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Something Fierce and Painful

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The Iron Bull can hardly stand it—the waiting. It feels like years that Dorian is gone, even though it’s only a few weeks at most. But Corypheus is fallen, Dorian has done a six month stint in Tevinter, is finally ready to be rid of the place for good. They share a room in Skyhold—Bull’s old room, though now the hole in the roof is patched—and it is filled with memories and whispers of their time together. Dorian has a vanity and Bull has a whetstone; their clothes occupy the same space, shoved into drawers, tossed over the back of chairs, scattered across the floor. Dorian keeps a bookshelf; Bull keeps a rock collection. Because, hell, rocks. Because why not. It’s been two years. Good years.

 

But the bed is lonely when Dorian is gone. It smells of his cologne and sweat and the sex they manage to still have on a regular basis, but it is cold and uncomfortable without the mage’s weight and heat. Bull lays awake late into the night, remembering darker times, times when he wouldn’t bat his single eye at sleeping by himself. Now he can’t rest unless he feels Dorian’s arm around his waist, Dorian’s soft hair beneath his fingertips, Dorian’s sweet lips tracing his jaw.

 

Four weeks. Feels like fucking years. The Inquisitor is so glad to have Dorian back; he’s been with her on every venture from Skyhold lately, and it’s great to see them together again, so close it’s as if they were never apart, but damn, does Bull wish he were the sole focus of his husband’s attentions.

 

(Oh—and they got married. But it was such a natural thing, a confirmation more than an actual step in their relationship. The significance of it still kind of goes over Bull’s head, but when they meet new folks at Skyhold and Dorian gets to say “This is my husband,” the way he still goes a little breathless and his eyes light up and he seems so excited he can hardly knit words together—yeah. Despite the uniquely human weirdness of it all, it’s worth it. Worth it to give his kadan the one thing Dorian has always really, really wanted.)

 

Four weeks go by, and when the Inquisitor and her party return, Bull is there to greet them at the stables. Dorian climbs down from his dracolisk and Bull moves to hug him, hold him—wants nothing more than to pull Dorian’s body up against his and kiss all the breath from his pretty mouth—but the mage jumps back when Bull reaches for him. It takes a second for Bull to see why, Ben-Hassrath and all, because Dorian is guarding it so safely.

 

There’s a little bundle clutched against Dorian’s chest—a swaddling, if you will, and Bull knows there’s only one thing in the human world that gets swaddled that carefully. Dorian winces and lowers the hand he’s raised to keep Bull from crushing the precious bundle.

 

“They were going to kill him,” he says quietly, and lowers his arm to show Bull the child.

 


 

Every now and again, on their excursions, the Inquisitor and her party still disturb creepy little nests of residual Venatori. This time they stumbled into what was definitely a blood ritual, from the way Dorian’s eyes darken and turn thunderous when he tells the tale. These particular Venatori had gone nearly mad, trapped out in the Hissing Wastes for months on end. They’d been preparing to sacrifice the child born to one of their own just a year before. When the mother tried to stop them, they cut her down.

 

“What were they sacrificing it to?”

 

“Corypheus—what else?”

 

“Shit.”

 

“Shit indeed.”

 

Dorian had killed them. Apparently. Grabbed one of them by the face and filled his head with lightning and stood there seething in the gore, expression unreadable, and Evelyn—who bore the mark of the Herald like she was a goddess herself, who faced down Corypheus, who led an Inquisition— looks a little afraid just remembering it. Dorian had stabbed the other with the end of his staff, impaled him through the gut, and left the Venatori writhing in agony while he gently picked up the blood-covered little ‘Vint and carried him from the camp.

 

“Is he too little to remember, you think?”

 

“Maker, I hope so.”

 

“He’s ours now, isn’t he.”

 

“If you’ll have him.”

 

“You want a family, kadan?”

 

“If it’s with you.”

 

“Well, it sure as hell ain’t gonna be without.”

 

Dorian had climbed into his lap and kissed him then. Sometimes, the Iron Bull thinks that maybe he’s in too deep.

 


 

The Iron Bull—once known as Imekari, then Ashkaari (though only playfully, Tama liked to tease), then Hissrad, now a Tal-Vashoth, a mercenary, one of the meanest fuckers in Thedas—now not only has a husband, but a son, to boot.

