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“Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life.” - Omar Khayyám

“Nice work with the magic back there, Dorian,” the Iron Bull says, hefting his great axe over his shoulder, and crossing to where Dorian is standing, watching Cadash and Sera riffle through the pockets of freshly dead bandits. “You're pretty good at blowing guys up.”

Dorian's surprised; it's the perfect opportunity for the Bull to make a joke, a chance to start up again the riposte which has slowly seen the hostility drain from it, if not the fire. The Bull is pretty generous with praise, and Dorian is startled to find himself considering that it may even be genuine.

“It's significantly more impressive than hitting them with a sharp piece of metal,” Dorian says, without turning to look at him. It's probably rather uncharitable of him, but he has never claimed to be a good man.

Dorian can hear the grin in his voice. “Hey, whoa, let's not get crazy.”

The heat practically pours off the Bull, this close, right at his back as they watch Sera counting coins. Dorian almost – almost – leans into it. He exhales through his nose, hopes it passes well enough for annoyance, and sets off down the incline to join the Inquisitor on her task.

*

Dorian Pavus has a gorgeous fucking mouth. Plump and soft lips, good teeth, little pink tongue, that moustache... it really works for the Bull. Would work even better if it – yeah.

Gorgeous everything, really, from what the Bull can see and what he can assume. He's tall and well-built for a human, all honed muscle and dazzling finish, probably perfect, by whatever standard 'Vints are working to these days.

He's shaving in a mirror at camp, three weeks into an expedition on the Exalted Plains, and a solid week into complaining about being scruffy. Something about razors not coming in with their supplies, and not desperate enough to go at his face with magic or a knife.

Not that Bull, Varric or Blackwall care, all of them sporting decent beards, though Blackwall had a head start on that. Solas somehow, hasn't even got fuzz on his head after three weeks, which is probably some magic crap, and Cole is still as baby-faced as ever, even if it's a gaunt, creepy baby-face.

It's his mouth and jaw that the Bull can't help looking at, and Dorian clearly knows he's looking, if the almost-glances in the mirror are anything to go by. He shaves away the last of the stray hair, smooths his hand over his bare jaw. When he catches the Bull's eye again, he raises his eyebrows.

The Bull laughs. “That the current 'Vint fashion?”

“Not when I left,” Dorian says. “It was all clean-shaven and slicked back hair. I did always so like to stand out.”

“I bet.”

“I couldn't tell you what's going on now. I'm sure if it's anything exciting, Maevaris will let me know. One year everyone was painting their lips white and wearing huge dangling earrings.”

“You make that work?”

“I can make anything work.”

The Bull doesn't doubt it.

*

“Dorian,” the Bull says, falling into stride beside him, “you've been to Minrathous, right?”

Dorian turns his face up to him, and wonders where this is headed. They've move past most of their hostility – or, more accurately, Dorian has stopped trying to bait the Bull into proving himself an evil Qunari.

“Of course. I'm not a plebian.”

“You ever been to that place in the Vivazzi Plaza? With the big, cracked bell hanging off the roof?”

“With the dancers, yes,” he sighs fondly. “You're making me homesick. Whenever were you in Minrathous?”

The Bull shrugs. “Been around.”

“Tal-Vashoth aren't really welcome within the Imperium.”

“I'm not Tal-Vashoth,” the Bull says. Dorian quirks an eyebrow, a silent challenge as to whether the Bull truly thinks he's forgotten he's a Ben-Hasrath spy.

“Loyal Qunari are even less welcome.”

“Sure. But Minrathous is a big city. Takes all sort. I can take care of myself, and most people cut you a wide berth, or they're not stupid enough to start a diplomatic incident.”

“Ah, the benefits of an uneasy stalemate.”

The Bull chuckles, and his arm brushes Dorian's. He swallows down a little gasp that tries to form, turns it into a hum. A thoughtful hum. The Bull glances at him, and really, they've no need to be walking so close together, it isn't a narrow path. But Dorian doesn't step away, even as their arms brush again.

“Couldn't go back now,” the Bull says. “Not since I picked up Krem. They'd try to bring him in for desertion, then I'd have to kill a bunch of people. It'd get messy.”

“Does it not have an appeal?” Dorian asks. “Killing 'Vints within Tevinter itself?”

“Nah. City Guard would only be doing their job, couldn't hold that against 'em. The 'Vints in Ferelden, or Orlais, though; they've got no business there, just up to shit. I'll kill as many of them as I can.”

Dorian laughs. “Makes sense, put like that. Ending the scourge of the Venatori in the south is rather more fun with someone of equal passion for the task.”

“We make a good team,” the Bull says, grins as he bumps his elbow against Dorian's arm, deliberately this time.

“Wouldn't go that far,” Dorian huffs, and elbows him back.

*

He beds one of the women from the kitchens, gives her a string of orgasms, and pretty soon he's practically swimming in kitchenhands and cooks. He has no complaints – they work so hard to keep Skyhold running, the least he can do is eat them out on the regular.

There's a few people who like a semi-regular tumble, now he's stationary. A couple of soldiers, one of the stablehands, both the barmaids in the Herald's Rest.

Candy, well, she's a lot of fun. He doesn't buy her services, never has paid for sex. But she's got plenty of soldiers on her books, steady enough work to rent a room from Cabot. Doesn't mean they haven't gone to town a few times. Redheads.

She joins the Chargers at their table the same evening the Bull spent a good hour under her skirt, and he's happy to let her use him as a seat. She's deep in conversation with Dalish, some rumour about the Hero of Ferelden.

“With an assassin?” Dalish asks, several pints in and giggling. “And the Nightingale? Inquisition's Nightingale?”

“And a raider, I hear,” Candy says. “All of them at once.”

He keeps the appearance of his focus on them, but most of attention goes to Dorian, sat at the bar and glancing over. He considers for a moment calling him over to join them too, he often does, but Dorian doesn't seem to be looking at the group, so much as looking at him and Candy.

Dorian carries a lot of shit with him thanks to Tevinter, the Bull knows that much. He keeps looking over, doing a shit job of nursing his beer. If it was desire, or annoyance, the Bull could work with that. Tease him, offer something Dorian might want to take, since he's pretty sure he'd be more interested in what the Bull could offer than what Candy can.

But instead it looks like longing. Longing for something as simple as having a friend you've fucked in your lap, shit, that's sad. He wonders if Dorian has ever even been able to acknowledge someone he's fucked in public without the threat of social uproar.

Candy leans back, tips her face up and kisses the Bull's jaw, and it's then that his face is at the right angle for Dorian to actually catch his gaze. He smiles easily enough, tips his beer at them. The Bull jerks his head, inviting him over, but Dorian shakes his head and shrugs his shoulders. Not tonight.

The Bull watches him drain his tankard and leave without looking back.

*

Dorian finds out that Cabot, the surly dwarf barkeep of the Herald's Rest, has a husband. He finds out because Cabot tells him so, as if it's normal.

“Pavus,” he says, glaring at him after he orders a drink. “I'm not putting this on your slate. My husband has to eat.”

“Your husband?” he says, dumbly.

“You think the Inquisition runs this place non-profit? No, this is my livelihood. I need you to pay for drinks, or you'll bleed me dry. From now on only the Chargers get a tab.”

“Hang on,” he says, though his heart is still doing a strange pounding in his chest at the fact Cabot is openly admitting to being married to a man. “Why do the Chargers get a pass?”

“Because whenever they get paid, I get paid with interest,” he says. “I can afford to swing them. The rest of you need to cough up coin.”

“That's... fair. Alright.” He puts coin on the bar, and Cabot slides his drink over. “I'll settle my slate within the week.”

Apparently it is normal, in the South. Cabot is not the only man with a husband at Skyhold, or the only man so inclined. Once he begins to look, he sees them – people like him – everywhere.

Men in the tavern drink together, bodies close, hands together. They kiss over the tabletop. They get handsy together in corners. Even when there's drama – “Get your filthy hands off my man!” – nobody seems all that interested specifically in the gender combination of such events.

Then there's Sera, of course, shameless in her pursuit of women, but not just Sera. Women kiss each other good morning, and bring each other flowers. There's a couple of women he thinks might even be raising children together, a small gaggle of kinky-haired children who call both of them 'mama'.

There's two elf librarians, and one day he finds them kissing in one of the library nooks. When he catches them, the women break apart, breathless and giggling and a little embarrassed, but not ashamed, and certainly not fearful of his reaction.

At the very least, he expects the Chantry not to approve. The Chantry in Tevinter pushes the idea of a divine union between man and woman rather insistently, and fighting against that inevitability in his life is part of why he finds himself where he is.

But one sunny afternoon in Skyhold's garden, in plain sight of the milling Chantry sisters, he watches one of the few Templars that escaped from Therinfal Redoubt – the handsome, dark skinned one, Barris, he thinks – kissing a man. The other man is a mage, snowborn, noble, someone he's seen taking tea with Vivienne.

They're not covert in the least, kissing and laughing, and the only people to pay them any mind pass their eyes over them with vague interest or fondness. The Chantry sisters don't cluck or whisper about them, but pass by them with the same quiet politeness that they do everyone in the garden.

Oh, to have a lover, a husband, to have kisses in the garden without fear. For the first time in his life, instead of thinking I want that with a dull sort of ache, warmth spreads in his chest and he thinks I could have that.

*

The Bull doesn't know the details of how Tevinter fucked Dorian over, or how his father was involved, but he can make some guesses. Krem's filled him on how Tevinter views men and women who want to deviate from the divine model of man and woman, whether that's someone like Krem, who refuses to repress himself and live a life of quiet misery that matches what Tevinter says his body means, or Dorian, who just wants to fuck and be with who he wants without having to keep it secret, if the Bull's guesswork is true.

After their initial sweep of the perimeter, he stands outside the Gull and Lantern as Cadash and Dorian enter, and keeps an ear out for trouble. Sera, too, though she paces while the Bull leans on the wall.

“We should be in there,” she says. “A Tevinter would probably set a trap.”

“The Boss can handle herself. Dorian too.”

“Stabby and burny, the pair of them,” Sera says, with an approving little hum of laughter. “Glad they're on our side in fights.”

The door opens not long later, and Cadash steps out, closes it behind her. She looks ready to kill something.

“You alright, Boss?”

“It's his father, not a retainer.”

“A trick then,” Sera says, “but not a trap?”

“No.”

She's not forthcoming with more information, and the Bull figures whatever business Dorian has with his father can't concern the Inquisition directly, if she won't talk about it, seeing as she's pretty upfront about the Inquisition's workings; but there's significance to what she doesn't say, when it sounds like she's being upfront.

Dorian comes out of the tavern twenty minutes later and looks like he's gone ten rounds with a despair demon. He looks exhausted, his eyes are red from crying, and his hands are shaking. He folds them over his chest, not soon enough for the Bull to miss it.

“Shite,” Sera says, and Cadash shoots her a warning look.

“Let's get you out of here,” she says, to Dorian, and he sniffs, raises his chin, follows her.

The Bull spends the trip back from Redcliffe to Skyhold wanting to hold the damned 'Vint in his arms. Which is weird, because up to now mostly he's just wanted to fuck him, maybe hold him after fucking him, make him laugh, fight him a little.

It's not as if Dorian is even looking that torn up over whatever happened with his father. He's chattering half-heartedly with Sera from the back of one of the covered wagons, but he's going through wine straight from the bottle like it's going out of style.

“My father wasn't sorry for the right part,” Dorian says, when they're two days from Skyhold and three of them are sitting in one of the covered wagons. Cadash is out on watch, and Sera is snoring softly from the depths of her bedroll in one corner of the caravan.

Dorian offers the bottle to the Bull, who takes it and swirls the contents. It's nearly empty. He takes a drink regardless, and decides to nurse it until Dorian demands it back.

“What part was that?”

