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please do not lose it, this flame i have lit inside (breathe and burn with it)

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Josephine had been only mildly surprised when Mahanon Lavellan had suggested what he might wear to the Winter Palace, but as soon as he had confirmed his preferences, she quickly shifted gears. Leliana, on the other hand, could not let it pass without comment, though her expression bore more curiosity than surprise. To her credit, she waited until Mahanon raised a brow at her before she stepped forward.

"Are you certain about this?" she asked. "If you mean to shock them..."

"Not at all," Mahanon countered as he started pinching bits of fabric between his fingers as bolts of cloth were brought in. "I rather think they'll appreciate both having a reason to gossip as well as the utter disregard of gender normativity. Provided, of course, there's a suitable design to be flattering to my figure. I've never worn a dress before, after all."

"The Winter Palace is not without its share of dangers," Leliana warned. "We will have to make sure you know how to move in it quickly and silently."

Mahanon smiled, pleased. "I'd have it no other way."

///

Mahanon had feared that the finished product would look unnatural and strange. But as he smoothed his hand over the boning pulled tight around his waist and examined his profile in the mirror, he found himself quite enamored with his own appearance. Despite having the build more for a mage and not for a warrior, he was not very feminine, yet the corset forced a waist where there was not one and the low neckline somehow softened the broadness of his shoulders when paired with such a wide skirt.

It was utterly unlike anything Mahanon had ever worn before. He turned in a circle, examining his reflection from every angle, and then turned a little faster to see the skirt swing wide. A laugh bubbled up from inside him. He had to stop spinning so that he could catch his breath.

"I see you are enjoying yourself," commented Leliana as she entered Mahanon's quarters from the stairs. She circled him to do an examination of her own before finally giving him an approving nod. "The color suits you well. Are you excited to wear it?"

"Excited," he agreed, "and nervous. It's not the court. Josephine has told me so much about the nobles there that I feel like I could navigate them in my sleep." Leliana's gaze sharped briefly in concern, which Mahanon was quick to assuage. "Not that I will. I think I'm more worried about others will think... Those closer to me than a few well-connected nobles."

Leliana hummed, stepping so that she was shoulder to shoulder with him and looking at their paired reflections. "You mean Dorian. You haven't told him and are worried that he will not like the same things as you. That he will judge you harshly?"

Taking a deep breath, Mahanon tried to explain the minutiae of his anxieties. "Dorian is very firm about the fact that he likes men. And while wearing this doesn't stop me from being a man, perhaps this is where he draws the line? He says that he's happy with me, no matter how he has me, but everyone has preferences. And it took him ages before he admitted that he was worried about the rumors that spread as soon as people noticed that we were together and--"

Abruptly, Mahanon forces himself to take a breath. It's difficult, inhaling so deeply against the clutch of the corset. His chest heaves instead, making him straighten his spine and square his shoulders.

"Well this won't do at all," Leliana said, bumping his hip gently with her own. "Clothing should make you feel better, not worse. If you can't walk into a room and make everyone want to kill each other just for a chance that you'll look at them, then what's the point?"

Mahanon laughed despite himself.

Leliana sighed dramatically. "It's a shame that you won't wear it, though," she added with a hint of wistfulness. "I guess we'll have to go with the uniforms that Josephine commissioned after all."

Having not known about these uniforms at all, Mahanon looked sharply toward his spymaster. She helpfully began describing them even without his prompting. Bright red uniforms with gold embellishments and a navy blue sash. It wasn't that the colors were bad in any way, but the whole point of wearing a dress had been to break into something unknown. The uniform would be boxy and undefining, erasing every uniquely identifying feature he had. Josephine had wanted him to be memorable!

After a moment's pause, Leliana said, "I suppose there's no reason to keep you in this thing, if you're not even going to wear it."

Then she started to undo the fastenings of the corset.

Mahanon had to twist away to stop her. "No! I--" He felt along his back blindly, trying to see how much Leliana had undone. The corset already felt considerably looser, more so with each breath. He flushed at Leliana's smug little smile, but couldn't help feeling defensive. "I'm going to wear it to the Winter Palace, so--"

"But what of Dorian?" Leliana asked. She did not even pretend to actually worry.

"He loves me. It'll be fine." Mahanon would believe it when he saw Dorian's face, however. He didn't say so out loud. He faced himself in the mirror again, touching the front of the corset with one hand while the other continued to hold the back together. He shrugged one shoulder. "Besides," he said, "Josephine went to all this trouble."

Leliana caught on quickly. "It would be a waste to let it languish in your wardrobe."

"Exactly," he said. "Now that that's out of the way, you always have at least two reasons to see me, so why are you really up here?"

