Adaar enjoyed ending the night like this, freshly washed after having made love and lounging in bed with a good book to whittle away an hour or two before going to sleep. His bare shoulder pressed against Bull’s, skin warmed from their shower and prickling ever so slightly as a cool summer breeze swept through the open window.
“You like him.”
Adaar didn’t look up from his book immediately and merely hummed in acknowledgement, he knew exactly who Bull was talking about. He knew that he was being transparent at the art gallery, his eyes lingering on full lips that pulled into a pleased smile under a neatly waxed mustache and his admiration bled into his voice, praising and excited over his new acquaintance. It was hard not to like Dorian Pavus, not to be pulled in by his charm and beauty, and Adaar always went weak in the knees for smarts.
Stealing a quick glance towards Bull, Adaar could see his boyfriend still working on his crossword puzzle with the tip of his pencil pressing a little indent into the newsprint. It hadn’t moved for a while.
“Dorian is sweet,” Adaar answered briefly. His mind wandered to the way Dorian’s face lit up at the mention of his library, the easiness of his smile and laugh.
“Are you interested in him?”
Not an ounce of accusation colored Bull’s words, not that Adaar expected there to be any. This wasn’t uncharted territory. But experience taught Adaar caution and his brain told him to be content with what he had, even if his heart was as large as the rest of him.
“It doesn’t matter either way.” Adaar flipped the page of his book, not having read it fully. “I think he has a girlfriend.”
Adaar clearly remembered the lovely Dalish elf on the other side of the gallery who Dorian was so eager to go to. His retreat was swift, polite, and sudden, and her dark gaze on Dorian was concerned and evaluating over her glass of wine.
“The Dalish woman? Nah,” Bull shook his head, laying his pencil down. “I don’t think so, not with the way the Fereldan with great hair was hanging onto her.”
“Did you see how beautiful he is?” Adaar pressed, resolving to move on. “He’s way out of my league.”
“Hey now,” Bull leaned into Adaar’s space, lips pressing to the corner of Adaar’s mouth as their horns clinked together. His skin smelled fresh with soap from his shower and the heady floral scent of his horn balm happily tickled Adaar’s nose. “No one, kadan, is out of your league.”
Adaar couldn’t stop the smile curling on his lips nor the warm feeling expanding his chest.
Bull’s mouth ghosted over the sensitive shell of his ear, murmuring quietly to Adaar, “I think it might be nice to get to know Dorian.”
At that moment, Bull was transformed. The usual softness of his smile and the warmth in his single eye were temporarily steeled, harkening back to Adaar’s early memories of his boyfriend. Making him recall how a stern and professional look paired with a body hardened by years of training and combat made a young Kaaras’s knees weak and his heart pound.
With his lips pressed into a tense line, his sharp eye calculating, and perfect posture, Adaar could clearly see the Iron Bull, the security chief.
But it was obvious that Dorian was less accustomed to Bull’s more stern and protective nature as he shifted in his seat occasionally and his silver eyes darting between Seeker Pentaghast and the Iron Bull. Adaar laid his hand on Dorian’s knee under the table, squeezing the joint gently. Those silver eyes flickered up to Adaar as Dorian’s mouth twisted into a halfhearted grin.
This, Adaar acknowledged, was the more serious aspect of Dorian moving in with them. The tangible reality of Dorian’s deteriorated relationship with his parents.
Cassandra sat across the dining room table from them in her crisp and striking Seeker’s uniform, signaling the official capacity of her visit. Forms were spread out against the smooth surface of the table, gathering his and Bull’s information, and other forms to change Dorian’s address. There were also numerous handouts with numbers to call and procedures for reporting incidents.
“All calls from unknown Tevinter numbers need to be reported to me, even if you believe them to be unrelated,” Cassandra informed them, her tone was solemn enough to command their attention, though not as overly severe as she could be. “Any packages or letters from anyone or any company in Tevinter not on this approved list,” she tapped one of the pieces of paper on the table, “should be brought promptly to my office. If I am not around, just another Seeker your name and case number and they will be able to take care of it.”
