As a child, he wasn't aware of how the world worked or how those around him didn't truly love him or even understand what love was. Didn't care for him as he believed, but had no reason to believe otherwise.
Anything he wanted he was given. Whatever he desired was his. His parents smiled at him, lavished praises on him, told him all the time how special, how treasured he was. If he was hurt, someone was always there to make him feel better. If he was angry or upset, someone was there to comfort him. If he saw something he wanted, his parent's never refused him and from this he felt happy.
He was eight when he started to feel differently about things. He couldn't understand why he felt so unhappy, so lonely. Nanny often scolded him for not behaving, not appreciating all the wonderful things he had, how ungrateful and selfish his behaviour. But he didn't think he was selfish or ungrateful, so he thought perhaps maybe he was flawed or not as special as everyone said he was. Maybe they were lying to him to keep him from feeling bad. Maybe they were protecting him from an awful truth.
The thought was not a pleasant one and one day, on a rare afternoon when his parents allowed him to play with other children, it was heavy on his mind. Most of the time, they avoided him as though afraid whatever was wrong with him was contagious and they'd get infected. So he asked them why they treated him differently than other children and they laughed at him.
One among them seemed to take pleasure in delivering bad news. Smiling when he said, "You're an Altus dummy. If you're as talented as everyone says you are, you'll be Archon someday."
"Archon?" He'd repeated, not understanding. "What does an Archon do?"
The other children had only stared and ran to their parents, casting him pitying looks or knowing smiles as though he were a simpleton. He'd run to Nanny, tears streaming down his face, convinced he was right in thinking he was flawed.
When he'd calmed down, Nanny had brought him a hot tea and waited while he tried to explain. "Nanny, what's an Archon?"
"Is that what has you so upset?" She'd frowned, clucking her tongue as though it were nothing.
He nodded, feeling miserable.
"The Archon is the most powerful man in all of the Imperium, perhaps even all of Thedas, though the southern barbarians would never say so. He makes all the rules, all the laws in Tevinter. He's like a king. Why do you ask sweetling?"
"The other children said I could be Archon someday. Is that true?"
"Not for many, many years young Master Dorian. You will have to work very hard at your studies to have any hope of being the next Archon."
Dorian thought for a moment, his face serious. "Does the Archon have many friends?" To him, it seemed likely. To be the most powerful man in Tevinter had to mean you were also popular and liked, so he was surprised when Nanny started laughing.
He looked at her in shock and she sobered instantly on seeing his wide eyes and stunned expression. "I'm sure he has Master Dorian, but you don't need to worry about that now. Little boys who don't listen to their nanny's or clean up after themselves don't get to become Archon. Now finish your tea and go back to the party. Your parents will be looking for you."
Two years passed and Dorian was no less lonely than he'd been before. If he thought about it at all it just made him angry and it upset Nanny. He found a friend with one of his parent's slaves, not understanding how it was inappropriate and wrong. He kept it a secret despite that though since he also knew his parents didn't seem to approve of any children playing with their son.
Alesandr was afraid at first, but Dorian knew the other boy liked him so it was easy to bribe him to keep their time together secret. He'd bring him sweets and foods he knew the slaves were not permitted and quickly won him over.
It was hard pretending he didn't know Alesandr when he was with his parents or their guests while the blonde elf served drinks and tiny pastries. More difficult was sneaking out of the house to play in the garden or a room in the mansion where they wouldn't be discovered. But Dorian didn't care how hard it was for he was no longer lonely and he felt happy for the first time in his young life.
This went on for over a year before they were found out, and at first Dorian thought his punishment of being kept in his room had been worth it if that was the price he paid. That is until his father came to see him in his room, a disappointed and severe look on his face.
"I hope you are pleased with yourself Dorian." He said.
Dorian frowned up at him. "What do you mean father?"
"You are a Pavus. You cannot associate with those lesser than you. What were you thinking making friends with a slave of all things?"
"I wanted a friend. I was lonely. Please, I just want someone to talk to who isn't so much older than me. Why can't Alesandr be my friend? Please let him play with me. I promise I won't hide anymore."
Halward's face went red at that and it was several minutes before he answered. "I'm afraid that's impossible Dorian. Alesandr has been sold to another Magister."
Dorian looked at his father in shock. Surely his father was joking, Alaesandr couldn't be gone. "That's not funny." He croaked, his heart suddenly cold.
"Nothing about this is funny Dorian."
"You sold my friend?" He couldn't believe this was happening. He hadn't hurt anyone, hadn't broken anything or stolen anything. How was this fair?
"He was not your friend Dorian. He is a slave. You've brought shame to your family through your actions. If you desire to associate with people your age, I think it's time you were sent to a Circle."
Tears were falling unchecked down his cheeks as his father's words sunk in. Alesandr was gone. It was his fault but the one who'd taken him away stood before him and he was suddenly filled with outrage.
"I hate you! I hate you father! You had no right to take him away from me!" He shouted.
Halward glared back at him. "I have every right! I am your father and I will do what is right for you and House Pavus. You will learn your place Dorian, one way or another, you will learn." He said, turning on his heel and storming from the room.
"Never! I'll never do it!" He cried, burying his face in his pillow to stifle his sobs.
The following day he waited in his room for Nanny to bring him his breakfast and help him dress. But she didn't come and was surprised when an aging elven man entered his room.
"Come, Master Dorian. Time to dress and join your parents for breakfast."
"Who are you? Where's Nanny?"
"I am your new slave Master. I do not know any Nanny. Come now, your parents are waiting for you." He said, laying out a fresh set of clothes for him to wear. "I will help you."
Dorian felt a thread of fear worm it's way into his heart as he got off the bed and glared at the slave. "I don't want your help. I want Nanny. Go fetch her."
"I cannot." The slave replied. "My orders are to get you dressed and bring you to your parents."
"I can dress myself! You are not to touch me. Leave. You can wait outside my door. I will not dress while you're here."
"As you wish Master Dorian." He nodded, bowing as he stepped out of the room and closed the door.
With shaking hands, Dorian dressed, squashing the tears and fear which was threatening to undo him. Nanny must be sick. She wouldn't abandon him like this. Something bad must have happened. He emerged from his room and with his head held high, he followed the slave down the stairs to the dining hall.
"Dorian." His father smiled at him as the slave helped him into his chair. "It's good to finally have you share breakfast with us. You're becoming a fine young man."
