as he slipped on his boots, and sputtered when fur clung to his lips.

There was a fresh blanket of snow, and Dorian’s feet sank a little as he trampled over to the campfire. The fire had already burnt out, but the coals were still smouldering, little blossoms of amber glowing dauntlessly against the snowfall. Everything else they had, the crates, the tables, and weapons rack were all shrouded in white. Under the silver moonlight, the frosty stillness of his surroundings took on an otherworldly beauty - peaceful, enchanting and solemn, the snow a temporary camouflage that hid all the ugliness of the world, of its scars and sins.

Dorian drew a breath, the ice-cold air stung like needles in his lungs, instantly clearing his sleep-addled mind.

Trevelyan wasn’t here.

As silly as it was to be worried about a grown man who was both a mighty warrior and a powerful magic wielder, Dorian couldn’t help the uncomfortable lurch in his chest.

Tevinter teachings had him believe that love was a cumbersome emotion. Only the poor and the foolish would be senseless enough to pursue something as trite and pointless as affection, when one should seek for more practical things like power, wealth and status.

And still yet he yearned for it - love and everything that came with it: the trust, the exuberance, the hope, the adoration. It almost felt like a physical hurt.

 

A flash of illumination shot across the night sky, startling Dorian from his wayward thoughts. A faint swell of magic radiated from the woods not far from camp. Despite himself, he smiled at the spectacle.

 

It took a little longer than he’d expected, trekking through the frigid snow. The soft squeaky noises under his boots meant Trevelyan would hear him from a mile away, so there went Dorian’s plan of a stealthy observation.

Soon, a small expanse of open space came into view, with Trevelyan standing in the centre of it, facing the tallest fir tree Dorian had ever seen. A large, red ‘X’ marked his target on the trunk, yet for all the warrior’s efforts, it remained pristine and untouched.

Another pivot of the broadsword sent magic whirling, but instead of roaring towards its intended destination, the shot floundered and wobbled like day-old custard before withering into pathetic wisps.

“Target practice, I see,” Dorian drawled, ambling closer to the visibly crestfallen man. “Just a smidge ambitious, wouldn’t you agree?”

Trevelyan shot him a weak glare that made him smile. “Better here than embarrassing myself again. I didn’t think I could be quite so tragically terrible.”

The utter bewilderment and confusion on his face, at the incredible possibility that he could actually be bad at killing things, sent Dorian into a peal of laughter.

“I’m glad my incompetence amuses you, oh Lord Pavus.” The beginning of a pout pulled at those lips, but quickly stifled. “And don’t you forget your part in my very public humiliation.”

“I merely suggested that you seem to have most control of your powers under challenging circumstances.” Dorian gave a nonchalant wave of the hand. “You did kill Imshael in the most dramatic way possible. I was hoping we could recreate the intensity in combat.”

“That’s different. He hurt you,” Trevelyan said. He didn’t try to hide the fury and horror in the depth of his eyes. “And I snapped. It was the opposite of control.”

After a moment of hesitation, he continued. “I didn’t mean to frighten you then. I’m sorry.”

Dorian huffed and crossed his arms over his chest. “Bull?”

“Cole, actually.”

“There is nothing to forgive. It was an accident.”

Still, he shivered involuntarily, gooseflesh sweeping over his skin at the memory. All of it came at him in a rush: the scent of blood evaporating in the tornado of magic; the suffocating density in the air that held him down; and Trevelyan’s eyes that glowed a hideous, malevolent red.

Dorian’s eyes slammed shut. Kaffas, he could almost hear his father’s voice again.

Soon, Dorian, you will be right again. Don’t fight it. Let it take you.

He didn’t realise he was keening from the back his throat, until he heard Trevelyan call his name in a soft voice. He opened his eyes to see the warrior take a small step back, planting the end of his sword into the snow.

Trevelyan’s tight smile did little to hide the worry etched onto every feature on his handsome face. He stood perfectly still, his arms down by his side, trying his hardest to look as non-threatening as possible.

“I’ll be over there, sitting under that tree.” Trevelyan pointed at the giant ‘X’ behind him. “I’d love for you to join me, if you like. Though, I’d understand if you prefer to return to camp.”

And without waiting for a response, he turned and lumbered, as lithely as he could in the soft snow, toward the tall fir tree.

Dorian watched with swelling affection as Trevelyan reached the tree that his magic hadn’t been able to. The Inquisitor kicked at the earth near the base, jostling away snow and fallen leaves before sitting down with his back against the trunk, making himself comfortable as he waited.

Several deep breaths later, Dorian followed, one solid step at a time.

He could very nearly feel the same pull as he did back in the Fade, as though there really was a mystical tether that connected them, humming through every fibre in his body.

Just like a magnetite, he heard in his head. He let out a shaky laugh. He didn't need a dead elven priestess to tell him that his heart had already been offered, taken and bound to another. It was all too late to pretend otherwise.

Trevelyan’s eyes shone brightly in the faint moonlight, without even a hint of red; and a small half-smile began to form on his lips at Dorian’s arrival.

He didn’t move, but his gaze followed Dorian as he crouched and wrapped his arms around him, and Trevelyan returned the embrace.

“Thank you,” Dorian whispered, and he felt the hold on him tighten.

They sat, enveloped in each other, in their little nest of dirt.

 

After a little while, Dorian broke the silence with something he’d been meaning to declare officially. “You make a terrible mage.”

Trevelyan laughed hotly in his ear. “You don’t say.”

“What you need is more practice. When we get back to Skyhold I’ll draw up lesson plans.”

“I don’t know if I’ll have the time to-”

Dorian pulled back to slap his shoulder. “You will make time for it. Or are you refusing personal tutoring from, oh, only one of the most talented mages out of Tevinter?”

“Wouldn’t dream of it." Trevelyan's smile was faint but mischievous. 

Dorian couldn’t help grinning at his choice of wording. “That settles it then.”

“I’d rather not use a staff, though. They seem…fiddly.”

Dorian hummed. “I don’t see why you can’t use the sword to centre the energy. I know the Chargers’ Dalish does it with her bow.”

“There’s too much power and the sword just flies off from it. Without something to ground it properly-”

Their eyes flickered to each other’s in sudden realisation.

“If only you had a way to anchor it,” Dorian postulated, his cheeks stretched wide with barely contained glee. "An opposing force to stabilise the weight of the sword..."

Trevelyan stood the both of them up.

“That can be arranged. Start taking notes for your next thesis, Master Scholar,” he said with a sidelong grin.

Dorian felt his ears warm when Trevelyan held his hand as they made their way back to the centre of the field, but he didn't pull away. The Inquisitor plucked his sword out of the ground and waved Dorian back behind him.

“In case I drop it again," he said by way of explanation.

With a muted boom, the unmistakable sound of the mark’s explosion, Trevelyan channeled the power of the rift. But instead of casting it in a destructive dome, he confined the energy to the flat of his palm, and the force suctioned the hilt of the sword onto Trevelyan’s left hand.

He wrapped both hands tightly on the hilt, and then a turbulent course of magic shot from him and into the weapon, soaring and spiralling skyward around the giant two-handed sword, like a virulent storm cloud in cruel violet.

The mark of the rift kept the handle firmly fixed to his hand, even as he injected more power into the whirlwind, electric tentacles crackling and flexing as they licked the blade’s edges.

And with a loud roar, Trevelyan swung.   

A magnificent arc of lightning cut a gash in the air where the tip grazed, before blasting a colossal balloon of frenetic electricity towards the fir tree, hitting it solidly in the centre on the ‘X’.

The two stared, mouths slightly agape, when the enormous tree exploded into flames, splitting into two halves, creaking in protest as the fissure travelled up. After what seemed like forever, the scorched topiary toppled over onto the other trees in an ear-splitting crash, sending a wave of ash and burned foliage toward them.

After they recovered from a series of hacking coughs, Dorian whooped in childlike joy and pulled Trevelyan into a fierce hug. “Remarkable! That was truly remarkable! You did it! I knew you could!”

Trevelyan laughed, somewhat abashed. “Well, I had a good tutor.”

Dorian’s mind was already a thousand miles away. He paced and tapped his chin.

“Fascinating! The mark generated an external magnetic field, without actually opening the gateway to the Fade! Perhaps through some form of electric force? I wonder if it’s the charged particles in the air that-”

Catching Trevelyan’s knowing smile, Dorian stopped abruptly and feigned a cough to cover his embarrassment, flushing a little. “Pardon me. I do tend to get overexcited about these things. You know, new discoveries and all that.”

“Quite. It was indeed an amazing accomplishment,” Trevelyan said, with an almost impudent grin as he drew closer, swiping a thumb on the mage’s lower lip. His voice grew husky and low. “Worthy of a small reward, I believe.” He leaned in and replaced his thumb with a warm mouth.     

Dorian melted into the kiss. Even his lips tasted like victory.

To Dorian’s profound disappointment, Trevelyan pulled away much too soon. He grumbled and gave the Inquisitor’s rather delicious buttocks a hard squeeze, earning a surprised bark of laughter from the man.

“Why, someone’s eager.”

“I thought we were celebrating!”

“Out here? In the snow?” Trevelyan stomped a foot on the blanket of white beneath their feet for effect. “I thought you hated the cold.”

“Well, I expect to be thoroughly warmed up.”

“As much as I’d love to, I’m afraid we will have company soon.”

Dorian canted his head to the side. True to Trevelyan’s words, he could hear the distant sounds of hurried footsteps crunching in the ankle deep snow. No doubt their companions would arrive soon to investigate the source of the ruckus.

Trevelyan nuzzled behind Dorian’s ear and caught an earlobe between his teeth, extracting a soft gasp from the mage. “Unless you’re up for giving everyone a show, it’s best to wait until we return to Skyhold.”

Dorian groaned in clear frustration. He swatted Trevelyan away, ignoring the stupid smirk on his face. “You’re incorrigible and I hate you.”

The Inquisitor laughed again.

It would take a lot longer than a week for Dorian to get used to the sound and this sinfully playful side of Trevelyan. Dorian hoped that he would have the time to learn it all before the inevitable, bitter end.

He stole one last kiss, quick but with a promising slide of tongue, enjoying the low moan he elicited from Trevelyan.

“Everything is under control! We’re all right!” he shouted.

Chapter Text

Dorian could count on one hand the number of occasions he’d woken without shivering like a wet mabari ever since he came to the South.

He happily added this morning to that very short list.

There was an arm slung possessively around his waist, the hand on the blanket in front of him emitting a dark green glow. The unaccustomed heat that radiated against his back was comforting, though the little puffs of air that blew on that one spot on his nape every time Trevelyan exhaled, steady and warm, tickled. He squirmed a little.

Trevelyan must have been exhausted. He didn’t stir even as Dorian turned, picking up the stray arm and shifting away from under it.  

The warm morning sun casted a golden veil over them. Trevelyan’s skin steeped in the incandescent light, glowing like burnished copper, as his chest rose and fell in steady breaths.  

Dorian ran exploring fingertips over the sleeping man’s face, light as butterfly wings, over faint freckles that littered his long nose, the eyelashes that fanned across bronze cheeks, and the small scar on his lip that was only visible within kissing range.

A silly thing lovers did in Varric’s silly novels.

 

They had arrived back in Skyhold late last night.

The moment the two of them were left alone in the great hall, Dorian found himself backed up against the wall, and Trevelyan’s mouth was on his, tasting of salt and dirt and sweat. Eager hands roamed as lips pulled and suckled greedily until they were breathless and panting.

“Will you come to my bed tonight?” Trevelyan had asked, his breath was moist and so very hot against Dorian’s ear.

Dorian threaded one hand into Trevelyan’s hair and ground his hips, his head swimming a little.

“Wouldn’t miss it for the world.” 

 

After Dorian had taken a bath to thoroughly wash off the road, taking the time to moisturising his entire body with expensive oil – the southern climes were so incredibly dehydrating – he’d arrived in the Inquisitor’s private quarters to find Trevelyan sprawled out in bed, already fast asleep.

So much for celebrating.

He briefly debated with himself whether to return to his own room, but he’d already changed into his bedclothes, and he was really too fatigued to walk all the way across the fortress. So he climbed into the empty side of the bed, keeping a respectable distance from the Inquisitor.

He sighed contently when the soft mattress dipped under his weight. Small luxury in a world of chaos.

Dorian felt around under the downy blanket for Trevelyan’s hand, and gently took it in his. He fell asleep soon after, surrounded by the rich, earthy scent that lingered in every corner of the room.

 

When Dorian’s fingers grazed his jaw, short nails catching the beginnings of stubble, Trevelyan’s eyes flitted open. A touch of a lazy smile raised the corners of his mouth.

“Dorian,” he mumbled, blinking sleepily. “You’re here.”

“You were out like a light by the time I came here. I hope the invitation still stood, even if it was just to sleep.”

“Always.” Trevelyan drew him closer, and mouthed his shoulder and neck. “You smell nice.”

“Seemed like a good excuse to use that Felandaris oil after my bath last night.”

Dorian tilted his head, giving Trevelyan more access to his throat. He savoured the slight roughness of the other man’s cheeks on his skin.

Trevelyan inhaled deeply once again, and nipped at the supple skin. “It’s a lovely scent. It suits you.”

He stilled, as realisation of what Dorian had meant hit him. A flush of surprise coloured his face as he raised his head to meet Dorian's eyes. “You…prepared yourself? For last night?”

Before he could graciously deny to spare him the guilt, Trevelyan’s hand slid behind and was in his silk underwear. Dorian felt heat rising to his face as gentle fingers circled his opening.

Trevelyan groaned at the discovery, eyes darkening with the unmistakable gleam of lust even as he apologised. “And now I’m even sorrier than I was.”

“As you should be.” Dorian tried for indignant irritation but the breathiness in his voice might have softened the edges a little.

“Allow me to make it up to you then, treasure.”

Trevelyan pried Dorian’s lips open with his own, drinking in the low moan that broke free when he slipped two fingers inside easily, meeting little resistance.

The hairs on Dorian’s arms stirred and his back arched up from the sudden invasion. Trevelyan took his plight as an offering, and lapped at a stiff nipple, coaxing hushed yelps out of him. Dorian’s breath shuddered when teeth grazed the sensitive flesh, and he pulled Trevelyan’s face up for a hungry kiss.

A stream of garbled Tevene tumbled out of the his mouth when another finger found its way within him. His weeping cock streaked clear trails on their stomachs as he rocked his hips unconsciously, urgent for more contact, more friction. Trevelyan watched with rapt attention, his gaze tracing the erratic way Dorian’s features would alternate between wanton distress and exquisite pleasure.

“You’re beautiful,” Trevelyan said breathlessly, “And you’re brave. And kind. And more brilliant than anyone I know.” 

He pressed a soft kiss to the rapid pulsing beat at Dorian's throat. “I’m glad that it’s you, Dorian.”

The words washed over Dorian like a warm bath. His stomach tightened, eyes fluttering close at the sensation.

Of all the other times he could have made the grand declaration, of course Trevelyan would do it when he was knuckles-deep in his arse. Dorian clung onto the burst of annoyance desperately, lest he succumb to the happy sting of tears.

“Please,” Dorian urged, dropping his head onto Trevelyan’s shoulder. “Stop talking. Now, I want you now.”

 

Trevelyan pushed inside him slowly, dropping soothing kisses between his shoulder blades, as he sank inch by agonizing inch until Dorian’s arse was flush against his hips. Dorian let out a muffled whimper into the pillow when his legs were shifted and Trevelyan began to rock, gently and deeply into him, over and over.

Dorian worried his lip between his teeth and stole a sideward glance at Trevelyan, and the man looked at him with such naked adoration and tenderness it floored him.

The familiar burn of ecstasy built inside him as Trevelyan quickened his pace, liquid fire coursing through his veins. A guttural moan fell carelessly from his mouth when Trevelyan lifted his hips to surge back in at a better angle, his cock finding that sweet spot that made Dorian see white.

His heart and his body were filled to the brim. Full. Ambushed. Caught. Torn apart to be made whole again.

Dorian’s vision blurred and he quivered, teetering on the edge of his orgasm. “Harder. More. I need more,” he gasped, hands fisting into the pillow.

Dorian felt the reverberation of Trevelyan’s strangled groan on his back as he began slamming into him in earnest. One hand clenched tightly on the Dorian’s hip, the other curled underneath him to grip his cock, pumping it in time with his thrusts.

He was so close now. The sharp taste of the impending orgasm caressed his tongue, entwined with memories of sweet pears and shitty ale and lemon tarts and whisky.

Time magic. Trevelyan must know time magic because everything slowed. There was too much emotion, too much pleasure, to be contained within one single person. Dorian let out a broken noise as he chased his completion.

Fucking didn’t used to feel like a soul-splintering experience. It shouldn’t.

His mind went blank and Dorian’s body jerked as he came with a drawn out cry. Trevelyan followed soon after as his own climax was ripped out of him by Dorian’s intense finish.

They held each other close after. Dorian curled up around the comfortable warmth of Trevelyan, playing with his fingers, prodding the calluses on his hands, tracing the shape of the mark, the sinewy scars on his wrists.

It was only after Trevelyan had fallen asleep when Dorian whispered, "And I’m glad that it’s you, amatus."

 

* * *

 

The rumour about the two of them didn’t stay a rumour for long, but that was to be expected. Gossip was the lifeblood of Skyhold. It nourished its people, gave them something other than war and death to talk about. It afforded some semblance of normalcy they could cling onto as the world they’d known crumbled around them.

The chambermaids no doubt knew. The washerwomen definitely knew. The soldiers stationed on the battlements likely saw them macking on each other in a dark corner, and everyone in the rotunda most undoubtedly caught the dramatic scene of Trevelyan chasing off the Revered Mother, momentarily reverting back to the stony, unsmiling Inquisitor of the past.

“Her concerns are well-meaning, if misplaced,” Dorian said with a dismissive wave of hand after Mother Giselle's exit.

She was only trying to protect the Inquisitor, even if it was from him. And anyone who wanted no harm to come to Trevelyan was all right in Dorian’s book.

“It doesn’t matter," Trevelyan said tightly. “If she had any concerns about my welfare, she should come to me directly.”

You’re the Inquisitor. It’s much easier to badger me than you.”

Trevelyan didn’t say anything after that. He stared at a point across the library, eyes glazed over as if he were somewhere else. Dorian wondered if sometimes it’s difficult for him to shake off the old shell once he’s stepped back into it.

When he’d finally returned his attention to Dorian, he seemed normal again. He ran the back of his fingers across his cheek but didn’t kiss him.

“I need to speak with Solas. I’ll come back later.”

Without waiting for a reply, Trevelyan spun and jumped off the railing, landing squarely in front of Solas’ desk.

Emboldened by his new magical abilities, Trevelyan had ceased using staircases to descend, at least within the confines of Skyhold, much to everyone’s chagrin. But it seemed like the elven mage had gotten used to it, if the calm exchange of greetings was anything to go by.

Dorian didn’t mean to eavesdrop, but this was a rotunda, and as with any circular buildings, voices echoed and bounced around. It was just a shame that he didn’t understand a word they were saying.

He had no idea Trevelyan spoke fluent elven.

The man did live amongst elves since boyhood, though few of them spoke it exclusively now. The language by and large lost to its people due to enslavement by the Tevinter Imperium and the subsequent diaspora. It was truly jarring to hear Trevelyan speak a dying tongue that Dorian’s ancestors helped destroy.

The conversation was brief, and was reticent enough that Dorian could not discern from tone alone the nature of the discussion. Though one thing was for certain – it was something Trevelyan wanted kept from everyone, perhaps even from him.

Dorian took a long breath but it did little to quell the unease in his stomach.

* * *

Trevelyan was at his desk, quill in hand, scribbling away on paper, when Dorian came to visit him in his quarters.

“How was the game?” He asked, eyes still cast down on his quill scratching across parchment.

“Cullen won, again,” Dorian sighed, draping himself across the bed. “I even tried a new tactic! I don’t suppose you have any ideas? I'm rather sick of his gloating.”

“Have you tried not cheating?”

“I’m from Tevinter," he retorted, petulant, “We cheat at everything.”

Trevelyan smiled a curious smile. “Everything?”

“Well, perhaps not everything.” Dorian flashed him a charmed grin and stood. “What are you writing?”

“Progress reports on our ongoing missions in Emprise du Lion.” Trevelyan returned the quill to the pot and blew on the parchment to dry the last bit of wet ink.

“Still? You’ve been at those for days!”

“There’s a lot to cover. And apparently my penmanship is awful. Leliana made me rewrite them again.” He sighed. “All of them.”

“Speaking of mission reports, what is it that I heard about my not being in the party to Adamant Fortress?”

Trevelyan’s brows furrowed and tented his fingers in front of his face. He'd lost a lot of the impassive detachment since removing the amulets, but he was still a master at being inscrutable when he wanted to be. Not to Dorian, however.

“It’s odd that you’d heard anything at all. Seeing how I haven’t decided on the final party yet,” he said coolly.

It was a lie and they both knew it. Trevelyan had thought to exclude him from the more dangerous assignments. Sneaky bastard.

“Don’t even think about leaving me out of it,” Dorian said. “Livius Erimond and everything he stands for are insidious tumours that have sickened the brain of my country. I will not be denied the chance to bring him down.”

Trevelyan contemplated him with unblinking eyes. Dorian could almost hear the cogs turning in his head. Finally, he nodded. “Very well. Consider yourself invited.”   

“Good!” Dorian crossed his arms. “I was ready to throw another punch, you overprotective sod.”

Trevelyan huffed a laugh, and the tension melted away with the sound. “It was an impressive right hook. I couldn’t feel my jaw for weeks.”

 

As Trevelyan tidied his desk, gathering the loose leaves and sliding them into a leather satchel, Dorian noticed a full tray of food sat untouched on the side.

“Why have you not eaten?”

There was half a roast chicken, green beans and potatoes in one ornate plate, and a small dish of butter and freshly baked bread.

“I wasn’t hungry.”

“Are you unwell?”

Dorian strode to the sitting man and pressed a palm to his forehead. He didn’t feel feverish.

“I’m fine,” Trevelyan said. “I just had a lot on my mind and didn’t have an appetite.”

“Well, you must eat something. We can’t afford to have the Inquisitor struck down by illness.”

Dorian leaned against the desk, picking up one long green bean daintily with two fingers and dangled it in front of Trevelyan’s mouth. “Here. Eat.”

With a roll of eyes, the Inquisitor ate the vegetable without complaint. Before Dorian could withdraw his hand, Trevelyan caught it and flicked his tongue over the fingers, licking off the sauce, and then drew them into the warmth of his mouth.

Dorian’s lips parted, unbidden, and he sucked in a sharp breath.

“Are you trying to distract me from pestering you?”

“Is it working?” Trevelyan smirked around the glistening digits. The sweet torture of his lips pulling on his fingers made Dorian positively throb between his legs.

Yes. “No."

“Let me try harder. I’m hungry for something else right now.”

 

Dorian’s breath hitched when Trevelyan wrapped his hot mouth around him. He writhed and bucked and was finally pushed on his back, sending inkpots and reports flying from the desk.

Trevelyan moved in a smooth, unhurried rhythm, eyes trained on Dorian, taking in the delirious torment that gripped him. Dorian's hands drifted to Trevelyan’s head, carding through his hair, gasping every so often when devious tongue curled around the sensitive head before he was swallowed whole, again and again. The sheer lecherousness of it all – being pleasured by the Inquisitor on his desk – stirred something feral in him.

And then there were no more words. Only Dorian’s lustful moans and the wet, squelching sounds of Trevelyan’s voracious sucking resounded in the air.

When Dorian finally came, arching and convulsing, Trevelyan sealed his mouth on him firmly and drank every drop he was given. His lips were still glossy when he rose and Dorian pulled him into a kiss. A sopping, sticky, depraved kiss. It was perfect.

“Hmm. Easily the best meal I’ve ever had,” Trevelyan said with a pleased grin when they finally parted. “Thank you.”

Dorian flushed with an entirely different sort of heat and groaned into his hands.

Chapter Text

It had been an age since Thedas had seen a military mobilisation as massive as Trevelyan’s campaign against the Grey Wardens in the Western Approach.

The Inquisition army, one thousand strong, marched from the base of the Frostback Mountains, through the Dales and the Deauvin Flats, before arriving at the great chasm that was the Abyssal Rift after a month-long journey.

They bore banners, raised high and proud, as booted feet thundered in unison across Southern Thedas. Everywhere the Inquisition passed through, people stopped and stared in awe of their grandeur. 

Dozens of siege engines, trebuchets and battering rams, towed by snorting druffalo bulls, and cart after cart of supply trains trailed near the end of the brigade, protected by foot soldiers bearing rectangular shields and long lances.

And at the head of the troop, on a majestic Red Hart, rode the Inquisitor. Dressed in dark blue heavy armour, polished to mirror finish, with his large sword strapped to his back, Trevelyan shone with splendour and might, looking every bit the Maker-ordained hero that he was.

Cullen had warned him against making himself such an obvious target and strongly advised him to use the travelling wagon, flanked by the battalion. But he’d objected.

“This siege will be bloody, Commander. I’m asking good men and women to die for me. The least I could do is to be the leader they deserve. My presence here is good for morale.”

And he was right. The soldiers clearly loved their Inquisitor. To have the Herald of Andraste himself lead the charge, as far as they believed, the campaign already had the Maker’s blessings.

Dorian rode alongside Warden Stroud and Cullen, while Varric, Cassandra and the Champion of Kirkwall caught up with each other in a carriage trailing not far behind.

As the sky turned into a wash of pinks and orange, the dying rays of gold glinted off Trevelyan’s armour, enveloping him an almost holy glow. The lights threw an enormous shadow on the ground behind him, the overcast growing larger with each step as the sun made its gradual descend into the mountains of Gamordan Peaks.

For just a moment, Dorian saw what people believed Trevelyan to be: the herald that graced in Andraste’s divined radiance, a symbol of hope and faith, a man that would eventually bring salvation to all.

Though Dorian’s horse was only several paces behind, ardently chasing the Red Hart’s footsteps, suddenly Trevelyan seemed to be moving further and further out of his reach, and into the bright light.

And he could do nothing to stop it.

* * *

 

They set up encampment just west of the city of Velun, near Lake Celestine, half a day away from the lip of the Abyssal Rift.

The site was a marked battleground during the Second Blight, when darkspawns swarmed out of the Rift in droves, corrupting the land beyond recovery.

It was one thing to read about it in history books, and another to witness the devastation first hand.

There was nothing here but wasteland; old ruins entombed in purple sands the only remaining evidence of human habitation. The wind howled a sad requiem, the air dry with a familiar acidic sting.

The Veil was thin here.

They were inside the war tent, waiting for Trevelyan and the Commander to join them for a final mission brief ahead of tomorrow’s siege. There was a large table in the centre of the tent, with an elaborate map of the region pinned on top of it. Miniature figurines and flags strategically placed at various points, denoting their infantry formations.

Varric played idly with a mini-battering ram, pushing the little trunk back and forth, while the Seeker watched on with a touch of an amused smile.

Dorian tapped a long finger incessantly against the armrest of the uncomfortable wooden chair he was sitting in. The brief was scheduled for almost thirty minutes ago. And yet, still no sign of either Trevelyan or Cullen.

He picked invisible lint off his new robes. Patience really was never his strong suit.

Another ten minutes later, a nervous looking scout, shrouded in a nondescript green hood, poked his head into the tent.

“My Lords, Seeker Pentaghast, the Commander sends his sincerest apologies. The brief has been postponed until tomorrow morning.”

Hawke exchanged a look with Stroud, who said, “Did he say why?”

“No, Master Warden. He only said it was an urgent matter that he and His Worship must attend to.”

“Okay then,” Varric intoned with a casual grin. “I’m up for drinks and cards before the big day. Hawke, I need to hear the rest of that story about Junior. Stroud, you’re coming with. I haven’t won nearly enough coin from you.”

Dorian caught the quick look exchanged between the rogue and the Seeker before Varric exited the tent. Once they were alone, Cassandra turned to him, her lips pulled into a tight, hard line. “Shall we?”

“That was sneaky of you two." He crossed his arms with a grin. "Bravo.”

“I trust Hawke and Stroud implicitly. But discretion must be exercised when it comes to the Inquisitor’s unique circumstance.” Cassandra said, her frown deepening. The long scar on her face crinkled. “Something must be amiss. We should pay them a visit.”

 

It was already dark, and the air was thick with the smell of grilled meat. Cooking fires dotted the campground; each surrounded by at least half a dozen soldiers as they ate their fill and gambled away whatever possessions they had left. After tomorrow, they might very well have no more use for them.

Two soldiers, armed with the standard issue Inquisition shields and long swords, stood guard outside Trevelyan’s tent. The one who spoke had a thick Orlesian accent, his huge nose sticking out from under the heavy helmet. Dorian had already nicknamed him ‘Bulbous’ in his head – with a silent ‘s’, of course.

Bulbous held up a gloved hand, though he sounded apologetic.

“The Commander has given strict orders that they are not to be disturbed. I’m sorry, Seeker Pentaghast.”

If Bulbous survived tomorrow’s siege, Dorian would nominate the man for a medal of bravery.

Cassandra propped her hands on her hips and barked. “You will let us through, either upright or on your backs in thirty seconds. Your choice.”

Bulbous jumped at the threat and looked to his partner, who shrugged and shook his head nervously. Fortunately for them, Cullen’s voice called out from inside the tent.

“It’s all right. Let them in.”

Cassandra rolled her eyes and made an unhappy noise before lifting the flap, stooping a little to enter the tent. Dorian followed, closing the cover behind him.

Trevelyan’s tent was slightly larger than the others. A small desk was pushed to one side, next to a wooden bench lined with fennec fur. A tray of assorted cheeses and cured meats sat atop a table in the centre, along with some wine and a pitcher of water. A small brazier burned gently, casting a mollifying orange glow in the dark of the room.

Cullen was standing near the sleeping cot tucked in the corner, his large frame obscuring most of the mattress. It was only until he turned that Dorian could see Trevelyan, sitting on the edge of the bed, head thrown back as he downed the contents of a drinking tumbler. His face was flushed red and his breathing was ragged. He held out his cup and Cullen wordlessly poured another shot from a bottle. Dorian did not miss the slight tremor of Trevelyan’s hand.

“What happened and why are you drinking yourself into a stupor?”

“I’m not drunk, Dorian,” Trevelyan said in an annoyingly even voice. “I have a headache that only copious amount of whisky can cure.”

“A headache?”

Trevelyan drained the tumbler before speaking again, his voice raspy from the sting of hard liquor. “And a little light-headedness as well. I’ll be fine by tomorrow.”

Cassandra folded her arms in front of her, a frown creasing her perfect brows. “Are you certain you will be fit for battle? Are you falling ill?”

Trevelyan shook his head, pinching the bridge of his nose. “I haven’t been sleeping well these past few days is all. I will be all right.” He raised his empty cup again.

“No more alcohol for you.” Dorian seized the whisky from Cullen, who had been awkwardly silent this whole time. “You’re very likely feeling the effects of the weakened Veil around here. It can be quite overwhelming if you’re not used to it.”

Trevelyan’s eyes snapped to his in an instant. “I’d forgotten about that.” He muttered to himself. “That certainly explains it.”

“What you need is rest. And maybe some elfroot tea.” Dorian set the half-empty bottle on the table. “Commander, would you be so kind to fetch some?”

Cullen nodded, a little more vigorously than normal. “Of course. Right away.”

Trevelyan rubbed his eyes tiredly and sighed. “I assure you there is nothing to worry about. I am excellent at stabbing things even with a blinding headache. Perhaps better, given how irate I am right now.”

That got a chuckle out of Cassandra, her severe expression finally softening.

“That is good to hear. I’m glad it isn’t anything too serious. We can’t do this without you, Inquisitor.”

Trevelyan nodded and smiled, though it was clear that his heart wasn’t in it.

“Rest well. I shall see you tomorrow morning,” said Cassandra.

After she left, Dorian plopped himself next to Trevelyan, the cot creaked and swayed under their combined weight. “Here, let me help.”

The mage placed his hand on the side of the other man’s neck, noting its unnatural heat, and willed a small burst of ice magic from his palm.

Trevelyan immediately leaned into his touch with a softly mumbled ‘Sweet Maker’. He hummed in relief, eyes falling shut at the sensation. Dorian slid his hand to his nape, soothing the fevered flesh there.

“Will you really be all right tomorrow? You know, I would be terribly bored if you died.”

Trevelyan cracked open one eye lazily, the way a giant feline would in the middle of a very thorough petting.   

“Wouldn’t want that now, would we?” A trace of mirth coloured his voice. “How ever would the Inquisition survive without someone to keep Lord Dorian entertained?”

In response, Dorian’s hand threaded his fingers into his hair and closed the distance between their mouths. Trevelyan’s alcohol-warmed lips parted easily under his and welcomed Dorian to the taste of him, mingled with the sharpness of whisky.

It reminded Dorian of that horrible, wonderful night at the tavern in Redcliffe Village. It felt like a lifetime ago. To Trevelyan especially, it was a different life altogether.

Trevelyan made a small noise of protest when he tried to pull away, and leaned in further to chase his lips.

How things have changed since then, he thought, as Trevelyan tugged him closer.

Dorian sighed into the kiss.

The hands holding him finally stopped shaking.

 

* * *

 

A lone war horn blasted through the desert night air, and the siege was underway.

Trebuchets lobbed huge stones at Cullen’s command, each one coated with viscous oil and lit into giant fireballs. It was only a matter of time before the constant barrage of munitions brought down the fortified walls.

Soldiers wheeled the hundred foot long battering ram to the main doorway of the fortress. Each pound of the juggernaut sent the spiked iron fist pummelling into the Adamant gate. Wood splinters flew; tortured metal groaned under the assault. And Dorian felt every the deafening crash of the ram in his teeth.

The Wardens threw rocks, large enough to crush a man’s skull like an overripe watermelon. Archers showered their army with arrows. They poured scalding oil on the soldiers pushing the battering arm, trying in vain to halt its advance.

 

Dorian was a child of peace. An Altus and the only son of a powerful Tevinter Magister, he’d never even done a hard day’s labour, let alone set foot on a battlefield. Until the fall of Haven, he’d never realised how many other interesting ways he could die that didn’t involve a staff or a sword.

Now, he watched with restrained emotions as ordinary men and women fought gallantly on the front line, forging a bloody path for the Inquisitor with their lives, for a cause they believed in. Cole must have rubbed off on him, because suddenly he could feel the pang like a physical caress.

He forced himself not to flinch when a flicker of blood splashed across his face as a soldier fell next to him, an arrow through his neck. Their eyes met for a second before the man collapsed. Dorian wondered if his father was proud of him.

 

Trevelyan had insisted that they entered Adamant from the front gate. Warden Commander Clarel would see them march through the fortress, killing her demonic mistakes one at a time.

No hiding, no games, no secrets, he said. The Inquisition army would stop this madness with sheer power of its force and will – surely there was honour in fair battle that a Warden like Clarel would recognise.

The strategy worked for the most part.

As firestones rained upon Adamant, and it certainly wasn’t an easy task dodging friendly fire while entangled in combat with demons and Warden abominations, they cut their way towards Clarel and Erimond.

Dorian had never seen anyone slaughter a Pride Demon quite so quickly.

Trevelyan charged at the mammoths with unusual barbarity, casually avoiding the electric whips snapping at him as if they were a mere nuisance. The glare of fire magic bounced off the sword, then it disappeared into the bowel of the monster, sinking into the scaly hide like butter.

An uncharacteristically vicious gleam blazed in the dark of his eyes as the warrior swung the blade in a wide arc and bisected much of the demon’s body.

Varric whistled through his teeth, impressed. “Maybe we could just give him a lousy hangover and ship him by himself to Corypheus. Shouldn’t take too long.”

The ominous laugher the Pride Demon let out before disintegrating hung in the air far longer than it should have.

 

 

If it weren’t for the blighted Archdemon, things would have gone exactly according to plan.

They would have brought Clarel to her senses, Livius Erimond in a cell chained and gagged, and Dorian would be drinking with Bulbous near a fire somewhere.

Instead, they found themselves nose-diving into a portal that Trevelyan unintentionally opened to save them from falling to their deaths.

They had physically entered the Fade.

Oh fuck.

 

Chapter Text

Trevelyan sprang awake in his bed, drenched in cold sweat and gasping for air as though he’d been held underwater for hours, the remnants of his nightmare still clutched at his chest. Forceful. Unyielding.

He was alone in his quarters, back in Skyhold.

I’m safe, he reassured himself. I’m still here. He clawed at his sheets, feeling the fabric scrunch beneath his fingers.

This is real.

A lone candle burned at his bedside, the orange glow of the flame chasing away the vivid pictures of the dream. He rubbed his face with his palms and let out a frustrated groan, willing his heartbeat to slow.

The sulphuric, repugnant stench of the Fade felt like a disease that festered under his skin.

Three weeks. It’d be three weeks and he’d washed multiple times since their return and yet, no matter how much he’d scrubbed, until his hands were red and raw, he couldn’t seem to rid himself of the taint.

He wasn’t chosen by Andraste’s will, nor was he ordained by the Maker. He was nothing but an unfortunate casualty of cruel fate, an unwilling participant caught in the crossfire of a war waged by an ancient darkspawn. It was by pure chance and ill luck that he’d been bestowed the anchor.

He would laugh if it weren’t so heartbreakingly ironic: a man who spent most of his life hiding who he was, masking powers he couldn’t control, running away from confronting it, somehow wound up with the future of humanity on his shoulders.

And he would have to do it all without deific guidance.

The ghoulish voice of the Nightmare demon mocked him still.

You think that pain will make you stronger?”

Its words echoed in his head, sinister but true. “What fool filled your mind with such drivel? The only one who grows stronger from your fears is me!”

When they’d stumbled upon the graveyard in the demon’s lair, amongst the tombstones of his friends’ greatest fears, he solemnly searched for his own.

'Irrelevance', 'dying alone', 'temptation' (Dorian scoffed at that. “Why, that’s hardly a secret now, is it?) – none of which were his.

Then the Nightmare spoke to him, like a slimy billow that clung to his every pore. It made his skin crawl.

‘Losing yourself’…how sublimely apt. Your fear isn’t there, Inquisitor Trevelyan. I have swallowed it and made it mine. And soon, you will be as well.

The voice cackled with undisguised glee. “Let’s see how long before you succumb.”

 

It was not yet dawn, but Trevelyan didn’t want to risk falling asleep again.

He climbed out of bed and padded barefoot over the cold stone floor to his oaken desk. He ran a hand across the surface, feeling the wood grain pass under his palm, dry and textured. He thumbed the small chipped area on the side, a faint scratch on the lacquer finish.

The image of Dorian, clutching at the desk, eyes dark like the blackest obsidian, flushed and panting, with that languid, disarming smile on his face that undid him every single time —

Trevelyan reached out his hand and the vision faded away.

He shook his head to clear his mind, and then sat down in the chair. He fumbled around in the lowest drawer before fishing out the tan leather satchel, buried under stacks of reports and papers.

He flexed his hands to stop their shaking before releasing the clasp on the satchel and pulled out the latest entry.

Putting ink to paper, he continued in the blank space beneath it.

“Day 137.

It found me, again.”

* * *

 

The books were the exact same books that had always been there. Trevelyan knew for a fact that he had practically memorised the order of the entire collection, but it didn’t stop Dorian from running his finger across the spines of the thick, leather-bound tomes, tsking disapprovingly anyway.

A book sailed across the library, landing one floor down with a thud.

Right. Dorian had a point to make.

