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Dandelions Make Bad Wine

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Sera’s seen it before, the flower stuff. Saw it in Denerim, people tripping their way out of places they slummed in with hands to their mouths. That shite didn’t fool anyone. Sera remembers seeing it the first time, cold and sat in the gutter when an arsehole in the alienage choked at the foot of that stupid tree everyone prayed to, their hands clutching at the roots as the fit got aggressive. Their throat rattled around like it was kept in a tin box as petals slid down their chin.

Yeah, that was real nasty shite. Sera’s lucky she didn’t see it up close like that since. Probably thanks to the Blight, really; not that she would thank the sodding thing for anything. Wardens stealing stuff and the world maybe-sort-of ending doesn’t make much time for feelings to get mixed up with bumping uglies. No need to get mushy stuff in the fun. What would be the point anyway? Unrequited love sounds like shitting crud, as shitting crud as pride cookies.

Life’s different with the Inquisition. Skyhold definitely. There’s still the same arseholes, but now there’s something Sera can do about it, do it in a big way. Rich pricks still like being rich pricks and Coryphyshits still likes being a shit. But soon they’ll be getting arrows – lots of arrows – thanks to Inky.

In the tavern, Sera and Inky sit with the Chargers at the usual table, the one in the corner with all the barrels. Surprise to no-one, they’re loud, and the tavern’s full of their singing and laughter as Dalish jokes about Rocky wearing dresses. It has Sera chortling, kicking her feet close to Grim as she wheezes because it’s hilarious to think of the dwarf in sky-blue; everyone knows the man’s colour is chartreuse.

The lot of them sound and look like gobshites when they start carolling. Sera’s smiling as she belts out broken notes and Krem’s voice is too raspy after so many pints. But it’s all good, yeah? Because it’s fun, and they all really need some fun. Anyone complaining can just shove it.

Lavellan joins in on the second chorus, when the words are repetitive enough to remember. She looks just as daft as everyone else as the ale flushes her smoky quartz skin with red amber. But the Inquisitor sings proper good, crooning real ethereal notes and stuff as she slurs the lyrics. She notices Sera staring when the last verse comes, and the grin she bears reaches right up to the freckles on her cheekbones. She’s got a warmth to her smile under the torchlight, and it makes the violet of her vallaslin sharpen when she bounds upright.

The motion startles Rocky from his drunken nap, and the dwarf squints as he scrunches up his face. Dalish looks over from talking to Skinner and pats him on the head, earning a confused glare from the man.

Lavellan tugs at the other elf’s arm as she wobbles, the sway bouncing the coils of her copper-red hair. It’s like burning iron wool to Sera, all sparky and shimmering gold. She remembers the moth she found yesterday, sooty and ashen and burnt to a crisp. Under her own demise Sera understands why it was drawn to the flame in the first place.

“Come on,” says Inky, the heat of her palm searing through the fabric of Sera’s sleeve. “Let’s go get the good stuff Solas’ been hoarding and litter his research materials with breadcrumbs.”

Sera crinkles her nose, “Frig yeah,” she says gleefully.

The alcohol didn’t affect Sera as much as the Inquisitor, but she ends up tripping like it did anyway when the woman flicks her on the right ear. Lavellan lets out a high giggle as Sera bumps into one of the stools near the stairs, and Sera laughs along with her too, only stopping when a man starts hacking at the end of the bar. The noise doesn’t sound out of the ordinary to Sera, coughs are pretty normal up in the mountains – what a shock, the air is frigging cold – and soon enough the fit is over. After a few soothing and supportive rubs on the back from his friends, the Warden bids them goodnight and gets up as if nothing happened. As he leaves, a single petal trails behind him and lands near the doorway. The remaining drinkers sit in silence with looks of pity and grief painting their faces.

Well shite, that’s shitting crud, and it definitely makes Sera less cheery.

Inky peers over the elf, confused as to why Sera stopped.

“Is everything alright?” she asks, patting her on the forearm.

Sera nods, savouring the warmth of Lavellan’s hands as they go to rub her shoulders. It was starting to feel real chilly after that. She frowns slightly, knowing her friend recognises the fib for what it is.

“Pish,” she says, “I’m fine you loony.”

Inky quirks a brow; and the frown disappears as her mouth crinkles into a strange, amusing shape, an expression between a pout and a smirk.

