Chapter 1: Hostile Work Environment
Dorian adjusted his tie nervously as he looked up at the imposing building. Despite having been politely asked to consult on a case for the Ferelden Bureau of Investigations, somehow it still felt as if he were about to face the entire Magisterium on some trumped up charges.
Since fleeing to Ferelden five years ago, he’d made a name for himself as both an expert on Tevinter culture and as an irreverent playboy. He’d already published three books regarding Tevinter culture and was working on a fourth when his agent called to tell him that the FBI needed his expertise on a case.
Dorian took one final, deep breath and then headed into the building and approached the reception desk. Behind the desk was a rather harried looking elf who seemed busy taking and rerouting calls. As he reached the desk she put up a finger to indicate that he should wait a moment.
Dorian nodded and tried to wait patiently. The phone kept ringing and the poor elf looked at him apologetically as she kept answering and rerouting calls.
“Dorian Pavus?” a man asked, startling Dorian.
“Yes?” Dorian replied, turning to face a dashing blond man in a full three-piece suit.
“I must apologize,” the man said. “The phone has been ringing off the hook since the news broke this morning and we’re sadly a bit short-staffed today. I’ve come to fetch you and get you checked in.”
The news? Oh yes. There had been an attempt on the King’s life. Again.
“Charmed…um?” Dorian left he question hanging as he reached out to shake his hand, hoping the blond would properly introduce himself.
“Um? Oh, yes. I’m Cullen. Agent Cullen Rutherford, at your service,” he said with a dashing smile.
Dorian smiled back. For a brief moment, he thought there was a gleam of interest in Cullen’s eyes, until he noted the wedding ring on the man’s finger. Oh well, having an FBI agent as a lover would have been less than ideal anyway. Right?
“It’s a pleasure to meet you Cullen,” Dorian shook the man’s hand.
Cullen led Dorian back and took him through the various security check points. Nearly an hour later and Dorian had an official FBI badge which granted him limited access to areas within the building.
“Next up is to meet the agent you’ll be working with,” Cullen said as he led Dorian along another long corridor.
“I was rather under the impression I’d be working with you?” Dorian asked in confusion.
“This is one of several cases I am directing, but Agent Freeman is leading the investigation,” Cullen explained. “He also immigrated from Tevinter, but his perspective comes from a different angle than yours.”
“Freeman? That’s not a Tevinter surname,” Dorian sounded confused.
Cullen paused for a moment. “Look, I don’t want to throw you to the wolves, so to speak, but there’s something you need to know. Leto had it hard in Tevinter. He had no surname when he arrived in Ferelden because he had been a slave.”
“Oh!” Dorian understood now. “It would make sense that he leads a human trafficking case then.”
“He has openly objected on bringing you in to consult for this,” Cullen continued. “But our director insisted we approach the case from every angle. He has the perspective from the slavery side, and we’re hoping you will give us the perspective from the side of being a slave owner.”
“Well I hope he knows that I personally never owned any,” Dorian said defensively. “My family, of course, had a house full of slaves. I daresay that they were treated humanely. My father believed how one treated their slaves reflected a person’s true character.”
“Well, don’t tell Leto that if you value your life,” Cullen warned as he continued to lead Dorian down the hallway.
Dorian followed Cullen into a large room. There were several people working in various corners and along the far wall was a large digital display with a complex link chart displaying various pieces of evidence and how they linked together so far in this case. Dorian was suitably impressed even with the brief glance he had.
Cullen steered Dorian towards the center of the room where an elf with a shock of white hair stood studying something on the table before him.
“Agent Freeman,” Cullen said, getting the elf’s attention. “This is our new consultant on Tevinter culture, Dorian Pavus.”
The elf raised his head with a vicious snarl. “I told you I will not work with him!”
Dorian was initially a bit taken aback by the outward hostility of the man, but then in the next moment his breath was taken away by how absolutely stunning the man was. His dark complexion and pure white hair complimented each other perfectly. His eyes were a most remarkable shade of green, like two pale emeralds. Most extraordinary of all were the white tattoos that elegantly curved up his throat and over his chin.
“What are you staring at?” Agent Freeman growled. “Didn’t get your fill of elven slaves back in Tevinter that you have to salivate all over me as well?”
Dorian shook himself out of his reverie. “I must apologize, I was just surprised. I didn’t realize they allowed FBI agents to wear visible tattoos. Pleased to meet you Agent Freeman.”
The agent just huffed in annoyance and went back to whatever it was he had been doing when they arrived.
Cullen sighed. “Leto, you know that Director Hawke is insistent on this. The traffickers are always five steps ahead of us. We need a fresh perspective.”
Leto stood, running his hands over his face in frustration. “I know we need a fresh perspective. I just don’t want the kind of perspective someone like him would offer,” Leto practically spat.
Dorian subconsciously backed away from the angry elf. He clearly had gotten himself into the middle of something he wasn’t entirely sure he wanted to be in. “Perhaps I’ve come at a bad time. Why don’t you call me when you get this sorted, if you still even want my input?”
Cullen reached out and grabbed Dorian by the upper arm. “Don’t go anywhere. You’re coming with me. Leto, you too. Follow me. That’s an order.”
Leto sighed and followed reluctantly as Cullen led them to what looked like a small conference room. “You two will sit here and get to know each other. I will have food and refreshments brought but Leto, you cannot and will not judge this man just based on where he was born. Is that clear?”
Leto nodded curtly. “Crystal, Ser.”
As Cullen left, Dorian heard the lock on the door snick.
Great he was now locked in a room with a bitter, angry elf. Clearly, he couldn’t win him over with his dashing looks alone.
“Look, for what it’s worth, I’m sorry,” Dorian broke the ice.
Leto looked up at him, a mix of anger and confusion crossing his face. “Sorry for what?”
“Cullen told me you were once a slave in Tevinter,” Dorian clarified. “I am sorry that you had to endure that.”
“Hmmpf,” Leto huffed. “How many slaves do you own?”
Dorian was stunned. Hadn’t Leto heard of him? “None at all. Don’t you know who I am?”
“You’re some wealthy douchebag from Tevinter,” Leto shrugged. “What more do I need to know?”
Dorian’s shoulders drooped. “I’m sorry…I sometimes forget that not everyone has read my books. I escaped from Tevinter five years ago myself. Yes, I was part of one of the upper-class families, but you have to believe me. I’m not like them. I could never be like them…” Dorian’s voice trailed off with a sad note.
“I thought they were bringing in someone from Tevinter,” Leto sounded puzzled. “You are also a refugee?”
Dorian nodded. “I’m afraid so. It’s a sordid tale. Perhaps I’ll tell you it sometime. Just know that I have probably been disowned and I suspect my father has most likely adopted a new heir by now.”
“Your family name is…Pavus?” Leto asked, his eyes narrowing. “I don’t recall that family ever attending my former master’s soirees.”
“Who was your former master?” Dorian inquired.
“Danarius. Danarius Elatus,” Leto replied, his voice barely a whisper.
“Oh, by the Maker,” Dorian breathed. “Now I understand. That man and his ilk are monsters. My father purposely avoided attending his parties because he refused to support anyone in those circles.”
“If your father was such a saint, why did you leave?” Leto prodded.
Dorian sighed. “That…is a long story. If you really wish to know, look it up online. It’s really not something I wish to repeat, again.”
“Hmm,” Leto acknowledged.
“So where does this leave us?” Dorian asked just as the lock on the door snicked again, the door opening to admit Cullen and one other agent, carrying cups of coffee and a box of donuts.
“How are you two getting along?” Cullen asked as he handed each of them a cup of coffee. “I’m glad to see you haven’t murdered each other yet.”
“I’d be more likely to flog him than kill him,” Leto deadpanned, making Dorian look up in surprise. Dorian felt a flush creep over his face as that particular image flashed in his head. Leto held his gaze for a second before smirking and Dorian realized that the broody elf had actually made a joke.
Dorian allowed himself a chuckle and sipped at his coffee. “I think we’ll get along just fine, Agent Rutherford.”
Leto stared at him for a moment longer and then nodded. “Fine, I’ll work with him for now…but if he steps out of line for even one moment, I want the right to throw him off the case.”