“You have remarkably little here on early Tevinter history. All these ‘gifts’ to the Inquisition, and all the best they can do is the Malefica Imperio. Trite propaganda.”

Dorian threw another book over his shoulder. “But if you want twenty volumes on whether Divine Galatea took a shit on Sunday, this is evidently the place to find it.”

Trevelyan couldn’t help but smile, despite everything else he was feeling. He’d learned the steps to this particular dance, thankfully.

“Did she?” The mage shot him a wary look over his shoulder. “What? It’s an honest question. I hadn’t thought to read any of those books. Please, don’t keep me hanging.”

“You laugh as if it weren’t a disaster. I need a copy of Liberalum and this dump you call a library is sorely lacking.”

“What is this about, Dorian?”

Dorian glared at him for a moment, and Trevelyan mentally prepared himself for a book thrown in his face.

“When we fell into the chasm, into the Fade…I thought you were done for. I don’t know if I can forgive you for that moment.”

“Forgive me? You were right there with me the entire time!”

“For making me think you were dead! You sent me ahead and then didn’t follow.”

Dorian’s voice quivered with remembered horror. “For just a moment, I was certain you wouldn’t. I thought: this is it. This is where I finally lose him forever.”

Trevelyan let out a long breath as he stepped closer.

“I’m here today, and you’re here today.” He lightly ran the back of fingers down Dorian’s cheek, an unbreakable habit by now. “That’s what matters.”

Dorian’s voice was soft. “It’s not enough. Not anymore.”

Trevelyan knew the feeling too well.

He kissed him, slow and tender, one hand cradling his face to bring him closer, because on days like this, even this close wasn’t close enough. The warmth, the smell, the taste of everything that was Dorian—

 It’s only fair: if he had to feel the full force of the bad, then he would have his fill of the good. Greedily. Insatiably. Completely.

Dorian was the anchor and he’s the sword. Dorian kept him here.

The meeting of lips soon turned into something much deeper and hungry, and Dorian blushed beautifully when they finally broke apart.

“We’re in the library, my Lord Inquisitor. Do have some self-control. People are staring.”

“Let them,” Trevelyan said quietly before leaning in again.

 

* * *

The Iron Bull was in the middle of a particularly intense spar with his lieutenant when Trevelyan arrived at the training yard.

They used unsharpened blades, the steel dull enough not to kill, but one could lose a finger if the sword fell precisely at the right angle.

The clang of metal sped up as the Qunari cornered Krem, the swords a flurry of silver.

“Keep you shield arm up! C’mon, high block! Ah, there you go!”

To his credit, Krem held his own using a weapon unfamiliar to him – taking advantage of Bull’s single-eyed blind spot and weak left leg, finding an opening to hit the flat of the sword on the man’s fleshy thigh with a loud smack.  

“Hah! Take that, Chief!”

These two knew each other’s moves like a well-rehearsed waltz. It was a joy to watch.

When Bull noticed Trevelyan standing there, he threw the tip of the sword hard into the ground, plunging it deep into the loose dirt.

“How about it, Boss? Been a while.” He pressed a thumb into the palm of his sword hand, kneading out the knots. His grinned casually, but his stare was unreadable. “I promise I won’t draw blood.”

Trevelyan spared a glance towards the rotunda, before returning the smile.

“Let’s.”

 

Trevelyan shifted the sword and the wooden shield in his hands, getting accustomed to the foreign weight of them. It’d be strange fighting with these instead of his usual two-handed weapon.

“Some time today would be nice,” Bull drawled, picking at a blister on his thumb.

Trevelyan rolled his neck and moved into a combat stance. “All right. I’m ready.”

“Let’s make one thing clear: no magic.”

Trevelyan nodded. “No magic.”

“Great!” Bull was eager to get this started. The hilt of the sword spun in his hand. “Come at me then.”

“Before we start,” Trevelyan turned to Krem, who was busy examining his armour for damage. “Lieutenant, if anyone tries to interfere, stop him.”

Bull gave him a curious look.

He shrugged. “Just in case.”

 

A direct clash with Bull was pointless, so at Krem’s starting signal, Trevelyan immediately skidded to his right and struck. Bull had already anticipated that move and blocked it easily with his shield, while his other hand brought down the pommel of the blade with more force than Trevelyan expected.

He darted away from the blow and found himself behind Bull, his back completely open. Trevelyan lifted his sword but was a second too late, Bull’s shield swiped at him and connected with his chest, sending him reeling back.

Pain bloomed hotly where the shield hit, but it lit him up, the tingle of battle coursed under his skin.

The Qunari were fierce warriors, but for all their might they’re slow and heavy. Not the case with The Iron Bull, however.

Trevelyan only blinked once and the giant warrior had all but disappeared before him. He didn’t have the chance to confirm the warrior’s presence behind him visually – a faint rustle and he whirled his sword back on instinct, just in time to block the descending blade.

Trevelyan spun quickly to face him as Bull swung the sword again, the metals colliding with a loud clank.

But Bull didn’t stop at the contact. He pushed forward with a snarl, forcing Trevelyan back, thrusting the edge of the blunt blade to mere inches from his face.

“That all you got?” Bull roared, driving the sword further. Trevelyan averted his face slightly, and the dull edge pressed a long red line onto his cheek.

The urge to use magic pulled strongly and Trevelyan had to concentrate to tamp it down to a dim simmer.

With a strained grunt, he raised his shield and smashed it into the swords, breaking the stalemate, before rolling away from Bull’s reach.

Or so he thought.

A stray shield came flying at him, hitting him on the side of his head and sent him sprawling on the ground, dirt spraying everywhere. He recovered just enough to see Bull leaping towards him, his sword held high, ready to strike.

There’s no time to escape. So he lifted his own shield over his head and hoped for the best.

But the blow didn’t come.

He could see Iron Bull’s feet from under the shield, before a sword nudged the cover aside.

“I said I wouldn’t draw blood.” Bull said, gesturing at Trevelyan’s forehead. “You’re bleeding.”

Trevelyan wiped at the gash with the back of a hand. It came away crimson.

“Superficial cut. Not nearly enough for blood magic if that’s what you’re worried about.”

There was a flash of something on Bull’s face – which told Trevelyan what he needed to know.

Before he could say anything, Trevelyan saw from the corner of his eye a robed figure marching towards them. From the way his arms were tucked tightly along his sides, he could tell the man was furious.

Bull’s lieutenant was only half-hearted in his attempt to stop Dorian from advancing into the yard. Really helpful. Thank you, Krem.

“Why in the Void are you two beating the shit out of each other?” He hissed.

Bull grinned, showing more teeth than a friendly smile should have. He hefted his sword on his shoulder, saying, “Technically, one of us is beating the shit out of the other.”

Trevelyan sighed, pulling himself off the ground with a cringe. “We’re sparring. It’s what warriors do.”

Dorian shot Bull a dirty look before dragging the venomous glare to Trevelyan. “He threw a shield at you. And now you have a black eye and bleeding. I know sparring and that wasn’t it.”

“We both have some issues that we need to work out through aggression. You know how it is, Dorian.”

Trevelyan blinked with a deliberate, slow smile and the mage narrowed his eyes. Both keenly aware of what he’s referring to.

“Fine.” The mage huffed. Trevelyan wondered if he’s the only one who noticed the tips of Dorian’s ears had gone red. “But if anyone bleeds again, it stops.”

“Deal.” Trevelyan turned back to Bull, who watched this entire exchange with scant attention. “Again!”


With Dorian’s eyes following their every move, this round was a lot tamer than the last.

Trevelyan swung the blade as a feigned move, and swept a foot at the Qunari’s legs to force him off-balance. It would have worked a lot better if his opponent weren’t three times his size.

Between the subdued blows, they actually found the time to have a conversation.

“I need a favour, Bull.”

The Qunari snorted, and slapped the sword hard into his side.

Ow.

“Give your order and I’ll get it done, Boss.”

An elbow to the chest, but the giant wall of flesh didn’t budge.

“It isn’t strictly an Inquisition matter,” Trevelyan said through clenched teeth as the swords clashed again.

“Personal things, huh? I’m a mercenary. I don’t do things for free.”

“Quid pro quo, of course.” Trevelyan heaved and brought his full weight down onto Bull’s wooden shield. It cracked in half.

“How do you feel about going high dragon hunting?”

That got his attention.

 

* * *

 

Trevelyan winced as he lifted his arms to remove his shirt, taking in the large bruises on his torso, purple and blue, shiny like rotten plums splattered against his skin.

It was probably a mistake to confront Bull like that, but a necessary, calculated risk. At least he got what he wanted.

Though it would seem his body was paying for it now. He actually had to rest a little on the landing to catch his breath after powering through the first flight of stairs to his quarters.

“Did you know,” Dorian began as he helped him out of the garment. “I’ve seen your younger self in the nude.”

How young, exactly?” Trevelyan asked archly.

Dorian laughed and pinched his arm in warning. “Old enough that it didn’t feel too immoral to stare a little.” He smoothed a hand across his chest. “You had fewer scars then. And definitely not as many bruises.”

“They look worse than they are. I’m fine.”

“Really?” Without warning, Dorian pressed down hard onto a particularly swollen one on his left side. “Even this one?”

Trevelyan yelped and jumped out of his grasp, batting the offending hand away.

“All right. Point taken. I’m in pain. Now could you please pass me the elfroot salve?”

Dorian raised a smug eyebrow. He opened the chest next to the bookshelves where all the potions and balms were kept.

Trevelyan sat down on the edge of his bed, relieved to be off his feet, when Dorian returned with the pleasant smelling jar.

“Now will you tell me what that was about?” The mage asked as he gently dabbed the salve on the growing black eye and the long cut above his brow.

“It’s one way of working out our differences. Bull and I speak a common language.”

“And what’s that? Violence? Bloodshed? Broken bones? I would never understand you warriors. Barbaric nincompoops, the lot of you.”

“Nincompoops.” Trevelyan chuckled. “There’s a word I haven’t heard in a while. And no one’s ever accused me of being one either.”

“There’s a first time for everything.”

He pulled Dorian closer with a pleased smile, resting his chin on the mage’s chest. “That’s very true.”

The mage returned the smile and ran his fingers through his hair, scratching lightly.

 

And then it happened again.

Trevelyan willed himself not to look, because looking would just give it weight and realness. But then she called his name and waved her hand, and his gaze was drawn to her. It was impossible to resist.

A hand on his chin forced him to look up into grey eyes.

“Where did you go?” Dorian asked, worry evident on his face. “Come back.”

But it was too difficult to ignore the hallucination. She was dressed in a white gown, the same one she was buried in. It made the red handprints around her neck seem even angrier.

“Did I ever tell you how my mother died, Dorian?”

Trevelyan pulled away from Dorian’s grip, his stare once again gravitating towards the illusion.

“My father strangled her with his bare hands. An act of mercy, he said. He had to set her free.”

His voice sounded hollow, even to himself. “Would you be able to do it? When you’re faced with the impossible choice of freeing your loved one from torment? Or will you watch as they rot in their own madness?”

Trevelyan jabbed at a tender bruise on his chest. The sudden pain brought a clearer mind, and finally he tore himself away from the hallucination.

Dorian drew him up into a tight embrace. “It won’t come to that. As I promised when we first met: I will protect you."

Trevelyan breathed in the comforting scent of Dorian’s warm skin, and pressed a soft kiss on the curve of his neck.

It’s true. It wouldn’t ever come to that.

He’d make sure of it.

Chapter Text

If it wasn’t better than sex, it was damned close.

There weren’t too many things that’d top that insane high as when Iron Bull brought his heavy maul down onto the high dragon’s skull, splitting it right open as she tried to smite him with her ungodly fire.

Holy sweet merciful crap.

The way the magnificent tail thrashed high above them; the slivered eyes flashing with murderous fury; and the smell of her breath when she gurgled just before she spat fire – ugh, he’s getting hard just thinking about it.

Except maybe pleasuring himself while he dealt the final blow. Now that would be the pinnacle of dragon hunting.

Obviously, there’d be some technical difficulties he would have to overcome. But Bull was never one to back down from a challenge. With proper practice, just maybe

He’d have to sleep on that and work out the logistics. Privately.

 

It’s a good thing the Inquisitor didn’t make him wait too long.

Ten days after their little impromptu performance in the sparring ring, he conscripted an all-warrior team to travel to Northern Hinterlands for the Ferelden Frostback.

They’d stocked up on potions at Dusklight Camp, put on their best fire-resistant armours – not that Bull wore one; he wanted to feel the blasted heat on his skin – the Inquisitor even made them all brand new weapons, specially crafted for dragon slaying.

“Here you go,” Trevelyan had said casually, unfurling a leather bundle, as if he was just handing Bull a cup of fancy tea, and not the most beautifully forged war hammer he’d ever laid eyes on.

Enchanted with a superb frost rune, the ornate two-handed maul had a long haft made out of dark everite, and wrapped in supple snoufleur leather that’s warm to the touch. The heavy pommel, made from the same metal, was shaped as a dragon claw. Mounted and soldered to the hilt of the shaft, it served as a counterweight for the enormous silverite head that was decorated with copper inlay, and engraved with a dragon and a bull entwined in battle on both sides.

Judging from Cassandra and Blackwall’s faces, they received equally elaborate gifts. Bull couldn’t tear his eyes off his maul long enough to identify anything beyond two glinting shields and longswords that looked opulent and expensive.

“What’s this?” Bull asked, arching up one eyebrow. This smelt distinctively of a bribe, or at the very least, a bait of some sort.

“A maul Dagna spent a week crafting,” Trevelyan replied almost too coolly, lips tilted into a half smile as he adjusted his armour, fixing the fit of his plackart. “I expect to see it put to good use.”

Before Bull could say anything, he picked up his helmet and his shiny stormheart greatsword off the ground, and gave it an experimental swing.

“What do you say we go and test these out before it gets too dark?”

That worked for Bull. Dragon-killing first, investigative questioning later.

And it’s just as he expected: the engravings of the dragon and bull looked even better soused in dragon blood.

 

It was full dark by the time the warriors dragged their tired but happy bodies back to camp. They sat around the campfire and ate their fill of roast meats and stew. The Boss even invited the pretty Requisition Officer to join them for supper, although it’s more likely that he’d had enough of her bugging him with requisition requests.

There were only so many times a man could hear the same requests and reports before he lost his cool.

Over spiced rum, Cassandra told anecdotes of the Pentaghasts’ prowess in dragon slaying. Her accent thickened with each sip of the liquor, and while most of her tales sounded wildly exaggerated to Bull, it didn’t stop him from slapping his knee excitedly and made her repeat the good bits anyway.

Blackwall choked on his drink when Bull offhandedly informed him that the Requisition Officer had been making moon eyes at the beardy warrior all night, and that he should capitalise on that. The gruff man sputtered, looking like an electrocuted nug at the suggestion, but Bull didn’t miss the sneaky glances he kept shooting the cute brunette for the rest of the evening. He laughed into his drink and watched them over the rim of his mug.

The Inquisitor looked relaxed and appropriately engaged at the right time, neither participating nor isolating himself. And for once didn’t fall asleep while picking at his plate of food. Well, points for effort.

They shared war stories and battle strategies and tipsy laughter until the embers of fire burned to nothing but specks of gold-orange. It reminded Bull of how the Chargers first came together, and that’s a high compliment to present company as far as he’s concerned.

 

One of the more annoying things about imbibing heaps of alcohol was the mighty need to piss in the middle of the night.

At least it was a nice, warm night; or maybe it’s the rum that’s still heating his veins.

He made his way out of his tent and through the tunnel that led to the area where only hours ago was dangerous dragon territory.

It would now serve as The Iron Bull’s personal latrine. Hah.  

He unbuckled his belt and urinated freely onto the open field with a loud sigh. His eyes swept across the star-lit tapestry of the night, an unconscious habit to always search for the constellation of the Bull. The same way his tamassran had taught him.

The cloudless sky was vast and dark. It always looked hungry in its endlessness.

Seconds later, he’d found the al-dabaraan.

The brightest and largest star of the cluster, a red and fiery giant, the al-dabaraan was also known as the Eye of the Bull. The Vints called it the ‘Alpha Tauri’ and had used it for centuries in navigation.

His people believed that it held the energy of a warrior – a true and honest leader who led his followers to victory. When he’d lost his left eye, Bull thought his impairment – if he would even call it that  – was a mark that brought him closer to the warrior god.

It had made him feel better.  

 

A soft chuckle interrupted his thoughts and, incidentally, his pissing – frustratingly mid-stream too.

He whipped his head around; already crouched in a battle stance, ready to pounce at the first sign of trouble.

Instead, he found the Inquisitor sitting against the bedrock, one leg outstretched, an arm propped on the other knee with a bottle of leftover rum in his hand. There was a smile on his face, though it looked more like a sign of inebriation than actual amusement.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone relieve themselves with such a look of solemn contemplation before.” He didn’t sound too drunk, despite appearance.

“You were watching me take a whiz? That’s kinky, Boss.”

“Technically, I was here first. You just wandered into my sight.”

Bull stepped closer. “What are you doing out here getting all shitfaced alone?”

Trevelyan canted his head and made a non-committal noise, before gesturing to the front of Bull’s trews with a mischievous grin. “You might want to tuck yourself in.”

Bull looked down and realised he was still hanging out. Oh.

“Hey, it’s not my fault you distracted me,” he complained as he stuffed himself back into his breeches. Just because he wasn’t a modest man didn’t mean he liked to be caught off-guard.

“My apologies,” the Inquisitor said with a careless smile. “Rum?”

Bull waved his hand no, and leaned a shoulder against the bedrock several paces from the sitting man.

“So, you promised me a dragon and we’ve killed a dragon. What’s this favour of yours?”

The Inquisitor looked up at him for a long moment. It’s weird to see hesitation so obviously in his eyes.

Until very recently, Bull had never seen the man look anything less than perfectly composed. Even with his Ben-Hassrath training, the Inquisitor had been one hard nut to crack.

Bull had to remind himself, again, that this was not the same man he’d pledged his service to. Those dark, glazed eyes belonged to the person behind the mask.

And this guy, made pliant by liquor, was an open book.

“Tell me, Bull,” He asked, after a while. “If I were a mage under the Qun, how would I be treated?”

Bull let out a grunted laugh, lacing his fingers together and cracked his knuckles.

“For one, you wouldn’t be the Inquisitor. If you were a Saarebas, you’d have your tongue cut out. We don’t treat blood mages well. Your lips would be sewn together, you’d be collared and leashed, then assigned to the toughest Arvaarad we have. He’d be the one in control of your magic and your glowy hand.”

“And all Saarebas willingly submit to that?”

“It’s not about submission. It’s servanthood. Asit tal-eb. It means ‘it is to be’. The Saarebas know their place under the Qun and that they serve the greater good of the order. The rest of us honour that sacrifice.”

The Inquisitor was quiet, digesting his words, until Bull spoke again.

“What’s this about?”

“I just needed some perspective before I make some people very unhappy.”

Okay—”

“I know I don’t have your approval and I don’t blame you. I wouldn’t trust me either.”

“Glad to know we’re on the same page then,” Bull said, because it’s true. There’s no need to mince words, now.

“Which is why you’re the only person I can tell this to.”

Bull felt a frown forming; a remark hot on his tongue, but something in Trevelyan’s face stopped him from interrupting.

The Inquisitor took a deep, shuddering breath, thumbing the mouth of the bottle, a revealing sign of nervous energy.

“I’ve been unwell, Bull,” Trevelyan explained in an even voice that betrayed nothing, letting his head rest back against the wall of the rock. “At first, it was negligible: sleeping more, difficulty waking up – I thought it was just my body getting used to the pull of the Fade.”

“The more magic I used, the worse it got. I started…seeing and hearing things that weren’t there.” He paused for a moment, as if bracing himself for the confession. “I had an episode the night before the siege at Adamant. The first of many.”

“An episode?”

“Cullen was there when it happened. He called it a ‘panic attack’.” He said the words slowly, deliberately over-enunciated ‘k’s, his Free Marcher accent peeking through. “It was the night before the battle so I asked for his silence. As far as everyone else knows, it was nothing more than a headache.”

“Even Dorian?”

He closed his eyes, and let out a tired sigh. “He doesn’t know. He may have his suspicions that something’s wrong. But we haven’t talked about it.”

“Right.”

“The Veil was thin there, and I felt it consume me. It was like Imshael all over again, even without the blood magic. It filled me with this horrible joy when I killed. Every time I dip into the Fade, I lose a bit of myself in the process.”

The Inquisitor’s expression was blank, carefully arranged so, but Bull saw the distress in his eyes.

“None of that sounds like good news. What do you want me to do?”

His voice sounded far away. “I need you to watch over Dorian. Make sure he is safe and well, and does nothing too stupid after I’m gone.”

“Gone where?”

“Into the ether? Back to the Fade? I honestly don’t know what happens to me after the rite. I just hope it doesn’t hurt too much.” He breathed out a quiet laugh that sounded more like a haggard sigh.

“After the r-? Wait a minute, you’re not thinking of making yourself—”

Trevelyan rolled the now empty bottle in his hands, the green glow in his palm illuminating the tinted glass dully.

“The anchor must be protected at all costs. I can’t become possessed lest it falls into the hands of our enemies. It’s the only way to ensure the anchor’s safety and in the Inquisition’s control. I am not the chosen one, Bull. There is no higher purpose here. I can only do what I can with what I have,” he said softly, but there was steel underneath the words.

“Come on. That’s way over the top. Even for you.”

“It’s no worse than your Saarebas serving the Qun. It’s a sacrifice that must be made. I’ll lead by serving the people. It might not be the answer for all mages, but it’s the answer for me.”

“What about Dorian? You can’t do this to him.”

The Inquisitor’s eyes were clear and shone with stoic determination, the drunken fogginess that clouded them swept away in an instant. “He has died a thousand times in my dreams, Bull. Sometimes by my hands. You cannot imagine what it’s like to wake up every morning still smelling the blood of your lo—”

He stopped himself and rubbed his eyes. Bull looked away to stare at the moon. His voice was steadier when he spoke again.

“The Nightmare demon finds me every night, haunting me with visions and threats. We took Clarel from its grasp, and now it has set its sights on me as her replacement. It’s only a matter of time before I fall.” A pause. “It’s for Dorian’s own protection as well. I’d rather he hate me than be dead.”

It’s easy to forget that Trevelyan wasn’t groomed for war or darkspawns or even magic – still so young and already weary, the weight of the world on his shoulders. He had everyone fooled with his whole impassive-warrior-leader act.

Bull was suddenly hit with a pang of pity for him.

“I knew there was something fishy going on when you gave us all the shiny weapons.”

The Inquisitor actually laughed, even if it sounded a little empty. “Just a token of my appreciation. I’m not certain I’d retain my understanding of friendship, later.”

“That what we are now? Friends?” Bull smirked, but it wasn’t unkind.

“I’d like to think so.” Trevelyan smiled up at him – a genuine, sincere smile. “I’m sorry I betrayed your trust. I suppose I’ve never been good at being honest about anything. Evidently.”

Bull’s snort came out loud and rowdy, but he had a feeling that his flippancy was welcomed. “No shit.”

“And I’d thank you not to tell anyone about this. Not yet anyway.”

Bull nodded and after a moment, asked, “When?”       

“A month. I need some time to get all my affairs in order.”

A month. That’s less than four weeks. Thirty days before an awful sort of life sentence awaited.

“You look like hell. Take a nap. I’ll be here.”

Trevelyan craned his neck to look at him, exhausted but grateful all the same. “Are you sure?”

“Don’t worry. I’ll kill you dead if you looked even a little possessed.”

“Please do try to discern the difference between a hangover and demonic possession. I’d rather not perish before my time,” he quipped, already half-slumping to the ground. He was asleep within seconds.

 

Bull pushed himself off the rock and walked some steps away to finish emptying his bladder.

The bloodshot Eye of the Bull still shone brightly orange in the night sky.

Those under the Qun believed that the star was also the all-seeing, watchful eye of the Bull God. Like the sacred al-dabaraan, Iron Bull kept watch with his one eye over the sleeping Inquisitor, until the sky lightened with dawn.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

If Dorian had to eat another meat pie, he could very well vomit.

How could anything be so dry and soggy at the same time? It frankly boggled the mind. Not to mention, this ‘lamb’ had most definitely seen several more springs than it should to be considered as such.

It was all Trevelyan’s fault. Without even a full day’s notice, he decided on a whim to haul all the warriors out on a dragon-hunting excursion. The cooks were left with enough mince and dough to make a mountain of these appalling pies, neatly stacked into large heaps on the tables in the main hall, to last the rest of them an entire week.

He sighed again, pushing around on his plate the sad-looking mush that had leaked out of the rock hard crust with an idle fork. Revolting.

“Chin up, Sparkler,” Varric drawled from across the table, as if reading his mind, half-eating the arid pastry. He’s a stronger man than he. Or hungrier. “They’ll be back soon. Hopefully we’ll get some proper food by then.”

From the corner of his eye he saw Sera careening towards them. A swish of red, then she fell into a chair next to him in an inelegant flop.

“Oooo, is Dorian missing his precious Inquisitor?” The elf cackled gleefully, poking him in the side with one nail-bitten finger. He'd been trying to get her to break the habit for a while now, to no avail. “Can’t wait for some proper jousting hey?”

“Oh Sera, please don’t make the mistake of confusing my disdain for this Southern cuisine I’ve had to endure daily for the past week with anything more sentimental. I swear-” Dorian said, holding up the perfectly round shell between two long fingers. “This thing is so bloody solid I bet it could stop an arrow. I’m surprised we haven’t replaced all the Inquisition army shields with these pie crusts already.”

“Well, it wouldn’t stop my arrows! Shloop! Bam! It’s in! And now you’ve lost an eye.”

Despite himself, Dorian chuckled. “Very true. I would never doubt your superior markswomanship.”

Sera beamed with approval. “See! I knew you’re not stupid like the other magic-user whatevers.”

“Hey Buttercup,” Varric leaned in, grinning conspiratorially. “Why don’t you tell him that time you threatened to shove an arrow up the Inquisitor’s ass?”

“You did what?”

Sera snickered, sounding like a cat with a hairball cough, without even a trace of remorse. “He came to see me, right, after we found out he knows magic, to talk or whatever.” She clenched her fist and brought it near Dorian’s face. “I had an arrow to his nose, yeah, and I said, if you hurt anyone, I’ll put this in your you-know-what!”

And?”

“And then he had cookies with me after so I guess he’s all right. Said he’d bake some with me too when he comes back.”

Trevelyan. Baking sugary treats. The idea was so wonderfully absurd that Dorian laughed out loud. “That would be quite a vision, wouldn’t it? The two of you slogging away in the kitchen. Although I can’t imagine either of you being any good.”

“Oh excuse me! My cookies are wicked. ” Sera scowled, puffing up her lips the way a child might throw a tantrum. “You’d know if you bothered to come visit me every now and then.”

“Ah yes, I suppose I should. But only because you’re so very dear to me.” They shared a secret smile before the loud blast of the Skyhold horn resounded through the hall, signalling the return of the Inquisitor and his companions.

“You’re gonna run off now?” Sera looked down at her nails, and then polished them against her shirt, trying and failing at looking nonchalant.

Dorian looked to Varric, who raised an eyebrow and shrugged.

“Well,” he decided, picking up the fork again. “I haven’t yet finished my supper. Why don’t you tell me more about your adventures in baking while I try choke down the rest of this?”

Sera’s face split into the widest toothy grin. “Yeah?”

 

* * *

The Herald’s Rest’s door creaked open noisily – its hinges perhaps the most abused on a regular basis in the entire fortress – and Dorian stepped into its welcoming, if not slightly sour, embrace.

And then he saw him. 

Sitting in the corner with Bull and his Chargers, Trevelyan threw his head back, laughing at something the Qunari had just said, a tankard perched precariously in his hand.

The vivacious warmth in his laughter, laced with jovial drunkenness, catapulted a flare of heat into Dorian’s chest. 

As though he felt his gaze on him, Trevelyan turned his head to meet his eyes.

For an instant, Dorian felt caught. Underprepared.

The moment stretched out between them, staring at one another, across the great divide of the small tavern.

With the kind of grace and agility someone so drunk shouldn’t possess, Trevelyan crisscrossed his way through the crowded tables, brimming with patrons as inebriated as he, and stood before him with one of those small, slow smiles. The ones that Dorian knew were only for him.

Maker’s Breath, he was filthy. Smudges of dirt smeared across his face; his hair and his armour blackened with soot and grime. A deep scratch on his cheek that had bled and dried into a scab left crimson on his skin.

Dorian made himself cross his arms. Propriety, he reminded himself. “You’ve been back barely an hour. How are you already so drunk?” An edge of annoyance harshened his voice, but Trevelyan had always been able to see through his charade.

“Bull made me drink this terrible concoction to celebrate the dragon slaying. Maraas-lok.” He curled his tongue around the foreign words, the syllables mollified by alcohol. “It’s quite strong.”

Did he just giggle? My word, the man’s plastered.

“How many have you had?”

He blinked once, twice.

“Three, I think. But I can’t say for sure.” The puzzled frown that tucked his brows shouldn’t be this adorable. But it was. “It’s awful but…oddly addictive.”

His tongue flicked to wet his lips, and Dorian’s mouth went dry.

The entire tavern seemed to have quietened down suddenly, bleary eyes following their every movement. The price of being the Inquisitor and the Herald? People were always watching.

It’d be grossly irresponsible of him to pervert a religious symbol right in the middle of a dusty tavern; and yet, Trevelyan’s liquid eyes, dark like the blackest granite, held a hint of challenge. He knew if he’d allowed it, Trevelyan would readily kiss him in front of a very rapt audience.

They’d had this conversation before: just because he wasn’t raised like these Southern barbarians who had no qualms about rutting like animals in public—

Oh, sod it. It had been a week since they’d seen each other.

He must have made a visible sign of permission because the next thing he knew, Trevelyan’s hands were on his face and swooped him into a ravenous kiss. The flavour of damp earth and that disgusting swill he’d had be drinking collided on his tongue, robust and bitter, and Dorian was eager to kiss that all away to uncover the taste of Trevelyan.

A hand slid up along his jaw and curled into his hair, tugging at it in a delicious twinge. Trevelyan’s mouth was hot, clever lips pulling at his, a moan on the cusp of his breath.

It wasn’t until someone – Krem? – yelled, “Get a room, you two!” amongst jubilant catcalls and cheers that they parted, a thin strand of moisture hung between their lips for a second before breaking.

A most vulgar display. He ought to be horrified and probably would have been if he weren't so aroused by the sight. His father should be delighted: the scion of House Pavus was publicly defiling the thorn in the Imperium’s side. Maybe they’d make him Archon by virtue of this deed alone.   

Trevelyan thumbed his bottom lip lightly, wiping away the wetness there. “Hmm. That’s a nice welcome home gift.” His finger was warm. Salty. “I’ve missed you.”

No, Dorian Pavus did not swoon. It’s a physical impossibility.

“I can tell from the way you jumped me in front of half of Skyhold, yes. In fact —” He took note of the scene around them. “They’re all still watching us, Inquisitor.”

“You have always been rather observant.” A flash of teeth. “Good on you.”

“I can’t even tell anymore whether you’re being serious or sarcastic.”

“Can I not be both? Because I am. Both.”

“Fantastic. It’s like talking to a five year old.”

“Well I am completely sloshed,” Trevelyan provided cheerily.

Dorian chuckled, helpless to not find all of this just slightly endearing, even if any hopes of a more intimate reunion were all but dashed.

“You need a bath. You smell like muck.”

Trevelyan’s grin grew, impish and broad. “Some things never change, do they?” He stepped back, away from Dorian, his hands fell to his sides. “Another round of drinks and I’ll go pass out in the stables tonight. I promise I’ll make myself presentable again come morning.”

Ah. “Of course.” That’s as tactful a rebuff as any. Dorian quickly hushed the roiling in his chest, but the unease only grew when he risked a glance over at Bull, still sitting in the corner across the tavern, eye trained on them, sharp and watchful, over the rim of his tankard.

“I suppose I’ll see you tomorrow, then?”

Shadowy eyes combed over him, a visual caress that left Dorian shuddering with awareness. He wished it were Trevelyan’s mouth mapping that path instead. “You will, treasure.” His tone was pleasant, affectionate, but Dorian thought he saw something shift in his expression.

The soft kiss Trevelyan pressed to the corner his mouth did little to dispel the amorphous feeling of dread and disquietude.

 

* * *

Thirty-four minutes.

They’d been speaking in muted elven for exactly thirty-four minutes now – he’d been counting – and it didn’t look like they were anywhere near finished.

For the second time in as many days, Dorian and many others who worked inside the rotunda had been the clueless gallery to the Inquisitor and the elven mage’s conversations.

By now, Dorian could detect the slight difference in their accents: where Solas’ was drawn, his vowels inflated and swollen; Trevelyan’s phonetics were tighter and flattened, his speech breathier. The linguistic discrepancy was fascinating, even if he hadn’t the foggiest idea what they were talking about.

Dorian looked to the entrance to the library expectedly when he heard the screech of a chair scraping across the floor, marking the end of their discussion. He should be in his armchair, book perched on one knee the right side up (it was just the one time) – maintaining the pretence that he wasn’t waiting for Trevelyan to come speak with him like a lovelorn lass.

But no, he stood by the bookshelf, peeking around it until Trevelyan came to him.

“Fancy seeing you here.” What he intended to be a sly grin faltered at the edges, melting into an infatuated smile. He silently cursed his face, handsome as it was.

“Dorian,” Trevelyan gave him a small smile, though he seemed distracted, looking up at the spymaster’s lair one floor above. “I need to speak with Leliana rather urgently so I can’t stay. But I’d still like to steal a moment alone with you.”

“Well, I’m here. What do you have in mind?”

“No, I don’t mean now. Will you come to my quarters tomorrow night, after supper?”

Dorian raised a curious eyebrow. “What’s tomorrow night?”

Trevelyan backed him further into the alcove. A hand under Dorian’s chin tilted his face into a slow, gentle kiss. “Just…say you’ll be there.”

It’s really quite cunning of Trevelyan to ask him of anything when he's cornered this way. Pinned by his warm body and warmer lips, Dorian was powerless to resist his wily ways.

“I will be there,” he heard himself say.

Trevelyan grinned. “Good.”

Dorian was well aware that it was against the rules to ask – no one, save the advisors, should ever request details about any meetings the Inquisitor had.

He did anyway.

“What were you talking to Solas about?”

“Dreamer things,” Trevelyan said, dropping a peck on his nose. “I’ve been having strange dreams and I wanted to see if he could help.”

Dorian frowned. “What kind of dreams?”

“Unpleasant ones," Trevelyan replied a little tightly. "He’s still working on finding out more.”

“Can I help? I am rather excellent at research, as you may very well know.”

“I’m afraid this is a solo effort for Solas. The answer won’t be in the books. He’s going into the Fade.”

“I see.”

“I must go. We’ll speak later.” Another quick parting kiss and then he was gone.

 

* * *

Trevelyan did not make an appearance during supper the following evening.

His loss, really.

It was a scrumptious smorgasbord of roasts and pastries and fruits and a surprisingly tasty soup of creamy pumpkin.

Dorian didn’t overindulge, in case Trevelyan’s surprise was a food-related one; or worse, a physical exercise that was more wearying than fun in nature.

Surely Trevelyan couldn’t be planning that rematch he promised all those months ago, could he? But he'd just bathed!

He would have gone to the Inquisitor’s private chambers already if the hall wasn’t packed to the rafters with hungry diners. As obvious as it was that he and Trevelyan were…intimate, he’d rather not flaunt it quite so blatantly as a flagrant march to his door.

So he passed his time by arguing with Vivienne the merits of Orlesian desserts and what sort of wine would be best paired with a gateau aux amandes (sweet Nevarran Muscat white); and betting against Varric who wagered Blackwall could tell the difference between Dwarven mead and Ferelden ale in a blind-taste test (he couldn’t).

By the hour when servants came to replenish the wood in the fireplaces, replacing burnt out candles with fresh ones, the drunken had retired to bed, and the even drunker had gone to the tavern for more after-dark entertainment.

It was time.

 

He eased open the outer door and made his way up the stairwell, knocking twice on the chamber door before entering.

“Good evening, Inquisitor. What was so terribly specia—”

And there he was, standing in front of the hearth, his back ramrod straight, splendidly attired in his scarlet Winter Palace dress uniform. The rouge wool jacket was freshly brushed, the blue satin sash almost iridescent in the orange glow of the fire, the silverite buttons coruscated like lustrous jewels.

Close your mouth, Dorian, or you’ll catch flies.

He coughed awkwardly into a fist, buying enough time to find his voice.

“Why, don’t you look absolutely stupendous. What’s the occasion?”

“Some wine?” Trevelyan asked instead, extending his glass of red. “I’ve been told it’s an excellent year.”

The decadent wine was so aromatic, redolent of honeysuckles and blackcurrant and red cherries - Dorian could smell the bouquet even before the glass was in his hand.

“Aggregio Pavali?” He would deny it vehemently later, but he might have squealed just a little. “How on earth did you manage to find some here?”

Trevelyan pulled on his earlobe once and wiggled the fingers of his free hand as a response, his genial smile twitching into a smug grin.

Dorian guffawed, accepting the glass and gave it a gentle swirl before putting his nose to the rim to take a deep breath.

Home. It’s the smell of home.

His eyes fell shut when the elixir touched his tongue, and he groaned in pleasure. “This is too perfect. Whatever is this for?”  

“It has come to my attention that there was something I hadn’t had the sense to ask for while we were at Halamshiral,” Trevelyan explained, taking the wine glass away from him and setting it on a small table. “And tonight, I intend to remedy that unforgivable oversight.”

A dawn of open affection illuminating his eyes, the charmed smile that curved his lips coaxing the same out of Dorian.

“Oh?” Only the barest trace of a rasp in his voice – he congratulated himself for a fine effort. “And what pray tell might that be?”

The Inquisitor took a step back and bowed with a sweeping flourish, extending one gloved hand in a perfect, courtly manner. “May I have this dance, my lord?”

It’s no wonder even the obnoxious nobles at the ball tripped over themselves fawning over him, whispering their libidinous approvals behind champagne flutes and gossamery fans. This man was dangerous with his charm.  

“Most certainly, Your Worship," Dorian said with affected formality, biting his lip to quell the smirk. "It would take a fool to refuse such an offer." He took the proffered hand with a graceful bow of his own.

Trevelyan raised their joined hands and brushed his lips across Dorian’s knuckles before leading them both into a slow dance. They moved with no discernable step or form, just two people holding each other close, swaying and twirling carelessly to the rhythm of their heartbeats.

Their faces were close, exchanging breath for breath, filling in their lungs with each other’s exhalation. Somehow, it felt even more intimate than kissing.

“I’m loath to point out the glaringly obvious,” Dorian whispered after a while. “But we're dancing to no music.”

Trevelyan looked thoughtful for a moment before bringing his mouth to Dorian’s ear and began humming a low tune: a quiet melody that was both sweet and sad at once, a smattering of incoherent words interweaving with the notes.

Dorian pulled him closer by the waist. So close, he could smell the clean scent of sandalwood, intermixed with Trevelyan's distinct earthiness. He inhaled deeply, greedily, as Trevelyan continued the gentle, mellifluous croon, his chest rumbling with the soothing cadence of the song.

“That was beautiful. What was it?” Dorian murmured into warm skin not covered by the high collar when the singing stopped.

“It’s an old Ostwick folk song,” Trevelyan replied softly, the susurrous consonants grazed the shell of Dorian’s ear, feather light. “About a faerie who learned the true meaning of love from a handsome man.”