“I’m loony?” she scoffs amusedly.

Sera smirks back, “Yeah,” she says, dragging the both of them out the door. “You’re a right loony.”

They walk out of the tavern and the open air of the upper courtyard greets them. Sera shivers, the passing breeze covering her in goosebumps. That’s a weird word, isn’t it? Goosebumps. Why are geese even bumpy? How the hell did someone find out they were bumpy? It’s a strange bunch of questions that only get stranger when Sera and Lavellan make it up the stairs.

The fires of the main hall illuminate sharply on the two elves, and they take a moment to bask in the warmth.

“Right,” grumbles Sera through chattering teeth, “this good stuff we’re nicking better be good, yeah? Because if it’s just that elf wine again I’ll be pissed off.”

Inky pulls a face, the answer loud and clear as the hot hearth paints the colour of the blaze on her features; dandelion wine, and all the shite aftertaste that comes with it.

Sera curses under her breath, “I frigging knew it, you gobshite.”

The Inquisitor snickers and the sound makes her companion’s stomach do all sorts of back flips. Sera’s really hoping she won’t hurl on the Inquisitor’s shoes, because she knows she already looks stupid; like someone put jam on her cheeks. Sera scowls, because she doesn’t want to look like a vomiting madwoman in front of Inky.

“Look, so long as it’s strong stuff I won’t care,” she huffs, only acquiescing for the fact that if she has to hurl, she’d rather it be from the drink.

Lavellan smiles, and Sera’s sight gets fuzzy when the woman takes her hand, dragging her along to do mischief.

Remember, she tells herself, hurl anywhere but the shoes.

-

The crapulence hits hard the following morning and makes Sera retreat to the quiet alcove of Dorian’s spot in the library an hour after waking. She sits cross-legged and leans the back of her shoulders against his knees as the mage massages her temples, keeping to small circular movements and stroking the blunt curves of his nails across her forehead when she frowns. It’s great and pish.

He waits until her eyes open to summon magic, letting it dance non-threateningly atop the tips of his fingers before going back to his ministrations. For all that the tit likes to tease Sera about his magic, he doesn’t try to spook her with it. It’s sweet.

“Did something happen between you and the Lady Inquisitor last night?” he inquires, fingers lightly kneading at the top of her scalp.

Sera hums, “Look at you, ser nosy. What’s got you all curious?”

“The two of you leaving her quarters certainly raised a few eyebrows this morning,” he replies.

“Whose eyebrows, exactly?”

“Both of mine and one of Bull’s.”

Sera scoffs, “Yeah, well untwist your knickers ’cause nothing happened. Just had a drunken sleepover, that’s all.”

The pads of Dorian’s fingertips drum against her head, the light taps tickling her skin and riddling her neck with tingles as he says, “So those smiles she gave you over breakfast table were nothing were they?”

“Yup.”

“I have a hard time believing that.”

“You have a hard time believing Varric and the Lady Seeker aren’t shagging, twinkle-toes,” Sera responds.

Dorian tsks, twisting a lock of her hair around his forefinger and tugging it softly in retort. It’s light but sudden, so Sera grunts regardless.

“Look,” he says, “sweethearts or no, you’d do well to be careful. Much as I like you, I don’t worry for you nearly as much as I do for the Inquisitor.”

Sera turns around, scrunching her face in disbelief, “What?” she asks. “You giving me a shovel talk?”

Dorian snorts, huffing through his nose in a pretty undignified way for an altus, “Shovel talk?” he questions rhetorically. “As in threats of violence? What odd expressions you Southerners have.”

He motions for Sera to turn, and she does, allowing Dorian to return to his earlier ministrations. The magic burns brighter now, yet the sensation is anything but a burn. It’s cool and warm in ways that Sera both recognises and doesn’t. It’s comforting yet strange like a blanket in the uncanny valley, and Sera can’t be sure if she shivers in delight or discomfort.

Dorian continues, “No, I have no intention of defending the Herald of Andraste’s honour like some Ferelden dog lord. I’m her companion, not her possessive father. All I’m stating is common sense.”

“Which is?” Sera probes.

Dorian stops the spell, taking his hands off her head and putting them on her shoulders.

