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Scars

 “My father’s stash is still the best.”

Fälin Tabris fought to keep the annoyance out of his eyes as Nathaniel once again went off on his father-worshipping tirade. He had known the guy barely a week, and already the older man was under his skin. Honestly, did the damn shem really have no idea what a royal asshole his father had been? Who cared if the bastard had some good alcohol in his basement? He had probably gotten trashed on the stuff while laughing to himself and counting the money he made selling Fereldans into slavery.

 “Yeah, it’s not bad,” Anders agreed, taking a gulp from his own cup.

 “Nothin’ on Antivan brandy,” the elf muttered in response, snapping his own cup onto the table they were all lounging around. A hard day’s work had warranted a break and some celebrations, or so he had thought. He was starting to regret the decision to give everyone the night off, however. If only because he was putting himself in a bad mood.

 Belching loudly, Oghren responded to Fälin’s comment with a loud guffaw. “And that’s all you sodding like outta Antiva, right Commander?” the dwarf demanded with a suggestive eyebrow wiggle.

 The redhead scoffed, steely eyes glancing away before he smirked. “Not at all.” Maybe this evening could still be savaged.

~

Falon’Din’s Reach sang as Fälin worked off some tension in the practice yard. Selecting another arrow, he nocked his bow, raised fletching to cheek, took aim, and fired. The target shook from the force of the arrow striking it, the shaft quivering from where it sat only slightly off-centre from the bullseye. Archery was always cathartic for him, and he could feel the stress from his first few weeks as Arl of Amaranthine bleeding out with each shot.

Selecting another shaft, he was just setting it to his bow when a voice piped up behind him, “Mind if I join you?”

Nathaniel. Great. Still, he could hardly refuse the other archer use of the targets set up for practice. He would just fire a few more and then leave.

For all he tried to hide it, Fälin did not like the Howe. He knew, in his head, that the dislike was wrong, because he had no business judging the young man on his father’s merit, or lack thereof. He honestly tried to avoid doing so, he really did, but despite his best efforts the brunet had managed to earn his ire. It was not all the former Arl Howe’s doing, however. No, some of that dislike had been earned by Nathaniel himself.

Yet Rendon Howe sat at the heart of it.

Normally, someone worshipping his or her parent would not bother Fälin—he was quite fond of his own father. Yet the other man prattled on and on like his father was some sort of saint, no matter how the elf knew that to be miles from the truth. Sometimes, he found himself really wanting to snap at Nathaniel.

Still, the shem had not done anything yet, and it was best to try and give Nathaniel the benefit of the doubt, right? It was not like Rendon was the only thing the younger Howe ever spoke about, either.

And he was easy to look at. For a human.

“You’re a good shot.”

“Are you trying to flatter me?” Fälin asked tersely as he drew his bow once more.

“No. Well, a compliment or two never hurt, right? I’m just…wondering how long you’ve been into archery. You shoot like some who’s been practicing most of his life.”

Fälin quirked an eyebrow. “Is that a joke?”

“…why would it be?”

“I’m from an alienage, Nathaniel. They don’t exactly make a habit of handing out bows and saying ‘go ahead and practice so you can kill us next time we decide to purge you.’”

“They really do that?”

“…I was saying they don’t.” Really?

“Not the handing out weapons.” The human sighed. “The…purging?”

“Ask your father,” Fälin snapped back.

Awkward silence descended over them, throughout which the elf managed to completely miss the target twice. He should not be letting his nerves get the better of him so, but the shemlen’s presence was distracting for multiple reasons. Damn Nathaniel for having a crappy, ignorant attitude and being good looking. It made for some damn awkward moments.

“You know, he wasn’t a bad man. Not…not always. He used to come down here, to this very yard, and watch me practice with the bow. He was always calling advice to me while I practiced with the soldiers.”

“Great. I’ll tell all the elves those soldiers used as target practice what a wonderful father the man who ordered their deaths was. Oh, wait, can’t. They’re dead.”

It seemed Nathaniel had nothing to say to that as the other man slowly selected an arrow and set it to his bowstring, drawing. Fälin made no effort to pretend he was doing anything other than watching the shem as Nathaniel took a deep breath, then released it at the same moment the arrow snapped free. Finally, “I don’t know what happened, Commander, bu—”

“Don’t but me,” he interjected sharply. “They’re dead. If you want to make excuses, go say them to their faces.”

“It’s not like I was the one who killed them!”

Raising a brow at the sudden vehemence in Nathaniel’s voice, it took the redhead a moment to gather himself before snorting. “No, that’s why you’re still alive.”

“Then why do you hate me?”

There were so many ways to respond to that question. The truth was, he just felt uncomfortable around the human; did not know how to conduct himself. He hated Nathaniel, yes, but it went beyond that. It went to a level far beyond that, somewhere between is physically attracted to, hates the guts of, and does not know how to deal with.

Not to mention his own racism. He hated humans, and if a few choice ones had wiggled their way past his barriers, he still knew that there was no trusting them. The world had taught him that. It had also taught him how to deal with shem and keep his head on his shoulders: Walk away.

That was what he did now.

~

Fälin put Gryphon through his paces, asking the horse to step and stretch thoroughly before moving on to more complex motions. The stallion had not been used in battle much lately, but it was important to keep him in fighting form should the need arise. Keeping his attention on the set of the horse’s ears, he did not notice when Nathaniel strode into the training grounds to lean against a fencepost.

Shifting Gryphon into a canter, he moved the stallion into a somewhat clumsy pirouette to work on the animal’s balance and co-ordination. It was a move that required his full attention, blessedly, and so he was not forced, for once, to think of the state of his arling. Not about the darkspawn, or rebuilding the Fereldan Grey Wardens, soldier deployment, or how frustrated his companions were making him.

Tsking to himself ask the horse stumbled out of the move, the elf used his reins and heels to straighten Gryphon. The action brought his eyes up to land on the human lurking nearby, watching him. He was tempted to demand Nathaniel leave, but there was a look in the shem’s eyes that changed his mind. It almost seemed to be a challenge, and he was not going to back down.

For all of his previous pretty stepping, Gryphon was a warhorse through and through, and he knew a few less pretty moves. As though sensing his rider’s tension, the red dun tossed his head in the air, snorting softly as Fälin collected his reins and asked the stallion to canter once more.

Bracing himself, he set the stallion’s balance and raised his hands while simultaneously rolling his heels. Taking the cue, the animal leapt into the air, forelegs curled before him and rear legs lashing out in a high-flying capriole. For a split second, Fälin felt satisfied as Nathaniel straightened, clearly surprised by the difficult move, and then the landing jarred him so badly he nearly fell off. This was why it was important to pay attention… Straightening in the saddle, he wished he did not have to see the amused smirk on the shem’s damn face.

“Very pretty, just try not to fall off next time. It’d be bad for everyone if we had to say the Hero of Ferelden died playing on a pony.”

Swinging himself out of the saddle, Fälin offered the stallion’s reins to Nathaniel with a raised brow. “Let’s see you do better.” Because riding another person’s personal warhorse was a great idea.

The human gazed at the stallion for a moment before chuckling. “No thanks. He’s a bit…small for me.”

Glancing at the stallion, Fälin had to admit that for once, the human had a point. Being just the right height for an elf did make the dun a bit short for a human male. Particularly one as tall as Nathaniel.

“Besides, I never learned to ride a horse like that.” Wait, was Mister Perfect admitting to not knowing something?

“Daddy didn’t teach you?”

The glare the brunet threw at Fälin should have made him shrivel up. “I learned how to ride, but the horses we used were more the trample things type.” Nathaniel hesitated as though considering his next words carefully. “He looks nice, though. What’s his name?”

“Gryphon.”

The human quirked an eyebrow at that and grinned. “Gryphon?”

“Yeah. I figured if that if I couldn’t ride a real griffon into battle, then at least this way I could ride a gryphon into battle.”

“I…guess that makes sense.”

Fälin, however, was not done. “Whose brilliant idea was it to let griffons go extinct, anyway? I mean, really. Did someone just wake up one day and go hey let’s kill off these cool animals because who needs flying lions?”

“You…really wanted to ride a griffon, didn’t you?”

“Damn straight. It’s just about the only bonus we got on this job.”

“Aside the part where half of us were criminals looking at the death penalty before we got rescued by the wardens?”

Fälin frowned, but could not really deny it. Damn, self-righteous human. He would have died in Fort Drakon if not for his conscription. “Yeah. Somewhere between that and ‘horrible nightmares that we’ll die from in thirty years’.”

“So, tell me, Commander. If you had a griffon…would you name it Horse?”

He could not help himself, he laughed. “Well, I named my mabari Sausage, so who knows? Maybe.”

“You have a maba—Sausage?”

“I thought he looked like a sausage with legs.” The elf shrugged. “It’s not a euphemism, really…though it could be.” He grinned.

“…of course. So, where is this mabari?”

“Antiva. I sent him with…a friend, to keep him out of trouble.”

“…boyfriend?” Was he imagining the too-curious look that accompanied the single word?

“Something like that.” Unconsciously, Fälin’s hand reached up to finger the earring in his left ear.

“You don’t have to—I mean, we all know, Commander. About your…preference. You don’t have to hide it.”

The elf sent Nathaniel a flat look. “I’m guessing Oghren can’t keep his mouth shut? Well, whatever. I don’t have a damn care if you know.”

The human’s expression went carefully blank at that, but at least he did not open his mouth again. At least, not immediately.

“My father…would never have agreed with that—men with men.”

“I don’t give a sodding nug’s ass what your father would think,” Fälin all but growled. Honestly, if Nathaniel was going to be a little bitch about his preference, then the human was going to find himself stationed somewhere in Korcari Wilds! Pretty face or no, no way was he putting up with that crap. “Or are you forgetting the part where I hated him?”

“N-no, that’s not…” The human sighed, rubbing at his neck awkwardly. “I’m just trying to say that…I could never…tell him.”

Interesting turn of events. Raising one eyebrow, Fälin crossed his arms. “Guess your relationship wasn’t all daisies, hm?”

Nathaniel glared at him, but otherwise did not say anything in retort. “He just…wanted what was best for the arling.”

“And see where that got him? Good’n’dead.”

“You really can be an ass, Commander.”

“You really have no bloody clue, do you?”

“No clue about what?”

“Your father—what he…what sort of monster he really was. You sit here praising and hero-worshipping a monster, Nathaniel. He wasn’t a ni—”

“—he was my father! Would you like it if someone sat around talking badly about yours?”

“My father never murdered anyone,” he replied coldly, “or used the excuse of healing a plague in the alienage to sell its people into slavery! And why? To fund his war!”

The older man recoiled as though slapped, eyes widening. “H-he did what?”

Motioning a stable hand over, the elf handed Gryphon’s reins to the boy before making for the Keep. “Walk with me.”

Holding his silence as they walked, Fälin worked to collect his thoughts. It did not work, however, as he found his fury only building as he remembered the horrors that had plagued his home. Sure, the alienage had never exactly been the nicest place to live, what with the crime and disease and all, but some of those who were gone had been friends of his. Now they were just…gone. The worst of it was, it was not always clear who had been sold, who had been culled, and who had died from plague.

“Commander?” Nathaniel interjected finally, clearly growing uncomfortable with the extended silence. When he received no response, the other man kept going, “I don’t know all of what my father did, but believe me, he wasn’t that…bad. He was a good father, and I did love him.”

Fälin sighed. “Let’s just talk later. I think I need to be drunk for this.” With those final words, the elf jogged off, leaving a frustrated recruit behind. So much for a relaxing ride.

Chapter Text

Later saw Fälin drinking. Immediately following dinner, he had shown up at the human’s room with a couple of bottles of brandy. Leaving the door open, he dropped into a chair and handed one of the bottles to Nathaniel, who left it untouched on the table. Opening his own, he took a sip.

He had spent the rest of the day warring with himself over what to tell Nathaniel, and did not feel any closer to being able to do anything less than scream at the human. The mess Rendon Howe had left in his home was still very real, and people were still gone, and…and he was upsetting himself all over again.

He hated the late Arl Howe, and more than that he hated how Nathaniel, someone who he actually found himself wanting to like—when they talked normally, like they had earlier, he really did find himself believing they could be friends—defended the bastard.

“He locked the alienage down, nobody was allowed in or out, and…purged it. People I know died. And then the refugees came, and he locked the sick elves up to fend for themselves—only then he used the excuse of bringing Tevinter ‘healers’ in to help them to start selling elves. They were my friends, some of them, and now they’re gone. I don’t even fucking know who’s dead from what, or who was sold—nobody does! It was a fucking mess.”

“…and your…family?”

“I made it in time to save my father…barely,” he shivered. “Barely. If I had…” Throwing back his head, the elf took a quaff of liquid and squeezed his eyes shut against the burn. “Loghain tried to arrest me—that was the day I killed your father, actually. We barely fought our way out. If—if we hadn’t made it, my father would be gone. He was hours away from being shipped off to who the sod knows where! If Anora hadn’t warned me…if I hadn’t gone right then.”

“Commander, it’s okay…”

“No, it’s bloody not okay! I saved my father, sure, but how many didn’t I save? What about Hahren Valendrian? Valora? She was my cousin’s betrothed, you know. She woulda been family if they hadn’t taken her away!”

“Look, I’m sorry that all happened, but—it couldn’t have been only my father’s fault!”

“He was the damn arl!”

“And Loghain was regent king! Surely he has some blame in this!”

“I don’t care if Loghain was the fucking queen of sparrows! Your father—”

“—didn’t act alone! It wasn’t all his fault. It couldn’t have been!”

Fälin snorted derisively. “Couldn’t? Sounds like denial. But I guess you’re used to that.” The barb was low, and the elf could see that the message was received as Nathaniel’s eyes flashed. A moment later, the human was on his feet and moving to slam the door and lock it.

Jumping up, the elf snapped the lock back open. “Leave it.” After a moment’s hard stare, the human stepped away with a frown, but he did not press the issue.

Thankfully.

~

Nathaniel could not say for certain what had come over him, but between the brandy, which he had eventually opened, his discussion with the commander that afternoon, and the sudden, irrefutable burn in his gut, he found himself wanting to resolve the tension between them at last. He found the elf attractive, there was no denying that, and he did not miss the way Fälin watched him, either. Enough of this dancing around. It was ridiculous.

That aside, he was getting more than a little pissed that Fay seemed dead-set on blaming his father for half of the world’s problems. He would probably point a finger Rendon Howe’s way if asked where the archdemon had come from. They needed to get this argument out. Maybe…maybe then they could get over this and finally just be friends.

…with benefits, if he was lucky.

With the door now shut, though not locked, he found himself watching with interest as the skinny elf moved to open the window, letting in a cold gust of wind and rain. Raising one eyebrow, the brunet asked, “What are you doing? It’s freezing.”

“Fuck off. You want the door closed, then the window can be open.”

Nathaniel was not sure he understood that logic, but who was he to argue with the mighty commander? Besides, the cold air blowing in…might make things fun? Because he had had enough of playing nice.

Striding over to the elf, Nathaniel grabbed his arm and wrenched the other man into a kiss. There was nothing nice about it as Fälin responded, all teeth and tongue and not at all sensually. Their teeth clacked together almost painfully, and Nathaniel really did not care.

Reaching up with one hand, he traced the scar that trailed from the elf’s right temple to the corner of his mouth, giving the man a permanent grimace on that side. He had no idea where it had come from, but if he had to guess he would assume darkspawn were involved. At least it avoided ruining the asymmetrical facial tattoos the elf had, which were his hand’s next target as he traced the dark ink.

Eventually, the need for air drew them apart, though their heavy breathing did nothing to hinder them as Nathaniel’s hands flew to Fälin’s arms. Gripping him tightly, Nathaniel steered Fay to the bed and shoved him down onto it.

With a growl, the elf tried to get back up, only to have the larger form of the human follow him down. Nathaniel had to admit, it felt pretty good to shove the commander around just this once. Grabbing the belt cinched around the other’s waist, he unbuckled and set it carefully aside, before reaching for the buckles on Fälin’s armoured tunic.

“Lay off,” the redhead snapped, grey eyes blazing in the room’s dim lighting as he slapped away Nathaniel’s hands.

Not deterred in the slightest, the human reached down to run his hand over a scar on his commander’s bare thigh. “Problem, Commander?” he all put purred. Gosh, but it did feel good to have the elf at his mercy. After all the times he had taken the sharp side of this elf’s tongue…well, it was good to put that tongue to another task.

Without a word, the elf grasped Nathaniel’s own armour, clearly intent on yanking it off. For the first time that night, the brunet had the foresight to be relieved that neither of them was wearing the rest of their gear. That would take far too long. What he was not expecting was for the little elf to muster the strength to reverse their positions. He had clearly underestimated the man.

Gazing up at the other from the flat of his back, Nate chuckled. “You can try, Commander.”

With a low growl, Fay’s hands flew to his belt, releasing it in a flurry of nimble fingers, so adept at picking locks. Those same fingers fell upon the buckles of his armour with equal fervour, and Nathaniel had to admit that he was impressed with the elf’s dexterity. Conceding this round, he helped Fälin slip him free of his armour and shirt, leaving him in no more than his smallclothes and socks.

“Eager, are we?”

“Shut up,” the smaller male growled, tracing one thin finger over the numerous, small scars peppering Nate’s skin. Each one signified another battle won; another day survived. He was pretty proud of them, honestly.

He was also curious what sort of battle trophies Fälin had. Aside the ones he could already see. He had two big ones, one on his left thigh and the other his right shoulder, which both disappeared under his armour. Nathaniel wanted to find the rest.

Going back to work on Fälin’s armour, he let the elf trace his skin and eventually pinch his nipple. Just before he loosed the last buckle, his hands were slapped away again. Honestly…

Quirking one eyebrow, he snorted. “Shy?”

“I’m not stripping for you.”

Feeling a flash of irritation at the snarky elf’s arrogance, Nate threw his weight into Fälin and slammed the other onto his back. “Then I’ll do it for you.” Divesting the other of his armour and undershirt still proved to be a battle, but he was ready for the other’s tricks this time. Ultimately, the human’s superior size and weight won out.

Dumping the wear to the floor alongside his own, Nathaniel ignored the wary glares he was being sent, and the curses, and instead set to work tracing the firm lines of Fay’s body. For a skinny little elf, the man kept in shape. Not surprising, really, but pleasing to the eye.

