The noble Andrastian Trevelyan Inquisitor distrusted magic. It was a point of contention between her and (the very few) mages of the Inquisition, during the fleeting moments that she would interact with them at all. It left relations with her magic practicing inner circle members complicated, at best. Surprisingly, Solas handled the Inquisitor better than Vivienne. Being an apostate and an elf, he was used to being misunderstood by humans. Dorian, however, did better than a dull acceptance tinged in barely suppressed bitterness.
He had practice. Dorian handled animosity with finesse. He wore other's contempt like it was in season. The buttons were right there and he knew what to do with them.
The Inquisitor would always travel with one of the three mages; sometimes two warriors, sometimes an extra rouge, but always one mage. It said something about her that she would alternate between the three of them as fairly as she did, because he knew the other two didn't push her like he did. Solas wouldn't want to bring the attention to himself and Vivienne still hoped to gain something from the Inquisition. Dorian just wanted to remind Lady Trevelyan that she had a Tevinter mage behind her whenever he got the chance.
It wasn't often. The mages learned quickly that their position in battle was to support the other two melee fighters. The Inquisitor wouldn't suffer the help. She would dash from barriers and slip away from enemies being assaulted by magic.
The only reason behind the behavior that could be determined was ignorance. She would not speak of it when asked. She would not speak often to him at all.
Still, she wasn't completely impervious. The Inquisitor fought with stealth and daggers, and every now and then, she did need the help. Where the others would lighten the load for someone else to go to her aid, he would offer it directly.
That was the reason why Dorian laid on the cold rough ground surrounded by the sick, wounded, and/or dying in Skyhold's sick bay. Hands were limited, so he held his own compress-the one keeping his guts from poking out-while all manner of potions were stuffed down his throat, and he waited for the only surgeon to be available for him. The good news was, at that particular moment, he was far too inebriated on whatever manner of poison they fed him to feel any sort of way about it.
The irony of the situation was if it hadn't been for his death magic he probably wouldn't be alive. Beyond the fluster of spooks and thrills, necromancy taught its students how to develop a tenacious will. Such a thing was needed when plucking at the strings of spirits and souls. As an added bonus, it helped him keep a clear mind enough to move back just the right way to avoid being sliced in half when a Venatori Brute's axe found itself embedded into Dorian deeper than their standard issued poultices could help with.
That wasn't a problem anymore, a voice was telling him, the person holding him up enough to force tonics upon him. He'd be taken care of soon.
It was the same voice that kept him awake and the same hand that held rejuvenation and lyrium potions to his lips during the two week journey back to Skyhold.
He was completely drained now, but at the time, Dorian knew just enough spirit magic to slow things down to 'excruciatingly painful' and 'life threatening' instead of, oh say, 'quick death'. It didn't make sense that she stayed so close to him while he struggled to concentrate, magic flaring every which way, when she had escaped so expertly from the barrier he had tried to cast over her; a barrier that should have been used for himself. If only he hadn't been so caught up in spiting her, if only he hadn't been distracted.
The Inquisitor pulled favors, harassed merchants, and arranged semi-suitable transportation the entire grueling trip back. She had argued with Cassandra over the correct herbs to pack in his wound to stave off infection. Those two never disagreed on anything. It was hard not to chalk the whole experience up to a delirious dream.
Another potion and awareness pushed back the fog in his mind. His limbs prickled, his body warmed. Scarlet tinged the compress.
Time rushed, then moved too slowly. Something putrid was being caked onto his stomach. Dorian gagged when the stench mixed with the smell of blood. It burned, because of course, but the sensation was no more noticeable than his fast beating heart or sweating skin.
Someone was massaging his throat, encouraging him to keep swallowing, to keep the bile down. Until finally, the poultice ran its course. Dorian's abdominals spasmed and he heaved.
He expected to pass out, but his heart hammered away and his blood surged through his veins. Instead he watched the Inquisitor leave without looking back.