“You get to recommend throwing him off the case,” Cullen amended. “As long as you have a valid reason. An inappropriate slip of the tongue won’t cut it. Especially if he sincerely apologizes.”
“Agreed,” Leto said. “Now can we get back to work?”
“Have a donut first,” Cullen insisted. “You’re far too skinny and I know you’ve been skipping meals.”
Dorian and Leto both took a donut. Dorian smirked when he realized that they both selected the same kind; chocolate-iced. Leto merely rolled his eyes and quickly ate his confection.
Once they were back in the case room, Leto asked. “How much about this case do you know?”
Dorian shook his head. “Not much I’m afraid. I had to wait until I received clearance first, which only happened today. I know this is a human trafficking case that involves the illegal capture, sale and importation of slaves from Ferelden to Tevinter.”
“Do you recall the slave ring that His Highness King Alistair broke up before he ascended the throne some years ago?” Leto continued.
Dorian nodded. “That was a huge scandal at the time. It was one of the first times a slaver had been caught and the slaves freed. All elves from the Denerim Alienage as I recall?”
“Yes,” Leto frowned. “As I’m sure you’re aware, the elite in Tevinter seem to prize elven slaves above all other races.”
“Yes, especially as bed slaves,” Dorian nodded. “It always surprised me how any of the brothels even stay in business when so many households kept bed slaves.”
“The brothels are also staffed with slaves,” Leto explained. “Surely you were aware of this?”
Dorian blanched as he shook his head. “All of them? Surely some of the brothels must employ willing staff?”
“With such a large supply of slaves in Tevinter? Highly unlikely,” Leto ventured. “Now some may have chosen to sell themselves into slavery in order to pay off a debt or something along those lines, but in the end, they are still slaves.”
Dorian felt a lump of guilt rise in his throat. All those years that he’d gone to brothels, thinking he was taking the moral high ground, instead of bedding one of his family’s slaves. Oh Maker preserve me.
Taking a breath, Dorian redirected his thoughts. “So, what exactly is the goal of this case?” Dorian asked.
“We want to take down the head of the biggest human trafficking ring in Thedas,” Leto explained. “We’re cooperating with agencies across Thedas but the ring has been difficult to crack. We think that the ring is being controlled from somewhere in Ferelden. We’ve sent in two separate undercover agents and so far, both have been found murdered. Every time we think we’ve closed in on the head of the organization, they are long gone. It has been most…frustrating.”
“How can I help?” Dorian wondered. “While my family did have a small staff of slaves, I’ve never actually purchased or owned one of my own.”
“We’re trying to identify the buyers and sellers in Tevinter,” Cullen joined in. “We want to get some undercover agents in place to interact with them, which we hope will flush out who in Ferelden they are buying from.”
“Hmm, alright,” Dorian thought for a moment. “Can I have something to write on?”
Cullen handed Dorian a pad of paper and a pen. Dorian began to write down some names. “These are the buyers in Minrathous and Qarinus that I know my father used. My father loathed the slave auctions. He preferred to buy direct from private sellers. The slaves they sold were healthier and in better condition.”
“Yes, this is exactly the information we’ve been after,” Cullen smiled. “The ones who run the public auctions were easy to track down but they don’t seem to be dealing much with slaves from Ferelden. It was the private buyers and sellers that we suspect most of the trafficking in Ferelden slaves, mostly from our Alienages.”
“Would you also be able to coach the agents going undercover on how to approach these buyers?” Leto asked.
Dorian nodded. “My father brought me along on a few of his dealings when we needed to add to our household staff. I could give your agents some of the finer points of negotiating with them.”
“Excellent!” Cullen smiled. “See, Leto. We’re making progress already.”
“Hmmpf, I suppose your right,” Leto reluctantly agreed. “Thank you for your contribution and willingness to help. I must admit I am surprised you are giving us these names so readily.”
“I have no love for the slave trade,” Dorian said. “I will admit when I first came South I was very naïve about it all. I had always assumed everyone kept slaves. Now I ashamed of it. My father had more than enough wealth. We could have simply hired paid servants, instead of spending all that money on slaves…so if I can help put an end to it? I’m more than happy to.”
A strange look crossed over Leto’s face as Dorian made that confession. It intrigued him that he could have such an effect on the elf.
“I have to check in on the other cases I’m supervising,” Cullen announced. “Can I count on you two to work together peacefully from now on?”
Leto nodded. “Yes, Ser.”
“No problem at all, Agent Rutherford,” Dorian agreed.
“Good,” Cullen said, sounding relieved. “Leto I want you to bring Dorian up-to-speed on all the details of the case so far. The undercover agents won’t be here until tomorrow for their briefing. I’d also recommend perhaps you both dine together this evening. Get to know each other.”
A flash of annoyance crossed Leto’s face before he took a breath and schooled his features again. “Alright, if you insist.”
“I do,” Cullen confirmed.
Oh my. Did Cullen just set them up on a date? How intriguing.
Chapter 2: Getting to Know You
Dorian and Leto go out on their mandatory "dinner date."
By the end of the day, Dorian was feeling slightly overwhelmed by all details of the case. The FBI had been working to shut down the human trafficking trade in Ferelden for several years. This investigation was a mandate directly from King Alistair himself. The king had been appalled to learn that human traffickers were kidnapping innocent elves from Ferelden alienages and selling them to the elite families of Tevinter, the only country left were slavery was still legal.
Apparently, Leto himself had been rescued directly due to the efforts of the FBI and because of that he chose to stay in Ferelden and join the organization. He rose through the ranks quickly and had been put in charge of this operation two years ago. They had been successful in reducing the number of people, especially elves, that were being trafficked, but it seemed a near impossible task to stop it entirely.
It was nearly eight in the evening when Leto felt that Dorian had been sufficiently filled in on the case. “I need a half-hour to freshen up. I’ll meet you in the lobby.”
So, Leto hadn’t forgotten the direct order to go out to dinner? Dorian smiled a little at that. The elf seemed to have warmed up to him quickly enough, which Dorian was grateful for. Although it puzzled Dorian a bit that Leto had changed his attitude so quickly. The Agent had still been brusque with him all day, but at least he was no longer openly hostile.
Dorian made his way back down to the lobby to wait for Leto, and then got on the phone to make a reservation at one of his favorite restaurants. If he had to have a “date” with the elf, he might as well make it a good one.
Right on time, Leto arrived in the lobby. “So, where do you want to eat?”
“I hope you like Antivan,” Dorian said. “I took the liberty of making us a reservation at Boqueria.”
“Hmmpf, of course you did,” Leto grumbled. “It’s acceptable, but you’re paying.”
“It would be my honor,” Dorian smiled as he led the way. Once outside, they hailed a taxi to take them to the restaurant.
They sat in awkward silence in the back of the taxi. Once they reached their destination, Leto insisted on paying the fare. Soon they were seated in Dorian’s favorite corner of Boqueria, studying the menu. Leto scowled at the way the restaurant staff fawned over Dorian.
“I’m sorry,” Dorian apologized. “I eat here so often, everyone on the staff knows me, and they also know how well I tip,” Dorian said with wink. Leto just rolled his eyes and continued to study the menu.
Apparently decided. Leto put down his menu and looked up at Dorian. “I suppose I should thank you,” Leto conceded.
“For what?” Dorian asked, intrigued.
“For not dragging me to that awful Tevinter place across town,” Leto clarified. “From what I read you frequent there quite often as well.”
“Ah, so you did more than just freshen up, I see,” Dorian smirked. “Yes, under the circumstances, I didn’t think you would enjoy dining at such an establishment.”
“Considering my earlier hostility, I must admit I am surprised at how hospitable you’ve been all day,” Leto mused.
“Your initial hostility was understandable, and I was pleasantly surprised how quickly you let go of it,” Dorian observed.
“Yes, well once I realized you weren’t some Tevinter citizen the FBI went out of their way to fly in to work with me, it made the situation more tolerable,” Leto explained. “Finding out you were also a refugee like myself, was a pleasant surprise. I will admit your calm composure in the face of my hostility also helped me change my mind. That still doesn’t mean I like you, but I will work with you.”