Dorian narrowed his eyes at his father, ignoring the words falling from his father's lips. "Where's Nanny? Who's this strange elven slave you sent to fetch me?"
Halward glared at the slave who had retreated to the far side of the room. "Balen. Did you not tell my son who you are?"
Balen nodded, his hands shaking slightly. "I did Master. I told him I was his new slave."
Halward stared at his son. "What part of Balen's answer confuses you Dorian?"
"I don't want a slave." He retorted. "I want Nanny."
Dorian's mother tittered from her chair opposite her son. "Come now Dorian. You are much too old to need a nanny. She's gone."
Dorian froze, his heart in his throat. "What do you mean she's gone?"
"I sold her to a Magister who's wife just gave birth. You're too old for a nanny now. It's time you went to a Circle."
"You sold Nanny?" He echoed, tears brimming in his eyes. Who would take care of him now? Who would bring him his tea when he was sick? Who would read to him and comfort him when he had bad dreams?
"Come now Dorian. This display is beneath you. You're a Pavus. It's past time you started acting like one."
"I hate you both." He whispered, his voice cold. "You sold my friend, you sold Nanny. I will never forgive you for this." He said, pushing away from the table and running from the room.
Halward glared at his wife who sat unmoving, sipping her brandy. "I told you it was a mistake. The boy is not ready. Especially so soon after getting rid of the slave."
"He is old enough Halward. He's an Altus. It's time he learned what that means."
"You has no right to sell his Nanny without consulting with me first."
"I have every right! I am his mother."
Halward snorted. "You stopped being his mother when he turned six. The only thing that interests you now is what's in that glass you're holding."
Aquinea sneered at him. "Don't pretend you're better than me Halward. You've never shown an interest in him beyond what he could become. The boy doesn't even know you. Holding yourself back, so afraid he will not reach the glorified status you boast about to your peers. Your affection hinges on his successes so don't you dare look down your nose at me."
"How dare you."
"Oh please Halward. Save your outrage for someone who's impressed by it. You're boring me."
"And you're a bitch." He sneered, shoving away from the table.
Aquinea's laugh was like ice. "Better that than a grasping pretender. Do go away now Halward, I tire of looking at you."
When he was fifteen, Dorian was sent to Minrathous to attend the Circle of Magi, a most prestigious school, reserved for only the most talented, most gifted mages in all of Tevinter. Which for Dorian only meant he hated it.
His instructors were lazy, spoiled old men who looked at him as though he were a simpleton. No more impressive than a bug on their shoe or an unrepentant slave who refused to learn his place. He sneered at them, passed their every test, outshone their most talented instructor and still they treated him as if he were nothing more than a passing annoyance.
His peers weren't any better. If they didn't outright ignore him, they made fun of him, whispered behind his back, called him names or took perverse pleasure in messing with his things. He could never prove anything though and reporting the incidents only made the pranks and name calling worse. So he said nothing, burying himself in his studies or hiding away somewhere to read where no one could bother him.
After a year of this, he couldn't take it any more and snuck out of the Circle, desperate to talk to someone who didn't know him. Someone who wouldn't treat him with disdain or derision, someone who wasn't some child of a Magister who either feared or hated him for who he was.
Which was how he came to be lost in a forest just outside the city, kicking a tree while he screamed his outrage at the unfairness of it all. "Do better Dorian. Don't talk like that Dorian! You're better than that Dorian! Try harder Dorian! A Pavus does not give up Dorian!" He cried, now hitting the tree with his fists and bloodying his knuckles. "I don't want to be better! I don't want to be a Pavus! I hate the Circle! I hate keeping my thoughts quiet! I hate being alone!"
A snicker from behind him froze his words in his throat and he spun around, heart pounding to face the one who'd dared laugh at him. An elf stood there, his back pressed against a tree, his emerald eyes still twinkling with amusement as he regarded him through ebony locks.
"Who do you think you are sneaking up on me like that?" He demanded, projecting as much authority as he could into his words.
"My apologies young Master. I was merely curious as to what was making that tree shake by itself as there is no wind today. I did not mean to disturb you. Forgive me."
Dorian glared at the elf who was not looking at the ground as was appropriate for a servant. Instead, he seemed to be assessing him. But by the way the elf was looking at him, he liked what he saw and Dorian found he didn't care to correct him for his insolence. "I asked you who you were elf, not what you were doing." He growled, letting the elf continue to stare.
"My name is Leto my Lord." He said, giving a slight bow while not dropping his eyes. "And who are you to have wandered onto my Master's property unannounced?"
Kaffas. Dorian swore. So he was a slave then. He'd hoped by the elf's defiant behaviour he might be a servant. But no, of course he was a slave, but that just made him curious. Why would a slave dare to meet his eyes or laugh at him? The defiance and amusement he saw in those stunning eyes was unmistakable and he was intrigued by it.
"I am Dorian Pavus of House Pavus. I was taking a walk and got turned around. Who is your master?"
"Master Danarius owns these woods."
Dorian paled but gave no other indication he knew anything about the man. "I see. Well I would not wish to disturb him."
Leto smiled at him. "You seemed very intent on damaging that tree." He said, nodding his head at it. "If you were serious about it, an axe would be more suitable."
Dorian narrowed his eyes. "Are you sassing me?"
"I would not dare to sass you my Lord."
"Are you a slave Leto? You don't act like one."
Leto's eyes grew cold and hard. "What else would I be?"
"I didn't mean to offend you. I meant it as a compliment. I thought perhaps you might be a servant is all."
"Elves are rarely kept as servants my Lord." Leto replied, his voice cold, making Dorian wince at the word kept.
"My parents have elven slaves." He said, rather than acknowledge his discomfort. "I apologize if I've offended."
"You have not."
It was Dorian's turn to frown at the elf. "My mistake then. May I ask what you're doing out here?"
"Taking a walk."
Dorian smiled. "Then we have something in common. I have some chocolate. Would you like to share it with me?"
Leto tensed. "I cannot. Slaves are not permitted..."
Dorian waved his hand at him with a scowl. "Forget all that. Let's just pretend you're not a slave and I'm not an Altus for a while. We're just two people out for a walk, sharing a treat. Come now, I'm not going to tell on you and I would rather your Master not know I was ever here."
Leto's eyebrows shot up. "Are you bribing me?"