 

A cute husband. And a cute son. Both ‘Vints, and Bull’s head still kind of reels when he thinks about that too long.

 

And it seems like their kid might die.

 

He’d been kind of drifting anyway, when they found him, but the ride back to Skyhold really seemed to take it out of him. At a year old he should be babbling, laughing, maybe even trying to stand up on chubby little legs, but it’s like there’s nothing in him.

 

He’s dark, like Dorian is dark—big sweet brown eyes and curly black hair and skin that looks and smells like summer heat. Dorian holds him all the time, and the little tyke just lays there, head on the mage’s shoulder, blinking sleepily and drooling a bit. They try to get him to eat and he won’t; Bull soaks a washcloth in milk and they can get the babe to suck on it a little, but it’s certainly not enough to keep him alive.

 

Three days after they’d returned to Skyhold, and the kid still isn’t eating. Dorian holds the pipsqueak against his shoulder and cries, cries for this kid he has known for seventy-two hours, cries very quietly, maybe so Bull won’t hear.

 

But he does. And it breaks his fucking heart.

 


 

Something’s happened—something at the base of the mountain. Evelyn begs Bull to come with her, and at first he outright refuses, because Dorian hasn’t really slept in sixteen hours, too worried about the child who still won’t move or talk or eat. Instead he sits upright on their bed, dozing uneasily, waking every few minutes with a start and checking to see that the little ‘Vint is still breathing.

 

“Harding says there are bodies at the bottom of the mountain,” Evelyn says, and Bull isn’t convinced until she adds: “And they’re qunari.”

 

“Go,” Dorian murmurs, maybe sensing Bull’s hesitation. Bull kisses him softly and promises to be back soon. (Before the kid dies, he thinks, but doesn’t say. If Lil ‘Vint dies, Dorian is going to need him.)

 

The Iron Bull treks down the mountain with Evelyn and Cullen in tow. There’s too much snow for the horses, even for the destriers, but Bull is too amped up to notice the cold, even though his breath clouds in front of his face with every step and he can hear Evie’s teeth chattering.

 

Harding and three scouts are waiting for them at the bottom of the trail two hours later. The dwarf’s face is drawn and tense, brows furrowed, and she’s watching two of her boys try to start a fire.

 

She’s also got something cradled against her chest, seems to be near-buckling under its weight. There’s blood in the snow. A fuck-ton of it. Blood and—something else, something gross. But Bull recognizes the way she’s holding that bundle and thinks Oh, fuck all.

 

“She was pregnant,” Harding says by way of greeting, and points at one of the bodies lying in the snow, covered with a blanket, but the blood between her legs has seeped through, a horrid crimson rose. “In labor when we found her.”

 

Bull takes in the scene with keen Ben-Hassrath eyes, but there’s not much to see. Three qunari, one female at least—the other two bodies, though covered, look big enough to be male. An overturned cart lays beside them, half-buried in the snow. There’s just one horse. Dead. Evelyn and Harding talk, Cullen hovers, and Bull slowly closes the distance between himself and the female qunari’s body. He kneels and twitches the blanket down from her face. She looks peaceful, at least. Both of her lips are lined with tiny dots of scars.

 

“Saarebas,” he says, when he feels Evie come to stand behind him. And this far from the homeland, escorted by two males, heading for Skyhold, she’s not Qunari but Tal-Vashoth.

 

“Bull—her child still lives.”

 

He knows what he should do—he knows. There are lots of folks in Skyhold. Lots of couples. Hell, Evie and Cullen are married now. And she’s hiding the soft swell of her belly the best she can, but Bull is Ben-Hassrath and that’s not the sort of thing he misses. What’s one more kid? And he thinks of Dorian, already pushed past his limits, sitting in their room with Lil ‘Vint dying in his lap, Dorian who needs him desperately.

 

But Harding comes over to them, and he can see the infant between the blankets, all sleek and small and wet. Its skin is a light blue-grey. Pretty. It’s got a soft fuzz of white hair between the two little raised patches on its scalp that will someday be horns.

 

“Boy or girl?”

 

“Boy,” Harding says, without missing a beat.

 

“Name?”

 

“She didn’t give him one before—um. No.”