“I’ve learned not to take such hostility from elves personally,” Dorian admitted. “I had my eyes opened after I left Tevinter. Very often when elves meet me for the first time and realize I’m from Tevinter, they tend to have one of two reactions, fear or anger.”
“So, you being tolerant of my hostility was merely a defense mechanism?” Leto surmised.
“Well, in part, yes,” Dorian admitted. “But I’ll admit it wasn’t at all a difficulty. Not when you’re so incredibly attractive as well.”
Dorian almost immediately regretted that admission, with how quickly Leto’s features turned to pure rage. “Did. You. Just. Flirt. With. Me?” he ground out each word with a slow growl.
Dorian raised his hands. “Sorry. I’m sorry. That was inappropriate and I apologize.” Yes, there will definitely be no canoodling with FBI agents in my future.
Leto looked at him skeptically but the look of rage gave way to mere annoyance.
“Let’s order a bottle of wine,” Dorian suggested as a change of topic. “Do you have a preference?”
“Agregio Pavali, if they have it,” Leto replied.
“You have good taste,” Dorian appraised. “May I ask why a Tevinter vintage?”
“It was Danarius’ favorite,” Leto explained. “He never allowed his slaves anything but water, so I savor the fact I can now enjoy his favorite wine whenever I like.”
“That makes perfect sense,” Dorian said as he flagged down the waiter and put in their order.
“I promise I won’t pry,” Dorian said after a few moments of silence. “However, I want you to know if you ever want to talk about…your life in Tevinter…I’d be happy to listen.”
“Would anything I say end up in your books?” Leto said warily.
Dorian shook his head. “Not unless you wanted it to.”
The wine arrived and they both sat in silence as they waited for their meals to be served. Dorian tried not to stare at Leto, but he hadn’t been lying when he told the elf that he found him incredibly attractive. Leto was probably by far the most beautiful elf Dorian had ever laid eyes on.
Leto tried to ignore him by focusing on his smartphone, clearly texting with someone and chuckling occasionally, between sips of wine. He was forced to put the phone away when the meal arrived. Eating the pollo al ajillo he ordered would require both hands.
Dorian smirked at the face Leto made as he took his first bite. The food here was always superb and clearly Leto wasn’t accustomed to eating food of this quality based on the look of pure ecstasy on his face.
“Excellent, isn’t it?” Dorian remarked before he took a bite from his paella.
His earlier anger forgotten, Leto nodded as he finished chewing. “Spending most of my life in slavery has taught me to savor food like this.”
They lapsed into silence again until Leto finished his meal.
Topping off his glass of wine, Leto refocused his attention on Dorian. “So, your father,” Leto began. “Did he really try converting you?”
Dorian had wondered how long it would take for Leto to bring that up. He put down his fork, carefully wiped his mouth and took a long pull of wine before he was ready to answer. “Yes. I knew he didn’t approve of my sexuality, but I never thought…” The rest of the words stuck in Dorian’s throat.
“You never thought he’d be so cruel?” Leto finished for him. Dorian nodded, fighting back the angry tears that were threatening to crest.
Leto took a breath. “Look, for what it’s worth, I’m sorry I keep being so hostile towards you. It’s just…not easy for me to even look at you sometimes. You just remind me of…everything.”
“I am sorry. I can’t even imagine what you suffered,” Dorian said, taking another gulp of his wine. “I’d heard stories of what Danarius put his slaves through…what he’d do at those parties of his. No one should have to suffer like that.”
Leto studied him for a moment before nodding slowly. “That’s why I have dedicated myself to stopping human trafficking. Knowing what’s possibly in store for those who are captured and sold, I just can’t in good conscience just stand by and do nothing. Not when I have the means to help.”
“I know you don’t trust me,” Dorian said. “But believe me, I am on your side. I want to stop the human trafficking trade as well. I almost regret being disowned. If I could go back and take my father’s seat in the Magisterium, I could help enact real reforms from within Tevinter.”
“You’d be assassinated before your proposal could even be considered,” Leto sneered. “It’s a nice sentiment, but Danarius and his ilk are too powerful.”
“Perhaps, but when I was younger, many people whispered about my potential for being up for Archon one day,” Dorian bragged. “Can you imagine what I could do if I held that position?”
“It’s pointless to daydream of things that will never happen,” Leto shook his head. “Focus on what you can do here and now.”
Dorian smiled at the elf’s pragmatism. “Yes, I suppose you’re right…and here and now I want more wine.”
Leto seemed to relax after a few more glasses, while the wine began to embolden Dorian. “So, I’ve been curious about something. Earlier today you told Cullen you’d be more likely to flog me than murder me. Is that a fact?”
Leto’s eyes shot up as he studied Dorian intently for a moment. Then a wicked little smirk crossed his lips as he perched his head on his steepled hands. “Why? Would you enjoy a good flogging?”
Dorian felt heat rush to his face at the mere suggestion. “Well, um…I’ve never tried so…I don’t know?”
Leto’s smile grew more wicked. “But you’d like to find out?”
Dorian emptied the contents of his wine glass before responding. “I…um…don’t know…maybe?”
“Intriguing,” Leto mused. “You and I may get along better than I anticipated. I’ll have to give it some thought first. This is not something to take lightly and one critical element between us is missing. Trust.”
Dorian gulped. Was Leto seriously considering this? His heart rate picked up as some very naughty images flitted through Dorian’s mind. Oh yes, he was certainly fascinated by the idea. More than, if truth be told.
However, Leto was right. They had no trust between them. Not yet. Hopefully that was something they could establish over time as they worked on this case together.
Dorian settled the bill and they prepared to leave. “Which side of town are you on? Perhaps we could share a taxi?”
As it turned out, Leto still lived in the Alienage. Of course, he did. Sometimes Dorian forgot that most elves were still forced to live in those wretched neighborhoods. He still often wondered if that really was an improvement over slavery.
“I hope dining with me tonight was tolerable,” Dorian said as they exited the restaurant.
Leto nodded. “You were a better dinner companion than I expected. Don’t forget to be in bright and early tomorrow. You will be needed to brief our undercover agents on the next phase of the operation.”
Dorian was about to reply when out of nowhere a man with a camera popped up in front of them and snapped a photograph of them both. The flash temporarily disoriented them both. By the time the spots in their eyes diminished, the man was long gone.
“Damn those paparazzi,” Dorian huffed. “I’m so sorry about that.”
“Why on earth did he want our photograph?” Leto asked in annoyance.
“As you probably read, I have a bit of a reputation as a playboy,” Dorian explained. “I must apologize but I think by tomorrow morning your likeness will be plastered all over the tabloids as my latest paramour. I really am very sorry about that.”
“You must be kidding me,” Leto growled.
“I’m afraid not, I’m sorry, I should have warned you,” Dorian sighed. “C’mon let’s hail you a taxi before anymore decide to show up.”
Dorian hailed a taxi and bade Leto a good night, before hailing a taxi of his own.
On the drive back to his penthouse apartment, Dorian worried about how that paparazzi could jeopardize any chance of building some trust with Leto, not to mention the possibility of compromising the very case he was consulting on. Reluctantly he pulled out his phone and called his agent. “Varric, I’m sorry to call at such a late hour, but I need your help.”
“This better be good,” Varric groused.
“I was out having dinner with the lead agent on the FBI case I’m consulting on,” Dorian explained. “Unfortunately, a paparazzi surprised us on our way out of the restaurant and I fear the photo will be splashed across the tabloids tomorrow.”
“Fraternizing already?” Varric accused with amusement.
“Maker, no,” Dorian insisted. “Agent Rutherford actually insisted we dine together as a means to get to know one another and try to build a bit of camaraderie.”
“Did it work?” Varric asked.
“Well, he’s no longer being openly hostile,” Dorian chuckled. “So, it’s definitely a start.”
“Just lay on the charm,” Varric advised. “You’ll be fucking his brains out by the end of the week.”
“Varric!” Dorian sounded scandalized. “I will do no such thing. Now are you going to help me or not?”
“Let me guess? Try to keep that photo from ever seeing the light of day?” Varric presumed.
“Yes, if at all possible,” Dorian affirmed. “He is an agent with the FBI after all. I don’t want this to jeopardize their case.”