Tracing the scar on Fälin’s hip, Nathaniel ignored the way the elf glared at him and tweaked his nipple hard. The deep furrow traced up and over the commander’s hip and kept going. A matching mark peaked out on Fälin’s ribs, also, and suddenly Nate’s curiosity was really piqued. Grabbing Fälin’s shoulders, he wrenched the elf over—and froze.

“Maker’s breath,” he cursed as the smaller body thrashed free and wriggled away. Folding his arms across his chest, Fälin knelt on the bed and glared, “what happened?”

“What do you fucking think happened? And why the fuck did you think I didn’t want you—!” The elf trailed off.

“How are you even…alive?” The four furrows gashed into the elf’s flesh looked horrendous. The mark on his upper arm and shoulder lanced across the man’s back. The mark on his thigh was another cut that crossed over his full back. Two more completed the mosaic, all four starting roughly at the top right of Fälin’s back and slanting down until they ran out of flesh to mar.

“I danced a jig for the Maker and he sent me back.”

“Commander…”

“Grey Warden, remember? Probably has something to do with that, and the fact that Zevran carried me back off of Fort Drakon, to Wynne, at a dead run. How should I know? Wasn’t really conscious for long after Morrigan stopped the bleeding.”

“What…caused it?”

“Oh fu—what do you think caused it? Sure wasn’t from falling off a horse. It was the bloody archdemon—you’re welcome, by the way. Decided I needed a new look.”

“Couldn’t they…you know, heal the scars?”

“Don’t you think Wynne tried that? In the end, I had a choice. Looks, or being able to walk again. I got the latter—Wynne picked for me, since I was too busy being half dead. I’m rather happy with her choice.

“But I’m not having this conversation.” Standing, the elf bent to grab his things. “You can go find someone prett—”

Not giving the other time to finish, Nate grabbed his arm, wrenched him down, and slammed their mouths together. After a moment, the elf responded. It was, he realised, suddenly no mystery why Fälin never sought out…company. Well, Nathaniel didn’t care. He intended to keep the other flat on his back anyway.

The next few minutes passed in a flurry of exploring hands and fingers as they learned one another’s bodies. Aside from the gashes on his back, Fälin bore a number of other imperfections on a hardened torso, including what looked to be a burn mark on his right ribcage, but Nate really did not care. He was still very capable.

The squirmy elf soon began trying to push the human onto his back, and Nathaniel was not going to have any of that. Fay was a fighter, though, and so it was difficult to keep him in place at times. Finally, he gave up and just pinned Fälin’s hands. That brought with it a whole new set of problems.

The redhead’s struggles only increased once he was trapped, his mouth running off as he tried to jerk free in the most irritating, troublesome fashion. It also meant both of his hands were required in the holding, which would not do. He wanted to touch—with hands, not just tongue.

Shifting the other’s wrists to one hand, he leaned his full weight on the elf, only barely hanging on, as he grabbed the supple leather belt Fälin had worn minutes before. “Nice belt,” he commented.

“Better be; cost over a hundred sovereigns,” the commander snarled in response. “Now let me go!”

“Not yet.” Grinning, he slammed their mouths together as both of his hands set to the—admittedly difficult—task of binding his boss’ hands to the headboard with the belt. It was not easy, as the wily elf slipped free and lashed out at him several times, and even bit his tongue once. He managed it, however, and sat back to observe his handiwork.

Fälin had finally shut up, and the smaller man was focussed entirely on getting free, it seemed. Jerking, twisting, and tugging at the belt, the elf tested the bindings in every way imaginable, but he was not the only one here who was good with his hands.

“Let me go, Nathaniel!” That voice had lost some of its heat in defeat, and Nate was comfortable returning to his task of exploring Fay’s body with both of his hands. The whole time, his partner never once stopped struggling and cursing.

Eventually, the taller archer got frustrated and glanced up. Fälin’s gaze was riveted on his bindings, his hands twisting and jerking erratically. Sighing, Nate said, “If you promise to stop fighting and do what I tell you, I’ll let you go.”

Only silence greeted him, and so he set back to work lapping at one of the elf’s nipples. With his mouth occupied, Nate then finally moved to yank down his commander’s smallclothes, leaving the elf exposed to his wandering hands.

When his hot palm closing over the other man’s erection did not elicit the expected moan, Nate was forced to acknowledge that he had not heard anything out of Fay in the past few minutes. A glance up revealed two things. One, Fay was still focussed on his futile struggle, and two…there was blood trailing down his arm.

Alarmed, Nathaniel sat up. That, at least, seemed to warrant a response, for the commander yanked furiously and arched his back, letting out a frustrated…noise was the only word Nate had for it. It was then that he also noticed how pale the elf was. If the human did not know any better, he would say the elf was panicking.

No, scratch that; he was panicking.

 Grabbing one wrist to hold it still, his other hand unbuckled the belt as quickly as he could manage. Once the leather fell free, Fälin jolted upright, fist catching Nathaniel hard in the face as he scrambled free of the bed.

Rubbing his cheekbone gently, Nate held back from following the elf immediately as Fay ran to the window and stuck his head out into the cool, night air. He was not entirely certain what to call the entire fiasco, but he seemed to keep screwing up over and over again. The one chance he got to finally bed the commander, and he decided to do nothing right. Fuck.

Eventually he made his way over to the window and laid a hand on the scarred back. The elf flinched, but did not pull away. After a moment, he turned to face Nathaniel.

“Sorry…about that.”

Carefully wiping some of the rainwater from Fälin’s face, Nate raised one eyebrow. “Why are you apologising? I should be—I mean, I don’t know what I did, but I obviously did something wrong.”

Fälin shook his head. “You couldn’t have known.”

“Known…?”

“I don’t make a habit of…telling, well, anyone really. Doesn’t set a good precedent for the troops to know their leader is cleithrophobic.”

Nathaniel blinked. “Meaning…?”

“I’m afraid of being trapped, okay? Can we not talk about this?”

Nate bit his lip. “…sorry, I wish I had known.”

“Yeah, well, if I had had things my way, it wouldn’t have mattered.”

Shoulders sagging, the older man shrugged. “Well, I probably killed the mood anyway. I really…didn’t mean to, Commander.”

“No way. No fucking way. I did not go through all of that to have you back out on me. You’ve seen the worst of me already, so we’re fucking.”

Raising one eyebrow, Nathaniel found himself quite unable to refuse that particular request. Eyeing the naked elf before him hungrily, the human finally grabbed his boss’ bare hips and yanked them back together. “If you say so, Commander.” Kissing the elf hard, he let his hands explore freely, squeezing the other’s bare buttocks and tracing the scar on his hip.

Eventually Fay drew back, pale eyes hazy with lust once more. “Get on the bed, Recruit.”

Squeezing Fälin’s hips, perhaps a smidgen too hard, the younger Howe shook his head. “Not a chance.” Letting his smile turn coy, the brunet continued, “I told you I’d free you if you stopped fighting me. I freed you, so you get your pretty little ass on that bed, Commander.

“…I never agreed to that.”

“Maybe not, but if you want any sex out of me tonight, you’ll obey me.” And hopefully wouldn’t call his bluff. For a moment, he thought for sure the elf would do just that, and then…

Fine. But this isn’t over.”

Unable to resist, the human smacked the other’s bare ass lightly as he walked by, earning him a glare from the elf. Fine by him. If he could get the high and mighty commander to obey him on this one thing, he could get him to do so on other things. He hoped.

Divesting himself of his remaining clothing, the brunet finally strode over to the bed. Motioning for the seated redhead to lay back, he was rewarded with both a glare and compliance. And a thorough once-over.

Climbing onto his bed, Nathaniel hesitated suddenly in climbing on top of the elf. What if that set him off again? That was the last thing he needed…

“If you don’t get over here in six seconds, this deal is off.”

Taking that as his answer, the human shifted to straddle Fay’s hips, before slowly climbing further up the other’s body, until his pelvis was level with the redhead’s head. He was pretty sure Fälin could figure out what he wanted. He was only partially disappointed.

“I swear if you do not get that out of my face, I will bite you.”

Nathaniel was not willing to risk it. Perhaps it was not wise to push the commander too far this time. Hastily backing up, he met those hard, grey eyes and asked, “That eager to get to the main event, Commander?” Maker he loved saying that.

“Hardly. If I’m humouring you in this, then you can give me the damn blowjob.”

If there was one thing Nathaniel was aware of, it was how dangerous this elf could be. It was almost hard to believe that the commander had once been a city elf. He was just so used to them being meek and submissive, but Fay fit none of those categories.

After a moment’s hesitation, however, Nate was pretty sure that he did not want to comply to that demand. The moment he went back to taking orders from the elf, Fälin would take over this entire evening. He needed to maintain what tenuous authority he had, here.

So, instead he put his mouth to work in other ways. Trailing a line of kisses from Fay’s mouth, up his scar to his temple, and then down and over, he latched onto the elf’s ear and sucked. Nipping the sensitive flesh, he set to work mapping the rest of the unfamiliar territory, his mouth drawing a range of fascinating sounds out of the other’s mouth. It seemed elves had unusually sensitive ears. That was good to know.

Working his way back from the commander’s ear, he moved down and over his jaw to his neck. At the apex of Fay’s neck, just below his ear and jaw, he set to work leaving a mark where it would be plainly visible the next day. Once his tongue and lips were done, Nathaniel employed his teeth, biting down on the mark hard enough to draw a gasp out of his victim.

Beneath him, the smaller man did not remain idle for long. In an unexpectedly short time, Nate found himself gasping from the ministrations of the elf’s slender, and rather talented, fingers. Those things should be illegal, but at least it was obvious that he had an experienced partner in this.

It was not long before those wickedly dextrous digits found his aching member. From there, it was only a matter of time before Nathaniel had his work cut out for him not collapsing atop the commander as Fay massaged, stroked, kneaded, and rubbed away. How could this elf, who had never touched him before, be doing a better job of jerking him off than Nathaniel himself could manage?

“Surrender yet, Recruit?”

Opening eyes he had not realised he had closed, Nate gazed down into the hard eyes of the man beneath him. “Not a chance, Commander,” he muttered huskily. Two could play at this game.

Shifting his weight to one arm, the brunet grasped clumsily for Fälin’s erection, eventually enclosing it in one heated palm. That, at least, elicited a shudder from Fay. He set to work seeking similar reactions.  Stroking firmly along the heated length, he was both satisfied and disappointed to note that the elf had all but stopped his own efforts.

“Been awhile?” he teased with just a touch of mocking in his tone.

“Shut up,” the redhead hissed back. “It’s not like I exactly wa—oh!—w-wanted to abstain this long.”

Nathaniel barely managed to bite back a smart remark at that as the real meaning behind those words hit him. Instead, he frowned and redoubled his efforts.

“Oh, k-knock off the pity! I…ugh, i-it wasn’t because of…that. I just—Zev. He had to…Antiva!”

“What was that, Commander? Hm?” He understood, really, but it was amusing listening to the elf try to talk legibly during this.

“Screw off.”

“Soon, soon.”

Hissing softly, Fälin bucked his hips to press more firmly into Nate’s palm, the action drawing a chuckle out of the human. “Eager, are we?” He managed to keep his own voice steady, but his own now-neglected member was aching painfully, and watching the lithe body squirm beneath him was not helping.

“Maker, y-yes! N-ngh…!”

Removing his hand, Nathaniel silenced any protests with a kiss. At first, the mouth beneath him did not respond, but after a moment Fälin was fighting back wholeheartedly. Tongues and teeth came into play, and the elf did not back down an inch. It was pretty impressive, really. He just…elves were not supposed to be like this, were they? His upbringing had certainly taught him otherwise.

With the commander wholly distracted, Nathaniel strained to reach for his night side table. Fumbling for a moment, and dropping no less than three things to the floor, he eventually felt his hand close over the cool, glass bottle he sought.  Dragging it over, he braced himself with his elbows above Fay’s head as he worked the stopper loose and coated several of his fingers in the thick fluid the bottle contained.

Burying his free hand in the auburn locks of his boss, Nate reached his other hand down between Fälin’s legs. Rubbing one of his coated fingers against the elf’s anus, he pressed the digit inside at the same moment that he tightened his grip on those thick, reddish-brown locks. His preparation was not wasted, he noted, as he felt the other man tense immediately and try to pull away. Nathaniel refused to let him.

Or, at least he tried to, but it never did to count the commander out. Ever.

Ten familiar fingers slid into his own dark locks and, with no mind to spare his scalp, wrenched his head back. Their mouths parted with an audible pop, and Nate could not hold in the wince brought about by the burn in his scalp.

“Andraste’s ass, what the fuck are you doing?”

Pointedly wiggling his finger, the gesture tensing the elf further, Nathaniel grinned. “What do you think I’m doing, Commander?”

“Trying to get yourself stationed at an outpost a thousand leagues from here?”

There was a satisfying gasp from the elf as he inserted a second finger. “Oh, I don’t think you’re going to want to send me anywhere by the time I’m done with you.” Perhaps that was a little…arrogant, but this elf had enough arrogance for ten sometimes.

“You’re right. Maybe I’ll just order that beheading.”

The blatant threat gave Nathaniel pause, but only for a moment. Fälin Tabris was many things, but needlessly sadistic was not one of them. It was an empty threat; a bluff. It had to be.

“Like I said, Commander, you’re not going to want to be sending me anywhere by the time I’m done with you.” He hoped he sounded ten times as confident as he felt. He had had sex with men before, of course, even an elf once, but never anyone like the commander. This man was not like anyone he had ever even met before.

Rolling his eyes, the redhead muttered, “Seriously, Nathaniel—look at yourself!”

“…what about me?”

For the first time since he had met Fälin several months before, he saw the elf hesitate. Really, honestly hesitate. “I-it’s…it’s not gonna fit!” Those grey eyes narrowed, and Nathaniel wanted to laugh.

“Oh, it’ll fit.” As he began scissoring his two fingers, another thought struck. “You’ve…you haven’t done this before, have you?”

Another first: Fälin Tabris blushed. “No,” he admitted after only a moment’s hesitation, a bit of the tough-guy mask he so often carried around Nathaniel slipping away, reverting him more to the elf he was around, well…everyone else. “And I’m not really looking to.”

“Is it because you don’t trust me?” The words spilled out before he could stop them, but he found that he did not regret them.

“I don’t know how in the Fade you managed to draw that conclusion, but what do you think?”

“…you don’t.”

The look that crossed the elf’s face was exquisite. Too bad he was too busy being confused to appreciate it. “I trust you to watch my back in battle. How can you even think I don’t trust you?”

Nathaniel blinked. “But…you hate me.”

“I hate your father, Nathaniel. Not you—though you are really damn good at pissing me off on your own. You frustrate the sanity out of me, too, but I wouldn’t be here if I hated you.”

The darker-haired man was not really sure what to make of that confession. It went against most of what he thought he knew about the stubborn elf. It did make some sense, though, there was no denying that.

“Look. Isn’t the pillow talk supposed to wait until after we screw?”

Those words brought his mind back to the raging hard-on that was throbbing anxiously between his legs, and his fingers which were now laying idly up the other’s ass. Well, as much as he had been enjoying seeing Fälin with his shield down for once…that was a good point. This could wait until later, he decided, as he all but rammed a third finger into the smaller body.

Biting off a gasp, Fay’s glare returned. “Still haven’t agreed to this,” he muttered sharply.

“Fine,” it seemed all sense of getting along was gone for the moment, “then here’s my offer: If you want to take over, then go ahead. Try it.” He accompanied the final words with a sudden spreading of all three fingers, the action drawing a grunt from the other.

“A-and if I order you?”

Oh, now that was grasping at straws, was it not? He did not even bother to hide the skeptical look he shot at the elf. “You’d stoop that low?” He quirked an eyebrow. “Besides, I think your authority was left out in the hall. In here, we’re just two men…Fälin.”

The body beneath him shuddered, and Nathaniel was reasonably certain that he had hit the nail on the head. They both knew that if it came to a fight, while Nate was not willing to really hurt Fay, he would still win. Besides, it was not worth fighting over—it was only his pride that was even making him carry on the act.

When no response—no verbal response—was forthcoming, he removed his fingers and reached for the lubricant only to find it gone. A quick glance revealed the bottle in the hands of the redhead, who was coating his hands an—Maker. Shivering as those talented fingers fell onto his engorged penis once again, Nathaniel tried not to whimper as the cold oil clashed with his overheated skin, slicking over it smoothly.

“If this isn’t the best sex of my life, I’m hanging you upside down from the battlements for a day.”

“You drive a hard bargain, Fay.”

An eyebrow shot up at that. “Don’t call me that. I haven’t decided if we’re friends yet.”

…picky, damn, stubborn elves. “Fine. Just hurry up, Elf, my patience is wearing thin.”

“Then you can fuck a bagel, Shem.” Okay, maybe the racist slur had gone too far, but there was no taking it back, now. He knew Fälin hated humans—a lot, and perhaps even with good reason. Still, the ridiculous retort was almost comical.

“I’m going to have to if you don’t hurry up.” A warning squeeze made him swallow the rest of his words.

After what felt an eternity, a good eternity though, slender fingers fell back. Wasting no time, Nathaniel slipped one hand under the slim hips beneath him and used his other hand to guide himself down. “Lift your hips,” he demanded, voice growing husky with want as his mind returned to focussing wholly on the task before him.

“Watch your m—”

Now, Elf!” he snapped, cutting off the other man as his patience, which had been thinning dangerously throughout their arguments, finally snapped. Much to his relieved surprise, the shocked redhead complied.

With his hand adding support to Fälin’s back, he pressed a short distance in before moving both hands to the other’s hips for added leverage. This part was always the hardest. Getting in was such a pain, and he did not have the patience left to even fake being willing to tolerate his partner’s snark…or to hold himself back more than a minimum.

Luckily, the other man was tough, and almost seemed to be taking the steady insertion as a challenge. Fälin’s eyes were open and staring right into his own, the thin hands clasping the covers beneath him tightly.

Once he was fully inside, Nate did stop, waiting as best he could while the body beneath him shifted and adjusted. From there, it was just a short wait until Fälin nodded. Nathaniel would not even pretend he was gentle, and the elf beneath him made no effort to tell him to slow down. In fact, the grumbles and mutters from the commander were generally orders to go faster or harder or…well, not everything was repeatable.

The commander, it seemed, liked it rough. That suited him just fine.