 

The Iron Bull stands. He opens his arms, and Harding hands him the newborn babe. The qunlet doesn’t stir when he takes it and holds it close. It’s not Qunari but qunari. One of his. And something fierce and painful lodges somewhere behind his sternum, in the place where so far there’s only been Dorian.

 


 

 Dorian is surprised, yes, but not angry. He still has Lil ‘Vint in his arms, rocking the child slowly and humming a soft lullaby in Tevene when Bull enters the room. Bull talks first, before Dorian can even open his mouth.

 

“I know there are others who could take him. I know we’ve got our hands full. But he’s gonna know that he was taken in, that his real ma is dead. And he’s gonna know that I’m the only other qunari around. I’m gonna wind up being the only one who gets him, who can help him be qunari without the Qun. I may as well be his.”

 

Dorian looks at him for what seems to be a long time. And then he nods.

 

“You know, most couples would take a minimum of eighteen months to produce two children.”

 

Bull grins. “It is way, way too late for us to be like most couples.”

 

“That’s very true.” Dorian pats the bed beside him, and Bull sits down. They trade munchkins; Bull holds Lil ‘Vint against his chest and sighs in relief when he feels tiny, fluttery little breaths against his collarbone.

 

He looks at Dorian. The mage holds the qunlet carefully, eyes wide, stroking a thumb over the baby’s brow, over the not-even-quite nubs of his horns. He breathes, “Oh,” like a prayer, and Bull’s heart sears with love. He reaches and takes his husband’s hand. Dorian looks up at him with watering eyes.

 

“They’re ours.”

 

“Yeah.” And you’re mine, Bull thinks, but doesn’t say. And I’m the luckiest asshole in the world.

 


 

 Lil ‘Vint is not only just alive on day four, but living. Dorian and Bull fall asleep sitting up against the headboard; with nowhere to put them and no clue how to lay down on the bed without crushing them in their sleep, they keep the little ones in their laps all night. Bull wakes with Dorian’s head upon his shoulder and tilts his jaw so he can kiss his husband’s hair.

 

And then he hears it.

 

“Buh.”

 

It’s nothing—he’s pretty sure “buh” is nothing—but he looks down all the same and finds Lil ‘Vint staring up at him, one finger in his mouth, dark eyes wide and curious.

 

“Buh,” the child repeats, and lays his head back down on Dorian’s shoulder. He chews on his finger. “Buhh. Bee.”

 

The Iron Bull stares, and Lil ‘Vint stares back. And then Lil ‘Vint moves, more than he’s moved the entire time he’s been in Skyhold, reaching out with one little hand and waving it at the qunlet tucked in Bull’s arm.

 

Buhhh bee.”

 

“Baby,” Bull says, realization dawning. He jabs Dorian hard in the ribs and the mage wakes with a snort. “Yeah. That’s right. Baby.” He scoots closer, angling the infant so Lil ‘Vint can see. “It’s a baby. Qunlet, we call ‘em.”

 

“Bee,” Lil ‘Vint says, satisfied, then buries his face in Dorian’s shirt.

 

Fasta vass,” Dorian says weakly, running a hand over the child’s hair. “He spoke.”

 

“We should try and feed him.”

 

“Yeah.”

 

Bull takes Lil ‘Vint in his free arm while Dorian hurries downstairs. He’s back in a few minutes, carrying a tray with three steaming bowls of fresh oatmeal. He pulls Lil ‘Vint into his lap and croons down at him, nudging his lips with a spoon, and after a moment the child opens up his mouth and lets himself be fed. He chews and swallows and opens his mouth again, and the grin Dorian turns to Bull is absolutely radiant.

 

 


 

They’re not sure how to go about giving the kids a bath, but they both desperately need it. Their tub is massive, the biggest Josie could dredge up (actually it was a wedding present, the best they got by far)—big enough that Dorian and Bull can both sit in it on either end, though there isn’t quite enough leg room. They wind up sandwiched in with Dorian’s ankles resting on Bull’s thighs. Dorian draws his fire glyphs on the water’s surface and lets Lil ‘Vints toes dip in before he carefully lowers the child onto his legs, holding him upright. The kid just kinds of sits, blinking sleepily, and lets Dorian wash his hair.