“That you are my dearest friend,” he answers. “You have a simple and beautiful nature that makes me care for you deeply. I feel the same about Lavellan, so don’t hurt her. Don’t go breaking her heart and Maker’s breath don’t go breaking your own. The world has enough mystery as it is to be complicated; I didn’t need to travel in time to learn that. Don’t take away from me the one person who gives to my soul whatever faith it has left; my hopes for the future very literally depend on her.”

Sera just sits there, gobsmacked.

Dorian sighs and lifts off his hands, saying slowly, “Regardless, I trust you’ll make the right decision. You’re quite clever, after all.”

He says it like Sera says goodbye, a quick dismissal of ‘go on’ but in different words.

“Wow,” she says, going to stand. “That was some real flowery nonsense.”

“Tell me about it,” Dorian groans with a shudder. “I’m always so pensive in the morning. Makes me nauseous.”

He goes to grab a book from one of the piles he’s created around his chair and does his best impression of trying to read it.

Sera replies, “Well, you can come gabbing to me whenever, yeah? You’re pretty fun when you’re not all Tevinter.”

Dorian rolls his eyes, though his cheeks are warm and flushed, “You’re too kind,” he says sardonically.

“Just don’t go gabbing about this to Inky alright?”

“Already have a pet name, do we? Well not to worry. My lips are sealed.”

“Really?”

“Of course. I only tease because you did so much of it with me and Bull. But rest assured I won’t say a word until Lavellan tells me otherwise. Because when she does, I can say that I knew all along.”

Sera pokes out her tongue and presents Dorian with the rudest gesture she can find. Because sod him and his not always creepy magic. The mage, in return, guffaws as she stomps away.

-

So, Dorian’s wrong about the bed and getting frisky with her holy Heraldness. But he isn’t so wrong about the other things, is he? The liking Inky thing, and the smiles she sends Sera not meaning nothing thing. Those things? Spot on.

Really spot on, Sera thinks as the Inquisitor drinks with her in the rogue’s tavern room.

It’s noon, so by Lavellan’s standards it’s late enough to start drinking. She’s brought that elf-wine again, though this time she swears it’s good. On the window banquette that Sera uses for a bed, the Inquisitor lounges snuggly upon the cushions as she fiddles around with one of the baubles Sera’s collected. It’s a nug statuette that Blackwall picked up for her in the Hinterlands, a pale pink thing made from pear wood, which Lavellan now traces the smooth texture and curves of with her fingers.

It looks like she’s right at home, which is weird, because she obviously isn’t. Inky has her own fancy quarters off the main hall, and whilst Sera may have been drunk the night she visited them she hasn’t forgotten how nice they looked. Certainly not in the span of a week. She’s been meaning to get a bolt of that curtain fabric actually the next time they go to the Summer Bazaar in Val Royeaux.

She takes a gulp of the dandelion wine whilst Lavellan inspects the shape of the nug’s ears, and promptly gags.

“Eugh! It’s so bitter,” she says, scowling as she hands the bottle back to Inky.

The Inquisitor laughs, scoffing as she takes a hearty swig of her own, “Great isn’t it?”

“Medicinal more like,” Sera replies. “The not-good kind of medicine.”

“That would be the elfroot you’re tasting,” Lavellan supplies helpfully.

“Pretty sure elfroot isn’t meant to taste like that,” Sera retorts, glaring at the bottle. “That is right ew.”

Lavellan turns to face Sera properly, sending a playful smile as a coil of her hair brushes across her tattooed forehead.

“As much as your cookies?” she says.

“Just about,” Sera replies.

The Inquisitor hums in amusement and Sera hums back. They continue to hum until they’re close to starting their own language made of grunts.

“Hmm,” thrums Sera, as if commenting on the weather.

“Mm hm,” replies Lavellan, trying to stop herself from laughing.

She breaks when Sera wiggles her eyebrows, the mirthful spontaneity of it transferring onto Sera when the mage’s breath hitches unintentionally. Her hiccups get Sera cackling, and it becomes clear that this is another difference between them; their laughter. Sera chuckles like she’s stolen the voice of a gilt escaping the farmers’ market, while the Inquisitor does it like her vocal chords are wind chimes. The contrast makes the Red Jenny’s stomach lighten, turning her guts all buttery and stuff. She’s aware the metaphor is meant to have butterflies but honestly, since when do scaly-winged insects get ingested?

