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A Cat's Tenth Life

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The newest addition to Skyhold, and Bull’s first formidable rival for Dorian’s attention, was acquired quite on accident.

The Iron Bull had been trailing after Inquisitor Isk Adaar all day, patiently waiting as she searched through ancient ruins and tried to chase a Halla without letting the beast come to any harm. They were just on their way back towards camp when a band of Freemen attacked, materializing from the ruins of burned houses and charred gardens.

A few well-placed blows of his greataxe, an stab here, and well placed kick there… By the time Bull felled his last opponent he’d barely broken a sweat, though his blood was rushing with the thrill of battle. He glanced behind, spotting Dorian preparing a powerful blast. Bull shivered; his familiarity with his lover’s magic told him the upcoming blast would render its unlucky target a mindless wandering corpse.

Before Dorian’s staff hit the ground to release the spell, Isk’s bellow echoed through the plains and a blast of her lightning fried the men both mages had been aiming for, causing the swirl of purple from Dorian’s staff to go wild. It crashed against the rubble of a ruined house in a burst of purple energy.

“That’d be the last,” Isk said, brushing a strand of white hair behind her curled horns and catching a breath. Any attempt to keep loose stands neat were done in vain, given her preferred electricity magic. Beside Bull, Dorian straightened and breathed in calmly, not fond of letting the effort of battle show.

“Good form,” Dorian commented as he put his own staff into its sling. “You do have a certain elegance in your movements now, Inquisitor.”

Isk laughed and shook her head as she walked over to the closest man down on the ground, bleeding into the grass. Dorian joined her, still joking about her technique as they started to check the fallen over for important correspondence and valuables. They were thick as thieves, and the Altus seemed to delight in trying to improve the Vashoth’s unrefined style of battle magic.

Bull snorted quietly, leaving them to it as he leaned on his axe easily, observing the area. After a while Cole appeared at his elbow, not quite hiding and eyes firmly planted on the flowers at his feet.

Isk was handing Dorian a ring she’d found in someone’s pouch when Bull’s ears twitched at the sound of rock scraping. Cole’s attention snapped up as well, staring towards the house where Bull had heard the noise.

“Boss,” Bull called out, just as the scape happened again. This time the mages heard it as well, glancing up to see where the noise had come from. There wasn’t enough left of the house near them to hide a person, but Bull hoisted his axe up just in case just as Isk lifted her staff again.

“Cold, all alone with nobody left; hiding, waiting, waiting for nobody to return-” Cole whispered, not making a move to reach for his daggers at all and not looking particularly tense either.

“Something dangerous?” Isk asked, looking towards Cole, who didn’t react at all, instead looking towards the ruins. From what little Bull could tell he seemed… hopeful.

“Possibly some vermin we disturbed with our noise,” Dorian commented, but he followed as Isk made her way towards the collapsed wall of what must have been a farmhouse. Not wanting to leave her to it Bull followed hesitantly. The feeling of magic nearby was stronger than before.

They all reached the rubble just in time to watch a piece of broken brick dislodge and something crawl out of hiding. Bull’s instinct was to let his axe crash down immediately, as the flash of purple encasing bone made him think of spirits. But it was small, and made no move to attack and-

“Oh.”

Dorian looked more startled than anyone else, eyes wide as he watched what was…

Honestly, Bull wasn’t even sure what the thing was.

The creature was small, no bigger than a nug and seemed to be made completely out of bone and mist. It took him a few moments to recognize the skull to be that of a cat, and an entire skeleton that was encased in dim purple light as it moved just as a normal animal would. Only without sinew and skin and anything else that should be part of a cat. It looked similar to what Bull had observed Dorian’s magic to do to their fallen foes, making them fight on his behalf. This creature didn’t seem to have a mind for fighting at all.

“Mreow,” it said, opening its tiny skeletal jaws in a yawn and moving towards the group.

Bull’s hands clenched around the grip of his axe, taking a step back just as Dorian moved towards it with a delighted laugh.

“Now would you look at that! My spell must have gone wild and hit you, you poor thing.”

“It must have been dead for quite a while,” Isk said thoughtfully, crouching next to the undead little beast and observing it curiously. She held her staff out towards it, smiling when the thing pawed at it briefly.

“Abandoned, the family ran, afraid but hiding, noises, hungry so hungry…” Cole paused, hesitant smile tugging at his lips. “She’s not hungry now.”

Bull hummed in unease, feeling a little sorry for the creature even if the sight of the skeletal being made him want to leave immediately.

“Of course she isn’t hungry now,” Dorian cooed, actually cooed at the cat. And then, to Bull’s utter shock and horror he leaned down to scoop the little undead thing up in his arms.