 

Bull cleans up the qunlet, holding the little tyke to his chest, well above the water. Harding did a fair job, but there’s still blood clinging in some places, and it’s a relief to get the little thing looking ship-shape. The infant doesn’t cry—didn’t cry that night, either—and Bull realizes with a funny jolt in his gut that they’re going to need a wetnurse if this is going to work.

 

“There must be someone,” Dorian murmurs, sensing Bull’s thoughts, and smiles a little when Bull looks up at him and grunts. “It’ll be alright, amatus. We’ll figure it out.”

 


 

They don’t have any clothes. Not a problem for the qunlet, whom they just swaddle in a blanket, but Lil ‘Vint is a year old and it’s not easy to just wrap him up. Dorian finds an old shirt and cuts off most of the trailing hem and snugs it over Lil ‘Vint’s tiny body. They’re gonna have to get small smallclothes. Smallsmallclothes. Tiny smallclothes. And tiny shoes. And tiny socks. Bull sits there in a daze, thinking about all the tiny stuff they’re gonna need, while Dorian gets both kids beneath the blankets on their bed. Qunlet is out like a light; Lil ‘Vint lays there blinking for a few moments before he rolls over and closes his eyes.

 

“We should go—um—talk to someone,” Dorian says, turning to his husband and blinking, looking a little shell-shocked, like he’s just realized how far in over their heads they are. “About getting—things we—things we need.”

 

“Can we leave them?”

 

“Oh. Um. No. I suppose we can’t.”

 

“I’ll go.” Bull gets to his feet and draws Dorian close, giving him a reassuring squeeze. “Like you said. We’ll figure it out. Why don’t you try and get some sleep?”

 

“I can—”

 

“Nah. Sleep, babe.” Bull kisses his hair and turns him toward the bed, giving his arse a gentle pat. “Don’t roll over the munchkins.”

 

“I would never,” Dorian huffs. He heads to the bed and draws the blankets back—and then he gags, spinning away from the bed and clapping a hand over his mouth.

 

“What?!” Bull all but leaps over to the bedside, and then it hits him—holy shit, the smell. He blinks and backs up, startled, presses a hand to his nose. “Oh. Uh.”

 

“Nappies,” Dorian wheezes, eyes watering, and grasps Bull’s wrist. “Oh no. Children don’t know how to use a privy. We need nappies.”

 

Bull kind of wants to laugh, hearing the illustrious Dorian Pavus fit his pretty lips around the word nappies, but then Lil ‘Vint stirs, whines, and starts to wail.

 

And fuck all, there is nothing funny about that.

 


 

 

Evelyn knocks on the door. Waits. Knocks again, a little louder. She can hear muffled voices within, and something else—like a cat yowling, or something. She frowns and presses her ear to the door. Knocks once more. When no one answers, she opens it with a sigh.

 

She had known from the start that this was going to be a disaster, but she couldn’t have guessed just how bad it was going to be. Bull and Dorian’s room looks like a damn warzone, blankets thrown all over the floor, and they reek. Dorian is holding the little Tevinter, rocking the child in his arms while Lil ‘Vint wails and sniffles and rubs his snotty nose against Dorian’s shoulder. Dorian’s clothes are streaked with shit, there’s vomit down his back, and he looks like he’s been crying as well, if his red-rimmed eyes and wet cheeks are anything to go by.

 

Bull is faring better, but not by much; he, at least, isn’t wearing expensive clothes. His broad chest is covered in white spit-up, and he’s staring down helplessly at the squalling infant nestled in the crook of his arm, lifting it upright in alarm when it starts to choke again so it can spit up all over him, then settling it back down, where it resumes its crying.

 

“Holy fuck,” Evelyn says. Dorian whirls around—then swears loudly in Tevene, because he moved too quickly and Lil ‘Vint shrieks and starts vomiting again.

 

“Oh, Maker,” Dorian moans, and his eyes well up with tears. “Evie, what do we do?!”

 

The Inquisitor sighs. She almost wishes she could just go back to fighting Corypheus.

 


 

 

Dorian hasn’t slept more than two hours at a time in—by his count—twelve days.