A part of Sera quivers, because she doesn’t want to think of insects, really. Insects get her thinking about raspberries, and then of the bees buzzing around the bushes in Lady Emmald’s garden. Sera’s chest tightens as she recalls the breath in her lungs stuttering amongst the flowers of berry bushes and medicinal herbs that Emmald used during her most sickly months. She remembers her young mind dreading the wheezing breaths being something other than the shit respiration she had as a child.

Their laughter lulls to a close and Lavellan returns to the trinket in her hands. She twiddles her fingers on the snout of the wooden nug, as if she were actually booping the living thing.

“You know, I should be mad for you making me drink this,” Sera says, gesturing to the wine. “But you’re on my good side so count yourself lucky.”

“Thank you,” Lavellan replies. “I know that for you, my ‘elfiness’ can be a bit of a pill to swallow.”

She sits up and smiles, this time more sweetly. She plops herself down cross-legged in front of Sera, treating the other elf to the closest view of the Herald’s eyes anyone’s likely ever seen. They’re brown and beautifully unextraordinary as Lavellan leans in and wraps her arms around her companion’s shoulders.

“As much as I enjoy sharing my terrible brews with you,” she continues, “I want you to tell me if it gets too infuriating. I like having you here, Sera. I don’t want this” – she gestures to herself – “getting in the way of you staying.”

Sera purses her lips, thinking whilst gazing at the curve of Inky’s jawline. She has a sharp jawline; almost as sharp as Cassandra’s, and it divots a little on the way up to her ears. Sera looks at that divot for a second before wrapping her own arms around Lavellan’s torso, resting the weight of them on the curve of Inky’s hips.

“Pfft,” she chuckles. “You’re daft. Like I said, you’re on my good side. You’re not all snobby with being Dalish so I don’t give a pissing arse what you do.”

“Really?” Lavellan asks, incredulous.

“Really really.”

Lavellan snorts, colour flushing her cheeks, “Good,” she says.

She shuffles close to bump her forehead against Sera’s; the tight curls of her hair laying soft on the other’s skin like the satin fringe on a silky cushion. Sera can smell the mix of almond and olive oil in her hair; and it leaves Sera a little short of breath, nerves fizzling with joy and fear.

It lasts for a moment, then Inky sighs before getting up to stand, “Well, that was needlessly sentimental. How do you feel about pilfering the kitchens for lunch?”

Sera already dreads the absence, and wanting to remedy said absence goes to join her, when she feels a tickle at the back of her throat. She coughs before grimacing.

“You know what,” she says, “go without me, I think I’ll have a nap.”

The Inquisitor shrugs, put out but pretty understanding – emphasis on the pretty – “Fair enough,” she says, “I’ll talk to you later.”

“Go on,” Sera responds, swatting playfully at the woman’s ankle when she makes for the door.

Once gone, Sera coughs again into her hand, the tickle becoming more of an annoying scratch. She grimaces before bringing her hand away from her mouth and –

Nothing. Just an empty and calloused palm that’s a little bit wet from spit. She was probably just hacking on a bit of dust. Shite, that’s a relief. Really, it frigging is. But Sera stares at that damp palm for a while, sat alone and silent on the floor as she lets the seconds stretch on from one moment to the next.

She’s got to address it at some point, Sera knows that. She will. But… later. When the calm of elfroot isn’t weighing heavy on her eyelids; when a belly full of wine isn’t floating her sleepy-footed to lie on the banquette; and when the smell of almonds on cushions isn’t lulling her into pleasant dreams.

-

As the end of Autumn fast approaches the sun sets early in the late afternoon. At about a quarter to five the stone walls of Skyhold are painted in flickering candlelight gold; vibrant in its hue but gentle in its intensity as Dorian turns the page of the book before him.

Swords and Shields is a terrible serial, but if Dorian doesn’t keep up to date with the latest issue he’ll fall behind on finding ways to tease Cassandra. With the added possibility that he might be able to poke fun at her in front of the Inquisitor; Dorian cannot in good conscience allow the opportunity to pass.

The knock on his door is disappointing but expected. Sera, delightful as she is, seems to have an uncanny ability to interrupt Dorian at inconvenient moments. The Knight-Captain finally finished talking about her ‘heaving mounds’ and was just beginning to describe the Guardsman’s ‘aching spear’, so the disruption to Dorian’s reading time rather annoys him as he snaps the book shut with a huff.

“Oi, fancy-britches,” Sera calls from the other side of the dark-wood door. “You in there?”