"Of course not. I just don't have anyone else I care to share this with. Consider it to be doing me a favour."
Leto stared at him, but said no more as he joined him on the forest floor. "I cannot keep your secret if my Master asks me."
Dorian nodded, a pained look on his face. "I know that. Didn't I already say we were pretending now? I don't expect you to lie for me. My problems are not yours to carry. Now stop talking and eat."
Leto took the offered candy, letting it melt on his tongue, his eyes closing in pleasure at the taste of the sweet treat. "Thank you." He said quietly.
"Mmm." Dorian murmured, lost in thought.
After that day, Dorian continued to take unscheduled walks in the forest. Sometimes Leto was there waiting for him, other times he didn't show at all. Neither acknowledged what they were doing, falling back on Dorian's suggestion to pretend. They passed that entire winter in the same manner, spending their time talking about nothing of consequence, doing what they could to pretend neither had futures they had no control over.
Three years passed in the same way. The only time they separated was when the season grew too hot and their households retreated to the countryside. But that spring everything changed.
"It's an opportunity Dorian, a chance for my family to be free!" Leto was arguing with him, his face red with anger and frustration.
"It's also dangerous." Dorian argued back. "You could be injured or killed and gain nothing."
"You think I can't win?" Leto growled. "I'm the best warrior the provings have ever seen! I win all the time!"
"But this is different Leto!"
The elf scowled at him. "Easy for you to say! You're a mage, an Altus! You'll never know what it's like to be a slave! You can have anything you want! This is my only chance to be something more than a slave!"
Dorian flinched. In the past three years, neither he nor Leto had ever brought up their differences in conversation or in anger. "How can you say that to me? You know I can't have anything I want!"
Leto sneered at him. "You have a house, fine clothes, good food and powerful magic Dorian. You will never want for anything! I will always be a slave! Always have a master! You will never understand."
"That's not true." Dorian replied quietly.
"I'm entering the provings Dorian. I'm going to win and I'm going to free my mother and sister with the boon my Master has promised."
"Please don't do this Leto. Danarius cannot be trusted. I've heard awful things about him. Even my father doesn't like him."
Leto snorted. "Your father? You don't even like your father. Why should I care what he thinks?"
"Because he told me the ritual he's planning for the winner is very dangerous. It could kill you Leto! I don't want to lose you."
"Lose me? You never had me! And so what if I die? My family would be free and death is better than living as a slave the rest of my life!"
Dorian was struck speechless by Leto's words as a sharp pain lanced his heart. Tears brimmed in his eyes as he turned away from the elf, embarrassed and hurt by what Leto had just said.
"I... I see." He murmured, struggling to maintain his cool. "My mistake then, I should go. The school will be wondering where I've gone." He said, forcing his feet to move away from the only true friend he'd ever known.
He got twenty feet before he heard footsteps approaching from behind and walked faster. "Dorian wait!"
But he ignored him and kept going. His tears were flowing freely now and he didn't want Leto seeing him so distraught. A hand clamped on his arm, forcing him to stop as Leto came abreast to face him. He kept his eyes downcast, refusing to look up when Leto put a hand to his cheek.
"I'm sorry Dorian. I... I didn't mean that."
Dorian glared at him through his tears, daring the elf to mock him for his weakness. "You sounded pretty convincing to me." He retorted.
"I..." Leto stammered, but he was looking at him as though seeing him for the first time. Dorian's heart thumped in his chest. His palms were suddenly slick with sweat as Leto closed the distance between them and with no other warning, kissed him.
He was so surprised by what Leto was doing, several seconds passed before he noticed he was enjoying it and had started kissing him back. Breathless, Leto pulled away, his hand still on Dorain's cheek as he looked at him in wonder. "I'm sorry. I don't know why I did that."
"I don't know why either." He stammered. "But I liked it."
Leto smiled and kissed him again, this time releasing him when he stopped. "Please don't be mad at me Dorian. I have to enter the provings, I don't have a choice."
"I'm not mad Leto." Dorian sighed, drying his tears on his sleeve. "I'm scared for you. Your Master... he's not a nice man."
"I know that but if I win, my family will be free."
"But what of you? The ritual is dangerous Leto."
"I know, but I have to try. Please understand."
Dorian nodded though his eyes were sad. "I understand, I just wish things were different."
"As do I." Leto sighed. "But they aren't different and I need to do this."
"I know but that doesn't mean I have to like it and don't take this the wrong way, but I hope you don't win. I... I would like to be able to... kiss you again."
Leto smiled. "Then give me a kiss to keep me from winning then."
Dorian frowned. "That's not how it works. Kisses are for luck."
"If you kiss me, the luck is yours. Maybe you'll get your wish."
"Or you will."
"I'm entering the provings Dorian, kiss or no kiss."
Dorian stepped closer and pulled the elf to him. "Then I'll kiss you to survive Leto, but not to win." He said, pressing his lips to the elf's and ignoring the fear which gripped his heart. He pulled away, fascinated by the sight of Leto's lips, now red from his kiss. He'd never before seen anything so beautiful.
"Be careful Leto." He said, meeting the elf's eyes.
"Trust me Dorian. Everything will work out, you'll see."
Dorian nodded and moved away. It was time to go before someone noticed their absence. "I hope you're right Leto."
Leto smiled and turned to go. "You just wait. I'll win and free my family and I'll become more than just a slave, I'll be a true warrior and a bodyguard. I'll be fine."
The provings came, but Dorian refused to attend the games. He couldn't bear to watch Leto be hurt, nor could he stomach the thought that his friend might win and what that would mean for Leto's future. His father told him all about it the next day, impressed by the elf who'd survived every round and come out the other side as the winner.
Dorian's smile was difficult to maintain, his eyes tight with fear and worry. He went to their meeting place the following day, but Leto never showed. He tried again every day for a week, but there was no sign of him. Worry consumed him until his father came home one night, two weeks after the provings, a pained expression on his face.
"Is something wrong father?" He asked. He and his parents had established a mutual peace, but true to his word, Dorian had never forgiven them for selling Alesandr and Nanny when he was still a child.
"Master Danarius has succeeded." Halward said, not meeting his son's eyes.
"Suceeded in what?" He asked, feeling his blood go cold.
"His experiment with putting lyrium under someone's skin. The slave survived the ritual."