Sweaty and content, Nathaniel lay next to Fälin sometime later, his arm draped over the elf as they stared at one another across the short distance between them. He was not going to deny that that might have been the best sex of his life, even with the screw-ups and Fälin’s constant arguing interrupting the mood. He had wanted the elf since he had first seen him, and to finally have had him... Well, the truth was, it made him want more. Perhaps not right now, though.

“So. Wasn’t so bad, right?” A grunt was all that greeted his words, drawing a sigh out of the human. “Just admit it, Fälin. You liked it.”

“If you need verbal confirmation of that, then you’re obviously stupid and blind.”

Rolling his eyes, Nathaniel opted not to respond. Instead, he tightened his grip and dragged the redhead into his chest. “…it’s cold in here.”

With a grumble that Nate opted not to hear, Fälin tried to pull away, but tight arms around his hips held him place. In the end, the elf opted for rolling over so his back was to Nathaniel’s chest. “Really. I hadn’t noticed. Why do you think that could be?”

“I’m not complaining. Gives me an excuse to keep you to myself.”

“I’m not staying the night.”

Nathaniel tried to ignore the way his heart seemed to plummet a bit in his chest. He was not emotionally attached to the elf, or anything, not really, but a longer stay meant more potential for fun.

“Why not? Saves you having to get dressed again.”

The dark-haired man felt and heard the deep breath Fälin took, as though preparing to lecture a child. “I may not be sworn to celibacy while Zev’s gone, but I’m not going to make a habit of crawling into someone else’s bed anyway. And I’m definitely not spending the night.”

“So…was this a one-time thing?”

This time, he let Fälin go as the elf struggled away. “I haven’t decided yet. Probably. Might depend more on how long Zev’s gone…”

“You’re that loyal to a guy who ran off and left you here?”

“First off, I hardly call this,” he indicated their naked bodies, “that loyal. And secondly, this isn’t just his fault. I can’t leave my business here anymore than he can leave his there. We’re just going to have to wait a bit until one of us…is free.”

Listening to the commander’s words, Nathaniel was forced to acknowledge that chasing this elf would be futile. Fälin was in love with this ‘Zev’ guy, and that was that. Maybe.

“Well, I’ll be here if you get tired of waiting again.”

“…you sound pathetic. Why not go chase Anders? He’s probably interested.”  The look on Nate’s face must have been funny, because the redhead snorted. “Okay then. Well, I should go.”

Watching with interest as the elf pulled his undershirt and armour back on, Nathaniel could not help but ask, “And that…friend thing?”

“Remains to be seen. Stop pissing me off with shitty stories about your father and then we can talk.”

“…fine.” It still seemed weird that he claimed trust without friendship. A strange combination. “Well, like I said, my bed’s here if you find yourself…cold again.”

“…don’t make me think you’re an idiot.” Nathaniel tried to ignore how Fälin did not put his belt back on. And, for that matter, the bloody bruises ringing the elf’s wrists. Those marks, at least, he had not meant to put there. The rest of the bruises on Fälin’s neck, hips, and torso, though? All intentional. “And go wash your damn hands.”

Snorting, the human sat up. It was a good point, even if the tone was grating. “Yeah, yeah. Try not to be so cranky you scare off your dreams, okay?”

“That’d probably be a relief.”

“Wha—”

“I’m a Grey Warden too, or has that thought overheated your taxed mind?” Fälin rolled his eyes. Without another word, the elf then turned and made for the exit. Nathaniel watched him until the door clicked shut behind the elf.

One thing was for sure: He was never going to be able to stand watching Fälin running around in that tunic, thighs bare, again.

The fact that that was his first thought should perhaps have concerned him.

Chapter Text

Fälin moved through the training grounds on light feet, calling advice to the trainee soldiers as he did so. He was not much of a teacher for those training, being more an archer than anything, but his presence was an encouragement to them. Besides, he had learned at least one or two tricks from Isabela and Zev. He could pass those on.

Nodding to Sigrun, who was going through the basics with a group of new recruits, he allowed his feet to carry him near the corner of the yard. It was there that he spotted Nathaniel. The older man was clearly brushing up on his blade skills, and it did not take long for Fälin to decide to jump in.

In truth, he was still grating a bit from what had occurred between them several nights before. While it was the truth that some of the tension between them had dissolved, it seemed that more had simply sprung up in its place. Nathaniel knew where he stood with Fälin, but the truth was that Fälin had no idea where he stood with Nathaniel. For himself, he trusted the human to watch his back, and he still felt that maybe they could be friends…if Nathaniel would just stop rubbing him the wrong way.

That was the crux of the matter though, was it not? Nathaniel Howe brought out the absolute worst in him. The stuffy little noble brat reminded him far too much of the well-to-do nobles who had once thought it their divine privilege to come to the alienage and mistreat its inhabitants. So, whenever the older man saw fit to start harping about his father it drew him over the edge. It was during those times that he stopped seeing a potential friend and ally, and saw a stuck-up nobleman who would not think twice about hurting elves just because he could.

The confusion of not really knowing what Nathaniel wanted from him did not help. Or rather, perhaps it was the confusion of finally knowing what the human wanted. That was it, right? Fälin could not give that to him, though. He might not have exactly been sworn to fidelity—his love was Zevran, for Andraste’s sake! They had a mutual, unspoken agreement that pleasure could be sought in others when they were apart—but that did not make sleeping around casually okay with him, either. Well, that and the fact that he really was not okay with showing people exactly what the archdemon had done to his back. Not to mention the tooth marks on his chest. It was bad enough that he had to wander around flaunting his little present from the High Dragon on his face.

No, he was no looker, not anymore. Zev never minded, though, and Nathaniel had not seemed to mind too much. He had been shocked, though, and it was just that reaction he wanted to avoid. And he was digressing terribly.

The point was, he was afraid that Nathaniel would ask for more than he was willing to give. Of course, that assumed that the other wanted him for more than a one-night stand—no, he knew that. The other man had said as much before he had stalked off the other night.

The whole mess was damn frustrating was what it was. Couple that with a person who was frustrating on his own, and it often left the redhead more than a little annoyed. Especially after how their night together had gone. Sex was well and good, but he did not like to be pushed around, especially not by some shem!

Well, two could play at that game.

Grabbing two bound bundles of reeds, Fälin marched over to where Nathaniel was practicing and tapped the taller man on the shoulder before shifting into a ready stance. For a moment, the former noble looked confused, and then he grinned and shifted positions to match his commander’s.

Around them, hurried whispers cleared a space as people stepped back, a number stopping to watch the two Grey Wardens spar. Well, if they were going to take the time, they had best make a show of it.

Nathaniel stole the first move. In a flurry of fast blows, he moved in on Fälin’s right, trying to take out his weaker arm first. With light-footed dexterity, the elf crossed his left arm across his chest and swung his right up in a daring move, locking his wrist with the human’s. Unfortunately for him, the heavier man would always win in a contest of strength.

Reeling back as he was shoved away, the redhead shifted his weight into the motion and turned it into a smooth step back. He could not win this on merits of strength; he should have known that. However, Nathaniel was new to blades, and so he should be able to win in terms of skill and experience.

They resumed the assault, exchanging a staccato of blows that rang through the still air. The superior speed and agility granted to them by the taint put Grey Wardens in a class above most regular soldiers, but when they fought each other, that advantage was lost. It made for a pretty good show for those watching, however.

In terms of strength, Nathaniel had the clear advantage, but insofar as agility and skill went, there was no counting the elf out. He ducked, dodged, feinted, swung, and slashed with all of the skill he could muster. At least until a lucky—and lucky it was—blow to his knees dropped the elf to his rump in the dust. With an annoyed grunt, Fälin rolled, hearing the air above him whistle as a practice sword moved in to incapacitate him.

Kicking out, he caught Nathaniel in the ankle, making the larger man stumble. Swinging out with one of his swords, he managed to sweep it across the back of the other’s knee, dropping him to the dirt. Rolling back to his feet, the elf leapt forward and pressed one of his practice swords to the dark-haired human’s throat.

Breathing heavily, he gazed down at Nathaniel’s face and tried to ignore the way the man was eyeing him—particularly his bare thighs—as he said, “Guess that’d be my win.” He drew back the sword and offered a hand to help the human up. With a grunt of acknowledgement, his offer was accepted, and he pulled the heavier man up.

“You never did tell me where you learned to fight like that, Commander.”

“Practical experience. Fightin’ darkspawn and all,” he lied, “it’s amazing what it can teach you.” Lowering his voice, Fälin added, “We weren’t all pampered as kids.”

He could see that the message was received as the human’s expression tightened, but he let it go. They were always antagonistic towards one another, so there was no reason to expect anything different, was there? He had told Nathaniel the truth. If the other archer wanted his friendship, or anything of the sort, he was going to have to work at earning it.

Stashing the makeshift weapons, he finished his rounds before heading back to the Keep. Taking a shortcut through the stable yard, he was just passing the junction between two buildings when a hand shot out and dragged him around the corner.

Reaching for his weapon, he had it halfway to his attacker’s neck before he started. The moment’s hesitation was all Nathaniel needed to grab his wrist again and slam him chest-first into the wall. With a muffled curse, he found Fang slipping from his grasp, even as the arrogant shem’s body pressed into him, holding his body in place.

“I don’t appreciate being made a fool of, Fälin,” came the man’s hot breath in his ear. There was no stopping the way his body shivered in response.

Squirming against the body pinning him, he fought back the initial panic that the event had raised in him, reminding himself that it was just Nathaniel, and that the other man would let him go if he really needed it. It took a moment, but he managed.

“Then don’t lose next time,” the elf growled in response, trying to shift free as he did so. In response, the hand holding his wrist tightened.

“I don’t plan to.”

There was a clear challenge in that, and it was only force of will that kept him from responding. Damn this human and the reactions he demanded. He was not supposed to even be considering this!

“Let me go, Recruit,” he managed to force out, voice steady by some miracle.

“No.”

Dear gosh that word. How many years had he spent being ordered around by shem? He had resented it, but he had learned at a very young age that complying was the best way to survive. And what now? He had finally broken free of that life, and he still found himself here now. In the clutches of yet another human. Only this time he did not completely resent being caught.

Not…completely.

A hand found his thigh, and the redhead forced himself to push back against the person pinning him. “I told you to let me go,” he hissed in warning.

“And I said no.” The casual tone with which that was spoken pissed him off to no end. “But if you’re so eager…” The hand on his thigh left, only to flip up the kilt of the armour he was wearing. That same hand trailed over the black feather tattooed at the junction of his right hip before moving to tug at the tie on his smallclothes.

Hissing in a sharp breath, Fälin went to war with his body. On the one hand, he wanted very much to respond, on the other, he wanted to punch Nathaniel. He also wanted to get away, at least somewhat. He had learned to control his fear rather well since he had first developed it fifteen years before, when he was twelve, but it was far from a perfect science.

“Dammit, Shem.”

Nathaniel’s hot mouth found its way to his ear as the man asked, “Yes, Fälin? Was there something you wanted?”

“You know full well what I want.”

That damn hand slid over Fälin’s hip, squirming in between the elf and the wall until it could grope at his rapidly-hardening member. “Hm, yes; I think I do.”

Something about those words—he could so easily hear them in Zev’s voice—brought another shiver up the elf’s spine. Dammit, but he could not cave this easily. Well, he still had one free hand, right? With that thought in mind, Fälin lashed out with his free hand, driving it into Nathaniel’s side as hard as he could from the awkward angle.

“Problem?” He could all but hear Nathaniel’s smirk as he drew his hand away with a wince. Armour. Right.

Completely unperturbed, Nathaniel drew his hand back, and a moment later he heard the shing of metal on metal as the human’s belt knife cleared its small scabbard. Straining to twist his head, to see what was happening, he felt more than saw the cool metal slip beneath his undergarments and lightly sever the fabric. A moment later, his wrist was released, the knife passed, and the other side was cut. For a moment, he was too horrified to respond.

“…that’s coming out of your paycheque.”

“I think I can afford it, Elf.”

Growling low in his throat, Fälin tried to twist free, only to have the human respond by pressing more weight into him. His annoyance was cut off with a gasp as the cool stone of the stable suddenly met bare skin. Scrambling for purchase against the wall, he tried to push back, but to no avail. What was true in the practice yard remained true here; he would never beat Nathaniel in a contest of brute strength.

Both hands disappeared from his body, only Nathaniel’s weight holding him in place, until a single, slicked finger slipped inside of him. Grunting softly, he bared his teeth.

“I thought I told you that we weren’t doing this again,” he all but growled.

“Then tell me to go.”

“I already did!”

“No, you told me to let you go. That’s not the same thing.”

“Semantics!”

“Fine,” a second finger joined the first, “then just tell me to go and I will. And I will leave, so don’t bother trying to trick me into letting you go.”

Fälin bit his lip. He should tell Nathaniel to go. Not only had he been adamant about this, but he could not give this shem the idea that he could just walk up and demand sex whenever it suited him! No, he needed to make it clear who was in charge here.

He could not get the words out. Maker preserve him, but he wanted this, and they both knew it.—well, no. Nathaniel thought he knew it, and they both knew that Fälin himself would seize any chance to take charge.

But that’s half the fun, isn’t it? Shaking away the voice, for all the truth it carried, he was about to open his mouth when a third finger was rammed viciously inside him.

“What, nug got your tongue? Just admit it, Elf, you want this. You want me to screw you into this wall.”

“Let me go and we’ll see how much I want that,” he hissed in denial.

“No. I like having you completely at my mercy. Maybe someday we can even find another use for that clever tongue of yours?”

Well, it seemed Nathaniel at least valued his life, because that last part had come out a clear question. Fälin snorted. “And my teeth.” That was not an idle threat, and Nathaniel knew it. No way was he stooping to that level. Not for anyone but the one he loved.

The fingers finally slipped out of him and at last the weight pinning him lessened. It was, however, replaced by a hand pressing down strongly between his shoulder blades. Behind him, he could hear the fumbling sound of fingers working away at a belt. Refusing to be idle, Fälin braced his arms against the wall and tried to shove back. Behind him, Nathaniel shoved down on him harder, the fumbling halting as a second hand flew up to help the first.

“Hold still,” the human growled. “Maker’s breath you’re such a pain sometimes.” Of course, those words just meant he had to try harder, and after a moment Nathaniel’s body replaced his hands, and those same hands grasped his forearms. “We can do this all day. I won’t be missed, but I’m pretty sure you have things to do. Important little elf that you are.”

That tone. It was the same one the human used when hero-worshipping the elder Howe…!

“Bastard.”

“Hardly. I am an orphan, though. Guess who I have to thank for that?”

Low blow. Fälin was almost proud of him. He did not really have a retort for it, though.

“Good,” it was only with that word that the elf noticed he had stopped fighting, “now just behave and stay like that.” With that, Nathaniel shifted back, his hand returned, and the rustling resumed.

“And how many of my people are orphans because of him?” Oh, maybe he did have a retort after all.

“A few elves? Who cares.”

He knew Nathaniel was baiting him, but he wanted to scream anyway. He also knew Nathaniel was bluffing; the human did care. That was the problem—one of many. They were both so good at baiting each other, and the blows got low sometimes, but they were still drawn to each other. If he really stopped to think about it, he would probably realise how fucked up it all was.

So, he did not think about it.

The hand on his back finally left, only to be placed with a forearm. He could hear rustling near his ear, and turned his head to watch the human coat his unoccupied hand with the contents of a small bottle. The hand holding the bottle remained where it was, its attached arm still pinning him, and after a long moment the other hand returned and deposited the jar in the grass.

“Get on your tiptoes.”

“Ask nicely,” he snapped, “and maybe I’ll consider it.” Who did this shem think he was, anyway?

“Or, how about you just do what I tell you.” That was not a question. “Or I could just pick you up. Which would you prefer?”

With a muttered curse, Fälin rocked forward on his heels, balanced precariously on his toes. Behind him, he could both see and hear Nathaniel shifting. After a moment, the human mumbled a curse of his own.

“You’re too short.” Well, that was offensive. At nearly five feet, he was actually approaching tall for an elf. Then again, at over six feet, Nathaniel was on the tall side for a human.

“Can’t reach?” he asked with a smirk. A moment later his smirk was wiped out as an arm wrapped around his waist and lifted him into the air.

“Wrap your legs around me.”

“I’m facing a wall, dumbass!”

“You’re flexible. Do it anyway.”

Biting his lip, Fälin complied after a moment. It was a difficult position to hold, with only his calves for purchase and the strain on his knees and hips immense. The arm around him stayed for support, at least, and he found himself clawing pathetically for purchase against the unforgiving stone as the human pushed inside him.

It felt much as it had the first time. That was to say foreign, invasive, and not as painful as he would have predicted. He was only given a moment to scramble to get his chest off of the wall, and his arms under him to brace himself, before the larger man was pulling back out and slamming in again. For an instant, there was a flash of pain, and then Nathaniel got the angle right, a fact that Fälin confirmed with a pleased gasp. From there it was all rather enjoyable.

Not that he would say that out loud. Honestly, it still amazed him how the damn thing even fit. He and Zevran together were one thing—they were both elves. At nearly a foot-and-a-half taller than him, however, Nathaniel was certainly no elf.

After a few moments, the human’s hands shifted to grab his hips, adjusting his body to a preferred angle. The pressure of those fingers, he knew, would leave bruises over the marks that still lingered from several days before. He could not bring himself to care.

At one point, he attempted to reach down to grab his own neglected erection. However, a particularly hard thrust nearly caused his single arm to give under the combined pressure of their bodies and he was forced to rethink that action. Pressing his freed palm against the wall, he fought not to be crushed against it, leaving his throbbing member neglected. At least it was not being crushed against a wall.

He would later deny being made to cum without either of them touching him—Nathaniel had touched him, for a moment, anyway. That counted. As it was, he was barely coherent as he felt his body approach its orgasm, his every muscle eventually tightening until he finally felt it burst forth. A full minute later, Nathaniel let out a strangled grunt and finally slowed his movements.

If anyone ever said he climaxed first without even being touched, he would cut his or her throat.

It was with very wobbly, and very sore, legs that he finally stood on once more, stepping back once he was given room. Then he promptly dropped to the grass, breathing heavily as he flopped to his back. Dammit, he really needed to get his assassin back here. This could not keep going on.

Reaching down to fix the links in his armour, Fälin found his hand stopped via a hand on his wrist. Glancing up at the human, he was surprised to see Nathaniel staring intently at his tattoo—damn human had already managed to straighten his own clothing. After a moment, a second hand reached up to trace it.