The list sat there innocently enough. There were only a couple of personal names and a much longer listing of companies whose goods now graced Adaar’s cupboards and shelves.
“Do you have anyone or a company to add? Your friend, Cremisius, he is from Tevinter as well. Are you in touch with his family at all?”
Bull’s jaw worked at the mention of Krem’s parents, but Adaar was faster to answer, “We have no one else to add. We’re not in touch with them or anyone else from Tevinter.”
“Good, let me know if that changes,” Cassandra wrote something down. “Now, in the unlikely event that you should actually see Magister Pavus in Ferelden, do not approach him and call the Seekers or Templars immediately. Dorian filed a permanent restraining order against him and I will have it modified to include you two as well.”
Large grey hands folded neatly on the table suddenly flexed, tensing ever so slightly as the Iron Bull nodded once.
“According to my notes,” Cassandra’s eyes cast down to her notepad of bright yellow paper with thin blue lines, skimming the neat and looping writing on it, “the last contact you had with your parents was a phone call from your mother from a new number. You forwarded me to the message. Is that correct, Dorian?”
“Yes, last Satinalia.”
“And you still receive regular phone calls and holiday packages from your mother-in-law, Livia Alexius, correct?”
There was a heartbeat of hesitation, Dorian’s mouth opening, but nothing coming out right away. It caught Adaar’s attention, left him searching his memories for the last time he saw Dorian pick up his cellphone and light up at the sound of his mother-in-law’s voice, speaking to her in rapid fire Tevene. He couldn’t recall seeing a package arrive on Summerday or remember any mention of it.
The urge to pry rose up in Adaar, his nosy nature to set things right clawed at him, but he knew better. He had to wait for Dorian to come to them with his problems and if they pried Dorian was more likely to clam up. On the other side of Dorian, the Iron Bull turned his head slightly, his eye meeting Adaar’s look over Dorian’s head. Bull didn’t like being in the dark about anything.
Leave it be. Adaar faintly shook his head and Bull refocused his attention on Cassandra.
“Yes,” Dorian finally answered. “I also speak with my friend, Maevaris, from time to time as well.”
Cassandra nodded knowingly as she scribbled notes. “That’s right, the Magister.”
“Have there been any recent major incidents?” Bull interjected. “Is there anything that we should be on the lookout for?”
“No,” Cassandra shook her head, “there hasn’t been anything since Felix’s funeral.”
A jolt of surprise ran through Adaar, the new information startling him. He was versed in two stories of Magister and Lady Pavus’s attempts to retrieve their wayward son from nearly a decade ago. The first one of trying to confine Dorian to their home once they learned of his plans to move to Skyhold and of a second, nearly successful, attempt in Ferelden after he and Felix were engaged. But he didn’t know anything that might have happened at the funeral, only a few years ago. Neither did Bull.
Bull remained still, but Adaar could see pale blue his eye narrowing and he also noticed the color draining from Dorian’s face.
“The funeral?” Bull repeated, coming out more like a growl.
“The one in Tevinter,” Dorian answered hurriedly with a faint wobble. “Cullen and Lavellan reported that both my parents tried to approach me.” His body sagged as he quietly explained, “Honestly though, I barely remember anything from my last trip to my homeland, I don’t recall ever seeing them.”
Adaar squeezed Dorian’s leg again and he spotted Bull’s hand slide down from the tabletop and settle upon Dorian’s other knee.
“The Seekers consider this a low risk case,” Cassandra emphasized, “we do not believe Dorian is in any immediate danger.”
The corners of Bull’s mouth dipped downward. “Funny then, that the Seekers are dealing with it and not the Templars.”
“I was a foreign national when Felix and I first reported my parents,” Dorian answered, “so it automatically was referred to the Seekers. And since it concerns a Tevinter Magister with means, I’m sure the Seekers don’t want the Templars fumbling with it.”