“Alright, consider it done,” Varric said. “Just be more careful next time.”
Dorian breathed a sigh of relief. “Thank you, Varric.”
The next morning, Dorian arrived bright and early as promised, and brought Leto a cup of coffee. “Good morning!”
Leto eyed him suspiciously but accepted the coffee anyway. “So, what happened to our photo being plastered all over the tabloids?”
“I called my agent and he took care of it,” Dorian explained. “I worried that a photo like that might jeopardize the case and I didn’t want that to happen.”
“Is that the only reason?” Leto asked.
“Well, I also didn’t think you would appreciate being associated with me in that way,” Dorian admitted. “I wanted to protect you from that.”
Leto looked surprised at that. “Well, thank you. I do…appreciate that. Now, are you ready to meet the undercover agents? They are waiting for us in the conference room.”
“Lead the way,” Dorian gestured to the door.
Writing their interactions is so much fun. I hope everyone enjoys reading them as much as I enjoy writing them.
I can't promise how quickly I will keep updating this because I have another work-in-progress as well, but I'll try to make the wait between chapters not too long.
Chapter 3: You're Not Like Them
Dorian meets the undercover agents. One is far too flirtatious for Dorian's comfort. Leto overindulges.
Dorian followed Leto to meet the undercover agents. When they entered the conference room, Dorian was initially surprised that both agents were female. So far all the agents he’d met were male.
“Dorian Pavus, meet Agent Josephine Montilyet from the Antivan Bureau and Agent Isabela Arvale from the Rivaini Bureau,” Leto introduced. “As we discussed yesterday, this operation is international, and we felt that agents from Rivain and Antiva might be more successful at convincing the human traffickers in Tevinter that they were interested in the private purchase of slaves.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you both,” Dorian smiled and shook their hands. “That is a brilliant plan. I had wondered how convincing a couple of Ferelden agents might possibly hope to pull it off.”
The two women both seemed to appraise Dorian as he sat down. “You’ve been holding out on us, Leto. Where have you been hiding this handsome specimen?” Isabela said, with a wink towards Dorian.
Dorian blushed and chuckled. “I only just began consulting for the FBI yesterday,” Dorian explained. “While I do appreciate the compliment, I must inform you that I don’t…swing that way…as it were.”
Isabela made an exaggerated pout as Josephine tried to suppress a giggle.
“Now that’s out of the way,” Leto sighed with exasperation. “Let’s get down to business, shall we?”
“Agreed,” Josephine said, pulling out a pen and notepad. “Where do we begin?”
“I know your goal is to try and get in touch with the private buyers in Tevinter,” Dorian began. “I believe your plan is to try and use them to track down who they are buying from and where the transactions take place?”
“Yes,” Josephine acknowledged. “We are hoping we can also get the names of the leaders of the Human Trafficking rings operating out of various countries, including the one in Ferelden.”
“We will have teams standing by in each country,” Isabela clarified. “We both have embedded microchip recorders implanted in our ears. They will broadcast our conversations with the buyers in Tevinter and our teams will analyze the conversations for clues as to where the human trafficking leadership may be holed up in each area. The plan is to do a coordinated strike on several fronts at once.”
“Very ambitious,” Dorian praised. “So how do I come in?”
“You’re more familiar with Tevinter politics and diplomacy,” Josephine explained. “Our microchips will also allow others to communicate with us. While we also need you to brief us as much as possible on what we need to know, we also expect you to both listen in, and send us instructions on how to proceed.”
“I can try,” Dorian said. “That being said, if I were able to observe the buyer’s body language, it would make it a lot easier.”
“Oh, that will be no problem, handsome,” Isabela flirted. “We’ll be wearing special contact lenses that can broadcast everything we’re seeing to you.”
“Wow, those actually exist?” Dorian was impressed. “That will make this a lot easier.”
“We’ll be testing them tomorrow, so you could see a demonstration of them,” Josephine invited.
“I look forward to it,” Dorian smiled.
They spent the rest of the day grilling Dorian and Leto on Tevinter culture, each of them giving their own unique perspectives. Unfortunately, they often contradicted each other due to their very different experiences and it led to several arguments that thankfully Josephine was able to diffuse quickly. She was clearly the diplomat of the two. Isabela just sat back and enjoyed the free entertainment.
It had been a long day and Dorian was worn out. There were still details of the plan to iron out, but thankfully Leto finally ended the day’s session. “Let’s pick this up first thing tomorrow,” he suggested.
They all agreed and began to gather their things and clear out of the conference room. Josephine had taken extensive notes and it took her a moment to gather them together.
While they were politely waiting, Isabela seemed to get a wicked look in her eye. “So, you boys are taking us to dinner tonight, aren’t you? Show us some local hospitality?”
Dorian could see Leto stiffen, even as he schooled his features. “Yes, of course. Allow me a few moments to freshen up. We can meet in the lobby in twenty minutes?”
“You made me wait for thirty yesterday!” Dorian teased.
Leto harrumphed and they all left the conference room together. Dorian took a detour and stopped in the bathroom on his way down to the lobby. The two agents seemed competent. Josephine was clearly the better diplomat, while Isabela had a commanding confidence about her. Dorian felt they might be able to pull off this mission.
Making his way down towards the lobby, Dorian began to muse on how much of this experience he could parlay into a novel. The daring agents against the sinister human traffickers all screamed at him to write it. So far, he’d only written factual books, revealing the realities of life and culture in Tevinter. The country itself had enshrouded itself in mystery when it cut itself off from the rest of Thedas, to keep their empire from crumbling even further. Outside of Tevinter, people were endlessly curious about life there, especially from the perspective of a former noble like Dorian.
The money he’d earned from his books so far had afforded him a very comfortable living and his agent had been pushing for him to try to write a novel or two as well. Perhaps that’s why he’d been so eager for Dorian to take on this consulting position, because he’d hoped it would provide Dorian’s overactive imagination with fodder for a possible novel. It seems his agent was right.
As he sauntered into the lobby he saw the two agents giggling like school girls with one another. When they saw Dorian, they tried to stop and compose themselves. “So, what kind of food do you ladies enjoy?”
“I’ve a hankering for some good Orlesian,” Isabela replied. “Do you know any place good?”
“As a matter of fact, I do,” Dorian replied. “There’s an excellent place near my flat. Let me make a reservation.”
Dorian made his call, while keeping an eye on the agents with one eye. Isabela was clearly ogling him and Dorian sighed internally about the tenacity of certain females. He made the reservation and then took a breath before rejoining the two while they waited for Leto.
“So, handsome,” Isabela purred. “I don’t see a ring on that finger. How is it someone like you hasn’t been snatched up yet, hmm?”
Dorian forced himself not to roll his yes. If he’d had a sovereign for every time he’d heard that line.
“It seems I need to be a bit more blunt than I was this morning,” Dorian said coolly. “I’m gay.”
Isabela seemed unfazed by the declaration but before she could continue, Dorian heard Leto clearing his throat behind him. Dorian turned and thought he saw the slight hint of a blush on the man’s cheeks. Interesting.
“Shall we get going?” Leto suggested.
“Yes, let’s shall,” Dorian agreed. “I hope Orlesian is alright? The ladies suggested it.”
Leto simply shrugged as he strode outside and hailed a taxi.
Leto clearly had a cruel streak, as he snagged the passenger seat in front while leaving Dorian to have to share the back seat with Isabela and Josephine. The ladies forced him to sit in the middle. At one point, Isabela’s hand ended up on Dorian’s knee and began sliding up, but Dorian put a very swift stop to that.
“I would prefer to keep our interactions professional, if you don’t mind,” Dorian said as he firmly removed her hand from his leg.
Isabela sighed but didn’t molest him further.
Dorian instead turned his attention to Josephine, who was clearly more interested in remaining professional, which helped put Dorian at ease.
At the restaurant, they were seated at a booth and Dorian insisted on sitting next to Leto and opposite of Josephine. Isabela finally relented and turned her attention to Leto instead, who just as quickly rebuffed her advances. “You boys are no fun,” she pouted.
“Are you always like this?” Josephine sighed. “May I remind you that we are here in a professional capacity, Agent Arvale?”