Halward frowned at him. "How can you not have heard Dorian? The winner from the provings obviously. That was his reward for his boon. Really Dorian, you need to pay more attention to these things. One day you will be head of your own household. You will have to know which Magister holds power if you ever hope to have a seat in the Magisterium."
Dorian swallowed past a throat gone dry and pasted a false smile on his face. "Yes, of course father. You're right. If you'll excuse me, I have some research to do."
"Of course Dorian. Run along then."
Dorian fled, forcing himself not to run as he hurried to his room. Tears were flowing freely down his cheeks as he locked the door behind him. He dived into his bed, stuffing a fist in his mouth to stop the sobs which threatened to pour from his throat. No, no, no! Not Leto, not his friend! No! He'd known there was a ritual attached to the winning of the provings, but not that.
Lyrium under the skin? The pain of such a thing would be unimaginable, unbearable. That Leto had survived was a miracle but he doubted the elf's mind had been as strong as his body. If it had, would he remember him? Would he know who he was? That they were friends?
He hated this. Hated everything about his country in that moment that made things like this acceptable. He couldn't even ask about Leto, he wasn't supposed to know anything about him, and it hurt so much that he was powerless to do anything about it.
Months passed and despite knowing his friend had been irrevocably changed, he refused to give up. Every week, he returned to the forest, hoping to catch sight of Leto and assure himself his friend was okay.
Four months passed, then six and he was beginning to lose hope of ever seeing him again when a white haired elf dressed in armour stepped into the clearing. His smile faltered at the cold look in the warrior's eyes, his heart stopping when he met the elf's eyes and recognized his friend.
"Who are you and what are you doing on my Master's property?" He demanded, his hand reaching for a massive broadsword on his back.
"I'm... I'm just going for a walk. Leto? Its me, Dorian. Don't you recognize me?"
Leto snarled, his face pulling into a threatening glare. "I do not know you or this Leto you speak of. State your business here before I kill you."
"I'm Dorian. My name is Dorian. We're friends Leto."
"I'm a slave. I have no friends and my name is not Leto. It's Fenris."
"Fenris." Dorian echoed, his voice hollow.
"It's time you left Dorian." Fenris sneered. "You have no business here. If I see you on this property again I won't hesitate to kill you."
Dorian paled, his lip trembling as he fought back the tears which threatened to fall. "I'm sorry, I... I guess I made a mistake. It won't happen again."
"See that it doesn't." Fenris growled, sheathing his sword and glaring at him.
"It won't." Dorian murmured, stumbling away from the clearing and back to his father's house. "I'm so sorry Leto." He cried under his breath as his feet carried him away from his friend. "I'm so sorry I couldn't help you."
Years paased, but Dorian had not forgotten Leto or the friendship they'd shared or their kisses. But his anger and resentment of how things were done in Tevinter had grown stronger. He still had few if any friends and his attitude had gotten him kicked out of more Circles than his parents could ignore.
He'd heard of Fenris' escape from Danarius and how he'd killed both the Magister and his apprentice, but for him Leto was gone. Had died all those years ago when he'd won the provings and lost his memories in the lyrium ritual. Fenris didn't know him, didn't remember him and if he believed the rumours, hated everything to do with mages and magic equally.
He didn't blame Fenris for that nor did he wish otherwise, but there were times when his heart ached to see his friend. Even if only to see his face and hear his voice again. He didn't care that Fenris wasn't Leto, he just missed him as the only true friend he'd ever known.
"Dorian!" His father barked. "Have you heard anything I've said?"
"Why?" He snarked. "Is it any different from what you've said a hundred times before?"
"You arrogant, selfish, spoiled little shit! You have been expelled from every Circle in Tevinter! There are none left who will even take you because of your deplorable lack of respect for your instructors and the way things are done. There is nowhere left to send you!"
"Is my company so unbearable you can't stand to have me around? Is that it father? Or am I just too much of an inconvenience for you?"
"This is not about me! This is about your future!"
"Ah yes, my future. The most boring subject you could possibly choose to discuss with me. Pardon me if I don't share your enthusiasm. You'll have to excuse me, I have somewhere more pleasant to be. Don't wait up." He said, slipping out the front door of his father's house and storming down the street to the sound of his father's angry shouts to stop.
Four days later he was still drinking when a Magister slipped into the chair beside him and regarded him with an amused frown.
Dorian snorted and ignored his stare. "Go away. I don't care what my father wants and I don't care what you want."
"Perhaps I don't want anything. Maybe I only fancied a drink."
"Everyone wants something but no one ever seems to get what they want. Do you ever wonder why that is?"
"And what is it that you want Dorian?"
"Money, power, status."
The Magister laughed. "If that were true you wouldn't be sitting here."
"Why do you care?" Dorian grumbled, taking another swallow of brandy.
"You're a very talented and smart young man Dorian. I'm looking for an apprentice to help me in my work. I thought you might be interested in assisting me with my research."
"What kind of research?"
Dorian arched a brow at him. "Time manipulation. What's your specialization?"
Dorian smiled. "Not a popular talent to have."
"Which is why I thought you might be interested."
"And if I am?"
"Then you become my apprentice and we help each other. You must admit it's a good offer. I'm told you enjoy research and the type of work you'd be doing."
"Is there a catch to this lucrative offer?"
"Only that you use discretion in your personal affairs."
"You have no objections to my... preferences?"
"No. Just discretion Dorian. I won't ask you to change."
"Good because I have no intention of ever changing. Not for you and not for my father."
"Does that mean you accept my offer?"
"Perhaps I should have your name first."
"Magister Gereon Alexius."
Dorian nodded and knocked back the last of his drink. "Very well Alexius. Consider myself officially apprenticed to you. Shall we go?"
"Welcome to House Alexius Master Dorian." Gereon said, taking his hand and shaking it firmly. "I look forward to working with you."
Four years later, Dorian left Minrathous. Fleeing his home, his mentor and the only life he'd ever known. For once he wasn't surprised by the turn his life had taken.
If there had ever been a constant he was intimately familiar with, it was betrayal and loss. From the moment his parents sold Alesandr and Nanny, loss had become his constant. Loss of home and comfort, loss of trust when his parents sent him away. Betrayal when his peers and instructors treated him as a threat or a joke, when other children mocked and teased him for being an Altus.
Loss and betrayal when Leto forgot him, choosing to risk in a deadly competition. And finally the loss of his mentor when he'd refused to join a Tevinter cult, and the betrayal of his father for trying to change him.