Cassandra half sighed. “Not exactly how I’d put it.” She started gathering up the documents, information to be updated and filed away later. “I won’t take up anymore of your time, unless you had further questions.”
“We’re fine,” Adaar cut in quickly, knowing that Bull was probably bubbling with a dozen probing questions. “We know how to get a hold of you, Cassandra. Thank you for coming,” he held out his hand to Cassandra, “we’ll see you at Varric’s for Wicked Grace next week?”
Her grip was strong and cool, her nod curt and efficient. “I plan to be there. Until then.”
A great tension seemed to release from the house after Adaar saw Cassandra out. He didn’t think her visit would be easy, but he also didn’t imagine it to be so difficult as well. He knew of Dorian’s troubles with his parents, though it all suddenly became real when Cassandra came into the house in her uniform and briefcase of papers.
Settling in the living room to finally relax, Dorian let out a nervous, breathless laugh as he sank into the couch next to Adaar. His body listed towards Adaar and Adaar immediately lifted his arm to wrap it around Dorian to draw him closer, his warm and familiar weight leaning against Adaar’s side.
Dorian dropped his head on Adaar’s shoulder as he sighed, “Well, that was some way to spend the afternoon. Having second thoughts about me moving in?”
The question was asked casually, a hint of forced teasing, and Adaar reacted swiftly to squash any doubts. “Never. We knew about your parents and now we know what we can do if anything happens.”
Bull didn’t sit with them though, he stood in the living room, body still tense and hands clenched at his sides as he said, “We should’ve had this meeting with Cassandra earlier.”
“And what exactly would have that done?” Dorian asked tiredly, but there was an edge creeping into his voice.
“If I had known about the third attempt and that your parents were still trying to contact you, I would’ve added a real security system to the townhouse, I would’ve been more prepared. I should’ve done so anyway.”
“As you can see, there was no need.”
Bull shook his head dismissively, his jaw working. “I should’ve talked to Cullen about this. He gets it.”
Dorian moved, his posture righting itself as he pulled away from Adaar with his silver eyes narrowed. “You know, Bull, I have been taking care of this for years before I met you.”
Adaar understood Bull’s concerns and he understood this part of Bull, the old security chief and the Qunari intelligence officer who needed to assess every threat, both of whom hadn’t quite faded away with time. Adaar knew these parts of Bull well, but Dorian less so. Bull sounded intrusive and condescending, instead of concerned and well meaning. Bull opened his mouth, ready to say something to Dorian that Adaar was sure he was going to regret.
“Bull.” The name came out sharply across Adaar’s tongue.
He held Bull’s stare for a couple heart beats before Bull’s jaw snapped shut and his body seemed to deflate as he dropped down into his armchair. Dorian remained rigid on the couch, eyes narrowing further as he waited for Bull respond.
Leaning forward in his seat, Bull hooked his hand across the back of his neck as he admitted, “I know you can look out for yourself, sweetheart, but that doesn’t me I don’t want to take care of you. Sorry for being an ass.”
The creases of annoyance lining Dorian’s face softened as his scowl relaxed. “As long as you acknowledge that you were being an ass.”
“I do,” Bull’s mouth pulled itself into a brief smirk before he got back onto his feet. He stepped into Dorian’s space to drop a kiss on his temple. “I’ll go get dinner started. I’ll make that curry you like, kadan.”
“You had better.”
After Bull disappeared into the kitchen, Dorian turned to Adaar, his eyebrow arched with interest.
“You must teach me how to do that.”
“What?” Adaar had no idea what Dorian was talking about.
Dorian let out a quiet laugh, his face turning away slightly with a rueful smile. “It takes time, doesn’t it, amatus?”
He said the words in that soft and quiet way he spoke sometimes, when Adaar was pretty sure he was wasn’t speaking to anyone in the room. Before Adaar to could ask Dorian what he was talking about, the other mage was already getting up.