“Context,” he says, spreading his hands in a gesture like he's about to lay things out, “my father decided the only way to make me marry a woman and produce an heir was to perform a blood magic ritual on me, and change my nature.” He's so far beyond drunk, but hardly slurring at all. But he's loose from it, words coming easy as he watches the Bull for reaction.

“Shit,” the Bull manages, because that is so much worse than anything he's been theorising.

“Quite. And he's not sorry for it. Oh, he went on about how sorry he was that he was forced to take that action. Not actually sorry for planning it. Or for abducting me, for keeping me a proxy prisoner. Proxy? Pretend prisoner? No, kaffas, what am I thinking?”

He laughs; a mirthless, wounded thing it is.

“Practically?” the Bull offers.

“Yes, that's the one. Practically a prisoner. In my childhood home. You're clever, aren't you? But I never did underestimate your capacity for intelligence.”

“Aw, thanks,” the Bull teases.

Dorian rolls his eyes and reaches for the wine again. The Bull holds out the bottle, and when Dorian takes it, he's so very careful not to touch the Bull's hand. It's not a surprise, really, but it... it doesn't settle right, as he watches Dorian neck the remains of the wine.

*

The dragon lurches forward, and with one last bone-rattling screech topples to the ground, sending up clouds of dust. The Iron Bull buries his axe in her neck, and she doesn't move again.

“Taarsidath-an halsaam! YEAH!” he roars, lifting his bloody axe above his head. Dorian, panting and sore and drained almost empty of mana, lets out a breathless laugh and surges forward to meet the Bull's joy head on.

They're only a couple of feet from each other when Dorian stop himself, recognises the urge to fling his arms around the Bull's neck and kiss the life out of him as utterly ridiculous.

Dorian plants his staff on earth and leans against it, instead. The Bull is a bloody mess, with a deep wound on his head that's still bleeding sluggishly. Watching the Iron Bull's chest heave is – kaffas. It's almost enough to propel him forward. He's sure the Bull would have no objections. The Inquisitor and Cassandra, maybe would. Alright, Cadash would probably find it hilarious, and Cassandra would protest, whether or not she approved.

The Bull, at that moment, looks like he could kiss him back and get them both out of their clothes in under a minute.

“Trust you to enjoy this.”

The Bull grins at him, all teeth, still coming down from his not-Reaver battle state. When did the idea of that start turning him on?

Probably in the first ten minutes of meeting the man, if he's honest with himself. Dorian always did like them big, even if he's never had the opportunity to indulge.

“Don't tell me you didn't like it. I could hear you hooting and hollering when you blasted a little hole in its wing.”

“Do you know how hard dragon skin is? That was no small feat!”

“Any bigger and Cullen and Dagna would both kill you,” Cadash says from a nearby, and Dorian doesn't jump, but he also didn't realise she was close. He steps back from the Bull, suddenly feeling heat rising in his cheeks.

“Why?”

“They've both staked claim on the parts. Cullen wants the leather for his vanguards, and Dagna wants the scales for... something amazing, probably. Can't have you blasting holes in it.”

“Is nobody else impressed with me?” Dorian huffs, though it's hard to be truly angry when his body is singing with the adrenaline high.

“Oh, some of us are,” the Bull says, and when Dorian turns to look at him, the Bull looks at him in a way he rather thinks a dragon might look at its next meal.

*

Skyhold has no end of people the Bull can fuck. Once someone's had a ride on the Bull, inevitably word spreads. That works for him; he has fun, they have fun, there's plenty of orgasms all round, and occasionally someone will even come back for a second round. Mostly people get their curiosity sated and aren't interested in more, which works for him. He can be whatever people need; stand-in lover, epic one night fuck, fetish object.

Dorian, well. He's not so much pursuing Dorian, even though he would very much enjoy tumbling him, as giving Dorian the opportunity to come to him. He can't imagine Dorian has ever had a guy flirt with him openly, and for all Dorian's squawking, he keeps giving the Bull pretty deliberate openings, and hasn't told him to stop.

He could just ask outright, like he had with Cassandra.

If you need any help with that frustration back in camp, let me know.”

She levels him with a look. “It's never going to happen.”

Apologies for giving offence. I will stop making invitations, Seeker.”

I was not offended,” she says. “Nor did I say you should stop, so long as we are both clear it's never happening.”

Works for me.”

But Dorian, shit, the Bull thinks he might spook if he's direct like that. The guy can't be used to direct, it'll all be secret signs and stolen moments whenever he could in Tevinter. Maybe bathhouses, brothels. Could have had a lover, but it would have been all hushed up.

Maybe not, the Bull considers, if whatever Dorian was doing was blatant enough to get his father's attention like that.

If only everyone outside Par Vollen could be as upfront as Cassandra, shit would be a lot easier. But this place isn't the Qun, and as much as he jokes about being a Tamassran, it's not the same doing things down here. Dorian isn't going to ask him outright for a good fuck, even though the Bull is pretty sure he's interested in the possibility, not with Tevinter's bullshit at his heels.

But they're friends now, good ones, and they enjoy each other's company. The Bull has to figure a way to offer something that might be what Dorian needs, without sending him barrelling back down the path he's walked so far on.

*

Like Seheron, only colder,” the Bull had said of the Storm Coast, once.

The air stinks with the smell of a Qunari dreadnought on fire. Dorian realises it's probably the smell of gaatlok, and he wonders whether this is how Seheron smells, too.

The rain pours down, and Dorian is chilled to the bone, but for once he doesn't care about catching his death. It's somehow narratively just, for the skies to open proper on them now, as the Bull watches the smoking wreckage of the dreadnought and Gatt bids his curt farewell in Qunlat.

“Ashkost kata, bas saarebas,” he says, to Dorian, who only knows enough Qunlat to know he's being addressed as an outsider mage, but can make an educated guess at the rest from his tone.

“Vae victis, vale,” he returns in his own mother tongue. Gatt understands that, and his face hardens before he turns away.

Dorian approaches the Bull, and makes sure his footsteps are heavy enough to notice through the rain. The Bull would probably have noticed him even if he didn't try to make himself obvious, but he doesn't turn to look at him.

He wonders if he's being selfish or kind, that more than anything he wants to touch the Bull now.

“Are you alright?” he asks, and puts his hand on the Bull's exposed shoulder, squeezes it. The black war paint under his hand smudges a little.

“Shit, Dorian!” the Bull says as he shrugs of his touch and snatches up his hand. “Vitaar is poisonous!”

The Bull empties his waterskin over Dorian's hand, uses his thumbs to massage away the traces of ink, paint, poison, whatever it is.

“Fasta vass,” Dorian says, as his hand throbs and begins to itch.

“Fucking idiot,” the Bull laughs, and the sound doesn't spread into the expression on the Bull face, not like it normally does.

“Are you alright?” Dorian says again, even though it is a stupid, stupid question to ask him now.

“You're gonna have a shitty day if we don't go see Stitches,” the Bull says.

Stitches, who is alive at this moment, who could have easily been dead.

“Of course it's poison,” Dorian hisses. “Am I going to die?”

“You'd be frothing at the mouth already if you were,” the Bull says, and then seems to swallow around a lump in his throat.

“There is no way I'm dying like that, thank you very much,” he says, snatching his hand away from the Bull's grip.

He lets the Bull lead him off the hill, and is happy he can serve as a reason for the Bull not to concentrate on the flaming wreckage of a life just offshore.

*

He's not sure what jumped up Dorian's ass and died in the night, but he's done nothing but snipe all day. It's not that the Bull doesn't like a bit of back and forth, it's half the fun of how they work, but it's still a surprise. Things have been meandering and steady for weeks, teasing and flirting and these looks that leave the Bull with a warmth in his belly, and even warmer thoughts at night.

“Quite the stink-eye you've got going, Dorian,” he says finally, after a skirmish with wandering Darkspawn in which he cleaved two heads from shoulders in the space of a few seconds. At least Blackwall was impressed.

“You stand there,” he says, indicating to all of the Bull, but lingering over his chest, “flexing your muscles, huffing like some beast of burden with no thought save conquest.”

“That's right,” Bull says, and leers at him. It's as good a time as any to play into Dorian's need to be a combative little shit. If that gets him hot, the whole brutish qunari ravishing dashing magisters angle, then the Bull can work with that.

“These big muscled hands could tear those robes off while you struggled, helpless in my grip. I'd pin you down, and as you gripped my horns; I would conquer you.”

Dorian blinks at him. “Uh. What?”

“Oh,” the Bull says, frowning. “Is that not where we're going?”

“No. It was very much not.”

Dorian watches him for a few seconds longer, not scared and not angry, but brow knitted into a frown all the same. Then he turns towards the Inquisitor, leaving the Bull to sigh and heave his axe onto his back. Shit. Can't call them right all the time.

*

Dorian takes the flagon of beer that the Iron Bull offers him, and when he does, their fingers brush. It feels like Dorian has called a storm spell into his palm, the way his skin crackles at the touch, dangerous and sharp and wonderful.

What had they talked about the last time they were together? Oh yes, Dorian remembers as he takes his mug to his lips and drinks deeply, the Bull's eyes on him the whole time. Smutty literature. Something about the trashy qunari pirate stories that are quite popular in Tevinter, and Dorian denying he had ever read such things, let alone kept a stash of them under his bed.

I'm just saying, Dorian. You have this picture of the Qunari in your mind, you see us as this forbidden, terrible thing, and you're inclined to do the forbidden.”

I have no idea what you're talking about,” Dorian says.

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

He says, “You are impossible! This is...ugh!” What he means, he thinks later, is 'this is impossible'. No such things could be that simple, surely. The South does things differently, the Bull does things differently, but it's still not a possibility. Not for him.

Good! I like that energy,” the Bull says, practically beaming at him. “Stoke those fires, big guy!”

Here they sit, several days later, sharing beers and laughing as Sera leads the Chargers in song at a nearby table. And oh, has he been thinking about it. About being conquered, ravished, absolutely wrecked by the Bull, just like the filthy novels of his youth, and the masturbatory imaginings of his adulthood.

He need only ask, and with every gulp of his beer, the idea seems less and less like impossibility.

*

No conquering happens the first time. Dorian talks up a good game, and maybe one day, if the guy is inclined to return they'll try it out, but instead when he follows the Bull to his room he closes the door and leans against it.

“I do hope you intend to kiss me,” he says.

“You want me to kiss you?” the Bull asks, as he crowds Dorian against the door. He's not a small man, but against the Bull, he's sure not big either.

Dorian tilts his head up, eyelids heavy as those plush, dark lips part. “Yes.”

So the Bull does. He kisses Dorian, and Dorian kisses him back, and surges against his body, against the knee the Bull has pushed between his legs. Dorian parts his lips, flicks out his tongue to invite the Bull to invade his mouth, and shit, that's hot.

“You got a watchword?” the Bull asks, as they catch their breath.

“Do you intend to do things to me that might require one?”

“The night's young,” he says. Dorian grins, and leans up to kiss him again. The Bull lets him, but only for a moment.

“So?”

“You're not joking,” Dorian says, obviously surprised. “No, I don't have a word.”

“Katoh. You say 'katoh', I stop. No questions asked.”

“Alright.”

“You got it?”

“Katoh, yes.” His pronunciation is crap, but it's clear enough.

“Good,” he croons, and Dorian shivers against him. The Bull gathers Dorian's wrists up and pins them above his head. Dorian lets out a little gasp. “Now, I'm gonna figure out all these buckles. I have some ideas...”

*

Dorian is expecting to get potentially the best fuck of his life. He's not wrong, in that regard, but it's nothing like he pictured. The Bull kisses him against the door, pins his wrists over his head and divests him of his clothing, caresses every inch of newly revealed skin with his rough fingers and his surprisingly soft and scarred mouth.

“Going to make you feel good,” he says, kneeling between Dorian's knees on his bed, then takes his cock into his mouth. When Dorian comes, after so long, and not nearly long enough, he grips the Bull's horns and keens, empties into the Bull's mouth, and collapses limp on the bed.