 

They can only sleep when the children sleep, and apparently children don’t need sleep. The qunlet sleeps; the Tevinter doesn’t. Not really. He dozes on and off, if they’re very lucky, but usually he just cries. Dorian is sure he’s going to wear a trench in the floorboards, he spends so much time pacing around with the child in his arms, and he sings until his throat is raw, but Lil ‘Vint just doesn’t want to calm down. Usually he just cries and cries until he’s literally too exhausted to continue. And then there’s that blessed two-hour reprieve where he sleeps a bit. Re-energizes, more like, for the next tantrum.

 

And of course his crying sets off the qunlet, and the qunlet’s crying sets off Dorian, and Bull just bears it all with stoic, long-suffering silence, holding crying children and crying husband in his arms while they make a teary, snotty, drooly mess of him.

 

“Look, those two are bad enough,” he says wearily, wiping at Dorian’s kohl-streaked eyes. “Try to hang in there, kadan.”

 

Dorian would like to—he doesn’t enjoy breaking down and sobbing like a child, even if it is a little cathartic—but he’s just so exhausted, and exhaustion shortens his fuse almost to the point of non-existence.

 

He’s also pent-up as hell, because when he’s this strung-out and this exhausted, all he really wants is for Bull to fuck him into the mattress and then snuggle him against that broad chest, but it’s not going to happen, not with two children in the room, especially not with two children in the room who won’t fucking go to sleep.

 

He can tell Bull is suffering too—when they’re apart they can croon to one another over communicator crystal, and their own hands are never as satisfying as coming together, but it’s something at least. But neither is about to leave the other with two wailing children so he can go stroke himself off, so they suffer in aching, pent-up silence. After a few days, they try not to even touch, because after four weeks apart even the brush of shoulders is electric between them, and as much as Dorian doesn’t enjoy ferrying Lil ‘Vint around the room, he knows he’ll enjoy it even less if he’s battling down an erection.

 

Stitches visits just long enough to take a look at both of the children. The qunlet seems healthy, though they’re lucky Harding got there when she did. Lil ‘Vint is sick, that much is apparent—he’d been too long without food and water, alternately burning up and freezing in the desert, and his little body is a wreck. All they can do is keeping feeding him, giving him water, keeping him bundled and held against their bodies. Stitches shrugs; it’s just going to take time for the little tyke to adjust. Then the medic scuttles out, leaving them feeling, if possible, worse than before.

 

Lil ‘Vint—who needs an actual name, Dorian knows, but he’s too tired to even think about it—shits and vomits and cries for another two days, and they sleep basically not at all. Feeding the qunlet doesn’t turn out to be as big a challenge as they’d feared; Josie brings them milk that the apothecary has supplemented with all kinds of herbs, and the babe suckles happily at the bottle, watching them with big, gentle eyes.

 

“You were once this small,” Dorian says, cradling the infant in his arms while Bull takes a turn carrying Lil ‘Vint around the room.

 

“Doubt it,” Bull grunts, and his husband smiles wearily up at him.

 

“Bull? I love you, amatus. So very much.”

 

Bull smiles and crosses the room, cupping Dorian’s chin in his hand and tipping his face up so he can bend down and kiss him. “Love you, too. Don’t know what I’d do without you.”

 

“You’d probably smell a great deal less like baby vomit, for starters.”

 

“Well, yeah. And without me, you’d still have your favorite pair of robes.”

 

Dorian sighs; he’s been in mourning over the shit-covered robes he had to throw out the morning before. “Yes, well. I suppose it’s worth it.”

 

Bull’s eye widens. He remembers—vividly—a time when nothing was worth losing a good set of robes. He sits down on the bed and pulls Dorian into his side, kissing his temple. Lil ‘Vint whines and squirms, rubbing his belly, lower lip trembling outward.

 

“Give him here,” Dorian says, and they swap little ones. Dorian pulls the child against his chest, pressing a kiss into his curly hair, and rests his palm on Lil ‘Vint’s belly. Bull recognizes the glow of his fire magic, the gentle heat that gathers on Dorian’s fingertips and spreads across his palm. Usually Dorian uses it on Bull’s knee, soothing the old injury where healing magic has failed.

 

Lil ‘Vint’s eyes widen. For a moment, Bull thinks he’s gonna cry—but then the kid coos, looking up at Dorian and blinking, patting the hand resting over his stomach.

 

“Is that nice?” Dorian smiles, pulls the child a little closer. “Does that feel better?”