“I’m going to go help Bull with dinner,” Dorian stated, “I don’t want the great brute to sulk and think that I’m upset with him. Tears never go well with a good curry.”
Adaar smiled. “I'm sure he doesn't think you're mad, but you are his favorite helper in the kitchen.”
“That's only because you eat more than you help.” Dorian’s hand wrapped around Adaar’s wrist and playfully tugged at his arm. “Now come, I want you to make that Free Marcher fruity red wine drink for me.”
“It’s called sangria.”
“All I know is that I want some. It's been that sort of day.”
This was what Adaar wanted when he persuaded Dorian to move in. He wanted not only the good times, but he also wanted to share Dorian’s burdens. For him and Bull to be there for Dorian when he needed them and in turn he wanted Dorian to be there for them as well.
“Then I’ll be happy to make you some, kadan.”
The rest of the evening passed quietly enough. There was no more mention of Cassandra’s visit or Bull’s behavior until they were getting ready for bed. Adaar was already under the covers, half dozing with a book splayed out on his chest when Dorian stepped out of the bathroom, naked from his shower. Bull was absent, letting out some of his restless energy by falling back on old routines and Adaar was pretty sure he was out in the backyard checking the lock on the gate.
Dorian crawled into bed and under the blankets, sliding perfectly against Adaar’s side with his freshly washed skin and damp hair already curling. He planted his face against Adaar’s shoulder as he asked, “Is Bull alright?”
“Of course he is, why wouldn’t he be?”
Turning his head, Dorian peeked up at Adaar, his expression creased with concern. “He normally doesn’t stalk the house to make sure all the windows are locked or go outside to check the perimeter of the fence.”
The behavior didn’t strike Adaar as odd, but he recognized that it wasn’t something that Bull did much of anymore. Their early days in Adaar’s little studio apartment in Val Royeaux were restless with Bull waking up at every footstep and voice, his large form pacing the length of their home as he checked the windows, grumbled about the fire escape, and replaced the locks on the door. But soon those ticks and habits became familiar before they eventually faded until roused by some perceived threat to their security.
There was a certain comfort Adaar found in it.
“He was like this before, right after he came to Val Royeaux to be with me and start school.”
“Hm,” Dorian hummed, the sound vibrating against Adaar’s skin. “That was a long time ago, wasn’t it?”
“Nearly ten years.”
Dorian’s body shifted, pressing up closer as he tucked his face back against Adaar’s arm, mumbling sleepily, “I always forget you two have been together almost as long as Felix and I were.”
“I always think of you two being together much longer, considering all of the pining you two did as teenagers,” Adaar replied lightly.
He could admit to himself that he was fishing, hoping that he could coax Dorian into speaking more about his late husband to further build Adaar’s mental image of him. More than just knowing a handsome face, Adaar wanted a reconstruction of the man Dorian loved without reserve. He wanted to know Felix in order to better know Dorian.
But this time Dorian didn’t respond to Adaar’s bait, he merely hummed again and observed, “You and Bull don’t cuddle like this very often.”
That pulled a soft laugh from Adaar. “No, we don’t. We used to, but you learn quickly after your horns get tangled together and Krem laughs at you for a full ten minutes instead of helping. We had to call him at least three times for help.”
Dorian snorted. “No risk of that with me.”
“No,” his fingers traced down the length of Dorian’s spine, “that’s why I cuddle with you all the time.”
He could feel the smile forming on Dorian’s mouth and the tightening of the other mage’s arms around him.
“Now this is one of my favorite sights to walk in on.”
The mattress sank down as Bull settled onto his side of the bed. Bull smelled strongly of the summer air as he leaned in close and stole a kiss from Adaar before his lips wandered to the nape of Dorian’s neck and then slowly worked down the length of his spine. A breathy, “Amatus,” was whispered across Adaar’s skin as Bull’s hand caught his own and their fingers intertwined.