He stayed well into the evening. He calmed by then, marginally. The bottled adrenaline he'd taken over the last weeks left side effects. He would come down eventually, but right now he had three things; energy, pain, and agitation.
So, it really came as no surprise to himself when he decided on his next move. He wasn't willing to bet that they would simply discharge him, and once the crash hit he really would be stuck. He bid his time, drank the water they gave him like he'd been stranded in the Hissing Wastes, and made very certain not to bring any attention to himself what-so-ever.
He got his chance to slip away when one of the other sleeping patients started seizing. The stone steps to the upper part of the courtyard proved a challenge, but otherwise he was able to walk normally.
He eyed the stairs that would lead him inside to the main hall. There was no way to get out of this without a struggle, but what would he do once he was in his bed and his strength failed him? He couldn't do this on his own. As upset thoughts trickled in about his predicament, the Inquisitor, and the trauma of the last two weeks, he knew he couldn't do with his own company either.
The next idea stirred his anxiety, but he turned tail away from those stone steps in favor of others. He struggled up the way to the ramparts and leaned heavily on the stone half walls. It was a round about way to get to the room he was looking for, but one long stretch of stone steps had to beat three flights of wooden ones. Less staring patrons, if nothing else.
Worries as to whether or not this idea was a good one gave way to possibilities. Large grey hands could massage the ache out of this thighs. Lips and teeth against his neck would make him forget about his raw throat. Those arms could hold him securely, move him in ways he couldn't right now.
Eventually, the door was before him. Dorian swallowed, then managed to knock. He heard a grunt from inside that he was mostly sure translated to "it's unlocked", and let himself in.
Bull was sitting on his bed, covers askew. The buckles of his harness were undone, either he was in the process of putting it on or taking it off. His hand slipped away from the haft of the axe he kept plunged into the footboard.
On second thought, maybe Dorian should have announced himself. It was strange of him not to use the door connected to the tavern.
Bull never went anywhere or did anything without expecting some form of danger. Even in a fort as secure as Skyhold, even when he appeared relaxed or jovial, the assessment of his surroundings never stopped.
Dorian had been surprised at first when he'd caught on, though he shouldn't have been. The Iron Bull was, after all, an experienced spy. The good thing was the man could let it go once things checked clear, as many drunken nights in the tavern bellow could attest to.
"Dorian." He didn't sound all that pleased to see him, but the gears were turning in that head of his, Dorian was sure.
Bull's expression was harsh, but it couldn't match the venom of his own. He had to temper it down somehow. The last thing he needed was for an argument to start over nothing. He broke eye contact and breathed in through his nose. His nostrils must be flaring something fierce, unattractive. He had to do something, rant probably; make it clear what his anger was directed towards. And if he was disturbing the other man? Fine. He'd leave if he was told.
"I thought we had an agreement," Bull said. His tone was passive, and when Dorian met his eye he found a face to match. Bull must have read the confusion in his expression because he went on after a beat, "I provide the tub, you fill it, bring your fancy Tevinter oils, and I scrub away whatever's left over from killing vints."
Dorian's face, already warm, quickly reached scalding. He'd completely forgotten in his anger, but the conversation before he'd left Skyhold came flooding back. His unconscious gaze darted to an empty tub in the corner. Towels were folded neatly inside. Had Bull spent the entire afternoon waiting for him? He croaked, "Y-yes, well-"
"And then," Bull hadn't been finished, "After you're all blissful and pampered, I eat your hole 'til I can determine and identify each of the flower and wood oils used in the soap'. You were specific." He shrugged. "But if you're no longer interested..."
Dorian's ears were burning. He had said that. And how nice it would be if he could lift filled buckets to Bull's room or contort his body to fit in a tub. It was the simple, small things always taken for granted until they were plucked away. Shock turned momentarily to grief, and grief quickly turned to...Oh, as if he hadn't been mad enough before!
"I can't believe this!" He shrilled, "Was it not enough to be gouged through?! Must every circumstance work against me?"