“Alright, alright, I get the message,” Isabela sighed. “I just don’t see any harm mixing business with pleasure, that’s all.”
Finally put in her place, the conversation turned to other topics. “I have read every one of your books,” Josephine admitted. “I wanted to say something earlier but the opportunity never presented itself. Your use of prose truly brings Tevinter to life. I am looking forward to seeing it for myself.”
Leto huffed in annoyance. “I’m sure he’s painted Tevinter as an exciting place, filled with luxury and endless parties.”
“Have you not read his works?” Josephine admonished. “His books focus on the depths of corruption in Tevinter and the levels of depravity that are allowed to exist.”
Leto didn’t have a response to that as he looked over at Dorian, an embarrassed blush darkening his cheeks. “Perhaps I should read them,” he admitted.
The evening wore on and Isabela kept ordering bottles of wine. Clearly if she wasn’t going to have sex that night, she was opting for getting black out drunk instead. It made Dorian wonder about her past and perhaps what abuses she may have suffered to cause her to act this way.
What surprised Dorian was Leto keeping pace with her, or trying to. The agent was slurring his words before dessert and was starting to nod off as Dorian took care of the check. Dorian helped Leto up and tried to walk him out of the restaurant as gracefully as possible. Isabela seemed to have no problems striding out of the establishment as if she were completely sober.
Josephine looked concerned, but said nothing. “Don’t worry, I’ll take care of him. You ladies get back to your hotel and we’ll see you tomorrow,” Dorian reassured her.
Josephine nodded and hailed a taxi, giving Isabela a stern look as they got in. The last thing Dorian heard was Isabela being defensive. “It’s not my fault he can’t hold his liquor!”
Dorian looked at Leto leaning against him and realized he couldn’t send him back to the Alienage in this state. His own apartment was just a block away so instead of hailing a taxi he decided a bit of walking would probably do Leto some good.
Half-way towards his apartment Leto looked around and mumbled. “Where…where am I? Where’re you taking me?”
Dorian paused for a moment and turned Leto to face him. “You’re drunk off your arse and I’m walking us back to my apartment. I cannot in good conscience send you home in this state.”
Leto looked a bit green as he swayed on his feet and Dorian knew that look. He immediately led Leto to a nearby, and conveniently located, trash can just before Leto began to empty his stomach of the very expensive meal he’d just had.
Once Leto was done, Dorian handed him a handkerchief to wipe his mouth with. “I’m sorry I can’t offer you something to drink, but we’re only a half-block from my apartment. I’ll brew you a strong cup of coffee.”
Leto was looking a little better but still a bit green around the gills. He only nodded and allowed Dorian to help lead him the rest of the way. Once they made it into Dorian’s place, he immediately showed Leto to the guest toilet. “Just in case you have anything left inside that needs to get out. I’ll go make the coffee and come fetch you when it’s done.”
Dorian left Leto and went to into the kitchen to begin brewing the coffee. This wasn’t exactly how he’d pictured getting the handsome agent into his apartment. However, he knew Leto had no interest in him so having him here at all was nothing short of miraculous. He was determined to befriend the grumpy agent and have him right as rain by the next day.
Once the coffee had brewed Dorian slipped into his master bedroom and fetched a bottle of elfroot before checking on Leto. Sure enough, he was kneeling over the toilet, dry heaving. Dorian felt sorry for the man and knelt beside him, rubbing his back.
Leto’s heaves turned into heavy breaths that slowly calmed and he finally sat back and looked at Dorian. Maker he looked a mess and so vulnerable too. “Come, up you get,” Dorian encouraged. “Let’s get some water and elfroot into you, and then a nice fresh cup of coffee.”
Leto nodded and let Dorian help him up and guide him to the kitchen where Dorian helped him sit on one of the stools at his kitchen island. Then Dorian grabbed a bottle of water from his refrigerator and handed Leto a couple of elfroot tablets. “Take these with at least half of that bottle.”
Leto nodded, doing as instructed. Dorian kept rubbing the man’s back, remembering when a former friend of his used to do that for him after a night of excess back in Tevinter. Dorian had always found it soothing and hoped Leto did as well.
When it looked like Leto was going to keep the water down, Dorian moved off and poured two cups of coffee before Dorian sat himself in a stool next to Leto. “Here you go, this should help.”
They sat in silence, sipping their coffees. Slowly Leto began to sit up straighter and began to look a bit more like himself. He looked over at Dorian. “Thank you, but why did you help me?”
Dorian looked at him in mock horror. “Do you think I would just let you go home in the state you were in?”
“You barely know me,” Leto pointed out.
“Why should that matter?” Dorian asked. “We are colleagues and I have no desire to see anything bad happen to you.”
Leto studied him for a moment. “You really aren’t like them, are you?”
Dorian knew the question was rhetorical, but he couldn’t help but reply anyway. “That is what I’ve been trying to tell you.”
Leto smirked at that before he drained his cup of coffee. “Thanks again but I should get home,” he said as he stood. He made it two steps before he stumbled and lurched towards Dorian’s couch.
Dorian shot up and caught him. “I think you should probably spend the night here and sleep it off first. I promise I won’t molest you.”
Leto held on to him for a moment longer than necessary. Perhaps a few moments. Then he finally nodded, agreeing.
Dorian guided him over to the couch. “I have some pajamas you can wear, and I’ll get you a blanket and some pillows. My couch is quite comfortable.”
Leto sat down and Dorian ran off to fetch the things he’d promised. He had a comfy old pair of pajamas that he grabbed, along with his spare blanket and pillows. Leto was already half asleep on the couch when Dorian got back and was in no shape to change clothes. So, Dorian helped Leto remove his shoes and took off his trousers so they wouldn’t be irreparably wrinkled. Leto hadn’t been wearing his suit jacket when he met them in the lobby so Dorian just had to remove the man’s tie and shirt.
Leto was wearing an undershirt and boxer briefs so Dorian didn’t worry about seeing anything inappropriate as he carefully helped Leto lie down on the couch, placing a pillow under his head and tucking him into the blanket. Dorian placed the pajamas on the coffee table within Leto’s line of sight, in case he woke up and decided he needed more clothing.
With that done, Dorian turned off all the lights, made sure his apartment door was locked and made his way to his own bed. After stripping out of his clothing he collapsed, completely nude. It had been a long, exhausting day and he was dragged under, into sleep, within moments.
I couldn't find a surname for Isabela and very few known Rivaini seem to have surnames (Duncan, etc.). So I gave Isabela the surname from one of the few that has a documented surname, Cade Arvale, the Champion of Tantervale. I've decided I like the way it sounds. Isabela Arvale.
I hope everyone is still enjoying this story. Definitely more to come!
Chapter 4: The Operation
Dorian and Leto work with Isabela and Josephine as they infiltrate the Tevinter slaver's operation.
Dorian woke the next morning feeling very much in the need of some coffee. Without even thinking about it, he rose and padded out to the kitchen to start brewing a pot, completely stark naked. He lived alone, so he often wandered his apartment in the nude.
It wasn’t until after he’d started his coffee maker, which ground fresh beans before brewing, that he became consciously aware of his own nudity. That’s because as he turned to go back to the master suite to take a much-needed shower, a groaning head of white hair popped up from the couch in the living room. Leto.
“Where…where am I?” Leto groaned. As he raised his head and looked startled to see a stark-naked Dorian staring at him like a deer in headlights.
“Why in the Maker’s name are you naked?” Leto mumbled and then a look of panic overcame him and he checked to see if he was also nude. “Did…did we?”
“No, I can assure you we did not,” Dorian reassured him. “Give me a few moments to shower and dress, and I’ll tell you everything. Help yourself to some coffee once it’s done brewing.”
Leto nodded and flopped back onto the couch with another groan.
Dorian made his way to the shower quickly, feeling the heat of embarrassment rise in his face. He should have remembered that Leto was there, but what was done, was done. This truly hadn’t been how Dorian had imagined Leto seeing him in all his glory. Maker preserve me.
Dorian showered and dressed quickly, returning to find Leto perched on the same stool as the night before, savoring his cup of coffee. “How are you feeling?” Dorian asked as he poured himself a cup and sat next to Leto.