“A fairytale, I see.” He smiled dreamily. “You maudlin Marchers. Was it a happy ending?”

“In a manner of speaking. They were in love and happy. Until the man was attacked by bandits and was fatally injured. The faerie bargained with the Maker: in exchange for the man’s life, she’d be turned into a river that would nourish the earth. The Maker warned her, that she would never be with her love again. “Anything”, she said. “As long as he’s safe.” And then she was gone, and he was healed. They would still see each other, for she was in the reflection every time he looked into the river. They'd never touch again, but they knew their love was true.”

“Perhaps the definition of a ‘happy ending’ differs country to country because that wasn’t one.”

“Amongst civil wars, political uprisings, rebellions and ancient demonic gods, to find that one person with whom you’d learn love beyond your wildest imaginings – it’s almost a miracle.”

“Are we still talking about the story?” Dorian asked, soft with the surge of affection in his chest.

“Let’s pretend we are,” Trevelyan smiled, but it was tempered by a strange glow of longing in his eyes. A flicker, and it was gone. Camouflaged.

“Was there a reason for all this?” Dorian regarded him carefully for a moment. “Is there something—”

“No, not yet.” He whispered, silencing him with a tender kiss, full with unnamed emotions. “Tonight, I am yours. All of me. Let me give you this memory of the perfect night.”

Dorian shivered, though it was hard to tell whether it was from the quiet intensity in Trevelyan’s eyes, or the gloved fingers that skimmed the line of his neck down to the hollow of his throat.

A million questions running through his mind, all drowned out by the fever that coiled around his heart. Tightening, like too-hot hands that had reached inside his chest and squeezed.

A dark shadow, like heavy clouds presaging impending rain, swept through the far back galaxy of his mind, but he ignored it.

Because it hurt too much to look too deeply.

Chapter Text

It didn’t matter whether it was a chaste peck on the cheek, or a passionate meeting of lips, every time Trevelyan kissed Dorian only one word came to mind.

Lush.

Petal-soft lips that parted readily under his, breath sweet with wine; the impossibly long lashes, midnight-black wings fluttering close at first touch; and the elegant curve of his neck where the supple bronze skin always carried the fragrance of cardamoms, heady and spicy —

Trevelyan snaked an arm around the mage’s waist and pulled him flush against him, dragging his tongue up the sensitive tendon of his throat, sucking little violet blooms into the soft skin.

Luscious. Every inch of him.

And he was his. 

 

“Are you going to get on with things or am I being subjected to a cat bath?”

It’s endearing that Dorian even tried sound like he wasn’t revelling in the attention, the little shiver he couldn’t quite control betraying him.

Trevelyan bit back a chuckle and tugged his leather gloves off with his teeth.

“Let me savour this, will you?” He began undoing the tiny buckles and hooks of Dorian’s padded armour, nosing and kissing each patch of newly unveiled skin. Slow. Meticulous. Making it last.

“Well, savour this quickly, if you please.”

Under nimble fingers, the mage’s clothes and haughty facade fell away like autumn leaves from a tree.

A wave of blatant lust flooded Dorian’s eyes when Trevelyan sank to his knees, almost reverentially, and placed several kisses on his inner thigh before taking him into his mouth, sliding him in as far as he could fit.

It did something to the mage, clearly, to see the Inquisitor kneeling in front of him; lips wrapped around his cock, still fully clothed in formal dress uniform.

Dorian wouldn’t be Dorian if he didn’t find thrill in indecency. Insolent knave.

Trevelyan lifted his eyes to watch Dorian’s face closely as he worked up and down, sucking and licking the velvety smooth skin, locking away the memory of his flavour; the way his eyes went heavy-lidded, bottom lip snagged between white teeth; the exact shade of the beautiful flush that rose slowly from his chest to reach the tips of his ears.

It’s like witnessing the birth of a glorious sunrise, the image forever seared into his heart and mind.

He was a man running out of time. And this was all that he could do now, before it all became just another faded memory, to give Dorian whatever he wanted.

Pleasure. Joy. Love. All of it.

Long fingers wound into his hair and held him there, Dorian’s hips bucked as Trevelyan hollowed his cheeks, tongue moving in broad strokes, taking him deeper and deeper down his throat.

A whimper broke free from Dorian’s lips, despite his best efforts to keep it prisoner, as orgasm seized him, and Trevelyan held his hips steady, swallowing every last drop with a quenchless hunger.

 One.

His kneecaps protested from the bite of the hard floor, and before he could stand up properly, Dorian pulled him in for an exploratory kiss with a strength that mages really oughtn’t have.

Shaky legs guided them towards the bed, and they toppled onto the soft mattress.

“You are woefully overdressed for what we are about to do.” Dorian nipped his chin, his jaw, his lips.

His mouthy mage.

“What do you have in mind?”

“I can think of several delightfully naughty things we could do. But I’m afraid of offending your delicate sensibilities,” Dorian teased, flashing a decidedly wolfish grin.

“Anything for you,” he promised, the vow portending more than Dorian would ever know.

Dorian laughed. One of those melodic ones that made his heart swell. “Be careful what you’re agreeing to, Inquisitor. Might send you running out the door screaming.”

“Not even Corypheus himself could pry me away from you tonight.”

“Flatterer.” A wicked smile ghosted Dorian’s lips. “How do you feel about…switching, tonight?”

Trevelyan’s mouth might have fallen open just a fraction. His face warmed considerably.

“Have you any…experience?” A note of bashful hesitation tinged Dorian’s voice. At least he wasn’t the only one flustered.

Once. “A little.”

“Define…‘a little’.”

“A long time ago, in Starkhaven, I had…relations with a man that way. Though I was rather drunk. I can’t remember much of it.”

After Nehra’s death he’d found himself all alone in the world for the first time in his life. Too old to be seen as a child, much too young to be taken seriously as a man, and bound by endless emptiness, he'd somehow arrived at a tavern in Starkhaven, desperate to find something to fill the void left by the death of the only family he’d ever known.

An auburn-haired man propositioned him and he’d accepted. Alcohol, sex, senseless conversations: anything as long as he felt something. The tryst lasted two days before he sobered up and left Starkhaven to return to Ostwick. He never even knew the man’s name.

“We don’t have to do this if you’re uncomfortable with it, obviously.”

“No! I do want to,” Trevelyan said, a little too quickly. He groaned and hid his face in the mattress for a moment, before mumbling into the sheets. “What I meant was...if we were to do this, I will need…ample instructions.”

He had slain dragons, killed ancient demons with his bare hands, and yet, he couldn’t bring himself to maintain eye contact with the grinning mage lying beneath him.

So this was what it felt like to be embarrassed. Highly unpleasant, he decided.

“If you’re certain, I shall give you my first instruction.” Dorian’s one hand slid down to his arse and pinched. “Take off your clothes. Slowly.”

Trevelyan swatted his hand away with a roll of eyes and shuffled off the bed.

First went the belt; he undid the knot leisurely, letting it fall to the floor behind him, then the sash unfurled from his waist, a twirl of brilliant blue. He popped the sterling buttons, one after another, with deliberate procrastination, smiling inwardly when he caught Dorian unconsciously ran his tongue over his lips.

He shrugged off his jacket with an affected roll of shoulders, and threw it carelessly towards a chair, missing it completely. He tugged the white linen undershirt over his head, unhurried, purposely flexing the muscles in his arms and chest, and letting it slide down to the floor.

“You need to stop looking at me like that, Dorian. Or I might just forgo heeding your instructions altogether.”

“I thought that was the whole point. To watch you slowly undress like a lecherous old man starving for young flesh.” He twirled his moustache for effect.

Trevelyan couldn’t restrain a laugh. “I’m older than you.”

“By a few months! That hardly accounts for anything,” Dorian huffed with mock indignation. “Will you finish stripping already? My fingers feel hot. Any longer and I’ll probably set something on fire.”

Trevelyan shucked his boots, socks and trousers, leaving the trail of abandoned accoutrement behind him as he made his way to stand next to the bed.

“Have you always been this bossy or am I just noticing it now?”

“Obviously you’ve been too distracted by my wit and charm. I have plenty of both.” Dorian dragged a finger along the outline of Trevelyan’s burgeoning hardness over his undershorts before bringing his face in, nuzzling him.

Trevelyan’s fingers danced on the side of his face as Dorian mouthed his erection, dampening the already damp fabric, eyes bright with excitement.

“Take these off and lie down in bed, will you?” Dorian asked, suddenly gentle, though it helped little to quash his nerves.

The mage reached for the concealed drawer in the bed base to find the vial of oil, and warmed the liquid with a small wisp of magic.

"Anytime you want to stop, just say so. We won’t go any further.”

“I know.” He smiled up at Dorian. “I trust you.”

Dorian looked caught, shutting away silver eyes for a long second before crashing his lips onto Trevelyan's.

Amatus,” he muttered, huskily. Their legs entwined as they kissed, rolling their hips languorously as they traded soft moans and gasps between their mouths.  

 

“You need to breathe,” Dorian whispered, mouth teasing his bottom lip as slippery fingers spread the viscous oil around his backside. “It would be most unfortunate for us both if you passed out before we get to the really fun part.”

Trevelyan nodded mutely, his hands fisted in the sheets in a white-knuckled grip, squeezing his eyes shut as Dorian worked a finger into him. The sensation was unfamiliar and strange. Not to mention, extremely uncomfortable.

But then Dorian sealed his mouth over his cock, gliding it deep into his throat, and he couldn’t bite back a groan as the wet warmth engulfed him. 

“It will feel better in a moment, I promise,” Dorian mumbled, adroit tongue lapping at his cock. “I just have to find your spot.”

One finger became two, and Trevelyan hissed and willed himself to relax, feeling himself being stretched.

“Have you considered the possibility that perhaps I don’t have a ahh-nnggh—”

His hips jerked on their own accord as a sudden rush of intense pleasure coursed through his body when Dorian’s fingers brushed right there.

“Ah-ha!” Dorian’s grin was triumphant, as though he had just solved a particularly challenging equation of magical physics. “I think I found it!”

He rubbed at it again and Trevelyan let out a long moan, eyes slamming shut. It was heaven; and it was hell.  

“Oh Maker.” He bit his lip quickly to quiet another groan as Dorian’s fingers curled inside of him.

“You feel so wonderful, so warm.” He heard the mage murmur.

He forced himself to open his eyes and saw that Dorian’s gaze was fixed on where his fingers slid in and out of him, his normally impeccable moustache askew on his upper lip, his eyes shone with a roused light.

Trevelyan took in a shuddering breath, closing his eyes again and relaxed into the touch.

Dorian leaned down to kiss him as he slid another digit into the tight ring of muscle, brushing that spot over and over again. Trevelyan’s hips rolled and writhed without his permission as he teetered on the verge of breaking.

He threw his head back into the pillow. “Dorian

 

Dorian eased himself inside carefully; hands holding his thighs steady as Trevelyan’s back arched into him, mouth falling open with a silent moan. Dorian kissed his brows as he buried himself deeper, sinking in as slow as he could manage, until he’s fully seated.

Kaffas,” Dorian cursed under his breath, dropping his head on his shoulder. “You need to relax, or it will be over before it even began.”

“Mm-hmm.” He felt full, incredibly so, and he clamped his mouth shut to force the whine back. His heart hammered within his ribcage so loudly he could hear the throbbing in his head.

“Concentrate on breathing,” Dorian repeated as he moved, slow and measured, withdrawing and plunging forward again, stretching him, filling him. Trevelyan was transfixed; he couldn’t tear his eyes away from where they were joined. Covetous desire flooded him as he watched Dorian’s cock pump in and out of his hole. His cheeks felt hot when he raised his eyes to find Dorian studying him with a half smile on his face.  

“Fascinating, isn’t it? When it’s the other way around?”

“You talk too much,” He scowled, and silently cringed at how breathless he sounded.

Dorian laughed softly, and rested his forehead against his. “Let’s make this good for you, amatus.”

He kissed him again, and manoeuvred Trevelyan’s legs so they wrapped around his waist before surging forward.

Tension coiled within his body, tighter and tighter, the discomfort slowly giving way to little sparks of rapturous ecstasy. He moaned heedlessly, feeling the noise more than hearing it, as Dorian rocked back and forth, and when he shifted, angling his hips just so and burrowing deep, hitting the same spot his fingers did before, Trevelyan’s whole body sang in delirious pleasure.

He’d never experienced anything like this before. Dorian was everywhere: on him, inside him, on top of him, all lips and hands and tongue and hard cock. He felt hysterical: he wanted to laugh, he wanted to cry. The onslaught of pleasure was too much.

They swirled their tongues together in hungry kisses, and Dorian began thrusting in earnest, lifting his hips and holding him tight as he rammed into him harder, faster. Trevelyan found himself fervently pushing back, his palms planted firmly on the mage’s back as they moved as one, sweat-slicked and enlivened, chasing that sweet release.

“M-more…” He rasped into Dorian’s neck. “D-Don’t stop.” He was lost, lost to everything that was Dorian. A deep flush stained those golden cheeks beautifully, eyes wild and unfocused, tiny beads of sweat forming on his brow – Dorian looked every part a man on the brink of coming undone.

Trevelyan couldn’t stop the smile that tugged his lips, momentarily enthralled, and the smile grew into a grin when Dorian returned it before bending down for a biting kiss.

Dorian quickened his pace, driving himself deeper into him, a string of Tevene tumbling out of his mouth. Trevelyan cried out at the increased pressure, punctuated by each of his vigorous thrusts. 

“You are truly magnificent,” Dorian kissed the words into his mouth; his breath, ragged and moist, fanned against Trevelyan’s cheek. “Touch yourself for me.”

His hand drifted down and did as he’s told. Something tautened deep within his gut, building and hastening.

There was a moment of ringing silence in his head before the world spun away completely, as though he had tripped a catch, a thousand lights exploded behind his eyes and he came with a barely-restrained wail.

He bit down on Dorian’s shoulder to stifle the scream and clenched down hard, body thrumming in thunderous pleasure. Dorian followed, moaning loudly as his own climax claimed him in a drawn out release that Trevelyan felt keenly inside, before collapsing on him in an expended heap.

The world came back to them gradually.

They basked in their afterglow in comfortable quiet, regaining their breaths. Trevelyan’s fingers roamed Dorian’s sweat-damped back, feeling content and sated, and utterly boneless.

Dorian touched the hollow of Trevelyan's throat and his finger came away coated with the spend that had gathered there. He reached up and smeared the wetness over Trevelyan's lips before leaning in for a kiss that tasted like sin.

With a low sigh, he rolled them over and twined their fingers, the anchor shimmering a brilliant green from the seams between their hands as they kissed and kissed and kissed.

Two.

* * *

The Skyhold kitchen, much smaller than it should be considering the number of mouths it fed each day, was thankfully empty at this hour.

Trevelyan dropped two large cushions on the floor, sending up small plumes of ash into the air, and motioned for Dorian to sit.

He dimly registered that these richly embroidered pillows, all maroon and gold and gaudy – no doubt gifts from some Orlesian noble – were meant to be admired, not sat on in front of the dusty fireplace in a kitchen.

But he really couldn’t care less.

Dorian did, on the other hand, dark eyebrows shooting sky high, grousing. “These are velvet cushions, you uncivilised Marcher. You’d never get the soot out of that fabric.”

“Well, my arse could use the pampering tonight of all nights, wouldn’t you say?” He said lightly as he rummaged around the kitchen table looking for leftovers. The cooks usually kept some in this corner.

He had missed supper tonight, and he was famished. After they had cleaned up, Trevelyan dug out some casual garments from the armoire and got them sufficiently dressed and ready for a sneaky midnight kitchen run.

Warm arms wrapped around his waist from behind, and he felt lips on his neck.

“Did I hurt you?” It’s rare to hear Dorian sound so meek. He smiled a little at that.

“No, just a little sore.” He patted Dorian’s hands in reassurance, distractedly. “It was nice.”

Apparently, that was the wrong thing to say.

“Nice? Nice?” Dorian turned him around to face him, a look of baffled incredulity across his handsome features. “I beg your pardon but I distinctively recall somebody coming within seconds of—hmppfh!”

Trevelyan couldn’t clamp a hand over his mouth quick enough, feeling the first twinges of embarrassment rising again.  

“Will you please stop shouting? You’re going to wake the entire fortress.” A fecund pause. And then a convincing glare of annoyance was put in place. “It was incredible, wonderful, and the most magical experience of my life. And I’m glad to have done that with you. Satisfied?”

Dorian’s eyes narrowed into a smug twinkle, but when Trevelyan dropped his hand, his smile was sweet.

“Completely.”

 

 

They found half a loaf of barley bread, beef gravy, and a cheesy ravieles bake tucked underneath a cloth on a counter top near the meat table.

Together with that unfinished bottle of Aggregio Pavali he brought down with him, this meal would be considered a feast for most people in Ferelden. He might have been born a noble, but Trevelyan had seen how hard life could be for those without land or title.

They sat close together, shoulders touching, as they ate in front of the roaring hearth, occasionally glancing and smiling at one another.

"So..." Dorian began, "Sera told me that she threatened you after you'd come clean."

"She did," Trevelyan said after swallowing a bite of pasta. "She was very concerned that I'd hurt someone. Mainly you."

"Me?"

"She said she'd make me cry if I made you cry.”

Dorian stared wide-eyed with surprise. "Truly? She didn't tell me that part."

"Sera is very fond of you, you know. So are a lot of others in the inner circle." He shoulder bumped him, smiling. "You are more loved than you think, treasure."

"And I was just getting used to all the snide comments."

"You're not alone, Dorian. Not anymore."

Not a Magister, not an Altus, not a Tevinter pariah. He was their Dorian Pavus who cheated at chess, who almost always lost all his bets, who loved books and magic and grapes and warm mulled wines. 

Even after he's gone, Dorian would still have people who cared about him. He must see that he's amongst friends.

 

A small stream of red spilled over his lips and down his chin when Trevelyan drank deeply from the bottle, and he wiped it with the back of his hand.

“How plebeian of you,” Dorian admonished, shaking his head. “Tsk, tsk, tsk. It’s hard to believe sometimes you’re of noble birth. However did you survive the Winter Palace, I wonder.”

Trevelyan elbowed him in the ribs lightly.

“You can be such a classist snob sometimes,” he chided, but with an indulgent smile that he didn’t try too hard to smother.

“What I am is a ‘work in progress’. Just because I’m perfection on the outside doesn’t mean that I’m some paragon of virtue,” Dorian said, breaking off a piece of bread and mopped up some gravy with it.

“Look!” he exclaimed and shoved the soggy mess into his mouth, chewing noisily; a dab of grease on the corner of his lips. His grin was wide, showing off generously the lumpy brown sauce that coated his lips, and the sodden chunks of bread that wedged between his front teeth.

“Any time you wish to see me slum it with the rest of you, just say the word! I’m your man.”

A rather unexpected snort escaped Trevelyan and he pressed a fist to his mouth to fake a cough. But it was too late. His shoulders shook with barely stifled giggles, finally giving way to a rasping laugh that echoed in the quietness of the small, stonewalled kitchen.

“You look ridiculous!” Trevelyan choked between gasps of laughter, tears prickling at his eyes. “Oh Maker, I can’t breathe.”

Ridiculously handsome, I’m sure you mean. Give us a kiss there, love!”

“No, thank you!” He squealed and pushed Dorian’s face away as the mage leaned closer. “You have carrot in your teeth!”

He rubbed tears from his eyes and sighed, as he watched Dorian wipe his mouth neatly with a piece of linen, a hint of a smile on his face, once again the perfect nobleman.

He’d miss this terribly.

“Did you have a good night?”

Dorian’s smile was radiance. “It’s perfection.”

“I’m glad.”

“Though I wouldn’t mind if we had more of this fantastic vintage,” he said, swinging the almost empty bottle between two fingers. “I can almost feel Tevinter in my veins again with enough of this in my belly.”

“There are eleven more bottles in the cellar. They’re locked in a chest for safekeeping. I’ll get you the key tomorrow.”

It was almost comical how Dorian’s jaw dropped. “How?”

“Josie helped.”

“Oh, Josie helped,” Dorian repeated, a sullen expression across his face. “I had no idea you and Lady Montilyet were so close.”

“Well, she is a lovely woman. Intelligent, soft-hearted, and so sweet,” he teased, grinning. “And she does have a beauty spot by the corner of her mouth. You don’t think Nehra could be a few inches off, do you?”

Next thing he knew, he had an armful of Dorian, the mage capturing his mouth in a mind-searing kiss, fingers digging into his back. Possessive.

His arms fell naturally around Dorian’s waist, a deep swipe of his tongue inside his mouth evaporating all rational thoughts in an instant.

When Dorian finally drew back, his gaze was steely and dark. “Too bad for her. Josie can go find herself some other prophesised lover. This one’s taken.”

Lover.

The mere sound of the word kindled a fever in his chest.

His eyes flitted to Dorian’s mouth, moist and rosy from kisses, the indentation in the centre of that pillowy bottom lip begging to be licked, over and over again.

“Oh no. I know that look.” Dorian tried to move off his lap, but Trevelyan tightened his hold. “You have wrung me out. I'm done for the night.”

“Hmm,” Trevelyan hummed against his neck, pressing open-mouthed kisses to the ruddy love bites on the otherwise flawless skin. “Something tells me you have one more in you.”

Dorian made a small noise, between a purr and a sigh, and closed his eyes, canting his head away to allow him access to more skin. “I suppose I don’t object to you trying.”

And try he did.

Three.

Chapter Text

“So here’s where you’ve been hiding.”

Bull’s loud, booming voice thundered from outside the room before Dorian even saw the man himself. “Boss was looking for you in the library.”

“Oh?” He blinked, a cookie halfway to his mouth, as the Qunari materialised a second later, his huge bulk blocking the entire entrance to Sera’s little den. “Where is he now?”

The mid-morning sun streamed in through the large windows, casting diamond-shaped shadows of the muntins, stamping little golden kites across the gray expanse of the warrior’s skin.

“He’s already in war council. Looks like it’ll be a long one too. Something about going after Corypheus’ army in the Arbor Wilds come spring.” Bull’s eyes lit up at the sight of the two cookie-heaped plates on the bay window seat. “Sera, can I have some too?”

“Yarhoogohorhin.” A spray of crumbs flew from her mouth as the elf replied, nodding vigorously.

“I think that was ‘yes’ in elven,” Dorian said with a grimace, making a mental note to teach the pint-sized rogue some basic table manners on a later occasion. He’s almost positive that Sera was raised by wolves, seeing how she thought cramming four cookies in her mouth ‘just to see if they’d fit’ was a good idea.

“Am I to find him after the council?”

“Don’t bother,” Bull said, stooping a little to allow room for his horns, one at a time, to enter the small space. “He has to meet with the Antivan Duchess right after. Then supper with the Orlesian Duke who’s going to sponsor some new armour for our army. You know, schmoozing and boozing.”

“Hararhehoeeankahiaeay!”

“Well,” Bull said. “They scratch our backs, we scratch theirs.”

“You understand what she’s saying?” Dorian handed the still untouched cookie to Bull when he sat down on the floor.

“Didn’t you know most people I hang around with talk with their mouths full?” He grinned and shoved the treat in his mouth. “I understand her just fine.”

“I said,” Sera blurted once she’d managed to swallow the biscuits. “Why are there so many rich wankers here anyway?”

It's true that Skyhold had never received as many nobles and dignitaries as it had this past week. Not one day went by without at least one esteemed guest arriving at their doorstep with their respective retinues, some coming from as far as Rivain and Antiva, all lining up for an audience with the Inquisitor and his advisors. 

Alliances forged and financial support secured over lavish banquets; multilateral treaties with every word pored and argued over until early hours of the mornings before they were signed and wax-sealed; political marriages very respectfully repudiated – Dorian had never seen Leliana’s birds worked so hard, the flux of dark wings a constant fixture outside her lair’s aperture these days. It was as if Trevelyan intended to do a whole year’s worth of politicking in seven days.

Dorian picked up another cookie and nibbled on it. “I’m sure once the Inquisitor strongarms them into giving us whatever we want, they’ll be on their merry way home.”

Sera blew a raspberry at him. “I bet you like it when Ser Lordybloomers strongarms you.”

“The word doesn’t mean what you think it means, Sera.” His voice was blithe with feigned insouciance, though the prickles of hot blush still fluttered over his cheeks. He wasn’t certain which was worse: the mockery, or the accuracy.

He flicked a stray bit of dried apricot at the leering elf, but she caught it effortlessly with one swift hand and stuck a taunting tongue out at him. Damn those roguish reflexes.

“Dorian.” The way Bull said his name carried a slight edge of caution. “Have you been sleeping with the Inquisitor lately?”

Venhedis. Bull, really—”

“I’m not asking if you’re fucking him,” Bull interrupted, levelling him with a stern gaze. “I can smell him all over you.”

“That’s impossible. I wash frequently.” Dorian balked at the suggestion, but couldn’t resist a discreet sniff. Nothing but his natural eau-de-Dorian, thank you, enhanced with a subtle splash of perfumed oil.

“Doesn’t matter.” Bull tapped the side of his nose. “Qunari, remember? Way more sensitive than humans and elves.”

“What’s that?” Sera said suddenly, pointing at Bull’s flank, the side away from Dorian. “You hurt or something?”

Secretly relieved that the line of questioning veered away from him, he craned his neck to see better, only now noticing the reddened flesh that spanned from under Bull’s armpit to the top of his thick belt, blotchy and shiny and charred, its edges singed white with damaged tissue.

“That’s a spellfire burn,” Dorian said, frowning. “What happened?”

Bull made a sound of irritation. “Dalish. We had a little tiff. Don’t worry about it, that’s how we roll.” He stretched a little, seemingly not in too much pain. “I’ll go get another potion from the infirmary later. After these delicious cookies.”

Sera’s face instantly brightened at his words, wispy hair bobbing around her face as she nodded, excitedly. “Which ones do you like more? The ones from the blue plate or the ones from the white plate?”

“They’re different?”

“Yes!” She sighed dramatically. “Piss, aren’t you a Ben-Hassihat or something?”

“Ben-Hassrath,” Bull corrected.

“Whatever. Dorian wouldn’t pick one,” Sera sniffed at him, irked. “You’re just scared that you’d pick mine instead of the Inquisitor’s. Arse-kisser.

“Now, now, there’s no need for name-calling. It’s honest truth that I like them both equally.”

“The Inquisitor baked these?” Bull said at the same time as Sera snickered.

“Come on, Dooorian, you know better than that!” A cheeky glint in her eyes. “No one really likes both equally.”

“Well, I do!” Bull’s grin was broad and shiny.

With a sigh of exasperation, followed by a pointed look of disgust, Dorian directed the Qunari to the blue plate.

“Pick that one. Sera made those.”

The elf’s twitchy blonde brows jerked up in surprise. “Hey! How did you know that?”

“Raisins. The Inquisitor doesn’t like them. He’d never put them in his cookies.” Dorian stood and stretched elaborately. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I need a strong cup of tea after all that sugar.”

 

* * *

Six months ago, if someone had told Dorian that he would one day witness two of the Inquisition’s most dispassionate people locked in a tight embrace, he'd have laughed in their face and challenged them to a bet. And, as it turned out, he would have lost every coin in his leather purse.

“If I didn’t know better, I'd have thought you were courting our Lady Spymaster,” Dorian drawled, with his right arm leaning on the railing, a knee casually bent as the Inquisitor descended the staircase to the library.

At Trevelyan’s puzzled stare, he offered, casually with a wave of hand. “I saw you upstairs, oh so delicately taking Sister Nightingale into your arms. And I counted: five full seconds! I was almost jealous.” A considered beat later, he cringed. “Hang on. Kaffas, did someone die? Is your family all right?”

“No, no. No one died.” Trevelyan gave a faint smile, but it didn’t hold, his face drawing into a tight grimace. “I asked Leliana for a favour, and she agreed to it.”

“Must be some favour. Something I can help with?”

“We need to talk, Dorian. Somewhere private. Tonight.” Something in his tone curdled Dorian’s stomach, dark and broken and parlous.

“Oh no. Did you get yourself engaged to one of the duchess’ many daughters?” He joked, a poor attempt to ease his own worry. “Certainly if you told them you’re already involved with a devastatingly handsome man, she would know better than to impose any further.”

At least that drew a genuine smile out of Trevelyan.

“No, thankfully. No betrothal contracts as far as I know.”

“Good! I’d hate to be forced to challenge her to a duel. Those Antivans can be awfully crafty.”

Dorian relaxed into Trevelyan when he wrapped his arms around him.

“You won’t have to," The Inquisitor murmured into his neck, kissing it once. “Now count to six, treasure. I’m giving you an extra second.”

 

* * *

 

The heavy wooden door was left ajar; the lambent light of candles cut a triangle of amber on the stone ground. Even the dimmest flames appeared effulgent in the solemn darkness of the night up here on the Frostback Mountains.

The drifting smell of wax and incense welcomed him as he entered the small room that served as the Inquisition Chantry; the heavy door gave way easily under his hand, creaking mutedly.  

Trevelyan stood just before the steps, staring up into Andraste’s downcast face. He wasn’t praying – Dorian knew he wasn’t particularly religious – but his head was slightly tilted, eyes searching, as if he were trying to divine an answer from the immutable and silent statue.

The air was still. Thick, white candles lit the room, burning a steady, warm glow that softened the Inquisitor’s features, catching the crown of his head in an aureate halo.

“Do you think they’ll make a statue of me when I die?” Trevelyan asked once Dorian shut the door behind him, nodding to the stone effigy.

He ambled next to Trevelyan, slipping one hand in his. The Inquisitor’s hands were always warm – the marked hand just a mite hotter than the other – and slightly rough with sword calluses. He smiled when Trevelyan began absently running his thumb in soothing circles on the back of his palm.

“I don’t think you’d have to wait quite that long. You’re the Herald of Andraste! I can almost hear the chisels clinking across Thedas in a mad race to capture your likeness.”

Trevelyan hummed a sound in response, closing his eyes like he was really listening out for the chisels. “I hope they get my face right. Would be quite unsettling if it looked nothing like me.”

A moth, the size of a child’s palm, was attracted by the candlelight and fluttered about the statue. Dorian had always thought it rather unkind to have so many flames, no matter how small, by the feet of a woman who was burned at the stake.

Trevelyan cleared his throat before he spoke. “Do you know my House Words, Dorian?”

“No,” He admitted. “But knowing how you Marchers are like I have no doubt it’s something purposely melodramatic.”

The Inquisitor huffed a little laugh, but it was dry like sandpaper against rock.

Modest in Temper, Bold in Deed.” The words spilled from his lips like a sacred decree. “The first thing all Trevelyan children learned to say was not mother or father or even our own names. It’s our House Words. I never really understood the true meaning of the motto, but I think I’m beginning to.”

“That sounds like excellent parenting. You’re about to do something incredibly foolish, aren’t you?” He sighed, rubbing his eyes with his free hand. “Very well, you know I will follow you into the depths of oblivion, or wherever you're thinking of going.”

A sliver of cold, a serpent made of living ice, slithered down his spine and coiled in his gut as Trevelyan turned to him, sliding his hand out of his grasp. “You can't follow this time, Dorian.

“I’ve spent far too long hiding and running away. It was you who showed me what it means to be brave, to do what’s right, even when it hurts you to your very core. Even if it means leaving behind everything you’ve ever known, and everything you’ve ever loved. You’re strong, Dorian, in a way that I could only hope to be.”

A curve of lips that could have been a smile if it didn’t look so bitter. “I have failed my family. I have failed Nehra and her clan. I will not fail this time. I shall lead by example, and serve the Inquisition with humility and with contrition. And I will keep you safe.”

Dorian froze in place. “What are you saying?”

“The Nightmare demon we encountered in the Fade comes to me whenever I sleep. The anchor calls to it, like a beacon. And it has marked me as Clarel’s replacement.” He took a shaking breath. “And you know as well as I do that the only weapon against Corypheus cannot become possessed.”

The unease, verging on despair – all these weeks of clandestine meetings and surreptitious behaviour, Solas, Leliana, the visiting nobles —

It all came to Dorian in a rush, the floodgates thrown wide open.

Let me give you this memory of the perfect night…

Dorian thought he might drown under the force of it.

“The Rite of Tranquillity will ensure that I will never become an abomination.” Trevelyan swallowed audibly before finally lifting his eyes to look at him. “It’s the only way.”

“Have you knocked your head and gone completely insane?” Dorian snarled, throwing his hands up. “Why would you even consider subjecting yourself to this- this mutilation?”

He felt like he was watching himself watch Trevelyan speak, from both inside and outside his body at the same time, the distance between cognition and reality broadening until black spots crowded the edges of his vision.

“I’ll still be able to fight as I did before. Without magic.” Trevelyan continued on strategising as if he didn’t hear what he’d said. Maker fucking take him. “I’ll stay on as the Inquisitor, but nothing more than a figurehead. Cassandra will take over my duties. No one but the inner circle will know.”

“What?” Dorian’s head swam and he had to fight to keep the sourness from creeping up his throat. A suffocating weight pressed on his chest, he felt as though he was being crushed.

“I’m a Dreamer. All I have to do is to die in the Fade to become Tranquil,” Trevelyan said carefully, modulating his tone to its normal evenness. “There will be no lyrium branding. It’ll take some time but I’ll eventually learn to assimilate. No one needs to know. The Inquisition’s reputation will be safe.”

The horrifying realisation that Trevelyan had kept all this from him, scheming and plotting this utterly idiotic plan of his for far longer than he’d let on—

“How long have you known?”

“Dorian…”

“It’s a simple question, damn you! How long?” He screamed, fists grappling the front of Trevelyan's coat. He would have hit him if he didn’t feel like his legs were seconds away from giving out.

Trevelyan looked away. Coward. He hated him in that moment.

"Since Adamant.”

His voice faltered to a whisper. “Why?”

A single word. A hundred raw and ugly emotions.

“If I had told you any earlier, you would have tried to convince me not to. And you’d succeed." Trevelyan confessed, stricken. "I couldn’t give you the chance to change my mind.”

Despite the soft pleading tone, every word was a ruthless stone.

“How could you even think of doing this? When I – When we –” A heaved sob broke free, its claws left behind invisible marks that burned in his throat. “When we've finally –”

All the happy memories, every tender moment shared, torn to tatters, forever sullied.

“The moment I received this mark, my fate was sealed. The world needs me, Dorian,” Trevelyan said slowly, fighting to keep his voice steady. He was crying, fat tears rolling down his cheeks, unbidden.

Good. He should feel the hurt as much as he did. 

“Would you rather have the world burn to ashes?”

Yes. 

“This is lunacy!” Dorian shook his head, baring his teeth in anger, tears flowing freely now. “I do not accept this!”

“There is no other way. We already lost one good man to that demon. I won’t lose another. Especially not by my hand.”

“It’s Cullen, isn’t it? He put you up to this, didn’t he?” Dorian shrieked, heart pounding and knuckles white with rage. “You can’t listen to him, he’s a fucking Templar!”

“Cullen doesn’t know. I haven’t told him.”

“What about the amulets?” Dorian seized Trevelyan’s wrists, his grip so tight that the skin turned red where his nails dug in. “We can forge the same amulets as Nehra did and bind you again. It isn’t perfect but I’d rather have some of you than none at all!”

“I’ve tried. The ritual is lost. Solas has visited the Fade, through time past and present, and not one shred of it was found. It’s gone.” He gave a sad, weak smile, his eyes glistening in the candlelight. “Besides, even the amulets will not be enough now.”

He took a small step back and began unclasping his beige doublet, and Dorian was suddenly overcome by the memory of him undressing under happier circumstances, the image now irrevocably tarnished.

Cruelty, Trevelyan is thy name.

Several slash marks ran down his chest, from his clavicles down to his navel, pink and freshly healed by tonic.

“Pincers,” Trevelyan explained softly. “I don’t know how, but Nightmare can touch me now from across the Veil. I’ve been tricked into using blood magic while I slept.”

Dorian’s eyes widened. “Bull. That was you.”

Trevelyan nodded. “I was casting spells in my sleep, fighting whatever Nightmare conjured in the Fade. Bull was standing guard and tried to wake me. I almost killed him. I must be completely severed from the Fade.” A single finger skimmed Dorian’s cheek. “I’d sooner die than let myself hurt you.”

The moment hung suspended between them, as they stood motionless.

To everyone else, Trevelyan always appeared a staunch warrior, valiant and dauntless in the true face of evil, throwing himself into the midst of battles unreservedly even if his consciousness was only so recently liberated.

But all Dorian saw was the deep-seated fatigue, and – disconcertingly in a man who for so long had donned a stoic mask – fear.

“Give me one month.” Dorian said after a while, voice trembling, like notes sliding off the strings of an out-of-tune violin. “I will find a way. Please.”

“No.” Trevelyan shook his head fiercely.

“Two weeks. You stubborn mule.”

No, Dorian.”

“Fine. One week!” He bargained, desperate. “I will never forgive you if you don’t at least give me the chance to try save you.”

A storm of warring emotions flitted across Trevelyan’s face. His mouth opened and closed without making a sound.

When he spoke, his voice was quiet, cautious. “You are not to enter my dreams under any conditions.”

“I promise,” Dorian supplied quickly.

“And you will not endanger yourself or anyone to save me.”

“I won’t.” A transparent lie, but they were both too weary to argue the specifics.

“You have five days,” Trevelyan consented, finally. “I have searched everywhere for a solution, so don’t get your hopes up.”

“Do not make the mistake of underestimating me, Inquisitor. Did you forget that I helped invent time magic? I’m a more brilliant researcher than you’d ever dream to be.”

Trevelyan laughed, but it was a hollow, pained sound, a mockery of mirth.

“Now, is this depressing heart-to-heart quite finished? I’m eager to get to work already.”

He sounded sure, confident – years of practice in Tevinter courts helped somewhat – unlike the treacherous tears that spilled unheeded down his face. He scrubbed at his eyes with more force than intended, squeezing blue and yellow stars into the back of his eyelids.

“Yes.” He heard the other man say. Dorian opened his eyes and caught his tired smile, one that he didn’t return.

Trevelyan raised his hands, as if he wanted to pull him into an embrace but thought better of it, and drew back slowly.

The black moth, once again drawn by the irresistible call of the light, flew straight into a flame. Singed by its heat, the insect tumbled gracelessly into the large candle stub; its fat and hairy body putting out the fire. A wisp of smoke rose around its twitching carcass as it slowly sank, until it was fully submerged in the clear pool of hot wax.

Soon, the moth would be eternally encased in its own ivory tomb. Its obsession and death unremembered when the Chantry sister tossed out the candle in the morning.

Chapter Text

The stunned silence that fell in the war room was heavy enough to sink a small barge.

To his credit, Trevelyan did not falter under the intense scrutiny. He met them one by one, levelling each member of the inner circle with a hard, piercing stare.

The red, puffy eyes might have taken the edge off the false bravado marginally, but he delivered a fine speech. Calm yet resolute, with just a touch of self-abnegation, regressing back – perhaps even unknowingly – into the stoic Inquisitor he once was.

A lump blossomed in the back of Dorian’s throat.

This was a glimpse of their future, or perhaps a reminder of a past he’d nearly forgotten – a time when Trevelyan did not look at him, gentle and open, as though he was precious and worthy of love, and not the broken, debauched filth that his father had convinced him that was all he’d ever be.

Treasure, he had called him. His treasure.

Dorian blinked away the moisture from the corners of his eyes, swallowing hard, and swiftly wiped away the image of Trevelyan, all vacant-eyed and rigid smiles that crept uninvited into his mind.

He didn’t need to be in here listening this tortuous poppycock a second time.