“I didn’t notice this the other night.”

Fälin quirked an eyebrow. “Don’t see how you missed it. It’s…right there.”

“Hey, it was dark in there. I figured it was just a bruise.”

Dim, maybe, but not dark. Still, it was a reasonable excuse. Humans did not have the night vision elves did. “Well, now you’ve seen it.”

“What’s it for?”

“My Crow.”

“You…have a pet crow?”

Fälin just chuckled. “Something like that.”

Propping himself up on one elbow, the redhead began to grow uneasy as the dark-haired man continued to examine the tattoo thoroughly. Never mind it being just inches from his cock, the scrutiny was unnerving on its own.

Finally, Nathaniel’s eyes came up and met his. They stared hard at one another for a moment, all hint of challenge gone, before the human leaned in and kissed him. The gesture was not like their previous kisses, which had been all battle and little pleasure. No, this time it was soft, gentle…and downright unnerving.

Jerking back, Fälin dropped back to the grass, eyes wide as he stared up at Nathaniel. That was not right. They were all about pent-up frustration and hate not…

Nathaniel was crawling over him, lips seeking his again and they were kissing. This time, Fälin responded, his mouth opening willingly under the human’s. Reaching up, he dug his fingers into the dark locks of his subordinate, dragging him closer. Above him, he could feel the other man smile. What that meant he did not even want to consider.

When breathing through their nostrils was no longer adequate to keep up with their racing hearts, they finally drew apart. Licking his lips, Fälin found himself utterly dumbfounded as to what to do or say. The sudden shift in mood left his head reeling, and he could not tell if Nathaniel was doing it on purpose or…something else. Something that did not bear thinking about.

When the human leaned in to kiss him again, Fälin raised one of his hands, which had dropped to the grass when Nathaniel had drawn away before, and pushed his face away. In response, the older man grabbed his hand and pinned it. Heart jumping into his throat, he found himself unable to look away from the former noble. Even as he wrenched his arm free, he made no other effort to stop Nathaniel from kissing him again.

The human did not remain idle this time. Breaking from the lip lock, he moved to trail kisses across Fälin’s face and jaw. Moaning softly, he lifted his chin to give the other access to the soft skin of his throat. The invitation was accepted.

Even as lips locked onto his neck to suck hard, his mind was at war with itself. He had no idea why Nathaniel was suddenly acting like this—only he did and that terrified him—and he knew he should be fighting it; telling him no. How could he, though? Sex aside, it was sort of nice to be able to enjoy another’s body. Zevran had been gone so long, and he was a healthy man! Nathaniel was undeniably attractive, and who cared if he was an ass? His relationship with Zevran had hardly started out as love—they had jumped into the sack together just days after the assassin had tried to, well, assassinate him. Love was not required for a good fuck.

…but this was not simply a good fuck. Not anymore. It felt …good. Like it did with Zev.

Letting his eyes drift shut, Fälin could almost imagine that it was Zev who was kissing him. The elf’s talented tongue was good at a lot more than just talking, a fact he had proven time and time again. What would he not give for a refresher course.

The mouth on his neck drew back for a sharp nip, and then moved up to his left ear. For a moment, that tongue played with his earring, before latching down to suck on the tip of his ear. Fälin gasped sharply at the sensations it evoked.

“Z-Zev…”

Nathaniel froze, and then drew back sharply. “What was that?”

He ignored the accusation in those eyes. Nathaniel had no business feeling slighted. None at all. This was purely pleasure; nothing more. So long as they both enjoyed themselves physically, it did not matter. “Zev. He gave me that earring. Be careful with it.”

…so why was he covering?

Sitting up, he finally managed to fix his armour, making himself halfway decent again, at last. Never mind that he was half hard again. It was gross how responsive his body was to the younger Howe. He had abstained too long, obviously.

“…I should be going, then…Commander.”

So that was where the respect for him had gone. Huh. Climbing back to his feet, the elf moved to retrieve Fang. Slamming the blade back into its sheath, he then cast a critical eye over the remnants of what had once been his underwear. What a waste.

Scooping the flimsy material up, he used them to wipe his thighs down before tossing them away. Let someone make of that what they would. Never mind the wet spot on the wall—he had to grin a bit at that.

“You can go,” he muttered when he saw that Nathaniel was still watching him. “You don’t need me to dismiss you, do you?”

Their eyes met for a moment, and then the older man nodded and turned to jog off. Turning in the opposite direction, Fälin made his way slowly back to the Keep. First he would get himself cleaned up, then to that meeting…

Chapter Text

Vigil’s Keep did not have much in the way of the library, but it did have a small room with a few shelves of books, and tables for reading. It was here that Nathaniel sought some peace and solace after another few hard days on the road. It had been a wet week, and he just wanted to prop his feet up in front of the fire with a good book.

What he was not expecting was to find the commander seated at a table, an open book in front of him as he scribbled away at a sheet of paper. Slipping in behind the elf, Nathaniel laid a hand on the man’s shoulder, and was rewarded when Fälin started. He had not meant to sneak up on the other man, and it was a testament to how absorbed in his work the redhead was that he had missed the other archer’s approach.

“Busy?”

Dropping the quill pen, Fälin finally turned to face him. There was obvious stress on the elf’s face, and a quick glance at the almost-blank piece of paper gave Nate suspicion as to why that was. The few words scrawled on the page were messy and unrefined, and the ink was already dry. Clearly, he had been at it awhile.

“Just…writing a letter.”

“Is that what they call it...”

Huffing, Fay turned away again, and it seemed that he had once again gone too far. How he always managed to put his foot in his mouth when talking to the commander, he really had no idea. It was just that the man managed to put his back up much of the time, make him furious others, and set him stammering on still other occasions.

“Yeah, well…I’m not the letter-writing type.”

Honestly, damn stubborn elf. As unbelievable as it seemed for one born to a noble house as Nathaniel had been, it was pretty clear that Fälin struggled with writing. Or, rather, circumstances were making him suspect that that was the case, at least.

“Not the type. Of course. But if you want to admit that you can barely read, then maybe I can help.”

Beneath his hand, he could feel the other tense. Clearly, he had hit the nail on the head. Well, whatever. Fälin was not likely to admit to anything, and there was no getting through to the stubborn elf. He could just go ahead and sit down here all night struggling.

“Well then, have fun. If you want to join me, later, I’ll…be around.” Not that he expected to be taken up on that offer. The elf was too damn prideful to ever admit what he wanted, providing that something had anything to do with Nathaniel himself.

As the dark-haired man turned to leave, a voice stopped him, “It’s not that easy, y’know.”

“What’s not?”

“Living here, doing all of this, dealing with…all of your kind. I’m not one of them—one of you—and they know that. If I told them I couldn’t even write my own name when I left Denerim, they’d just have another damn excuse to complain about the ‘knife-ears’ who’s the arl.”

“I’m not one of them, Fälin,” he muttered, turning back.

“You aren’t? Really? How do you think it looks to me?” That might actually be a good point, he conceded to himself. There were times when he was resentful that Fälin was in the place that belonged to him by birthright. It would also be a flat lie if he denied ever being resentful that an elf had taken that from him. Elves were not lords. It was…supposed to be that simple.

Not only that, but it had to be his father’s arling that was made such a joke of. Given to an elf? No, he had to think of it as ‘given to the Grey Wardens.’ If he did not, then that meant admitting he was ruled by…one of a lesser class.

A lesser species.

At least, that had been before. Now, while things had not strictly changed, he found that he thought he could deal with the skewed distribution of power. Doing so meant laying claim to aforementioned elf, however. Maybe it would help him save some face if he could take the one thing that had taken his birthright from him.

Stepping up behind that very elf, Nathaniel gently placed both hands on the other man’s shoulders, kneading his fingers slowly into the knots there. “Then let me help you. You aren’t going to learn to read by sitting around willing the knowledge into your head.”

“I know how to read,” Fälin snapped, though the heat in his voice was lacking. If anything, Nathaniel would say he sounded uncomfortable. An interesting turn of events.

“Could have fooled me.”

“I’m just not some damn scholar.”

Sighing, Nathaniel leaned down, his hands slipping from the other man’s shoulders to wrap around the elf’s chest. Nuzzling his face into the soft skin of Fälin’s neck, he planted a soft kiss on it. “How about I help you?”

It was painfully obvious that the redhead was uncomfortable, but to his credit he did not back down. One did not get the position as Commander of the Grey in Ferelden by being easily swayed, he supposed. Which was good, because it would not be fun otherwise.

“We aren’t a couple, Nathaniel.” His voice was surprisingly steady, Nathaniel had to admit that. “So you can let go of me now.”

“And if I don’t want to?”

He could almost hear the elf’s teeth grinding together. “Look—I’ll let you help, just get off me.”

“I will, but only if you kiss me.”

“…you had better be joking.”

Oh, how he loved baiting the elf like this. It was so enjoyable when he finally caved. He was getting more compliant, too. Elves really were not meant to be arls.

Backing off just far enough to meet the redhead’s eyes, he let a small smile touch his lips. “Kiss me, Elf.”

Fälin’s expression was unreadable as he met Nathaniel’s eyes. If he had to guess, however, Nate would say the redhead was debating between and obeying and attacking. The latter was a very real possibility, but he could not give up his course now. Besides, if Fay really wanted to get away, then he could. Nate was not holding him too tightly, and if his victim wanted to escape he would let him. Nathaniel was banking on the elf not wanting to escape, however.

It had been over a week since their tryst behind the barn, but that was nowhere near long enough for him to forget how compliant the body beneath him had been while they kissed. Fälin, it seemed, was as wanting of company as he hoped the other man was. All he needed to do was convince Fay to admit that.

Meeting the other’s eyes steadily, the brunet finally licked his lips. That, it seemed, was enough. The elf leaned in and claimed them. Rather than let the redhead draw back immediately, Nathaniel leaned into the gesture. The slightest probing of his tongue was rewarded with entry, so he slipped it in, mapping the territory with surprisingly little resistance from the elf.

Or so he thought. It really never did to count the commander out. When lips clamped down on his tongue and sucked, he made no effort to suppress the shiver that followed. Perhaps he really did need to question who was seducing whom. Sure, Fälin fought him, but he also never sent him away. Nathaniel always meant it when he said he would leave if told to, but that had yet to happen.

Eventually, as though by unspoken agreement, they drew apart. He watched as Fälin’s tongue snuck out, running across elven lips, and swallowed hard. Forget everything. He wanted this elf; he wanted Fälin all to himself.

“Nathaniel…” The warning tone snapped him back to reality.

In an effort to hide his mental wandering, Nate smiled and slowly straightened, running his hands up the front of Fay’s brown tunic as he did so. Stepping back, he retrieved a chair and pulled it up, taking a seat at the table, alongside the other man.

“So, who’s the letter for?” he asked, switching roles smoothly in an effort to unbalance the obviously aroused commander.

“Zevran.” So much for unbalancing him. “I got a letter from him when we got back, and I just wanted to reply.”

No, if there was anyone unbalanced by the turn this conversation had taken, it was Nathaniel himself. He hated talk of the commander’s mystery lover. He had no idea what the other guy even looked like, but it pissed him off that he could not invite himself into Fälin’s bed overnight because the guy was hung up on someone who was not even here! Ridiculous.

“Well, what do you want to say?” he asked, hiding his jealously smoothly.

The elf smirked. “Oh, you know…the usual.”

Oh, he had a pretty good idea what that would entail. Still, as much as it suddenly grated at him, Nathaniel knew he was stuck helping Fay now. Maybe he could sabotage things.

…better not.

“Look, it’s not like I can’t read or write, or…something.” There was a sudden tension in Fälin that screamed that the elf was uncomfortable. Well, who would not be, in his place? At twenty-seven, admitting to barely knowing how to read had to be grating. Best to tread on the side of caution for once. Any teasing would genuinely not be well received.

“You just haven’t had much practice?” the brunet offered gently.

“Don’t patronise me!” So much for that.

“I’m not, Fälin,” he muttered with a sigh. “It stands to reason that trying to learn to read during a Blight wouldn’t leave you with a whole lot of time to practice. Who taught you, anyway?”

“Wynne. She did what she could, but…like you said, there wasn’t a lot of time to practice.” Awkwardly, he shrugged. “And I wasn’t really the best student.”

Now that Nathaniel honestly had trouble believing. He knew full well that the man was smart. No elf would make it as far as Fälin had without being able to think his way through difficult situations…among other things.

“You weren’t?” he asked carefully, wanting to avoid any flattery.

“I was…more interested in other things. Fighting—can’t really read an archdemon to death, and chronicling our…adventures was more Leliana’s thing anyway. My mo—” The elf cut off sharply, grey eyes darting over to stare hard at the human.

“What. Miss your mommy?” That had just slipped out.

Baring his teeth, Fälin’s eyes narrowed. “I don’t see how that’s your business. I was just going to say that the training in fighting I’d had was…limited. Lel and Zev made it their mission to train me.” He chuckled. “Not that Zev was a huge help with weapon training, but he taught me…other things.”

Other things. Right, of course.

“So, survival rated above reading. Makes sense. You’re still alive.”

“And I can still barely read.” That last grumble was low, but still audible.

“Do you have to send it tonight?”

“What?”

“The letter. It can wait a few days, can’t it?”

“Well, yeah. Don’t see why not.”

“Then let’s get you back on track. Every night after supper, I want you to meet me here and we’ll work on it.” The look Fälin shot him implied he had grown another head. “Problem?”

“…what exactly are you pulling?”

Nathaniel sighed. “I’d ask if you believed someone can just do something nice for someone else, but I already know that’s not tr—”

The laughter from the elf brought both of Nate’s eyebrows into his forehead.

“You really…never mind. Go on.”

“I’m just trying to be nice, Elf,” he muttered, sending the still smirking man a scathing look. “You implied that earning your friendship was going to take some work. So maybe I’m trying to do that.”

Fälin’s brow furrowed. “Do you really think this is gonna work?”

“Maybe not, but it’ll be a chance to get to know you when we’re not fighting all the time.” It seemed like a fair argument, but the look he was sent said it would not be so easy. Well, he was up for a challenge. As much as he loved arguing with Fälin, he needed to get beyond this rut if he wanted to get any closer to the man. Besides, he could at least silently laugh at the elf’s incompetence. Well, he could…but maybe he was not quite hateful enough of Fälin for that.

“And you really want nothing in return?” As he was speaking, Fälin kicked his chair back and propped his ankles up on the table, next to the flickering lantern. That had to be intentional.

Eyeing the well-muscled legs, which were bare from below the hem of his tunic, midway down his thighs, to the boots that rose to halfway up his calf, Nathaniel swallowed hard. Why on earth Fälin never wore pants was beyond him, but he never rejected the view. Especially not in battle. On the rare occasion the redhead raced ahead to tackle an enemy straight-on, he had to admit that the situation was often…distracting. He might hate some things about the elf, attitude right up there near the top, but his physical appeal was definitely not on that list.

Slipping one hand onto the other’s firm thigh, he stroked the skin idly. “Suffice it to say that I wouldn’t say no, per say, but no, I’m not demanding it.”

Fay snorted. “That’s new.”

Nathaniel shook his head. Stubborn elf! “Is it? I told you I’d stop if you told me to. You’re the one who didn’t tell me to.”

Grey eyes narrowed. “Semantics. I told yo—”

“—you told me to let you go. Sorry, Commander, but I’m not going to let you boss me around behind closed doors simply because you outrank me outside the bedroom. If you want to order me around during sex, then prove to me you can back it up. Until then, forget it. You can suck it up and take it like a man.”

The look on Fälin’s face was downright flummoxed. It seemed that someone had grown used to getting what he wanted. Well, Nathaniel meant what he said, at least. He loved it when the elf finally caved and did as he was told. Besides, for all of Fay’s posturing, he was starting to suspect that the younger man got off on being dominated. So, he was going to keep supplying.

“I am your commander, Recruit,” the redhead finally snapped.

“Outside, yes; you indeed are the one who pays me.” Slipping his hand under the hem of Fay’s tunic, he lightly massaged the man’s inner thigh. “In the bedroom, though…I think I like ordering you around.”

There was no denying the hitch in Fälin’s breath, or the way a quick brush over the elf’s genitals confirmed that he was hardening already. He had had no idea what he had expected when he came over here, but he was not going to deny enjoyment in the path it had taken. It was well past time they get this out.

A hand caught his wrist and pulled his hand away. Glancing up to meet Fälin’s eyes, he smirked openly in the face of the concealed lust creeping into them. “Problem?”

“Knock it off. I told you, that was a one-time thing.”

“So that incident in the stable yard didn’t happen, then? Must’ve imagined it.”

“That’s the problem,” the redhead snapped, “that shouldn’t have happened.”

A sigh. “Fine.” Pulling his hand free, Nathaniel stood up. “I’ll just leave you to it, then. I expect to see you here at this time tomorrow.” With that, the brunet turned and strode off. He was banking of the elf following him, if not right away then later. For once, Fälin was going to come to him.

~

Nathaniel was seriously regretting not grabbing a book to read as he wandered about his room over an hour later. He could not go back, however, because he wanted to make a point. If he went back and was caught by the commander, he would just look desperate. Which he was not.

He had just…grown fond of elf.

Maybe the redhead would not show; he knew that that was entirely possible. His teasing had been minimal, and Fälin claimed to be adamant about avoiding sex with him. Or pretended to be, anyway. Really, he hoped the elf would come, but as the minutes ticked by he became less certain that he would be getting company. He was almost tempted to go grab the elf and drag him up here. Maybe slung over his shoulder. It was a comical image, at the very least.

There was no knock, just the quiet sound of the door opening and then slowly, very slowly, closing. Turning to face the newcomer, he allowed a genuine smile to quirk at his lips. “I thought our appointment was for tomorrow.”

Fälin just shifted uncomfortably, glancing back at the door for a moment. It was weird to see him so unnerved, despite knowing the reason for it; Fay never showed nerves like this around other people. Whether or not he got nervous around them, Nate could not even say.

“Do you want me to…?”

After a moment’s pause, the other man nodded, prompting the brunet to swing open the window he had been staring out moments before. The gesture did not totally relax Fay, but he seemed more at ease. Though Nathaniel had to admit that…he was not sure how much of that was relief, and how much of it was related to Nate’s understanding. It was weird to think about the commander…

No, now was not the time.

“Come here.”