For Adaar, tangled in the embrace of both of his kadans, everything was perfect.
The very last of Dorian’s boxes was unpacked on an unremarkable and quiet Saturday morning. It had lingered for a couple of weeks, most likely destined to be shoved in a closet and never be opened again, but Adaar approached Dorian’s move with a determination that no stray box could withstand. The box filled with odds and ends, one that Dorian hastily threw together in the last days in his townhouse. Printed out academic articles, pens, a half empty bottle of lotion, adapters to long forgotten electronics, and an old necktie made up the bulk of the box.
But hidden at the bottom was a small treasure. It was a gold bracelet with Tevinter style snake engraving wrapped in a brightly patterned piece of silk cloth. The piece of jewelry was too big for Dorian’s wrist, but it was certainly made for a human.
After putting away the rest of Dorian’s things, Adaar took the bracelet over to Dorian’s jewelry box, carefully opening the top of the high gloss lacquer box and found an empty compartment for it. He lingered for a few extra seconds, taking a peek at the ornate rings, bracelets, necklaces, and one plain silverite ring with an engraving on the inside, all neatly organized in the jewelry box.
With a small bounce to his step, Adaar headed downstairs and found Dorian at the breakfast table with Bull. Bull was reading the newspaper, his breakfast half eaten, while Dorian scrolled through his phone with only a cup of dark coffee in hand. The coffee mug was Bull’s favorite Fog Warriors football mug, but Dorian seemed to take great pleasure in using it when it was filled with Tevinter coffee. There was some joke between them that Adaar was not getting.
“You are officially moved in!”
Dorian blinked lazily over the rim of his coffee mug before he lowered it. “I rather thought I was moved in weeks ago or have I been sleepwalking to the townhouse? That might explain the sour look Krem gave me the other day.”
“He means he unpacked the last box of your stuff,” Bull clarified from behind the newspaper, his amusement plain behind the sports section, “and Krem was just put out that you finished off that spice cake.”
“There was a last box?”
“Why else would the boss be up this early on a Saturday?”
“It was mostly odds and ends,” Adaar reassured, helping himself to hearty portion of breakfast and coffee and taking the seat between them. Bull was already sliding over the science and magic section of the newspaper to Adaar. “But I did find a gold bracelet in there with a snake engraving. I put it in your jewelry box.”
“Oh,” Dorian perked up, eyebrows rising, “I thought I had lost that thing. Well, thank you for being obsessive and going through my things, amatus.”
“Anytime,” he grinned broadly. “Now that you’re all unpacked, I’d like to have a party.”
“A party?” Dorian repeated, blinking slowly as he took a long sip from his coffee mug.
“To celebrate you being all moved in with our friends,” Adaar pushed, his excitement growing at the thought of the house filled with their friends and congratulating them on the next step of their lives. Warmth spread through him thinking about everyone acknowledging Dorian’s place in his and Bull’s life. “Like a housewarming. Something like a housewarming party.”
Dorian’s mug clicked noisily against the table’s surface as he set it down, but Dorian himself remained quiet.
The paper crinkled in Bull’s hands as he lowered it. “It doesn’t have to be a housewarming or a party for any particular reason. We can just have a barbeque with our friends.” Dorian opened his mouth, but Bull interrupted with a smirk, “You should just accept it, sweetheart, there’ll be some sort of gathering. The boss has deemed it so.”
“I am not one to say no to parties filled with good food and booze, but Bull is right, we needn’t an excuse. There’s no need to be garish and call it a housewarming, we’d just sound like we’re grabbing for gifts.” Dorian rose from his seat. “I need to be going, but I’ll think on it.”
“Are you going to brunch with Lavellan today?” Adaar asked as an inkling of Dorian’s schedule stirred in his mind.
“Of course, she enjoys judging my life choices most over waffles and mimosas.”