He cradled it with ease, smiling as he ran a hand over the shiny purple energy that surrounded the skeleton. By the way his hand moved Bull could tell that the creature was indeed solid to the touch.

“What a soft little lady you are,” Dorian told the cat, delighted as he rubbed the skull. It started purring, nose nudging against Dorian’s chin. The noise was very innocent, but coming from something like that Bull had to struggle not to interpret it as a growl.

“I would have assumed that the spell wouldn’t hold this long,” Isk added after a few moments. She reached out her hand to touch the cat as well, jerking it back when she touched something physical and then laughing and stroking the cat in earnest when she found it solid under her fingers.

“It was a rather strong one,” Dorian admitted, holding the cat as close to his chest as he could without blocking two additional sets of hands. The spoiled little cat was obviously basking in the attention. Bull was the only one who hadn’t made a single move to examine the thing yet, and hadn’t even let go of his weapon.

For a few moments Dorian held the thing closer to his face, rubbing his cheek against where a real cat would have had soft fur covering its side. Then he smiled, a genuine little grin that made his eyes shine and Bull’s heart skip a beat.

“Oh but this is unexpected! There’s no reaction to this cat at all. I have always been fond of cats, but couldn’t ever be near them without my eyes-“

He cut himself off with a cough, a little flustered and Bull couldn’t help but smile. He’d learned the hard way that Dorian would get teary eyed and sneeze up a storm around certain flowers, and how much the man hated to be seen in such a state. Imagining Dorian suffering through a love of cuddly animals…

“What are we going to do with you?” Isk cooed at the cat who let out a soft little meow in response.

“Guess we can wait for a little while to see if the spell goes away,” Bull suggested, shifting his weight from one foot to the other. He tried his best to not let any of his unease show, with demons and spirits and other such crap not being something he could normally wave off easily. “Be on our way and leave it to it.”

Dorian’s arms tightened around the cat, making it squeak unhappily but not struggle much in his hold.

“I’m not going to leave something I’m responsible for creating, don’t be silly! No, if the spell doesn’t go away soon then I’m taking her with me, obviously.”

Cole nodded eagerly and Isk agreed immediately, eyes fixed on the undead beast.

“You can’t just bring an undead… spirit… thing… with us,” Bull argued, showing his discomfort for the first time. “Who knows what’s wrong with it that it’s still- moving.”

Dorian smirked up at him.

“Afraid of a little pussycat? My, I wouldn’t have expected you to be frightened of this tiny kitten.”

“It’s not that it’s a cat,” Bull growled, cheeks heating up in embarrassment. “There’s plenty of cats all over Skyhold. But this is a demon!”

“I can assure you that my spell wouldn’t call forth demons,” Dorian said haughtily, and Isk nodded along.

“There’s nothing demonic about this cat, the Iron Bull, I can promise that.”

“It’s safe, harmless,” Cole said, then hesitated with a smile. “She’s more like… me.”

There was nothing Bull could said to that without potentially hurting Cole’s feelings, so when Isk placed her staff back in its holster and Dorian made no move to stop cradling the cat as he followed behind her, he could do nothing but grumble to himself.

 

*

 

By the time the party was halfway home to Skyhold, the situation hadn’t improved at all. Not only had the misfired spell not worn off from the little beast, but Dorian had barely turned his attention from his new pet. A pet that he had by now also named Scintilla.

Names, Bull knew, only meant that Dorian was growing attached at a fast rate. He wasn’t the only one who doted on the little creature, who, for all intents and purposes, really did act like a normal cat. In the evenings Isk and Dorian would sit together, taking turns in petting the strange little thing or tying a piece of cloth to a string to play with her. It was nearly impossible to relax with a blur of purple magic darting around at the edge of his vision, always making Bull feel like Dorian was casting a spell and that his attention was needed to protect him.

It was even worse when Dorian insisted that of course he needed to keep an eye on the poor little thing when he slept. He couldn’t very well make her believe that her presence wasn’t wanted when she so obviously took a great liking to Dorian and preferred his company over anyone else’s!

The awareness of something small and undead sleeping in the same tent as Bull, just an arm’s length away and curled up against Dorian’s chest made his skin prickle. How was one supposed to get some shut eye with that lurking right by his side?

There was no way to tell Dorian to leave the bag of bones behind, to unravel the spell somehow. Dorian had obviously taken a liking to Scintilla, both out of love for little felines and out of a sense of duty given his role in bringing her to life. He might have been inclined to listen to their Inquisitor, had she decided to talk him out of it, but Isk was just as fond of the cat as Dorian was.

Any attempt to broach the subject on Bull’s part only ended in quiet contempt and Dorian joking about how a cat’s love was far more precious than whatever prowess Bull possessed in bed. That part was very nearly hurtful.