There was only a moment’s hesitation before the elf was striding across the floor, his boots thumping softly against the area rug. Once Fälin was within range, the human reached out and wrapped his arms around the smaller body, dragging them together in a gentle kiss. It was painfully obvious that the shorter man was not comfortable with the rather blatant message his coming here had sent. Nate liked that he was the cause of that…and that he could be the one to take it away.

Fay drew back from the kiss far too quickly for Nate’s taste, and then stepped out of his arms entirely. Frowning, he reached to draw the man back, but Fälin evaded his grip smoothly. Now genuinely confused, he also felt a stab of suspicion. The commander had something planned…

“I didn’t come here to screw you.”

He smirked. “Well that’s fine, because I still fully intend to be the one screwing you.”

“Sigrun came by after you left. She’s going to help me.”

Nathaniel’s furrowed his brow as the words sank in. Wait, so…his offer was being rejected? That he had not expected. Truthfully, he had wanted to take the chance to bond with the other man a bit more—maybe to spend some time with him on the grounds of them not fighting for a change.

Unable to stop himself, the older man lashed out, grabbing Fälin’s wrists and dragging the elf towards him, their eyes locking. “Are you rejecting me?”

Fälin met his eyes calmly, despite the thumping pace his pulse resonated at under Nathaniel’s fingers. “I never accepted you in the first place.”

His grip tightened, drawing a slight wince out of the elf. Nathaniel did not care. “Why?”

“Your family destroyed my home! Or have you forgotten that? Do you expect me to just run into your arms and for that to make everything better?”

“That wasn’t me!” he sounded frantic, now. “I didn’t do any of that, Fälin! Why do you have to keep blaming me? And in case you didn’t notice, you responded by taking everything from my family! So I think we’re even.”

“Even? People died in the alienage! We still don’t know where Valendrian, Valora, and the others are! How can you call losing your property as even being remotely the same thing? Tell me, Nathaniel Howe, are these your true colours? Are the lives of so many people not more important than your legacy? Than…things?”

The sudden vehemence in the elf’s tone caused Nathaniel to blink. Fälin had…a very real point. He had been taught for so long to believe that the lives of elves really just did not matter. Suddenly being faced with one, one that he begrudgingly respected who just wanted to defend his people—elves!—was…confusing. Not to mention one that he wanted. He could not cave so easily, though.

“I forget, Fälin,” he growled, dragging the elf closer, “when did this become a contest of posturing? You have what you can take from me, and I’m not asking for it back.” Except he was, indirectly. Demanding it, even. “I’m sorry my father hurt your people. But I didn’t do that! Yet you hate me for it, anyway.”

“I told you, I don’t hate you. I hate what you stand for!”

“So, are you racist against all humans, or just nobles?”

“All humans, except a few that aren’t awful.” That answer had the ring of a bit too much honesty. “The same as most of you humans. We’re really not so different, Nathaniel, we just stand on different sides.”

He knew he needed to choose his next words very carefully. The problem was, this entire incident had been so…sudden. His head was still ringing from the onslaught. He could not seem to catch up with the accusations, bitter as they were.

“Andraste’s bloody ass!” he finally snapped. “What do you want from me? I try to befriend you, and you just kick my efforts into the gutter!”

“If I knew that…I’d tell you.”

Nathaniel blinked. “What?”

“You heard me. I don’t know what I want from you. You’re not exactly the easiest person for me to deal with either, you know. Why don’t you try telling me what you want from me.”

“I would’ve thought…that that would be obvious by now,” he snarled.

Grey eyes flickered to the hands on his wrist, then back up to Nathaniel’s face. “Sex. Yes. I get that part. What I can’t decide is if you just want sexual gratification, or if you’re looking for more. Tell me, Howe, which is it?”

“You’re an arrogant little brat.”

“Evading?”

Grunting, Nathaniel frowned. “I want your body.” That was a lie by omission, but it was true enough for the moment. He was just avoiding the part where he wanted the elf entirely; for himself. It was not love, certainly, but more a desire to possess that which he should not be permitted to have.

“Yeah, I got that part.”

“Does it have to be more? We live a hard enough life without the simple pleasures, Fälin. I’ll take mine where I can.”

“So, that’s all this is?”

“Why would it be anything else? Admit it, you’re attracted to me, and I’m attracted to you, plus we both spend our nights alone. Beyond that, we don’t really like each other. So why would it be anything else? I know you have someone already, but as long as he’s not around, I see no reason not to borrow you.” He hoped he sounded convincing enough. Judging by the expression on the shorter man’s face, he did.

“Well, good then.”

“Can we drop this, then?” he asked, finally releasing the elf and stepping back.

“Yeah.”

For a long moment, they stood just watching each other. Nathaniel held his ground, but Fälin set to work rubbing his already-injured wrists. Perhaps he had been holding on a little tight.

“So, this is really only about sex?”

“Sexual gratification. That’s it,” he confirmed.

“So, are we going to fuck then?”

Raising one eyebrow, the human laughed out loud. “That depends.”

“Depends on what?”

“On your ability to convince me that this isn’t just an afterthought.”

“What in the name of the Black City does that even mean?”

“I waited nearly two hours for you to show up, and then all you wanted to do was argue with me.”

“Arrogant bastard,” the elf muttered, though he was smiling almost imperceptibly, “who’s to say I was going to come at all?”

“No one, but I hoped you would.” Nathaniel stepped forward, slipping his hands across the elf’s hips to squeeze his rear.

“So, what’s the problem?” Fälin leaned up to kiss him, but Nate evaded it easily by simply not bending over.

“You’ve…disappointed me.”

“Just spit it out already!”

“Instead of making me feel like you came to me because you wanted me, I feel like you wanted to test me. I’m not sure I like that feeling, Knife-Ears.” The body under his hands tensed. He would never get tired of Fälin’s reactions to racial slurs.

“Well, I’m not here to curry your ego.”

“And I told you that I’m not going to cater to your orders in the bedroom. I want you to leave.”

Grey eyes widened in shock. “You what?”

“And here I thought elves were supposed to have good hearing—what, with the huge ears and all. I told you to leave. You can come back in an hour, when I have time for you.”

Indignant did not even describe the expression on the commander’s face. He was livid, offended, and downright baffled—all rolled into one nice package. “And if I say no?”

“Then that’s your loss. I mean, you can stay and wait for me, if you want. I have an errand I need to run,” he chuckled casually. “I still have to pick up a book in the library. But if you want to wait here, maybe I’ll hurry back, hm?” Leaning down, he kissed the elf’s cheek lightly. “But that’s your call.”

Wrenching out of his grip, Fälin all but stormed out of the room. He would be back, though; Nathaniel was reasonably certain of that. Fighting always seemed to make the elf want to do it, and that fight had been a doozy. All he needed to do was go pick out a damn book. It was going to be hard to concentrate, knowing what he was letting go, but also so worth it. Fälin was going to be so cranky by the time he came back…

Except, he did not come back.

Chapter Text

Nathaniel did not see the commander again for two days. The elf, it turned out, had decided to leave on a reconnaissance mission first thing the following morning, disappearing with Anders and Sigrun to patrol the local farmland. He had never left Nathaniel behind before. If nothing else, the man figured that his knowledge of the arling had been useful. Their…disagreements had never been a factor before, because his information had proven useful in the past.

He did not like being left behind. Especially without so much as a by-your-leave. That pissed him off to no end. Sure, there was plenty of work to do around the Keep, enough to keep any Grey Warden busy, never mind one that was the former arl’s son, but he hated being left out of Fälin’s business. Not only that, but he despised the message it sent. The damn elf was obviously just making a point, that Nathaniel’s life was in his hands, and that he would not hesitate to leave him out of things. Well, message received.

But also denied.

It was on the second night since their argument, on his way back from a relaxing evening in the library, that he next saw Fälin. The elf was audaciously perched on a chair in Nathaniel’s room, staring into the freshly-lit hearth. Judging by the dull, but not overwhelming, chill in the air, he had not been there long.

“Decided to honour me with your presence again, did you?” he asked, making no effort to mask his scathing tone.

The face the turned to look at Nate was tired. There were bags around Fälin’s eyes, and a fresh cut across his brow. His auburn locks, which he normally took such good care of, were damp and tangled, indicating a hurried clean with no attention from a hairbrush. He was wearing a fresh tunic at least, and boots, but little else. Those eyes had not lost their spirit, however.

“Fine, then I’ll just go.”

As the redhead stood to leave, Nathaniel snatched his wrist on the way by and dropped down into the vacated seat. A sharp tug brought Fay down to him, and he swiftly snatched the elf into his lap, arms wrapped tightly around the man’s hips. Unsurprisingly, Fälin tensed and tried to draw away.

“You’re not going anywhere,” he warned with a growl, “until you tell me why you didn’t come back the other night.”

“Changed my mind,” was the flippant response. A harsh note in Fälin’s tone warned that the other man was not in the best of moods. “But I’m here now, aren’t I?”

“Yes, after two days of running away from me.”

Fälin sputtered. “Running away from you? Get over yourself, Nathaniel. I had business to take care of, so I went and took care of it.”

“Without me.”

“Whatever you want to tell yourself, I’m the Commander of the Grey, not you. I’m free to assign whomever or whatever I like to the missions.”

“Maybe theoretically,” Nate muttered, sliding a hand up Fay’s bare thigh, “but don’t you dare ever leave me behind again.”

There was a long moment of silence, before finally, “Can we just…not fight, for once?” Fälin sighed, finally relaxing into Nathaniel’s grip. “I’m too bloody tired for this.”

“Fine,” he agreed, pretending reluctance while internally celebrating. His demand had not been shot down—that was a good sign. A very good sign. “Tell me what you want to do.”

“Fade’s shadow!” Fay’s curses were often creative, he had to admit that much. “Why do you think I’m here?”

“I don’t know,” he slid his hand higher, “to tell me all about your wonderful adventures?” For an instant, Fälin turned to face him. The elf’s brows were drawn, a curious expression on his face before he chuckled. “What?”

“…nothing. You just made me remember something. Anyway, if you’re so curious, I can tell you all about the ogre that nearly stepped on me yesterday.” The laughter returned, an almost cheeky smile on the elf’s lips as their eyes met. “I was trying to tackle an emissary, when it charged up behind me. I tried to jump back, but slipped in some grease someone or something had conjured, and wound up on my ass. If Anders hadn’t put a ball of fire through its chest, I’d be a lot flatter now.”

Growling, Nathaniel tightened his hold on the elf possessively. “Is that supposed to be funny?”

All pretense of amusement dropped away. “Are you supposed to care?”

“Well, you’re the one who pays me.”

The redhead rolled his eyes and turned away. “Right.”

Of course, what Nathaniel was not admitting was that he would be furious is the elf died. Without Fälin, he could never take back any of what was supposed to be his. With his luck, the arling would be given to some Orlesian, or maybe even Oghren. That would just not work.

He heard more than saw the yawn that cracked Fälin’s jaws. Reaching up, Nathaniel pressed his palm to the side of the elf’s face and turned him so they were facing one another again. “You’re tired.”

After a moment of studying one another, the commander shrugged. “And? There are a lot of darkspawn out there—and would you let me go?” With those last words, the younger man tried once again to get up, prompting Nathaniel to jerk him back down.

“No, I won’t let you go. And you’re going to tell me all about the situation in the arling. Those are my people, whatever you want to say, so don’t you dare leave anything out.” He did not want Fälin running off anywhere, and this seemed a safer way to hold him than outright pinning. Fay was clearly less wary like this, even if he was not big on sitting on Nathaniel’s lap. Nate was not letting his elf go until he had gotten everything he wanted out of the redhead.

For a very long, very tense moment, Nate was convinced he was going to get punched, or otherwise harmed, but then, with a frustrated growl, Fälin relaxed again. In fact, he even let himself lean back against the larger man’s chest. His body was still tense, but Nathaniel would take it. Even if he suspected Fay was only doing it so he could not be forced to look the brunet in the eye.

“It’s bad. A lot of the farmsteads have been abandoned, or their people driven off, and crops are burning from here halfway to Denerim. If we can’t get those lands back, we aren’t going to be able to feed anyone even if we can hold out here.

“The smaller villages are being overrun one by one, and there just aren’t enough soldiers to even police the major highways. Most of the settlements on the fringes don’t stand a chance of making it to a defensible position.” If he had not been holding the elf, Nathaniel never would have noticed the way Fälin’s body suddenly sagged against him, as though his limbs suddenly weighed too much to support.

“And the worst part? There’s nothing I can do. I’m trying to send troops to the field, but to stretch them far enough to escort the civilians, means smaller units. If I shrink the units too much, then they’re in danger of being overrun themselves.”

“You…can’t save everyone,” he supplied carefully, suddenly feeling that he needed to say something. It was grim news.

“But I have to try, don’t I? If I didn’t, then I’d be no better than Loghain! The problem is, even if I could get them all here, safe and alive, I can’t feed them without the harvest! Winter’s almost here, and we’re going to run out of stores sooner or later.

“I’m…so tired. This was,” Fälin’s fist tightened in a handful of Nathaniel’s tunic, “supposed to be over after I killed that thing! It was supposed to be easy after that! Take care of the people, train new recruits, rebuild the Grey Wardens! Yet it’s just another war,” he shuddered, “and this time Al and Zev aren’t here to help me.”

This was what he meant: Elves were not meant to be leaders. Even if he did respect Fälin, the man was more suited to doing what humans told him then leading himself. Sure, it might be the result of circumstance of birth, but it was still there. He had still been salvaged from the dredges of society.

“But I’m here,” he finally offered, prompting Fälin to sit up and turned to face him. “So are Oghren, Sigrun, and Anders, and everyone else. We can still help you.”

For a long moment, neither said anything, and then finally, Fälin leaned in to kiss him. It was a soft gesture, the simple brush of lips, followed by delicate probing from Nathaniel. Fälin surrendered quickly, clearly still distracted from his own worries, and it was he who pulled away first.

“Is that enough? Can we just have sex now?” Nathaniel could have laughed at the audacity behind those words. Still, he had told Fälin to tell him why he had come, and that was precisely what the elf was doing. Just…in his own way.

“Go lay down,” he ordered gently, letting the elf go finally. “I’ll be right over.

Without a word, the other man stood and stretched almost sluggishly before striding over and dropping down on the bed. Standing himself, Nathaniel retrieved his book from where it had dropped to the floor and placed it on the mantle over the fireplace. Despite the fire, a chill had taken the room, compliments of the open window, and so he took a moment to add more kindling, banking the flames. He did not want to have to get up to do it, later. Especially not if Fälin stuck around, as he hoped the elf would.

Once he was done, Nathaniel straightened and turned, only to find the redhead eyeing him cheekily. With a grin, Fälin offered him a one armed shrug, to which he responded with a smirk of his own. Fay could never be called shy, at the very least.

Striding over to the bed, Nathaniel bent over and caught the elf’s booted ankles, one in each hand, and carefully tugged the boots off, dropping each one to the floor as he finished with it. These were quickly followed by the foot wraps Fälin favoured in place of socks. With two bare feet now in his grasp, he encouraged the other man to shift positions, so he could sit with Fay’s feet in his lap.

Taking up one foot in both of his hands, Nate set to work on gently working the kinks out. A glance at the other’s face revealed a rather curious expression, prompting him to ask, “What?”

“You aren’t trying to stare up my tunic,” was the flat reply.

“Fälin, when I want to see your body, I’ll just strip you. I don’t need to sneak glances.”

The elf’s head titled slightly to the side, and then he grinned. “Zev always did. D’you know what he told me, once?”

Nate pressed his fingers a little too hard, drawing a wince out of the elf. “I don’t—sorry—see how I could.”

“We were riding through Denerim, on our way to probably die in the talons of an archdemon, and he told me…” Fälin trailed off, shaking his head with a small smirk. “Well, first I should tell you how I met him. He tried to assassinate me and Alistair—he failed miserably, I promise—and I had him trussed up on the ground, interrogating him. Anyway, he told me—in Denerim, that is—that when I had him tied up and was standing over him, he was staring up my armour.”

“Didn’t wear pants back then either, I take it,” Nathaniel purred idly.

“I get hot running around, and anything that would actually protect me is too restricting,” Fälin shrugged, “so I never saw the need.—anyway, that’s not the point.”

“Yes, what I’m getting from this is that you apparently are dating a perverted, gay assassin who once tried to kill you.”

Blinking, Fay laughed. It was a genuine sound. “Aside from the gay part, that’s pretty accurate.”

“Why?”

All traces of amusement left the redhead’s face, his grey eyes hardening. “Because I love him.”

That line of questioning had just hit a brick wall. If he really intended to take the elf for himself, however, he was going to have to break it down eventually. Eventually did not have to be today, however.

“You’re really terrible at this.” The words made him glance up to the exasperated look on Fay’s face. His elf, it seemed, was unsure what to make of his sudden silence and had chosen to mock his abilities as a masseuse in response.

“You’re welcome for trying to help you.”

“It’d be fine if you were actually helping me,” Fälin muttered, “but it feels more like you’re trying to break my foot. If that’s your plan to keep me from leaving you behind, I suggest rethinking it. I’m a marginally better fighter when I can walk.”

Dropping the abused appendage, Nate swallowed his own embarrassment and settled for kicking off his own boots. With them out of the way, he had no qualms with crawling fully onto the bed. Before he could do more than that, however, Fälin was tackling him to his back. Staring up at the elf, he grinned. He would let him have this one…for now.

With the redhead kneeling over him, Nathaniel wasted no time in attacking the belt holding the other’s tunic closed. With it out of the way, it was a simple matter of parting the material and slipping it off the man’s shoulders.

As he was working at that, Nate allowed his partner to attack his lips. The elf demonstrated, once again, that he had a very talented tongue, and Nathaniel was happy to let him lead on that front. They broke apart only once as Fay pulled back to shrug his tunic off his shoulders, and then dove right back in.

Running his hands across Fälin’s back proved to be a challenge—at least, doing so without any sort of reaction. The ruts in the man’s skin just were not natural, and they felt wrong. Still, the man had gotten them fighting an archdemon set on killing them all. The least he could do was not show his discomfort with the wounds.

…it had to have hurt.

His hands eventually wandered to the elf’s ass. Squeezing firmly with one hand, he smirked lightly into the kiss as his right hand moved to pluck his belt knife free. Fay had been so deliciously indignant when he had done this last time that he could not resist lightly severing the commander’s smallclothes once more. As predicted, Fälin stiffened, gave a particularly hard nip to Nathaniel’s lip, but otherwise let it go. Disappointing.