There were several volumes he’d found in the underground library, peppered with erudite references on obscure Elven rituals that warranted a closer examination.

If only they had more than five days, he’d have Maevaris scour the grand libraries and ancient archives of Minrathous.

He picked idly at the spaces between the stones of the wall, and threw an angry glance at Trevelyan. A moot gesture, he realised, since Trevelyan too was doing a fine job of pretending he wasn’t in the same room.

Cole’s soft voice rang loud after the long silence, a crashing crescendo of words.

“War and weariness. Blood and battle. Life learning to lead. Clash. Kill. And past that: the weight of all on you, all the hopes you carry, fears you fight. You are theirs.” He peered at Trevelyan from under his hat. “But you want to stay. You want to stay for him.”

A wave of dizzying heat rushed through Dorian.

Before he could stop himself, his eyes flicked up to see Trevelyan stiffen at Cole’s outburst, the line of his back tautened, his hands gripping the edge of the war table turning white-knuckled.

Their eyes met across the crowded room for only whisper of a moment, and for the first time, Dorian saw how everything they had ever held dear unravelling in Trevelyan’s eyes, the avalanche of emotions a spool of under-used threads. Fear, regret, sorrow. Love.

The Inquisitor flinched and quickly looked away.

“Cole, I’d appreciate it if you’d stop reading me for the time being.” His voice was soft, but biting. “Please.”

“But you’re so loud,” Cole said, distraught. “Both you and Dorian are so loud I can’t hear anything else. I want to help.”

Fresh tears brimmed as Dorian braced himself against the wall; the sickening sense of vertigo bore down on him. His chest felt like a pomegranate husk emptied of its ruby seeds, crudely hollowed out with a metal spoon.

He drew a shallow breath, and turned his face to the wall – oh look, a spider smaller than his face, how charming – acutely aware that everyone’s attention fell upon him.

Blackwall’s gruff voice severed brief silence. A welcomed interruption. “But if you were made Tranquil, wouldn’t it cut off the magic and render the mark useless?”

“The Inquisitor’s magic is a separate entity to the anchor,” Solas began. “It is a channel that would have been opened even on a warrior such as you, Ser Blackwall, with absolutely no aptitude for magic. The Rite of Tranquillity should only shut the gateway to his own magic, leaving the powers of the mark untouched.”

Cassandra shook her head. “By the grace of Andraste, her Herald has led the Inquisition to victory after victory.” She lifted her eyes to stare at the man they had anointed their saviour, her gaze obstinate. “You cannot honestly ask for our blessings.”

Cullen’s orotund voice chimed in, fluctuating between bewilderment and concern. “Inquisitor, this is an extremely drastic and invasive measure. It needn’t come to this.”

“This is madness, darling,” Vivienne added in a clipped tone, waving a beringed hand with aristocratic flare. “You are a Dreamer. Surely you won’t yield to this monster. There must be another way and rest assured we will find it.”

Trevelyan went around the war table to stand before the large wrought-iron windows. The snow had ceased falling, and the Inquisitor watched absently as the last of the powdery white drift and swirl in the cold Frostback air.

“If only that were true.” He replied lightly, exhaustion roughening his words, but his face was as hard and implacable as iron. “Solas?”

“The minds of Dreamers are tempting targets for demons, and most Dreamers eventually succumb either to possession or madness,” The rift mage explained in his infuriatingly even voice. “We may not find a way in time with the Nightmare demon lurking so close to the Veil.”

Trevelyan’s eyes took on a steely cast, but the resigned set of his shoulders betrayed his valiant attempt to appear composed.

“In five days time, if we do not find a permanent solution, the plan goes ahead.” Apathy overcame his voice. Cold. Distant. “I do not ask for your permission or blessing. Only your understanding and support should it come down to it.”

Dorian felt a warm hand on his arm, and turned to see Varric mouthing the words, Are you okay?

He made a vague sound that sounded pathetic to his ears and shook his head.

No, nothing would ever be okay again.

“The safeguard of the anchor is the Inquisition’s priority. Cassandra, I look to you to ensure its security. At all costs.” A moment passed between Trevelyan and the Seeker. An unspoken oath of absolute fealty.

Finally, Cassandra nodded.

“I swear it.”

 

* * *

 

“Tell me again why it won’t work? It says clearly here- ” Dorian jabbed a finger at the open page, crisp and yellowed from age, on the desk in front of him. “In your Seekers book of secrets that Tranquillity can be reversed! And if it can be reversed safely, then—”

“The candidate must be pure, Dorian.” Cassandra said, restrained exasperation in her voice. “The Inquisitor has been touched by Corypheus’ magic. The anchor makes him unworthy – we cannot tell for sure it will work.”

The Seeker crossed her arms, her mouth set in a tight, compressed line. “I know what is at stake. I do not wish to see the Inquisitor made Tranquil either, but we must think rationally.”

Dorian wanted to scream. Rationally.

He hadn’t rested since the morning of Trevelyan’s confession, and had since spent every available hour here in the library. But fatigue gnawed at him. The crows’ quiet cawing in the rookery above him began to grate, and the ceaseless ringing in his ear left him feeling slightly unhinged.

He blinked furiously and rubbed his eyes, fighting the pull of sleep.

Solas drew the heavy tome towards him, smoothing a hand over the worn vellum paper. He had a glint in his eye, something slightly dark and incongruous.

Indeed, the sudden revelation that the only weapon against their kind had a cure would rattle even the most composed of mages.

“It is no easy task to lure a spirit to touch the mind of a Tranquil. Only a skilled spirit medium could achieve such a feat,” The elf remarked, his voice grim. “Still, the Inquisitor is a Dreamer who has been marked by evil – it is unlikely a benevolent spirit would willingly free his mind.”

Dorian fiddled with a clump of mangled metal, misshapen and blackened, in a small resin bowl, one of the two remnants of Trevelyan’s amulets.

How peculiar that something so small, so fragile would determine the fate of Thedas as they knew. Nothing but twisted ore and gemstones, yet all of Dorian’s dreams and hopes of happiness rested singularly upon them.

He would wish Trevelyan had never removed the amulets, but for all the anguish and tears, the thought of never having truly known Trevelyan – his passions and desires, loves and hates, every one of his smiles and touch a precious gift – as the man he was meant to be, left Dorian breathless with a phantom ache, a desolate longing.

“We need more time.” He bit out. “If only we could bind his magic, hide it from the demon, just for a little while longer…”

The edges of the metal bit into his fingers, forming little red marks.

“I have found no trace of the original ritual.” Solas’ tone was mild and apologetic, but it did little to assuage Dorian’s growing ire. “As it stands, the rite is our most logical plan, perhaps a necessity even, to protect the anchor. As barbaric as it is, we cannot afford the alternative.”

“All these months of covert research and you have come up with naught,” Dorian hissed. “For all the knowledge that you’ve purportedly amassed in the Fade, you have proven that it’s all utterly useless. Bravo, Solas.”

He knew it was cruel and unfair – a childish reprisal against the elf for being entrusted with Trevelyan’s secret whilst he was not. But he could not stop himself, his words howled with bitter despair, maddened by the pervasive sense of helplessness.

With a wretched snarl, he slammed his hands on the table, nails scratching grooves into the wooden surface, leaving behind scorch marks in their wake. In a single movement, he’d swept the books and papers off the table, and flung the desk over, sending inkpots and bottles flying and crashing to the floor.

Let them all burn, he thought darkly. The world could be reduced to ashes tomorrow for all he cared. Let them burn if it meant keeping Trevelyan here.

A burst of energizing magic, and he’d hurled the table across the rotunda. It flew in a graceful arc before crashing against the railings on the opposite side, shattering the balustrades on impact, and plummeted to the ground floor where it splintered to pieces.

Spooked by the ear-splitting racket, the crows all took flight at once; the rustling sound of beating wings filled the circular building.

With a final sullen kick to a chair, he turned on his heels and left the library before either Cassandra or Solas could stop him.

 

* * *

The door to the Skyhold prison flung open before Dorian could reach for the handle, and the Iron Bull emerged from the darkened staircase, carrying his beloved maul.

The sunlight caught the side of the hammer, and the copper inlay gleamed a splendid reddish gold. For a brief moment, the gnarling dragon engraved onto the metal looked alive, scales shimmering in the pale winter light, looking hungry for blood.

The Bull seemed relaxed, and – Dorian made a quick survey of his person – thankfully uninjured. Which meant Trevelyan had a good day, if they could still call it that.

“How is he?” Dorian asked, crossing his arms over his chest.

“Seems okay. He just woke up if you want to see him. Didn’t cast any spells but he’s still pretty cut up.” Bull dropped the heavy head of the maul to the ground with a thud, and leaned on the shaft as he nodded at Dorian. “How’s the research going?”

“Not well.”

“You think you’ll find something soon?”

A slight shake of head and a grimace. “I don't know.”

“You know, if there’s really no way out of this, maybe you should be spending time with him, instead of burying yourself in books.” Bull shot a pointed stare at him, scratching a stubbled cheek with the claw-shaped pommel. “If this is really it, you’ll regret missing the last moments together later.”

Dorian narrowed his eyes and sneered. “How kind of you to suddenly consider my feelings when everything is falling apart around me.” He cocked his head to one side and raised an eyebrow. “You haven’t exactly been reluctant to put forth your opinions on the Inquisitor and I. What, pray tell, prompted the change of heart, Iron Bull?”

A sharp look preceded the Qunari’s measured reply.

“Under the Qun, we don’t have relationships like you humans do. We serve the order until the day we expire. That is what is expected of us. My Ben-Hassrath training has taught me to never let my guard down, and I do not apologise for having my doubts about an Inquisitor with the glowy hand who is secretly a Dreamer blood mage.”

His nostrils flared as he heaved a long breath. “But I can see he’s trying. He’s just a kid with the worst luck and he’s doing his best with what he’s got. I have pledged my service to him and even the Tranquillity will not change that.”

Dorian widened his eyes theatrically, his mouth shaping into a small ‘o’.

“I see,” He said with sarcastic unctuousness. “So he has now proven his worth to you because he’s determined to become a Tranquil. How illuminating! The paradoxical futility of your Qunari logic most keenly reflects the intelligence of your people.”

The Iron Bull’s smile was unexpected, and for a second Dorian wondered if he’d mistaken his remark as a compliment.

“Well, it’s all up to you research types to find a way now. For what it’s worth I hope he makes it. We’ve had a lot of time to talk and bond these last few weeks. You should know that he’s my friend too.” Bull picked up the maul with a soft grunt and slung it over his shoulder. “You should go. He’ll be happy to see you.”

 

Trevelyan’s makeshift bedroom was the cell closest to the entrance, simply furnished with a cot and a small table.

Thedas’ only hope of salvation taking afternoon naps in his grand castle’s gaol – Dorian could already envision the songs the bards would write if they ever learn of this.

There were no other prisoners here: the last one they had came in a crate box, which the Inquisitor had buried somewhere in the Frostback Mountains after it’d served its sentence.

Trevelyan looked up, alert, when Dorian made his way around the pillar, a pink-stained cloth half-wrung in his hands over a washbasin on the table.

Thin lacerations lined his torso; red-tinged water trickled down his chest where he had dragged the sopped cloth, seeping into the dampened fabric of his breeches.

The rusty hinges let out a soft squeak as Dorian eased open the door wider, the metal bars smooth and cold under his fingers.

Apprehension flitted across the Inquisitor’s face, quick and light as spring breeze, when their gaze locked in a wordless exchange.

He took the cloth from Trevelyan’s grasp, and once more, Dorian cleaned the Inquisitor’s wounds, as he did many months before in a similarly dim space. So close, he could smell the grassy aroma of elfroot potion on his breath when Trevelyan muttered a quiet ‘thank you’.

And when he lifted his head and saw Trevelyan smile, so soft in its open relief and affection, he too, lost in his own reminisce…

Something broke inside of Dorian.

With a hard shove, he pinned Trevelyan against the wall and fused their lips together in a nearly violent kiss.

The rough surface of the limestones scrapped at his knuckles but none of that mattered. Not when Trevelyan opened his mouth and kissed back with equal fervour. Not when he allowed Dorian to push him on his back and down onto the cot. Not when Trevelyan still breathed his name in hushed reverence as Dorian parted his legs and settled between them.

 

Each kiss, each touch was thick with a sense of finality. Trevelyan’s hands clawed into his back, raw and fervid. Dorian clenched his teeth to trap a groan when he slid home inside, so warm and tight around him, burying himself deep until their hips were flush against one another’s.

A burst of emerald light dazed him momentarily as Trevelyan’s hand ran up his throat to cradle his chin, fingertips skittering over his skin.

“Don’t.” A sword-rough thumb feathered across Dorian’s lips before slipping between them, and touched the barrier of his teeth.

“Let me hear you,” Trevelyan murmured, body quivering. “Please.”

The longing in each of his words threatened to consume him, and Dorian shuddered under its tide. His lips parted to let out a throaty moan, and Trevelyan claimed his mouth in a feverish kiss, earnest and hungry and beseeching, as if he wanted to inhale him and keep him there.

“Whatever happens, my body will always remember yours,” Trevelyan’s voice was gentle, but unyielding; his eyes shone with marvel. “The way our bodies fit; the beat of your heart when we kiss; the feel of your skin. Your heat.” He moaned out on a ragged breath. “My body will never forget this.”

Perhaps an empty promise, for neither of them really knew for certain what’d come after. But Trevelyan’s vehement vow spurned him on, as though something feral had been loosed inside Dorian. A primal impulse to mark, to claim.

Dorian gasped when Trevelyan clenched around him and rocked his hips to meet each of his thrusts. They moved in tandem, the slick sound of flesh slapping against flesh rang in the tiny cell, laboured breaths and cries of pleasure reverberated against the heavy stone walls.

Make it hurt, make his skin raw, make the ache go so deep it echoed in his bones every time he walked, every time he sat. So he would carry this twinge with him for days, weeks, months. A constant, visceral reminder of what they shared.

Dorian let out a sound that rang too much like a sob, and kissed Trevelyan, hard and forceful, sliding his tongue against his, relishing in the needy whimper that escaped his lips.

Trevelyan trembled beneath him, slack-jawed and glassy-eyed, his bronze skin flushed and damp with sweat. Dorian’s grip on him tightened, blunt nails digging into the warm flesh of his thighs, savouring the weight of him. Solid. Familiar. Still within his reach.

Remember me, amatus. Remember me.

He splayed his fingers around Trevelyan’s hips and lifted him onto his lap, thrusting up into him as deep as he could, devouring his raspy moans in tempestuous kisses.

Caught in a spiral of pleasure, they held on to each other, their hips meeting in frantic rhythm as they ascended, sailing higher and higher, until finally the little death seized them in its thrall.

 

He didn’t realised he’d fallen asleep until the feel of gentle fingers drawing through his hair woke him.

The intoxicating perfume of sex still lingered in the air in the stuffy cell, heady and thick; and the pillow was scratchy beneath his cheek. But in the lull between the Fade and the real world, Dorian could indulge himself in a tiny falsehood. For a small moment, he basked in his sleepy afterglow, pretending that it was just another lazy morning, waking up to Trevelyan pushing sweat-damp hair away from his face.

And then the moment passed, as all moments must.

Slowly, he blinked open his bleary eyes and brought a hand to his face to rub at his temples. A dull ache bloomed hotly there: a constant reminder of time running out.

“How long have I been asleep?”

Trevelyan was sitting on the edge of the cot, already full dressed.

“Just shy of an hour,” he said, retrieving his hand from Dorian’s hair. “You needed the rest.”

Dorian stretched and reached for his clothes, now folded neatly on the small stool. He shouldn’t have slept. Only two days left with no plausible solution on the horizon.

“I should head back to the library,” he said as he stepped into his breeches, making quick work of reclasping his many buckles and loops. “Where will you be?”

“I’m going to the tavern. Varric has organised for a grand game of Wicked Grace.”

Dorian scoffed. “You must be joking.”

“I’m good at emptying pockets.” A grin broke across Trevelyan’s handsome face. “You should come. I’m feeling lucky today.”

Ha. An optimist. Such a rare breed. Perhaps he’d stumbled upon a unicorn.

“Perhaps next time,” Dorian replied.

Next time. He hoped to the Maker there’d be a next time.

 

* * *

He felt the slight tremor just before the shockwave hit.

His teacup clattered noisily in its saucer before tipping over, spilling its contents all over his notes. Windows rattled in their iron frames, bookcases wobbled, several paintings fell off the walls… and then the unmistakable low boom of Trevelyan’s Mark of the Rift rumbled across the great hall and into the rotunda.

“Oh no. No, no, no.” Research quickly abandoned. “Kevesh no!

He sprinted for the stairs, pivoting so quickly as he careened down the curved staircase he’d almost sprained an ankle.

Another blast shook the keep. Dorian steadied himself with one hand against the circular wall, narrowly avoiding a fallen torch as he half-stumbled down the steps.

He threw the door open just in time to see Bull and Cassandra racing towards the Inquisitor’s private quarters, against the panicked horde all trampling to get to the front entrance, their weapons gleaming rough silver in the afternoon light.

NO!” He howled, elbowing his way across, darting and weaving between the rush of bodies. “Don’t hurt him!”

He made to follow Bull and Cassandra up the stairs but a firm hand grabbed his arm and pulled him back, hard.

“Wait.” He whipped his head around to find Leliana’s eyes boring into his. “You must wait.”

A gulf of spellfire ripped through the chamber door, a deafening roar that he felt deep in his chest.

Wait? Wait for what?” He screamed as Bull and Cassandra, the Inquisition’s most formidable and deadliest warriors, shook off dust and debris and charged into Trevelyan’s room with a war cry loud enough to split the billowing flames. “For them to hack him into little pieces? So we’d get just the bits that we need? Pickle that hand in a fucking jar?”

The air around him changed, turning thin. The tiny hairs on the back of his neck stood on end, and he realised why Leliana had stopped him.

Before he could say anything, his eyes rolled back and his legs buckled under him. Leliana’s iron grip was the only thing that kept him from falling face-first onto the floor, the unrelenting whirlpool of Cassandra’s templar abilities purging all magical energy from the vicinity.

The templars back home were little more than at best glorified foot soldiers, and at worst, the Imperium’s errand boys. They possessed neither genuine political power nor legitimate skills to truly be a threat against the magocratic society.

The Southern Order clearly did things a little differently.

A peculiar sort of fascination took hold as his magic was distilled from him, bleeding him slowly like a slaughtered ram. Strands of mana were drawn out of him like spun silk, flickering and shimmering blue and purple in a volatile dance, caught in the vortex of the maelstrom.

His head swam as the reservoir of sweetness he’d always taken for granted was drained. He felt the slightest pressure on his skin, his powers pulled from him through every pore.

He tried to resist, to stem the flow, but a wave of nausea came over him. After a while, it was easier to let go, let it take whatever it wanted.

And then the purge ended as quickly as it began.

Dorian sucked in a tortured sounding breath when it relinquished its punishing grip on him, feeling utterly depleted. If this was how it felt to be cleansed from the sidelines, he could not imagine bearing the full brunt of the expurgation.

He nodded at Leliana, the surprisingly strong spymaster still propping him up on his side, and he hoped that his bewilderment looked like gratitude.

He trudged forward, surely moving at snail’s pace, the distance to Trevelyan’s quarters seemed so far out of reach, the stairs suddenly resembling the worst of the Western Approach’s myriad of ladders.

He focused on putting one foot in front of the other, one foot in front of the other, stepping over splintered wood and gaping holes until he reached the wrecked doorframe of the chamber.

It was worse than he’d thought.

The cold air was still redolent with the smell of charred timber and burned parchment. Plumes of gray smoke billowed from the shelves and desk, now reduced to a pile of kindling. Books and papers littered the room; some pages, still ablaze, went up in glowing twirls, incinerating mid-air, their ashes carried away by the wind and out the blown-out windows.

The singed bed was upturned to verticality and flung to one corner, and where it used to stand were Cassandra and Bull hovering over the Inquisitor, on his back and groaning through the sound of gurgling blood.

“Don’t you dare pass out on us!” He heard Cassandra shout. “If you go back to the Fade now, you’re done for!”

Dorian’s feet carried him to the trio, as if he were in a daze.

Trevelyan eyes were open but unseeing, looking at the ceiling with a kind of emptiness. Blood seemed to be everywhere: on his shirt, on his face, on his hands, so much that it bedimmed even the brilliant green of the anchor.

“The Nightmare knows,” he wheezed painfully, a thin stream of blood trickled from his mouth. “He knows my plan and he means to kill me.”

“Drink this,” Cassandra commanded, bringing a vial of healing potion to his lips and tipped it into his mouth. “We need you with us, Inquisitor.”

 

* * *

Trevelyan sat against the side of the bed, once more returned to its rightful place. His head lolled back against the fresh mattress, tired eyes staring fixedly at the broken frames of the ornate windows, the metal bars pendulous in the wind, and the multicoloured glass now a blanket of pulverised baubles sprawled across the balcony.

“Hello, you," he said when Dorian approached. The marked hand draped protectively around his middle, covering the still-seeping puncture on his belly. He sounded weary and exhausted, but he still managed a smile for him. Always for him.

“How are you feeling?” asked Dorian.

Trevelyan raised his free hand to reach for him. “Less well than I’d like.”

“I see you finally took my advice to redecorate your quarters,” he joked feebly as he took the proffered hand, lacing their fingers together and sat down beside Trevelyan.

“I nodded off without realising. The Nightmare demon was already there and waiting for me. It made me think I was fighting it in the Fade, and then tried to kill me when it jostled out of me my plan to sever my connection.”

Trevelyan brought their linked hands to his mouth, leaving a light kiss on Dorian’s skin. “I’m sorry I can’t give you the five days as I promised.”

“Are you absolutely certain?” Dorian asked quietly, only a slight quaver betraying him.

“I’m sorry,” Trevelyan said, and squeezed his hand. “I wish we had more time. I…thought we’d have more time.”

“How could you give up so easily?” he pleaded, feeling the catch in his voice.

Trevelyan tilted his head at him, his face going soft.

“After you joined the Inquisition, I had Josie obtain all the research on temporal magic you and Alexius worked on at his estate. I tried to read them all, but it’s very complex and, frankly, a little beyond me. There, I found your unfinished dissertation on the theory of alternative timelines. From the little that I could glean from it, you postulated that everything in the world is constantly splitting, to an ever-evolving series of timelines to account for every possible outcome. Which means, there are versions of us that are constantly branching off into other alternate histories.”

He lifted a hand to gesticulate, drawing invisible lines in the air in front of him, pointing at different places.

“The thought of a world out there, even if only one timeline out of many, whether in times past or future, where you and I are not in danger of losing each other, to war, to demons. Just two people living quiet, happy lives... The thought of that possibility fills me with comfort and hope.”

Amatus,” Dorian croaked, voice decaying rapidly under the crush of emotions.

“And I’m your flea in all those timelines.” Trevelyan smiled, lush with fondness and devotion, even when his eyes took on a sheen. “Each and every single one of them.”

And then Trevelyan kissed him, a gentle and tender meeting of lips that spelled all the memories of every moment they had together, the promise of a bond that transcended place and time.

 

Trevelyan pulled out a small flask from his pocket, the thaumaturgic draught glowing a soft blue.

“Lyrium,” Trevelyan said, uncorking the potion with his teeth and spat out the stopper. “It’ll give me a boost so I could elude the Nightmare long enough to —”

He cut himself short, and stole a glance at Dorian, clutching the potion a little tighter. “Perhaps you shouldn’t be here, when I...”

Dorian forced out a weak laugh, the lump growing in his throat almost strangling his words. “And deprive you of my dazzling company in the final moments of your appreciating it? Perish the thought.”

Trevelyan regarded him with heavy eyes, and nodded.

He took a deep breath, as if to brace himself, and quickly downed the contents before he could waver, the blue shimmer of lyrium disappearing between his lips like a whisper.

Wordlessly, he laid his head in the crook of Dorian’s neck, brushing his lips there lightly. Dorian held onto his hand, and pressed his cheek to his hair, until Trevelyan’s breathing eased, slowing and deepening, and his body became slack with sleep.

They sat side by side, as the sun began its descend into the jagged peaks of the Frostback Mountains, pulling their shadows long and thin. The waning light of the sun flooded the chamber in brilliant ambers and yellows, gilding everything a warm lustre.

It was almost full dark when he felt Trevelyan jolt in his slumber, sharp and unexpected, before letting out a small breath.

When Trevelyan jumped again, his eyes sprang open, dilated and unfocused. With a soft grunt, he sat up slowly, holding his head, the other hand still grasping Dorian’s solidly.

“Amatus?” Dorian’s voice felt small, weak. “Are you—”

“Not yet.” Trevelyan shook his head sharply, blinking hard. “Helisma said I have a brief moment before it all goes.” 

A murky haze eclipsed the clear of his eyes, slow in its consumption of his mind, but unrelenting, like retreating floodwaters, the light within them ebbing away as the rite took hold.

“Did it…hurt?”

“Only for a moment,” Trevelyan said, eyes clouding over as he stammered. “I saw a bright light, and it’s… I…”

“Amatus…” He tried to say, but the word came out as a broken sob.

“I don’t have too long and I need you to know.” Trevelyan’s hand slid around Dorian’s neck and pulled him close, clasping him tightly to his chest. “You need to know.”

The words were so soft, more breath than sound, and Dorian would have thought he’d imagined them if he hadn’t felt Trevelyan’s lips move against his ear.

I love you, Dorian.

Dorian felt his face crumple, and tears spilled like plump beads. He clung on to Trevelyan desperately, as though by sheer physical force alone he could keep him there a little while longer.

“And I hate you, Luther Trevelyan,” He said, voice brittle, like the crackling of dried leaves.

Trevelyan’s huff was almost laughter, but it was a watery sound that tapered off into sniffles.

“That’s the first time you ever called me by my name.” He let out a trembling breath, and Dorian felt his lips curve. “Will you say it again?”

A litany of Trevelyan’s name poured from Dorian’s mouth.

Luther. Luther. Luther.

He mourned every single moment he could have spoken Trevelyan’s name but held back, abashed and frightened of getting too close, falling too hard, caring too much; drawing that meaningless line in the sand – Oh, Inquisitor, could I adore you more? – calling him by his rank instead of his name, because otherwise it’d be real and only real things got broken.

If only he’d whispered it against Trevelyan’s lips; pressed its shape onto his ever-warm skin and every jagged scar; cried it like a benediction, a plea, in a shabby tent on a warm night in Hinterlands, in the solar of an abandoned elven keep, on the stony floor of a dusty kitchen; the touch of it forever etched on his tongue.

He should have known, nothing as good or perfect could possibly last. It scorched, from gut to throat, to be reminded yet again that people like him did not have happy endings.

An eerie stillness took over Trevelyan.

“I do not mean to alarm.” His voice was dull and gravelly, devoid of emotions. “But I believe it is done.”

Dorian slowly pulled back, feeling a wave of nausea threatening to break.

“Amatus?”

“It is quiet now.” Blank eyes stared back into his own, the melody of life burned out of them. “You are safe from me.”

 

Dorian made it outside before he threw up against the grey wall of the keep. His body lurched as he heaved painfully, his throat burned as it brought up more bile.

It’s over. He’s gone.

He slid down against the wall, and ground the heels of his hands into his eyes.

He’d finally lost him forever.

And Dorian began to cry once again.

Chapter Text

Even in the depths of his stultifying drunkenness, Dorian was cognizant enough to wake at the creak of his door as it opened, and the sound of bare feet padding across the hard stone floor of his chamber.

Plod, plod, plod.

Swollen shut after a night of silent tears and irresponsible drinking, his eyes refused to open.

Still, the first rays of the golden crepuscule filtered through his eyelids, gently reminding him that the world continued on its mundanely oblivious way, uncaring for his grief and loss.

The sun would rise, as it always did. A new day.

Chambermaids would soon begin their daily routine, dusting and cleaning every corner of the fortress. Inquisition soldiers would already have been training since dawn under Cullen’s watchful eye, the sounds of scuffles and metals colliding muted by the wintry winds. Dennet would be brushing their mounts, paying special attention to the Inquisitor’s majestic hart, which always received an extra helping of oats and carrots from the horsemaster. 

The sun rose again. A new beginning.

Plod, plod.

The soft footfalls went around the bed. A faint rustle. And then dull thud, followed by a soft ‘ow’.

At least it wasn’t an assassination attempt, unless the Venatori had hired the world’s clumsiest assassin to do the job. By the Maker’s grace, he’d gladly offer his neck and let them put him out of his misery.

Flashes of memories came flooding.

Trevelyan with his secretive, reticent smiles. The slow-spreading ones only ever meant for him.

Trevelyan assailing him with esurient kisses, and accidentally rolling them both off the chaise in the heat of things, landing them on the floor in a tangled, laughing heap.

Trevelyan yawning and blinking sleepily as Dorian read him Spiritorum Etherialis in bed, a book written entirely in ancient Tevene, even though it was his idea to begin with.

Gold-tinted memories he would never touch again.

It is quiet now. You are safe from me…

Rolling over onto his belly, Dorian snivelled and turned his face into the pillow, a rush of fresh tears adding to the still-moist fabric, his hands clenching into fists around the soft material.

A faint sound of clothes shuffling came from behind, and the mattress dipped slightly before his interloper’s arm curled around his waist and tugged him against a solid chest.

Dorian squirmed a little, an unhappy groan leaving his mouth at the sudden shift. But the arm only drew him closer, and he felt a gentle nuzzling behind his ear, the warm body pressed flush against his back.

“I’m here, Dorian.” His interloper murmured, voice thick and sweet like molasses, the quiet hush of the promise thrummed like a lullaby. “I’m here.”

Dorian whimpered into the pillow, a thin and feeble pule.  

I’m going insane, he thought, before exhaustion and sleep took over, and darkness entrapped him in its desolation.

 

When Dorian woke again, he found himself draped across a sleeping form. The chest beneath his cheek rose and fell in steady breaths, the dark cotton shirt soft against his face. The left hand that rested lightly on his waist felt feverous even through the thick barrier of his leather armour.

The familiar scent of the warm skin; the soft thump-thump, thump-thump against his ear; the feel of those arms wrapped loosely around him – every sensation carved into the fabrics of his mind, with soft lips and gentle hands, were now nothing but wretched souvenirs of a past life lost.

“What in the Maker’s name do you think you’re doing here?” Dorian squawked, pushing the words out of a desert-dry throat. As far as he knew, The Tranquil weren’t known for ardent snuggling. “And why are you in my bed?”

“My room doesn’t have windows anymore,” Trevelyan mumbled, his voice a vibrating rumble in his chest and Dorian felt every note, atop of him as he was. “Now hush. I’m trying to enjoy the moment.”

“The Tranquil don’t enjoy anything,” Dorian retorted, shifting to push himself up, ignoring his body’s instinctive ache at the loss of Trevelyan’s heat. “Or is this one of your assimilation exercises? Why, give your former paramour a cuddle and the benighted masses would be none the wiser.”

He rolled himself up to sitting, and raked a hand through his hair, jaw tightening. “Leave me out of it. I wish no part in your play pretend.”

“It’s me, Dorian.”

He half-turned to cast Trevelyan a dour glance. “It’s you what?”

There was no need for the Inquisitor to reply. He smiled. A smile so resplendent the rest of the world dimmed behind him.

“It can’t be. You-” Dorian’s eyes widened in disbelief, the first sting of tears pricked hotly. “You were gone. I saw you.”

“This morning I woke up and I was myself again.” Trevelyan flexed his marked hand, the green glow seeming a touch more garish than usual. “The anchor feels hotter now. I think it’s connecting to the Fade on its own by the barest thread.”

He wiggled his fingers, and strings of luscious emerald twisted and danced around his hand.

“Its magic now flows through me and I think that restored my mind,” said Trevelyan, brows furrowing in earnest contemplation. “I wonder if my being a Dreamer had anything to do with it.”

Dorian stared at him for a long moment, mouth gaping. When he’d found his voice again, the words came out in a hoarse whisper.

“Could it be? Truly?”

Trevelyan cocked his head slightly. “I think so. For now, at any rate.”

Dorian let out a shuddering breath. Warmth erupted in his chest, growing and growing until he thought he might burst. Tears fell, running down his face like streaming freshets thawed by the first blush of spring.

“You’re the one to cry.” Trevelyan raised a hand to thumb away the wetness that ticked his chin, eyes sparkling with vim and amusement. “I’ll have you know I limped my way here. I should be the one weeping.”

Dorian croaked a moist laugh in reply, quickly scrubbing his face with the heels of his hands before scrambling to fling himself into Trevelyan’s arms.

He felt Trevelyan puff out a breath on impact, chuckling hotly against his ear as he wrapped his arms around him. Their bodies melded into each other’s, every line of his body fitting perfectly against every one of Dorian’s.

They held each other tight, savouring what they came so close to losing forever.

“Are you all right?” Trevelyan asked after a while. His fingers were gentle on Dorian’s scalp, rubbing circles on his shorn temple.

It felt like there were a hundred angry Qunari stampeding inside his skull, and yet –

“I am now,” Dorian sighed contently, nestling into Trevelyan’s neck. “I’m all right now.”

“I brought you breakfast, if it helps.”

Dorian propped his chin on the Trevelyan’s chest and peered up at him, biting back a smile. “You didn’t.”

“I did. It’s right over there on your desk.”

Dorian placed his hands flat on Trevelyan’s chest and pushed himself up to inspect the offering. Trevelyan oofed under his weight, making a face of mock annoyance, but his hands on Dorian's elbows were gentle, steadying him.

True to his words, a serving tray sat atop his writing desk, a beige corner of Dorian’s research notes peeking out from under it.

A large silver bowl teeming with fresh fruits – apples, pears and grapes; a rather sizeable wedge of hard cheese; and –

“Candied dates?” Dorian beamed. “You brought me candied dates for breakfast?”

“Maker only knows why you love those cloying, gummy things.”

Dorian wrinkled his nose at the gibe but delight lingered on his lips.

Trevelyan regarded him with an amused hitch in the corners of his mouth, and brushed the back of his finger against the tiny speck of black on Dorian’s cheek.

“Kissed by evening’s breath…” He whispered as his thumb trailed down the side of Dorian’s face to rest on his mouth.

Leaning into his touch, Dorian closed his eyes and pressed a soft peck onto the palm, the luminous skin feverish under his lips.

“I don’t suppose…” Trevelyan began with an impish light in his eyes, looking entirely too pleased with himself for the clever quip. “You’d mind being kissed by morning’s breath as well?”

Dorian’s snort of a guffaw was cut short, laughter dissolving into soft moans as the Inquisitor surged up to claim his mouth, silken tongue grazing the crevice of his lips, seeking entrance.

Dorian welcomed the taste of him, arms flying around Trevelyan’s neck as he opened his mouth to him, smiling into the slow, searching kisses.

Here, in the cradle of Trevelyan’s hips, in the shelter of his arms, Dorian belonged. Here, he’d found his sanctum sanctorum.

 

“Is it too forward of me to ask if I could stay with you while my quarters are being renovated?” Trevelyan asked, taking another bite out of his apple before holding it to Dorian’s mouth.

It was nearly midday and they were still in bed, lying on their sides facing each other with heads propped up on elbows, only their feet touched under the blanket.

“Are you suggesting we venture into mutual domesticity?” Dorian simpered as he took a small bite of the proffered fruit. “It’ll set tongues wagging. Not that they weren’t already wagging.”

“Only if you’re amenable,” Trevelyan said around the crunch of the apple, licking the juice off the edge of his lips. “I make an excellent bed warmer, if you needed any convincing.”

“The Inquisitor trapped into cohabiting with the Tevinter Magister. How positively scandalous.”

“Rather…” A ghost of a grin touched Trevelyan’s face. “The Inquisitor traps his Tevinter amatus into cohabitation.”

Three measly syllables, horribly butchered by that atrocious Marcher accent, and Dorian was rendered breathless, his heart fluttering at the sight of Trevelyan drawing closer until their noses touched.

Amatus,” Trevelyan repeated before pressing him a sweet and sticky kiss. “More like your bed bug than a flea at this moment.”

Dorian chuckled, swatting him away. “Will you please fetch me the candied dates?”

“Of course,” Trevelyan said with a touch of patronizing indulgence, rolling off the bed. “Your wish is my command, darling.”

As soon as the words left his mouth, he stiffened, hands stilling on handles of the tray.

With a sickening awareness, Dorian could feel his smile congealing into a parody of itself, the ardour that filled his breast only seconds ago souring and shrinking into knots of anguish.

 

When Dorian was a child, on the rare occasion when he was given permission to visit the Qarinus markets with the house slaves, he’d always sneak off on his own to see a soporati illusionist’s magic show.

The stand was wedged between a basket shop and a spice stall, with a small stage that looked like wooden crates hammered haphazardly together.

The wafting smells of turmeric and star anise filled his lungs, as Dorian waited patiently with the other children for the illusionist to perform his most famous trick – the vanishing birdcage.

A short and stocky man with a heavy beard, the illusionist would whisper conspiratorially to the growing crowd, warning them of the dangers of his craft.

“This is no ordinary magic,” he’d say, throwing his hands up in feigned caution. “Oh no, mei amici. This is our own special kind of magic. Soporati magic.”

He’d pick up a birdcage, rectangular and made of wire, with a single canary within it. The little yellow bird pranced around on the perch, chirping and dancing as the children cooed.

The illusionist let out a loud bellow, and in a single fluid motion, both the cage and the bird would vanished from sight, leaving nothing but air between the man’s fleshy hands.

It was the most incredible thing Dorian had ever seen.

He’d spend hours practicing his own magic after. Conjuring fire and lightning was hardly a challenge for him – he’d been setting things alight since he was a babe. But if he’d studied hard enough, practiced long enough, perhaps one day he too could make physical things disappear.

Every time he was at the markets, he’d find himself at the illusionist’s stand, mesmerised by this mysterious soporati sorcery.

Until one late afternoon.

He’d arrived later than usual, and the illusionist had already packed up his wares, leaning his rotund body against the stand.

“Will you do the vanishing cage trick?” Dorian asked, holding out a single sterling. “I have the coin for it.”

“My apologies, young master,” the illusionist replied blithely, fat fingers picking bits of feathers out of a square of wire. “As much as I’d love to earn your silver, I’m afraid I’ve run out for the day.”

The moment he finished his sentence, the illusionist’s brows flew up his forehead, lips twisting into an odd cross of smile and grimace. Before he could catch himself, his eyes darted to a small sack on the other side of the table.

Dorian would never forget the image of the dead canaries, filled to the brim. Fluffy clumps of red-stained yellow.

Deception.

It was the first time he felt the puncture of deceit in his young heart.

 

Dorian slowly raised his head to look into Trevelyan’s eyes, warm brown and shrouded in melancholy shadows. Lies, lies, lies.

“You’re not him,” he said, clenched fists bunching up the sheets at his hips as he willed his voice to steady. “This isn’t real.”

Trevelyan shook his head with a lacklustre smile. “Your mind was flooded with so much happiness. I… I couldn’t keep up.”

“Who are you?”

“I am Joy.” The spirit replied. “I was drawn here by your sorrow, and I wanted to help.”

Dorian barked a laugh, but it was an ugly, bitter sound. “And you think this is helping? Come into my dream wearing his face? Making me think that he’d— he’d—”

A quivered breath stole the rest of his words, and he quickly pressed a hand to his mouth to silence the oncoming sobs. A vain attempt.

“I only wished to make you smile again.”

Trevelyan’s blank, lifeless stare washed into his mind, and Dorian sucked in a desperate gulp of air. “If you truly want to help, bring him back,” he whimpered behind closed eyes. “Bring him back to me.”