He was more alone now than he'd ever been and found he didn't much care anymore what happened. Happiness had always been an elusive thing in his life and he no longer held the innocent belief that things would someday get better. He laughed at that as he guided his horse south toward the coast of the Free Marches. Get better. When would anything ever be better? The south was in turmoil over the death of their Divine. A giant green hole had been torn into the sky and his former mentor had joined a cult with the intent of ripping holes in the fabric of time.
The idea that anything would ever be better was ludicrous but he could stop Alexius, he knew that much. As long as that remained true, he had a goal and for all that he'd lost, a goal was all he needed to keep going. Without it, there wasn't anything else to get him out of bed every morning. With that thought, he spurred his horse to move faster, trying to put distance between all he'd lost and all he'd never get back.
Joining the Inquisition had never been part of his plans after he'd fled Tevinter. Yet once he'd helped the Herald stop Alexius, he'd also lost the only goal he'd set for himself. The giant hole in the sky was real and dangerous and he'd found himself agreeing to stay and help close it.
When the breach was sealed and everyone was celebrating he'd been caught up with the others in fleeing to safety from an army of Red Templars. Led by a supposed darkspawn Magister, he'd stayed, intent on discovering the truth behind Corypheus and the dragon who looked like an archdemon. When Hawke showed up, he couldn't help but stare in wonder at the woman who had befriended Fenris when he'd fled to Kirkwall. He was fascinated by her and the energy which surrounded her and was not surprised Fenris had stayed at her side as long as he had.
That he was not with her now surprised him but Varric was chatty one evening, telling him that the elf was busy hunting slavers in the Free Marches. He nodded at that and deflected the dwarf's curious stare when he asked what his interest was.
"Just insatiable curiosity Varric. I have read your book and it never said where any of Hawke's friends ended up after the Chantry incident."
"Well Broody does love killing slavers. I don't know where he is now, but you can usually follow the trail of bodies."
Dorian made a face and excused himself from the dwarf's table. "What a marvellous visual that makes."
"You asked Sparkler."
"So I did and now I must leave you. Research awaits."
"Have fun with that."
The unexpected trip through the Fade did nothing to calm his worry for the future or the fate of everyone in Thedas. If news of this event reached his countrymen, he had no doubt some fool would try to repeat it. He stayed in the library, consumed by his research into Corypheus, the Fade and anything else he could find to distract him from all the things he couldn't change.
Hawke had left for Weishaupt after the seige at Adamant Fortress so he was surprised when Varric said she was coming back. The Wardens of Ferelden were a lost cause as far as he could tell, and those in the Anderfells had shown no concern for either Corypheus or their southern brethren. He was in the Herald's Rest with Hawke and Varric sharing a drink and talking about the Wardens.
"So they weren't interested in what's happening down here?" Varric asked over the mug of ale he held.
Hawke snorted. "You know how they are Varric. So paranoid and distrustful of outsiders, they very nearly refused to let me past the gates to even tell them anything."
"Isn't that a bit odd? Were they not affected by Corypheus' calling?" Dorian asked.
Hawke shrugged. "I have no idea. They wouldn't tell me anything other than they had their own problems."
"What problems?" Varric grumbled. "You'd think they'd be concerned about a dead Magister they kept locked in a Warden prison."
"Well they weren't. It's why I came back. At least here I can do some good since they didn't want me around."
"Well I'm glad you're back." Varric smiled. "Things just aren't the same without you around."
"Hawke?" A voice rang out and the sound of that deep, sensual timbre froze Dorian in his chair.
"Fenris!" Hawke cried, jumping to her feet to greet the elf who was approaching their table from behind him.
"Broody!" Varric beamed as Fenris moved closer. "Glad to see you're still breathing after all the killing I hear you've been doing."
"What are you doing here Fenris?" He heard Hawke ask, while Dorian kept his eyes locked on his mug of ale, tremors of tension radiating down his arms.
"I ran into some Red Templars and almost didn't make it out. Thought it might be better if I had some backup."
"Hah! Broody's growing up Hawke. Can you believe it?"
"I can actually." Hawe smiled, sliding a chair out for Fenris.
"Oh, Broody." Varric said as Fenris sank into the chair offered. "Let me introduce my friend here. Dorian, meet Fenris, Fenris, this is Dorian. He's a mage but don't let that fool you. He's a good man."
He felt Fenris turn his stunning green eyes his way as he turned to meet his gaze. The elf's smile slipped as their eyes locked, his hand tensing on the table.
"I... I remember you." He breathed and suddenly Hawke was pressing a blade to his throat as he shot to his feet, catching her hand in a freeze spell as he backed away from the table.
Dorian blinked, an icy cage around his heart as the three friends stared at him as if he'd suddenly become a demon. "I don't doubt it." He said, the calm in his voice surprising him. "You did threaten to kill me last time we met."
"What are you talking about Sparkler?"
"What do you mean you remember him?" Hawke demanded.
"Sorry Varric, but not this time. Excuse me." He said fleeing out the door and back to the keep and his room.
He kept it together only long enough to close and lock the door behind him before sinking to the floor, sobs wracking his body. It had to be a cruel joke. Fenris didn't know him, had never known him. Only Leto had known him and Leto was long gone, lost to the lyrium ritial and his own memories. He was still on the floor when a knock came at his door and Varric called to him.
"Sparkler? Are you in there?"
"Go away Varric."
"Come on Sparker. Hawke didn't mean to do what she did and she's not mad at you for defending yourself. She was just surprised. We all were."
Dorian said nothing, hoping his silence would make the dwarf leave.
"Dorian? You have to understand. The last time Broody said those words to someone it... well, it didn't end well."
"I'm sure it's a fascinating story Varric. Unfortunately, I'm not interested. Please just go away."
"Dammit Sparkler, don't be so stubborn. Come on out of there and I'll buy you a drink and we can talk."
"Thank you, but not this time. I'd rather not discuss this. Ever."
"Bloody Vints...." He heard Varric mutter as he left. "Gotta be something in the water, stubbornness seems like a common symptom of the place."
Dorian let out the breath he'd been holding and crossed to the shelf where he kept a full bottle of wine. Forgoing a glass, he settled before the hearth and drank deep, willing the drink to numb his mind and his heart.