Minutes, hours later, perhaps, the Bull has two huge fingers inside him, turning small circles over his prostate, each pass making his cock twitch out precome onto his belly.

“Kaffas, Bull!” he groans. The Bull kisses him, takes Dorian's willing mouth and curves his fingers again.

“You like that, big guy? You going to come again?”

He does, all over his belly, and afterwards the Bull licks away every trace of round two.

“Let me suck your cock, won't you?” Dorian asks, still breathless from his orgasm. The Bull nuzzles at his jaw, kisses the skin there.

“Yeah,” he breathes. “Yeah, Dorian.”

Dorian Pavus, dashing Altus, skilled necromancer and cock sucker. Its an accurate title, if he'd ever dared to be so bold. He certainly proves himself, wraps his mouth around the Bull's huge, beautiful cock, lavishes him with his lips and his tongue.

He's big, the biggest Dorian has ever seen, huge and heavy, dark grey with a red-purple head. A challenge, certainly, but not impossible. He so enjoys this, on his knees as the Bull sits on the bed and strokes at his hair, his jaw, while Dorian proves himself the best the Bull's ever had. The Bull gets around, so he probably has quite the competition, and for some reason that just makes his own cock harder between his legs.

“Dorian, fuck, your mouth,” the Bull groans, fingers carding through his hair to cradle his skull, an impossibly gentle gesture. “Look at you. So eager for it, so good at it.”

He shivers with the praise, pushes past his gag reflex to take the Bull into his throat a little, earns himself a deep, rumbling moan. It's not as if he's never been told he's good at sucking cock before, but the way the Bull looks at him is almost overwhelming. Like he's proud of him for it, like there is absolutely no part of him that thinks Dorian is dirty for this, for wanting it, for liking it.

The Bull warns him, a gentle hand on his jaw, thumb at the corner of his mouth where his lips are stretched wide around his cock, and Dorian keeps going, sucks the Bull until he comes in his mouth, excessively, wonderfully, thick and bitter on his tongue.

“Shit, Dorian,” the Bull says, when he's dragged Dorian into his lap and is kissing him, not a second of hesitation even though he can surely taste himself on Dorian's mouth. “Give me ten minutes, you can ride the Bull if you want.”

“Ten minutes?” Dorian says, gaping at him. The Bull shrugs.

“Give or take.”

Dorian is still laughing, breathless and easy with his legs wrapped around the Bull's middle, as the Bull slides his cock inside him, a half hour of opening him up on his fingers later.

“Festis bei umo canavarum,” he groans, laughs, stretched wide around that ridiculous cock, full and near-overwhelmed and absolutely delighted.

The Bull leans down, takes his face in a giant hand to tip up his chin and kiss him.

“Beautiful.”

“I always am,” Dorian says.

“Yeah,” the Bull says, kisses his neck and down onto his clavicle before he leans back to look at his face. “But like this, Dorian...”

The only death that finds them that night is the kind Orlesians call little, but there's not much that's small about the Bull fucking Dorian until he comes all over the Bull's hand, yelling in common and Tevene and without language. The Bull comes on his stomach at Dorian's request, streaks hot and white over his brown skin, and they're laughing breathlessly, without trouble, easy.

Sex hasn't been that for a long time. Perhaps it hasn't ever. The Bull kisses him in the aftermath, cleans them both and kisses him some more, as if it's even enjoyable to do so, even though they're both satisfied and well and truly fucked out.

Dorian leaves before the dawn breaks, slipping from the Bull's room onto the battlements with one last smile over his shoulder.

In another life where things are simpler, perhaps he stays.

*

“So, Dorian, about last night,” the Bull says.

Dorian sighs, rolls his eyes, the whole deal, but there's the tug of a smile at the corner of his mouth as he glances sidelong at the Bull.

“Discretion isn't your thing, is it?”

The Bull isn't entirely convinced it's Dorian's thing, either. Or at least, it's a little more complicated than 'is' or 'isn't', wrapped up in some top quality Tevinter bullshit. But Varric and the Boss are a few paces ahead, talking at leisure as they set out with the caravan heading to the Emprise. He grins at Dorian.

“Three times! Also, your silky underthings, do you want them back, or did you leave those like a token?”

Dorian rolls his eyes again, but his cheeks have darkened. It's not quite the flush of those three times, with Dorian stretched around his cock and gripping at his backside to urge him on, but it's still a damn good sight.

“Or, wait,” he says, pretends its a new thought just to tease Dorian with it, “did you 'forget' them so you'd have an excuse to come back? You sly dog!”

“If you choose to leave your door unlocked like a savage, I may or may not come.”

“Speak for yourself.” The Bull winks at him, and Dorian almost ruins his sneer with a grin.

*

It began months ago, and it's become so normal. They talk, they snipe and bicker and joke. He hasn't had someone to talk to like this since Felix. Of course, it's not the same; Felix was as much an academic as he was, interested in study even if he was not a powerful mage. The Bull is no scholar, but is incredibly clever, and surprises Dorian at every turn.

Then they go to bed and fuck. The sex is good, the best Dorian has ever had. He hopes, perhaps ridiculously that he is the best the Bull has ever had, too. Wouldn't that be a thing! To so impress a man who has slept with half of Thedas.

He's pretty sure most of the Inquisitor's inner circle knows he and the Bull are fucking. The Chargers certainly know, and seem various levels of fine with that. He sits with them many nights in the Herald's Rest, next to the Bull, mostly, and it would be so easy to lean into the shape of him. The Bull would surely get the hint, would wrap one muscular arm around him, and they could sit like that, in the simple manner than people who spend time together might.

But he is still not well liked at Skyhold, and the Bull is liked quite a lot. He can't imagine much good would come for either of them to be so obvious, in public. He's not even sure that the Bull would want that, though sometimes it hardly seems to matter, the Bull is so set on providing what he wants. He is a frustrating man.

*

Dorian, sat on the edge of the bed, stretches his jaw and smiles lazily at the Bull, who might not be able to move after that. Dorian is a fucking genius with his mouth.

“I don't mind if you fuck other people, you know,” Dorian says. The Bull straightens out his leg, hears his knee click. “This arrangement came with no promise of monogamy.”

“For either of us,” the Bull says.

Dorian presses his lips together in thought.

“I heard you weren't, is all. That you had turned people away.”

Shit, the Bull thinks. It doesn't even mean anything, he tells himself. Not fucking other people just makes it easier to focus on what he is to Dorian, giving the man what he needs. He's good at that.

But then there's nights when Dorian doesn't come to his room, and he wishes he had. Nights when he could find someone else so easily, and he doesn't. Weeks when Dorian is away with the Inquisitor and he's not, when a break in the regular sex is definitely noticeable, and he still doesn't seek anyone else.

“Is that for my benefit, Bull?” Dorian says. “I assure you, if you wish to entertain other people as well as me, I'll quite understand.”

“Nah,” the Bull says, instead of the more dangerous I think maybe I—. “This is good. If you want it this way.”

“This way?” Dorian asks. “I'd hate to keep you from pursuing tastes that I can't account for.”

“Do you want to fuck other people?”

“No,” Dorian says, all breath, and then after he coughs, “that is to say, this is rather a new venture for me, this arrangement. I'm not sure I could manage more. You do so like to tire me out.”

“I try.”

“And you?” Dorian asks. “Do you want to fuck other people?”

“Nah, I'm good. You're a handful. A generous handful,” he leers at Dorian, who can't seem to help but grin. “This is good, for however long you want to keep doing it.”

That seems to give Dorian pause, but he doesn't say anything. Crawls back on the bed instead, and takes the Bull's soft cock in his hand.

“How much you think I can wring out of you in one night, hmm?”

Maybe I want—.

*

The Winter Palace proves an eventful trip.

“Orlesians,” Cadash says.

“Too right,” Sera adds.

“We've had worse nights,” Dorian says.

“We've had better,” the Bull rounds off.

“Just,” Cadash waves her hand at them, “don't make too much trouble, alright?” She's definitely addressing Sera most of all, and Sera grins, wide and dangerous.

Dorian watches them go off, Cadash to probably suffer more schmoozing, now she's saved Orlais' entire arse, and Sera to do Maker knows what.

“Here I was, thinking this was going to be a dull affair,” he says airily. “Turns out there was just as much murder and plotting as your average Tevinter party!”

“The food was pretty good, too,” the Bull says, and Dorian laughs, turns towards him. Kaffas he looks good. His shoulder look impossibly broader, his arms huge, the sash making an illusion of his waist. Though Dorian finds himself disappointed at the lack of skin, that the man's big belly is covered, though the fitted trousers are making a show of his glorious thighs.

A low chuckle gets his attention, and he turns to see two men in masks speaking in rapid Orlesian, much too fast for the little Dorian knows, but he recognises 'cock' and 'savage'. The men are quite obviously looking at the Bull.

The Bull looks past them, like he's surveying the area, and they laugh again, cruel-sounding and over-loud. Dorian doesn't have to speak the language to understand the kind of conversation they're having.

“Has it been like that the whole night?” Dorian asks, suddenly furious at the idea.

“Yeah.”

“And you've been, what? Pretending not to speak Orlesian?”

“Never know what you might overhear when they think you're too dumb to understand.”

The next words Dorian recognises in the obnoxious conversation are 'Tevinter' and 'animal'. The Bull doesn't acknowledge whatever crude, nasty thing they're saying.

“Walk with me, won't you?” Dorian says, because he knows he risks setting someone's coattails on fire, and that would only cause more problems for poor Cadash. The Bull nods, and falls into step beside Dorian, who leads them away from the nasty laughter and out of the nearest set of doors, into a garden with a fountain and plant-covered trellises beyond.

The trellis by no means offers true privacy, but they're shielded from the rest of the garden, and Dorian can finally put his hands on the expanse of the Bull's chest, spread his fingers wide and sigh out the tension that's been within him the whole night.

“Finally got me alone,” the Bull says. Dorian hums, and leans up in invitation. The Bull kisses him, big hands so gentle at his waist. The kisses are soft, stolen things in this little corner.

There are people milling in the garden mere feet away, and the sound of music floats into the garden through the open doors and windows. Dorian is happy, and ever so slightly ashamed that the idea of being discovered in a rather chaste embrace has his pulse beating so fast.

He wonders who here would care. The Orlesian shits, who he will never see again already think ill of him for being Tevinter and worse of the Bull for being qunari, what could possibly come of more?

“Dance with me,” he says.

The Bull laughs, and then when Dorian doesn't join in on the joke, his face softens.

“I'd like that,” he says. He offers his hand to Dorian.

Dorian was taught to lead in his dance lessons as a child, but it's so easy to slip his hand into the Bull's grasp, to hold his arm and align their bodies just so. The music pours into the garden, and they do little more than step around the trellis alcove, feet in time.

“Where did you learn to dance? I expected you to tread on my feet at least a little.”

“Oh, I've done my part at court before. Security, mostly, but you never know what you might need to learn. I'm full of surprises.”

The Bull dips Dorian low, leans over and kisses him. Dorian can barely catch his breath, his chest fluttering madly.

“That you are,” he murmurs, when he pulls away. Now some part of him wants to be seen like this, held securely by the Iron Bull, dancing amongst the roses and the ivy. When the Bull rights him, Dorian surges forward and kisses him again, throws his arms around the man's neck and pulls him close.

*

The Bull takes tea in the garden with Josephine. They never had much business to tend to when he was serving the Qun, since being a spy meant his links directly to Par Vollen were mostly covert, and not suited to her brand of diplomacy. Now, without the Qun, he makes good on some of his connections in Orlais and Nevarra, former clients who have given the Chargers glowing references, who might be persuaded to aid the Inquisition.

Josephine is also a delight to spend time with. Proper, clever, sharp mind and a challenge to fluster. She knows how to both get her hands on and brew red tea properly, and manages to bring out the nicest little Antivan cakes and sweets.