 

Lil ‘Vint chirps. It’s the happiest noise he’s made in the two weeks they’ve had him. And then he rests a hand on Dorian’s stomach as well and lays his head across Dorian’s chest. And the smile on Dorian’s face is so beautiful that it nearly breaks Bull’s heart.

 

“What a sweet boy,” Dorian murmurs, resting his cheek on the child’s thick curls. “How kind of you, Felix.”

 

Bull arches his eyebrows. “Felix?”

 

“I—oh.” Dorian lifts his head and blinks. “I didn’t—I’m sorry, Bull, I didn’t even think—”

 

“No. Hey.” Bull takes his hand, brushes his thumb across Dorian’s knuckles. “I think that’s good. He can’t be Lil ‘Vint forever.”

 

“Yes. I suppose not.” Dorian beams, looking down at the child in his lap and smoothing those dark curls back from the little brow. “What do you think, hm? Felix? This is my son, Felix.”

 

“Buhh,” Felix says. He’s still holding onto the hand pressed against his stomach, his eyelids fluttering. He rubs his cheek against Dorian’s shirt and closes his eyes.

 

With all the care of a man who’s just realized he’s stepped on an explosive rune, Dorian pulls his legs onto the bed and maneuvers onto his back, settling Felix in at his side, under his arm. The child stirs, blinks at him a little grumpily, and closes his eyes once more. Bull’s more than a little stunned that something that has been shitting and vomiting all over them for days can suddenly look so cherubic.

 

“Thank the Maker,” Dorian breathes. He strokes Felix’s hair. “There you go, Felix, sleep for Papa, shh…”

 

Bull lays down and settles the qunlet on his chest. The little one’s been sleeping for hours now, and makes no sign of waking. “This one probably needs a name, too.”

 

“I thought children aren’t named under the Qun.”

 

“Well, he’s not under the Qun.”

 

“Hm.” Dorian reaches for him, traces a thumb along Bull’s jaw, and Koslun’s left testicle, it’s hard not to lean in and kiss him. Bull doesn’t dare try, for fear of upsetting Lil—Felix. “It’s only fair that you name him, I think.”

 

“Yeah? Uh.” Bull shifts, shrugs. “I mean, I’ve got no preference, you can—”

 

“Bull,” Dorian murmurs, gently, and Bull hears the unspoken request in his voice. Yeah, he gets it—this needs to be about both of them.

 

“Whatever I want?”

 

“Within reason.”

 

“What’s within reason?”

 

“Nothing profane, if you please.”

 

“Define profane?”

 

“Bull,” Dorian says again, annoyed now, and his husband chuckles.

 

“Okay. Um. Lemme think.”

 

“Of course. It doesn’t have to be to—”

 

“Ataashi.”

 

Dorian stops, blinks. Sighs. “You’ve clearly given this long and careful consideration, thank you, amatus.”

 

“I mean, there’s nothing else I wanna call him.” Bull lifts a hand and trails his fingertips up and down the qunlet’s back. His son. Weird. Qunari don’t have sons, but, well, here he is. A husband and two little kiddos that even look like them. And Bull can feel their weight behind his chest, as surely as he’s always felt Dorian, from the moment he first looked at Dorian and thought Kadan. “I asked my tama, once. About names. About what a name means. I knew Tal-Vashoth had ‘em. I wanted one, too. She probably shouldn’t have answered me, but she did.”

 

“Oh?”

 

“She said it’s not just something people call you. She said it’s a promise. She said, that when parents outside the Qun name their kids, they’re trying to give them something. What their hopes are for them. If I could give this little guy anything, it’d be—that.”

 

“A dragon?”

 

“Not necessarily a dragon, but…” Bull pauses, looks at the man he’s married. He thinks my husband. And suddenly it hits him—like a punch to the gut. Husband. Not just a silly human word and a silly human concept, but something with structure. A promise. He lifts a hand, wondering, trails his knuckles along the proud line of Dorian’s cheek. A promise. A promise that Dorian is his, as much as he is Dorian’s. He has to swallow away the tightness in his throat before he can speak again. “Not just a dragon, but—the way I feel when I look at one. Like I’m—limitless. Like there is nothing in this world that is impossible, or undoable, or unknowable. Like we are more than—this.”