“Embarrassed,” Leto confessed. “I don’t recall much, just blurry images. Did…did I vomit into a trash can?”
Dorian nodded. “I’m afraid you did, yes.”
Leto hung his head. “I haven’t done something like that in…a very long time.”
“Well we can safely say that Agent Arvale can easily drink most people under the table,” Dorian joked.
“Indeed. That woman isn’t human,” Leto laughed.
“Perhaps she has one of those hollow pirate legs,” Dorian joked.
They both laughed. “I hate to admit it, but Isabela the Pirate Queen would suit her well,” Leto said.
“And I think she would take it as a compliment,” Dorian agreed.
They went back to silence for a while. Then Leto cleared his throat. “So, just to be clear, nothing untoward happened last night?”
“I was a complete gentleman,” Dorian assured him. “So, to let you know exactly what happened last night let me give you the highlights.” Dorian explained bringing Leto back his place, making sure he was alright, giving him elfroot and coffee and tucking him in before collapsing himself.
“I am sorry for my state of undress this morning,” Dorian apologized. “I’m not used to having guests and I’m often nude when at home."
Leto shrugged. "You're a bit more fit than most Tevinter elite I am acquainted with, despite your love of fine cuisine."
"That's because I take pride in my appearance," Dorian explained. "I go to the gym quite regularly. I can't maintain my reputation as a playboy if I allow myself to become all pudgy."
Leto let out a huff of amusement at that. "I don't know...a little pudge might suit you. Otherwise you're almost too perfect."
Dorian did a double take a that and he noticed a blush creep over Leto's cheeks when he realized what he'd said. Dorian tried to hide the pleased smirk that was threatening to break across his face. "More coffee?"
Leto looked relieved at the change of topic. "Yes, please."
They had spent the better part of a week prepping the undercover agents for their mission. After the agents left to head to Tevinter, Dorian was trained on how to handle himself during the undercover ops. Leto would be with Dorian throughout the operation, but Dorian had to be prepped for any eventuality.
Because of the technology they were using, Dorian and Leto would be able to see and hear everything the agents did. There would be two separate feeds from each agent. Having both equipped would ensure a lower chance of the technology failing them outright.
Several weeks later, when the day finally arrived for the operation began, Dorian had to admit to himself that he had a case of the jitters. He was normally calm and collected, but he worried that if he misread something and gave the agents false guidance, that it could very well result in the loss of their lives…or worse.
Dorian entered the operations center where he and Leto would be working from. Their station had an array of displays and they would both be wearing headsets so they could both hear and speak to Agents Montilyet and Arvale as they tried to obtain the information their operation desperately needed to finally get ahead of the human trafficking ring.
Leto had not yet arrived so Dorian just paced nervously before the station. He startled when he felt a gentle hand on his shoulder.
“Don’t be nervous,” Leto reassured him. “We’ve been over every contingency a dozen times now, and I’ll be here to keep control of the situation. Between the two of us, our agents are in good hands.”
Dorian took a deep breath and nodded. “You’re right. I know you’re right. I just have never two other people’s lives at stake based on how I read someone before. It’s only ever been my life, which isn’t really worth all that much, if truth be told.”
“Nonsense,” Leto admonished. “Your life is every bit as valuable.”
Dorian huffed at that. “Well haven’t you made a complete one-eighty in your assessment of me?” he teased.
“You’ve proven to me that you aren’t one of them,” Leto shrugged. “You clearly care about other people’s well-being. You aren’t a self-absorbed, self-important bigot like many of your countrymen.”
“Fair enough,” Dorian smiled. “Thank you.”
Leto sat down and Dorian joined him. They enabled all the equipment and donned their headsets, and then waited for the signal to come through from the agents. Based upon the time difference and the information they had received as to when the meeting would happen, they expected the signal to come in within the half-hour, give or take.
Leto kept checking various feeds and data streams on one of his monitors while Dorian just watched him work, not having much else to do until the time came.
Then suddenly the monitor before Dorian flared to life with static as sound began to filter into his headset. “Fenris, Sparkler? We’re just about to enter the trafficker’s estate. We’re expected in about five minutes. Do you read?” Josephine spoke quietly, but clearly using their agreed-upon codenames. Dorian’s was chosen, or so he was told, for his sparkling personality. Leto had apparently chosen his own codename and Dorian had not yet been able to get him to explain the meaning behind it. He was determined to change that one day.
Leto pushed a button to transmit his voice. “Fenris here. We read you loud and clear Ruffles. Are you both receiving me?”
“Yes, loud and clear on our end as well,” Isabela acknowledged. “How are you holding up Sparkler?”
Dorian pushed his own button. “I can hear you fine, Rivaini. The video feed still seems offline however.”
“Activating the lenses now,” Josephine acknowledged and suddenly Dorian saw a split screen video view, one with Josephine and one with Isabela, who were clearly looking at each other. Leto had the same display before him as well.
“We’re both receiving your video feeds,” Fenris informed them. “Everything looks good on our end.”
“Excellent,” Isabela practically purred, causing Dorian to roll his eyes. “We’re heading in now.”
The display changed as the women turned and approached the gate to the estate. They were greeted by what was clearly the Steward of the house, a well-dressed, elderly looking elf. The only way you’d know he was as much a slave as the rest in his household was the clearly visible collar on his neck. The color was ornate and encrusted with jewels, but it was still a slave collar nonetheless.
Dorian could practically feel the disgust ripple off Leto, as he subconsciously rubbed a hand around his neck where undoubtedly his slave collar had once sat. Dorian felt a wave of sympathy for the elf before he was distracted as the agents were greeted by their host.
Dorian had never met the man personally before but he instantly knew the type. He had accompanied his father several times when he went off to purchase new household slaves from men like this. Dorian felt a frisson of guilt now, for once believing that purchasing slaves this was somehow more humane.
The slaver led the agents into an elegant parlor and offered them both a drink and gestured for them to sit on the one of the couches, while he sat opposite them. “I’m told you ladies are here to make a sizeable purchase?”
“Yes,” Josephine began. “I have purchased a new estate in Antiva and I need to staff it. I will require a number of new household slaves, including ones with various skills, such as cooking and gardening.”
“And how about you?” the slaver asked Isabla directly.
“I’m just here to help her evaluate your stock,” she replied. “I have a bit more experience in these sorts of purchases.”
“I see,” the host said as he clearly leered at her. “How delightful. So, do you have a preference? Human or elf? Male or female? I even have a wide variety of skin tones if you desire anything specific.”
“I care more about their skills than their species or gender,” Josephine said. “However, being it is Antiva, darker toned would be preferable for the gardeners, so their skin is less likely to burn too quickly when working in the hot sun. Any tone would be fine for the indoor slaves.”
The slaver took a sip of his drink as he evaluated her words. “I do admire a lady who knows what she wants,” he complimented. “Besides cooking and gardening, are there any other skills you require? Perhaps one or two skilled in the art of pleasure?”
Josephine clearly hesitated then and Dorian imagined she was probably blushing at the mere suggestion. Fenris activated his mic. “Go ahead and look at what he has on offer, but don’t commit to taking any. We want to see as many of his slave stock as possible so we can do facial recognition.”
Dorian could see Josephine carefully nodding. “Yes, I will look at your available stock in pleasure slaves as well, both male and female. I am very particular about such slaves, but I am always open to purchasing a new toy or two if they catch my eye,” she replied smoothly.
“A wise choice,” the slaver crooned as he rang a bell. A slave entered and the slaver whispered in his ear. After the slave left, the agents were offered a refill on their drinks. “It will take a moment to have the slaves prepared for viewing.”
They began idly chatting and Dorian saw an opening in the conversation, so he activated his microphone. “Now is a good time to inquire about where his stock originated from.”
“Out of curiosity,” Isabela spoke up. “Where do you acquire your slave stock? Which lands do they originate from?”
The slaver shrugged. “My source procures them from all over Thedas. I don’t particularly care what their origins are, as long as they are pleasing to the eye and able to be trained.”
“I do have a fondness for Ferelden men,” Josephine added. “Also, the Ferelden and Orlesian elves seem to be fairer skinned than those in Antiva. A few from Rivain and Antiva with their darker tones would also be lovely.”