Talk has devolved into companionable chatter, as they drink tea, eat cake and look at the milling people. He wonders what she thinks when she looks at them; certainly not what he does; though she was a Bard once, he has on good authority.

“How, then, did the Countess react to you killing her most favoured Chevalier?”

“After she found out he was behind the whole thing, she was pretty grateful. Had a fun way of showing it, too.”

“Oh my,” Josephine said, leaning ever so slightly towards him. “Do you accept that, as payment?”

“Nah. But if someone's interested.” He grins at her, and smiles back. “Wasn't me she was interested in, anyway. Liked dwarves. Our company has a few of 'em, and she had her fun with a few of 'em.”

“Well,” Josephine said, sipping her tea, “I can certainly understand that.”

Cadash and Josephine have made no secret of their relationship, especially after the duel with her former betrothed. The Chargers have been telling variations on that one for weeks; Skinner likes the version where Cadash guts the guy for trying to grab Josephine, and Dalish likes the one where breaking the engagement frees Lord Otranto to go back to his own male lover. The story Josephine is telling is probably less dramatic than either of those, but interesting enough to serve a purpose on the gossip mill.

Dorian appears in the garden through a side door, and steps out into light and the air. People still don't like Dorian, that much is plain to see. Oh, the man's got friends, even if the Bull thinks he has a pretty hard time acknowledging it. Probably a lonely kid, too clever for his own good, not used to being genuinely liked, or the good-natured teasing that goes with it. Any one of them would defend Dorian in argument now, even Solas or Blackwall. He's pretty sure Sera would fight six Golems at once to defend Dorian from scorn, then afterwards call him 'Fussybritches' and joke about him shitting gold.

“Lord Dorian looks well,” Josephine says, and if the Bull wasn't the Bull, he might have even taken it for just an observation.

Dorian spots them through the plants and the people, spots the Bull, and begins to make his way around winding paths towards the Gazebo.

Then, things happen very fast.

A soldier in full armour, who isn't looking where he's going collides with Dorian, barging hard into his shoulder. Dorian, his focus on the Bull, is spun with the force of it and almost loses his footing. The soldier is already rounding on him when Dorian recovers.

“Watch where you're going, Tevinter!” the soldier yells. Dorian's face is something like confusion and indignation.

Josephine has laid a hand on the Bull's arm, even though he hasn't moved. Might have tensed a little.

You crashed into me,” Dorian says, extending his arms out beside him, hands upturned, a gesture that is more a deflection than a challenge.

“You don't own this place, 'Vint, no slaves here to wipe your shitty ass.”

“I assure you,” Dorian says, voice carrying through the garden, “I'm quite capable of wiping my own arse.”

Then the soldier spits right in Dorian's face.

He knows why Josephine has her hand on him then, and he flexes against it. She doesn't even look at him, watches the soldier retreating and Dorian fishing in his pocket for a handkerchief.

“Say the word,” she says, “and I will ruin that man's life.”

Dorian hasn't found a handkerchief, and looks disgusted at the prospect of wiping the spit from his face with his shaking hands. The Bull rises then, gets his own handkerchief out of a pouch at his belt.

“Hold off, Ambassador,” he says, though he's grateful for the offer.

When he reaches Dorian, his hands are shaking too much to be of use, and he's too angry to form words. His lips are pressed in a thin line, and he looks like he might be fighting angry tears. The Bull pulls Dorian into the cloisters, out of the main garden and away from most eyes, then takes his chin gently in hand as he wipes the spit from his face with the handkerchief. Dorian tenses, relaxed, and tenses again, fighting an urge to flee the scene, probably.

“There you go,” The Bull says gently, tucking the handkerchief away. “Are you okay, Dorian?”

“Fine,” he manages. 'Humiliated' is implied by the way his cheeks are burning and he won't meet the Bull's eye.

“You want to talk to Cullen about this?”

“Cullen?” Dorian says, and does look at him then, confused. “What could I possibly have to talk to Cullen about?”

“They're his troops.”

“Oh,” he deflates, clearly the Bull wasn't heading in whatever direction Dorian assumed. “No. Me getting him reprimanded may only make things worse. Soldiers talk.”

“Alright.”

When the Bull catches Josephine's eye he shakes his head minutely.

“I should get back to the library,” Dorian says.

“You could bring your research to my room.”

“As if I'll get any work done in your room.”

“If that's what you want,” the Bull smiles at him, scratches his fingers lightly against Dorian's jaw. Dorian pushes ever so slightly into the touch.

“I must finish what I'm doing. I only came out for air. But an hour perhaps, if you still...”

“Yeah, of course,” the Bull says. Lets Dorian pull himself away from the contact. “I'll be waiting.”

*

He's not sure which is more hilarious to him, Sera finding another story about fisting a woman to entertain them with, or the fact that Cassandra never needed the first explained to her. Shows Dorian, for jumping to conclusions about their Seeker friend.

“You couldn't write this, honestly,” Varric says, through his laughter. “Well, I couldn't.”

It's lovely. The Iron Bull and Blackwall, Sera, Cassandra, Varric, and their illustrious Cadash, who is puffing away on a pipe with a long stem and blowing smoke rings for Sera to launch nuts through into various people's mouths.

These are his... friends. It's so strange to know that there's more than one person he can rely on, if he needs to. Not that he would wish to burden them so, but after Felix, he thought he would be friendless forever; then the Inquisitor had become his friend in a way that was undeniable. He'd called her his only friend, once. She helped him to recognise that the friendships he'd been building didn't all look alike, but they were still his.

The pipe passes to Blackwall, who can't blow rings, and Sera shifts her focus to the next table over, throws a nut at Krem's head to get his attention and fall into conversation.

“She takes one look at me,” Cadash says, “covered from tit to toe, and just puts down her letter, puts her hands together and says 'I told you not to trust a nug wrangler'.”

The table dissolves into laughter, and the Bull, huge and solid next to him, it's all Dorian can do not to lean into him. He could. He knows he could; the gathered group might tease, but they wouldn't scorn, and they certainly wouldn't drag him out of the Herald's Rest by his hair and—well. They wouldn't care, beyond acknowledgement. Perhaps they'd even be happy on his behalf. He could climb into the Bull's lap, and he would survive the night.

But he's not a brave man, or a good one. Selfish really, to slip his hand under the table and along the Bull's thigh, instead of across the tabletop where his is rested. There's a pause, only noticeable because he's watching the Bull out of the corner of his eye.

The Bull doesn't look at him as he slips his own hand under the table, finds Dorian's palm with his fingertips and turns gentle circles there. Runs his thumb over the heel of his palm, slots their fingers together.

The Bull deserves more, better, but this is all he can do now, all he is.

*

Fucking demons, fucking things that crawl over the ground towards them, limbs broken and twisted, horns cracked, faces ripped, bodies open, cut and raped and burned. Spiders, Cadash says. She doesn't like fucking spiders.

The Bull crushes the last of them under his axe, stragglers after Cadash rips her dagger out of the fear demon's face.

“The rift!” she shouts, dripping with black viscera. “Go!”

They're almost there, when something fucking huge looms out of the green of the Fade, and steps between the six of them, dividing them in half. Him, Dorian, Sera, spinning in place, too much distance between them and Cadash, Alistair and Hawke on the other side of too many fucking legs.

“Cadash!” Dorian yells, as fire builds at the focus on his staff.

“Go!” she shouts. “Bull, go!”

Blood pounds in his ears, from the cuts over his back, tastes it in his mouth. Shit, it'd be a good death, fighting that thing. He turns on his heel, grabs Dorian by the wrist and Sera around the middle, and hauls them the last few steps, take their squirming and squawking, and tumbles them through the rift and into the chaos.

Sera punches him hard in the shoulder, and in the next second looses an arrow at an unwitting demon bearing down upon a nearby soldier. Dorian twists his wrist in the Bull's grasp, not to break the hold, but enough that he can squeeze his fingers around the Bull's in turn. Then he's gone too, firing lightning into the fray. The Bull hefts his axe and roars his challenge at anything that dares.

It's only a moment later that Hawke and Cadash fall out of the rift, but it's a moment when he thinks I should have stayed, but knows if he did that Dorian and Sera would too, wouldn't leave without him, and shit, he joined the Inquisition for good fights, not that, not fucking that. Not to find more people who would fight a giant ass demon with him if he was stupid enough to stick around and swing for it.

The rift explodes out of existence and the demons wither, and at the centre of it all Cadash stands illuminated in the green from the mark.

*

Dorian has laid beside the Bull in tents or caravans for weeks on the trip back from the Western Approach, from Adamant. Feels him flinch awake from nightmares of the Fade, of Seheron. He wonders what he would think of it all if he was still under the impression qunari can't dream.

He doesn't ask, because he already knows what the Bull dreams about, can guess at it, and has no right to it. Instead he thinks of the techniques the Bull showed him, the breathing and the meditations that qunari use to skirt the Fade and keep from dreams. Moves into the shape of him, puts his hand on his middle and breathes, long and even inhales through his nose, slow exhales through his mouth, does that until they're in sync. They fall asleep again then.

Back at Skyhold, it should be funny, watching Cassandra knock the Bull on his arse, and then seeing Cadash wailing on him with a stick. It's not.

“If you needed your arse handed to you,” he says, nodding at the Inquisitor as she leaves the Bull to his devices, “you need only have asked.”

“Nah.” The Bull rolls his shoulders, stretches his neck. “Got that covered.”

The skin of his stomach is raw and red, and Dorian knows it'll bruise. That was probably the idea. Still he wants to sooth it away, drag the Bull to the ground and kiss away the hurt, as if ridding him of that damage will fix the rest. Sleep is coming easier to the both of them now they're back at Skyhold, but walking physically in the Fade has a way of messing things up.

He spreads his hand out over the marks, carefully lays it there on the Bull's belly. The skin is hot under his hand, and the Bull hums; he's please, maybe, at the point of contact. Dorian looks up at him through his lashes.

“Perhaps there's something else I could do to your arse.”

“Perhaps,” the Bull says, smile crooked and charming. Dorian removes his hand, casts his eyes around or who might have seen, and feels a burning shame at doing so. They know, he thinks. It doesn't matter who knows. He busies his hand with the book at his belt, and the Bull keeps smiling at him.

*

The Bull takes a bowl of stew, chunks of bread and cheese and a pot of tea to the library. Dorian is not good at remembering to eat when he gets lost in research, doesn't feel the effects of skipping a meal like the Bull does, since a tired mind sets on quite differently to a fatigued body.

“Lunch,” he says, and Dorian jumps, even though the Bull was deliberate in his steps and even greeted Solas loudly so his voice would carry up to where Dorian is.

“You're not my keeper, Bull,” he says, frowning, then taps a thoughtful finger to his chin. “I'm sorry, that was unfair.”

“Ass deep in something, huh?” the Bull says, sliding the tray onto the space Dorian makes at the research table.

“Up to my neck, more like.” He rubs a hand over his face, then skims over his hair, as if he only remembers at the last second it's perfectly styled, and running his fingers through it will undo his hard work.

He rolls his shoulders next, fidgets in his seat. The Bull reaches out, takes his shoulder and presses his thumb into a familiar knot of tension. Dorian glances around, then closes his eyes and eases into the contact with a small, pleased noise.

“I shall have to have you see to my shoulders properly later. I've developed a terrible habit of hunching over at these tables.”

“Whatever you need, big guy,” he says, and goes to remove his hand. Dorian's own reaches up, barely brushing the Bull's, but it's enough to still him.

“Won't you stay?” He gestures at the seat opposite him. “I assume you've already eaten, but I wouldn't turn away your company.”

The Bull smiles at him. “Sure.”

The seats in the library were not made with qunari in mind, so it's interesting to note that the seat opposite Dorian is, in fact, a stool. It hadn't been there last time he'd visited, and it still makes him feel large and out of place, with his knees at rest so high, but it also feels deliberate. Dorian continues to surprise him.

“What tea is this?” Dorian asks, as he gamely pours some into an earthenware mug.