He glared back to Bull who was standing at the foot of his bed, staring at Dorian with his brows knit. His harness was draped over the footboard. He was silent, tight lipped, arms folding over his chest.
Dorian laughed without mirth. "Thank you kindly for the offer," he gestured to the tub with an arm he outstretched a little too hard, not being able to completely hide the wince it caused, "But I've already had my freezing, uncomfortable rag wipe down for the day. Those surgeon tents let in quite the draft, I'll tell you!"
"Dorian," his voice was strong, grounding. "Tell me what happened."
The mage struggled against himself, before he sighed and brought his index and thumb to the bridge of his nose. "It was nothing. A close call, we've all had them. We'll be lucky to have more," his hand ran down his face, "What I don't understand is why having an experienced healer tend to the wounded seems to be equivalent to--to practicing blood magic in the garden!"
He turned away from the tub to face Bull fully. It was too much of a twist, a bit too fast. It hurt like hell and he had to take a moment to push back the pain before he was able to continue. "Sure, I probably won't die, but now we're short a mage until I recover," he grumbled, "Not that I expect the Inquisitor to care much."
Dorian felt it when Bull frowned at him, so rarely that he would. The moment paused, just enough time for Dorian to feel defensive against it.
"What I'm hearing, and seeing, right now is you're supposed to be resting. Like in a bed, not pacing around jostling your injury." Bull sounded far from pleased.
"'Jostling'," Dorian scoffed, "'Jostling', is it? Did I leave one of my books here or something?"
"Not to mention the stairs you had to climb to make it up here," Bull added as an after thought. Dorian paled. Not as bad as the descending and ascending it would take to get him back to his room.
"Look I-" Dorian swallowed before continuing, "I didn't come here to have you disapprove at me."
One of Bull's hands gestured towards him. "Yeah. Why did you come here?"
Dorian took a few breaths to string his thoughts together. "I can walk and I can sit down, but standing up again hurts like I might be tearing something. I'm afraid if I lay down I won't be able to get up on my own without making things worse. I know it's a lot to ask, but if I could stay here for a bit then I wouldn't have to sleep outside so a surgeon's hand could wait on me," he said. Once the words were out, they sounded worse than they did in his head. It was too far of a notion. Still, he steeled his resolve enough to keep Bull's eye.
The look on his friend's face softened somewhat, a slack that could have been caused by surprise. Slowly, half a smile tugged at his lips. Dorian had trouble deciding whether or not it was a smirk.
"You want my help?" Bull asked.
"Yes, well, I already know you have the power to manhandle me," Dorian answered quickly, and yes, without a doubt Bull was smirking.
He watched Bull's expression turn contemplative. His eye swept over Dorian's form, and the mage might have felt some way about that had he not looked so serious.
"Show it to me," he ordered.
"What, no dinner first?"
Bull snorted. "Later," he said, then motioned to Dorian's shirt, "But really, hike it up."
His will to be defiant trickling away, Dorian undid the buckles necessary to untuck his shirt. He rolled it up to his diaphragm, exposing a jagged twisting line of angry red flesh marring down to the left, rib to lower stomach. His vanity reminded him, yet again, that it was going to scar horridly.
Bull approached him then. He hunched over enough to take a look. "No stitches, huh. That was a good poultice they used," he said. A large hand slid up Dorian's side. It wasn't as light as he probably meant it to be, but Bull was careful. His fingers ran upwards, tracing the healed wound to the side of it, only touching the healthy bronze skin that broke out in gooseflesh beneath him.
Dorian's eyes flickered up to study Bull's face. He licked his lips before he spoke, voice dropping low, "The other reason I came here is because I could really use the distraction."
Bull met his gaze, looking weary. His hand brushed lower, almost to the waistband of Dorain's pants. Neither had to look down to know thick fingers brushed over nearly faded bruises that would fit their shapes. Then, Bull straightened, hand at his side.
The silence stretched.