 

He’s lying, a little—it’s not just dragons that make him feel that way. It’s Dorian, too. Dorian most of all. But they can’t very well name the kid Dorian, now, can they. So Bull will give him the second best thing.

 

“Ataashi,” Dorian murmurs, tasting the word in his mouth, and fire licks down along the Bull’s spine. Carefully—very carefully—Dorian leans up, keeping Felix cradled in his arm, and he angles his head down so he can kiss Bull. They kiss for what seems a long time, share lips and tongues and the softest hint of teeth before Felix stirs and whines and Dorian eases himself back down.

 

“Ataashi,” Dorian says again, and it’s an agreement this time. “I like it. Felix and little Ashi.” He pauses and wrinkles his nose. “Uh. ‘Ashi’ doesn’t mean something else in Qunlat, does it? I didn’t just nickname our son ‘arsehole’ or anything like that?”

 

“No,” Bull says, chuckling. He touches Dorian’s face again, runs a thumb across those lips. He wants another taste. “Well. It’s not ‘arsehole.’ ‘Ash’ is ‘to seek,’ so ‘Ashi’ is ‘seeking one.’”

 

“Sort of like ‘Ashkaari’?”

 

“Yeah, you’re getting it.”

 

“A name with a double meaning, then.” Dorian smiles and strokes a thumb across the little patch on Ataashi’s head that will someday be a proud horn. Hopefully. “A qunari child raised by a ‘Vint who has two names? The world won’t know what to make of him.”

 

“Hey, what’s one more Pavus pariah?”

 

“Heh. Truer words…”

 


 

“Holy shit. It’s true.”

 

Dorian scowls, glancing up from spooning porridge into Felix’s mouth, to glare at the dwarf goggling at him. “Hello to you too, Varric. How nice to see you again.”

 

“Yeah. Shit, Sparkler. You look good. And you’ve got a kid.”

 

“Two, actually,” Bull says, leaning down so Varric can see the qunlet cradled in his arm.

 

Varric hoots with laughter, has to hold the table to hold himself upright, and Dorian keeps scowling at him until the dwarf straightens, wiping tears from his eyes. “Woo! Sorry, guys. I mean, it’s great. You guys having kids? I think that’s great. It’s just—who’d have thought it?”

 

“Certainly not us, but, well, here we are,” Dorian snips, giving Felix a squeeze.

 

“Well? Come on, introduce me.”

 

“Fine,” Dorian says peevishly, and turns in his seat so Felix can blink his big eyes at the dwarf hovering in his face. “Felix, this is our friend, Varric. Varric, our son.”

 

“How d’you do, Magister?” Varric asks, offering Felix a hand, and Dorian groans. “Who’s the little one?”

 

“Ataashi,” Bull says proudly, puffing up his chest, and Varric rubs an appraising hand over the qunlet’s nubs.

 

“Cute. Should I even ask where these little guys came from?”

 

“A Venatori splinter cult and a dead qunari refugee.”

 

“Shit.” Varric’s face softens, and he ruffles Felix’s curls. “Well, it’s all behind you. You’re safe now, fella. These guys will take good care of you.”

 

Maybe it’s just because he’s so tired, or maybe it’s the way Felix giggles and kicks his little feet at the dwarf’s unexpectedly gentle attentions, but Dorian has to duck his head to hide his watering eyes before Varric can see and poke fun of him for that, too.

 


 

They fall into a routine. Not a bad thing, that. Routine. There’s a comfort to it, from knowing that, sure, the unexpected will still happen, but the unexpected will not be evil undead magisters or fucking archdemons that crawl from the Fade and burn down a village. The unexpected accounts for soiled nappies and the occasional bit of spit-up or a little tantrum and not much else. And it’s good.

 

They get up in the morning, as soon as they hear Felix start to chirp or Ashi start to whimper. Eventually they shouldn’t be beholden to their kids’ every waking need, but they’re little, Bull insists, and Dorian gives. So no matter whether the sun is up, they’re up when the kids are up. They mix up who takes care of whom, because they don’t want either kid attaching too strongly to one of them over the other—not really knowing whether that’s even a thing, as Bull puts it, slightly exasperated, but Dorian’s already dreading the day when Ashi looks at him and calls him a ‘Vint, even though there’s absolutely no good reason for their son to grow up prejudiced thus.