This time, Leliana's smile was as bright as the sun. "You can't guess?" He couldn't, and she laughed. "Well, I can't let you go to the Winter Palace barefoot, now can I? You're going to need shoes."

///

Dorian didn't get to see the Inquisitor as he entered the Winter Palace. He -- along with Vivienne and Cassandra -- had been sent ahead to get a feel for the crowd, while Josephine and Leliana had the honors to get their darling leader ready for the party of his life. Dorian almost didn't understand the point of being here. After all, after about five minutes of conversation some inconsequential lordling, Dorian was just about ready to let the whole country burn to the ground, no matter what he'd seen in the future.

Despite not being alongside Mahanon at his entrance, there could be no doubt as to when the Inquisitor arrived. The whispers heralded his arrival faster than any official announcement. Dorian pushed through the crowd, grabbing a drink from a passing servant on the way. As if in self-defense, the crowds parted for Dorian like the sea, but as he approached the ballroom, people had gathered at the railing in such droves that he was forced to stop.

At some point, Dorian gravitated toward a familiar set of shoulders and found Cassandra. She grunted, displeased at being unable to have eyes on the Inquisitor at all times, and eventually moved people out of the way until finally some cowards gave way under her considerably venomous glare.

"Here," she said, shifting minutely so that Dorian could squeeze in next to her. "Can you see him?"

There were lots of pairs swinging together across the dance floor. Dorian scanned across them, though he didn't think Mahanon had managed to win court approval so quickly as to be rewarded with a dance. He spotted Leliana on the opposite railing, however, and Josephine at the corner of the staircase. Cullen -- the poor man -- was in the middle of a small swarm. The Inquisitor, however, escaped him, yet there was no one else beyond Empress Celene herself who would have drawn a crowd such as this.

"There," Cassandra said, inclining his head. "Dancing with the lady whose hat looks like a wheel."

"Which one?" Dorian replied snidely out of the corner of his mouth.

But he'd already deduced which figure had to be Mahanon. No one but an elf had that particular lightness of foot, especially when wearing a dress that had to weigh at least fifteen pounds.

Mahanon was wrapped in green silks, whose color was so deep and dark as to be nearly black. The broad collar circled high behind the raised curl of Mahanon's white hair and then dropped low down the front, exposing both collar bones before it hit the hard line of the corset. The lining of the corset was studded with gold beading that faded out into the skirts like distant stars. The fan of the skirts swung wide every time Mahanon took a turn. Dorian caught a glimpse of his shoes under the hem -- black boots with a hike of heel -- and then a more dramatic swirl revealed more detail: gold lacing along the back of the calf. Leliana looked so proud every time that they appeared that they had to be her doing.

"He looks--" Dorian began, shell-shocked.

Not like a woman, even with the corseted waist and skirts. Mahanon had always been of a lean body, but the dress left his arms exposed -- with all their muscles and scars and blood red tattoos. Between the bold color choice -- distinctly solid in a sea of patterns and mix match of colors -- and the shoes that clipped loudly against the floor with every step, Mahanon was unignorable, impossible to overlook. He drew the eye like a glittering gem, white hair seeming to glow against such a rich background.

He looked-- Vicious. Powerful. Ruthless and unafraid. The sight of him made Dorian shiver, and he couldn't be sure how much of it was arousal and how much of it was fear.

"Beautiful," Cassandra said with the kind of wistful twist that she'd deny until her deathbed.

That too, Dorian agreed.

And it was going to make sneaking around the palace fucking impossible.

///

Or it wasn't.

Dorian redacted his earlier supposition barely an hour later -- after he'd watched four times as Mahanon shoved the skirts down to his ankles as soon as they were out of sight, only to hike them back up to his waist before reentering the party, with not a single blip in how the court received him. That Mahanon had been wearing tight leggings underneath all those layers wasn't so much a relief as it was a tease, especially when he kept the boots on. Dorian couldn't take his eyes off the gold lacing. They matched the cords holding the corset closed, and Dorian's hands itched to undo it all.

When Mahanon caught him staring, he responded with a wink and a wiggle of his ass as he lifted the skirts around his thighs. It was a special kind of torture, but by now, Dorian had gotten used to being led around by his dick whenever the Inquisitor was involved. Mahanon's sneaky little fingers managed to get around all the guards Dorian had over his buttons and pressed them mercilessly. And -- apparently -- seemed intent to give him some new ones, as men in dresses had never actually featured in any of Dorian's fantasies before but were definitely going into the regular repertoire from now on.

And after the throne of Orlais had been saved and Corypheus's latest scheme unraveled, Dorian watched -- his whole body covered in goosebumps -- as Mahanon stood just slightly behind Celene and Briala and wiped a bit of blood off one collarbone. A group of Inquisition soldiers were carting Florianne away to be imprisoned until her judgement.