“Elfroot, mostly,” he says, and Dorian grimaces. “For your throat, after last night.”

“My throat is fine,” he says, and he's blushing a little. Probably remembering how he demanded that the Bull fuck his throat with fervour, and how the Bull had only been too happy to.

“Mixed it with one of the Boss's blends.”

Dorian looks at him then, over the rim of his mug, poised at his mouth.

“One that won't make you hallucinate,” the Bull adds.

“Good.” He takes a sip, and makes a satisfied sound. Apparently the elfroot isn't noticeable enough for him to complain about the taste. “Though hallucinating may be the only thing that would make this drudgery better.”

“You still looking for Corypheus' family name?”

“Yes,” he sighs. “Geneology is only exciting when you find an interesting link, like your great-great-great-Aunt being executed for attempted poisoning of the Archon, or an obscure relative turning out to be a lost king of a small country.”

“You still worried he might be one of yours?”

“If by 'mine' you mean a Pavus... perhaps. Wouldn't that just be utterly perfect? A man who wants to stop the Venatori, related to the darkspawn Magister who founded the cult.”

“It'd make killing him even better, more satisfying,” the Bull says, and Dorian hums around a mouthful of stew.

“Imagine it getting out, though. It would rather upset my place as 'the good Tevinter' if people suspect I'm part of a secret Venatori plot.”

“Whatever gets out,” the Bull says, “you'll be okay.”

“Oh, going to protect my honour, are you?”

“You don't need protecting, Dorian. But if you did, or you do, I've got your back.”

“Well,” Dorian sniffs. “Thank you. Let's hope it doesn't come to you riding to my rescue, shall we?”

*

Dorian hates templars. Especially red templars, who seem to find him utterly irresistible. That's how he finds himself empty of mana and fighting one with crystal daggers, or perhaps those are arms, all the while his head is still swimming from the smite.

He brings the blade of his staff down hard and then slices left in a vicious swipe, lodging it in the templar's neck. He twists until fragments of crystal break away, and the flesh underneath parts to the sharpened edge. Blood and shards of lyrium shower him, and Dorian lids his eyes and turns his face to avoid the splatter.

He goes down with the templar, falls to his knees. Kaffas, he's empty, and bleeding from somewhere, and it's a struggle to plant his staff against the ground and pull himself back up. Whatever they've hit him with is strong, make his head swim and his vision darken at the edges.

Dorian. Dorian.

He's on his knees again, and he strikes out with the palm of his hand when someone tries to force something against his mouth.

“Dorian, I need you to drink this.”

Inquisitor. Cadash presses the lyrium potion against his mouth again, and the taste and sensation of it in his mouth and throat is familiar, then—

He lurches forward and empties it back onto the ground, and the rest of his stomach too.

“That's not good, Boss.”

“Doesn't lyrium usually help?”

“Yes my dear,” Vivienne says, Dorian knows that voice, knows its her hands that crowd his face. He can feel magic, something that makes his skin itch. “But the templars are constantly innovating new techniques to render mages temporarily weakened. Best not to move him, for the moment.”

If they're not going anywhere, Dorian wants to sleep. He closes his eyes and leans back, only to be jerked forward unpleasantly.

“Bull dear, won't you keep him talking?”

Against his back there's a sudden solidity, broad and warm to lean back into. The Bull's voice from somewhere there, too. Morning, then. Waking up in the Bull's bed.

“There are these vineyards outside Quarinus,” he says, a rumble, a rolling storm up Dorian's spine, and his head lolls back. “You know them?”

“Yes,” he says, rubs his cheek over the warmth under it. A sun-baked rock, or a comfortable bed. Maybe he's dreaming.

“In the summer dozens of people stomp the grapes barefoot.”

“Sun-Blonde.”

“Yeah,” the Bull chuckles, from somewhere too close, and far away at the same time. “We'll go, when this is all done. Go drink wine straight from the source.”

That would be nice. Wine and the Bull and the Tevinter summer sun on their backs. Nice, but something Dorian can't place. Something wrong. He still feels empty, when he should feel the flow of magic in him, as constant as a heartbeat, as unnoticeable most of the time.

“Slaves,” Dorian says, plucking the words as they come within reach of his mind. “Slaves stomp the grapes. Qunari slaves, for their feet. Bigger feet, faster... faster stomping. I'll fix it, try and fix it. You wouldn't be safe.”

“I can take care of myself, big guy.”

Dorian scoffs. “You'll have me. When we go, I'll be there. I won't let them hurt you.”

“Good to know.”

“What's wrong with him?” Cadash says.

“They've stopped the regeneration of his mana,” Vivienne says. “A nasty skill, though quite effective. He'll be alright soon, his body will overcome it.”

“I can hear you.”

“Yes, dear.”

“If he can sass back, he must be feeling better,” Cadash says.

With each breath in things get less hazy. The green of the Graves comes into focus, and then Vivienne's face, Cadash's figure nearby, the Bull at his back.

“Well,” he says, sense giving way to embarrassment. He pushes himself away from the Bull, graceless onto unsteady feet. “That was unpleasant.”

“How're you feeling?” Cadash asks.

“Better.” He lights a fire in his palm to prove he can, that his mana is flowing again. He closes his palm around it, quashing the magic. He's still drained almost completely, but it's almost, and not the empty, hollow feeling that took his feet from under him.

Vivienne stands too, dispelling the last of the green magic from her hand.

“The templars at Ostwick did something similar with—” she pauses, a little twitch of her lip, “—unruly apprentices. Certain healing spells can help to negate the effects.”

Cadash nods. “You and Fiona should make sure the mages are prepared. There must be a way to counteract it faster than this.”

“Here,” the Bull says, and Dorian turns to find his staff held out to him. When he takes it, the Bull's hand slides down the wood, covers his own. “You look a bit pale.”

“I'm fine.”

He flexes his fingers under the Bull's, and he resists the urge to wrench his hand away. He should, he's already embarrassed himself lolling all over him. The Bull is looking at him so gently though, no teasing, and he lets Dorian take the hand away without issue.

“Really, I'm alright.”

“Back to camp,” Cadash calls. “Dorian needs to rest.”

“I'm fine,” he insists.

“C'mon, big guy,” the Bull says, steering Dorian in the right direction with a guiding hand that doesn't actually make contact on the top of his back. “Pipe up if you need me to carry you.”

Dorian huffs. “You'd like that.”

“You in my arms? Sure.”

Mercifully, there's a tease there now, a smile that is easy to respond to with a roll of his eyes.

*

Dorian has become such a constant at the Bull's side of a night at the tavern, that people comment when he isn't there. Whether or not they comment to Dorian, he keeps coming back, slipping into his seat and joining in with the Chargers.

The turning point, he figures, is the night that to Krem's usual address of 'Altus', Dorian dares to fire back with 'Soporati', making his own judgement call on the situation. He feels Dorian tense, and Skinner looks ready to leap across the table and stab him, but her eyes dart to Krem. When he tips his chin up with a sly smile and declares the first round Dorian's, everyone relaxes, and Dorian buys the drinks.

The Bull is drinking from his pint when Dorian leans his body into the Bull's side, though both his hands are still around his tankard on the table top. Despite the small thrill of it, the Bull doesn't let himself react overtly. He waits, making sure it's deliberate – Dorian has his eyes on Cullen, laughing along to a story he's telling mostly to Cassandra – before he loops his arm loosely between the wall and Dorian's waist, wraps his hand gently around his hip. When Dorian eases into him just a fraction more, the Bull smiles at Dorian's small victory in the war with himself.

He's sat like this with people before, kissed them in taverns, had them in his lap, even fucked someone on a bar with a sizeable audience, once. This is the most worrying out of all of them, a delicate thing. If he pushes or he pulls too much, Dorian's going to lose himself to his fear and self-doubt, and the Bull doesn't want to have a hand in that.

So he curls his fingers into Dorian's hip, and gives him a little squeeze. When Dorian makes a low, pleased sound, barely audible even to the Bull's qunari ears, he thinks this is probably all Dorian needs tonight.

*

“My room is right there,” the Bull says, as Dorian presses him to the battlements and fumbles with the opening of his ridiculous trousers.

“Its not as if you really care about being seen,” he says, and feels himself flush hot with embarrassment.

He's doing this, grabbing at the Bull's cock at twilight on the battlements where anyone could find them, when it also stands that he is petrified at the thought of the Bull listing too close when they aren't in the safety of his room, leaning down and pressing his jaw along Dorian's; of being seen like that, of being known to not only be fucking him, but to reveal the nature of their dalliance.

He hates himself immediately for thinking of it with a term so ungenerous to the depth of what they have.

“Hey,” the Bull says, tips his chin up and brushes him thumb across his jaw. “We do whatever you want. You want me to kiss you?”

Dorian sink to his knees, and busies himself with extracting the Bull from his hideous trousers instead of answering. How could he possibly explain that the thought of being caught kissing him is more terrifying than being found with the Bull's cock down his throat?

He distracts himself with that, with the stretch of his lips, the full, heaviness on his tongue and in his throat, the way the Bull tastes.

“Oh fuck, Dorian,” the Bull groans above him, one huge hand spanning the entire back of his head, firm but leaving control of the motion to Dorian.

He's very good, and if it wasn't for his need to breathe he'd delight in taking the Bull into his throat and swallowing around his cock until he comes. As it is, he does that until the Bull eases him off, Dorian unwilling to be removed entirely, sucking on the swollen head and then lets it rest against his lips as he pants for breath.

“Eager, huh?”

“Fuck my face, won't you?”

The Bull looks fond at that. “Tap out if you need to stop.”

“Of course.”

If someone were to see him now, lips swollen around the fat head of the Bull's cock, what would they do? Laugh at him, scorn him? As if their judgement matters, when the Bull pushes into his throat, taking control now.

There is nothing simpler than Dorian debasing himself, a willing mouth for the Bull to use. The evil Tevinter magister, on his knees for a qunari brute who threads his hand through his hair and fucks his face with wild abandon, won't that titillate and turn stomachs in equal measure? He has always been so good at that, and really what harm can that do to him, when Skyhold already thinks him quite possibly a traitor and a spy. A willing whore for the enemy is not so much a stretch, and at least that would be a rumour with merit, and one he deserves.

“You want me to come in your mouth, Dorian?” the Bull asks, chest heaving above him. Dorian only groans, pushes himself as far as he can, swallows around his thick cock until the Bull is grunting and emptying his seed down Dorian's throat.

When he pulls off and wipes his mouth with the back of his hand, his eyes are damp from the exertion, but not it alone. The Bull seems to realise it's not the haziness of unslaked arousal, as he slips himself back into his trousers and eases himself to crouch down where Dorian wipes his eyes hastily with the backs of his hands.

“Shit, Dorian,” he murmurs. “I was too rough, I'm sorry.”

“No,” Dorian blinks away the tears that keep coming. “Don't be ridiculous, you weren't, Bull.”

He has never felt as acutely ashamed of himself as he does now, that he could let the Bull think he has done him harm. The Bull looks at him steadily, lets Dorian witness that he is reassessing what he sees, and then puts his hands so gently on Dorian's neck and brings him forward, to kiss his forehead.

“You want to tell me what's going on in that head of yours?”

“It's not you.” Dorian wants to kiss him, but his cheeks are burning hot, and quite ridiculously he's sure the Bull will know the terrible things he thought if he kisses him, as if a kiss could reveal that much.

The Bull sweeps his hand back, pushing Dorian's hair away from his forehead.

“You wanna go back to your room?”

“Yours,” he say, mouth quicker than mind. “Closer. I'm alright, Bull. You did nothing wrong.”

The Bull hums, and wipes his thumbs over Dorian's cheeks, chasing away his tears.

“Neither did you, big guy,” he says, and oh, Dorian most certainly doesn't deserve this man.