He wasn't going to fall for it this time. The offer of peace, of friendship, an olive branch or any number of things Varric might want to discuss was all lies. How many times had he trusted and been betrayed? How many times had he cared only to have people leave him?
No more. Not ever again. He didn't care if that meant he would be alone forever or never feel close to another again. As far as he was concerned there was nothing anyone could say that would be worth the price he'd be expected to pay when it all fell apart. He drank until the wine ran out, the bottle slipping from numb fingers to smash into pieces on the floor as he passed out in his chair.
Three days after the incident in the tavern, he ventured out and headed for his private spot in the library before the sun had risen. Lighting candles, he took up the books he'd been doing his research with and lost himself in his work. It was the middle of the afternoon when Varric appeared at the top of the stairs, a worried look in his eyes.
"Good to see you back at work Sparkler." He said, stepping into Dorian's alcove.
Dorian put down the book he was taking notes on and glared at the dwarf. "What do you want Varric?"
"Nothing, nothing. Just wanted to say hi, see how you're doing."
"I'm busy working."
"I can see that." Varric said, shifting his weight from one foot to another. "Look Dorian, I know what you said but Broody would really like to talk to you."
"I don't get it Sparkler. This isn't like you. Fenris doesn't want to hurt you, he just has some questions for you."
"I have nothing to say to Fenris. I don't know him and he doesn't know me. Leave me alone Varric, I'm not going to ask again."
Varric's eyebrows shot up and his eyes went wide. "Shit Dorian. Are you saying you knew him... before?"
"Clearly you don't understand no." He said, getting to his feet and storming from the room.
Varric hadn't come back after that and Dorian made a point of avoiding the grand hall as much as possible when he knew the dwarf was there. He'd started taking his meals at odd hours or in the privacy of his own quarters to avoid running into Hawke and Varric. Despite the change in his habits and behaviour, no one other than Varric seemed to notice.
It was a month after the incident with Varric in the library when he found himself walking the ramparts unable to sleep. He gazed out at the dark landscape, lost in thought when he heard someone approaching. He tensed, a spell ready on his lips when the elf's voice broke the silence.
"You're a very stubborn mage." Fenris said at his back. "You can stop readying a spell, I'm not here to hurt you."
Dorian snorted, his disbelief in that statement evident in his tone as he turned to glare at the elf. "Everyone says that and next thing you know you're trying to get the knife out of your back."
Fenris frowned at him. "I do not make statements lightly mage."
"I don't care. What do you want Fenris?"
"I want to know why I recognize you. How do you know me?"
"I don't know you."
Fenris scowled at him and stepped closer making Dorian's pulse jump. "You're lying."
"I'm not. I don't know you Fenris. We met once a very long time ago when you threatened me with death in your Master's forest."
The elf blinked as the memory returned but his frown remained. "No. That's not it. I remember that day before. You were upset and you... you called me Leto."
"You're wrong. I said no such thing."
Fenris growled and took another step closer. "Why are you lying to me?"
"I'm not." Dorian protested, but his heart was thudding wildly in his chest at the elf's proximity and he was afraid Fenris might touch him.
"You are..." Fenris continued, his eyes going wide as he stared at him. "Dorian? I... I kissed you. You... kissed me back, but not for luck. You... kissed me so I would survive." He breathed, his face filling with wonder.
Tears sprang to Dorian's eyes then. He couldn't help it. The elf's words and the look on his face brought everything he'd felt that day crashing over him in a pressing weight of despair and loss. "Yes, thank you for the pleasant reminder of that day. Happy to see you've got that memory back. If you'll excuse me?" He said, shoving past the warrior who was still watching him with a look of shock on his face.
But Fenris recovered faster than he expected, his hand reaching out to stop him and hold him in place. "Dorian stop. Why are you doing this? Why won't you talk to me?"
"Because I'm no longer the fool I was back then. Life is loss and betrayal Fenris. You of all people should know that by now." He snarled, jerking his arm from the warrior's grasp.
"Venhedis Dorian. What happened to you?"
Dorian laughed, his voice cold. "Don't pretend you care. You don't even remember me. Leave me alone."
"I want to remember you Dorian. You don't know what it's like not to remember your past."
"I would gladly trade my memories to forget my past. Don't go looking for things that will only hurt you Fenris. It's not worth it." He snarled, stalking away from the elf on trembling legs.
"Dorian wait!" Fenris called and it was so like that terrible day in the forest that he broke into a run. Off the ramparts and down the stairs to the courtyard where he came back to himself as he was saddling a horse.
Twenty minutes later he was outside Skyhold, the mare he'd taken galloping as fast as she could over the snow packed ground. His heart was pounding and a part of him knew what he was doing was stupid and reckless but he'd gone past the point of caring.
He couldn't do this anymore. He couldn't pretend he didn't care but neither could he risk trusting again. He wouldn't survive another betrayal, another loss. He was barely functional as it was. His heart couldn't handle another disappointment and he was terrified his lonliness would blind him to the dangers of trusting.
After another half hour of hard riding, the mare slowed to a walk and he let her have her head as he watched the roadside for a place to shelter for the night. He wasn't tired or in need of rest, but he didn't want his recklessness to harm the horse.
Another ten minutes of walking and he spotted a small cave and guided the horse to the opening. After using magic to melt some snow for her and warming the ground nearby so she could graze, he entered the cave to check it out.
Less than an hour later he had a small fire going and had used magic to heat the stone walls to dispel the chill in the rock. He searched the saddlebags on the mare once she finished grazing and was pleased to find both a full canteen and a small pouch of dried meats and fruit.
He sat staring into the fire, lost in memory as he chewed the food. He had no thought on what to do next or where to go. His flight from Skyhold could not be easily explained. He wasn't even certain he cared to return, never mind explain anything.
His cheeks were wet from tears he didn't know were falling from his eyes. His chest was tight and he was having trouble swallowing past the lump in his throat. Rousing himself he went back to the horse, retrieving the bedroll and returning to the cave. After warding the area around the cave and the horse, he curled up in the bedroll and fell into a restless sleep.
It was still dark when he heard the horse whinny and he sat up, alert to the sound of predators. Standing at the mouth of the cave he saw nothing though and the horse was calm, flicking her ears back and forth but otherwise fine. With a sigh he returned to his bedroll and sat down. He was about to heat some water for tea when he heard someone approaching.
His eyes went wide with shock when Fenris stepped inside the cave. For a moment he thought he was imagining things since none of his wards had activated.