“I’m sorry, but I can’t do that,” said the spirit, its voice fading, and the shape of Trevelyan slowly dissipating into a formless red phantom.

Why?”

“His anchor burns an unholy fire. Any spirit that touches him would be obliterated, every fragment of its being lost to the Void forever. I’m sorry.”

A bright flash. His room melted away, and he was left standing alone. Alone in nothingness.

 

Dorian woke to the feel of callused hands kneading his buttocks, eager fingers dipping into the delicate cleft, exploring.

“You ready for round two, beautiful?” A smoky voice said, words slurred by lust and drink. “I want that sweet arse one more time before I let you go.”

Reality came crashing back, juddering a gasp out of him. Tears hung on his lashes even as he blinked furiously.

This wasn’t in his room. It’d been two weeks. Drunken chevalier from the tavern, he reminded himself.

The man with the devilish grin and curly dark hair and a perfectly sized dick placed moist kisses on his shoulder, drawing closer. Still wet and slick with oil and cum, Dorian hissed when long fingers slid into him with ease.

The chevalier made a noise of appreciation, pushing in deeper. “Fuck. I can see why the Inquisitor was so bewitched by you. You are exquisite.”

Dorian let out a sound that was both a moan and a sob, rutting back against the hand, back arched, chasing more friction.

It’s easy to slip back into old habits, faded grooves worn into his mind and body. A storm was all it took for the rivers to run again. Skin against skin, breath against breath – he only had to close his eyes and let himself fall.

“Give me your pretty mouth,” he heard the chevalier growl against his neck, fingers slipping out of him.

How beautiful it was to have loved from the marrow of his heart, and knew with every pith of his being that his love was returned and treasured.

A sputter of laughs broke free, the throb of sweet, sweet oblivion danced in his veins. Hello, old friend. Suddenly the gaping maw of despair didn’t seem so frightening anymore.

The large hand in his hair tugged roughly as Dorian kissed a trail down the length of the broad, pale torso.

He closed his eyes and opened his mouth.

Chapter Text

Dorian took deep breath to blow on the bottle and immediately regretted it.

A puff of fine dust flew into his face, sending him into a coughing fit that he smothered into the crook of his elbow. The fine motes filled his lungs like little claws, his eyes watering from the hacking and wheezing.

He turned the bottle in his hand when he’d regained his breath, and swiped a thumb over the scuffed label.

West Hill brandy. Notes of blackcurrant with a honeysuckle finish.

This grimy old thing – only half-full, with bits of old wax still clinging to the cork – but it’d do well enough for now.

They’d picked it up from a half-crumbled tower in the Western Approach months ago.

It’d taken Trevelyan forever to climb the fallen boulders.

He’d shed his armour and greatsword to lighten the load before jumping his way up, fingers finding purchase in the slender cracks between the rocks.

If only the good people of Thedas could see their Herald, bopping like a drunken flea until he’d finally reached the flat landing.

The rest of the party grumbled about the heat as they waited. Standing under the blazing sun of the Approach while their fearless leader decided to take a look around because he’d ‘heard a ding’ was surely not the reason they’d signed up with the Inquisition.

Trevelyan’s smile was wide when he came back down from the tower, his knapsack heavy with a dusty bottle, an unstrung lute and a fat wheel of cheese.

“You found cheese?” Dorian sniffed with a wrinkle of his nose, face falling into a frown as he was passed the loot. “How long has it been sitting there?”

Trevelyan shrugged, wiping sweat off his forehead with a sleeve. “Maker knows. I thought I’d cut it up at camp to see if it’s still edible. The corpses up there certainly have no more use for it.”

Sera made a gagging noise and threw her hands up to cover her mouth. “That’s disgusting!”

Even Blackwall looked slightly green under his bushy beard.

“You can’t possibly be serious.” Dorian quirked an eyebrow at Trevelyan. “It’s been left festering under the hot sun, next to dead people, for years most probably.”

He turned over the cheese in his hand. It was smooth and undamaged, the beeswax coating bare of any labels. No stamps or markings from which to discern just how old it was or where it was made.

“Hard cheeses are durable and don’t spoil easily. And it’s uncut so it could technically last years on end. Should still be perfectly safe to consume,” Trevelyan huffed as he pulled his armour back on, fastening the clasps on his curiass with practiced ease. “I’m from Ostwick, treasure. We know our cheeses.”

Dorian’s grimace did not improve even as Trevelyan gave him a quick peck on the cheek, smiling against his skin for a second before taking the wheel from him.

“Have it your way, but don’t expect me to eat it,” Dorian scoffed and gave the filthy bottle in his grasp a little swing. “I’d rather die drinking this mysterious brew than poison myself with rotten dairy products.”

Trevelyan’s laugh was free and hearty. “More for me, then.”

And indeed he was the only one who dared to eat the cheese at supper, cutting a small wedge into smaller cubes to go with his spiced meatball stew while everyone looked on with equal parts intrigue and horror.

Dorian went to bed fully expecting to be woken up in the middle of the night by Trevelyan’s imminent affliction – he’d even brought a pail into the tent and set it near their bedrolls. Just in case.

Yet lo and behold, the Inquisitor slept without complaint and woke up the next morning rested and hungry. The long line of his body pressed against Dorian’s in comfortable torpor, with nary a sign of food poisoning.

Dorian had neither the fortitude nor the iron stomach needed to tempt fate. Trevelyan eventually ate the whole wheel on his own on the journey back to Skyhold.

 

The bottle grew heavy in his hand and Dorian blinked the memory away, his eyes remained thankfully dry.

Perhaps finally, he had no tears left to shed.

 

The door to Josephine’s study was ajar, and he could hear the advisors’ voices, along with Cassandra’s, embroiled in a deep conversation about their next mission. It would be Trevelyan’s first since —

Dorian pinched his eyes closed for a moment and let out small exhale.

Standing at the top of the stairs, he cocked his head to hear better. Oh yes, eavesdropping. Utterly despicable. But they weren’t in the war room so it was, strictly speaking, not really a transgression on his part.

“The tunnels must be sealed immediately,” he heard Cullen say. “We have waited long enough. We must move now before the region becomes swarmed with darkspawn.”      

“My scouts have pinpointed the exact locations of the tunnels,” Leliana said in her most assuring voice. “It’s as straightforward a task as any to put the Inquisitor to the test.”

Cassandra’s soft sigh was a mixture of apprehension and resignation.

“We have been training for weeks, sparring and practicing to ensure the Inquisitor remains a proficient warrior in battle. But…” Cassandra trailed off, her tone softening. “Are you certain you are ready for this?”

“Yes,” Trevelyan answered in his monotonous, metallic voice. “I am.”

A small, unnerving silence settled in the room. So profound it was that Dorian could almost hear the din of their inward dolour, until Josephine broke it with a polite cough.

“According to the scout report, we shall be requiring at least one mage in the party. May I suggest –”

“Anyone but Dorian,” Trevelyan interrupted, stony and austere.

An uncertain pause fell upon them.

“Inquisitor?”

“I do not wish to have Dorian in the party,” Trevelyan repeated with a precise economy of words.

It would have hurt less if he’d punched him in the face.

Thoughts scrambled like mice in a maze, gnawing their way into the tightness of his throat. Dorian did not realise the council was over until the door was pulled open, and the Inquisitor walked out into the narrow corridor.

Skyhold was a large enough place to avoid one another on most days. Not today, it seemed.

Flat, phlegmatic eyes swept over him, halting slightly at the bottle cradled at his elbow before returning to meet Dorian’s gaze.

A snappy remark boiling on his tongue, but Dorian steeled himself.

“Your Worship.”

“Dorian.” His name never sounded more glacial than the way it fell out of Trevelyan’s mouth.

His insides tightened, chest knotting with a sudden wash of resentment. The small space felt all at once a furnace; his skin crawled hot like a carpet of bees.

Golden sparrows trapped in a cage…they flutter about when you’re near…

Trevelyan’s little birds were quiet now. Dead and squashed like the canaries in the soporati deathtrap.

Without another word, Dorian pushed passed the Inquisitor – propriety be damned – and hurriedly rushed out the door and into the great hall.

 

* * *

 

He gripped the rough edge of the table, steadying himself as the burly scout slammed into him with desperate urgency, every thrust sending the harsh wood chafing against his palms.

Broad fingers dug almost painfully into the hollow of his hips, leaving fresh bruises over fading ones. They pulled him back onto the impaling cock over and over, frenzied and erratic.

A sweaty hand that smelled of hops and grease slid up to the back of his neck, weighing him down until his cheek was pressed to the table. Dorian let out a long breath and his eyes misted over, drifting half-closed.

The swirling wood grain near his nose grew blurry, and he traced a finger along the mahogany eye of storm. Trapped and flattened onto the smooth surface of the table, it looked as spiteful and destructive as he felt.

The moist slap of flesh against flesh, timber legs creaking dangerously under him, the laboured breathing of a man close to completion, his own moans silenced into raspy pants – his world was a cacophony of degeneracy, his body was nothing but a host to pleasure and sensation.

He felt the scout shift behind him, pulling out in a slow, teasing drag before plunging back in with one hard thrust, rocking him up on his toes and sending his arms splaying helplessly across the table.

The white flash of ecstasy dulled the corners of his mind. His blood was on fire, heart pounding furiously in his chest. His smirk widened as he ground back into the delicious torment, feeling rather than hearing the guttural grunts of the scout chasing his release.

A strangled whimper tore free from his throat as the tension coiled to the point of near ache, his body wound tight as a drawn bow.

Almost there, just a few more strokes now and –

Iron Bull’s stentorian voice reverberated loudly as the door to the backroom swung abruptly open.

“This is a tavern, people. Behave yourselves,” he bellowed, arms crossed firmly over his large chest, eyebrows lifted. “Fun’s over. You. Get out. Now.”

“N-Now? Ser?” The scout floundered, and Dorian groaned as the man shuffled, his dick bucking inside him. “But I’m —”

“Yes, now.” Bull bared his teeth, a white glint of quiet menace. “I’m not asking, soldier.”

The scout pulled out with a lewd squelch at once and quickly stuffed himself back into his breeches. He scurried out of the room without even a glance in Dorian’s direction.

Dorian rested his forehead on the table for a moment before facing Bull. His lips twitched in a suggestive smile as he wiggled his backside.

“Came here to chase the competition away, hmm?” he laughed. “There’s no need to be jealous. Plenty of me to go around.”

“A scout this time, huh?” Bull said, rubbing at his knuckles and leaning against the doorframe. “You’re dead set on fucking your way down the Inquisition chain of command, aren’t you?”

“How crass, Iron Bull. If memory serves, I have yet to bed a member of the inner circle.” Dorian smirked, drawing his lower lip between his teeth. “Are you offering to help me complete the set?”

“I’m not fucking you, Dorian.”

“Why not? I’m all opened up and ready for you.” He breathed out the last few words and arched his back in a long, purposeful stretch. “I know you’ve wanted this.”

“You do whatever you need to do to feel better. But sad fucking only gets you so far, you know.”

Sad fucking?” Dorian laughed, straightening up. He made no move to pull up his breeches, gloriously exposed as he sauntered towards Bull. “I was thoroughly enjoying myself until you barged in here like a rampaging bronto.” He licked his lips and placed a hand on that massive grey chest. “You know, there is a way to make amends.”

“You’re drunk, Dorian,” Bull said with a gentleness that felt like an affront to his very dignity.

“No, Bull,” He inched forward until his breath crashed on that stubbly chin. “I have found clarity.”

And with that note hanging in the air, he pushed himself away from Bull and relaced his breeches.

“I shall now go and find myself a replacement for my entertainment for the night,” he said, brushing past Bull and out of the room. “With luck, I might even find someone who has a proper bed.”

“He’s not dead, you know,” he heard Bull say quietly from behind him.

A hot bloom of outrage burgeoned in his chest, his smile fading away as he turned a corner and into the tavern hall.

Yes, he is.

 

* * *

The stairs to the Inquisitor’s private quarters were longer than he remembered. Or perhaps they just appeared that way since he’d stopped to take a hefty swig of brandy on every second step.

The waning light of the moon peeked in through the narrow windows, illuminating the odd mishmash of newly replaced treads and the charred, blackened steps. A giant clavichord that squeaked ominous music under his feet as he ascended.

The door to the inner chamber opened easily.

A small wave of hand and the fireplace sprung to life with a loud crackle, instantly bathing the room in amber light.

The prone form in bed stirred slightly, the Inquisitor letting out a quiet groan that rolled into the silence like a breeze across a meadow.

Sitting up on an elbow, Trevelyan rubbed his eyes, blinking away sleep and squinting against the dim firelight.

“Dorian?”

“So terribly sorry to wake you in the middle of the night, Your Worship,” Dorian replied, with an affected bow of the head. “How are you on this charming evening?”

“What are you doing here?”

“Well, I took it upon myself to become – shall we say – ‘better acquainted’ with some of your Inquisition soldiers," he slurred, waving to the general direction of the barracks. "I feel that it is simply my duty as a valued member of the inner circle to let you know my very personal assessment.”

He took one long pull of the brandy and it blazed a pleasant fire down his throat.

“I had the most wonderful time with two lovely young men. So polite, these Fereldans – waited their turn, one after the other. And they were marvellous – whispering filthy, filthy things in my ear; telling me how good I am, how incredible I feel…”

Trevelyan’s face was entirely blank, barren of any emotions. The need to twist the knife was too hard to resist.

“How it’s such a privilege to fuck the Herald’s former lover,” Dorian continued, sneering. “You should have seen their faces when I let them finish inside me.”

Nothing, not even a spark of acknowledgement.

“Dorian, why are you here?”

“Why am I here?” Dorian felt his mouth twist into a terrible, weeping smile. “I have been with so many men and yet —” His voice cracked harshly. “And yet every time I close my eyes, I still see you.”

Dorian’s gaze slowly raked over Trevelyan’s form: the tousled hair that stuck up in odd directions, the small tuft falling over his forehead, the flushed cheeks pink from slumber.

In the half-light of this half-lived night, Trevelyan looked just as he did before.

It was as though in this interstice – this small space between sleep and awake, in a strident collision of dreams and the waking world – he’d found his amatus trapped and suspended.

You! This is all your fault!” Dorian hurled the words at Trevelyan like fistfuls of mud. “And only you can stop the pain.”

The tangled mess of emotions storming in his heart had outstripped the limits of his body, as if he were merely a conduit for exultation and longing.

He shuddered with the heightened need to touch, and to be touched. He plucked harshly at the cords on his shoulder and they snapped like over-stretched strings.

The room was warm, the hearth roaring with a welcoming fire. But Dorian’s shivering didn’t cease; his armour clung sticky to his skin, gooseflesh rising over his flesh as he peeled off the leather articles and dropped them carelessly to the floor.

His head clouded as he made his way towards Trevelyan in a slow stride, shedding his clothes until he had not a thread on him.

“You took me apart and reassembled me with you in it,” Dorian quavered in a voice anaemic even to his own ears, crawling into bed and pushing Trevelyan down. “Now that you’ve taken back all the pieces, I don’t have enough bits to hold myself together.”

Trevelyan was sleep-soft under him, his nightshirt slightly damp from sweat. 

“I’m here to hold you to your promise, Inquisitor. You said your body would remember mine,” Dorian said lowly, tongue darting out to flick at the lobe of Trevelyan’s ear, revelling in his involuntary shudder. “Now is your chance to prove it.”

He crushed his lips to Trevelyan’s in a greedy kiss, licking into the warm, pliable mouth in a frenzied rush. Wanting and demanding and taking whatever he could, filling himself up with just enough bits to see him through another day.

“Dorian.” Trevelyan’s breath was hot against his tongue. “Please stop.”

“Why?” Dorian ground his hips once, twice, chuckling darkly when he felt the unmistakable hard ridge of Trevelyan’s arousal through the thin layer of his cotton braies. “You’re obviously enjoying this too.”

Large hands travelled up Dorian’s bare arms and stroked the soft skin of his shoulders.

Trevelyan spoke in a toneless whisper. “Will this help? Will it ease your suffering?”

Quiet placation spilled from Trevelyan’s flat eyes as he lay inert beneath him. Acquiescence expelled from his lips in the shape of soft, shallow pants.

Will this help?

The words skewered Dorian like a harrowing spear.

Raw, tormenting ache he’d entombed within his heart tore from its catacomb, and Dorian felt it split him open as it reached down past his stomach, touched his limbs.

“Make it stop,” he whimpered, crumpling forward on Trevelyan’s chest in a pitiful heap. “It hurts too much. Make it stop.

In the murky haze of liquor and smudged memories, Dorian cried every tear Trevelyan would never again shed. Even the solid weight of the Inquisitor’s arms wrapping around his shoulders, folding him gently into his embrace did little to assuage him.

“I do not know how,” he heard Trevelyan whisper, his chest rising and falling against Dorian’s with each even breath.

Still, he wept into the wet crook of Trevelyan’s neck, and it felt like hours before he finally unmoored into the deep void of the Fade.

 

The thin morning light stole through the latticed windows, waking Dorian entirely too early for his comfort. He was alone in Trevelyan’s massive bed, snuggled under the heavy covers.

The smell of Trevelyan enveloped him like a memory of damp earth loosened by spring rain. The scent clung to the sheets, without the dreadful fetor of the amulets’ magic, or fragrant perfume of sandalwood.

Dorian took another deep breath. It was the only thing left untouched by Tranquillity.

 

His head throbbed, each blink sending a tremor across his skull. A pain-filled groan slipped free, and he buried his face into the pillow, muffling the pathetic noise.

So he’d wormed his way back into this bed once again. It’s really all so depressingly familiar, foisting himself and his damage on the beguiled, pushing and pushing until something, or someone gave in.

Evidently, his depravity knew no bounds.

The familiar clot of guilt welled in his chest, and he quickly quashed it before it effloresced into the fever of shame. 

He rubbed a hand over his face and stumbled to his feet. The chill of the mountain air traced its secrets on his skin, and left behind ghosts of sword-calloused fingertips.

Behind the privacy of the changing screen in the corner, he’d found a washcloth and basin of water on a stand, and how very considerate of the Inquisitor – a clean change of clothes folded neatly next to his soiled armour on a chair.

Dorian magicked the water to tepid warmth and washed himself, paying special attention to his backside, slowly sloughing the smell of strangers from his body.

He must have reeked of sex and sweat last night. He cringed internally at the thought.

Trevelyan’s simple cotton shirt and trousers hung a little loose on him, the neckline gaping wider than it would have been otherwise. Dorian tightened the drawstrings around his waist and stepped from behind the screen when he heard two precise knocks at the chamber door, then footfalls coming up the stone steps.

Trevelyan's gait was slow and deliberate as he entered the room, his shadow-veiled eyes fixed steadily on Dorian.

“Good morning,” he said, a steaming cup in one hand and a book tucked under his arm, looking as if he’d been up for hours. “You are awake.”

Every hair perfectly in place, his usual beige doublet and breeches immaculate.

Dorian cleared his throat to speak, but stifled himself when Trevelyan walked over to him and pushed the cup into his hands.

“I brought you elfroot tea,” Trevelyan said in the distinctive, lethargic cadence of the Tranquil. “It will help with the headache.”

Dorian blinked in confusion, mouth falling slightly agape.

“You brought me tea?” The warm ceramic of the mug chased away the cold from his skin.

Trevelyan replied, matter-of-fact, “When Dorian drinks too much, bring him elfroot tea the following morning. It helps a little.

“That’s, uh, very astute of you.” Dorian’s brows knitted. “My thanks, Inquisitor.”

He took a small drink, and felt the brew breathe some relief into his hammering skull.

Time passed in turning pages and quiet sips and the over-ripe morning sun that arched through the clouds and the snowy mountains. Trevelyan read at his desk whilst Dorian nursed his tea sitting on the edge of the bed, the peaceful lull rippling between them.

When the midday bell rang, a shrill sound that cut through the serene silence, Trevelyan looked up from his book.

“You should eat. It is lunchtime.”

“I’m quite all right,” Dorian replied, his voice still a little hoarse. “The liquid diet I’ve been living on is doing wonders for my figure.”

Trevelyan’s stony expression did not change, but that was to be expected. “You have lost weight. You need proper food and sustenance. Not more alcohol.”

Dorian sighed, muttering. “Yes, mother.”

Trevelyan regarded him for a long moment before he spoke, his words tinged with a softness that was at odds with his mechanical delivery.

“There is a pain inside you, and I know I placed it there. You are hurting because of me.”

“Yes, about that,” Dorian grimaced, eyes downcast. “I am sorry about my reprehensible behaviour last night. I assure you it won’t ever happen again.”

“Stand by him,” Trevelyan began reciting. “Whatever he wants, whatever he needs from you, give it to him to the best of your ability.”

Dorian stood. His curiosity was undoubtedly piqued, now.

He crossed the room and braced his hands on the desk between them, a beautiful elm replacement of the one burned to cinder.

“All right, what are you blathering on about?" 

“Those are my instructions,” Trevelyan answered. “Concerning you, specifically.”

“From who?”

Trevelyan pulled out a tan leather satchel from the lowest drawer of the desk and plopped it on the smooth surface.

“From me.”

 

The golden clasp snapped open easily under Trevelyan’s fingers, and he pulled out a sheaf of papers.

Dorian’s forehead creased in perplexity. “Your mission reports? The ones Leliana asked you to rewrite?”

“I was not honest with you,” Trevelyan said. “I have been keeping a record of all my dreams since that first night at the Suledin Keep, after you and Solas pulled me out of the Fade. When Tranquillity became a real possibility, I began writing these directives for myself.”

Trevelyan pointed at the first line on the top sheet, the instruction written in his neat, deliberate hand.

“When in doubt, ask Cassandra,” he read aloud, and then trailed his finger down to halfway down the page.

“Observe human behaviour. Learn through trial and error.”

And another. “Logically right does not always mean morally sound.”

Dorian was only half listening, his fingers fluttered to another page sticking out from underneath.

All he saw was his name – Dorian Dorian Dorian – in every sentence, scrawled in elegant cursive.

Dorian hates the cold. Do not take him to Emprise du Lion. Or the Storm Coast. And the Western Approach. Or the Hissing Wastes. Perhaps just the warm, nice places.

Give Dorian a wide berth. He will not want to see you.

Tread carefully when Dorian does that thing when he’s angry and crinkles his nose. Stay at least two feet away and watch out for projectile books.

And the last line of directions, at the bottom of the page... Here, Trevelyan’s beautiful penmanship faltered for the first time.

Stand by him. Whatever he wants, whatever he needs from you, give it to him to the best of your ability.

 

A fresh heat stung Dorian’s eyes, his mind reaching back to places that were dangerous to go with a broken heart. His hand flew out to grasp Trevelyan’s before he could stop himself.

Amatus…”

Trevelyan watched him, steady and immovable in his gaze, but he turned his palm over and intertwined their fingers.

“The instructions have not been very helpful, I am afraid.”

“No, this list is highly inaccurate,” Dorian chuckled. It was a watery sound, but for once it didn’t feel contrived. “It most definitely needs a revision. I’ve never thrown a book at you! What a preposterous accusation.”

Trevelyan mirrored the smile, an awkward tilt of lips that’s nearly cringe-worthy in its forced attempt to appear warm and comforting. But his hand in his was.

“You’re wrong, you know,” Dorian said quietly, eyes turning soft at the sight of their linked hands. “I’d always want to see you, even if you’re my saddest happiness.”

 

 

Chapter Text

The late-afternoon sun spilled molten streaks into the Inquisitor’s quarters, warming the stone-paved floor and Dorian’s skin. A flock of dust motes, illuminated by the light, shimmered like fireflies and swirled around him like lazy dancers.

“Perhaps with just a little less of the teeth,” he said, wincing slightly even as Trevelyan readily complied with the request. “Now, relax your cheeks…that’s it. No, no, the lips are good. Keep them there like that…”

With his mouth preoccupied, Trevelyan’s speech was somewhat marred. “Is this all right?”

Dorian drew a deep breath and rubbed his brows. “That is, well, ‘ghastly’ is the first word that comes to mind. Followed closely by ‘hideous’ and ‘grotesque’.”

They stood, side by side as they took in the reflection of the tight, wobbly smile that went five different directions. Dorian was surprised the mirror hadn’t cracked yet from the horror.

A grand gift from Empress Celene, the massive floor-length mirror was sculpted from solid wood and lined with gilded motifs of decorative palmettes and leaf foliates – so large it apparently had to be cast from two separate crucibles. It’s as much an exquisite work of art as it was a boast of Orlais’ opulence and grandeur.

Tonight, it served as a training tool in a lesson on one of the most basic of human expressions. A rather transparent excuse to spend some time with Trevelyan before he left for the Approach in the morning, if Dorian were to be completely honest with himself.

“I am doing everything you asked,” Trevelyan said stiffly, pushing the corners of his mouth up into a crooked crescent with both index fingers. “This is more challenging than I anticipated.”

Dorian chuckled softly to himself when their eyes met in the reflection.

“Fortunately for us, you weren’t exactly known for your sprightly disposition to begin with,” he said, crossing his arms. “It shouldn’t be too out of the ordinary for you to not smile at all.”

“That is untrue. I smiled often with you.”

Trevelyan’s tone was as vacant as his eyes, but the undercurrent of staunchness lilted through his voice.

For a moment, his words resurrected memories of slow smiles and rumbling laughter. They made Dorian’s heart sore with a confused and ill-defined ache.

Like a skinned knee, without blood but it hurt all the same.

“Yes,” Dorian admitted after a hesitation. He swallowed the word amatus and it tasted mostly like longing. “I suppose you did.”

 

Trevelyan had supper sent up to his chambers, rightly presuming that Dorian would not otherwise have concerned himself with a proper meal.

A young chambermaid with a sweet smile brought in a serving tray laden with food – venison sausages with cameline sauce and a side of buttered wortes, served with mugs of brown ale.

They shared their repast in absorbed silence at the desk, the only sounds the clinking of silverware against their plates.

Trevelyan ate with a perfunctory machination, cutting the sausages with the exactitude of a man who wielded sharp weaponry all his life, and chewed in neat, efficient bites.

“Is the meal to your liking?”

“Hmm? Oh yes, it’s very good,” Dorian said after swallowing a sip of ale that escorted the meat. “Better than the usual fare they serve in the great hall at any rate. I didn’t even know you could find cameline sauce outside of Orlais.”

He heaved a theatrical sigh, and said, voice as light and airy as a songbird, “Shame you can’t enjoy the pure decadence of a perfectly made condiment. All of this is probably wasted on you.”

“It was a gift from Comtesse Elodie,” Trevelyan said, toneless. “Food is simply sustenance. But this is more satisfying than watery gruel.”

“Even the Tranquil can’t stand that disgusting sop! I feel strangely vindicated now,” Dorian quipped, running a finger over the rim of his mug. “And they say I’m spoiled.”

He laughed to himself at his own little joke even if Trevelyan didn’t reciprocate.

With a soft exhale, Dorian’s shoulders sagged and he turned to stare into the hearth. The fire crackled warmly. Full of life.

“There was a time when I’d wished I was born a dreamer,” he began, hushed murmur rustling around the words. “The first Archons of the Imperium were dreamers. These ancient magisters entered the Fade at will, shaping and bending it to suit their needs. It’s fascinating, to be able to draw and wield all that energy. Not to mention the lure of immeasurable power…”

He smiled, rueful and fleeting. “Now, I only wish you weren’t one.”

Trevelyan finished his meal and wiped his mouth with a thick napkin. “A dying Venatori told me once that it was a gift from the Old Gods, and I should be grateful to be bestowed this great power.”

Dorian froze, his eyes snapped wide open. “What? When?”

“Three years after Nehra and her clan were murdered, I tracked down the group of Venatori responsible to a small village near Markham,” Trevelyan recalled. “One of them confessed their plans they had for me. They wanted to perform experiments to find the hereditary material that carries the dreamer abilities. To replicate the gift.”

A sliver of cold slid down Dorian’s spine. “Experiments? What sort of experiments?”

“I did not find out. I hurt them and then I killed them.”

Dorian paused to collect himself, drawing one deep breath after another, but the anger did not subside.

“Just when I thought the Imperium couldn’t sink any lower, they manage to surprise me once again,” he spat, his chest dense with contained fury. “Why did you not tell me this before?”

The Inquisitor’s impassive countenance never changed. His eyes, dull like fogged glass, watched Dorian for a long second before he spoke.

“I did not want to, but I cannot remember why.”

They sat in silence, until the moon climbed the highest peaks of the Frostback Mountains, and the fire died down to glowing blooms of hissing coals.

 

* * *

Dorian rose from the overstuffed armchair and stretched, popping his spine back into place and clearing the cobwebs that had settled in his joints.

Since the Inquisitor’s departure – a very sedate and subdued affair that he wilfully missed – Dorian spent his time poring over the Liberalum tome that Josephine managed to pry out of the Grand Archivist’s greedy, decrepit hands, all in the hopes of finding even a passing mention of Corypheus’ true name.

Research was what Dorian excelled at. He thrived on the challenge of exploration and the thrill of discovery.

For a brief instant, the smell of musty vellum and old ink opened a tiny crack in time. A simpler time when failure meant making adjustments to the tests, and not a horrifying defeat that would cost thousands of lives. When a misstep would only leave him with indignant irritation, and not a wrecked heart.

A quiet sigh of the night stole through the windows and rustled the pages of open books, and Dorian became lost within the flickering, golden shadows of the dwindling candles.

 

The door opened with a soft groan and the warm air of the great hall greeted him. At this late hour, it was nearly empty save for one other sleepless soul, hunched over a ream of parchment on the table, long quill flying across the papyrus with accustomed finesse.

At the sound of his approaching footsteps, Varric looked up and sent him a lopsided grin.

“Hey Sparkler, good to see you out and about.” He finished writing down something swiftly before setting the pen down, and gave a quick wink. “You wanna keep me company for a bit? I have cider.”

Before Dorian said anything, Varric had already poured a fresh drink from a pewter baluster jug.

“It’s an old family recipe. Figured we had these crates of pears His Inquisitorialness probably won’t be eating any time soon, might as well make them useful.” He slid the stein to the seat across from him. “Here, try it.”

Dorian sank into the chair and peered into the stein. “You brewed this yourself? I won’t taste dwarf feet in this, will I?” 

Varric laughed. “I know that you know that’s not how cider is made.”

Dorian gave him a withering look and raised the tankard to his lips. The tart sweetness of pears danced across his tongue, and the earthy finish lingered long after the sip.

It was an excellent cider, and he told Varric as much.

He took a deeper draught, and the foamy liquid lodged memories of sticky, nectarous kisses within the scaffolding of his mind. Of warmth and wonder.

“Another instalment to your romance series?” Dorian asked after a while and nodded at the manuscript, feeling the need to fill the silence. “I believe that last one I’d borrowed from Cassandra turned my brain to mush. I’m not so certain I can stomach another one so soon.”

“Nah, it’s something new I’m working on,” Varric drawled, picking up the quill again. “More drama, less comedy.” A sly wriggle of his brows. “But still with boatloads of sex.”

Dorian returned the smile but it didn’t feel like one – the pulleys in his cheeks had gone rusty from disuse. Perhaps he, too, could use some lessons.

 

“I once caught the Inquisitor sneaking food out of the kitchen. He came through that door,” Varric pointed the feathery end of the pen toward the entryway across the hall, “In the middle of the night, holding the biggest bowl of milk snowe I’d ever seen, easily enough for ten people. He sat right where you’re sitting now and ate the entire thing in one sitting. Said his eldest brother used to steal his share as a kid and now he’s making up for lost time. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a grown man so excited about dessert before.”

Dorian’s lips stretched into a smile despite himself, and felt something tug at his heart at the image of Trevelyan, shovelling white fluff into his mouth with the zeal of a child.

“We talked a little about you too.”

Dorian’s eyebrows perked. “Me?”

“He didn’t say much, but his face lit up just at the sound of your name, like his eyeballs had been dipped in glitter.”

Varric let out a gruff chuckle. His too-clever eyes raked over Dorian’s carefully schooled features a mite too long for comfort. But when he spoke again, his voice was warm, earnest.

“You gave him a part of his life back. Sure, it didn’t last. But he was happy for a while and you did that,” Varric said as he refilled both their steins. “You bagged yourself a rare breed, the driver of a story, a protagonist! And a good story – well, that’s about hurting good characters and seeing how they react. I’ve seen it. And wrote it. A thousand times. Expect some dramatic bumps in the road.”

Dorian leaned back in the chair, and the hall’s vaulted ceiling came into view. It looked like the ribcage of a giant beast.

“You can’t seriously think there’ll be a happy ending to this particularly shitty tale, do you?” he asked, a mirthless laugh weaving through the sentence.

“All I’m saying is don’t give up just yet,” Varric said, his words clothed in softness. “This right here is a comma, Sparkler, not the end of the sentence.”

 

* * *

 

Time worked differently in real life than it did as theories on paper.

Sometimes it moved quickly, slipping away like fine grains of sand in an hourglass, and Dorian would later struggle to remember the space between the first sip of wine and the last grape-flavoured kiss of the night. Between throwing bits of bread at each other and tickling the right spots to hear a giggle. Between entwined fingers and legs tangled in twisted sheets and addictive breathlessness.

Occasionally, the moments stretched long as though time had slowed, demanding to be acknowledged in its every miniscule increment like a spoiled child.

As it did now.

The gold chain clinked softly every time he took a breath, and he could not resist running a thumb across the cool surface.

“It’s the Pavus birthright,” he said after a while. “How did you-? But-… Why?”

After four weeks on the road, Trevelyan had come straight to the library after the council debrief.

His heavy armour clanked with every footfall as he climbed the stairs, the once-gleaming metal streaked with dirt and dried blood.

Without much ceremony, he’d pressed the birthright into Dorian’s hands. Not unlike a cat bringing gifts of dead things to its owner, Trevelyan stood stark as a statue, waiting for Dorian's reaction.

“A note from Leliana led us to a merchant in Val Royeaux,” Trevelyan recounted. “And I was told the amulet belongs to you.”

“Of course she did. Meddler,” Dorian muttered under his breath before adding with a defiant tone, “I got myself into this. I sold it because I was desperate. I wanted to get it back on my own.”

“The amulet is rightfully yours and I had the means to retrieve it. So I did.” Trevelyan held his gaze, dark eyes hued with apathetic shadows. “Have I upset you?”

He knew Trevelyan wouldn’t understand, there with his surfeit of determination and dearth of passions. But the words came anyway.

“When I left home I wanted nothing so much as to divest myself of anything belonging to my family. But when I spoke to my father, he noticed it was gone. He asked about it.”

Dorian looked down at the amulet in his palm, revelling in the sensation of the metal warming in it.

“It was childish to sell it. I love my country and this… It’s a symbol. It means I’m part of it.” He cleared his throat, stood straighter. “I am apparently an incredible ass at accepting gifts. I apologise and thank you.”  

“You are welcome,” Trevelyan said with a slow, deliberate nod. “Is there anything else you need recovering?”

“No, I’d only ever lost that one precious family heirloom.” After a ruminative pause, he continued, “There’s no need to follow those instructions to the letter, you know. It’s very kind and thoughtful, yes, but you can stop now.”

“I do not understand.”

“You don’t have to give me whatever I want, or whatever you think I want,” Dorian said with a dismissive wave of his hand. “We’re not anything to each other. Not anymore. And I don’t think I should warrant such special attention from the Inquisitor. I don’t want to be in your debt.”

Trevelyan was quiet for a moment, and Dorian could almost see the gears turning in his head, trying to process what he’d said even if the machine was missing several vital cogs.

Dorian sighed. “I am aware you aren’t fully capable of –”

“If you wish for me to desist, I will,” Trevelyan interrupted, his voice clear and precise, leaving no room for doubt. “But there is no debt to speak of. Tranquillity has not changed my belief that you are my fated. Whatever it is that you choose to do, you will always have my unwavering loyalty.”

His eyes rested on the small, inconspicuous fleck of black on Dorian’s cheek. “However much or little I have to offer, all of me is yours to keep.”

Dorian couldn’t quell the gentle hum vibrating along his skin when Trevelyan gave him the smallest hint of a smile, a faint curve of lips that looked nearly genuine.

“Someone’s been practicing, I see,” he breathed, voice heavy with emotion.

Trevelyan blinked affirmative. “Vivienne is a strict teacher.”

It wasn’t a real smile, Dorian knew, but it was real enough.

 

* * *

It wasn’t until Dorian spotted Cole hovering by the kitchen door on his way to the underground library that he’d realised he hadn’t seen the former spirit in quite some time.

A wicker basket clutched tightly in his hands, Cole peeked into the cookhouse every now and again, his ever-so-slight overbite brought on images of a rabbit twitching its nose in anticipation.

“What are you doing lurking about here?” Dorian asked, ambling up beside him.

“I am not lurking,” Cole replied, equal parts miffed and exasperated. “I am waiting for Annabelle to give me the berry tarts leftover from supper. She said I could have them if no one else wants them.”

Dorian leaned a shoulder against the wall and crossed his arms over his chest.

“Where have you been hiding lately? I haven’t seen you meandering about in a while.”

“But I haven’t been hiding,” Cole replied in a chiding manner. “It’s you who’s been hiding in strange men’s beds.”

Dorian made a noise of disgruntlement. “Right, not an unfair point.”

“The Iron Bull made me promise to leave you alone, said I can’t help with your hurt.” Cole tilted his head, curious eyes boring into his. “It’s still there, but it hurts different. Quieter, like smouldering embers that flare up at the smallest breath.”

Dorian was secretly thankful when a curvaceous woman with curly brown hair swept up in a bun came mincing out with a tray of sugared treats.

“Here you go,” she chirped, “Try not to eat them all in one go, lad.”

“They are not for me, Annabelle,” Cole laughed as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. “They are for my friend.”

Cole carefully plucked the palm-sized tarts out of the tray and wrapped each one in linen before placing them in the cloth-lined basket. When he got down to the last one, he handed it to Dorian.

“The Inquisitor wants you to eat more properly,” he said.

Dorian waited until Annabelle turned back into the kitchen before asking, “You can still read him? Even now?”

Blond brows furrowed. “No, he told me. With words.”

“Ah, of course.”

A curious look crept across Cole’s face, answering a question Dorian never asked.

“The Inquisitor’s little sparrows aren’t dead, Dorian,” he said. “They are hibernating until spring comes again.”

Dorian stared at the unnaturally shiny glaze of the tart in his hand, promising sweetness and comfort. Only a temporary balm for the soul, like Cole’s words.

“Birds don’t hibernate, my dear Cole. And spring is already here for the rest of Thedas, just not in this frozen shithole. Any day now, we’ll begin the march to Arbor Wilds.”

Cole fiddled with a corner of the cloth hanging out of the basket, brimming with exuberance. “The Inquisitor said I could come along to visit my friend. He’s in Val Firmin now. These are for him.”

With a dramatic sigh, Dorian held out his hand. “Those tarts won’t make it past the Dales like that. It’ll be weeks before we make it to Val Firmin. Why don’t I freeze them and you can stick them in the snow somewhere until we leave. I’ll top up the ice as we travel.”

“Thank you!” Cole beamed, his teeth large and his dimples deep. “I haven’t seen him in so long and I want to show him I am real now. I just hope Rhys remembers me.”

 

Chapter Text

The Red Templar charged toward her. His uplifted blade gleamed in fell light, keen and thirsty for blood.

Cassandra caught a glimpse of his face under the heavy helm, so deformed by the crimson crystals protruding from beneath the skin that the only recognisable features were his eyes.

She let loose a thunderous war cry and felt her chest swell with rising courage.