“Yes Sera,” Dorian answers.

“I’m not going to catch you in flagrante or something if I come in?”

Dorian rolls his eyes with a scoff, “No Sera, the coast is clear.”

She enters the room with a plate in her hand, “Need help, brought cookies,” she says by way of explanation.

She goes to sit in the equally comfortable chair across from Dorian, handing him the plate of baked goods.

“Is this payment for my services?” he asks as he puts them on the nearby table, picking one off the plate.

“Best not,” Sera says. “They’re probably shite.”

Dorian confirms it when he takes a bite and salt floods his senses, “Quite right,” he grimaces, hastily washing the remnants away with a gulp of wine.

It’s a waste of agreggio pavali, but then again so is eating any kind of cookie with Tevinter wine.

“So,” he queries, “what seems to be the problem?”

Sera huffs, “No ‘seems’ about it, Inky’s flirting with me.”

“And?” Dorian probes.

“And nothing, what am I supposed to do with that?”

Dorian blinks, unperturbed, “A number of things, I imagine.”

Sera gets out of the chair and punches Dorian on the forearm, “Quit being an arse,” she grumbles as Dorian nurses his aching bicep. “I need advice and you’re not giving it.”

“Apologies,” Dorian sighs, “but what exactly am I supposed to be advising on?”

“Argh, I don’t know!” Sera groans. “Maybe something on how to flirt back?”

“You haven’t flirted with the Inquisitor?”

“Not really? It’s been mostly her doing the honey talking. I just roll with it or say she’s pretty sometimes. But like, none of that ever screamed out ‘I want to get inside your trousers’, and that’s the struggle.”

Dorian slumps back and counts to three before responding, “Sera, I say this as a friend, but you’re as subtle as a druffalo is quiet. How are you having trouble with this?”

“The fuck if I know” she answers, buzzing as she fidgets on the chair when she sits down again. “I usually just say hello and let shite tumble out from there.”

“So, you really do just make it up as you go along. I’m shocked. Why can’t you just do that with Lavellan?” he questions.

Sera goes still like a statue, “Because she’s Inky,” she murmurs.

She says it gentle soft, warm and sad. A part of the sound calls to Dorian as if it were a part of him once, though he fails to remember how. Bah, it’ll come to him at some point, probably when he’s shining his robe buckles or doing some other mundane task.

He thinks for about five seconds then leans forward and pats Sera on the knee.

“Well,” he says. “You’ve noticed the flirting, so why not – oh, I don’t know – tell her exactly that?”

Sera frowns, “What? Just tell her ‘Oi, I spotted you chatting me up’?”

“Maybe?” he rectifies. “Obviously you’d need to put forward your own interest as well, among other things.”

“That what you did with Bull?” Sera questions.

Dorian groans. He should’ve expected the woman to probe into his own intimate endeavours. With a ‘tsk’ he grabs the wine and opts to drink it from the bottle rather than from the glass. It’s become that sort of day.

“More or less,” he says, gulping a hefty amount of the sweetened brew. “I believe I opened with something like, ‘It’s all very nice, this flirting business. I am, however, not a nice man.’”

Sera sniggers, and as he gains some pot-valiance, Dorian finds the snorts becoming less and less embarrassing.

“Ooh that’s right smooth,” she snickers. “Bet that had you feeling really mint!”

Dorian huffs behind the bottle, muttering, “Well it worked, didn’t it?”

Sera once again snorts, and Dorian drinks as Sera continues to chortle, letting the taste of honey and spice be savoured with each gulp burning soothingly down his throat. He waits until she’s finished, her laughter breathy remnants.

Putting down the wine, he glances over to the saffron blaze pouring through the window by the door and appraises how the light drenches the room in topaz.

“So,” says Sera, “I should tell her I noticed.”

“Yes,” Dorian confirms.

“I should – uh – tell her I’m all good with that.”

“Definitely,” he encourages.

Sera shifts back in her chair, tapping her knuckles on her knees, “And?” she asks.

“Set down some conditions?” he offers. “Let her know your standards? I’ve never had the chance to try, but I’ve heard it helps.”

Sera nods and Dorian shrugs. In the air of the afternoon, the signal horn rings out.

“Huh. They’re back early,” Dorian remarks.

Sera curses, “Aw frig, I was planning to get Inky a welcome back prezzie.”