The elf frowned at him. "You can stop looking confused. I bypassed your wards. I didn't activate them."
"That's impossible." He retorted getting to his feet.
"No it isn't. Not for me."
Dorian frowned, a horrible thought in his mind as he realized what the elf was implying. Venhedis, of course, the markings. Another painful reminder of what he'd lost and what Leto had sacrificed and suffered. "What are you doing here Fenris? I have nothing to say to you."
Fenris growled and moved closer. "First of all, stop saying that. It is a lie. Second, you can stop running from me. I'm not letting you out of my sight again until you talk to me."
"What could you possibly want from me now? You remembered me, congratulations. What more do you want?"
"What was I to you Dorian?"
Dorian scowled, his eyes angry. "What does it matter? It was a long time ago. You made your choice and you paid for it with your memories. Whatever you were to me, that person doesn't exist anymore."
"Dorian look at me." Fenris said as he closed the distance between them. "I exist still. I may look different now and I may not remember everything, but I remember you. What was I to you?"
"I can't do this." Dorian stammered. "I won't."
"Can't do what? Talk to me mage. Please."
"Venhedis." Fenris swore as he reached for him and pulled him into an embrace, the warrior's arms crushing him to his chest so tight that Dorian couldn't free himself.
Fenris gasped, his eyes widening in shock as he stared into the mage's eyes, a flurry of emotions reflected there. His hold on him tightened while Dorian fought not to relax, but the look of recognition in the elf's eyes tore a cry of pain from him he couldn't suppress.
Fenris' eyes brimmed with tears as he relaxed his hold and without warning, like he'd done all those years ago, he kissed him. Dorian whimpered, still struggling as he fought both the elf and his reaction, his desire to have the elf back in his arms overiding his fear.
"No." He whispered, his tears flowing freely now. "No... no, this isn't real. This is a lie."
Fenris ended the kiss, but he didn't let go. "It's real Dorian. It's not a lie. I remember that day when you tried to talk me out of that competition."
"Lot of good it did."
Fenris sighed and brushed the tears from his cheek. "I'm sorry about that Dorian. I never meant to hurt you. I only wanted something better for my life."
Dorian renewed his struggles and this time Fenris let him go. "I warned you about looking for your memories." He snapped. "You're not going to find anything you want to know Fenris. Stop this before it's too late."
The elf's smile was sad. "It's already too late. I remember that day and why we argued, what I said to you."
"Good. Fine. Excellent. Can you leave now?"
Fenris sighed and sat down. "No. I want to know why you're so angry. Why are with the Inquisition? What happened to make you leave Tevinter?"
"A lot of terrible things happened. I was betrayed and abandoned more times than I care to remember and I don't want to discuss it with you or anyone. I don't need to hear a repeat of your mockery of how privileged I was."
"Dammit Dorian. Stop, just stop. I won't hurt you, not ever again."
Fenris glared at him until Dorian sighed heavily and sank to the floor, not meeting the elf's eyes. "Fine. You want all the gory details? I'll give you the gory details and then you can leave and never bother me again."
Dorian talked, telling his story with as little emotion as possible. When he finished, he dug in his robe and pulled out the flask he carried and drank half of it before putting back. The warrior was silent a long time and then he got to his feet, moved to Dorian's side and pulled him into his arms, saying nothing.
Dorian resisted at first but when Fenris didn't let go or speak, he began to relax. After a while, his tears were falling again and still the elf said nothing. They remained like that a long time while Dorian let go of all the pain he'd carried since losing his first friend and the only mother he'd ever known.
Eventually he wore himself out and woke some time later, his head resting on Fenris' chest, the elf's arms holding him while he slept. He tensed and Fenris shifted to let him sit up but didn't let go.
"Why are you doing this?" Dorian asked quietly.
Fenris shifted again so they were facing each other, but still kept hold of him. "I've lost so much Dorian. Then I saw you and I remembered you. I have so little now I needed to know who you were to me and now I know."
Dorian frowned. "And what was I to you Fenris?"
Fenris put his hand to the mage's cheek. "You were my best friend Dorian. I cared for you more than I ever said. I didn't understand what you were to me then, but I do now."
Dorian waited, his breath held.
"I love you Dorian. I didn't know that until I kissed you that day. I thought if I won the provings I'd be more worthy of you. I didn't know I would forget you. I never wanted or expected that to happen."
"You love me? How? Why?"
Fenris looked away to stare into the fire. "After the ritual I had nothing. I lost my name, my past and all my memories. The pain was all I knew for a long time and then I saw you in my mind. I didn't know what it meant or who you were or even your name. All I had was a feeling of peace, of safety. Whenever things got bad, I'd see you in my mind and know somewhere out there, someone cared for me. When I saw you in the tavern, I thought I was looking at a ghost."
"You thought winning would make me care for you?"
Fenris snorted. "I didn't realise you already cared Dorian. I'd convinced myself you only came to see me because you were desperate."
"But I wasn't... I..."
Fenris smiled and put a hand over his, threading their fingers together. "I know mage. But I need to know. Do you still care for me or is that over now?"
Dorian blinked. Was any of this real? Was he really sitting in a cave, held in the arms of the best friend he'd ever had? "I... don't even know if you're really sitting here or if this is all just a dream."
"Then answer as if it is a dream Dorian. What am I to you now?"
"Fenris I... you..." Dorian stammered, unable to form the words he wanted to say. "You were my best friend. I never forgot about you, but that day in the forest when you didn't know me.... you, you broke my heart."
Tears were falling unchecked down the elf's cheeks, certain now that what he'd had with the mage was lost forever. He dropped his hands and backed away, overcome with such a profound sense of loss that he almost couldn't speak. "I understand. I'm sorry Dorian. I... venhedis... I was a fool."
Dorian huffed a breath and followed him. "I said you broke my heart Fenris. I never said what I feel now."
The warrior met his eyes then, his confusion obvious as Dorian carresed his jaw. "I love you Fenris. I knew you as Leto, but I know of your bravery and courage as Fenris and I love both equally. I am not as trusting now as I once was and I can't promise I won't have doubts, but I love you and that has never changed or gone away."
"You love me?" Fenris' eyes were filled with wonder and hope and in that moment, Dorian believed it was real.
Dorian smiled. "You say that with as much surprise as I did."
"I am surprised. I never thought to see you again. I didn't know your name and I never expected to see you in Skyhold."