Dorian couldn't help following the Inquisitor out to the balcony afterward. His gaze was locked on that tightly laced back, the broad flow of skirts under which Dorian knew were a powerful set of legs wrapped in leather and silk. The list of things he would do to make sure that those legs were spread open for him tonight was longer than he was tall, but he knew the thing that would make Mahanon happiest.

He held out a hand with a dramatic little twirl and bowed invitingly. "Let's dance," he said.

Mahanon eagerly took his hand, a mischievous smirk curling the corners of his mouth. "I thought you'd never ask."

Dorian laughed and led them in a turn around the balcony before pulling Mahanon back in. "I'm glad one of us has some initiative."

Tilting his head back so that he could look Dorian in the eye, Mahanon squinted suspiciously before glancing at the incredibly open doors that led back into the ballroom. There were dozens of people milling about nearby and only half of them were concerning themselves with Empress Celene and Briala.

"I think you just want to cause a scene," Mahanon accused lightly.

Dorian squeezed Mahanon's corseted waist. "As if I'm the only one."

"Oh, well, in that case --"

Mahanon lifted his hand from Dorian's shoulder and reached for the leather binding in his hair, unraveling it with a few tugs and ruffling the white locks that fell around his shoulders. Dorian had never seen it down before, not even during sex, so it was a surprise to see how long it was. He had little time to appreciate it however, as Mahanon had thrown the leather strap behind Dorian's neck and used it as leverage to tug him in for a kiss.

It was dirty from the start, open mouthed and smothering a moan. Dorian cupped Mahanon's jaw, returned the kiss with equal fervor, savoring the plushness of his mouth and licking past the elf's teeth. Mahanon's hair was like a silky curtain between his fingers and carried with it the faint scent of embrium and the familiar bite of magic that always followed the Inquisitor after battle.

Usually Dorian hated and loved parties like this in equal measure, but he could not help but want to crow with joy for all to see. He was kissing the victor! Mahanon had come to this place with no true expectation of victory, his presence demanded by desperation, had found all their dirty secrets, and had won . And now Dorian had the winner plastered against his front, chest heaving behind the hard boning of his corset, skirts preventing Dorian from sliding a thigh between Mahanon's legs to feel how hard he was. Dorian felt like a king, yet if there were anything Mahanon wanted of him, he would grant it immediately.

So when Mahanon broke away with a gasp, flushed all the way down to his chest, and said, "Take me to bed, Dorian, and get this damn dress off me," Dorian had no choice but to

The dress itself was rather flimsy when it came right down to it. The shaped collar alone was easily ripped clean from the top of the corset purely by accident. Then, with the bedroom door slammed and locked shut behind them, Dorian tried to undo the laces on the back of the corset. He cursed when he realizes how tightly knotted they were.

"What?" Mahanon asked, pulling his hair forward over one shoulder as he turned to look behind him. He sounded breathless. "What's wrong?"

"It's the laces," Dorian said.

A rough, frustrated noise ripped itself out of Mahanon's throat as he twisted around. "Oh, fuck it," he said, searching Dorian's mouth out for a quick, hungry kiss. "Forget the corset and get your cock out."

Mahanon shoved Dorian toward the bed, and even as he fumbled with his own breeches, he watched Mahanon wiggle out of his skirts in the same way he had all night. Watched as Mahanon peeled the leggings over his boots and kicked them aside. The elf prowled toward Dorian, hand lazily pulling at his cock to get it fully stiff. He seemed amused that Dorian had only managed to get his breeches halfway down his thighs, and his smile was exceptionally fond as he pushed Dorian down to the bed and climbed into his lap.

"This will do," he breathed, grasping their cocks together in one hand.

Mahanon chewed on his lower lip as he searched out his own pleasure. A habit -- Dorian had come to understand -- from having to stay quiet when aravels provided little privacy among the clans. It made his already pink mouth even redder, white teeth worrying deeply into thin flesh. Dorian kissed him for it, gently coaxing his mouth open so that he could take that lip between his own teeth and feel the hot burst of Mahanon cursing against his face.

Between them, Mahanon's fist moved furiously, those nimble fingertips dragging over every sensitive spot Dorian had -- eliciting shivers and gasps and more of those devouring kisses that Mahanon loved to be a recipient of. There was an edge to Mahanon's moans, however. A frustration that Dorian ached to appease.

He began rolling his hips with such enthusiasm that Dorian had to hold him for fear that Mahanon would fall. That doing so meant that Dorian had both hands on Mahanon's ass was just a delightful coincidence. But even when Dorian's hands encouraging him, Mahanon's movement was stiff, jerky. It was only when Mahanon forewent further pleasure to scratch at the corset's lacing that Dorian realized the root of the problem.