The house fell into comfortable silence once Dorian left for his brunch date with only the rustle of the newspaper and the clink of silverware on the dishes to break the monotony. Under the table, Bull’s bad knee pressed against Adaar’s and Adaar’s hand fell to Bull’s thigh, resting there without intention.
“Going to see her today, right?” Bull finally asked, neatly folding the paper and letting it rest on the table.
“Yeah, did you want to come?” Adaar offered, though he had no expectations. “I need to go to my office for a bit, but I could call you when I’m meeting with her. We’re just getting coffee.”
“I’m good, tell her I said hi,” Bull didn’t hesitate. “This afternoon Dorian and I are going to Cullen’s to watch the football game with Krem, the Dragons and Redcliffe are playing.”
“Sounds like fun, though hopefully no one will be killed over the outcome of the game.”
“Kadan,” Bull started.
Bull paused for a moment, his eye regarding Adaar before asking, “Want to watch The Jaws of Hakkon when you get back?”
The corners of Adaar’s mouth twitched at the mention of one of his favorite movies. “I thought you were sick of that movie.”
“Nah, I never get tired of watching you swoon whenever the Inquisitor appears.”
“I do not swoon. Zevran is just a brilliant actor and I appreciate his talent,” Adaar countered, falling easily into step with their ongoing playful argument. “But yes, I’d love to watch it when I get back. It’ll give me something to look forward to.”
Bull leaned into his space, his large hand on Adaar’s thigh as their lips brushed. “Need something to look forward to after having coffee with an old friend?”
Pulling back a little, Adaar swatted his arm. “That’s not what I meant and you know it.”
Not long after his leisurely breakfast, Adaar was heading out the door himself. Summer was Adaar’s favorite season in Skyhold. The air was crisp in the morning, the lingering coolness of night burning off into warm afternoons, perfect for barbeques and outdoor activities. The city also calmed with its student populations leaving for the summer months, scurrying to warmer climates and beaches, leaving behind the residents who took full advantage of uncrowded theaters, bars, and restaurants.
The halls of Skyhold University were emptied out, filled with an unnatural hush as Adaar worked on grading a pile of student papers from his summer course that he accidentally left in his office. The lack of students was not part of the reason why Adaar enjoyed the summer so much, in fact he rather missed them, but it did mean that he could work uninterrupted.
With the students gone, it also meant that the university cafes were nearly abandoned. Only students in summer classes and steadfast professors and staff occupied the seats at various on campus establishments. It meant that prime outdoor seating was readily available. So it was no surprise later that afternoon to find Evelyn already seated outside of a popular campus coffee shop, sitting out in the sun with one hand wrapped around a white ceramic mug and her phone in the other hand. From what Adaar could remember, she almost always drank the same thing.
White chocolate mocha with an extra espresso shot, Adaar’s brain supplied helpfully as he wondered idly if her drink preferences remained the same.
She looked up from her phone and a smile spread over her pink lips, widening out to show off perfect white teeth. Adaar had seen numerous photos of her via social media, but she was always more striking in person. Her pale and freckled face with its gentle rounded features was almost glowing in the sunlight. Her green eyes, even more vivid than his, were nearly obscured by the bangs of her pixie cut, her red hair lightened by days in the sun.
Adaar recalled the way Bull once adored running his fingers through that hair.
“Kaaras,” her Free Marcher accent formed his Qunlat name perfectly.
For a moment, Adaar remembered their conversations entirely in Qunlat, of evenings lounging at home where not a word of Common was spoken between the three of them. To most it sounded like a harsh language, but it always sounded like home to Adaar. Languages came easily to Evelyn, a gift that she liked to flaunt. Then he thought of Dorian and his imperfect fumbling with the language coupled with his grim determination to learn it, sitting on the phone with Tama as they both groped around for understanding in a mixture of Common and Qunlat.
“Evelyn, it’s good to see you,” he said with sincerity as she rose, her arms held out to him.