*

What he wants is to be what Dorian needs. It's really that simple, most of the time. He's happy to wait, and to press only when he knows Dorian needs it, to test and push enough for Dorian to push back against, or move forward with, depending on how he's feeling.

Putting his hand on the small of the man's back while they're ankle deep in bog water is selfish and he knows it. But there's reanimated corpses – mostly not of Dorian's making – and a shit load of demons, and after another round of creepy long-limbed terrors, he finds himself reaching for Dorian.

“Are you alright?” Dorian asks, taking his attention from flicking mud off the end of his staff.

“Demons really shitting up my day,” the Bull says, spreading his fingers wide on Dorian's back. They cut through a lot of demons wherever they go with the rifts, but the Fallow Mire is especially packed full of them, and doesn't have the benefit of the Exalted Plain's openness and dryness.

“Oh cheer up,” Dorian teases, leaning into the touch and surprisingly cheerful considering his robes and boots are probably ruined. “Nobody's dead.”

On cue, a corpse shambles towards them from out of the murk.

“Well,” Dorian amends, as he lights it on fire with a flick of his staff, “nobody we know.”

Aside from the damp and the cold being very un-Dorian, the Mire seems to suit him down to the ground. There's no end of corpses, and spirits to inhabit them, or whatever creepiness Dorian does with his necromancy. Useful, though, a small undead battalion at his beck and call.

“Come on,” Dorian says, though he doesn't move to follow Solas and Cadash. “Onward.”

He lets the Bull steer him into motion, keeping his hand at his back as they continue onwards through the Mire.

*

It's not often that they're apart for this long; Cadash usually takes everyone out on expeditions, even if she prefers small teams. There's usually plenty else to do, scouting the area or cleaning out bandits, or examining what the scouts bring back from the Inquisitor's team.

But sometimes the Chargers need their illustrious leader, and it's been nearly a month. He hasn't missed him, of course. Ridiculous, to miss someone he's... well. It's been strange to spend so many consecutive nights in his own bed.

He wouldn't have gone down to greet the returning party on purpose, of course. The Bull will come and find him usually, after he's bathed away the grime of travel, but today Dorian just happens to be walking the grounds, a jaunt that coincidentally begins when above him in the library he hears a runner telling Leliana that the Chargers have been spotted coming through the mountain pass.

So if he just happens to be in the keep when the Chargers company pours in, it's just convenient timing. He stands and watches, and immediately thinks they must all be accounted for – fifty three, if he remembers the last time he watched the Bull do his accounts – spirits are high, laughing as they greet onlookers, friends and lovers reunited.

The Bull is a head taller than everyone else, even the couple of Vashoth that have joined up since the Chargers have been at Skyhold, and Dorian sees him long moments before the Bull finds him in the crowd. When he does his face splits into a grin, and Dorian has to bite the inside of his cheek to stop himself mirroring it. He's almost within earshot, making his way through the crowd, his focus on Dorian.

“KNOBKICKERS!” Sera screeches from beside him, making Dorian start. She goes running straight for Krem, cackling the whole way, to get lost in the midst of the company. She's been complaining all week about missing the Chargers.

The Bull laughs, and he's close enough now for Dorian to hear it.

“Things went well, I assume?”

“Bites and scratches, mostly, ghasts are nasty little shits. Spider lost a finger, but he doesn't need it to stick knives in people.”

“That was the worst of it?”

“Yeah,” the Bull says, then turns his arm to show off a deep cut, scabbed over but still sore looking. “Got myself a new scar in the works.”

Dorian rolls his eyes. “Of course you did.”

“You know some of those ghast make spears? And shoot magic crap? Ugly fuckers.”

“You should have burned the nests.”

“They were under all the houses in this village, Dorian,” the Bull chuckles. “Why do you think it took us so long?”

“I thought you were just enjoying your time with your men,” he muses, and allows himself an indulgent smile. “A little reprieve from serious Inquisition business.”

“It's a silverite mining town, that's Inquisition business. You think I'd stay away from you if I didn't have to?”

“Oh, don't start,” Dorian says, even as his heart begins to hammer in his chest, “I'll think you're sweet on me.”

Dorian blinks slowly, eyebrows inching up in preparation for the back and forth. He means it as a joke, and expects the same from the Bull. Is that what they call it, he'll say, when you miss an ass like yours?

It doesn't come. Bull's smile softens from teasing to—well, to something else.

“Yeah,” the Bull says, and lifts his shoulder in half a shrug.

Dorian opens and closes his mouth, while his chest does something akin to the trick they call walking bomb.

Before he's even realised it, he's grabbed the Bull's harness and pulled him down, and presses a chaste but deliberate kiss to his cheek. He lingers, lips against scarred, stubbled skin, and for just a moment he thinks every person in Tevinter could bare witness to this and he wouldn't care.

“I rather missed you,” he says as he pulls away, chest all aflutter from the way the Bull is still looking at him.

*

“Some party, huh?” the Bull asks, to Sera who looks bored and antsy, eyeing up a nearby gaggle of masked Orlesians.

The Orlesians at Skyhold have been less of a pain since the events at the Winter Palace went down, now they're falling over themselves to please the Inquisitor, instead of her having to jump through hoops for them.

Somehow he's still ended up back in the tailored Inquisition uniform with the Inquisitor throwing a miniature ball at Skyhold, and again he finds himself complaining about having to wear a white shirt under the red coat even though nobody gets to see the shirt. Sera is in the same way, the pair of them without anything in their wardrobes that Josephine would permit them to wear to a formal occasion.

He has to have a new shirt made, since the other one got damaged beyond repair in a horn incident; or at least that's the story he told Josephine. He doesn't feel bad about it, since it gives her something trivial to worry about rather than her girlfriend's glowing green hand. He definitely doesn't feel bad about it when Dorian waltzes about his room in just the shirt, one shoulder bared and his legs on show.

“I thought it would be less shit at Skyhold,” Sera says, shifting her weight from one foot to the other. “Same shite, different place. At least Vivvy is keeping them off our backs, yeah?” She jerks her head in the direction of Vivienne, radiant and always intimidating.

“At least they're all trying to make good with the Boss,” he says, as with a muttered thanks he takes a whole snack platter from a passing server. “Did you see some noble brought her an old Thiag statue? It's in the courtyard.”

“She's a surface dwarf!” Sera scoffed. “And where is she going to put it?”

Dorian comes into his view then, in the same red coat and blue sash as Sera and the Bull; despite appearances, Dorian arrived at Haven with only a small pack, and a set of formal robes were not something he'd made room for. He wears the Inquisition's dress uniform well, to say the least.

“Dorian looks like he knows what he's doing,” she says, following the Bull's gaze, as she leans over to take a canapé from the tray he's holding. “He's a posh knob though ain't he, he knows how to la-di-da at these ponces.”

“Probably bored as shit of doing it, though,” the Bull says. Sera giggles.

“You going to go rescue him?”

“I'm gonna give the room a sweep.” He's not even intending to convince her of his actual intent, as he winks at her and passes her the tray of food.

He makes his way to Dorian in a roundabout way, says hello to Varric and Blackwall on his way around. He's talking to an Orlesian with bright yellow trousers on, and a mask to match; Dorian looks physically pained by the amount of yellow he's being faced with. He doesn't want to barge in as if Dorian requires saving, so he puts himself in Dorian's line of sight, and waits. He tips his chin up, and Dorian gives him a not entirely subtle nod.

The man he's talking to doesn't seem to notice the signal, or how utterly bored Dorian looks. Or maybe that's part of the charm for him; winning him over, convincing Dorian he's worth his time.

“In Orlais, we treat our lovers to a great bounty of pleasure. I would be happy to show you how a beautiful man such as yourself should be treated; you should be worshipped.”

“If only Corypheus had been happy with worship in the bedroom, rather than fully-fledged godhood.”

The noble laughs. “Oh, how witty! Ser Pavus, aren't you a delightful creature!”

“I am neither delightful, nor a creature,” Dorian says.

Another time, the Bull would argue one of those points. Instead, he gives a slight bow in greeting, as Dorian and the Orlesian's attention swings to him.

Dorian smiles at the Bull, and begins an introduction. “Lord Perrot—”

“Arnaud, please,” Lord Perrot says, tittering a laugh as Dorian's eyes widen in annoyance and he takes a slow drink from his wine glass, “I would very much like us to be on first name terms, mon petit saucisson!”

Dorian almost chokes on his wine at that particular choice of over-familiar address, but doesn't surrender his first name.

“This is The Iron Bull,” he says. “Leader of an illustrious company know throughout Orlais. No doubt you've heard of them.”

“I doubt it,” he says, ignoring the hand the Bull offers to shake and looks him up and down instead. “It is very unlikely that our kind share social arenas.”

“We get around,” the Bull says, and bares a bit too much of his teeth when he smiles at him.

“Yes,” Lord Perrot says, the nose of his mask tipped up, and a dismissive wave of his hand at the Bull, “but this is a private conversation.”

“Private, huh?” the Bull asks, looking at Dorian. “You having a good time, Lord Pavus?”

“Not really,” Dorian says. What can be seen of the Orlesian's face has turned into an unpleasant grimace, but it's directed at the Bull.

“Do not worry, my pretty boy. I have a suite, I will have you all to myself once this man knows his place.”

The Bull knows instantly that the man has stepped over some line Dorian had laid down in his dealings with him. It's almost enough to have him blushing, the way Dorian rears, like a viper about to strike, to his defence.

“His place,” Dorian says, with a sharp and dangerous laugh, “is by my side, you ignorant, pompous cretin. How could you possibly have deluded yourself that you could take me to bed?”

“So you'll bed an ox?” Lord Perrot bites out. “Dégoûtant! You'd let him rut you like une vache!”

Dorian throws his wine in the man's face. He stumbles back, two eyes full of wine, even with the mask blocking most of the impact, and the people around them – mostly other masked Orlesians – look over.

“Come, mon énorme saucisson,” Dorian says to the Bull, who grins at the name. Oh, he's so going to get Dorian to call him that again. “Let's go have our own private conversation.”

The gasps and murmurs that follow from from the hall seem to fuel Dorian's glee, and Sera's laugher follows them out through one of the side doors. On the other side, as they make their way onto the battlements Dorian crowds the Bull's side, clutching at his arm.

“Oh, I've always wanted to throw my drink in someone's face!”

“Seems suitably dramatic,” the Bull chuckles.

“It's nice to meet someone who deserves it. I'm sorry I exposed you to such unpleasantness.”

“Not your fault the guy is a prick.”

“Yes, well, I still didn't expect that. I merely thought him an obnoxious, clueless fool who saw my disinterest as a challenge.”

“Now,” the Bull says, “about my énorme saucisson...”

“Fasta vas!” Dorian says, as he slaps his bicep. “I'm never calling you that again.”

“You hungry, big guy?” The Bull wraps his arm around Dorian. “I can let you have a nibble on my saucisson.”

“There'll be no living with you after this, will there?” Dorian says, even as he leans into the Bull's side.

*

He meets the Bull in the courtyard in the mid afternoon, when the sun is warm and the shade is chilly. It's a an informal meet, just a patch of sun outside the tavern, but one planned all the same. Dorian smiles as the Bull approaches, all loose-limbed from training, lazy grin on his face.

“Good day?” he calls. The Bull grins at him.

“You tell me. Your window has a pretty good view.”

Dorian rolls his eyes. Its doubtful that the Bull is unaware that he has been peeking at the Chargers training today, but he's not about to admit to it.

“I assure you, I have much better things to do with my day. Also, it's not like you're unwilling to give me a private viewing of your prowess.”

“That's right,” The Bull grins, then leans down and kisses him. Before he can think, Dorian eases into it, lips moving chastely, a slow, gentle thing. It's breathtaking.

Laugher sounds from nearby, deliberate and loud, and Dorian hesitates. He pulls back, and if the Bull has noticed the laughter, he doesn't react, just looks at Dorian through a lidded eye, like he's the only man in the world.