 “Well why don’t you take the cookies then?” he chuckles. “I certainly won’t be eating them,”

Sera grins, her cheeks blooming in dimples, “Great idea,” she says, grabbing her plate of baked mishaps before standing. “Thanks for the chat, I’ll bring you better snacks next time. See you later, yeah?”

Dorian smiles and sends her a familial ‘shoo shoo’ gesture, responding, “You know where I’ll be,” before picking up the book as she skitters away.

She leaves the door open, allowing an awful draft to enter the room. Dorian doesn’t close it, however. He remains seated, ignoring the goosebumps lining his bare shoulder and flicks through the tawdry pages again. He finds his page, then marks it with a gifted bookmark, a simple leather strip that depicts small carved scenes of chevaliers battling dragons. He perhaps spends some time styling his hair and straightening his moustache, also, just to add the finishing touches.

He doesn’t wait long.

The Iron Bull’s stature has long held the ability to defy expectations, though that’s to be expected with an individual over seven feet tall. Upon his arrival at Dorian’s quarters, he defies the laws of nature also. Despite the sun setting from behind him, the qunari’s shadow doesn’t loom large and imposing over Dorian as he enters the room. The pinkening light instead illuminates him perfectly, lilac landing nicely on his horns and just under the eye patch on his left cheek.

He closes the door behind him, and slides the bolt home. He’s now framed in the gently softening shade, adding definition to his features and making him all the more handsome as Dorian notices how he’s free of additional scars and wounds.

“Hey,” he greets warmly. “How was Skyhold without me?”

Dorian shrugs casually, “Oh, the usual,” he answers. “Cold with Southerner winds, the Chargers creating chaos wherever they go.”

Bull chuckles, “Aw, you take such good care of them when I’m gone.”

“I do not,” Dorian sniffs. “Your bunch of rebel-rousers are perfectly capable of making a mess on their own, thank you.”

“Yeah,” Bull hums in amusement, “they are.”

He enters into the room proper and places his pack and other items he’s carried into a pile in the corner.

“Experience much trouble in the Exalted Plains?” Dorian asks as he gets up to stoke the embers in the fireplace.

Iron Bull cracks his knuckles a bit, the sound worrying Dorian that he might screw up another finger one day.

“Nah,” he says. “With the dead and necromancy crap gone it was pretty much sealing rifts and cutting down any of the Venatori remaining.”

“Ah, dangerous cultists,” Dorian sighs, “how we’ll miss them.”

Bull finally shrugs off his harness, letting it thud to the floor before hanging it over the stool near the hearth.

“Heh, yeah. Some of those bastards gave us a fun fight. Glad we’re back here instead of heading to Val Royeaux, though. Boss was mooning a shit-ton out in the field.”

“That doesn’t surprise me, Sera’s been just as bad here,” Dorian comments without heat. “I daresay it’ll be over shortly, however, either one’s likely to stop acting like a fawning maiden soon.”

Bull raises a brow, “Got a plan, big guy?”

“That depends,” replies Dorian. “You interested in getting back those sovereigns Varric won the last time we played wicked grace? With interest of course.”

“You want me to wager with Varric?” the Iron Bull blinks.

The altus smiles, “Why waste an opportunity?” he says conspiratorially.

Bull walks up to him, his warm green eye peering into Dorian’s cool grey, “Someday I’ll be half the shit-stirrer you are,” he says, wrapping his arms around Dorian.

The mage leans in, tucking himself into the other man’s embrace before resting his hands on the joining of Bull’s neck and shoulders. Welcomed in by the smell of leather and mineral oil still lingering on Bull’s skin, it’s pleasant and reassuring to hold the man even after the shortest of absences. One can hardly call three weeks a long time when the sky’s falling down.

He takes a moment just to purely revel in the deep, thawing warmth of the intimacy before gazing up expectantly.

“Come to bed,” Dorian whispers, summoning sparks delightful and sugar-sharp across the man’s shoulders, “if you’ve a mind.”

The Iron Bull ducks down to press a kiss to Dorian’s lips, unhurried and frustratingly tender, like he’s the one who’s sweet and not the other way around.

“Yeah kadan,” he confirms with equal softness, “I’d like that.”

Outside, the light barely shows a shimmer of violet or fuchsia along the horizon, signalling that the day has finally come to an end.