"Ah, I see," Dorian tried to keep his tone light, "Too much to hope for?"
Bull sighed. Confliction pulsed off his body in waves. "I'm not exactly gentle, Dorian."
"No," he agreed carefully. It wasn't often that they toed these lines, breaking the circles they often walked around each other, but right now their words were being spoken very softly. "But you've always been considerate."
Dorian noticed the change after that, the way Bull's eye glazed over briefly, then rattled to different corners of the room. He'd noticed it countless times before. Bull was assessing the situation.
Seconds stretched by, but in under half a minute Bull tipped his head slightly, barely a nod. It appeared whatever conclusion he would come to, he now had.
A hand landed on Dorian's opposite shoulder, the other guided his hip so he could turn him around without twisting. Dorian tried to keep Bull's eye, but read nothing, until finally he had his back to him. Bull let go of his hip and Dorian was facing the door.
The door. So that was the answer. He tensed. He wanted to turn back around, say something scathing, but he wouldn't. He'd already promised himself that if he was told to leave, he would. There was no reason to stir things up; no reason to thrust obligations on top of...whatever it was they had.
Another hand landing on his other shoulder stopped Dorian from taking those few steps forward. They squeezed. Thumbs pressed circles into his tense muscles. Dorian hesitated, unsure what to do.
He felt warmth at his back as Bull closed the distance between them. His arms wrapped around and began unbuckling straps with fingers deft from practice. Dorian's breath quickened.
Curiously, instead of pulling off the shirt, his hands wrapped around Dorian's biceps. They kneaded at the muscles and worked their way down. Bull bent with them and Dorian could hear his breathing behind his ear. Strong hands circled around Dorian's wrists, as gently as Bull would argue against.
"Does it hurt right now?" Bull asked. It took a moment for Dorian to catch on that Bull wasn't asking about his sensual treatment, but about the closed flaring wound on his stomach.
He thought a moment before deciding on an answer. "It's bearable," he deflected.
"I'm going to lift your arms, one at a time. I know you usually don't mind some pain," there was a note of amusement in Bull's voice, gone just as quickly, "But I need you to be honest with me and I need you to stay still." His tone took the steel edge of a command. "You feel any additional discomfort at all, you'll tell me. Do you understand?"
"Yes," Dorian breathed, fully feeling the effects of Bull's voice.
"Yes, you what?"
"Yes, I understand!" The snap to his voice was second nature, unfortunately.
Bull paused for the briefest of moments. "Then repeat it for me," he growled.
Dorian turned his head back to stare at Bull incredulously. "You are insufferable," he accused. It was often like this, some sort of struggle involved, some sort of power game. It could be so difficult getting the other man to bend. He liked to tell himself it grew tiresome. Dorian liked to tell himself a lot of things.
Very slowly, a finger at a time, Bull let go of Dorian's wrists. "And you're being very stubborn for someone who asked for this," he murmured into his ear.
Dorian had to bite his tongue, partly because saying differently wouldn't make a difference, and partly because he knew what he was getting into.
Bull gripped Dorian's waist. "I'll give you what you want," he rocked his hips forward, "But we're doing this my way. At my pace. You know what you do to me when you're all bitter smiles and sharp words, but I'm not going to risk giving you more than you can handle."
He spoke so lowly, a growling secret. His breath was causing shivers down Dorian's spine. The mage shifted from one leg to the other, hoping to shift his pants in some way, hoping to be subtle.
"If you want to keep going down the road you're on, that's fine. The door's right there," Bull finished. All in one step back, he straightened to full height and retracted his touch.
Dorian's breaths were heavy as he stared resolutely at the door that had panged him with anxiety only a few minutes before. He let the seconds run on. It wasn't the first time he'd been given this kind of ultimatum, but it would be the first time he chose to stay.
He wet his lips. "I'll tell you if it hurts," he said steadily, wondering if that would be good enough.
It was. He heard Bull grunt out a noise right behind him, something approving, something strained.