Dorian's heart is pounding when he kisses him again. His kisses should be calming, grounding, but instead he feels like like he could itch out of his skin. He presses forward, hands at the Bull's chest and tries just to think of those scarred lips, the sensation of their surprising softness against his own mouth.

There's laughter again, and he looks around wildly, trying to find the source of it. He feels sick when his gaze land a group of soldiers watching them, talking and laughing pointedly in their direction.

“Get off me, you brute!” Dorian snaps, struggling away from the Bull's hold.

He expects him to understand, in his way, for him look at him with unending patience, perhaps a little tease like he has done so many times; instead for just a few seconds, the Bull looks shocked and... hurt. Then it's gone, and his face is neutral, nothing but a curiously raised eyebrow.

“Oh no,” Dorian says, much too late. He knows with certainty he's ruined everything. “I didn't meant it at all.”

Cruel laughter comes again; they are being laughed at, and Dorian would very much like to fall into the void, or drop dead right at this moment.

“Do you want to go somewhere and talk?” the Bull says.

“I—yes. I think that would be best.”

He goes willingly towards the end of things, being the least he can do. They end up in the Bull's room, of course. It's the closest, and it seems they always end up there. The last time, then.

“I'm sorry,” Dorian says. “I was terribly unkind to you. I shouldn't have called you that, not in that way. I didn't mean it.”

The Bull lets out a breath through his nose, and sits himself down on the edge of the bed.

“I'm sorry I put you in that position,” he says, as he rubs his hand over his face. It's not what Dorian wants to hear, or expects, but perhaps he should have. “What we're doing can be a secret, if you need it to be. I made a mistake, thinking that wasn't what you wanted. I thought you wanted to be able to fuck who you want, without hiding it.”

“I don't,” Dorian says. “I mean, I do. That is what I want.” He feels small, and not in the comforting way that the Bull's size usually causes.

“Maybe you should be doing this with someone else.”

Dorian gapes at him. “What?”

“If you're ashamed of this, I'm doing it wrong.”

He wonders if this would be more terrible if the Bull didn't affect a mask of neutrality, a calm, even voice, passive, open body language. All the tricks he pulls because he wants Dorian's thoughts to be his own, as if his own don't even matter.

“I'm not ashamed of you!” Dorian snaps. “I'm not ashamed that any one of those shits know we're fucking! I know the South is different. I know that my nature is not a means by which I can be ruined. But I've not had any other experience than that! I don't know what it is to conduct that part of my life without fear.”

He takes a breath and fights the urge to turn his face away. It's hard to be looked at with such undeserved kindness and patience.

“Kaffas, Bull, I know that it's stupid, to act as if a kiss will damn me, but all I've known... If this were Tevinter, we'd never survive it.”

“This isn't Tevinter,” the Bull says carefully.

“I know. Every moment of every day I want to kiss you, and I'm too frightened.” As he voices it, tears sting at his eyes. He swallows and fights them back; scared of being seen kissing, and crying about his failings, two linked humiliations he'd rather avoid. It is a miserable truth to admit.

The Bull gets up then, and approaches him then, holds his hands so Dorian can see them, so he can avoid them. Dorian doesn't, lets the Bull put his hands gently against his arms, as he tips his head back to look at his face.

“I am not a good man,” Dorian says quietly. “I do not deserve... I don't deserve you. I couldn't blame you if you wanted to end this. But I'm not ashamed of what I am, and I'm not ashamed of you. But I'm not brave.”

“We don't have to end this,” the Bull says. “But you deserve so much more than you think you do, Dorian. You deserve to be happy.”

“I am happy.”

The Bull's face breaks into a smile at that.

“Smirk all you like,” Dorian says, “you're largely to blame.”

“I really make you happy?”

I'm happy, he's happy, everyone's happy.

Aw, you're happy!

He wonders if the Bull had truly believed him then. It suddenly seems most important that he knows it to be true.

“Disgustingly so. Are you? Happy with me?”

“Yeah, I am.” A full grin then, and Dorian leans up for a kiss. He holds himself to the Bull's body by the shoulders, the Bull wraps his huge hands around Dorian's waist, and hums against his mouth.

“You are brave, Dorian. We can do this however you like.”

“My conduct today is not how I'd like to do this. Today I was a coward,” Dorian says. He leans forward, and presses a kiss to the Bull's sternum. “I want to be braver.”

 

*

“You know what to say if you want to stop,” the Bull says. Against him, Dorian shudders. Around three of his fingers, Dorian winds his tongue, and around his cock, Dorian clenches.

“Katoh,” he confirms. His voice is muffled by the Bull's fingers acting as a makeshift gag at his request, but it's still clear.

“Good boy,” he says, nuzzling the man's neck. Dorian whines.

They can hear the chatter from the main hall, only a single door between the milling crowds and the corridor where the Bull has his trousers open, and Dorian's breeches are pulled down around his thighs, and they're sweaty and noisy, fucking. Dorian is a wreck, shaking and whining, arms braced on the wall with the Bull at his back.

“You're so brave, Dorian,” he says against his neck. “Wanting to do this where anyone could find us. They could walk in, or down the stairs, and they'll know just what we're doing.”

Dorian groans, and sucks at the Bull's fingers as he slides his hips back, then forward, long deep strokes into the beautiful, debauched, keening man.

“And what if they did, Dorian?” He tugs on his earlobe with his teeth, laves the piercing there with his tongue, then licks the shell of his ear. “Nobody would hurt you. Nobody would punish you.”

Dorian whines, and pushes his hips back against the Bull's. His free hand guides Dorian's hip against his own, a steady, deep fuck.

“And you know why? Because you're not doing anything wrong. You're allowed this, Dorian. You're allowed to fuck your lover—” Dorian gives a loud, belly-deep moan at that, “—in some quiet corridor.”

Dorian pulls back his head, and the Bull takes his fingers out of his mouth, holds his jaw and his neck instead.

“Tell me,” Dorian pants. “Please, Bull!”

“You're allowed this,” the Bull says. “You're so brave and so good, Dorian, you're not doing anything wrong. Everyone can know, and you have nothing to be ashamed of. You're good, Dorian. You can fuck anyone you want and it's okay.”

“You,” Dorian groans out, curves his own forearms over his head, fists his hands in his hair. “You, Bull, want to fuck you.”

“I got you,” the Bull says, chest fluttering wildly as as he snaps his hips against Dorian, who is burying his face half in his arm. “Let them hear you, you've got nothing to be ashamed about.”

“We haven't,” Dorian says, making wanton groans with each hard thrust of the Bull's hips. “Fuck me, fuck me!”

“That's it. You going to come? You want them to know you're coming?”

“Kaffas, fuck, Bull!”

The Bull grabs Dorian's bouncing cock and gives it a few tugs. He comes with a shout that echoes in the corridor, as he coats the stone wall with his seed. Dorian's hips are still twitching, and he's still moaning, when he shoves his hips back and grinds himself against the Bull.

“Inside me.”

A few more thrusts and the Bull empties himself into Dorian, whose body still clenches from his orgasm around his throbbing cock. He puts his hands on the wall beside Dorian and presses himself flush to him, both of them panting as his hips slap against Dorian's generous backside with the wake of his release.

“Anyone could find us,” he croons, “and they'd know that we've just fucked, and you wouldn't have to be ashamed, even if they saw you there still stretched around my cock. Because you're just spending time with me, aren't you? Nothing wrong with that.”

“Nothing wrong at all,” Dorian sighs happily. “Nobody I'd rather be caught in flagrante with.”

The Bull kisses the back of Dorian's neck, and then gently eases himself out of him, giving a deep groan at the last squeeze of his body. He helps Dorian puts himself back into his trousers, then himself, and then a rag for Dorian's spend dashed over the wall.

Afterwards Dorian leans on the wall, all loose limbs and dazed smile on his face.

“You okay, big guy?”

“I'm glorious,” Dorian says. The Bull huffs a laugh and leans in to crowd him against the wall, kisses along his jaw to his mouth.

“Yes, ataashi,” the Bull growls.

“Hmm. You know how I get when you call me that.”

“I do.”

“Then let me show you glorious,” Dorian says. “In my room. I've been shameless enough for one day.”

The Bull closes his eyes and breathes deeply at Dorian's neck. He is so beautiful and brave, that the Bull wants everyone to know it.

“Whatever you want.”

*

“Good morning,” the Bull says. Dorian flops down onto the chair beside him.

“Is it? What a terrible time to be alive.”

The day is too bright, and noisy, and handsome for his delicate head to bear at such an awful hour.

“Self-inflicted, Sparkler,” Varric says, over whatever papers he's rustling too loudly. “No sympathy.”

The Bull laughs, and slides a plate of greasy eggs and bacon over to him, that it appears he's been guarding from wandering hands. Dorian is too late to stop himself moaning with relief.

“Just what you need,” the Bull says. Dorian is already tucking in, and agrees by nodding, even if that makes his head throb.

“What does a guy have to do for that kind of service, Tiny?” Varric asks.

“I'll write you a list,” the Bull says. “I'm sure the positions will work for a dwarf. Couple might work out easier.”

Dorian grunts around his mouthful, hunched over his plate and savouring every bite. “My poor knees.”

“Says the one without the brace.”

Varric sets his papers down, chuckling. “Forbidden passion turned forbidden marital bliss. Great angle.”

Maybe if Dorian was more together he'd protest, but he hardly even has the energy to be embarrassed. He shovels bacon into his mouth and sends a silent thanks to the Maker for delicious dead pigs, and a man ready to provide them to him when helping himself is a few hours out of his grasp.

“Can you make it sound like we're still having sex?” The Bull says. “Because we're having a lot of sex.”

“Don't help the dwarf.”

The Bull grins at him, and offers him a strip of bacon from his fingers. Dorian narrows his eyes at him, no heat to it, and takes it with his teeth.

*

Chess in Tevinter amongst the Soporati is played fast, about quickness as well as skill. Krem's pretty good, and the Bull can adapt.

“Has he said yes yet?” Krem asks. The Bull moves his pawn.

“Who?”

“Have you even asked him yet, Chief?”

“Make sense, Krem.”

“The Altus,” Krem says, keeping his eyes on the board as they move their pieces against each other. “I'm thinking you've thought about asking him to come with, after this is all over.”

“We still don't know what we'll be doing if we live through this,” the Bull says. Krem knows him too well to be distracted.

“But you've thought about it.”

“Thought a lot of things.”

“He's alright, for an Altus.”

“High praise,” the Bull chuckles.

“He can handle himself in a fight, he'd get on fine with the Chargers. Unless he's just a port in a storm.”

“Krem,” he says, warning in his tone. Krem raises an eyebrow at him.

“That sounds like an answer. Check.”

Krem will have him in five moves, the Bull can sense it.

“You're a smart ass, you know?”

“Oh, I know. Checkmate in five, Chief.”

*

“Let me drink, Inquisitor,” Morrigan says. Cadash tears her eyes from the still water of the well's pool to look at her.

“What training makes you so qualified?”

“I have studied the oldest lore, I have delved into mysteries of which you could only dream. Can you honestly tell me there is anyone better suited?”

“You're not the only mage here. What about Dorian?”

Dorian looks to Cadash, but beside him he feels the Bull stiffen.

“A human from Tevinter scoops up the last bits of Elven knowledge? I know why you ask,” he says carefully, “I know it's important, but I can't be that man.”

He looks sideways at the Bull, who is exchanging a significant look with Cadash. He's angry – with him, for his refusal to plunder a last bastion of Elven knowledge? Surely not. And if not that, then—oh. Oh.

“Thoughts?” Cadash says, bringing Dorian back to the conversation at hand. Sera is the first to offer such.

“It's called the Well of Sorrows. Sorrows? No one should go in the Well of Sorrows.”

Dorian finds himself rather in agreement.

“It all seems ghoulish,” he says. He can't imagine Cadash would feel much better than him for taking what neither of them have a right to. Not that Morrigan does, either, but at least she seems prepared to do something incredibly stupid. “Let Morrigan use it, if she wants it so much.”