The corset was a rigid and unforgiving encasement from the middle of Mahanon's ribcage to the crest of his hips. Movement during battle -- wherein Mahanon was mostly a distant participant unless a rift was involved -- hadn't required the same flexibility that he liked to use in the bedroom. Now, the very thing that had forced Dorian to watch him all night was getting in the way of the reward.

" Fendehis , I can't--" There were distressed tears gathering at the corners of Mahanon's eyes. "I can't move in this thing."

"Then don't," Dorian quickly assured him and turned them so that Mahanon was splayed out on the bed sheets. "Let me do all the work."

A split second where Mahanon still hadn't grasped the situation entirely. And by the time he had, Dorian already had the other man's legs thrown over his shoulder and his cock in his mouth.

"Oh!" Mahanon shouted before he could stop himself. " Dorian , I--"

Dorian glanced up to see Mahanon had one hand fisted in the sheets and the other pressed loosely against his gaping mouth. That breathless flush from the balcony was back again in full force, spreading like a flood down Mahanon's throat and across his shoulders in a red so deep that his tattoos nearly disappear under it. Dorian hummed, satisfied with the visual, and nearly laughed when Mahanon's hips jerked a little. Instead, he hooked an arm around Mahanon's thigh and splayed his hand across the front of the corset to hold him in place as he swallowed around his cock. Mahanon whined, high and tight, and abruptly grabbed for Dorian's hand, lacing their fingers together as he twisted helplessly under the onslaught of pleasure.

Mahanon was the only man that Dorian had ever bedded that didn't try to control how he sucked cock. It was heady, that kind of freedom. Dorian could go as slowly and cruelly as he wanted, and Mahanon would simply weather the torture, shivering and crying through every drawn out minute until Dorian finally let him come. Or Dorian could take him down ruthlessly fast, teasing at all the spots that made Mahanon a mess in the fewest seconds possible, and even though it made him curse loudly enough to draw an embarrassing amount of attention, Mahanon would hold him afterward long enough to steal a few gentle kisses.

He hadn't decided yet which speed he was wanting to go with, but then Mahanon let out a choked whimper, fingers tightening around Dorian's hand so hard that the back of his palm ached from the pressure. The sound was enough to make up Dorian's mind for him. To the victor went the spoils, after all, and Dorian was loathe to deny him.

"Vhenan, please --"

The plea cut short as Dorian guided Mahanon's cock into his mouth, in in in until it was sliding against the roof of his mouth and then past that critical barrier into his throat. Beneath him, Mahanon's whole body tightened, thighs clenching and releasing in an effort not to thrust. The heel of his boots dug briefly into Dorian's back. Dorian pulled back for a breath, gave Mahanon a heartbeat to relax, and took him into his throat again. Mahanon shouted this time, cock throbbing over Dorian's tongue -- a smattering of disjointed Elven and Common combined that Dorian couldn't translate but was nonetheless understandable in its intention.

" Ar lath ," Mahanon moaned again and again. It could only be him asking for more, and so Dorian gave it to him, swallowing around him and pulling at the tightly drawn sack below.

He pulled off to suck at the root of Mahanon's cock, to lick the tip with a curling tongue, to whisper, "Beautiful," in a rasping voice that would leave no mystery in the morning as to what he'd done tonight, to meet Mahanon's golden eyes as he encouraged him to spill across his face. Mahanon surrendered with a helpless curse, sinking down into a limp heap even as his cock continued to streak white over Dorian's fingers and tongue.

Hair splayed in tangled disarray around his head, Mahanon laid there, chest heaving above the tight cinching of the corset, as Dorian rose up onto his knees. With Mahanon satisfied, Dorian could no longer ignore his own desire. His attention was riveted to the ruddy flush of Mahanon's cheeks and the way the elf loosely slid a hand over his own cock to gather the last rivulets of spunk over his fingers. Dorian stripped his cock at a furious pace as Mahanon dragged his wet fingers over the beaded bodice.

"Come for me, vhenan," Mahanon purred, arching his back as much as the corset would allow. "The sooner you do, the sooner you can take me again."

The mental image alone is what made him spill at last, spending threads of come across gold-studded silk, and Dorian laughed despite himself. "Insatiable," he said. "You'd milk me dry if I let you."

Mahanon hummed like the idea had a strong appeal. "I might just," he said, sitting up so that he could kiss Dorian long and slow. "Now go get a knife from my things."

"A knife?" Dorian echoed with a raised brow. "Is this another new kink for us to explore?"

"I was hoping you'd just cut me out of this corset, to be honest," Mahanon replied as he flopped onto his belly, "but I'm open to ideas."

Dorian pressed a kiss to Mahanon's shoulder through a tangled mess of white hair. He gave Mahanon's ass a playful squeeze. "Well as long as you're open to them."