Squaring her shoulders, she took three loping steps towards the Red Templar guard. She feigned a high jab but spun away at the last second, swinging her sword upwards from the soldier’s lower right and took his corrupted arm clean off.

“Archers!” she heard a voice call, and she swiftly raised her shield just in time to meet the thick spray of arrows whistling through the air like a scourge of locusts.

The deafening thuds of them ricocheting off the hard metal made her ears ring, and her arm trembled under the force of the assault.

The hail of arrows ceased abruptly, and Cassandra peeked from under the buckler to see the Inquisitor up on the stone palisade, knocking down one marksman with the massive pommel of his greatsword before bringing the blade through another’s head.

The Inquisitor lifted the heavy blade, both hands tight around the hilt and shifted his weight to his back foot, pivoting his body to bring maximum speed to the swing. The Red Templar guard who advanced from behind him raised his shield in defence, but it was no match for Trevelyan’s whirlwind of steel.

The first two strikes clashed against the shield with resounding clangour, and the Templar guard staggered backwards with each blow. The third hit tore the shield away from the Templar’s grasp, and the fourth cleaved through the pauldroned arm, the lyrium-crusted chest, until the sword emerged on the other side with a burst of blood and red crystals.

It was a meticulously prescribed performance.

Utterly unhindered by emotions, Trevelyan cut down their foes with detached precision and deadly accuracy. He cleaved the wind with his speed, calculated every movement, every sweep of blade to unleash maximum damage and killed without doubt or remorse.

He never taunted, never bellowed a war cry. The dull void of his eyes remained blank even as blood splashed across his face when he decapitated another Templar.

The perfect war machine that was once her friend.

 

Out of the corner of her eye, Cassandra caught a glimmer of silver. She hopped back, avoiding two slashes from the Templar guard and spun quickly to the side.

A whirl of magic rushed from behind her and right before her eyes, the Templar’s bumpy, scabrous face rapidly turned a sick shade of purple before he let out a terrifying shriek of horror.

The Templar waved his weapon aimlessly through the air, wild and frenzied, and Cassandra dodged all his attacks easily.

A Seeker in training since she was six, Cassandra was quick on her feet and quicker with her sword.

She thrust her broadsword straight through the petrified Templar’s left shoulder and the guard threw his head back, wailing in agony. With a snarl, she swiftly withdrew the blade and plunged it into the exposed flesh of his throat, driving it deep until she felt bone split.

The Templar let out a sickening gurgle as she kicked the body off her sword.

“Dead!” she roared, glancing around for Dorian.

Only a mere spear’s cast away from the Inquisitor, the Tevinter twirled his staff with grace and flourish.

Time slowed to a near stand still as the air rippled before him like a stone breaking the surface of a placid pond. The white petals of the Ardent Blossom that adorned his head fluttered like gilded butterflies with his every motion.

Flash fire shot from his hands, hitting the Red Templar Horror stampeding towards the Inquisitor, halting the monster in its track.

He slammed the staff into the ground and a fissure of dark energy erupted from beneath the Horror. Serpentine limbs spurt from the glyph, coiling around the monster’s legs like writhing roots, holding it in place.

A pair of daggers appeared out of nowhere.

Cassandra had to squint to make out the shape of Cole, half-transparent, ghostly. He darted low, evading the swipes of the Horror’s claws. The rogue slashed at the monster’s flank with the speed of an assassin, and ribbons of shredded flesh came falling away in a flurry of blades.

Distracted by Cole’s attacks, the Horror realised too late that the Inquisitor was behind him, the hefty greatsword mid-swing in a sweeping arc that aimed for the spot where skull and spine met.

Cold steel connected with bone and made a crunching sound. The Horror screeched and thrashed as it fell to its knees. The Inquisitor took the opening and scythed his greatsword’s bloodied blade across the demonic Templar’s neck, and its head rolled free of its body.

 

The clashes of metal waned, shouts of battle ceased. The scintillating sun grazed the verdant slopes of the Arbor Wilds hills, unconcerned with the gory carnage that lay strewn about.

“Well, well, doesn’t the Inquisitor fight just like a real boy,” came a velvety voice from behind her. “Twasn’t an easy task, no doubt, training a Tranquil to fight without his baser, killer instincts.”

Cassandra looked up to cast the dark witch a sharp look, her hands stilling from their task of wiping blood off the sword on a dead Templar’s cloak.

Morrigan’s lips curled in a sardonic smile. “You do not truly think I would not notice, do you now? I may not have been privy to your secret meetings, but ‘tis obvious to any mage who knew him before.”

She turned her gaze to the Inquisitor, who stood some distance away and shaking his head in answer to Dorian’s animated questioning, the words inaudible from where they were.

Her amber eyes gleamed with a strange light. “Mages no longer held captive in glorified prisons or hunted like mad dogs, yet the fate of all of Thedas rests on the shoulders of a Tranquil apostate. The Chantry must be very proud.”

“The truth is rarely that simple. There is much that you don’t know about the Inquisitor,” said Cassandra, sheathing her sword with a muted clink. “The foundation of our success rests on the faith in its leadership. Inquisitor Trevelyan knows this and has sacrificed much to ensure the Inquisition’s survival.”

She allowed a hint of warning in her voice. “You must tell no one, or everything we have fought so hard to build will be for naught.”

It was a long moment before Morrigan spoke, her voice a little quieter. “You have my word, Seeker.”

 

The Red Templar forward camp offered a brief reprieve once they eliminated their enemies. Inquisition soldiers busied themselves moving supplies, repairing damaged armours and weapons. Scouts began setting up the mission table, rolling out the region’s map. Carrier ravens flapped their wings within their bamboo cages, squawking, as if impatient to take flight.

Cassandra removed her helmet with both hands and shook her head to loosen the sweat-soaked hair.

The tepid breeze lazily brushed her face but it did little to alleviate the midday heat, with moisture rolling along her spine freely under her heavy armour.

She straightened her shoulders and rubbed at the back of her neck, feeling the tension knotting there.

The noise of scuffling feet accompanied Dorian’s silvery voice, and Cassandra half-turned to see him approaching with the Inquisitor falling in step by his side.

“Evidently, you’re unable to guard yourself adequately in your condition. I am exhausted from casting barriers quick enough with you insisting on barraging through the enemies.” Dorian heaved a long breath. “We must coordinate our actions closely with each other or I’d be wrung dry before we even make it to Mythal’s temple.”

The Inquisitor nodded slowly, a deliberate motion. “Thank you for keeping watch over me.”

Dorian gave him a tired smile, eyes softening with undisguised affection so vulnerable that Cassandra felt like an intruder to an intimate moment.

Every word of those awful, wonderful novels that she’d ever read distilled into this fleeting, fragile look of fondness. Cassandra found it nearly impossible to turn away, even if it pinched at her heart.

From its humble birth in a threadbare Chantry in Haven, on that bitter cold night when they signed the charter declaring their formation, the Inquisition had since grown to become a force to be reckoned with. 

They had taken on Corypheus’ demon armies, the Venatori, the corrupted Templars and emerged victorious at every turn. The Maker had been as gracious as he was cruel, leading them to their greatest triumphs and yet, by the same providence robbed Trevelyan of the simplest, most precious of life’s gifts.

Just how much did love weigh on the scale of war, Cassandra wondered, that the Maker saw it as a fair exchange.

As if suddenly remembering her presence, Dorian canted his head to her, his mouth twisted in an exaggerated grimace.

“My dearest Cassandra, please tell me we have more lyrium potions,” he all but whined, plucking the wreath helmet off his head to fix his hair. “I can’t even muster enough energy to block a lone mustard seed, much less a Red Templar.”

An impressive attempt at levity, one that Cassandra smiled at. She reached into her belt pouch to pull out a vial of shimmery blue liquid. 

“The Ardent Blossom looks good on you, Dorian,” she commented idly as he took the potion in one hurried gulp. 

“You should know by now that everything looks good on me,” Dorian replied, voice slightly hoarse from the burn of the lyrium. “Even this absurd flower crown.”

“It’s an enchanted flower crown. And the Inquisitor took great lengths to obtain it for you.” Cassandra turned to Trevelyan and gestured largely with her arms. “Tell him!”

The Inquisitor answered immediately, with almost comical solemnity. “I jumped on a tiny man’s house repeatedly until he relented and asked for flowers. I found the helmet in a chest hidden behind a wall of magical snow.”

Cassandra made an irked noise in the back of her throat. “Now you’ve gone and made it sound sillier than it really was.”

Dorian blinked at them for a long heartbeat before breaking into an incredulous chuckle. It was a merry sound that she hadn’t heard in a very long time.

“Your idea, I presume, Cassandra? Not the best way to spend valuable Inquisition resources, wouldn’t you say?”

Cassandra sighed, her words losing the harsh edge they usually carried. “He would have gotten it for you. I merely…helped.”

The corners of Dorian’s mouth lifted faintly, his gaze drifting from her to the Inquisitor and back to her again. “Well then, I shall thank you both for this wonderful gift.”

With a pleased smile on her lips, she took the wreath from him and beckoned him to lower his head. Dorian bowed with playful formality as she nestled the crown gently in his dark hair.

Now you’re as handsome as you think you are,” she declared with a satisfied smirk.

Dorian grinned. “Egad! At last, she sees the light.”

 

There was no time for a proper meal so they sat under the shade of an overgrown oak and ate dry rations of meat and hard bread - their last repose before they broke through to the Temple of Mythal.

Cassandra chewed on a strip of salt ram whilst half-listening to Dorian’s haughty complaint to the Inquisitor about the stale rye bread he was given.

“They say black bread keeps well but I’m fairly certain it’s only because we can’t see the mould,” he said with a slight shudder of distaste. 

The afternoon sun found its way through the web of branches and leaves, casting ever-shifting patterns on their faces. A moment of peace before the storm.

After they’d finished, they headed back to the camp to find Cole chatting with man clothed in an Enchanter robe.

“This is Rhys, my friend from the Spire,” Cole announced once they came next to them. “I did terrible things there. But Rhys helped me even though I wasn’t real then.”

Rhys, who looked to be in his late thirties, had a dark beard and silvering black hair. Cassandra had read Leliana’s mission report and knew him to be one of their agents.

“I am Cassandra Pentaghast, Seeker of the Chantry. This is Inquisitor Luther Trevelyan of Ostwick. And Dorian Pavus of the Minrathous Circle.”

The mage bowed his head. “Well met, my Lady, my Lords. I cannot thank you enough for saving Evangeline and I. If it weren’t for your spymaster, we would still be in the grasp of the Red Templars. We are eternally in the Inquisition’s debt.”

Trevelyan inclined his head and said in an affected, carefully modulated voice, “The honour is ours, Enchanter Rhys. Your presence has greatly bolstered the troops’ spirit. The Inquisition and I thank you for your service.”

A crease formed between Rhys’ brows, but his smile stayed in place. “It’s a real privilege to fight alongside the Inquisition troops against Corypheus’ forces. You have good men and women under your command, Your Worship.”

“Indeed, I am most grateful.”

Rhys’ eyes on the Inquisitor grew watchful, his words measured with caution.

“Forgive me for prying, Seeker Pentaghast, but how long has the Inquisitor been a Tranquil?”

Cassandra’s eyes narrowed at the question before she turned to glare at Cole.

“How could you —”

“I didn’t tell him!” Cole protested. “I swear!” 

“It's true,” Rhys said quickly. “I’m a spirit medium born and raised in a Circle. I’ve seen more Tranquil than most people have mages in their lifetime. Cole did not betray your trust.”

Cole’s muttering grew loud, his voice dipping low as his speech became faster with increasing intensity.

“It touched a man and made him real once more. Twines, tendons, ties reattached. The dam broke, spilling dreams and voices like dancing ink in water. He was him again.”

He peered up at Rhys from under the slouch of his hat. “Don’t be angry with Adrian. She only wanted to help him be.”

Rhys smiled sadly. “I know, but there is always another way.”

There was a ringing in her ears and a pain in her chest until Cassandra realised she was holding her breath.

“You- You’ve successfully reversed the Rite?” 

“I know the ritual, yes, and I have met the mage who was cured.” Rhys took a step toward the Inquisitor, holding up a hand and murmured a quiet incantation under his breath. “This feels…recent and…temperate. The lack of a lyrium brand is most curious, however —”

“Enchanter!” Cassandra exclaimed in a manner more forcible than polite, then more quietly, “Please. Let us go somewhere more private to speak.”

 

* * *

 

It was warm inside the tent left empty by the Red Templars, stifling even.

But Cassandra wasn’t sure if it was the heat making her sweat beads down her forehead, or the words she was hearing from Rhys' mouth.

“Two years ago, Divine Justinia commissioned a Tranquil by the name of Pharamond to travel to Adamant to learn more of the Rite’s nature. It was believed that he would discover a way to deny a mage their power without rendering them unfeeling automatons. He successfully restored his own mind but his experiment also allowed demons to overrun the keep, and Pharamond himself was possessed in the process. The investigation was deemed a failure but we now know for certain there is a way to reverse the Rite.”

Rhys’ face darkened. “There is one caveat, however. Pharamond…did not take the reversal well. He lost control over his emotions: he was hysterical, distraught. In time, he might have regained his rational mind, but this we will never know.”

Cassandra’s eyebrows flew up. “What happened to him?”

“Lord Seeker Lambert sentenced him to be made Tranquil again. Pharamond would rather die than to be severed from the Fade once more.” Rhys paused for a moment, his eyes veiled with melancholy. “He found someone foolish enough to help him realise his plan.”

“Fortunately, the knowledge didn’t die with him." He nodded to himself. “I learned the ritual before his death, though I have never performed it on anyone.”

“We can’t reverse the Rite,” Dorian interrupted with a bored wave of hand, shifting his weight from one foot to another. “Or have you forgotten that the Nightmare demon is just lying in wait to claim its new host? Never mind that no spirit would willingly break the spell, even if you manage to summon one.”

“What do you mean?” asked Rhys, honest curiosity in his voice.

“A wraith visited me and shared with me a fascinating bit of insight.”

Dorian turned away, looking studiously at the small brazier that sat in one corner. “The unholy fire that burns in the Inquisitor’s mark will destroy the spirit that frees his mind, erasing every shred of its existence.”

His face hardened as he returned his gaze to Rhys. “There are simply too many variables involved, none of which we have control over. It wouldn’t work.”

“But if there’s even just a sliver of a chance that we could break the Rite’s hold, shouldn’t we —”

“Oh but you weren’t there when we fell physically through the Void, Enchanter Rhys. The Nightmare demon is fear itself come to life. That wretched thing damned nearly killed the Inquisitor when it learned of his plans to sunder himself from the Fade.”

Rhys breathed a gasp of shock. “He did this to himself?”

After a marked pause, Dorian's quiet 'yes' seemed redundant.

The silence that followed stretched long, itchy and uncomfortable, until Rhys lowered his head in a small bow.

“My Lords, my Lady, I shall take my leave. I'm sorry if I've overstepped.” His expression was unreadable, but his voice was gentle, almost pensive. “But know that the longer you wait, the worse the damage. Time is of the essence if you wish the Inquisitor to return relatively unscathed. I'd be glad to be of service should you need me.”

He dipped his head in parting and stepped out of the tent, with Cole following closely in tow.

Cassandra's hands were clammy, her nerves frayed like fretted rope.

“Dorian,” she began after several moments of quiet, her voice sounding scratchy to her own ears. “This changes everything.”

“No, it doesn’t really,” Dorian muttered, head hanging low.

“You won’t even consider it?”

In an instant, Dorian lifted his eyes to meet hers, red-rimmed and glossy. 

“Consider it?” He chuckled a low, humourless sound. “I spend every moment of my waking hours fantasising about it. I go to sleep imagining it, dreaming about him night after night, with demons of all sorts offering to make it real.”

He slowly turned to Trevelyan, who twitched a smile by rote when their eyes met. An empty, eidolic imitation of warmth.

“There is nothing I want more in the world.” His words soft and almost lost against the sounds of shuffling feet and innocuous chatter outside the tent.

“Then….why?”

“Death, possession, Tranquillity, these were his only options. Even if we could bring him back, without the amulets these are still his only options.”

“Cassandra,” his voice rasped, hollow like an echo of a memory faraway. “I fear I do not have the will to recover if I lost him again.”

 

* * *

 

It did not take long for them to break the enemy lines, snapping at the heels of Corypheus and his lieutenant. Through the inner sanctum of the temple, in the heart of the ancient elven pantheon, they'd found the prize the Magister darkspawn was after: the Well of Sorrows.

The dark, glimmering surface of the well quivered in the soft breeze.

The circular pool was utterly unremarkable in appearance, yet her skin tingled from the magic that permeated the air, the tiny hairs on the back of her neck standing in protest.

Bound for eternity to Mythal, serving her will. The elven guardian, Abelas, had warned of its dangers. But the Vir’Abelasan was a boon they must claim before Corypheus did. 

“The well clearly offers power, Cassandra.” Morrigan’s voice crashed in the droning stillness. “If that power can be turned against Corypheus, can you afford not to use it?”

“You broke in here against my explicit orders,” Cassandra barked, gritting her teeth in fury. “You wanted this well for yourself. We are here by your design. How are we to trust that you won’t use it for nefarious ends?” 

“True, but that is only because I know just how valuable the well is. Give me this and I’ll fight at your side. I shall be your sword.” Morrigan held her hands out in a conciliatory gesture. “Of those present, I alone have the training to make use of this."

Cassandra raised her chin, defiant. “You’re not the only mage here. Dorian?”

Dorian seemed taken aback by the suggestion, shaking his head. “I know why you ask. And I know it’s important, but I can’t be that man.”

With an almost pleading note in her voice, Morrigan reasoned, “Cassandra, I am the best suited to use its knowledge in your service. Let me drink before it's too late.”

The Inquisitor observed their back-and-forth, vacant eyes flitting between the three of them. “I am fluent in elven,” he provided, helpfully. “Would you like me to drink?”

“Oh shut up, you don’t know what you’re offering,” Dorian snapped with a flash of teeth. “Cassandra, don’t you even for a second consider it. You can’t do that to him.”

As if sensing the shift in the wind, Morrigan took a step closer toward Trevelyan, golden eyes boring into him.

“Every thread of elven knowledge that was passed on by Mythal’s servants is locked within the Vir’Abelasan. I know you seek an ancient binding ritual so you may break the Inquisitor’s Tranquillity. Let me drink and I swear to you I will do everything in my power to restore him.”

“You will have him back again. Whole,” she said to Dorian, her hubris falling away and replaced with earnest determination. “That, I promise you.”

And there it was: the one thing they didn’t dare hope for, the last piece of the puzzle that Morrigan had sniffed out and dangled before them like a carrot on a stick. A beguiling promise, perhaps, but it achieved desired reaction.

Dorian’s eyes grew wide as he drew in a sharp inhale. He turned slowly towards the Inquisitor and for the first time, Cassandra saw in them the dim flicker of hope, of possibility.

Inside her chest, Cassandra's heart hummed an odd ache. No, Dorian wouldn't ask her of it, not when there was so much at stake. It would have had to be given freely. By her. 

She took a steadying breath, and held on dearly to the slight stirrings of faith.

“Very well. It's yours, Morrigan,” Cassandra heard herself say, feeling the weight of Dorian's eyes on her. He stared in dumbstruck disbelief, blinking back the shimmer of moisture.

She swallowed down the lump of uneasy trepidation in her throat as the witch waded into the well and disappeared under the tenebrous water.

Cassandra tilted her head back, squinting against the glare of the sun.

May the Maker watch over us all.

Chapter Text

The fortress hummed with a kind of manic, jubilant energy, drunk on yet another victory against Corypheus after the Battle of the Arbor Wilds.

The first of the returning Inquisition troops filed through the arched gates of the keep, bathed in the setting sun’s orange embers. They waved to the cheering crowd – even the soot and dried blood on their faces couldn’t quite camouflage the smiles of the returning heroes.

By nightfall, the tavern would no doubt be filled to bursting with soldiers, eager to float their battle-wariness with ale and wine, find laughter at the bottom of their flagons, between the legs of a willing barmaid.

Skyhold was alive with celebration.

Dorian found the surplus of sounds comforting: the boisterous laughter and the drunken singing, the cheering and the applauding that echoed across the castle grounds. It helped fill the wide expanse between loneliness and aloneness.

The parchment crinkled crisply beneath his ink-stained fingertips as he turned another page. He stretched his neck side to side, hunching deeper into the seat.

The overstuffed armchair was beginning to hurt his back, giving more credence to his suspicion that this amaranth-pink monstrosity was initially crafted for more decorative purpose than functional.

The moons hung low, silver slivers gradually turning copper in the star-speckled sky. When the last of the candles burned out, plunging the alcove into gloomy shadows, Dorian only stared at the wisp of smoke rising as it rose into the air, until it was gone.

 

“It’s an hour past midnight, Dorian. What are you still doing here?”

Leliana’s footsteps were always soundless, silent as cat’s paws on velvet. She moved with a fluid, seemingly effortless grace. Dorian knew better, now, than to take it as anything but a meticulously choreographed display to obscure the underlying menace of her imposing presence.

Dorian looked around him. Open books, empty teacups, candle stubs… nothing too incriminating as far as he could tell.

So he flashed Leliana a smile as he rose, bright and fleeting as a hummingbird’s wing beat.

“I find that without the aid of alcohol, oftentimes sleep eludes me.” He clapped the book shut and waved a dismissive hand. “Not that I’m complaining, mind you. You wouldn’t believe how much reading I’ve caught up on. This book, for instance, gives a painfully detailed account of Divine Galatea’s visit to the Dales. You’d think a dry read like that would put me right out.”

“Have we run out of wine?” Leliana asked, her diluted Orlesian accent tinged with jest. “I’m told Cabot the barkeep ordered extra cases of ales and spirits for the returning soldiers, if you’re not too fussy about your poison of choice.”

“I’m trying to indulge less frequently. My historic propensity for making terrible decisions when inebriated has brought me nothing but trouble lately.” He smiled conspiratorially. “Of course, the night is still yet young.”

Leliana canted her head at him, the genial smile never leaving her face as her striking blue eyes flayed away the pomp like sharp knives on skin.

“What is this that I heard about your leaving for Tevinter after defeating Corypheus?”

Ah, right to business then.

“Oh, don’t pretend you didn’t hear our entire conversation from your perch, Sister Nightingale,” Dorian drawled, gesturing toward the darkened bay upstairs. “I can’t so much as break wind without you knowing all about it.”

She chuckled at his quip. A small victory. “The Inquisitor took the news well.”

“Apparently, I am the ideal candidate for reforming Tevinter’s moral character. He wishes me luck and success, et cetera, et cetera.

Dorian picked up his teacup sitting atop a stack of books. It was empty, save for a trail of the tea leaves residue.

“For all the things I’ve said about my homeland, I do love my country. Enough to see her potential, her desire to be better than the venal and cruel place she had become. The Inquisitor has given everything he has to save the world. How could I aspire to do any less?” He replaced the teacup to its saucer with a soft clatter, voice quieter now. “We were never going to settle down in happy domesticity anyway. Not with our way of living.”

“You’re not leaving because the Inquisitor is now Tranquil.”

“Venhedis, that has nothing to do with my decision!” Dorian snapped, hands clenching into fists at his sides. “I would have wanted to go even if he wasn’t —”

“I know,” Leliana said. Her voice gentled. “I only want you to believe that too.”

A strain swelled in his chest and Dorian shut his mouth with a nearly audible click when his teeth hit. He turned away from Leliana, concealing the sudden rush of emotion that overcame him.

“Yes, yes. Very kind of you to be concerned about my feelings.”

“The night the Inquisitor told you of his plan to be made Tranquil – you’d remember he came to me to ask for a favour.”

Leliana’s words were mild, but there was a distinct note of sincerity in her voice. “He requested six of my best agents to watch over you when the time comes for you to return to Tevinter. Your allegiance to the Inquisition will make you a target and he wanted me to ensure your safety. It is a promise I will keep.”

Marvellous. That bloody bastard expected him to leave. He knew.

The words on the spines of the books morphed into blurry shapes and contours.

“You came to stop your mentor and you stayed to fight against Corypheus. If your calling takes you back to the Imperium, to alleviate the plight of the elven slaves – go with conviction, not guilt. Leave knowing that you have the full support of the Inquisition and, most of all, Inquisitor Trevelyan himself. And do not forget that you will always have a place to return to, if you wish so.”  

Much like the spymaster herself, the weight of Leliana’s hand on his arm was firm and resolute. 

“Here, a sleep tonic,” she said, pressing a small vial into his hands. “Some nights it’s the only thing that helps me slip away.”

Dorian rolled the vial between his fingers and watched the clear liquid slosh around, just a mite more viscous than water.

Leliana was quiet for a moment, long enough that Dorian thought their conversation was over. And then—                                                                  

“Morrigan is many things, but she’s not a liar. If she said she has acquired the knowledge of the full binding ritual, then I do not doubt the truth of her words. Love is one of the Maker’s greatest gifts, and nothing to be ashamed of. Start and end with love, and everything else falls into place. Remember that, Dorian.”

 

* * *

 

The narrow cot squeaked and sank nearly two inches under his weight as he sat down.

Several blankets stacked neatly to his right, woven cotton and wool in a muted forest green. Dorian smoothed a hand over the soft fabric, chasing away any remaining wrinkles. Though faded and dim, the intimate scent of Trevelyan still lingered on the sheets, teased his senses.

Idly, Dorian reached up to touch the wall behind him. His fingers passed over the uneven surface, tracing the place where the swollen belly of a rough stone had left a lovely burn on his back the last time he was here.

The fractured and fissured walls of the prison remained damp and cold, even with the roaring brazier and torches.

Shivering a little, he threw a woolly blanket over his shoulders and pulled out the small vial of tonic. He gave the ampoule a small shake before uncorking the stopper.

Ah… Valerian root. If the sedative properties of the herb didn’t know knock you out like a dwarf with a rough temper, the pungent odour would certainly do the job.

Ignoring the smell of week-old socks that wafted to his nostrils, Dorian drank the potion in one quick gulp, wincing at the chalky, bitter aftertaste.

Soon, he had molasses running through his veins, and the warm spread of relaxation curled through his body, exhaling clouds into his head.

Releasing a small sigh, he wrapped the blanket more securely around him before leaning back as the edges of the Fade brushed against him.

The sound of footsteps pulled him from his haze. He frowned, concentrating in the colossal task of opening his eyes. Then, slowly and with great effort, he lifted his head to see Trevelyan standing by the cell door, his face obscured by shadows.

“May I sit?” He heard him ask.

Dorian made a sleepy go-ahead motion with his hand. “How may I serve you today, Inquisitor?”

Trevelyan settled down next to him, close enough that their thighs touched. With the smell the sun in his hair and rich earth in his skin, Dorian had to fight the instinct to lean into him. 

“The advisors spent all morning debating the merits and demerits of reversing the rite,” Trevelyan began, his rhythm and diction now mostly free of the trappings of the Tranquil. “The arguments were becoming circular.”

“Hmm. Concerning, but not surprising.” Dorian flexed his hands, wiggling his fingers that suddenly felt like they had lead weights attached to him. “What do you want?”

“I’m content in the knowledge that people are safe from me. I can’t harm anyone with magic I cannot control. My existence is peaceful and I no longer suffer from night terrors.”

“Why, doesn’t that sound absolutely splendid.”

If Trevelyan heard him, he made no indication. “I smile, I mimic. I’ve learnt to say what is expected of me, and how to say them. I perform my duties to the best of my ability, and yet I know it is not enough for them.” A small but noticeable pause. “It is not enough for you.”

Vines sprouted within Dorian’s chest, making it difficult to breath. He blinked rapidly and took refuge in the momentary oasis of chemical calm.

“Dorian,” Trevelyan’s eyes settled on him, their colour that of sun-parched earth. “Do you wish for me to break the rite?”

“You’re asking me?” The laugh that followed sounded hollow even to his own ears.

“Yes, I am.”

Dorian laughed again.

He’d never been good at asking for things – not the things that mattered, anyway.

He flirted and needled, tossing out innuendos like a sower and his seed. But he always waited. Waited for the coy smiles, the lingering touch. The small squares of paper pressed into the palm of his hand, light and heavy at once, the promise of a quick, passionate tryst.

Even when he wanted – oh, and how he so desperately wanted – the please-stay’sand please-don’t-go’s would congeal in his throat when his father’s voice wormed through the corridors of his mind.

Don’t you dare bring shame upon the Pavus name. Not again.

Dorian pinched his eyes shut against the stretching ache that clawed through his tired body, the never-ebbing tide that gnawed at the dry fig of his heart.

He swallowed thickly, working moisture back into his mouth. “While I’m flattered that you think so highly of my opinion, you can’t possibly expect me to decide that for you, Inquisitor.”

Within darkness he saw Trevelyan’s beatific smile, one that held in it all the warmth of the lazy summer’s day, as clear as if it’d be painted on the back of his eyelids.

Dorian’s head fell back against the wall and a long, quivering sigh left his lungs. Ghostly kisses rained down on his face once sleep enfolded him, and his lips edged into a soft smile.

“Amatus,” Dorian sighed and settled into spectral arms that cradled him close. “I tire of only seeing you in my dreams.”

 

* * *

 

The Frostback Mountains were perpetually held under the spell of winter, its icy cloak shrouding the rocky slopes in an endless veil of white.

The firs and pines stripped of colours, their needles sterling splinters that glistened in the afternoon sun.

A single raven cawed as it flew overhead. Dorian looked up, squinting against the sunlight and watched its wings catch the winds, soaring higher.

Half a day’s ride from Skyhold took them to the edge of the dense forests of the Frostback. Things were grim the last time they passed through here: Corypheus and the Archdemon snapping at their heels, the terrible snowstorm that threatened frostbite and exposure, the presumed death of the Herald...

In another world, another time, he might have lost Trevelyan before he even knew him, everything they’d shared nothing but a catalogue of lives lived and unlived, fevered dreams.

Dorian quickly stopped the thought before it could fully form.

 

Cassandra and her sure-footed Orlesian Courser led the way through the narrow mountain pass into the forest, clinging branches tinkled against her armour like bell chimes. Behind her, the Red Hart bayed softly when Trevelyan urged it forward to cross through a rough patch of scree.

The deep snow crunched noisily under the hooves of their mounts with every precipitous step. The frosty breath of the wind filled Dorian’s lungs with sharp pins. He shuddered against the vicious bite of the cold and pulled his robes tighter around him.

“Not a winter person, I see.”

Dorian turned to look at Rhys, who for a Circle mage seemed exceedingly comfortable on horseback. The man had done some travelling, clearly.

“No,” he replied, drawing out the word. “I detest the cold as much as I detest being dragged out on a fool’s errand.”

“You don’t think it will work?”

“I think it’s dangerous to play with magic we don’t yet understand.”

“Audaces fortuna iuvat.”

“Fortune favours the bold,” Dorian translated, raising his brows. “You speak Tevene?”

“When the mage I apprenticed for was transferred to Teraevyn, he took me along with him. It was good for a while, picked up a few phrases.”

“Oh? I didn’t think you Southern types would venture into evil Tevinter willingly. Not when the Chantry insists on spouting exaggerated propaganda to the ignorant masses.”

“To be fair, I was under the impression that I’d see streets awash in blood, screaming slaves running away from Magisters with cleavers in their hands. I must say I was relieved that wasn’t the case.”

“Oh no,” said Dorian, exhaling a cloud of cold mist. “It’s all very exclusive. These days it’s practically an invitation-only event.”

“Have you…?”

“No,” he lied, toying with leather of the reins. “Bloodstains are so difficult to clean, you see.”

Solas nudged his horse into a trot, catching up to them. “I am surprised you do not practice blood magic, Dorian.”

“While we’re sharing surprises, you’ve done a lot less dancing naked in the moonlight than expected.”

“Tevinter lore about elves remains accurate as always.”

“I just wanted to see you make flowers bloom with your song,” he crooned. “Just once.”

Rhys’ eyes darted from one to the other, grinning. “The Inquisitor certainly keeps interesting company.”

Dorian eased his horse into a gentle canter before his smile melted, the white Imperial Warmblood snorted softy before loping up behind the Inquisitor’s Red Hart.

Clad in light battle armour, Trevelyan’s body moved to the rhythmic motion of the hart’s gait. Flakes of snow dusted his crown and his broad shoulders like powdered sugar, but he seemed unfazed by the chill.

As if he knew he was being watched, Trevelyan turned around and their eyes met. Dorian mustered a small smile, one that Trevelyan readily returned.

Dorian knew all too well that it’s often hope that carried the waves in which one drowned in disappointment. And yet after all these years, he still hadn’t learned how to swim.

 

They rode through the forest, past the thick, smothering growth of spruce trees until the path opened onto a clearing. They were deep in the recesses of the woodlands where even birds had forgotten to sing.

The trees that fringed the glade seemed to form a loose circle. Like long arms reaching for an invisible object beyond their grasp, their branches all curved inward toward the centre point of the clearing, leaving dappled shadows on the pristine snow-covered ground.

“Ah, here we are,” said Rhys as he pulled his horse to a stop and swung down.

Solas closed his eyes for a moment, and then opened them again. “The veil is thin here.”

Indeed it was. The air was swollen with the oscillating energy of the Fade, so palpable Dorian could taste the astringency in his throat.

“What happens now?” Cassandra asked as they dismounted. She led the horses to a low-slung tree branch and secured them with halters and rope.

“The Inquisitor will stand…here,” said Rhys, marking the spot in the centre of the clearing by kicking away the snow. “…While I work on our safety measures.”

Cassandra gave Trevelyan little nod, and in he walked.

Once Trevelyan took his position, Rhys pulled out a small leather pouch from his robes. He unlaced the knot and shook out five engraved rune stones, placing them in a wide ring around the Inquisitor.

“Your Worship, please kindly stay still while I activate the wards.”

Rhys raised his staff, its orb glowed a brilliant green as he whispered a spell.

They quickly braced themselves as the earth rumbled. Spires of rock erupted from the snow where the rune stones were, stretching up skyward like spindly fingers.

When the snowdrift settled and the air quieted around them, Rhys stepped back to admire his handiwork.

“There we are. This barrier will protect us,” he said. “Whatever it is that responds to the summoning, it will not leave the confines of the wards until I will it so.”

Cassandra’s brows knitted into a frown. “Do you expect malevolent spirits to heed your call?”

“To be perfectly honest, Lady Seeker, I don’t know what to expect,” Rhys said with a small shrug. “If you’re ready, Your Worship, I shall begin the evocation.”

Trevelyan remained stolid, but his eyes were fixed on Dorian. He nodded once, deliberate and slow. “I’m ready.”

Rhys held up a hand, his palm out in front of him. Snow began to fall lightly as he muttered an incantation that sounded vaguely like ancient Tevene.

And then, two, three….five apparitions coalesced under the spell within the circle of spires. They glowed coral and scarlet, unperturbed by the snow falling through their translucent faces and limbs.

The spirits hovered in the air, bobbing and swaying like jellyfish suspended on a wave, but they kept a clear berth of Trevelyan.

Rhys’ chanting intensified, the shimmering blue light that filled his palm brightening. The spirits moaned in protest, distressed cries emanated from their gasping, gaping mouths.

“Stop! You’re hurting them,” Solas demanded, frustration spilling over into anger. “These are sentient beings deserving of our respect. You cannot force your will upon them.”

But Rhys did not stop his chanting. The orb on his staff now aflame with a silver fire as he continued, and the spirits began spinning, faster and faster. They wailed and hissed in garbled terror, their voices distorted as if they were underwater, “No—please ---it burns---- burns-----!”

With a snarl, Solas swerved to point his staff at Rhys, the magical etchings on the long shaft glowed a ghastly purple. “Desist now, Enchanter, and no harm shall come to you.”

From the corner of his eye, Dorian saw Cassandra’s hand move to the hilt of her sword, blade half-drawn.

Perfect, he thought, reaching for his own staff on his back. Now we’re turning on each other!

He could tell Cassandra was weighing her options, limited as they were: order Rhys to stop, and thus shutting the door to the reversal or; if things go south, unleash a holy smite that would leave her surrounded by three unconscious mages.

For one tense, interminable moment, they stood there, taut and breathing heavily as they eyed each other against the backdrop of the spirits’ agonized screams.

Abruptly, Rhys stopped his incantations, his head snapping to Dorian’s direction with a puzzled frown on his face. With a deliberate swipe of hand, he released the spirits from the spire circle.

The moaning wraiths dispersed into fumes and the forest fell quiet.

“An old spirit approaches,” Rhys warned, his grip on his staff tightening. “We should be cautious, because I did not summon it.”

Dorian followed his gaze to see a golden light only a spear's throw away, and coming nearer and nearer.

“Wait,” Solas said, eyes narrowing. He lowered his staff. “It is a spirit of Wisdom.”

The effulgent glow swirled and danced as the spirit drew closer. With each footstep, the shimmering haze converged, until it took the shape of a lithe, diminutive elven woman.

She wore a simple tunic dress that was pale against her dark umber skin. Her black hair, a wild mane of curls, framed her face like a glorious sunburst.

When her wenge-brown eyes fell on Dorian, full of knowing, he felt a swell of warmth bloom beneath his ribs.

“I see he has found you,” she said, raising a hand to cradle his cheek against her palm. “I have been looking forward to meeting you, Dorian.”

She was as wise as she was kind…

“Nehra,” Dorian gasped as recognition dawned. “You're her.”

“The Inquisitor’s priestess?” Solas’ question carried the sharp edge of accusation. “No, we can ill afford to lose even one spirit of Wisdom, let alone one as old as you. The anchor will extinguish your light and you will not rise again.”

“My preordained destiny brought me here to this moment, as yours has brought you to this very place and time.” She angled a smile at Solas. “Fate has a peculiar sense of humour, as it appears.”

“You would sacrifice yourself for a single mortal? Why?” Solas demanded, his voice strained with incredulity and…was it anguish

Nehra’s eyes softened when she looked to where Trevelyan stood, alone and stoic within the circle of stone spires.

“On a clear winter’s night many years ago, when the twin moons were full and heavy on the horizon, I had a vision of a human boy – a Dreamer who would one day bring salvation to the world, and defend us all from great evil.”

A rueful smile of remembrance passed momentarily across her face. “Curiosity got the better of me, and I took a peek into his mind before he was ready. My intrusion triggered his magic to erupt before its time and caused great pain to him and his family.”       

Dorian breath halted in his throat.

“It was I who brought destruction to his world,” Nehra said, her silvery voice varnished with unwavering steel, “So at the last I shall bring him to his deliverance. They are not the ones broken, Solas. One day, you too will see.”

Coils of light lapped against her like waves along a shoreline as she walked toward Trevelyan. Her bare feet took her across the barrier, trailing golden footprints behind.

She stopped inches from Trevelyan, and raised her chin to peer up at him.

“My love,” Nehra said, her words imbued with infinite fondness, a soft smile on her face. “What have you gotten yourself into this time?”

Trevelyan’s stared blankly down at her from his towering height. “Aneth ara, Nehra.” The old tongue flowed easily from his lips. “Garas quenathra.”

The light surrounding Nehra shimmered when she reached to touch Trevelyan’s marked hand. The anchor flared, splintering into emerald bolts that sizzled and sparked.

“You granted me forgiveness and loved me with all your heart. This is my penance paid.”

“Emma lath,” she said, taking Trevelyan’s face between her hands. “It is time to wake up.”

The moment her words ceased, a beam of light shot from within her, growing and growing until it engulfed both of them. Trevelyan’s anchor lit ablaze, releasing a blast of blinding currents.