“If it matters, I will double check their papers to see their points of origin,” The slaver offered.
“That would be wonderful, yes,” Josephine confirmed.
A brief look of suspicion seemed to cross the man’s face before he smiled again. “If you’ll excuse me a moment then. I’ll go to my office to retrieve that information. Please wait for me here.”
Dorian looked at Fenris. “Did you see that look? He suspects something.”
Fenris nodded. “Indeed. Rivaini, Ruffles, be on your guard. We think your host suspects something.”
They noticed both agents nodded slightly based on the video feeds.
Soon the slaver returned and escorted the agents to his viewing area where all of this selected slave stock was lined up for inspection. There were a mix of humans and elves, male and female, with a mix of both fair and dark-skinned slaves. Everything was still going according to plan when all of a sudden, the video feed from Isabela focused on a particular slave. He was an elf with long, blond hair, and a slightly darker tone to his skin. Along one side of his face he bore tattoos that did not resemble a Dalish design.
The feed began to move back and forth between this particular slave and Josephine’s face. Clearly it seemed Isabela was distressed. They saw Josephine shake her head slightly, warning Isabla not to give them away, but then the next time Rivani looked at the slave he raised his eyes and they widened in surprised recognition.
While this was going on, Fenris was running the slave’s face through a facial recognition program. “Zevran Aranai. Affiliated with the Crows, a rogue assassin’s guild operating out of Antiva,” Fenris read from the file. “Hmm, how did a skilled assassin from Antiva end up for sale as a slave in Tevinter, I wonder?”
It seemed the slaver had picked up on all the looks the agents gave each other. “I see you’re taking an interest in this one,” he said as he walked over and pulled Zevran out of the line-up. “He’s one of our most skilled pleasure slaves.” Flipping through some files on a tablet he held, he pulled up his records. “He came to us from Antiva. Clearly, he is an elf, but not Dalish despite his facial markings.”
Josephine seemed to evaluate Zevran, looking him up and down, trying not to pause too long when looking at the healthy endowment between his legs. She began to circle him, viewing him from all sides. “Put him aside. I may consider him.”
Zevran was led to the other side of the room where he was made to kneel.
Their attention returned to the other slaves. One by one Isabela made her selections and the slaver provided what information he could about each. So far, he had been very careful about what he divulged and so far, they only knew the countries of origin from the slaves they were selecting, not the ports the slavers were shipping from.
Then Dorian noticed a few in the back that looked far more terrified than the rest, indicating they must be fairly new, recently captured slaves. “Ruffles, inquire about one or two from the frightened ones in the back, please.”
Josephine walked toward the group Dorian pointed out. “What about these? What skills do they have?”
“Ah, those are from my most recent shipment from Gwaren,” the slaver said. “They haven’t been evaluated yet so I can only recommend them for common domestic work.”
“All the way from Gwaren?” Isabela asked. “That’s quite a long way to ship slaves.”
“My Ferelden source can no longer operate out of Denerim or Amaranthine, so he’s resorted to shipping from Gwaren now.”
All the while both agents were looking carefully at each slave as Fenris began to run the facial recognition. Each of these slaves were reported missing by their families about two-to-three months ago. They could be key in bringing down the operation there.
So, Isabela and Josephine purchased them as well. In the end, they selected a total of twenty slaves, originating from Ferelden, Orlais, Rivain, Antiva and the Free Marches.
“Where would you like them delivered?” the slaver asked as the concluded their transaction. Little did the slaver know, the funds that were just transferred to him had a digital marker that allowed them to track where the funds went. It was yet another means to help bring down the entire slaving operation across Thedas.
“I have a private dock outside Antiva City,” Josephine explained, handing a card with directions to the slaver. “However, I would like to bring the pleasure slave with me now. Can you have him clothed for me?”
“Of course,” the slaver smiled at her wickedly. He still had that suspicious look in his eye, but still said nothing.
Once they left the slavers’ estate, they led Zevran to their car and sped away as quickly as they could. Once at a safe distance, Isabela practically threw herself at the slave. “Zevran!!!! What in Maker’s name were you doing there?”
I'm not sure why, but Zevran is always popping up in my Dorian/Fenris fics, the sneaky assassin that he is. :) We'll find out a bit more of what he's been doing in Tevinter next chapter. :)
Chapter 5: Giving Up Control
The current phase of the human trafficking operation was a success. Dorian invites Leto over to his place for dinner, and Leto makes an interesting proposal to Dorian.
While Dorian watched as Zevran explained to Isabela how he ended up for sale at the hands of a Tevinter slaver, Leto began coordinating with their teams in Antiva and Ferelden. They had teams standing by in every port city they had jurisdiction in, hoping to bring down as many of the human trafficking rings as possible.
“The Crows were unhappy with my failure during a high-profile job,” Zevran was explaining. “So they decided to sell me as a pleasure slave. Honestly it could have been worse. They could have sold me for manual labor instead. That would be quite distasteful, yes?”
Dorian shook his head. The chances that they would rescue someone known to one of the agents during this operation astounded him. It made him realize even more keenly that each and every person trafficked as a slave was someone’s friend, family member or even lover. Sure, some were born into slavery in Tevinter, especially many of the elven slaves.
Dorian felt a wave of guilt remembering all the slaves he’d grow up with in his father’s household. He felt even more guilty as glanced over at Leto, knowing how much the elf had suffered. Dorian was almost glad that Leto never showed any interest in him outside of work and friendship. He didn’t think his conscience could take having a tryst with Leto, no matter how damned attractive he was.
It took several more hours before they received word from the teams in Gwaren and Antiva City, but it seemed that this phase of the operation was a success. They managed to take down two of the largest human trafficking rings with minimal casualties. The leaders had still eluded them, but there had been many arrests and several dozen humans and elves had been rescued.
Isabela and Josephine cheered at the news from the boat they were on, which was taking them swiftly away from Tevinter. As Dorian slipped off his headset he looked over a happy and elated Leto.
“Why don’t we grab some take out to celebrate and go crash at my place?” Dorian suggested. “You know that I live much closer to here.”
Dorian expected Leto to turn him down again as he had over the past few weeks whenever he made the offer, but something in Leto’s mood seemed to change this time around. The elf glanced over at Dorian, studying him for a moment before nodding. “Alright.”
Dorian tried to keep the thrill of Leto finally accepting his invitation from showing. He wasn’t expecting anything other than just two colleagues enjoying a meal together. Dorian had long since resigned himself to the fact that there would never be anything more than friendship between them, so he never bothered flirting with the elf.
Dorian called ahead to order their food, a favorite hole-in-the-wall joint that served a Rivani and Antivan fusion. It was on the way to his apartment, so he could just hop out of the taxi and pick up the food along the way.
When the taxi pulled up to the restaurant, Dorian was shocked when Leto jumped out first and insisted to pay for the take out. “It’s my turn to pay and finally you are ordering from a place I can actually afford.” Dorian laughed and acquiesced, waiting for Leto in the taxi.
When they got to Dorian’s place, Dorian spread all the containers out on the coffee table and turned on some quiet music. He then went to pop the cork on a bottle of wine and brought it with two glasses over to the table. Then they both took off their suit jackets, ties, and rolled up their sleeves before sitting on the couch to share the meal. While they ate, they mostly talked about the operation and how everything had gone that night.
Dorian was on his third glass of wine when he sat back and looked over at Leto. “So, why did you finally agree to come over?”
Leto took a long drink of his wine before putting his glass down and sat back, curling his legs under him as he turned to face Dorian.
“Allow me to be blunt. I know you’re attracted to me. You’ve never tried to hide it, but you’ve also never tried to pursue it either,” Leto explained. “I have come to respect you. You are not at all like the men I knew in Tevinter. You have chosen to use your wit and intelligence for something other than the pure pursuit of pleasure. You have shown yourself to be dedicated and reliable, and above all, trust-worthy.”
Dorian felt his heart flutter at the compliments coming from a man who had once almost refused to work with him several weeks before. “You…trust me? Thank you, that means a lot coming from you.”