With his body covered by naked elf, Nathaniel let his hands explore, examining each and every crevice and furrow, surface and plain in the man’s body. He had to admit, the hairless bodies of elves were enjoyable. The skin was soft for the most part, though callouses and scars marred much of it. It was too bad Fälin had ever been allowed to fight. Not that a few scars were so bad, but the elf was covered in them. Clearly he had not been lying about not being much of a fighter to begin with.

Lifting his torso to help the elf remove his own tunic, Nathaniel could not suppress a grin as Fälin pulled away to eye his body. “You humans are too hairy,” the elf muttered, echoing the precise opposite of Nate’s own thoughts.

“Funny,” he chuckled, “I was just thinking how nice it is that you don’t have any hair.”

“I have hair,” the man snapped back, though he was clearly slightly amused, “just only on my head, where it belongs. You can start shaving for me.”

Laughing to himself, Nathaniel moved to sit up, forcing the elf back as he did so. “Not a chance, Elf,” he replied, swinging his feet to the edge of the bed and standing up. “Consider yourself lucky I’ll keep my face clear for you.”

Fälin quirked an eyebrow at him. “You stop, and you can bet I won’t kiss you.”

Laughing, the brunet reached out and snagged Fälin’s wrist, dragging the other man to his feet. “Come with me,” he muttered, not giving the elf a chance to refuse as he led the way over to the fireplace. “Stand here.”

Shoved into place before the hearth, Fay crossed his arms over his chest and shifted awkwardly from foot to foot on the cold tiles. “What are you doing? It’s cold.”

“Looking at you,” he replied honestly as he circled the naked elf. “It’s too dark in here to get a good look at you when we’re over there.” And it was true, to an extent. The mirrored stand lamps that lit the room were not bad, they certainly provided enough light to see by, but the further one got from them, the dimmer the area got. Neither of the two lamps was particularly close to his bed.

For a moment, Fälin watched him, and then the elf struck a pose, completely unprovoked, grinning as he did so. “Like what you see?”

For a moment, Nathaniel wanted to blush for Fälin. He was not used to this side of the elf, but he had to admit that it was…endearing. The man had a degree of self-confidence that was admirable. Usually. He was damn good at faking it when he was not confident, too. He could count on one hand the number of times he had really seen Fälin hesitate, and clearly his sudden demand here was not going to add to that count.

“Mm, yes,” he agreed after a moment, finishing his circuit to stop back in front of his elf. The flickering light only added a pleasing ambiance to the situation. Blemishes aside, the elf had a pleasing, tanned skin and just the right amount of muscle tone. Coupled with the general sleekness common to his species, it made for a specimen that was easy on the eyes. “Now get back on that bed so I can have my nightly helping of elf.”

The man’s lips tightened as he stepped forward. “Not yet.” Hands flew to Nathaniel’s waistband, and in a short time he was also devoid of any clothing, save the socks on his feet. With a smirk, Fälin spun one hand, finger pointed down. “Spin for me,” he ordered, rocking back on one hip and crossing his arms.

Hesitating only a moment, Nate spun quickly, only to turn the motion into launching at his target. Snatching Fälin up with arms around his waist, the brunet sprinted to his bed and threw the elf onto it, earning an undignified squawk from the elf. Without giving Fay a chance to recover, Nathaniel pounced on top of him, trapping Fälin with his limbs.

“I’m ready for my bedtime snack, now,” he growled, leaning down to bite at a pointed ear.

Beneath him, Fälin was actually laughing, though one of his fists came up to punch Nate hard in the ribs. “You ever do that again, and you’ll regret it.”

“There are many things I regret, Knife-Ears,” he all but purred, hot breath hitting a sensitive ear, “but fucking you is never going to be one of them.” Beneath him, though Fälin tried to hide it, he could feel the elf shudder in anticipation. Oh yes, someone got off on this.

They had never really been ones for foreplay in the past, yet this time Nathaniel wanted it to be different. This time, Fälin had come to him. This time, they were not completely trying to relieve tension following a fight. This time, Fälin was not fighting him.

The brunet threw everything he had into pleasuring the elf, and was more than pleased when he found the redhead to be more than capable of returning the favour—in fact, though he would not admit it, Fälin was most definitely better at it than he was. Whoever this Zevran was, it was clear his elf had trained well on the man.

He could thank him for that much, at least.

Getting inside Fay was deceptively easy, in fact. It left Nathaniel wondering, just for a passing moment, if the elf was not trying to trick him into submission. Perhaps next time, the fight would be twice as fierce. Yet a quick glance to the elf’s face brought another thought to mind. Maybe Fälin was really just too tired to argue this time. He had been tired when they had met up nearly two hours before, and their actions had hardly been the relaxing type. Well, Nate was not above taking advantage of that fact.

As much as he enjoyed fighting with Fälin over the subject, complacent Fay was more easily positioned. Grabbing the man’s knees, he hooked them over his own shoulders and jerked the redhead further onto him, after relocating his hands to a pair of skinny hips. Around him, he felt the elf tense in anticipation, his sphincter muscles clamping down in a delightful way. He knew how much the other man really did like it rough…

His pace was slow, almost agonisingly so for himself, and the frustration and confusion that crossed the man’s scarred face was perfect. Gripping the blanket under him, Fälin rocked his hips with a grunt. “If you can’t hurry up, then get out and I’ll do it.”

“You will do no such thing,” Nate purred, thrusting a little harder just once. “I set the rules here.” Though how he was maintaining the willpower to do so, even he could not say. He really did want to pound the smaller man clean through the bed.

Letting out a frustrated grunt, the skinny elf released the bed with one hand and used it to reach for his own cock. Eyes narrowing, Nathaniel snapped, “Don’t you dare.”

Freezing, the redhead glared at him. “And who are you to say that I can’t touch myself? Damn Shem.”

“I’m the man who’ll decide when you cum. Okay? Good.” Nathaniel tried to hide his uncertainty as he waited for Fälin to comply. He needed to portray an air of confidence if he wanted the elf to obey him, and even then he was not convinced he would be able to get this without physically grabbing Fay’s hand. Evidently, it worked anyway, because the disobedient limb dropped back to the bed.

“If this isn’t really fucking worth it…”

“I know,” he rolled his hips a little harder, “you’ll hang me upside down from the battlements, right?”

“You’ll wish that was what I did.”

Nathaniel just chuckled. His self-control was weakening, but the conversation was plenty to keep him lucid. Besides, the moment Fälin had dropped his hand in obedience had been better than even the feeling of the elf’s hot body wrapped around his cock. How far they had come in so short a time…

No, he must not get overconfident. Fälin’s exhaustion was a very really factor here. If he thought he was going to get away with this next time, he suspected the redhead would sweep his feet out from under him. He needed to stay in control of the elf if he intended to keep pulling this off.

“So tell me, Elf,” he purred, rocking forward at an almost painfully slow pace, “how does it feel? To know that you’re totally at my mercy?”

The question was rewarded with a growl. “Oh, I promise you, Nathaniel, I am not completely at your mercy.” He believed him. “But I do wish you would hurry the fuck up! By Andraste’s bloody robes, are you trying to take all night?”

“Oh, I will keep you up all night one day,” he promised, grinning, “but not tonight.”

“Then hurry up!”

“Hurry up and what?” His grin widened.

“Hurry up and move faster, Shem!”

“Hurry up and do what faster?” The elf stiffened, having obviously figured out what Nate wanted him to say.

“You know what.”

“Yes, but I also want you,” he rolled in, intentionally missing the elf’s prostate, “to say it.”

It was a very frustrated elf that jerked himself further onto Nathaniel’s cock. “Fuck me.”

“Maybe,” he paused, his entire body freezing, “if you ask nicely.”

A fist found his ribs—hard—as the elf all but yelled, “Please fuck me harder, you Maker forsaken shemlen!”

“Oh, well since you asked so nicely.” Finally. Wrenching the man’s hips up, he drew all the way out and slammed back in, maintaining the pace until they were both spent and laying tiredly on the bed.

Running a hand through the elf’s sweat-streaked locks, Nathaniel made no effort to hide his grin. “You really got creative with the curses, there.” Especially near the end. He loved that Fay’s mouth never seemed to stop during sex.

Unless it was otherwise occupied, of course.

“You like it when I curse you out?” Fälin asked, one eyebrow rising languidly into his forehead.

“Oh, I never said that,” though it was true, “but you are…creative.”

“Yeah, well, I’ve had some practice. Calling shems out was a favourite pastime of mine when I was a kid.”

“And that’s changed how?”

“Now I just aim it at you…and maybe some I’m killing.”

“Good to know you equate me with people to be murdered.”

“Oh, shut up,” Fay muttered, rolling over as though intending to get up. A hand lashing out to grab his wrist stopped him.

“Don’t.”

“Don’t what?”

“Leave. I want—you’re staying.”

The elf sighed, clearly annoyed. “No, I’m not.”

“I told you. In the bedroom, I make the rules. So roll your ass back over here.”

“First off, I never agreed to that. Secondly, we’re not even having sex anymore.”

“First off,” he countered, “you weren’t given a choice. Secondly, that point is irrelevant, but it can also be remedied if you want.” Not that he felt particularly up to doing that again, but he would go for a round two.

Groaning, Fälin rolled back over to face him. “Why do you even want me to stay? We’re big boys, Nathaniel. We can sleep alone.”

Because it’s another way for me to stake my claim on you. Except he could not say that out loud, so he settled for, “My room’s freezing, and it’s your fault. The least you can do is warm my bed.”

“My fault? My phobia was caused by your kind, so go whine to your own people if you’re bitchy about that. And if you’ve got such an issue with it, then come to my room tomorrow.”

He should probably be curious about Fälin’s first point, but all he could ask was, “You’re inviting me to your room?”

“Are you deaf as well a stupid?” It was funny, because they had almost gotten along for a while there. “If you’re such a baby you can’t handle a bit of cold, then we’ll take this there. I’m used to it.”

“And if I refuse to leave?”

“Would you really want me to call the guards on you?”

“You wouldn’t, Fälin. Even I know that much. You would come sleep in here before you’d admit to how little control you have over me in private.” For once, Nathaniel was utterly confident in his assessment.

“Whatever. The point i—”

“—the point, Fälin, is that you are staying. That’s an order.” He loved being able to put the puffed-up elf in his place with just a few words. Or, more than a few.

Sliding off the bed, Nathaniel tightened his grip on the commander and dragged him off the bed with him. Releasing the elf once they were both standing, he pointed to the covers. “Get your skinny little elf ass under those blankets now.”

For a long moment, neither of them moved, and then, “Go wash your sodding hands. I know where those fingers have been.”

Nathaniel knew he had won. Deciding not to push things any further, he turned around and walked to the washbasin. Fay was obviously ordering him away on a menial task for two reasons: One, to regain some semblance of control, and two…so that Nathaniel would not be able to watch him obey—and subsequently gloat.

Scrubbing his hands clean, the human turned back to the bed, only to frown at the sight of the elf seated on the edge. Striding pointedly over, he opened his mouth to speak, only to be cut off by the younger man.

“I’m not sleeping naked.”

Not wanting to push the victories he had already won, Nathaniel strode over to his dresser and plucked out a simple shirt. Throwing it at the elf, he then grabbed shorts for himself, as well as some fresh smallclothes, and pulled them on. He actually suspected that there was more to wanting covering than simple modesty, insofar as Fälin was concerned, and so he did not really have an issue with the elf’s insistence.

His elf was pretty interesting.

Moving to put out the lamps and bank the fire one last time, Nate was relieved to see that Fälin had finally obeyed, and was sitting up in bed, covers over his legs, watching the human work. Grinning at the elf, he was rewarded with a scoff.

“Next time you want to wipe yourself off, use your own tunic.”

“Hey, I cleaned you up too, didn’t I?”

“Shut up.”

Laughing out loud, the younger man strode over to the bed. Getting in on the opposite side, he crawled over to the elf and braced himself with a hand on either side of his commander. “You just know I’m right.” Not giving the mouthy man a chance to go off on him again, he leaned down to plant a swift, chaste kiss on the other’s lips. “Now go to sleep.”

The elf glared for a moment before rolling over. “Yeah, whatever. Good night to you, too.”

“You ever going to stop hating me?”

“Maybe when you stop baiting me.”

Chuckling, Nathaniel slid closer to his elf, draping an arm over the man’s thin chest. “So never, then.”

A moment passed before the elf turned over, facing him. “Pretty much.” Much to Nathaniel’s surprise, he was rewarded with a second, longer kiss. “Now shut up and sleep, or I am leaving. Some of us have to work in the morning.”

“Yessir, Commander,” he joked, accepting the kiss as an invitation to move closer. With a soft huff, Fälin rolled back over, which, to Nathaniel, was just a free chance at pressing against the elf’s back, which he did not hesitate to do. To Fay’s credit, he stiffened, but otherwise did not say anything.

“Night, Fay,” he murmured, kissing the back of the man’s neck as he closed his eyes. No response was forthcoming, but he could live with that. He had not been told off, at least. It was a victory in his book.

Chapter Text

Fälin woke to light streaming into the room through a crack in the curtains. He was stretched out on his back with Nathaniel’s head resting on his chest. One of the human’s legs lay between his own, and there was a hand resting on his hip. In short: It was damn awkward.

 

Why he had even agreed to stay, he could not remember. There was just something in the way Nathaniel barked orders, like some fucking shem nobleman, that made him want to listen. Maybe it was years of being conditioned to kowtow to humans, or maybe it was just that he enjoyed being the one to get to bitch at someone else’s decisions for a change. Whatever it was, he had let the brunet push him into staying, and so here he was. He had slept through the night, at least. If the damn human had kept him awake much longer last night, he probably would have fallen asleep on him. Still, it was morning now. He had stayed, so he could slip away now…

 

He squirmed sideways—or, rather, tried to. The moment he moved, the hand on his hip tightened. Though Nathaniel did not look at him, it was clear the other man was awake.

 

“Go back…sleep,” the brunet slurred out.

 

“I have work to do, Nathaniel,” he said, sighing.

 

“Later.” The human finally moved, shifting his head back where it belonged on the pillow, and slipping his arm more firmly around Fälin’s hip. “You were so tired last night. Sleep in for once in your life.” This coming from Mister Stick-in-the-Mud himself.

 

With a soft huff, the elf caved anyway. Nathaniel was right; he really could use the extra sleep. He did not have the energy to argue, either. One morning could not hurt. He was warm and comfortable, and…tired.

 

When next he woke up, Fälin found Nathaniel already awake. The human was propped up on one elbow, his eyes hooded as he…

 

“Were you watching me sleep?” he asked, rolling to his side with his back to the human. He should have known better, because the damn noble just took that as an invitation to snuggle up to him again. Why the brunet could not accept that Fälin did not want to snuggle with him, the elf could not comprehend. Well, maybe he could. Nathaniel probably just wanted to annoy him.

 

…so why the literal sleeping together, then? He needed to figure that out. Nathaniel claimed that they were on the same page in their trysts, but what if that was not true? He was not willing to go there. Zevran was the love of his life. He did not know how to make that clearer. Well, maybe he did, but Nathaniel had proven himself persistent enough to override that.

 

“Yes,” the human admitted, completely unperturbed. “You’re always angry around me, so I figured I’d steal the chance to see you when you aren’t.” That was disturbing.

 

“I hope you’re joking.”

 

“Why?”

 

Rolling over yet again, he laid on his back so that he could watch Nathaniel’s face. “Because it’s…” Too affectionate, “weird.”

 

“You think so? You’re a good looking man, for an elf. It’s nice not to see you cranky for once.” A thumb came up and stroked at his forehead in an awkward gesture. “You need to relax more.”

 

“I don’t know if you noticed, but we’re sort of at war, Nathaniel.”

 

“Exactly. The last thing we need is you collapsing on us.”

 

“I don’t plan on collapsing.” Though sometimes he wanted to.

 

“That’s a start, then,” the brunet murmured as he bent down to press a soft kiss to the corner of Fälin’s mouth. “We’ll work on the rest later.”

 

Silence fell for a few minutes. Comfortable and reasonably relaxed, the elf felt no pressure to rise and get on with the day. He had a lot to do, certainly, but he also needed to figure out what the ever-loving fuck was going on. Unfortunately, the heated body pressed up against him was doing nothing to help his thought processes.

 

When a warm palm moved to stroke his bare thigh, the elf tilted his head to glare at his bed mate. “What are you doing?”

 

“They won’t miss us for a few more minutes. You don’t seem to be in a hurry to get up, anyway.”

 

True enough. This thinking was giving him a headache anyway. Wrapping one arm around the man’s head, Fälin yanked him down in a kiss. From there, it was an easy matter for Nathaniel to roll over his body. They were really going to have to work on this, but maybe…next time. For sure.

 

Hands had just begun to wander when a sharp rap on the door brought both of their heads around. A moment later, without waiting for an invitation, the door swung inwards.

 

“Hey, Nate? You seen the Comm—” Anders froze, his eyes darting back and forth between their faces as Fälin and Nathaniel stared him down.

 

“Yes, he’s seen me, Anders,” the elf replied, smirking a moment later. “And he was about to see significantly more of me, if you don’t mind.” The last word was a clear warning, and he could all but feel the horror leaking off of Nathaniel.

 

Blinking several times, Anders finally grinned. “Right-o, Commander. I’ll just…leave you two to it, then.”

 

“Wait, Anders.” The mage stopped, turning back to them. “What did you need?” He still had a job to do, after all. Simple pleasures had to come second to that.

 

“Oh, nothing really. I took a bet with Oghren about whether or not I’d find you in here. Looks like he owes me fifty silvers.” Anders offered a wink to accompany the words.

 

Fälin could not help himself, he laughed. Sometimes, it really did feel like the good old days, when clowning around had been acceptable. Like during those long walks between cities during the Blight. Or even before, when he and Shianni had ganged up on Soris. It had been…good.

 

Too bad Zevran was not here with him. He really did miss his assassin. And, unlike Nathaniel, the blond elf would appreciate the joke; the former noble just looked embarrassed.

 

“Alright, alright. Go. And tell Oghren I said to pay up for once!”

 

“Will do, Commander! You two play nice now!” With a grin, Anders offered a mock bow and disappeared, the door clicking shut behind him.

 

“Those two,” Fälin muttered, shaking his head in good humour. Wrapping his arms around Nathaniel’s neck, he dragged the brunet back down. “Now, where were we?”