Nehra’s golden form flickered, incandescent against the bright green of Trevelyan’s mark. Glowing ribbons of light poured from her and swirled around Trevelyan in a slow spinning spiral.

“Ar lasa mala revas.” 

The light dove into Trevelyan, purposeful. In an instant, he shone like a beacon, green and gold, and his breath rushed out in a gasp when it reached his heart.

“Nehra,” he heaved, hauling air into his lungs like a drowning man. "Ir tel’him.”

She laid a hand over his heart. “At the end of all things, we shall meet again,” she said, pulling his face down to her and kissed him. “I love you. Bellanaris.”

Trevelyan cradled her head against his chest. “Bellanaris,” he repeated, fingers scrambling to hold on to her even as Nehra’s shape began to break into shards of light.

He lowered his head to nestle his face into her crook of neck, only the curve of the outline left, now. The ribbons of golden rays unravelled and rippled as Nehra’s spirit faded within Trevelyan’s embrace, before scattering into a mosaic of sparkling lights.

At once, a rolling tide of unbridled magic whirled around Trevelyan.

His eyes flashed red, glowed like burning coals. Darts of magefire flew from his fingertips, streaks of leaping flames bristled around his hands, crude and untamed.

With the floodgates to his subdued magic blown wide open, the surge of mana roiled without purpose or direction. Like a tumultuous wildfire, it flared and writhed like a living creature: looking for something, anything to consume.

The rest of them looked on in horror. 

The first explosion staggered Trevelyan – the snow beneath his feet evaporated instantaneously, painting a dark patch of brown within the confines of the wards.

He curled his hands into fists and shoved them under his arms, groaning with effort, in a futile attempt to restrain his powers.

“Don’t come any closer!” He shouted over the whipping wind, his voice breaking at the end in a way that made Dorian’s heart clench. “Stay back!”

Another blast, and the earth rumbled again like a hungry beast.

Lifted by the magic, Trevelyan was strung up by his hands, hanging midair for a split-second before the force slammed him back down against the ground like a ragdoll.

No!” The knot in Dorian’s throat grew as he took another tremulous step closer. “Amatus?”

“S-stay where you are,” Trevelyan stammered, fiery eyes sparked with fear and supplication. He pushed himself up on his elbows. “I- I can’t control this.”

Dorian braced a hand on one spire and felt the vicious pulsation of Trevelyan’s magic vibrating through the stone.

He looked down at the clear line on the ground, the divide between him and Trevelyan. Another step and he would breach the barrier.

“Amatus,” Dorian began, forcing the tremor out of his voice. “Remember Crestwood when we captured Caer Bronach? It was a rainy night and you made us all wade through the muddy puddles across the meadows. I complained incessantly about my aching feet and wet socks after.” 

He smiled at the memory.

“You took off my boots for me at the keep, wrung out my socks and hung them over the fireplace to dry. It was so nauseatingly domestic, it’s revolting.”

Trevelyan let out a slightly unhinged laugh at his words as unfettered tears rolled sideways across his face, flying behind him like raindrops in the wind.

“The dam,” Dorian continued, “You drained the lake by opening the dam’s sluice gates with that iron winch at the tavern.” He took a calming breath before speaking again, hot mist billowing out of his mouth. “Imagine doing the same thing: but instead of letting the water out, pull it inside you. Envision that winch in your head, of the chains coiling, and you, moving the lever against the current.”

Trevelyan slammed his eyes shut and tucked his hands tightly against his chest. Tongues of magefire licked greedily at his form, and the flames only roared louder, turning white-hot.

“I- I can’t. It isn't working,” he said through clenched teeth as his hands glowed with magic anew, even the stone pillars quaked from the reverberations. “Cassandra!”

“No, I will not watch on while Cassandra smites you into the ground.”

One foot, and then the other. Dorian stepped over the barrier and felt the wave of sweltering heat swarm over him. His hair whipped in the wind, and small blisters began to form on his hands, his cheeks.

A gamut of complicated emotions chased themselves across Trevelyan’s face. He stumbled back, away from Dorian. “What are you doing?”

Dorian felt his lip split open. He never did like the rusty tang of blood.

“What does this look like? I’m putting my beauty at risk for you,” Dorian replied with inappropriate facetiousness, feeling slightly lightheaded. “You won’t push me out of this circle because you can’t come near me without injuring me further. So now, you must try.”

He blinked, pushing tears onto his cheeks. "Fight it, Amatus," he said softly, "You must fight it, for me."

 

With a deep, guttural scream, Trevelyan fought against the torrents of raw, untempered magic, reining it like a physical weight. Little by little, as painstaking as raking in dirt with bloodied fingers, he pulled in his mana, redirecting it back into the deep well. Shreds of magefire flickered sluggishly around his wrists, flitted between his fingers until they curled under his skin and then dissipating.

Steadily, the torrid magic drained away and snow drifted gently into the circle afresh, like downy goose feathers.

Betwixt a moment of elation and apprehension, it seemed like a lifetime had passed.

“Amatus...?” Dorian whispered, blinking away the snowflakes that tipped his lashes.

Trevelyan swayed on his feet, but when he lifted his head slowly his eyes were brown once more. Dorian closed the distance between them in a single stride, and caught him in an embrace before he fell.

They collapsed onto their knees under their combined weight.

For a long moment, Trevelyan lay quiescent in his embrace. He slumped against Dorian heavily, warm and breathless, as the curtain of white thickened on top of them.

Then, trembling hands travelled up Dorian’s back, uncertain fingers skittered along the length of his spine, to the back of his head, touching him like spun glass.

“Dorian?” He whispered hoarsely, something almost like disbelief seeping through the cracks in his voice, as though it took great force of will.

“Dorian,” he said again, more firmly this time, and the fingers buried in Dorian’s hair tightened. As if he feared that Dorian too might disappear in his arms.

Dorian loosed a shuddering sigh into Trevelyan’s damp and fevered neck. “I’m here, Amatus.” His tears flowed like a perennial brook: they stung, running down the scalded skin of his cheeks, but that hardly mattered now.

“I'm here. I’ve got you.”

 

Chapter Text

A fresh burst of sparks leapt from the hearth when a smouldering log fell apart on the crimsoned andirons. The fire hissed and spat, sending swirls of embers and ash up the dark throat of the chimney.

The dry air carried with it the sweet scent of cinnamon and cloves. Josephine’s penchant for herbal fire starters meant that her study was perpetually steeped in the fragrance of spices and fresh leaves. It clung to his skin, his hair, even the leather of his clothes.

Dorian breathed another long sigh through his nose as he picked at the armrest with his fingernails, chipping away another bit of wood splinter. At this rate, this chair might not have much of it left by the end of the week.

Today, as he had for days now, he woke at the second morning bell, staggered out of bed and made his way to the bathing chamber to wash and dress. He was almost always the first to arrive at Josephine’s study where the inner circle waited for Cassandra and the Orlesian healer, Edith, to hear their daily report on the Inquisitor’s recovery.

No one knew what had transpired in the Inquisitor’s chamber when Morrigan cast the binding spell. All that they were told by the Chasind witch was that it had worked, and that Trevelyan was the Nightmare demon’s prey no longer.

But the clandestine ritual had clearly taken a toll on his body and mind, for it had been six days now, and Trevelyan’s fever had not yet abated. He had sequestered himself in his quarters, avoiding the public gaze under the guise of a terrible bout of frost cough.

Dorian wished for happier news today.

With so much idle time on his hands, he couldn’t help but to begin mentally cataloguing his colleagues’ many quirks and foibles.

Cullen had an inveterate habit of rapping his fingers against the haft of his sword when he’s impatient. He did so even during their many chess matches, against the stone of the table. Though Dorian suspected that was more a deliberate tactic to throw him off his stride.

Vivienne took her tea with two sugars and a splash of cream. She stirred the white granules into her drink with the poise and elegance of a true aristocrat, gently swishing the spoon without ever touching the side of the cup.

Leliana favoured the crispy, puff pastries over the crumbly shortcrust ones. She always nicked the last of the orange sugar palmiers from the breakfast cart, each sweet bite snowing shattered flakes all over her leather armour.

Finally, a sharp rap at the door brought Dorian out of his contemplation and onto his feet.

Cassandra’s eyes swept the room as she entered, the clink of shifting chainmail punctuating her footfalls. The elven healer followed closely behind, stark white robes against the copper of her skin. Her smile was bright – an encouraging sign.

“My lords, my ladies,” Edith said with a slight bow, “I’m pleased to report the Inquisitor’s fever has broken at last.”

A collective sigh of relief filled the room at her words, and Dorian felt some of the knots in his stomach ease a little.

Edith looked down at the writing board she was carrying, and continued, “His Worship’s pulse is normal, his breathing is stable. He’s eating, though not as well as I’d like. The wounds have mostly healed and showing no sign of infection.” – Wounds? – “Though I do recommend continuing the administration of elfroot extract and a febrifuge blend to hasten the recovery.”

“That is wonderful news,” said Cullen, with a smile so wide his scar all but disappeared. “How soon before he’s ready for war council? Corypheus will not lie in wait for long. We must prepare for an imminent attack.”

“Commander! It’s been but mere days,” Vivienne chided kindly, “a long spell of frost cough isn’t something one can just snap out of.”

“Quite right,” Josephine said hurriedly. “Certainly the Inquisitor will let us know when he feels ready. In the meantime, we will see to it that the rest of the Inquisition army return as quickly as possible from the Arbor Wilds.”

Leliana nodded. “My agents will know when Corypheus makes his next move. He will not catch us unawares.”

There was a momentary pause in the conversation, and Cassandra cleared her throat to draw their attention. Her eyes met with each of theirs before she spoke.

“The Inquisition began as a handful of soldiers. We are now a force that will topple a self-proclaimed god,” she said with a firm certainty. “The Inquisitor has asked me to relay his thanks to you all, and that he could ask for no finer council, and no better guidance.”

When she turned to him, her face was lit with a small smile. “And Dorian, he has asked for you.”

 

* * *

 

How was it possible, Dorian wondered, that after almost two years of restoring and refurbishing Skyhold, the ceiling-to-floor windows in the Inquisitor’s private quarters still lacked curtains.

By all means, that ostentatious throne needed upgrading thrice, the Herald’s Rest unsurprisingly was one of the few buildings with proper roof thatching – and yet the Commander of the Inquisition’s forces worked and slept in an office with an open ceiling, and the corridor to the War Room in which decisions that would shape the world were made was still littered with loose bricks and stones...

Whoever’s in charge of the reconstruction plans should be fired.

When his knocks had gone unanswered, Dorian allowed himself into Trevelyan’s chamber to find him asleep, tangled up in the sheets and blankets.

The noon sunlight shone into the chamber with reluctant warmth, unimpeded, and the stained glass casted myriad colours on the stoned walls. It’s truly a mystery how the man managed to sleep through the bloody sunlight.

With one arm stretched out in front of him and the other curled underneath the pillow, Trevelyan was a picture of peace. His breathing was steady in sleep, nightshirt ridden up slightly over his hips to expose smooth bronze skin.

Dorian moved closer towards the bed, and then he saw them – the wounds the healer spoke of.

Before he could restrain himself, Dorian reached out to touch the feathering burns, fingers coasting over the angry red paths. Still shiny with ointment, the fern-leaf patterns ran from Trevelyan’s wrist, branching halfway up his forearm like scarlet lightning.

He had become so engrossed in thought that he didn’t notice Trevelyan had awakened.

“Hello you,” Trevelyan murmured, voice gravelly with sleep.

There were pink lines pressed into his cheek from the wrinkles in the pillow, and they faded into the beginnings of a solid beard on his jaws. He watched with somnolent, half-lidded eyes as Dorian pulled his hand back sharply.

Dorian quickly composed his expression into one of tepid concern. “How are you feeling?”

Trevelyan’s smile was slight but it was there. “Better than I was a moment ago.”

Dorian’s eyebrows rose in mock surprise. “Oh? No berating? No admonishment? Overbearing tirade about what an idiot I was to risk my life to save yours?” An imperious wave of hand. “And here I thought I was summoned to be yelled at.”

“That was one time,” Trevelyan protested mildly. “And as I recall that night didn’t end all that badly.”

No, that night at the Suledin Keep ended with sore hips and a scratched back. An awkward stillness settled unhappily in Dorian’s throat. Too late now. It's all too late.

He opted to change the subject, something that didn’t invoke the memories Trevelyan’s words had stirred. The weight in his hand reminded him.

“I was tasked with the job of ensuring you take another dose of this tincture. Five drops on the tongue, Healer Edith said.”

“That stuff is vile,” Trevelyan grumbled, crinkling his nose in a way that made his freckles dance. “How about we pretend I’d already taken it.”

Dorian felt a smile forming despite himself. He cocked his head to one side. “Ignoring doctor’s orders, are we? That isn’t very wise, is it?”

“You forget - I’ve been touched by the spirit herself.” Trevelyan’s eyes twinkled with a hint of mischief. “I’m wise now.”

“Is that so?”

“Mm-hmm.”

Dorian let the happy little sound settle in his chest. A warm bloom.

“So...” He gestured to Trevelyan’s wrist, curiosity finally getting the better of him. “What exactly did Morrigan’s ritual entail? Blood sacrifices? Conjuring demons?” Or… “From what Leliana told us, her methods can be rather…primeval in nature.

“How do you mean?”

Dorian cleared his throat, gave his head a little shake. “Uh, never mind.”

Trevelyan closed his eyes and rubbed his cheek into the pillow, and for a moment Dorian thought he’d fallen asleep again.

And then, “Morrigan siphoned all my magic, and whatever that was left she burned off with a spell.” He held out his arms, inner wrists exposed, both etched with the fern-like lesions. “Felt like my very soul was being sucked out of me. All that power and mana – it’s all gone now.”

Dorian froze, his eyes widened. “Siphoned? Does that mean she’s --?”

Apprehension warred with wariness on Trevelyan’s face.

“Yes, she’s a Dreamer now,” he said with a resigned sigh, snuggling into the pillow. “I don’t know if I should be worried that she left with a wide grin on her face.”

“I knew her offer wasn’t entirely altruistic. Just brilliant!” Dorian huffed. “And we practically served it to her on a silver platter. Why, of course, daughter of Mythal! Please do help yourself to the well of elven knowledge. And while you’re at it, would you care for some Dreamer abilities for dessert?”

Trevelyan slowly rolled onto his back, groaning as he did. “At least she’s on our side, for now.”

For now.

The Inquisitor blinked against the glare of the sun. “I’ll worry about Morrigan later. After Corypheus is dealt with. Meanwhile, I’ll—”

“You will take this tincture and get better,” Dorian cut him off before Trevelyan could finish his sentence.

He uncorked the bottle in his hand.

“The Inquisition needs you better. I need you better. We can’t have Corypheus marching in here and toss you off the mountain again. Because then I’d have to throw myself off the cliff to save you, and you know how much I detest heights.”

Trevelyan gave him a look, but obediently stuck his tongue out. Dorian drew some of the clear liquid into the glass pipette before carefully releasing precisely five drops into Trevelyan’s mouth.

“And as much as I enjoy this place for all its austere glory, I still have a country I must terrorise into submission with my savage wit and clever barbs,” Dorian continued blithely, sitting down on the soft mattress of the bed. “The Imperium is long due for a rude awakening. I can’t very well go home in peace if you died now, can I? I’d have to seek revenge, burn down whole cities – it would become so terribly trite."

Releasing a touch of ice magic into his hand, Dorian slid his palm along Trevelyan’s neck to cool the heated skin.

Trevelyan made a pleased noise, his eyes beginning to droop as the medicine took effect.

“And who am I to stand between a man and his dream?” he replied drowsily, divulging more than he perhaps intended as the soporific languor took hold.

His words turned into pebbles in Dorian’s stomach, hard and heavy. As the Inquisitor slipped into unconsciousness, Dorian curled his hand into his, clasping it tight.

Even in his slumber, Trevelyan squeezed it back.

 

* * *

 

Dorian woke with a stiff neck and an aching back.

Blinking away the cobwebs of the Veil, he realised that he’d fallen asleep on the love seat in Trevelyan’s chamber, wrapped in a thick blanket that wasn’t there before.

The grey dawn filtered through the windows in stripes of pale, watery light. He snuggled into the blanket further, rubbing the back of his neck to soothe the tension there.

Like so many other tapestries that adorned the walls of Skyhold, the blood-red rug that ran along the length of the room was embroidered with the symbol of the Chantry sunburst. Trevelyan mightn’t have had the lyrium brand embossed on his forehead, Dorian realised with a sense of horror, but its ghastly presence had always loomed large in his place of rest.

In the silver of the gloaming, he saw Trevelyan sitting cross-legged on the floor in front of the fireplace. The open hearth bathed Trevelyan in a warm glow, illuminated his profile in golden radiance. Bare from the waist up, his bronze skin glistened with a fine sheen of perspiration.

Dorian’s eyes escorted a drop of moisture as it rolled down the slope of his spine to flee into the dark fabric of his cotton braies. The shape of Trevelyan’s back, the way it straightened just a little, announced his awareness that he was being watched.

The Inquisitor took a long, deep breath, and emptied his lungs fully before speaking.

“Did I wake you?” he asked in a low voice, turning around to face him.

Dorian got onto his feet, wincing as he twisted his back and heard it give a woeful crack.

“No, it was my poor spine that woke me,” he said, dropping the warm quilt on the chair behind him. “I didn’t mean to fall asleep here. Thank you for the blanket.”

Trevelyan nodded. “Don’t mention it.” He shifted a little to make space by the fire in invitation.

Dorian sat down next to him on the braided rug. “You’re not usually one for early mornings. Trouble sleeping?”

“I was meditating. Every morning so far at the first break of dawn. Cassandra taught me the practice, said it helped her ground herself when things became overwhelming.”

He raised his arms above his head and stretched, rippling muscles bunched and tightened across his shoulders and his back. “The Vigil she went through wasn’t too dissimilar, so it helps a little. It’s slow-going, but I’m making progress.”

Trevelyan was so near Dorian could smell the salt of his skin. He willed himself to focus.

“It must be helping. You seem reasonably well-adjusted, considering the circumstances.”

Trevelyan laughed softly, looking awfully abashed. “You should have seen me on the first day. I actually sobbed when I spilled tea all over my shirt. And then I yelled at a chair before throwing it off the balcony. I think it’s still down there… somewhere.”

“The chair’s Orlesian,” Dorian replied with a smirk. “Well-deserved, if you ask me.”

Trevelyan laughed once more, a rich and earnest rumble of amusement. It was a remarkable sound Dorian never thought to hear ever again.

“I feel like I must apologise again,” Dorian said after a while. “That night when I came here, drunk out of my mind, I – ” A ragged breath through clenched teeth. “That was criminal at worst, unconscionable at best. I’m truly sorry.”

“It was a difficult time for everyone involved, but most of all for you,” Trevelyan said softly. “And you handled it the best you could.”

“Still, I am sorry. I have no excuse for it.”

“I put you in that position in the first place. I shouldn’t have kept everything from you. I was a fool, and your pain is my fault. I’m sorry as well.”

He brought his hand up to Dorian’s cheek, and ran the back of a finger along the curve of his face.

“We did everything wrong, didn’t we, you and I?”

Trevelyan’s thumb stroked his moustache, across the swell of Dorian’s bottom lip. His eyes, so temptingly black, strayed to follow the movement of his finger. He moistened his lips, and Dorian mimicked the motion without thought, his tongue accidentally swiping the rough pad of Trevelyan’s fingertip.

Unmistakeable desire, raw and heavy, twined with tender affection. Trevelyan’s gaze lingered, and Dorian watched his lashes lift to meet his eyes, as though he was waiting for permission.

Wishing but wondering, wounded and wistful. What if he doesn’t want me after?

Too much to process, too much to take in. Too much to hope for.

Dorian flushed hotly. “How could you-- You can’t possibly still want-- ” He blinked rapidly, stumbling over his words and shaking his head. “Not after everything I’ve done!”

Trevelyan was smiling. “I want, treasure. I will always want. The prophecy might have ordained our meeting, but when I tied my heart to yours, it was of my own volition. In this lifetime or any other, I will always want, amatus.”           

He brought their mouths together before another word was spoken, drawing Dorian closer. He drank in the touch of Dorian’s breath like a man slaking his thirst.

“Amatus,” Dorian whispered when they broke apart for air, his voice wrought with guilt, “I’m still… You- You know this doesn’t mean that I’m…”

Trevelyan rested his forehead against his. Eyes too dark, too understanding.

“I know,” he said quietly, with a forced-calm that wrung Dorian’s heart. “And I understand.”

Trevelyan cradled his face and kissed him again, hungry and deep, his mouth hot like he’d swallowed the sun. He pressed his tongue inside when Dorian parted his lips, fervent in his devotion to relearn the minutiae of his mouth.

The warmth of his breath infused Dorian, tugging loose the seams of his mind stitch by stitch, spilling memories rescued from the tempest of old pain and anger.

And there it was, between hungering teeth and the plum of Trevelyan’s mouth, the words that remained unsaid: Don’t go. Don’t go. Don’t go.

Dorian felt his throat tighten around a wretched ache.

Yes, amatus, I’ll stay with the Inquisition for now, a lost voice raced through the wilderness of his mind, reassuring and warm. There’s no you in Tevinter. What else matters?

Dorian wished, not for the first time, that he felt neither the compulsion nor obligation to save his country from its own destruction. But Trevelyan deserved more than a vague, inchoate promise. So he let the words dissolve.

Dorian clung to Trevelyan tighter, their kisses growing frenzied and desperate. Blunt teeth grazed Dorian’s bottom lip, tugging gently as Trevelyan deftly untied the twin knots at his shoulder and peeled the leather away.

He pulled Dorian into his lap, mouth trailing to tease at the hinge of his jaw, the side of his throat. Dorian let out a startled gasp when Trevelyan left a stinging bite along his shoulder, but the sound melted into a moan when a hot tongue salved the sore spot.

A frisson rippled across the back of Dorian’s skull as Trevelyan’s hands trailed meandering paths down his back, over the curve of his hips. Trevelyan rocked against him, and slipped his hands into Dorian’s smalls to clench the flesh of his backside. With a single motion, Trevelyan shucked Dorian’s breeches down over the crest of his hips.

He nuzzled the side of Dorian’s neck, layering wet kisses as questing fingers slipped past the dip of his tailbone to run along the cleft of his buttocks. The light touch of fingertips against his hole made Dorian’s cock twitch, moisture pearling at the tip as Trevelyan traced maddening circles at his opening.

Dorian spread his thighs further, and reached behind him to slide his hand over Trevelyan’s. With a silent spell, a spring of grease welled forth from the heart of his palm and oozed lazily down his fingers like warm syrup until it coated Trevelyan’s.

A breathy gasp passed between their mouths as Dorian bore down slowly, opening himself on slippery digits. His eyelashes fluttered against his cheek, mouth falling open.

“Dorian,” Trevelyan whispered his name like a wish come true, voice hushed with awe. “Dorian.”

Trevelyan worked him open, gentle but insistent, rough fingertips sliding against the cluster of nerves within that set Dorian’s skin alight. Biting back a groan, he slipped two of his own fingers next to Trevelyan’s, and felt the other man stiffen under him. Dark brown eyes were fixed intently on him as their hands moved in unison, stretching and readying him.

Breathless and dizzy, Dorian was lost in the sensation, in the tangle of yearning and want. It was too much; it was not enough.

“I want you too,” he said with helpless honesty, voice strained. “I will always want you too, amatus.”

 

Lust trembled in Dorian’s bones as he sank down onto Trevelyan’s cock slowly, the bright twinge of pleasure-pain lancing through his body as it yielded to the intrusion. He braced his hands on the Inquisitor’s shoulders, air held tight in his chest.

Trevelyan shuddered beneath him when he was fully seated, eyes red-rimmed and wide, and Dorian knew they mirrored his own.

For a dozen heartbeats, they stared at each other, their breaths heavy. The hanging pause was exquisite, holding them suspended like a rest note in music. Time receded, and the world fell away.

Then Trevelyan slowly skimmed his fingers up Dorian’s chest, grazing lightly over his shoulder to cup his cheek. Dorian turned his head to press a long kiss into the dimly glowing cradle of his palm.

“Amatus,” Dorian breathed, and Trevelyan’s dawning smile was quickly eclipsed by desire when he began moving. Dorian rode slow and steady, hips undulating with every languid, deliberate slide.

Trevelyan’s large hands closed over the globes of his arse, kneading and prising apart his cheeks as he surged up to meet Dorian’s movement, driving deeper into him. The amber light of the flames danced across Trevelyan’s face, granting Dorian the sight of his handsome features pinched in sweet agony.

Dorian sucked in shallow gulp of air when Trevelyan latched onto a nipple, suckling and laving at the tight bud. His body shook at the wet glide of Trevelyan’s mouth, the bite of fingernails on his flesh pulling lust-drunk whimpers out of him.

“Deeper,” he tried to urge, head tilting back from pleasure, but the word rolled into a strangled groan.

Trevelyan held him tight, sucking wet kisses along the throbbing pulse of his throat. The heady perfume of Trevelyan’s sweat engulfed Dorian, scattering his thoughts like grey mist before the chasing sun. He barely managed a feeble moan of protest when Trevelyan laid him down on the floor and pulled out of him.

The rug’s weave was coarse against his skin, a teasing whisper of sensation. Dorian was only marginally aware when Trevelyan removed his boots and socks, tugged his breeches off his legs before stepping out of his own braies and kicking them away.

Trevelyan’s large hands fit perfectly over the curve of his hips, as if they’d been made just to hold him. Holding his gaze, Trevelyan knelt before him to lick along the sensitive underside of his cock once before taking him into his mouth, swallowing deep around him. Dorian moaned, arching up into the sweet heat, his body going rigid with tension.

He was the necromancer, and yet it was Trevelyan who was bringing his body back to life, reviving the long-smothered sparks of vitality with his eager mouth, and the too-warm hands that ran along Dorian’s inner thighs in a gentle caress, soothing away the taut strain.

He writhed, lips parting. “Amatus,” he murmured thickly, “I need-- kaffas. Need you--”

Trevelyan eased back off his cock and pulled himself up to stretch over him, his heart beat loud and fast against Dorian's chest. Thump-thump, thump-thump. Little golden sparrows fluttering whenever he’s near.

“Whatever happens,” Trevelyan said softly, looking down into Dorian’s face with a disarmingly fragile joy, “I wouldn’t trade the years we had together for anything.”

He bent his head close. “I love you.”

Trevelyan swept up Dorian’s lips in a ravenous kiss as he lined himself up. He pushed his hips forward, mouth hovering over Dorian’s still, sipping at his littles gasps and sighs until he’s buried to the hilt.

Trevelyan stayed still for a moment, exhaled a soft ‘fuck’ into Dorian’s mouth, the single syllable so sweet on his tongue. He brushed a lock of sweat-soaked hair from Dorian’s forehead, and pressed his lips gently against the mole that dotted his cheekbone before rocking into him in a slow, sinuous motion.

Bliss. Dorian squeezed his eyes shut, his blood turning molten. His moans were broken noises when Trevelyan angled his thrusts, driving into him in long, deep strokes to find his sweet spot, pushing Dorian closer to the edge of his looming release. 

“Amatus… Luther…” He kissed the swollen contours of Trevelyan’s mouth, and felt tears welling in his eyes. He rolled his hips to meet Trevelyan’s, the first roiling of an orgasm building within him. “You’re everything, Luther. Everything.”

They kissed and moved together, bodies slapping, melding, accepting. Drunk on each other, their voices were an unintelligible assemblage of fervid, needful sounds.

The world turned to static as Trevelyan drove into Dorian with a desperate intensity, fingers gripping him almost painfully. Dorian’s whimpers grew louder, felt his head rushing as he bucked up his hips to chase more friction against his cock. His breathing quickened to shallow gasps, as he slipped further into a fevered delirium.

“Please, amatus,” he gasped, mouth hanging open. He’s so close now. “Don’t stop-”

“Come for me,” he heard Trevelyan say raggedly, moist breath tickling his ear. Strong arms hooked under Dorian’s knees and lifted them higher towards his chest. The pace was faster now, urgent. “Come for me, Dorian.”

Pleasure unfurled around his spine and Dorian let out a strangled cry as orgasm took him. His whole body seized up in a shudder, inner walls clenching in spasms around Trevelyan’s cock as he came in thick streaks across his chest.

Trevelyan gave two more thrusts before giving himself over to release, his body shaking as he spilled himself deep inside Dorian.

They kissed as they came down, lazy and unhurried, the slow drags of lips and tongues held no purpose other than to draw out this precious moment of closeness.

The crisp daybreak air was chilly even as the Frostback Mountains rose from beneath the haze of the morning mist. The heavy fog curled against the glass of the windows, its wisp-like tendrils clung to the panes, seeking to breach them.

But encased in Trevelyan’s long limbs, surrounded by his body, Dorian felt only indolent warmth.

He didn’t leave the chamber that day. Nor did he the day after. Nor the day after that. They cherished. They laughed and they wept. They became one flesh over and over again. They loved.

 

One week later, Corypheus brought his war to Skyhold, and tore the earth apart.

With resolve in their hearts, they faced the darkspawn Magister and his Archdemon. After a long and gruelling battle, against all odds, they emerged triumphant.

As the world looked on, the Herald of Andraste banished Corypheus into the Fade and sealed the Breach once and for all.

When news spread, Skyhold was drunk with exultation. The victory celebrations that marked the end of Corypheus’s reign of terror lasted over a week with great fanfare.

Dorian left three days after for Jader, the port city where the Frostbacks met the Waking Sea. He did not look back when he boarded the first ship of many for his journey home.

It would be years before he saw Trevelyan again.                              

Chapter Text

Dorian frowned at his reflection in the dressing mirror, tugging once more at the cuffs of his sleeves. He smoothed the folds of his cloak, maroon trimmed with silver braids, adjusting the fabric until it settled into place.

“This isn’t draping properly,” he muttered crossly to himself, shifting his shoulders in a futile attempt to tame the stiff samite.

Fasta vass. The cut at the neckline was too wide, the sleeves were too long and the fabric too heavy. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

With a shake of head, he pulled the cloak off and tossed it across the floor where it joined a growing heap of ill-matched clothes.

The midday air was sultry, heavy with moisture and motionless. Even the thick walls of his bedchambers, smoothly plastered with cream-coloured adobe and enchanted with frost runes, couldn’t completely keep out the oppressive heat of the Minrathian summer.

Clearly his time spent traipsing in the South had him acclimated to the colder climes.

“Dorian, darling,” a honey-soaked voice drawled from the chaise longue behind him, “you know you look heartbreakingly handsome, as you always do. Now, stop fussing or we’ll be more than fashionably late.”

Dorian angled his body just enough to shoot an annoyed glance at the pouting magister in the mirror.

A woman of great pulchritude, Maevaris was the very embodiment of glamour, strength and Tevinter ambition. Methodical and calculating in her approach, the sole heir of Magister Athanir Tilani took the Magisterium by surprise when she outmanoeuvred her opponents, all ruthless magisters in their own right, to claim her father’s seat.

Few dared to challenge her openly now, so formidable was her reputation as a shrewd, power-mongering politico.

In private, Maevaris was lively, warm and fiercely loyal. Their friendship was borne of a shared vision of their country and a genuine affinity for one another. Her impeccable taste in art and fashion only further endeared her to Dorian.

Though it didn’t make divulging the cause of his palpable agitation any easier.

Dorian pulled his hair back, now long enough to sweep into a neat ponytail, and carefully secured it with a leather cord.

He sighed before turning around. “He’s going to be at Magister Crollius’ birthday ball tonight.”

“He? He who?”

Dorian cast Maevaris a pointed look and watched as her confusion passed, her mouth rounding in an ‘o’ of realisation.

“How are you just finding out about this? On the day itself?”

“Leliana called,” Dorian said, picking off invisible lint from his shoulder. “She was only informed this morning herself. It appears the Comte of Kirkwall keeps his whereabouts rather close to his chest these days.”

Nearly four years since the Exalted Council, and Dorian heard not a single peep from the former Inquisitor. Not directly, anyway. After their cataclysmic reunion at Halamshiral, he could only hazard a guess why.

“You know,” Maevaris began, “I didn’t trade my estate in Marnas Pell for the sending crystal just to have you give it to the spymaster.”

“Again, I did not give it to her. He passed it onto Leliana after I left,” Dorian sighed. “He apparently thought a direct channel with Sister Nightingale would better serve our political pursuits.”

And Trevelyan wasn’t wrong. It was indeed much easier to persuade a constituent into voting a particular way when armed with incontrovertible evidence that his only son and heir had been trafficking counterfeit lyrium potions behind his back.

Still, they all knew that wasn’t the only reason.

“After what you’d said to him, I’m not one bit surprised.” Maevaris’ husky voice held a deserved note of accusation. “Whatever possessed you to greet him as though he’s a mere friend is beyond me. After two years apart at that.”

Dorian twisted the rings around his fingers. Caught in a trenchant ray of languid afternoon light, the jewels flashed a prism of colours.

“I told you, I panicked. It’d been so long and I didn’t know...what exactly to say.”

Dorian Pavus was not one to ever run out of words – perish the thought – just that they’re not always the right ones. To think he’d even had a script prepared, until an urgent missive from home brought news of his father’s untimely death…

“You could’ve told him the truth about your leaving permanently, instead of letting him find out by accident. Now, that’s just cruel. Poor lad,” said Maevaris, inspecting her manicured nails.

Why yes, thank you Maevaris, this knot in his throat wasn’t feeling quite tight enough.

Trevelyan had taken it in stride when he’d walked in on Varric’s impromptu farewell party. Dorian saw his lashes lower to shadow his gaze, but then squared his shoulders, as though coming to a decision. At the time, Dorian was too wrapped up in playing his well-practiced role of the carefree, vivacious altus to truly recognize what it’d meant.

It took Trevelyan folding him against his chest as he lay on the surgery bed, moments before the amputation for Dorian to realise that it was goodbye.

A proper hug before he left, Trevelyan had said, the scorched and mangled marked hand a burning weight on Dorian’s back. My last, with both hands. Safe journey home, Dorian.

Jaw tensing, he turned back to the mirror, ignoring the tender ache that throbbed to the drum of his heartbeat.

“Mae, will you stop being such a monumental pest and fetch me that new cape I had tailored?” Dorian asked, with just a hint of a whine. “The black one from Aclassi’s?”

With a small click of tongue, Maevaris pushed herself off the chaise and sauntered over to the adjoining wardrobe-room, filled with a vast collection of garments for every occasion.

“What about your little playmate?” The crowded closet muffled Maevaris’ voice, but not the tone of amusement. “I heard he’s invited too.”

The face in the mirror winced, but Dorian replied with blithe confidence. “You know very well that Lord Adrianus was nothing more than a passing dalliance. He and I both agreed that another scurrilous attack on my reputation and character would be inimical to our cause.”

Maevaris didn’t respond. Instead she made a noise that fell somewhere between a gasp and a choke. She came out of the room, eyes squinting as she handed him the garment he’d asked for.

“Dorian, dear, why is there an ugly, furry thing hibernating in your closet?”

Ah, the bear coat.

“It was a gift,” Dorian replied casually, taking the cape and wrapping it around his shoulders. “It’d served me well during my time with the Inquisition. You do remember I spent several years living on a snow mountain.”

He fastened the golden clasp, fashioned in the shape of a coiling snake, high at his throat. The black full-length cape cut a sleek, vertical silhouette, balanced by the sumptuous brocade and trimmed in opulent, golden embroidery.

He had no more use for fur in the North, and the coat had begun to moult and crack from the Tevinter heat and humidity. And yet, even after six years, he could not bring himself to part with it.

If he closed his eyes, he could almost imagine he was back at the Upper Lake Camp in the Hinterlands, the waterfall’s mist upon his skin as a bloodied man stood before him holding a potion he would not drink, with a secret he did not tell – until he did, and gave himself to Dorian without reserve, without doubt or question.

However much or little I have to offer, all of me is yours to keep.

And still, Dorian walked away.

Duty over love, he reminded himself every morning as he stretched out across that vast and empty space in his bed.

A gentle touch to his arm brought him back to the present.

“This one is perfect,” Maevaris said, meeting his eyes in the mirror with the faintest tinge of a smile on her lips. “Are you ready?”

The handsome man in the reflection straightened his back, and adjusted the flow of the cape. He took a deep breath and exhaled slowly.

“Yes.”

 

* * *

 

The Crollius family estate was some three-quarter of an hour away by carriage.

Ideally situated in a prestigious district, the stately mansion, once belonging to a magister who was instrumental in appointing the Imperium’s own Divine during the Towers Age, was unsurprisingly only a stone’s throw away from the Argent Spire.

The sun had begun to set when they’d arrived, casting shadows in the front courtyard that was lit by globes of hovering magelight. The entire property was domed in weak ice magic, chilling the sweltering night air just enough to bring relief to the ball’s well-heeled guests.

Dorian alighted from the carriage, and turned to assist Maevaris. With a smile that could charm lyrium out of a dwarf, she took his proffered hand and raised her dress, aquamarine and shimmering like water, and gracefully stepped off onto the stone-paved causeway.

The entrance hall was already becoming crowded. The entire length of the spacious vestibule was decorated with a mosaic of geometric motifs made of yellow, black and white tesserae.

A footman, tall and dressed in the House Crollius livery, led them up the sweeping staircase, the white marble steps beneath his boots polished to a soft gleam.

Magister Agrippina Crollius had been an ardent supporter of the Lucerni party since its inception, both directly and as the owner of the capital’s most widely read and circulated bulletin.

Over the past year, Mae and he had spent many hours in her study selling their proposed bill to establish a national registry of all slaves and prohibiting the sale of children under a certain age. Crollius had already expressed some interest, and it was Dorian’s mission tonight to give her a much-needed nudge over the line for an official endorsement on the Senate floor and in the press.

Despite his many appointments here, however, it was the first time Dorian had seen the grand ballroom.

Once through the wide double doors, they were greeted with soaring vaulted ceilings splendidly frescoed in rich colours, carmine and blue and gold and white.

Six majestic chandeliers bedecked with shimmering crystals hung over grey-veined marble flooring, and gilded candelabras adorned the walls, bathing the ballroom in golden, dramatic light.

A uniformed elven servant – slave, Dorian quickly amended in his mind – approached with a silver tray of sparkling wine and victuals of brined nuts and sun-dried dates.

Dorian picked up two flutes and handed one to Maevaris. Taking a small sip, he studied the crowd over the rim of the delicate glass.

There must be at least three hundred people here: magisters and altus mages, trading polite invective and backroom dealings in equal measure, all under the guise of innocent dancing and drinking.

Tevinter. The land of sharks.

And Trevelyan was here in the midst of them.

He resisted the overwhelming impulse to seek out Trevelyan, to whisk him away from these bloodthirsty despots and into the safety of the Pavus estate. But it was not for him to presume his friendship, let alone company, would be welcomed at this juncture.

Four years was a very long time.

There was a ripple of polite laughter from the far corner of the bustling ballroom, where he found Magister Crollius surrounded by her aids and well-wishers.

“Over there,” he said, draining the rest of his wine and deposited the glass on another passing server’s tray. “Shall we?”

“Yes,” Maevaris purred with a feral smirk as she took his offered arm. “Time to put some teeth behind all that talk.”

 

* * *

 

By the time Dorian found a moment to himself, in one of the quieter, less populated ancillary rooms, full dark had fallen.

He smiled cordially at a few guests who milled around before making his way to a secluded spot by a corner bay window. The blue of the night pressed against the bevelled glass, and a cool breeze whistled in through the unlatched window.