 

Bull makes note of this and makes a conscious effort to amend his own vocabulary. It’s time that little nickname died out. Dorian is just Dorian, and has been for a long time.

 

They get up. They pick up little beings that have no business being that tiny and that cute and they coo and praise and make all those weird comments that nauseatingly proud parents make—“Amatus, look, he’s about to—oh, never mind. Just vomit. I thought he might speak.” “Hey, kadan, think Ash’ll be taller than me? Bet he’ll be taller than me.”—and change nappies and put on fresh sets of clothes, still mostly improvised, though they know Josephine has long since put in the requisition for all the tiny stuff that still freaks Bull out a little.

 

And just like that, four weeks have gone by. Bull lays awake, somehow before the kids start their usual noise, his husband still zonked out on his chest, drooling lightly all over his sternum. Bull smiles, running his fingertips up and down Dorian’s back, mapping his spine for the hundred thousandth time. Thinks for the hundred thousandth time what a lucky son of a bitch he is, to be lying here under a patched roof with two sleeping kiddos and the man he loves draped over his body like an overgrown cat.

 

Dorian stirs. Moves enough to wipe his mouth on the back of his hand and then snuggles back in with a soft sigh. Bull squeezes an arm around his waist and presses his mouth into Dorian’s hair. Doesn’t do more than grunt softly when that hand slips beneath the blankets and into his smallclothes.

 

“Oh,” Dorian breathes, and it hits Bull like a fist to the gut that they haven’t been together in six weeks. Dorian’s hand feels so good he could almost sing. “Bull…”

 

“Yeah,” Bull huffs into his hair, and grasps Dorian by the thigh, dragging him onto his hips. “Mm. Kadan. Quietly, though.”

 

Dorian leans down to kiss him, all kinds of hunger on his tongue, and Bull grips him tightly by the hips before sliding his hands down to the ass he’s been missing so much. It doesn’t take much after so long apart; they stroke and squeeze and rock together and finish all over one another’s long-neglected bodies, and the way Dorian smiles at him throughout is enough to make Bull’s heart stop.

 

“I love you,” Dorian says, smoothing a hand down between Bull’s pectorals, fingertips coming to a halt over his dragon’s tooth.

 

Bull mirrors the touch on the expanse of Dorian’s chest, smiling at the way his hand nearly spans his husband’s entire torso when he stretches his fingers. “Love you, kadan.” He moves his hand up to cup behind Dorian’s neck and tug him down, kissing him gently, enjoying the softness of his lips and the tickle of his moustache.

 

Dorian cleans them off with a lazy twirl of his fingers. He’s got all kinds of great spellwork that makes things easier in the bedroom. And for cleaning up baby puke. “What do you want to be?”

 

“Hm?”

 

“What do you want the little ones to call you?”

 

“Oh.” Bull stops, thinks. “You’re gonna be Papa, huh.”

 

“Do you think that’s—alright?”

 

“What? Oh, yeah. It’s cute.” Bull grins and cups his chin. “You’re cute.”

 

Dorian beams, a pretty little blush on his cheeks, and bends down to steal another sweet kiss. Bull obliges him, happily, loves the way Dorian moves against him as they press together and come apart, loves the soft, chaste sounds of Dorian’s lips on his, loves his husband’s quiet, contented hum when Bull runs a hand though his sleep-mussed hair.

 

“Hey,” he says suddenly, inspired. “Think I could just be Tama?”

 

A quirked brow. “Aren’t tamassrans usually women?”

 

“Always. Yeah.”

 

Dorian smiles and strokes his fingertip down Bull’s nose. “Oh, well. Too late to worry about social convention, I suppose. Papa and Tama. Aren’t we a pair.”

 

A pair. Bull grins and surges up, wraps Dorian up in his arms and holds him tightly to his chest while Dorian laughs and bats at him playfully. Him and his husband. His husband, Dorian Pavus, in his bed, his room—their bed, their room— their lil Tevinter and their little qunlet sleeping peacefully nearby, Skyhold quiet, not a demon in sight.

 

It’s good. 

 


 

 Generously (and gorgeously!) illustrated by ~lonicera-caprifolium!