He allowed the hug, a kindly gesture between friends even as her scent reminded Adaar suddenly of lazy mornings in bed, giggling under the covers, and soft, sleepy smiles. The hug was quick and soon enough Adaar was sitting down into the chair across from her.
“I went ahead and ordered you a drink, my treat,” Evelyn motioned to the tall, untouched glass on the table beading with condensation. “Do you still drink iced tea?”
“I do. Thanks.” After taking a sip, he found that the drink was overly sweet, making his teeth hurt. He used to drink sugar filled tea by the gallon it seemed, propelling himself through graduate school with caffeine and sugar. Though now he mostly consumed it unsweetened, but Adaar didn’t mention it.
“No Bull today, I see,” she observed, her mouth pulled into a rueful smirk.
“He was busy,” Adaar answered vaguely, “he says hello.”
“Football game, I bet, some northern team is probably playing,” she filled in softly, though they both knew that wasn’t the reason why. “Tell him I said hello right back at him.”
They slid easily into a conversation, catching up on the last few years since Adaar and Bull moved from Val Royeaux to Skyhold and filling in on the details that social media posts left behind. They spoke of vacations and work, of old and new friends. Evelyn was always quick to laugh and tease, and delighted to hear about any mischief Adaar and Bull had gotten into and Adaar was equally delighted to hear of her own adventures. It was shocking how quickly they fell into a rhythm, into an easy and comfortable exchange, but Evelyn was never hard to talk to. She was never lacking in charm and wit.
Curious about Evelyn’s current project, Adaar asked, “So where are you doing your research for your book? Are you still writing fiction?” Adaar tried not to fidget at the thought of her sitting in the reading room of Dorian’s rare book and manuscript library.
“My book is a historical fiction on the Dragon Age Inquisition, so I’m working here at Skyhold University and then I’ll be off to the Skyhold branch of the national archives.”
Some tension bled out of Adaar. “I hope it goes well.”
“Thanks, I think I’ll get what I need.” Evelyn leaned back in her chair. “Speaking of research and dusty tomes, Vivienne says hello. She says that she misses you and Bull.”
“She did not say that.”
Evelyn snorted with laughter. “Ok, maybe not in so many words. But she did say that you were her last half decent student and she mentioned how Bull was of the most tolerable of company.”
Adaar had to laugh as well. “Maker, I guess she really does miss us or she’s getting soft.”
“Soft? Never. I think Vivienne’s patience for others is just wearing thinner than usual,” Evelyn grinned before offhandedly mentioning, “Vivienne let it slip that you and Bull have a new boyfriend.”
“She did not ‘let it slip.’ Madame de Fer says everything with great and deliberate purpose.”
“That is true, but she isn’t wrong.”
“No, she isn’t.” A real smile spread over Adaar’s face. “We’ve been with Dorian since last fall and he just moved in. He’s a really sweet and gentle guy, once you get past all of his bluster.”
Evelyn’s own smile was placating. “Sounds nice.”
He knew that tone and he resisted the urge to cringe as if he heard nails across a chalkboard. “What? What’s wrong?”
Her smile slanted sideways as her expression became wry. “I’m just surprised.”
“What do you mean by that?” he asked immediately.
“Nothing by it! I was just surprised since I hadn’t heard anything about it before. It’s not every day Vivienne is updating me on your love life,” Evelyn answered easily, her voice now colored by more surprise as if admonishing Adaar for his unspoken accusation.
“Dorian is from Tevinter,” Adaar readily explained, feeling no less agitated by Evelyn, “he can be a bit shy about relationships and public displays of affection. I don’t like to post things online that might make him uncomfortable.”
“He was married to a man before, right? To another Magister?” She asked as if that proved any point. “That’s what Vivienne said at least, seems pretty public to me.”
“Dorian isn’t a Magister, he’s an Altus and so was his late husband,” Adaar found himself correcting Evelyn.