“I have to admit that I also find you attractive. You are a very handsome man, Dorian,” Leto confessed. “I’ve held back from saying anything because I needed all of my focus on this phase of the operation. While the operation itself is far from over, I can now step back for a bit while the other teams assess the aftermath.”
Dorian couldn’t help but feel a mix of excitement at Leto’s confession. He took a drink of his wine and looked up with a smirk. “You still haven’t answered my question.”
Leto took a breath and eased himself a bit closer, making Dorian’s breath hitch. “I suppose I haven’t,” Leto grinned wickedly as he took Dorian’s glass from him and set it aside. “I think I’ve established that we find each other attractive. I came over because I would like to see where we might take this.”
Leto was so close now, Dorian could feel the heat radiating off the elf’s skin and smell the mix of wine and food on his breath. He held himself very still as Leto leaned in closer, reaching up to cup Dorian’s face to hold him in place as he brushed his lips against Dorian’s. “May I kiss you?”
Dorian nodded almost imperceptibly before Leto surged forward, his warm, soft lips pressing eagerly against his own. Dorian felt himself go pliant as Leto deepened the kiss, his tongue running over his bottom lip. Dorian moaned, parting his lips as he allowed Leto to plunder his mouth.
Kissing Leto was everything Dorian had dreamt it would be. It was passionate but controlled, with the perfect mix of lips, tongue and teeth. It was all Dorian could do to just slide his hands onto the elf’s shoulders and hang on for dear life.
When Leto finally broke the kiss and sat back, he studied Dorian for several moments, while Dorian just sat there panting, trying to catch his breath.
“If you keep submitting to me so beautifully, I think I would like to pursue this further, if you’re willing?” Leto asked.
Dorian’s cock twitched. “What exactly are you proposing?” Dorian asked in return, scrabbling for his wine glass and taking a gulp.
“As you can tell, I like to be in control,” explained. “Initially, I didn’t want to work with you because I thought you were going to try and take control of the entire operation, regardless of your lack of knowledge. It’s how most men from Tevinter are in my experience. Instead, you surprised me. You followed my lead and didn’t impose yourself on me in any way. I appreciated that and it made me think twice about pursuing something with you. As you can imagine, when it comes to relationships, I have to remain in control. Always.”
Dorian nodded. “That’s perfectly understandable, after the trauma you must have suffered. I will admit I am partial to having my partners be in control. Much to my own detriment at times, I’m afraid.”
“You’ve had a bad experience in the past? Tell me.”
“This was back in Tevinter…before everything that happened with my father,” Dorian began. “His name was Rilienus. He insisted on dominating me, despite the fact I had no idea what I was getting into at the time. The very idea thrilled me at first, but then…”
“But then he took it too far.”
“Yes,” Dorian admitted. “We had established a safeword, I used it…and he punished me for it. I never went to see him again afterward. I…couldn’t.”
Leto had an angry look cross his face. “I’m sorry Dorian. That should never happen. I promise, that would never happen, if you chose to try such a relationship again, with me.”
Dorian’s heart pounded as he poured them each more wine. “I trust you Leto. You’ve suffered abuse first-hand. I can’t imagine you wanting to inflict that on anyone else.”
“Good, because without trust this could never work,” Leto said. “I’m drawn to you in a way I’ve not been drawn to someone else before. I think first we need to discuss all of our various limits and kinks. I will respect your hard limits, but depending on what they are, I may push your soft ones a bit on occasion. Understood?”
“Use your words.”
Dorian let a small smirk cross his lips. “Yes, sir.”
They spent the next few hours talking, sharing with each other some of their most intimate desires, as well as their hard limits and turn offs. They discussed safe words, rules and consequences for breaking them. Dorian thrilled at the prospect of all the things they discussed and tried not to be overeager to begin.
They had just finished discussing Leto’s preferred strategy for punishment when Dorian noticed Leto was looking tired. “I think it’s time we tried to get some sleep? Wait here a moment, please?” He got up and grabbed a pillow, blanket and pajamas, before heading back into the living room and handing them to the elf.
“It’s late, stay the night? You can take the couch again if you want…I don’t want to presume.”
Leto looked at the offered items before standing. He took the pajamas and tossed aside the pillow and blanket before stepping closer to Dorian. “I’ll stay, if you’ll allow me the comfort of your bed?”
Dorian blushed. “I’d be happy to share my bed, it’s certainly large enough for two.”
Leto reached up and pulled Dorian down for a quick kiss. “Good.”
Leto then took Dorian’s hand and led him down the hall towards the bedroom. “Don’t get any ideas, we’re just going to sleep.”
Leto squeezed Dorian’s hand in approval and it made Dorian smile.
Dorian woke the next morning feeling oddly more at ease than normal when he remembered that Leto had stayed the night. He cracked open his eyes only to find the elf lying next to him, watching him.
“You look very peaceful when you’re asleep,” Leto observed.
“Thanks. How about some coffee?” Dorian asked as he made to get up.
Leto gently but firmly pulled Dorian back down. Dorian looked at Leto, confused for a moment. “Did I give you permission to get up?”
Dorian shook his head, a bemused smirk crossing his lips.
“What did I say about using your words?” Leto growled.
“No, sir,” Dorian replied. “I’m to speak my acknowledgements to you, sir.”
“That’s better. I’m going to get up and take a shower. You will put my clothes in the washer before starting the coffee. Then come join me.”
As Leto rose, Dorian followed suit. He made his way into the living room, picking up his and Leto’s clothes along the way before heading into his laundry room and throwing everything into the washing machine and starting a cycle.
Dorian then made his way back into the living area and started the coffee maker before cleaning up the living room a little. He couldn’t help thinking through everything he discussed with Leto the night before and it sent a thrill through him. There was a frisson of fear mixed in with the excitement. He felt like he could trust Leto not to overstep, but Dorian had once trusted Rilienus just as much.
Stop overthinking this.
Dorian was just tossing out the left over containers of food when Leto came into the kitchen, nude and dripping wet.
“You really don’t take instruction well, do you? That’s one.”
Dorian’s heart lept into his throat. Uh-oh. He’d forgotten that Leto wanted him to join him in the shower.
“Now, come join me,” Leto said as he held out his hand.
Once in the bathroom, Dorian suddenly felt self-conscious as he stood before the naked elf. The very handsome, very naked elf.
“Strip, Dorian, before you run out of hot water.”
Dorian swallowed and did as he was told.
Leto was eyeing him critically as he revealed himself to the elf. Dorian’s heart beat faster as he stood before him completely naked.
“You’re just as lovely as I imagined,” Leto mused as he stepped back into the shower. “Now come.”
Leto told Dorian to stay still as he washed his back, running his hands all over Dorian’s body. “You are in remarkable shape for an author.”
“I go to the gym regularly,” Dorian confessed.
Leto tweaked one of Dorian’s nipples, hard. “Ow!”
“What did we discuss last night?” Leto reminded him.
Oh, yes. The honorific. “I go to the gym regularly, sir,” Dorian restated. “My apologies, sir.”
“That’s two,” Leto said as he resumed his ministrations.
“May I ask what you’re counting, sir?”
“I believe we discussed the possibility of punishments?” Leto said wickedly. “You have two punishable infractions now. I will decide when and where the punishment will be administered later. For now I’m just counting the infractions.”
Oh yes, punishments. Dorian had a shiver of fear run down his spine as he recalled his last punishment from Rilienus.
Leto turned Dorian around to face him. “Stop thinking about him. I am not Rilienus. I will not punish you out of anger. I will not punish you without reason. Do you agree that not following instructions is a valid reason for correction?”
Dorian took a steadying breath and nodded. “Yes, sir. Very valid, sir.”
“Good, now finish showering. I’ll go check on the laundry.”
It wasn’t until Leto had left the bathroom and he finished washing himself that Dorian realized his cock was hard. He was about to do something about it when he heard Leto from the hallway. “Do not touch yourself!”
Dorian sighed to himself. What did I get myself into? When a flash of all the naughty images the previous night’s conversation had evoked, Dorian grinned to himself. Something very good, I hope.
Sorry for the long delay on this chapter. I spent most of August away on business trips and entertaining out-of-town family who came to visit so I had no time to sit down and write!
I hope everyone enjoys this chapter and where I'm taking this story.