The Bull takes longer, considering the Inquisitor a moment.

“Any chance this well could help us against Corypheus? I say you take it.”

His eye then slides to Dorian, which makes something warm and wild curl in his chest. The Bull is angry at Cadash for the mere suggestion than Dorian be the one to drink from the well, which is ridiculously sweet a notion.

Not that he has time to make anything of it, as Morrigan submerges herself in the well and then things swiftly get weird.

It's not until they're back in the Wilds, getting ready to begin the journey back to Skyhold, that Dorian is able to go to the Bull. He's sat cleaning his axe, watching Cadash and Morrigan as they speak together away from camp.

“Is she still on your shit list?” Dorian asks. The Bull scratches idly at his chest as he turns to look at him, lingering over a graze on his shoulder.

“Huh?”

“You can't blame her for considering me. I am very talented, I'm sure it's not that hard to imagine me as a vessel for an age of incredible lost information.”

The Bull growls, low in his chest.

“Bull, she wouldn't have. Even if I'd had any foolish urge to take that responsibility upon myself, she would have stopped me.”

“Yeah,” the Bull says, and relaxed minutely. “I know.”

Dorian isn't sure what will settle the Bull's unquiet mind, but he steps into his space, nursing such fondness for him. The Bull moves his axe out of the way so Dorian can stand between his knees and take his face between his hands. There are soldiers milling around, not ten feet from them in all directions, and Dorian doesn't care; he leans down and kisses the Bull.

He doesn't respond at first, and then his hands go to Dorian's thighs and hold him gently in place as he matches Dorian's slow, languid direction of the kiss. When he pulls away, the Bull gets the most ridiculous grin on his face.

“What was that for?”

“For worrying about me.”

“I like you just as you are, 'Vint,” the Bull says, and pulls him closer. Dorian wraps his arms around his neck, and tries to imagine that they're the only people in the world. “Don't need you getting a head full of crap.”

Dorian rests his head against the Bull's. When he ran from his home, he could not imagine for even a second that this possibility had opened for him. Oh, he'd wanted it, dreamed about it; a connection with someone that seemed so rare in Tevinter, something beyond tradition and duty.

He hadn't known that he could have something like this.

Someone calls their names and Dorian doesn't flinch, or startle. They're just being prompted to head out; nobody could care less that they're stood so close, that they're holding each other, or that Dorian swoops down for another kiss before they have to get on with the business of the day.

*

The Arishok was once in the Valley of Sacred Ashes, the Bull thinks. Strange, that's what his mind settles on, as the crater ruins come into view.

“Are you sure you don't want to be with your men?” Cadash says. The Bull swings his axe off his back, and looks down to her.

“Between Krem and Cullen, they're in good hands. I've got your back, Boss.”

She nods, as she turns to the gathered group.

“Sera, Varric, Solas, stay out of the fray and cover the rest of them. Prioritise your own barrier, Solas, I need you to stay on your feet.”

“Yes, Inquisitor.”

“Cassandra, Blackwall, Cole, keep the field manageable.”

Blackwall chuckles. “That's one way to say 'carve through anything you can reach'.”

“Go, Inquisitor,” Cassandra says. “We will protect these people.”

“Dorian, Bull, stick close, when Corypheus puts in an appearance, we're going for him. Do your thing.”

“Burn and smash,” Sera reminds them. “Not the sex thing.”

“Thank you, for reminding me,” Dorian says dryly. “If you hadn't, I might have lifted my robes and had the Bull take me over the most convenient shard of red lyrium.”

There's a wave of laughter, a breath that eases the nerves for just a moment, and Dorian doesn't even blush. Much.

“Vivienne,” Cadash says, drawing her daggers, “fuck him up.”

“With great enthusiasm, darling.”

“I see him, Inquisitor!” Harding calls. Sure enough, Corypheus' silhouette is unmistakeable amongst the ruins of the temple.

The Bull puts his hand on Dorian's back. Dorian looks at him, the fire of determination in his eyes. If this is how they go, it's going to be fucking glorious.

“Don't die, 'Vint.”

Dorian surges forward and throws his arms around the Bull, pulls him close to kiss him. It's not a gentle thing at all, too much chin and teeth, but shit, it's a damn good last act, if there's going to be one.

“I won't if you don't, you big lug.”

As they part, everyone shifts into stance, and the moment stretches unnaturally. The red lyrium pulses unnaturally around them, and the wind picks up through the burnt trees.

“I knew you would come.”

The damn undead darkspawn magister only has eyes for Cadash, as if the rest of them are nothing to him. She twists her daggers in her hands, the familiar smell of her poison in the air.

“It ends here, Corypheus!”

“And so it shall.”

The ground rumbles below them, lurching under their feet. Crap.

*

Of course they have to fight the archdemon. Of course the Bull is grinning.

“You can't be pleased about this!” Dorian rasps, throwing the empty lyrium potion to the floor.

“Boss!” the Bull shouts. “I can't wait to see this one's head on Skyhold's wall!”

“Oh, absolutely,” Vivienne agrees, as her enchanted blade bursts to life.

They've killed so many dragons now, that even though the magnitude of this cannot be underestimated, it feels like a well oiled mechanism falling into place. Dorian stays close, keeping out of range of it's fire breath, and Vivienne, the Bull and Cadash get even closer with dagger, sword and axe.

Dorian throws fire and keeps their barriers up, dodges claws and a dangerous tail. The Bull hits hard and precise, while Vivienne is utterly immoveable. Cadash dashes in and out, disappearing and reappearing with flashes of powder and blades.

When Cadash digs her daggers into its neck and it gives a last, horrendous cry, Dorian looks at it's still body, it's empty eyes, it's still slackened, lifeless maw.

One of those teeth will be perfect.

“Let it end here!” Corypheus calls from on high. “Let the world be rent asunder!”

“Let's end this,” Cadash seethes, wiping blood from her brow and leading the way.

*

“Not like this!” Corypheus screeches, as the Bull slams a shade into the ground under his axe. “I have walked the halls of the golden city, crossed the ages!”

There's fuck all any of them can do, with the orb lighting up red and the Inquisitor's mark lighting up green, the prickly of magic and the warp of the Fade so tangible it makes him feel sick.

“Dumat! Ancient ones, I beseech you! If you exist—if you ever truly existed—aid me now!”

Then, like it's nothing, Cadash snaps the orb to her grasp, and Corypheus sinks to his knees. He sees the wheels turning, as Cadash makes her choice, and then thrusts the orb upwards, sending a bolt of green light into the sky, straight into the breach. Within only a few seconds, the only green light is coming from her hand.

“You wanted into the Fade?” Cadash says, and by whatever means the mark gives her, tears Corypheus' body to pieces, into nothing.

As the buildings begin to crumble, and they all begin to plummet, the Bull grabs Dorian around the middle and covers him with his body. At least one of them should make it out of this, and shit, it's got to be him.

*

The party spills out of the great hall and into the keep and the tavern once Josephine and Cadash have stolen away. He understands the urge – it's taken some restraint not to drag the Bull off to his—their—room and fuck until they're both exhausted and satisfied.

But now, they have time. That will come, surely, but they have time. Even Leliana has made an appearance, hood down, looking more relaxed than Dorian has ever seen her. He supposes she's taking her chances where she can, before her duty calls her away, much like he is.

In the wake of impossible odds survived, an archdemon and an ancient magister slain, everything else seems so inconsequential. Even if that feeling only lasts the night, it is remarkably freeing.

When he brings a tray of drinks back to their tables, Varric and Cassandra both with the rest of them, he takes his tankard in hand and climbs into the Bull's lap. Sera takes herself from whatever filth she's whispering in Dagna's ear to whistle at them.

“Comfortable, Sparkler?” Varric asks.

“I rather am, as it happens,” Dorian says, settling into the shape of his new seat. The Bull leans down and kisses his bare shoulder, a hand coming to steady against his thigh.

This close, Dorian can smell him. Rich and deep, like the way his sheets smell. It's so easy, when he just focuses on that, to relax into him. Nobody is paying them any mind, not more than usual. Smiles, conversations, looks without scorn; all things that Dorian never thought would be what he could expect from doing something so blatant.

Even more than nobody minding what he and the Bull get up to, these people actually care about him, about them. Cadash has wished them well, Sera is always full of her particular brand of encouragement. The beginnings couldn't have been more different, but he's found them being referenced in the same sentence as the Inquisitor and Josephine.

“A week, maybe,” Cullen is saying to Cassandra. “Once everyone is dried out. They've certainly earned the time to celebrate.”

Chatter is easy, laughter and song flowing as quickly as the drink. It might not last, but it's a wonderful feeling none the less, to win. He huffs a laugh at the very idea that they survived this whole thing intact, but for Solas mysteriously in the wind.

The Bull lifts his hand up along Dorian's back, to scratch his fingers in the short hairs on the side of his head.

“You doing okay, big guy?”

Dorian hums, turning his head into the contact, and up so the Bull can easily kiss his lips, closed-mouth kisses that taste faintly of ale, then peppered along his jaw until the Bull has put enough space between them for Dorian to speak.

“I hope your Chargers can keep themselves occupied in the coming days.”

“Why's that?”

“I intended to be making use of the majority of your time.”

The Bull chuckles, watching Dorian with one green eye. “Like that, is it?”

“Oh yes, it very much is.”

“Sounds good to me.”

Right now, nothing sounds better than the Bull and a bed and no other concerns for as long as they can manage it.

*

The snow fall has eased, but it's still coming down in flurries, building up on their shoulders and in the hair of the ones with it.

“Back here, of all places!” Dorian grumbles.

He complained the entire time they were in Emprise du Lion last, so it's an almost welcome return. The Bull chuckles from up ahead, though he's been using his axe to steady his footing on the snowy, icy slopes. He'll make a pretty big snowball if he goes tumbling down any of these hills.

“The Inquisition's work is not done,” Cassandra says. “The people here still need our help.”

“I see a path up ahead,” Cadash says, helpfully. “Should be an easier road from here.”

The Bull gets over the last of the hill, his necklace bouncing against his chest with the effort. Half the tip of a dragon's tooth, taken right out of the mouth of the fucking lyrium dragon. Dorian had assured him Dagna deemed it safe, all while going a lovely red, like the lyrium he swore was not present in the tooth.

He must have had to read some very old qunari folk tales to find the references to the practice of crafting pendants from dragon teeth, and their significance. It's not a truly sanctioned act under the Qun, and practically unheard of outside of it. The Bull is still as floored now by the effort, as he was those weeks ago; unable to say anything, which made Dorian think he was horrified at the gift. He'd cleared things up once he'd scooped Dorian up into his arms and kissed him breathless.

“Kaffas!” Dorian sounds, and the Bull turns to find him righting himself, covered in powdery snow. Chuckling, the Bull offers his hand.

Dorian heaves a put-upon sigh, rolls his eyes, but takes the hand, and lets the Bull ease him over the crest of the incline and onto the path. As he straightens, he brushes the snow from himself. His free hand lingers at his matching necklace, fingers skimming the polished surface as he catches the Bull's gaze.

“Thank you,” he says.

“Any time.” The Bull tugs him forward, and they begin follow the Inquisitor along the snowy path towards what looks to be another wayward snow drift.

“Why does she insist on bringing me where it's so cold,” Dorian says, and the Bull tries not to react to the fact that Dorian still hasn't twisted his hand out of the Bull's gentle grip.

“It's not all bad,” the Bull says. “Think of how I'm gonna warm you up at camp.”

Dorian laughs, pitched low in a way that gives the Bull so many thoughts. Dorian laces their fingers together and the Bull feels his hand begin to warm by magic. Something very similar happens in his chest, too, something increasingly familiar when Dorian is at his side.

“I'm sure together we can come up with plenty of good ideas.”

“And that is how change happens. One gesture. One person. One moment at a time.” - Libba Bray