 

Much to Fälin’s surprise, the other archer jerked back and shifted off of him. Frowning in confusion, the elf sat up. “What—Nathaniel?” Suddenly he smirked. “Shy?”

 

“What the—what was that?”

 

“What are you talking about?” he asked, confused. Where had this come from?

 

“I don’t know. Maybe it’s the part where you’re supposed to get mad at people who take bets on your sexual promiscuity and yell at people who walk in on you during sex! I mean, you yell at me about plenty of other things. Yet you joke with him.”

 

“Oh, shove a dagger in it, Nathaniel,” he grumbled. “You know full well why we fight, so stop acting butthurt about it.”

 

“Do I? Enlighten me.”

 

“We fight because we’re different. We fight because we don’t like each other. We fight because we both like fighting. At least, we do with each other. Yes, I get along with Anders in terms of joking about sex, but,” he grinned, “he’s not the one whose bed I’m in. I don’t particularly get along with you, but I do enjoy your company. You help me relax—you know, when we’re done fighting. So you have fifteen seconds to make up your mind, or I’m leaving.”

 

It seemed, at least, that Nathaniel had learned his lesson about pushing Fälin too far in terms of threats. It was barely three seconds later that the elf was shoved back, his mouth devoured by the human.

 

The heat had returned to their relationship, at least. Unwilling to just take it as he had the night before, Fälin fought back against the human, to the point in which they nearly wound up on the floor at one point. Nathaniel, at least, was going to be sporting a few new bruises of his own, soon.

 

In the end, Fälin found himself on his knees and clutching frantically at the headboard, still wearing Nathaniel’s shirt, with the oversized human behind him. He really needed to figure out a way to get the best of the damn shem, but it was going to take some work. Nathaniel just was not above using his superior size, weight, and strength to get what he wanted. Still, Fälin never backed down from a challenge.

 

It was…sort of exhilarating.

 

Lying on his back on the tangled sheets, the elf panted heavily for breath as he watched Nathaniel use his—his! Again!—tunic to clean up. As the human tossed the soiled material at him, Fälin chuckled and examined the shirt he was wearing. “Guess I made a mess of it.”

 

“Keep it.”

 

He smirked. “What, afraid I ruined it?”

 

“No,” it was Nathaniel’s turn to smirk, “it just looks really good on you.”

 

Blinking, Fälin glanced down at the grey material. He did not think it looked particularly good on him. It was way too big, falling down on one shoulder, and, well, it was a human’s shirt so it dropped to just above mid-thigh on him and—oh.

 

“Is there a catch?”

 

“You wear it and sleep with me every night.”

 

“Sure. And I’ll teach Gryphon to fly while I’m at it.”

 

“If you want.”

 

Relaxing for a few more minutes, Fälin watched as Nathaniel got up and started dressing. In the plain light of day, the human was nice to look at. Too bad he was so hairy. There was something off about the picture, though… He laughed.

 

“What?”

 

“You’re still wearing your socks.”

 

After glancing down, Nathaniel actually broke a bit and chuckled too. “Guess I wasn’t in a hurry to take them off last night.”

 

“That was the only thing you weren’t in a hurry to get one of us out of, then.”

 

“Yes, I suppose so.” They shared a grin. At least they were not fighting for once. It was weird how they flew from one extreme to the other so often, but he…liked it.

 

“Hey, Fay?”

 

There was that nickname again. He should put a stop to it, but… “Hm?”

 

“Did you mean it? What you said a few minutes ago? About not liking me?”

 

Twisting his lips in a frown, the elf shrugged. “Sometimes, I really hate you,” he admitted after a moment. “But the rest of the time…no, it’s not true.” Sitting up, Fälin swung his legs over the side of the bed. “You just really piss me off when you wanna.”

 

“Good,” the human moved over and bent down to kiss him, “because I don’t totally hate you either. Even if you are a stubborn little prick.”

 

“Hey, Nate?” The brunet froze in the process of rising, his eyes widening just a bit.

 

“What is it…Fay?”

 

“Go get me something to wear?”

 

Nathaniel laughed openly at that. “Okay, any preferences?”

 

“My armour and a shirt to put under it?—the usual? Clothing.”

 

Something in the human’s sudden smirk set off alarm bells in his head, but Fälin could not say why. All Nate said was, “Okay, I’ll go as soon as I’m dressed.”

 

Sitting back against the headboard, Fälin crossed his legs and waited patiently for the other man to finish dressing, and then to leave and return with his own things. Swinging off the bed when Nathaniel returned, he quickly yanked off the shirt he was wearing and traded it for one his own size. Further inspection, however, revealed that there was one thing missing…

 

“You didn’t bring me any underwear.”

 

“You didn’t ask for any.”

 

“Nathaniel.”

 

“Yes, Fay?”

 

“Go get them.”

 

The human pursed his lips, then shook his head. “No.”

 

Gritting his teeth, Fälin spun and resumed dressing. Two could play at that game, and the damn shem had no idea what he was in for. It was war.

Chapter Text

Nathaniel pulled a face as his foot landed in deceptively-solid looking puddle. Dragging his foot out with a loud squelch, the archer tried to shake the mud off. To his left, Anders laughed at him.

“Looks good on you.”

The glance Nathaniel sent the mage should have made him shrivel up. “It wasn’t my idea to come to this stupid forest,” the nobleman griped, sidestepping yet another hidden bog. Between the mud and slush that plagued half of the trail, not to mention the icy mud, and the rash he had developed from camping out last night—for some reason, Fälin had found the whole situation hilarious as he had all but begged Anders to heal him while scratching his butt like crazy—he was starting to hate forests. “This would be Fälin’s brilliant plan.”

“Yes, but you can’t say no to our lovely commander, can ya Nate?”

“Oh, I think you’d be surprised,” the brunet muttered, flushing slightly. It had been two days since the human mage had walked in on himself and the elf, and the teasing had yet to stop. It was getting a little grating.

“So,” Anders was clearly plotting another angle, “new bow?” Blinking, Nate reached back to touch the weapon. “Lemme guess, the Commander gave it to ya?”

“Yes.” Fälin’s gift-giving tendencies were not exactly secret, it was how Anders had wound up with that darn cat, but there had been something unusual about this one. The fact that it was the first gift Fay had ever given to Nathaniel aside, it had also been his grandfather’s. As much as Nate had never thought to think so highly of anything the elf did for him, it really had been appreciated. Still was, even.

The most amazing part, in his eyes, was how lighthearted the elf had been lately. Something between them had…shifted, changed even. It was like he was suddenly seeing an entirely different person in Fälin Tabris. The man actually had a sense of humour that was not scathing, and he really did know how to be just…be happy. Nathaniel had never really seen this side of the commander before, at least not to this extent. He found that he actually liked it.

They still fought, of course, some things were too deeply engraved in them to stop, but at least it was not always fighting anymore. Nathaniel thought that was a good sign. He just had to keep feeding that mentality.

“Heads up!”

At the sound of the elf’s voice, Nate snapped his gaze ahead, eyes widening as he saw a massive…tree shift into motion almost on top of him. They had fought a number of similar monsters already, but this one was far larger than those had been.

With a hiss, the human hopped back, fingers fumbling for the bow that he should never have put away in the first place. Before he could manage to arm himself, however, a sweeping blow sent him tumbling head-over-heels into a nearby stone outcrop.

Blackness descended momentarily, and when next Nathaniel opened his eyes it was to the not-unappealing image of his elf standing over him protectively. Fälin was snapping off arrow after arrow, his gaze riveted on the oversized hunk of foliage.

“You alright now?” Anders’ voice. “You took a pretty hard hit.”

“If he’s awake then go light that thing of fire, Anders!”

“Yes, Ser!” the mage responded, jumping up and raising his staff.

“Watch where you’re soddin’ pointin’ that thing!”

“Anders, don’t you dare hit Oghren!”

“He’s the one who never paid up,” the mage muttered, apparently thinking that an elf’s keen hearing would not catch the words.

“Yes, well, you’ll be the one paying if he gets hurt.” With a barely-concealed sigh, Fälin turned back at last, offering a hand to the downed human. “You okay?”

Nathaniel had to wince at a large bruise that was already forming near the other man’s temple. Apparently, he was not the only person to be hit. He had been the only one stupid enough to get knocked out, though.

“Yes,” he accepted the hand and staggered back to his feet, “just a bit dizzy.”

The creak of Fälin’s bow filled the silence for a moment, before his shaft sprang free. “Just take it easy; you were hit pretty hard.”

“I’ll be fine.”

“Yes,” another arrow, “but you’re still going to take it easy. At least until Anders can get a better look at you.”

“And you?”

“I’m not dizzy. He can see to me after he does you.” Nathaniel huffed softly. “What?”

“Didn’t really expect to get my butt rescued by you.”

“Just be thankful I like you enough to bother.” He could hear the smirk in the redhead’s voice.

“Right. Thanks then.”

“Anytime.”

Once the creature had been vanquished, Nathaniel could not help but smile at the almost boyish glee in his elf’s eyes. They had retrieved heartwood from it, and Fälin was nothing short of ecstatic.

“Can you imagine the bow Wade’ll make from this?”

“Soddin’ things’ve got nothin’ on a good axe!” The dwarf laughed.

“Oh? And who was it who shot that spider from forty paces in the Deep Roads? And whose neck was saved?” The elf was smirking.

“Doesn’t count! If you’d had a good axe, it never woulda made it in the first place!”

“Whatever you say, Oghren.” Fälin rolled his eyes and chuckled. “…anyone up for heading back to the Keep now?”

The dwarf and two humans released a collective groan.

~

In the end, they had not returned to the Keep. Nathaniel would later wish that they had. Maybe if they had, things would not have turned out as they did. Sure, they had met a half-crazy elf who Fälin actually seemed to get along with worse than he ever had Nathaniel himself, but that did not make up for what had happened in the end.

They never should have gone into the mine. Of course, they did always say that hindsight was twenty-twenty, or whatever, but he did not care about that, now.

After they had lost conscious, wakefulness had been slow in returning to the brunet, but when it did he saw that most of his companions were still out cold. Despite their equipment being gone, they were all dressed and seemed to be unharmed. At least, Oghren, Anders, and Velanna were. It had taken Nathaniel a moment to find the male elf, but once he had, a sense of dread had clamped down in the human’s gut.

Curled up in a far, back corner, arms wrapped around him legs and face buried in his knees, was a shaking Fälin. The cell was not a small one, but he had to assume that it was enough to set off the commander’s phobia. Large cell or no, they were all still very trapped, and this time there was no friendly party who would let Fay go.

Attempts to call out to the elf yielded no response—unsurprising, really. Uncertain what else to do, Nathaniel set to work trying to wake the others. First up was Oghren. As distasteful as the dwarf could be, he might know something on how to deal with Fay.

At first, the dwarf did not want to rouse, but a whispered promise of strong ale eventually drew the grumpy man back to the world of the conscious. Without preamble, the brunet just nodded in the direction of Fälin, frowning. “Know anything?”

Oghren paused in the middle of demanding his ale and frowned. “Nah. I know he doesn’t like bein’ underground much, but he’s never soddin’ done that.”

“Well, what can we do?” The unmoving elf was starting to unnerve him.

“The Antivan might know, or His High’n’Mighty Majesty, but since they’re off in sod only knows where,” a hand clapped him on the back, shoving Nathaniel towards Fälin, “you’re up!”

Staggering forward from the force of the blow, Nate shot Oghren a scathing look before glancing at their immobilised commander. What was he supposed to do? Did people not remember how much he and Fälin had been fighting just days before? Sure, they could sometimes talk normally, but…

A glance behind revealed the dwarf crouching over Velanna. Suddenly, Nathaniel just did not want to know. Striding over to the redhead, Nate dropped to his heels in a crouch…and hesitated. Talking to him had not worked, and he was afraid to touch, lest he set the elf off, or something. As he sat there considering, Nathaniel became aware of the fact that Fälin was actually talking. Eyes widening, he leaned in closer, trying to catch the words, but to no avail. The words were too low and slurred to make sense.

Finally, gently, he reached over and rested a hand on Fälin’s back—no response. Gently, he shook the elf’s shoulder. “Fay? Hey, Fay?” Still nothing. “You know, if you’re trying to freak me out, you win; I’m freaked out.”

A shriek from Velanna penetrated the room, jerking Anders up as well, and Oghren stood nearby nursing a rapidly-swelling cheek. The dwarf was grinning, Velanna looked livid, and Anders just looked confused. And Fälin?

The commander had finally responded. His grey eyes were wide and he had jerked back, pressing his back into the cold stone. Fälin’s trembling had become very apparent, and he looked like he wanted to bolt in any direction. Gently, Nathaniel reached out, “Hey, Fa—”

“Get away from me, Shem!” One booted foot actually kicked his hand away as the elf bolted to the other corner of their prison. For a moment, Fälin examined Velanna, frowned, and then backed himself into the corner.

This just kept getting weirder and weirder.

The arrival of an elven woman at the bars of their prison sent the group into chaos. Velanna was screeching something about her sister, the woman was apparently trying to give them a key, and then Fälin was in the middle of it. He just wanted the key, it seemed, even going so far as to shove the other elf out of the way and snatch it up. The tainted elf then bolted, sending her so-called sister into frenzied hysterics.

Fälin’s trembling body proved to be incapable of working the key, as he kept dropping it and fumbling over himself. Finally, Oghren stepped in and took it, releasing the latch and all but cueing Fay to bolt into the open.

With that hurdle crossed, Nathaniel felt confident that the rest of the trip could not possibly be worse. He was very wrong.

They fought their way out, to be sure, and nobody died, but there was no denying the lunatic battle-rage that consumed the commander. It was enough to remind Nathaniel why people followed this particular elf into battle. And it scared him, just a bit, when he saw the unarmed redhead snap a hurlock’s neck with his bare hands.

Once they had retrieved their gear, scattered as it was throughout the underground, Fälin turned into a warrior that Nathaniel found himself honestly believing could kill a dragon. Forgoing his bow, Fay fought with his sword and dagger, cutting down more than his fair share of the enemy. And the whole time, he never said a word.

Watching the panting elf lean against the cool stone wall, Nate could not help but grimace at the blood coating Fälin from head to toe. The other man had not even made a cursory effort to clean himself off, despite the corrosive properties of darkspawn blood, and it gave him a distinctly feral appearance. Said appearance was only amplified when the elf turned and bared his teeth in something that might have been intended as a smile.

Without Fälin calling orders, they were forced to fill in the holes in their line themselves, but the juggernaut force that was a certain redhead was enough to do a great deal of that anyway. Really, it was difficult to tell who the party’s resident berserker really was, Oghren or Fälin.

Nathaniel could not tell which that fact did more: Turned him on, or frightened him. It was a disconcerting feeling.

Once they were free at last, Fälin managing to pick up a stray qunari along the way—blessedly he had snapped out of his refusal to associate with them and started talking sometime around the dragon attack—there was just no denying the tension that bleed from the archer’s shoulders. Clearly, Oghren had been right about him not liking the close confines of being underground, though Nathaniel had not seen any sign of it in the Deep Roads.

Cautiously, Nathaniel dared to approach him once more, and was rewarded by a sharp glare. Still, at least there was no outright yelling or racial discrimination this time. That was progress. With that thought in mind, Nate pressed on.

“You’re filthy,” he offered carefully, eyeing the bloodied elf.

Almost disinterestedly, Fälin eyed his left arm and shrugged. “At least I don’t look like I fell in a bog.”

“It’s not that bad,” the human shot right back. There was some relief in the fact that Fay was attempting jibes, but the utter lack of enthusiasm in his voice was far from helpful. Nathaniel knew how to handle stubborn, pigheaded Fälin. That man was both easy to predict, and…well, admittedly easy to manipulate. This version, however, made him very wary. He could not be certain how the other man was going to respond to any gesture.

Slowly, grey eyes flickered up to Nathaniel’s face. Without really thinking, Nate licked the pad of his thumb and ran it across Fälin’s bottom lip, scrubbing off dried blood. “You, however, are that bad.”

With a snort, Fälin pulled away, though not before Nathaniel had finished, and turned his back. “I’ve been worse.”

“I don’t doubt that, but you’re going to ruin your armour.”

“Oh, shove a nug in it. You’re not my mother.”

“No, and I don’t particularly want to be,” he replied dryly. “It would be a lot less fun if I were.”

“Won’t argue there,” Fälin muttered, walking away.

With a click of his tongue, Nathaniel followed. “Get back here. I cleaned that lip so I could kiss it.”

Fälin shot a half-hearted grin back. “Oh? Guess you wasted your time, then.”

Nathaniel was left behind as Fay trotted off, a small smirk quirking at his lips. At least he had not gotten shot down quite as badly as before. He was also confident that the incident in the cell had not damaged their relationship. No, what had been damaged by that had been only Fälin, and he seemed to be recovering quickly, out here in the fresh air.

Still, Nathaniel had to wonder what in the name of the Maker had happened to cause the elf’s phobia in the first place. He would have to find out…later.

Chapter Text

Fälin had withdrawn from him ever since the incident in the mines, and so Nathaniel was only half-surprised when he woke up to find the elf’s half of the bed empty. They had only made it back to the Keep the previous evening, and Fay had stubbornly refused all of his advances. Eventually he had let it go, and their unspoken compromise had ended with Nate not being kicked out of the commander’s room overnight—so long as he kept his hands to himself.

Stretching a hand across to where the elf should be, he noted the lingering, residual warmth that clung to the sheets despite the cold air. Clearly, he had not missed Fay by much, and that was enough to rouse Nathaniel. He had had enough of Fälin running from him. Truthfully, it pissed him off, as it was just another grating reminder of how little control he really had over Fälin. Sure, he knew what the man wanted in bed, and generally how to get what he wanted out of the elf, but that was not enough.

Rising, the brunet hurried back to his room and dressed, grabbing his bow on his way out. It was not hard to trace the commander’s trail to the stables, and a quick glance confirmed Gryphon’s absence.

“Can I help you, Warden?”

Starting, he turned to face the aging stablehand, a slight smile quirking at his lips as he recognised a familiar face. At least some of his father’s staff were still around.

“Do you know where the Commander went?”

“Ah, he mentioned riding out to an inspection of some of the outposts, and that he would be late.”

“I see…” he paused. “Is there a horse I can borrow?”

“…is your own not acceptable, Ser Nathaniel?”