Closing his eyes, he took inventory of the brief but significant meeting with Crollius. The magister had accepted their proposal of a favourable trade agreement with Antiva in exchange for a formal endorsement of the bill.

He really ought to pay the Head of House Montilyet a much-overdue visit. Spring, perhaps, and thank her personally with a wagon-full of Carastian candies.

The ice clinked in his glass as it melted down, pulling his gaze and his thoughts. He took another sip of whisky, feeling the cold liquid turn into peppery heat in his stomach.

Light footsteps approached, accompanied by the rustling swish of decadent fabrics against the floor.

“Enjoying the party, Magister Pavus?” said a silken voice that had Dorian’s lips curve into a smile, despite his best efforts. “Wasn’t it you, my dear, who once told me that it’s not a real Tevinter ball until someone is found murdered? The night is still young, I suppose.”

Dorian quelled his grin slightly before turning around. “The Grand Enchanter herself in the barbaric North. Tsk tsk – what will people say?”

Vivienne’s smile was courtly but her eyes twinkled with delight. Her dark russet skin shone with an inner light against the eggshell-white dress, the plunging gown exquisitely beaded and richly embroidered. She was a visual confection.

“A generous gift from the Maker himself?” she replied coolly as though it were the most obvious thing in the world. “That is if they had the wits to appreciate good character and manners. But then I’d be giving this loutish lot too much credit.”

Dorian’s smile stretched into a broad grin. He’d missed this dearly: the mock jeering, the snappish remarks – the true song of battle-forged camaraderie.

“To whom should we give thanks for this great blessing?”

“Officially, I’m visiting as the arcane attachée to our mutual friend, the Comte of Kirkwall,” said Vivienne, her emphasis on the word wasn’t lost in Dorian.

“Oh? And unofficially?”          

Vivienne’s smile was little more than small hooks at the ends of her lips. “He called on me some months ago and asked for my assistance with a personal matter.”

“Personal matter,” Dorian parroted, eyes narrowing. “Here in Minrathous?”

“You haven’t seen him yet, have you?” Vivienne asked with a chime of mischief in her voice. “Too busy strutting about in your fancy clothes and your grown-up shoes? Though I must say, the whole ensemble does look rather fetching on you. Well done, darling.”

“A compliment?” Dorian drew a theatrical gasp. “Are you going soft on me, Vivienne? Have I finally worn you down?”

“Merely a lapse in judgement. I assure you it won’t happen again.” He’d caught only the fringe of her smile as Vivienne turned with an elegant sweep of her dress. “Come, my dear, you and his lord Comte have much to talk about.”

 

They walked down a hallway decorated with rich frescoes depicting scenes from the Southern Chantry’s failed Exalted Marches against the Imperium’s armies during the Black Age.

Dorian couldn’t imagine living in a house with so much ornamental chest-thumping.

Past the palatial ballroom, they reached the upper atrium where limestone balconies jutted out through the arched portals and over the garden below. Dorian switched his empty glass for a fresh tumbler of whisky from a passing tray and downed half of it in one gulp.

All right, Pavus. Don’t fuck it up this time.

Vivienne gave him a curious little smile, but said nothing as she led him through the archway with the billowing blue curtains and out onto the balcony.

Dorian could only stare at the sight before him, feeling himself slowly turn to stone.

Four years was indeed a very long time.

Torches high in wall sconces illumined the terrace, where the former Inquisitor stood, facing away from them and looking down into the oasis courtyard.

And he wasn’t alone.

A child, no more than four or five, dressed in matching dark blue uniform, sat cradled in his right arm. One tiny, still-dimpled hand clutched at the gold epaulet on Trevelyan’s shoulder and the other stretched out to point at something below.

The child said something that made Trevelyan smile, wide and guileless, before he surrendered to the arc of pure mirth and threw his whole body into the laughter.

Dorian couldn’t make out the words over the din of noisy revelry and the pounding of his heartbeat, but he was certain he had never seen a more beautiful picture.

“My Lord Trevelyan,” Vivienne said, “Look who I found wandering about, all by his lonesome.”

Trevelyan turned at the sound of her voice, the remnants of laughter still lingered on his lips. He hoisted the child to get a better grip, his face soft with paternal indulgence.

The left sleeve of his coat was neatly folded and pinned up just below the elbow, fastened with a brooch that bore his heraldic crest as Comte of Kirkwall – an upright great bear on a shield.

Time had not touched Trevelyan much with its withering fingers, save for the few lovely laugh lines around his eyes, evidence of a life filled with joy and happiness.

He was as handsome as the day they’d met.

“Magister Pavus,” Trevelyan said brightly, inclining his head. “How wonderful to see you again.”

Dorian worked moisture back into his mouth before he could speak. “Likewise, my Lord Comte,” he said. It took supreme effort for him to smile back, and he hoped it didn’t look as brittle as it felt.

“This little rascal here is Gus.” Trevelyan set the child down carefully, and gave an encouraging nudge. “Gus, this is my good friend, Dorian. Now, introduce yourself properly, like how we’d practiced at home.”

Gus bowed with as much courtly grace as a small child could muster.

“Pleased to meet you, Dorian.” Gus spoke in that fast, breathless way children often did. “I am Augustine of House Trevelyan and I’m four years old. I was born in Ostwick but I live in Kirkwall now. I don’t really like it there.”

Something shifted in Dorian’s chest. Augustine. A little girl, then.

From the dark-brown eyes to the sprinkling of freckles on her nose, she was the spitting image of Trevelyan. Dorian was suddenly struck by the vision of Trevelyan as a small boy, plump-cheeked and sweet smiling, still untouched by the horrors that awaited him.

Under a mop of curly hair, the same shade as Trevelyan’s own, Augustine’s bright, inquisitive eyes were on his as she waited for his reply.

“The pleasure is all mine, Mistress Augustine.” He bowed with a wide sweep of his arm, Tevinter-style. “I’ve been to Kirkwall once myself, and I must say it’s a bit of a sh—” At the questioning furrow of Trevelyan’s brows, he quickly amended, “a, uh… surprise to find it a place that truly grows on you. I highly recommend the cake shop near Hubert’s Fine Goods. Perhaps your lord father can take you there when you return. If it’s still around, that is.”

Augustine’s small nose wrinkled, clearly perplexed. Out of the corner of his eye, Dorian saw Trevelyan shake his head in amused bafflement.

“Gus, darling,” said Vivienne, holding out her hand, “why don’t you and I go downstairs for some quince pudding? Let’s give Magister Pavus and your uncle some privacy, shall we?”

Dorian’s eyes widened, his heart beating so loudly he was certain the entire manor must hear. She’s his niece. He’s her uncle. He repeated those words in his mind, over and over, braiding them into a rope on which to hold on to.

Hope blossomed in his chest like a bud in spring, and with it a fleeting glimpse of the life they’d shared before.

Trevelyan watched him with great attention even as Vivienne led Augustine back inside, and whatever he saw on Dorian’s face made him chuckle, dark eyes sparkling with good humour.

“Did you think that Gus was my – ”

“No!” Dorian said quickly, his voice perhaps a little higher-pitched than he would’ve liked. “All right, perhaps for a moment there. You must admit there is a remarkable resemblance.”

“Her father, Norman, and I take after our mother, though only in appearance and none of her patience or exuberance.” Trevelyan gave him a sidelong glance, lips curving. “You look pleased.”

“Do I? Well, I suppose I am pleased that you didn’t run off and gotten yourself married and had a child all without sending at least a note. That would be improper, don’t you think? I would have sent a truly decadent fruit basket.”

Trevelyan chuckled. “Of course, everyone loves those.”

Dorian blinked at Trevelyan for several seconds, then let out a breath that felt like he’d been holding for years.

They made their way to the railing, where Trevelyan picked up a wine glass perched precariously on the ledge and took a sip.

“I’ve heard rumblings about the new bill gaining momentum in the Senate,” Trevelyan began, holding up his glass, “I believe congratulations are in order.”

“Yes, I suppose I ought to thank you for that. Leliana’s contribution has been invaluable.”

Dorian couldn’t hold back the proud grin as he clinked his glass against Trevelyan’s. “The motion should come to the floor as early as next month. Then, the real work begins. It will take years – decades, even – for significant progress to be made. But every victory, no matter how small, is another increment that marks the growing desire this country has for change.”

Trevelyan nodded. “I’m glad to hear it. Tevinter is fortunate to have someone like you shaping its future.”

“Thank you,” Dorian said, but it came out sounding much more like an apology. He cleared his throat before speaking again, more lightly, “This is your fault, remember. You inspired me with your marvellous antics.”

Trevelyan’s tone was playful, but there’s a hint of something around the edges. “Tevinter owes me a medal, then.”

“I wouldn’t hold your breath on that one, if I were you, Andraste’s Herald,” Dorian said, finishing his drink in one long swallow.

“Shame. I was hoping for something shiny for Gus to play with, a little bribery to win her favour. She’d come to live in Kirkwall with me only three months ago. We’re still getting to know each other.”

“It’s clear you’re already quite smitten with her.”

“I am,” Trevelyan smiled. He looked at Dorian for a long moment, considering, then finally, “She’s like me, Dorian.”

“Like you?”

“Like me.” Trevelyan’s eyes took on a strange lustre. “Or what was me.”

A sharp intake of breath, Dorian’s fingers clench around his glass of half-drunk whisky.

“Norman said she began complaining about monsters in her dreams two weeks before Wintersend. No one paid it any mind until she set her bed alight in her slumber one night, nearly killing her sister who slept in the same room. Bernard, my eldest brother, proposed to drain her magic the old-fashioned way.”

Trevelyan placed his one hand on the wrought iron railing, gazing into the distance.

“He was the one who almost drowned me many years ago,” he said quietly.

Dorian was momentarily transported back into Trevelyan’s fade dream when they were at the Suledin Keep, where he’d caught a flash of the memory: the gurgled screams, the bubbles of desperate cries. The sickening burn of betrayal.

“Better a dead child than a mage,” he bit out, voice shaking with impotent anger.

“Norman couldn’t publicly defy the Bann’s wishes, so he asked me to step in. Bernard was, predictably, furious at my intervention, but held his tongue because of my rank. I promised Norman that Gus will have the best tutor Minrathous has to offer. She’ll be kept safe while she learns to harness and control her abilities.”

The knuckles of Trevelyan’s hand paled as he tightened his grip on the railing, tension ticking beneath his skin.

“She will never have to live in fear of her own magic. She will not suffer as I have.”

Dorian fought the urge to clasp Trevelyan’s hand in his, mindful of the strict Tevinter social rules. Instead, he moved his hand across the railing next to Trevelyan’s, nearer and nearer, until their little fingers touched. A small act of comfort, even if only just for a moment.

Trevelyan looked startled at the unexpected gesture, eyes falling to that single, miniscule point of contact where their skin met. He stared, so fixedly as though he were mapping the topography of their hands.

Then, with a soft, demure smile on his lips, Trevelyan returned his gaze to the fore as his little finger brushed against Dorian’s and hooked over it in their own secret hold.

A blushing summerday virgin he was not, yet Dorian’s face prickled with warmth.

“Have you found a likely candidate?” he asked after a while.

“Vivienne has been a tremendous help. We’re meeting with a Professor Feynriel this week. She said he’d lived in Kirkwall for a time and is curious to see the city again. It all depends on how he and Gus get along.”

“How long are you here in Minrathous?”

“Another two to three weeks, I suspect. Gus is rather charmed by this city. We went to the Vivazzi Plaza the other day and she adored the dancers,” said Trevelyan. “We’re staying at a townhouse belonging to a friend of Vivienne’s, near the Circle. Do stop by if you have the time. It would be nice to have the pleasure of your company.”

“Nice? Nice?” Dorian couldn’t resist. “I beg your pardon but you must know by now the pleasure of my company is rather more than just ‘nice’.”

It felt so very long ago, when he’d said similar words in a dreary kitchen, in the arms of a man he loved.

Trevelyan’s answering laugh was a wondrous sound. When their gaze met again, it softened into a smile – a lover’s smile – intimate, full of secrets and knowing.

A familiar fire swirled in Dorian’s veins, pushed against its confines. It fed on Trevelyan’s nearness like dry kindling, nourished by the smell of his skin and the warmth emanating from his body.

Yawning silence echoed in the space between them, a curious domain where emotions of the past tangled with the reality of their present.

Trevelyan curled his little finger around his more tightly, their shoulders grazing as he leaned closer.

Dorian’s pulse quickened – for one breathless second, he thought Trevelyan might kiss him. And he would have let him – consequences, explanations, Tevinter be damned.

The remembrance of how perfectly Trevelyan’s lips fitted against his. The hot press of his tongue against the seam of his mouth. The breathy sigh of bliss when he’s granted access. The —

“Dorian? Is that you over there?” a silvery voice called from the doorway. “Maker’s Breath! Is this him? My word! The Vanquisher of Corypheus, the Lord Inquisitor in the flesh?”

Vishante kaffas. Adrianus.

The younger son of a noble house in the metal ore trade, Adrianus was an affable man, with dark wavy hair and a boyish face that registered every emotion he felt. With not one pluck of political ambition of his own, he had no stakes or interest in Dorian other than simple companionship. For a time, Dorian indulged himself in those smooth, beautiful tan arms.

Genuinely pleasant as Adrianus was, however, the man had poor aptitude for spellcasting and evidently, even poorer sense of timing.

His new elation punctured, Dorian whispered a ‘sorry’ and discreetly moved his hand with an apologetic brush of fingertips.

“Adrianus, there you are,” he said when he turned to face the approaching altus. “My Lord Trevelyan, allow me to introduce to you, Adrianus of House Varro. He has been a dear friend and a stalwart advocate of the Lucerni party over the years –”

Dorian watched, mortified, as vast heaviness of recognition dawned in Trevelyan’s eyes. It was but a fleeting look – a brief shadow that chased across his face. It was a look of concession, of quiet understanding, and Dorian’s voice wilted under the weight of it all.

No. He couldn’t have known who Adrianus was. How did he….?

Kaffas. Of course, those damned bodyguards – Leliana’s band of clandestine agents who’d been watching his every move, reporting every second back to the Nightingale.

“Well met, my Lord,” Adrianus said with abundant cheer, “Dorian has told me countless tales of your heroics and I could scarcely believe them to be true. He does have a penchant for embellishment, you see.”

“Pleasure to make your acquaintance, Lord Varro,” Trevelyan replied, a genial expression in place once more. “Everything you’ve heard? Completely true. Magister Pavus was there through the thick of it and, for that, I am eternally grateful.”

“Brilliant!” Adrianus exclaimed with the vigour of an excited pup. “It would be most generous of you if you’d share with us your account of what happened at the Arbor Wilds. And the Archdemon? Maker’s Breath, was it as vile up close as – ”

Oh for Maker’s sake. “Adrianus, perhaps another time – ”

“Quite right,” Trevelyan broke in before Dorian could finish, “Forgive me, my Lords, but I afraid I must go see to my niece. Lord Varro. Magister Pavus.”

He looked like he wanted to say something more, but then changed his mind. His eyes searched Dorian’s face, and Dorian knew, as certain as he knew his own name, that he’d see them in his dreams tonight.

“It was good to see you again, Dorian,” Trevelyan said at last, his smile whisper-soft and achingly warm.

And then he was gone.

 

Chapter Text

While it’s not quite at the centre of Minrathous, the Imperial Circle was largely considered the heart of the capital by many of its citizens. 

Dorian had the carriage drop him off near its looming towers, several streets away from the townhouse, hoping perhaps a brisk walk would help calm his nerves.

He’d waited three days – three very long days – before he scribbled a note to be delivered to Trevelyan.

He had spent more minutes than necessary to pen such a simple message – that he should like to take him up on his offer for a visit – and by the time he dispatched the footman, the wastebasket was as full as his heart.

A salubrious breeze rolled in from Nocen Sea, purifying and stirring the stagnant air of the blazing summer’s noon.

Despite dressing down, in simple mage robes and sensible shoes, people still instinctively stepped aside to make way for him, heads low in deference.

Before he’d left for the South, Dorian had thought nothing of it. The deeply entrenched hierarchical lines were accepted as a cornerstone of Tevinter society; the social and physical divide between classes, wide as they were, were respected by her citizens.

But he saw things clearly now: beneath the seemingly docile tolerance, there was a simmering anger at the injustice of it all. Poverty, slavery, degradation – much like a bubbling cauldron, it was only a matter of time before the rage spilled over if nothing urgent was done.

Dorian hoped he would live long enough to see his vision change the country for the better.

All too soon, he’d arrived at his destination. The modest two-storey townhouse, nestled on a pleasant side street, was a far cry from the majesty of Skyhold. The façade was freshly painted in a custardy white, and sitting by the welcoming pale-yellow door was a planter box filled with budding elfroot and embrium, releasing their herbal aromas in the gentle breeze.

It was a humble home by the Imperium’s standards. Yet, somehow, Dorian thought it suited Trevelyan more than an ancient elven keep.

He blew out a lungful of air to steady himself, and reached back to tighten his ponytail one last time before giving the front door three firm knocks.

An elven woman answered after a moment’s wait – her face, unmarked by ink, held the softness of youth.

“Magister Pavus,” she greeted with a deferential smile, the springy coils of her hair danced across her nape when she bowed deeply. “Please, the Comte is expecting you.”

Inside, the townhouse was tastefully, albeit minimally, decorated, with terracotta tiling on the floor and whitewashed walls.

“I hope Lord Trevelyan gave you a choice whether to come with him to Tevinter. This country is no place for an elf.” Dorian gestured to the bronze brooch on her lapel, embossed with Trevelyan’s crest. “Even that little trinket can only protect you so far.”

“His Lordship pays me a healthy stipend to be Mistress Augustine’s nursery maid. When I accepted the offer, I did not think my job should be constrained by geographical boundaries.”

“Indeed.” Dorian nodded at the iron in her voice, feeling a growing respect for the young woman. “Forgive me for suggesting otherwise, Miss…?”

“Abbie, my lord.” She folded her hands primly in front of her waist. “If you, Magister, are truly doing the good work Lord Trevelyan has said you were, perhaps one day my brothers and sisters may walk these streets without the need for one of these trinkets to protect us.”

“I shall endeavor to make good your faith in me, Miss Abbie.”

 

Instead being ushered into the reception room as he’d expected, Abbie guided him to a hallway with stairs to the second floor.

He followed her up the carpeted stairwell to a brightly lit landing, past two panelled doors to arrive at the end of a short corridor, where a rounded door stood slightly ajar.

Dorian could hear the murmuring voices from within – low and muffled as though they were speaking with a pillow pressed against their faces – then, laughter.

“I can’t do that!”

“But, uncle, you’re the Comte, right?” came Augustine’s querulous voice. “And Varric says you saved the world so you can do whatever you like!”

Trevelyan could barely stifle his chortle. “It doesn’t mean I’d force our neighbours to move just because my niece wanted to build a moat around the mansion.”

“But I have the plans drawn up already. And Uncle Bull promised to catch a gurgut for me to throw in there.” A frustrated ‘tsk’ between her teeth. “You’re doing this wrong, uncle! Green, use green!”

“All right, all right!”

Dorian could practically hear Trevelyan roll his eyes.

Abbie chose this moment to rap on the door, and Trevelyan’s cheerful voice bade them enter.

Sunlight streamed in golden bars through the shutters, touching the foot of a large bed in the centre of the spacious room. There was a small sitting area, with a low sofa leaned against the wall and an opened travelling chest beside it.

But it was the sound of hushed giggles – followed by urgent whispers – coming from the slightly lopsided blanket-tent nestled in the corner that caught Dorian’s attention. Held up by strings suspended from hooks in the beamed ceiling, the little camp was a maze of sheets and throws swathed over stacked chairs.

A sharp whistling sound – and a barrier shimmered into existence in front of it.

He heard Trevelyan laugh. “Dorian’s a mage, Gus. All magisters are.”

The opening of the tent parted, and Augustine poked her head out with a toothy grin. A second later, Trevelyan’s smiling face appeared above hers.

“Good afternoon, Dorian.”

“Good afternoon, Dorian,” Augustine mimicked with a playful giggle. Trevelyan tickled her sides in response, and she squealed and squirmed about before rolling out of the tent in a laughing heap.

“Gus here just learned how to cast barriers, and is becoming quite a bit of a show-off,” Trevelyan said. He looked up at Dorian, eyebrows arched. “Perhaps Magister Pavus could show us what a mage can do if they work hard on their lessons?”

Dorian lifted a hand to skim along the perimeter of the magical field. “Well, you know as well as I do that I heartily welcome every chance to flaunt my skills, thaumaturgic or otherwise.”

The barrier appeared to be woven into ambient energy in the surrounding air, almost sticky in its attachment, and more resilient against dispelling magic. Rather remarkable for a child that age.

Dorian could forcibly dispel the barrier but that would rip it to shreds, and where’s the fun in that? Unstitching only the edges and then resewing them would be most awe-inspiring, though a much slower process.

Or

He drew a large circle in the air, smiling when he heard Augustine gasp as he augmented the barrier with a burst of time magic. The translucent blockade warped into a twist of misshapen energy, obediently coiling to one side like a crumpled scroll.

He walked through the threshold easily, and at once the barrier sprang back into shape, like a sponge released from a fist.

“Maker’s breath,” Augustine muttered, eyes wide. She scrambled up to her feet and quickly attached herself to his legs. “Will you teach me?” she pleaded. “Please, please, please!”

He laughed. “I don’t think your uncle would approve of your learning time magic.”

Her small face wrinkled into a dour pout as Trevelyan’s voice piped up from behind, “That’s right. I don’t approve. No time magic.”

Augustine let out a disgruntled ‘ugh’ that rivaled one of Cassandra’s, and shot her uncle a glare. Her retort was halted however, when Abbie knocked on the door once more.

“Pardon me, my lords. Mistress Gus’ lesson with Professor Feynriel begins soon. He awaits downstairs.”

Trevelyan nodded. “Off you go, Gus. Try not to break anything this time, will you?”

Augustine turned around and stuck her tongue out at him, before beckoning Dorian to bend down so she could whisper into his ear.

“Keep this away from Uncle Lu.” She pressed a small item into Dorian’s hand. “It’s his favourite,” she said with a sly smile that promised infinite mischief, before skipping her way out of the chamber with Abbie.

“Would you care for some tea?” Trevelyan asked after the door hushed close with a click, ducking back into the tent. “This pot is still fresh...ish.”

Dorian peeked through the flaps. The tent was much roomier than it looked from the outside, around half the size of the Inquisition camp tents. The floor was covered with cozy quilts and patterned pillows; wax crayons strewn across large sheets of parchment paper filled with colourful doodles of blocky houses and stick figures.

Trevelyan’s long-limbed body spanned the entire length of the tent as he leaned back to reach for the brass serving tray nestled between two tasseled cushions.

Dorian cleared his throat. “May I?”

Trevelyan paused in his motion, glanced at Dorian from the corner of his eye. “Of course,” he said, but his voice was hedged with uncertainty.

Dorian waited until Trevelyan pulled the tea set across the floor to the centre and sat up again, before removing his boots and stepping inside the blanket fort.

Sunlight filtered through the canopy in patches, between overlapped linens. The ceiling was low, and the top of his hair brushed against the fabric as he found a seat across Trevelyan.

Silently, Trevelyan poured the ruby red brew into two tea glasses. The line of his back radiated tangible streaks of taut energy; his eyes fixed on the thin stream of tea flowing into the waiting cups.

The intimate, enclosed space intensified the earthy scent of Trevelyan’s skin and the solid, comforting heat of his body. Sitting only an arm’s length apart, the heady mixture wreathed around Dorian’s senses, leaving him slightly lightheaded.

All he wanted to do was touch him.

Dorian opened the palm of his hand. A half-used wax crayon, a pale shade of lavender, left greasy stains on his skin.

“I had no idea purple was your favourite colour.”

Trevelyan sipped at his tea, looking slightly relieved to have something to talk about. “It’s the colour of the sky to me, much to Gus’ great annoyance.”

He returned the glass to the tray before picking up a green crayon to fill in the leaves of high-branching trees that lined the moat. “You’re not going to give me back that crayon, are you?”

“And risk the wrath of Miss Augustine? No.

Trevelyan smiled, and rolled the stick of brown crayon across the paper to him. “Here. You draw the trunks, I’ll do the leaves.”

Soon, they found themselves lying on their stomachs, legs crossed in the air, as they transitioned from casual doodling to…mindful doodling.

“I thought you said you’ve been to Kirkwall.” Trevelyan gestured at Dorian’s efforts at drawing a dwarven statue, grinning. “That’s not even where the Merchants’ Guild is!”

“Well, that’s not where the Hanged Man is either,” Dorian countered, summoning a mote of magelight to see better. “You’re at least two streets off.”

Trevelyan shrugged. “It moved.” Dorian eyed him with suspicion until he broke into a light, husky laugh. “Fine. There. Kirkwall’s favourite watering hole in its rightful position.”

As he extended his arm, his sleeve shifted up a little. The burns Morrigan left on his wrist had faded over the years, resembling a lacework of hoarfrost on glass.

Dorian nodded at the time-paled scars. “Do you ever miss it?”

“It?”

“The magic. The mana within. Casting.”

Trevelyan considered it for a moment. “Sometimes. When I want to warm a bath, or if I feel like a cold drink.”

“Har, har. You’re hysterical.”

Trevelyan smiled as he painted the roof of blue-tiled house a bright orange. Dorian knew he was a lost cause for finding even the man's awful sense of colour coordination endearing.

“There are still days when my body misses it. Where there was nourishing magic, there are now splintered gaps like dry, cracked earth. My whole existence feels… parched, at times.”

He tilted his head slightly, his downcast eyes gentle. “But I go to bed every night knowing I will wake up the same person. I am ordinary – no anchor, no magic, no demons haunting my dreams. My loved ones are safe from me, and I will not harm another unknowingly with powers I cannot control. I can’t ask for much more than that.”      

 

From underneath a stray cushion, Trevelyan recovered a food platter with tiny pots of mixed olives, golden pickles, marinated cheese cubes flanking a bowl of assorted stone fruits.

Dorian popped an olive into his mouth, nibbling off its briny flesh before removing the pit delicately and placed it into the discard dish, next to a cluster of chewed up stalks and...

He picked one up to examine it more closely – a tiny knot in a wiry stem.

Trevelyan looked up from colouring an overhanging marquee in Lowtown. “I was teaching Gus how to tie a cherry stem in her mouth. As you can tell, she needs a lot more practice.”

Audaces fortuna iuvat, as the old adage wentso Dorian retrieved a single cherry by its stem from the bowl and held it to Trevelyan’s mouth.

“Show me, will you?”

As though seized by a sudden diffidence, Trevelyan stared at Dorian, frozen. His pupils dilated to dark wells, and Dorian could see the pulse flickering at the base of his neck. It was gratifying to know he wasn't the only one affected by the close proximity.

Just as Dorian thought he might refuse, Trevelyan took the fruit into his mouth, plucking it off the stem. When he’d eaten the flesh and spat out the pit, Dorian handed him the green pedicle.

Trevelyan kept his gaze down and concentrated on working the twig inside his mouth. It took less time than Dorian had expected. Before long, Trevelyan extracted the tied stem from between his teeth, and dropped it into Dorian’s open palm.

It was a perfect little knot.

“That is very impressive.”

Trevelyan smiled with a little shrug. “My best parlour trick.”

“I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised,” Dorian said lightly, “you have always been rather good with your tongue, as I recall.”

To his great wonder, a flush of colour set up camp in the apples of Trevelyan’s cheeks, disclosing his inner most thoughts in the starkest language the body had.

Seemingly only just noticing their faces were mere inches apart, Trevelyan shuffled backward. He made to sit up, but Dorian forestalled him with a hand on his forearm.

Dorian moistened his lips, running his thumb in circles on Trevelyan's wrist, over the small pucker of raised flesh where he'd clawed out the amulet, now hidden behind the web of silvered scars.

Trevelyan took a small, unnecessary breath. “Dorian, I don’t think this is – ”

“That night," Dorian began, “on the balcony at the ball, were we not so rudely interrupted.... would you have kissed me?”

A prolonged silence. Then, quietly, “No.”

Trevelyan tried to look away, but Dorian caught his chin, pulling him back gently to meet his gaze.

“Did you want to?”

Trevelyan bit his lip, eyes lowered. “Dorian, please, I have no wish to come between you and Lord Varro.”

“You left before I could explain. Adrianus and I are not involved, not anymore,” Dorian said definitively. “He’s nothing more than a friend.”

An odd, barren look passed over Trevelyan’s face. Kaffas – he must think him a sordid reprobate, denominating everyone he’d ever bedded as his ‘friends’.

Dorian’s heart rankled with the stinging thorn of guilt.

“No, you’re not my friend. It was my mistake to refer to you as such at the Exalted Council.”

That startled Trevelyan out of his careful control. “I’m- I’m not?”

“No, amatus.” He smiled softly at Trevelyan. “You’re my beloved.

Trevelyan’s eyes widened as Dorian leaned forward to brush his lips over his, gently, barely, tracing the berry-stained mouth with his own. Delicate as a dragonfly skimming across a pond.

Trevelyan’s lips parted wantonly, his breath ragged. “Dorian, what are you saying?”

“I have to fight for what’s in my heart,” Dorian whispered before sealing his mouth over Trevelyan’s, tasting him deeply, fully.

One kiss to say ‘hello’, one to say ‘I’m sorry’. Another to say ‘I’ve missed you’. One more to…

Trevelyan made a small noise; his lips lingered before drawing back slowly, and the kiss broke on a soft, moist sound.

After taking a moment to compose himself, he lifted his eyes to Dorian’s face.

“It took everything I had to put myself back together after you left, and then again at the Exalted Council. I don’t know if I have the strength to do it a third time should you walk away once more.”

Dorian slipped his hand into Trevelyan’s, and felt his blood stir when calloused fingers curled around his, warm and tender.

“Not a day has gone by in the past four years in which I hadn’t thought of you. Staying away might keep you safe, but I am selfish and greedy and I’m miserable without you,” Dorian admitted, his voice thickening. “I want you, and a life with you in it. From this very moment, if you’ll have me again, amatus, I’m yours. For as long as you want me.”

Trevelyan’s dark eyes flared rusted-gold under the flickering magelight – they peered into Dorian’s, probing, unravelling…

Dorian felt his breath first, sweetened by wild cherries, and then Trevelyan’s lips were on him.

“Say it again,” Trevelyan murmured, plying Dorian’s mouth with soft, sucking kisses, “I need to hear it again.”

A feverish tremour passed through Dorian. “I’m yours.”

“And again.”

“I need you.”

Trevelyan’s mouth burned a path down his neck, blunt teeth scraping along Dorian’s pulse. “Again.”

Dorian sighed at the familiar scratch of Trevelyan’s scruff against his skin. “I won't leave you.”

“Do you promise?” Trevelyan asked, his voice tinged with frayed desperation.

Dorian pulled back enough to look into Trevelyan's face. “My word is my bond, my dear Comte.”

Dark eyes gleamed from between wet and spiked lashes, and Trevelyan slanted his mouth over his once more. “Dorian…”

I love you, amatus.” So quietly, a plea breathed into Trevelyan’s mouth, a prayer that carried the sublime fragrance of truth.

He wanted all of Trevelyan: his sleepy grumblings, the nightly teeth grinding, his drunken kisses and disgusting fondness for expired cheeses, his tears and his anger, his hopes and fears and flaws, his past and his future.

All of Trevelyan was Dorian’s to keep.

Trevelyan’s tongue swirled into Dorian’s mouth, raw and brazen, his sound hand sliding up to the leather cord that held his hair back. A gentle tug, and the band came loose, dark hair spilling over Dorian’s shoulders.

Dorian’s spine quivered when he was rolled onto his back, feeling the full weight of Trevelyan’s body pressing down upon him, surrounding him. Trevelyan’s plush mouth laved and pulled at his tongue and lips, coaxing muffled moans out of them both.

The wanting was a riptide, pulling them under. Eager hands found heated flesh; whispered words passed between kiss-swollen lips.

The interior of the tent darkened as the sun fell away from Minrathous skies. The thick blankets were soft under his back as Dorian touched Trevelyan, with his hands, with his body, with his heart. Between arched backs and shared breaths, their ends found each other once more; entwined, fated, like a true lover’s knot.

Everything. It was everything.

It was everything.

* * *

 

The carriage slowed and came to a halt in front of a vine-covered villa.

Surrounded by a continuous sandstone wall pierced with wrought iron gates, the estate was hidden away in its own upland valley with a view down the coast of Carastes.

Across the horizon, the pink stain of dusk had thickened, smouldering out above the distant outlines of The Hundred Pillars.

Dorian did not wait for his coachman to open the carriage door. Lifting the latch handle, he pushed open the lacquered wood opening and stepped out briskly. His boots crunched the gravel as he made his way to the main entrance.

The rosette-carved oaken door opened almost immediately.

“They’re already here,” their ‘maidservant’ – one of Leliana’s crafty rogues – announced with a wry smile.

Dorian made not three steps into the house before a whirlwind of pure energy flung herself into his arms, all giggles and nose wrinkles.

“Dorian! You’re back!”

With a small groan, he hoisted her up onto his waist. “It’s only been four months, nuglet, how are you so big already?”

Soon, he wouldn’t be able to pick her up at all. Don’t grow up too quickly, he wanted to say. Stay little for a little while longer, please.

“Have you been good?” he asked instead.

Gus nodded so vigorously that her whole body shook.

“I made a trap for faeries in the garden on the arbor blessing vines on the wall back home, but then it rained and the parchment became wet, and I had to make another one.” She spoke as though every word started with a capital letter and every sentence ended on a question mark. “And on the way here, I finished reading A Child’s Guide to Astrology, but this book doesn’t cover Belenas or Fulmenos or Visus so I think I need a new one.”

“Well, you’d be pleased to know I brought you some new books from Minrathous,” said Dorian. “And, of course, a pouch of new crayons.”

Gus let out a high-pitched squeal so loud that Dorian’s ears rang. The smile on her face rivalled the sun. “The graphite ones too? And the pastel sticks?”

He laughed. “Yes, yes, all of the above. Once my trunk is unpacked, I’ll fetch them for you.” Setting her back on her feet, he asked, “Gus, where’s your uncle?”

Gus stuck her lips out into an indignant pout. “He fell asleep listening to my story about a princess who wants to be a dragon.”

Dorian raised a smile. “I’ll go wake him. Why don’t you go wash up for supper?”

 

The great bedchamber lay on the second floor of the house. A large bookshelf lined one entire wall, a low-burning brazier on the balcony through the arched picture window lending a warm glow to the room.

Dorian found the man of his affections sprawled on his back in the massive four-poster bed, clad only in his tunic and chausses. The heft of his broad chest rose and fell, rose and fell, with long, even breaths.

On a side table, a quartz prism glowed dimly within a golden locket – the sending crystal Trevelyan had recovered from Leliana shortly after his return to Kirkwall.

Untying his travelling cloak, Dorian climbed into bed, slowly, quietly. The soft mattress dipped under his weight as he slid across to curl against Trevelyan’s comforting warmth.

He pressed his face into the crook of Trevelyan’s neck and took a deep breath. After so many months, he’s finally home again.

Sluggishly, Trevelyan’s arms came around to encircle him. “You’re here,” he mumbled drowsily.

“I am.” Dorian kissed the underside of his jaw. “Gus told me you fell asleep listening to her story. How rude of you, amatus.”

Trevelyan’s laugh was thick and throaty from slumber. “In my defence, her epic tale has ninety-seven chapters, and I was tired from the journey.”

“Hmmm, how tired?”

In response, Trevelyan tipped Dorian’s chin up and seared him with a heated kiss.

“I’ve missed you, treasure,” he said, eyes liquid with a mix of sleepy desire and adoration. He deepened the kiss, and Dorian melted under the warm glide of Trevelyan’s tongue.

His skin flushed hot. “I’ve missed you too, amatus.”

 

They didn’t make it to supper, so Trevelyan had their meals sent up to the room. They sat in their terribly rumpled bed, feeding one another small morsels of meat and bread with their fingers. A simple homespun fare made a feast by the kisses interspersing each bite.

Outside, night had come, bringing with it a salty sea breeze. The air filled with the nocturnal chanting of crickets, a romantic serenade before the summer’s end.

“I have something for you,” Trevelyan said when they were done. He wiped his fingers on a linen cloth. “Two somethings, to be exact.”

He pushed himself out of bed, still naked, and padded toward his travelling chest. Dorian took a moment to admire those firm buttocks and muscular thighs.

“It isn’t another belt of health, is it? Oh amatus, that last one you gave me did not pair well with my wardrobe.”

Trevelyan made a face at him. “No, it isn’t and you will wear that belt every day, no matter how ugly you think it is.” He handed Dorian a wax-sealed scroll. “Leliana said to give this to you personally.”

Dorian broke the seal and unfurled the delicate parchment, scanning the elegant script. “I’ll be damned,” he muttered to himself.

“What is it?”

“Only the best gift a spymaster could give a politician – leverage. Oh, I can’t wait to show Mae this. I think Leliana might have just helped us secure passage of the anti-kidnapping laws.”

Trevelyan removed the tray of empty plates and wine glasses, and sat back down across Dorian. “Slavers in the trade won’t be happy about this.”

I know.” Dorian’s smile swelled into a grin. “Isn’t it marvellous?”

“How is Magister Tilani, anyway?”

“She’s well. Been talking about a trip down south to visit Varric.” Dorian shifted closer to Trevelyan, smiling. “Perhaps I’ll join her, whenever that may be.”

Trevelyan placed a small kiss on his nose. “I’d like that.”

“So….what’s the other thing?”

With a slight smile, Trevelyan set a shiny object in the palm of Dorian’s hand – a woman’s ring. The gold filigree had dulled with age and wear, but the diamonds still sparkled as though they were freshly cut.

It wasn’t enchanted, as far as Dorian could tell, and so small it wouldn’t pass over the first knuckle of his littlest finger.

A seam formed between his brows. “I’m not entirely sure what to do with this…but thank you?”

“It was my mother’s wedding ring,” Trevelyan replied simply. “She’d intended for me to give it to my future bride. Took me months to pry it from Bernard’s grubby hands.”

“Your future bri – Hold on a moment, are you –?” Dorian stammered, feeling the flush of heat rise from his neck to his face. “You’re not saying – I mean, this isn’t you asking me to…”

“I don’t know if you’d agree to a three-hour Ostwickian handfasting, then the night-long feasts and dancing. We Marchers don’t do things by half measures.” Trevelyan bumped him with his shoulder, a teasing gleam in his eyes. “As you very well know, I have been refused one too many times. My poor heart can’t take another rejection.”

Dorian pursed his lips. “Now, now, who said anything about rejection.”

“A good friend once said to me that being Inquisitor had brought me many good things, but only a few had been by my choice. She advised that I should take what happiness I can from those, and do not let them go.” Trevelyan studied him for a moment, his smile softening. “This is me, choosing you.”

With a moist clearing of his throat, Dorian said quietly, “But you’ve already chosen me since the very beginning. You have always known. Before you even knew me.”

Trevelyan smiled. “And I will choose you every time, treasure.”

Dorian closed the distance between them with a long, fervent kiss. “Thank you,” he breathed.

In the still of the night, stars glistened with splendour against the dark veil of the sky. Millions of possible worlds out there, in times past and future, where they would be strangers, would never know each other’s love, where one might perish before ever meeting the other –

But here, now, in this timeline, in this reality, this Trevelyan loved this Dorian. And he, him. They would be happy. They would be together, as long as life remained.

They would be immortal.

 

 THE END

 

 

Art by slugette