“That’s right, he’s a widower,” Evelyn hummed knowingly to herself as she leaned back in her seat. “I didn’t mean anything by it and I’m not surprised he wants to keep it quiet. Being with you and Bull is different, I know that. It’s near impossible telling your stuffy noble family and friends that you’re sleeping with two Qunari, even if they are a lovely couple.”
Adaar sank his teeth into his lower lip to keep from correcting her again, feeling unexpectedly stung by her characterization of their relationship. We weren’t just a couple, you were a part of us too.
“Has he even told his parents?” she questioned, before nearly giggling, “Maker, can you imagine the look on his parents’ faces if he told them?”
Her voice was light as it always was, teasing and making a joke of it, but the acid in Adaar’s stomach churned unpleasantly. He couldn’t deny that it worried him. That Dorian, coming from Tevinter and the situation with his family, might suffer repercussions for his relationship with Adaar and Bull. His mind went back to Cassandra’s visit and Dorian’s hesitation over her question about being in contact with his mother-in-law. But he kept silent about the worries that their relationship was costing Dorian more than the other mage could have imagined or wanted.
And her remembered Evelyn’s own careless words years ago, the wariness and accusation heavy in them.
“What did you expect, Kaaras? You don’t bring the Iron Bull home to have tea with the parents.”
“It’s getting late,” he made a bland excuse, “I should really get going, I have plans for the rest of the day.”
“Oh, Kaaras,” she frowned at him chidingly, “don’t be that way. I’m not trying to be mean, I promise not to talk about your new boyfriend anymore, though I do have quite a bit of insight.”
There was nothing that Adaar wanted to hear. He knew his smile must have looked as empty as it felt as he politely, “Good luck with your research, Evelyn.”
He heard his first name flawless in Evelyn’s voice again, but ignored it as he asked himself why he agreed to meet with her in the first place. He was always too eager to be diplomatic, to be understanding, and always trying to fix things. But Adaar couldn’t fix his and Bull’s relationship with Evelyn before, and now he found he was unsure if he could maintain a base level acquaintance with her. She was engaging as ever, just how Adaar remembered her, but seeing her in person also reminded him too sharply of what was and what happened.
She didn’t love Bull.
Sleep eluded Kaaras as he laid in his sleeping bag, the top was flung open as Seheron’s early summer was insufferable to the Free Marcher. He stared up at the dark blue nylon of the tent over his head, at the white netting at the tent window that kept the bugs out and let the humid night air in, and listened to Bram’s light snores, mixing with the ever present chirp and howl of the jungle’s wildlife. But none of these were the reason why Kaaras remained awake.
His mind was filled with the Iron Bull.
He expected to be challenged by the man, to have him exert a superior nature over Kaaras in the way Tal-Vashoth sometimes did. However, the Iron Bull exhibited no signs of aggression towards him, instead he was professional and friendly and never once talked down to Kaaras. And in the increasing instances when they were alone and no one else was around to observe his behavior, the Tal-Vashoth was kind, affable, and awfully flirty.
Heat crept up on Kaaras’s cheeks as he remembered being alone with the Iron Bull earlier that day. Bull was escorting Kaaras from the excavation site back to base camp when they stopped for a short break in the shade away from the afternoon sun. Kaaras just happened to catch the sight of Bull drinking from his canteen, immediately fascinated by the slow bob of his throat and the sweat beaded on firm muscles.
Much to Kaaras’s chagrin, the Iron Bull noticed his stare almost instantly. But instead of teasing Kaaras, the Bull merely winked with his one blue eye and very purposefully flexed his chest and arm muscles.
There was nothing wrong with admiring a handsome, fit Tal-Vashoth, Kaaras told himself in the darkness. There were plenty of Vashoth and Tal-Vashoth in his neighborhood growing up who were good looking and Kaaras never once felt so flustered about admiring one of them. He had no reason to be embarrassed around the Bull and he was determined not to be. He only had to acclimate himself to the man’s behavior.
Honestly, it wouldn’t hurt to get to know the Iron Bull a little better.