"I never expected you in Skyhold either."
Fenris smiled again, and then there were no more words as he surged forward, capturing Dorian's lips in a gentle kiss.
Hands and fingers fumbled at buckles and fasteners as each of them removed the other's tunic. A low growl sounded from the warrior's throat as he pushed Dorian down to the bedroll to lean over him, his lips and tongue still ravishing Dorian's mouth and overwhelming his senses.
Both gasping, Fenris pulled away to stare into the mage's eyes before lowering himself to trail kisses across Dorian's collarbone and down his abdomen. Dorian arched his back into Fenris' touch, a breathy moan escaping his lips as the elf's mouth teased a wet trail at the band of cloth still covering the lower half of his body.
Fenris broke contact then and Dorian watched in rapt attention as the warrior stripped off the rest of his clothes. Dorian blinked at the full sight of Fenris' markings and tears fell down his cheeks. The elf's eyes softened in a look of pure tenderness, knowing instinctively what troubled the mage beneath him.
He held himself above the mage as he leaned down to kiss away Dorian's tears. "Your markings." Dorian whispered, his voice raw. "The pain of them..."
"Is gone mage." He whispered back, reassuring Dorian with a tender kiss.
"You're beautiful Fenris." Dorian sighed.
Fenris hummed his approval, settling between the mage's legs as he removed Dorian's breeches, laying him bare before him. The warrior gazed in awe at the sight of the man beneath him and his breath caught. "You're gorgeous Dorian." He whispered back, capturing his lips in another kiss as the mage trailed his hands over his shoulders and down his arms drawing a delicious shiver from the warrior.
Fenris began again, kissing his way down the mage's body, revelling in the sounds of pleasure he drew from him. Dorian arched his back again, a gasp of surprise escaping him as Fenris placed a kiss to the tip of Dorian's erection.
Fenris smiled up at the mage who was watching him with eyes gone dark with lust, holding his gaze as he took Dorian into his mouth and sucked gently at the head. Dorian gasped, arching his back and fighting his body to keep from thrusting into that hot, wet heat.
Fenris felt his cock jump at the sight, his erection throbbing as he continued his downward descent, taking the mage's length deep in his throat. Dorian moaned and carded his fingers through the elf's hair, seeking to ground himself to keep from coming apart.
"Fenris... Maker please..."
The elf smiled as he continued to lick and suck at the mage's shaft until Dorian pulled him off and up to press a desperate kiss to his lips. He bucked up into the elf's abdomen seeking friction, brushing against the elf's hard length and drawing a gasp of pleasure from the warrior's lips.
Dorian surged upward, flipping the elf onto his back and trailing his own kisses down the elf's torso. He took Fenris' cock into his mouth without warning, making the warrior thrust into the mages throat and drawing a muffled laugh from Dorian as he sealed his lips around the elf's cock. "Dorian please... I need you..." He cried.
Releasing him, Dorian moved up the warrior's body, his cock throbbing painfully hard as he took in the sight of the elf writhing beneath him. Staring into the elf's eyes, his breathing ragged, he kissed him again. "What do you want Fenris?" He whispered against his lips.
"I want to make love to you Dorian." He said, a questioning look in his eyes. Dorian made a hum of approval deep his throat, kissing the elf again as he rolled to his side, bringing the elf to lay on top of him.
"I want that too." He whispered.
Fenris kissed him hard as Dorian reached for his robes and pressed a vial of oil into his hand. Eyes widening in surprise and a surge of desire, he kneeled between the mage's legs. He slicked his throbbing length before pressing a finger to the mage's entrance making Dorian groan in frustration.
"Hurry Fenris..." He moaned, his eyes losing focus as his hips bucked at the sensation. Writhing beneath him, Fenris added a second finger, stretching and preparing the mage beneath him. Beads of sweat broke out on Dorain's brow, his heart thudding in his chest as Fenris added a third finger and began sliding them in and out of his passage. "Please Fenris... I need you inside me..."
The warrior slipped his fingers from him, settling himself between the mage's splayed thighs and pressed the head of his cock to Dorian's entrance. The mage writhed beneath him, trying to impale himself on the elf's length. The sight almost undid him and he thrust forward, past the tight ring of muscle until he was fully sheathed inside the mage's passage.
Groans of pleasure poured from them both as Dorian adjusted to the elf's length. He moaned and writhed for purchase, seeking the friction he needed. "Fenris please... move... I need you..."
With a growl, the warrior began to thrust, the sensation drawing ragged moans from them both as he dragged his length over the sensitive spot inside Dorian's passage. The mage wrapped his thighs around the elf's hips, pulling him closer and drawing him deeper into his body.
Fenris thrust harder as the mage trembled beneath him, his cock a hard, throbbing presence against his abdomen. Adjusting his weight, he took Dorian's length in hand and stroked him in time with his thrusts.
The mage came undone, his body clenching around him as ropes of white fluid shot from his cock, painting his chest with his release. Seeing it, Fenris tensed, his body trembling as he rode out his orgasm, filling the mage as waves of plessire rolled through him.
Muscles spasming, Fenris collapsed forward, still sheathed inside the beautiful mage and drew Dorian into his arms to lie beside him. The cave filled with the sound of heavy breathing as they both rode the aftershocks of orgasm.
Fenris softened and slipped free of Dorian drawing another sigh of pleasure from the mage. Fenris smiled and kissed him as Dorian threaded his fingers through the elf's hair.
"That was amazing Fenris." He whispered. "You were amazing."
Fenris smiled and returned the kiss. "And you my mage." He whispered back, making Dorian's breath hitch at the endearment.
"I like how you say that." He said, a tear trailing down his cheek.
Fenris wiped it away and pressed a kiss to his forehead. "My mage." He said again.
"My warrior." Dorian responded back, a smile curling his lips as Fenris sucked in a surprised breath.
"Mine." They said in unison, their eyes locked and drawing a laugh from them both.
Fenris sat up and searched his bag, coming back to his mage with a cloth to clean up with. When he finished, he drew the blanket over them both and pulled Dorian into his arms. The mage snuggled close, a sigh of pleasure issuing from his lips as his eyes drifted closed.
"I'm yours." He whispered sleepily against the elf's neck.
I love hearing from readers. Don't be shy! =) And Kudos let me know real peeps are reading this... just fyi from a writer who writes a lot