“Arrow’s a good horse, but I need to catch up to the Commander.” The poor blue roan gelding had seen better days, and was well on his way to retirement. He could still work, of course, but not fast enough to catch the dun.

“Ah, Warden business then? Well, there’s this fellow.” Nathaniel followed the younger man to a stall where a huge, black animal as attacking an overfull hay net. “Nobody really uses him for anything, but I’ve seen the boys exercising him and he’s got plenty of run.”

A quick once-over on the stallion had Nathaniel silently agreeing. “Whose is he?”

“The Commander’s.”

Nate nodded. That was fine, then. “Have him saddled. I’ll be right back.”

“Of course.”

Turning his back on the bow he was offered, Nathaniel hurried to grab something to eat, both for now and later. Taking a few health poultices as well, he left word that he was heading out and then returned to the stable.

Packing his few things into the horse’s saddlebags, he then accepted a leg-up. Carefully asking the horse for his head, Nate’s efforts were rewarded with a toss of a black head and pinned ears. Okay, so someone had attitude. Still, he looked fast and that was what mattered.

“What’s his name?” he asked the groom, a young boy he had never seen before.

“Warden, Ser. Black Warden.”

Black Warden? What kind of a name—right. Fay really was bad with names. Well, that was fine by him. “Well then, Warden. Shall we see what you can do?”

He rode out of the stable yard at a brisk walk. The stallion’s hooves occasionally broke through a thin film of ice that had formed over puddles, a stark reminder of coming winter, and both of their breaths were misting in the chill air. He was well bundled up, however, and by the time they hit the Keep proper he shifted Warden into a trot.

By the time they left the gates, the stallion was snorting a bit, clearly eager and ready to run. Well, he might as well oblige the horse. He rode hard, pushing the stallion as much as he dared, jogging and cantering as often as possible. There were better ways to conserve a horse’s stamina, he knew, but his main concern was catching the elf.

If the idiot got himself killed in some hot-headed fancy, it would be bad for everyone.

At the pace he was setting, it was not long before he caught his first glimpse of another horse and rider in the distance. Taking his own mount back to a walk, he let Warden catch his breath before pushing into a gallop.

True to his guess, the horse could run. Massive strides from the large animal covered ground easily, and the horse actually seemed to love it. By the time he was forced to walk the stallion again, they had covered half of the ground to the other duo.

By the time they were within earshot, Fälin had halted Gryphon and was sitting atop the red dun, watching their approach with what could only be called a dry expression. The elf was clearly fighting annoyance at Nathaniel’s appearance, and the brunet knew that that was not a good sign.

“What are you doing here?” Fay demanded as he finally halted alongside Gryphon. “I went on my own for a reason, Nathaniel.”

“You wanted to get torn limb from limb by a furious ogre?” He tone was tart, and Nate was more than a little satisfied to see the momentary surprise flicker across his elf’s face.

“It’s called personal space. Maybe you’ve heard of it.”

In a bout of non-verbal snark, the brunet pushed Warden closer, though carefully being mindful of the two horses since stallions, in his experience, did not generally get along. “If you could be in danger, then no, I’m not familiar with that kind of personal space.” Using one hand, he cupped Fälin’s chin and tilted the elf’s head up. Against his hand, he felt the smaller man swallow. “And don’t you ask me to learn that.”

Their eyes met for a long moment before Fälin pulled away, frowning. “You can be such a pain.”

Knowing he had won yet again, Nathaniel smirked. “Just because I care.”

“Since when?”

He sighed. “Oh, lay off Fay.”

“Just keep up.”

They rode in silence for several minutes, the two stallions walking side-by-side without any encouragement. In fact, the animals were tolerating one another surprisingly well, all things considered. He and Fay could almost have bumped knees—you know, had Fälin been able to reach.

“You look confused.”

A glance over revealed the elf watching him intently, and Nathaniel shrugged. “This guy was a handful when I got on him, and now he’s placid as a kitten. I was half-afraid he’d pick a fight when we got here.”

“Yeah, well I’m not surprised.”

“Why’s that?”

Fälin’s gaze shifted to the road ahead of them. “He’s Zevran’s horse.”

Covering up his slight…disdain, Nate asked, “And what does that have to do with anything?”

“We always rode together, so they got used to walking together. Doesn’t take a scholar to figure that out.”

“You enjoy talking down to me, don’t you?” he asked with a sigh.

“Just like you like ordering me around? Yeah.” Touché. But on that subject…

“Hey, Fay?”

“Hm?”

“Get over here and kiss me. I’ve been waiting three days now.” He smirked playfully, bending over a bit only for his face to make contact with a gloved palm.

“See that bridge?” The elf’s free hand pointed to a distant lump that may or may not have been said bridge. “If you beat me there, you’ll get your kiss and the privilege of having your way with me tonight.”

“However I want?” the human asked, suddenly intrigued.

“Within reason.”

He thought for a moment, possibilities writhing in his mind. “Would it be…within reason to require a safe word?”

Fälin outright grinned at that. “So long as you don’t tie me up, deal.”

“Fair enough, but what if you win?”

“Same deal, only I get to tie you up and have my way with you.”

“Deal,” he agreed without any hesitation. It probably should have crossed his mind that the whole set-up was fishy, but he was too intrigued by the idea of complacent-Fälin to consider it.

Black Warden had no difficulty pulling ahead as they galloped down the road, the stallion’s head low and ears back. A glance under his elbow confirmed that Gryphon was unable to match Warden’s speed, though the smaller horse was giving it a good try.

As the ground fell away, he had to admit to being surprised by the little horse that could as Gryphon held his own on Warden’s heels; he really lost very little ground to the larger stallion. Admittedly, it was a bit worrying. They had a long way to go, and Warden could not maintain this pace forever. However, he was just counting on him holding it longer than Gryphon. The little stallion had to be running harder to match the larger horse’s stride, so as long as they stayed ahead, they should be fine.

What he was not counting on was Gryphon’s stamina.

The moment Warden faltered, Nate checked behind him again. Not only was Gryphon still running easily, but the elf smirked. Almost on top of the gesture, Gryphon switched leads and took off, running as Nathaniel never would have guessed the dun could.

No amount of cajoling Warden could prevent the elf-dun duo from overtaking them and, ultimately, leaving Nate and Warden in the dust. Nathaniel tried everything he could think of to get the black to run harder, but the truth he eventually had to accept was that Warden had no run left in him. Maybe he should have worked harder to save the horse on the ride out here.

“Nice of you to join us,” Fälin said with a grin as he sat atop Gryphon on the bridge. “Didn’t think you’d make it for a bit.”

“You cheated.”

The elf just grinned wider. “Nope, I just taught you a lesson. Zev wouldn’t have been stupid enough to take that bet—actually, he might’ve been, but for a different reason.”

“I still say you cheated, yo—”

“I what?” Fälin quirked an eyebrow. “I challenged you to a race knowing my horse is faster? I don’t call that cheating, Nate, I call it smart betting.”

The human scowled, but could not really argue that point. Except… “Warden’s out of shape.”

“Nice try, but no he’s not. He’s being exercised regularly.” The elf’s smile turned cheeky, a playful glint in his eye. “But if you ask nicely I might still give you that kiss.”

“You still lied to me!” he growled, despite not really being that angry. He was actually looking forward to the events that would follow that night, but he had a pretence to keep up.

“Lied how?” Now Fay genuinely looked confused.

“Bloody horse can fly.”

The redhead laughed at that. “Come on. The camp’s just over there. The sooner we do this inspection, the sooner,” leaning over, Fay ran a finger over Nate’s lips, “we get home.”

Well, he was not going to argue with that.

~Scene Eleven
“I like what I’m seeing,” Fälin observed, a smirk on his lips that he knew Nathaniel could not see. The human in question was naked, blindfolded, and securely bound to the headboard of the elf’s bed. True to his word, the Honourable Ser Howe had kept up his end of the bargain and allowed himself to be manipulated to Fälin’s content.

As frustrating—and, admittedly fun—as their games typically were, Fälin was more than ready to have his turn. Just because he actually did like it—not that he would ever admit to that!—when Nathaniel had his way with him, that did not mean that he was anything less than ready for his turn to return the favour.

Though he was surprised that the human had fallen for such an obvious trick. Then again, Nate had apparently missed the part where Fälin had put poison ivy in his smallclothes, so who was to say what else could sail over the man’s head.

“Do you, now…”

Leaning down over Nate, Fälin ran his bare fingers lightly down the man’s spine. “Mhm, it makes the wait all the more worthwhile.”

“Well then, I suppose it’s okay that you cheated.” Yes, he really had. There was no way Nathaniel could have known Warden could never gallop that distance with any real speed. “Just don’t do it again.”

The elf chuckled and leaned over to whisper in Nathaniel’s ear, “No promises.”

“Was that a confession?”

“Yep.” A lick to the human’s ear.

Clearly covering up a shiver, Nate chuckled, “Well then. I guess I’m going to have to punish you later.” Suddenly Fälin was very glad that the human was blindfolded, and thus could not see the way those words shot straight to his groin.

Andraste’s bleeding ass, what was this idiot human doing to him?

“You’re turned on, aren’t you?” The grin on the man’s face just made it worse. Well, two could play at this game.

“Tch, what do you think? You’re on my bed, naked, and tied up for my every whim. Whatever shall I do with…you,” he purred, punctuating the last word with a light slap to the man’s bare rear.

Nathaniel flinched, clearly surprised by the gesture. He was pretty capable for holding his own, though. For a human ex-noble. “I wonder.”

“Pick a word.” The way Nathaniel stiffened at that drew a full-out grin from the elf.

“…arrow—but really, what are you planning?” Oh-ho, daddy’s little boy was off balance now, was he? Perfect.

“You’ll see,” Fälin replied lightly, running one hand up the man’s leg.

Retrieving a strand of ribbon that he had…retrieved from one of the maids earlier, the elf patted Nate’s hip. “Up.” Once the other man complied, he tied the soft strand around the base of Nathaniel’s already-hard cock.

The human groaned. “You’re serious?”

“Completely,” he replied, nipping the tip of Nathaniel’s ear. “You’ll cum if and only if I let you.”

…somehow, he just knew he was giving the dark-haired brunet ideas. The thought only turned him on more. Damn, stupid human and the things he did to him.

“Wonderful.”

Ignoring the blatant sarcasm, Fälin set to work mapping his victim’s body with his tongue and teeth. He spared very little of the other’s freshly-scrubbed skin, avoiding only those parts where one’s tongue really just did not belong. He started at Nate’s jaw, and slowly worked his way down neck and torso, diverging to almost casually suck on a few fingers, before stopping once more to nip at Nathaniel’s hip. Thighs and legs were next, and he could all but feel the tension building in the other archer as he pointedly licked his way up one muscled thigh.

“A-are you naked?” Fälin chuckled. Again with the attempted dirty talk?

“Of course,” he lied smoothly. The only things he had taken off were his gauntlets, boots, and belt, the latter of which lay close to hand on the bedside table. “How else would I fuck you?—actually, never mind. Stupid question.” Let Nathaniel make of that what he would.

“Enough talking, Elf. Put that tongue to better use.”

“Mm,” he hummed lightly, chuckling softly at the attempted power switch. “No.” Another lie, if ever he had told one.

“Spread ‘em,” he demanded, climbing onto the bed and rolling to his back. Careful to keep from brushing against the other man, Fälin squirmed up the bed and into the space between Nathaniel’s thighs. Grabbing the man’s hips, he yanked Nate down and straight into his mouth without a hint of warning.

The gasp that erupted from the brunet’s mouth made it all worthwhile, and Fälin chuckled deep in his throat as he noted the older man’s shaky legs. Had he had a mouth to speak with at the moment, he definitely would have teased Nathaniel.

Despite his refusal to do this for Nathaniel in the past, the redhead was reasonably confident he knew what he was doing. He had been well educated in sex by Zevran, and better yet he was well practiced in it—also compliments of aforementioned subject. Not that he had not known anything before his assassin had come along, that was far from the truth, but Zev had certainly broadened his knowledge substantially.

Licking and sucking his way down the human’s swollen erection, Fälin worked his way past his gag reflex as he took the human in clean down to the ribbon binding Nathaniel. The elf was forced to grab the human’s hips to prevent any untoward incidents, Nate falling clean on top of him amongst them, and he chuckled deep in his throat.

“M-Maker…!” No, but close. “Wh-where—ngh!—did y-you…learn that?” Yes, because he could reply to that right now. Whatever, somehow he did not think Nate was really interested in his answer.

The wonderful sounds emanating from the human spurred Fälin on. It was almost a pity that the man was being prevented from climaxing, because he was so wonderfully unbound… It just made Fälin try harder.

Eventually the rather pathetic moans escaping Nate made Fälin take pity and draw back, popping his lips lightly over the head as he released the man’s member. He was not completely done. Releasing the other’s hips from one hand, he set it to work slicking down the shaft with his freed hand. Eventually, he managed to coax a single drop of pre-cum out, and with a smirk, Fälin leaned up to lick it off.

Above him, Nathaniel barely held himself upright, the human gasping and all but choking for air. It seemed his work here was done, the redhead determined as he squirmed back off the bed and stood up.

“Was it worth the wait?” he crooned, still grinning.

“M-Maker, yes, b-b—ngh.” Oh, right. He still had not cum. Pity.

For Nathaniel.

“Oh do relax, Nate. You can do that, can’t you?”

You…are…an a-ass.”

Ignoring the half-hearted jibe, Fälin reached over and grabbed his belt. Leaning down, he pressed a kiss against Nate’s shoulder, intentionally trying to mislead the brunet. Nipping down on the firm skin, he then drew back immediately after and, without any warning or preamble, lashed out with the belt. The supple, black leather caught the human sharply across the rump. It was not a particularly hard strike, but Nathaniel definitely flinched, his hyper-sensitised body jerking sharply.

“Wh-wh—aah!” A second strike, and Nate let his body drop.

It was clear the human was a bit disoriented, and so Fälin took his time on the third hit, this one drawing more wonderful vocalisations from Nathaniel. He had not expected this to draw quite this reaction from the older man, but he could not say he was displeased with the outcome.

“N-no, Fay…w-wait!” That did make him hesitate. It sounded sincere, but that was the point, was it not? He raised the belt again. “…a-arrow! Arrow!”

Stopping dead, the elf dropped the belt and moved to place both of his hands on Nathaniel’s back, so the human could be certain it was gone. Perhaps this was a little too out of Nate’s depth, then. Well, that was fine. It just meant he had room to educate the other man.

“You okay?”

“Yes, I-I…wasn’t expecting that.”

Kneeling next to the bed, by Nate’s head, Fälin reached up and lightly plucked the blindfold from the other man’s eyes. As Nathaniel blinked to clear his vision, the redhead leaned in and caught the brunet’s lips in a light kiss. When he finally pulled back, the lips he had released flicked downwards.

“What?”

“You lied to me.” Fälin raised an eyebrow. “You’re still dressed.”

Laughing, he leaned in for a second kiss. Someday Nathaniel would figure it out. Maybe.

“You’re…”

“I’m?”

“Nothing. Just…no, nothing.”

Shrugging, Fälin filed the incident under ‘stupid things humans say when they’re far too turn-on for their own good’ and let it go. “So what now?”

“We go on? I don’t know about you, but I still want it.”

“Good. Because you’re still getting it. But first,” standing, Fälin streteched and began heading for the door, “I want a snack. I’ll be back in a bit. Be a good boy and stay put for me?” Heading out the door, the redhead ducked just around the corner, then pressed his back against the wall of the sitting room, sniggering silently to himself at the astonished protests—and curses—that echoed in his ears. This was too easy.

Waiting barely a minute, just long enough for the human to be getting really frustrated, Fälin re-entered the bedroom. Kicking the door shut, he grinned at the scowling brunet even as he set to work stripping his own remaining clothing off. Not that there was much of that left. His tunic was held shut with a few ties, and so a few deft tugs released it.

“Changed your mind?” There was no mistaking the tension in Nathaniel’s voice.

“Never intended to go,” he replied, kicking off his smallclothes as he crawled back onto the bed. Grabbing the bottle of oil from where he had left it earlier, Fälin set to work preparing the other man.

“Looking forward to finally getting to fuck me, Elf?” That playful, mocking tone was back.

“I could just leave that ribbon on there.”

“Remind me again why I put up with you.”

“Haven’t figured that out, yet.” Fälin jabbed his fingers in a little harder than necessary. “But I’m not complaining.”

“Even if it did take you an underhanded trick to get here?”

“Mm…I dunno. You can be worth spending time with when you’re not being a total ass.”

“Then maybe I should be more of an ass.”

“If you mean you’re offering me more of your ass,” a very unnecessarily hard jab, “then I accept.”

“We’ve come a long way from hating each other.”

The surprising statement, which echoed something Zevran had once said all too closely, gave Fälin pause. But only for an instant. “Oh, I dunno. Have you stopped hating me? I’m still trying to decide about you.”

“Get over here and kiss me, you stupid elf.”

Chuckling, he obliged. It was difficult to maintain the angle necessary for the gesture, but he really did not care. He just wanted to taste the stupid, former nobleman who had wormed his way into Fälin’s affections.

When he did finally break the kiss, it was to grab the bottle once more and set to work lubricating his manhood. He was looking forward to finally feeling himself inside the stupid human for once, perhaps more than a man in a committed relationship should be. At the moment, however, he did not care. He just wanted Nathaniel.

It felt different than Zevran. The Howe was…well, he was just bigger all around, and so he just plain felt different that any of the elves—or humans, who had both been female—that Fälin had lain with before. Not a bad different, though, and he really was just grasping at straws to find a difference. To stop thinking about Zevran.

Was he honestly feeling guilty?

With a low growl, the redhead reached beneath the once-again kneeling brunet and released the ribbon binding Nathaniel. His hand closed over the other man’s erection as he snapped his hips back, and then forward once more. He was just not going to think about anything.

“Not bad, my little elf,” a very satiated Nathaniel mumbled into Fälin’s neck sometime later, as the commander fumbled with the knots still binding the human.

Growling, he finally got it free. “You expected less?”

“No, not really.”

“Good. I can give as good as I get.”

A sharp nip to his neck sent a small shiver up the elf’s spine. “Careful I don’t take that as a challenge.”

“And if it is?”

“You’re going to eat those words.”

“Not a chance.”

“We’ll see, then.”

“Go to sleep. Stupid shem.”

“In a minute. But first…”

“Hm?”

“Go wash your damn hands, Elf.”