Bull had met Orlesian ladies with pet cats, fond of them as if they were their own children, but he wasn’t entirely sure how Tevinter nobility regarded such matters. Obviously they couldn’t have been against the concept, as Dorian’s talk of wanting a cat seemed only to involve the problem of not being able to be near the little beasts if they possessed actual fur.

There was a small hope he clung to as Skyhold came into view before them, of other seasoned mages and experts on demons and spirits coming to take a look at the creature in Dorian’s arms, to finally talk sense into him. There was simply no way anyone would just let him have such a weird little thing in the keep, not even when the Inquisitor tried to put her foot down. Isk often tried to appease those under her command, making sure that things ran smoothly and nobody had too much cause to complain. While she certainly had a will of her own, it was the little things that she often let slide.

When they arrived in Skyhold word spread quickly, and soon Bull watched Isk and Dorian disappear with a small flock of their resident experts on the fade and magic and other such things, carrying the cat along. That was the last of it, Bull figured, and went to have a drink with his boys.

He would have put it out of his mind, had Krem not approached him a few hours later with a raised brow and a smirk.

“Your Altus has just visited the merchants to buy the fanciest pillows he could find, Chief,” he informed Bull. “Left them in quite a shock, too. What’s this I hear about a cat needing a bed fit for a queen?”

Bull stared at him for a few seconds, blinking dumbly. Surely Dorian hadn’t been permitted to keep the bag of bones. But if he was trying to be sneaky about keeping it he wouldn’t announce what he was looking for either?

With a sigh Bull drained the last of his ale.

Best get used to this, then.

 

*

 

For a little while Bull had expected that the rest of the Inner Circle would feel as disturbed by Scintilla as him. Not everyone was a mage like their Inquisitor, or a special case of not-quite-human as Cole. Surely they would feel put off by Dorian’s new pet.

It was the first day back after their trip that Dorian actually showed up at the Herald’s Rest, Scintilla secure in his arms and flicking her tail in what Bull assumed was a content fashion. Hard to tell with the cat’s face being as good as non-existent.

Barely anyone was there this early in the morning, other than some of the Chargers and one or two soldiers upstairs. It was as quiet as the tavern ever got, which was why Dorian must have decided to bring the cat.

“She’s quite friendly,” Dorian explained with a smile, sitting at a table with Scintilla batting at an empty tankard before him. Bull watched from a distance as their friends surrounded the pair, with varying degrees of curiosity written across their faces.

And indeed, the little creature permitted anyone to pet her briefly, if they were brave enough, and sniffed at the hands that came close enough but didn’t quite dare touch her. In most cases it was morbid curiosity perhaps, but nobody else seemed to be as offput as Bull.

“A strange addition to the Inquisition,” Varric joked as he gently pushed Scintilla away from his full tankard, not letting the cat anywhere near his beer. Whether she could even drink it wasn’t clear yet, and Dorian hadn’t said anything about feeding the cat. “Bet she was a spoiled little thing before. Look at her, she’s no good as a mouser! Just a pampered little pet for a pampered little ‘Vint, Sparkler.”

Dorian huffed but didn’t rise to the bait.

“She is quite intelligent, thank you very much. Why hunt for mice if she has no need for food? Regardless, Scintilla quite deserves a comfortable second life now that she is out of that dreadful Orlesian wasteland.”

So she didn’t need to eat after all. Great.

“Scintilla, eh?” Krem asked, somehow the one who was boldest about petting the cat, regardless of the looks Bull shot him. “Tiny little sparkle? You’re a good little cat, aren’t you Scintillula?”

Scintilla,” Dorian corrected immediately, saving the cat’s dignity though she didn’t seem to mind at all. “But you are right, she very much is a good little cat.”

Sera was the only one who showed the correct amount of caution, squatting beside the table at eye level with the cat, eyes narrowed in suspicion. She hissed quietly, blunt nails clicking against the table’s wood. Scintilla simply meowed back.

“It’s not gonna turn into a demon, is it?” Sera asked tensely, eyes never leaving the cat.

“I can assure you, she is perfectly safe to be around.”

“You say that…”

Sera stared at the cat for a while longer, and then, much to Bull’s horror and disappointment she reached out and booped the cat’s nose, causing it to let out a surprised little mrrp sound.

“Hm, we’re gonna be friends, Cinty,” the elf said with a decisive nod and a final considering look, before sauntering off towards her room, laughing as Dorian bristled.

“Her name is Scintilla! Not- It’s a perfectly good name that you should have the decency to use!”

“Aw come on now,” Varric laughed and clapped him on the back. “Shouldn’t have given her a fancy Tevene name if you wanted us southern barbarians to stick to it.”

Dorian sighed and scooped his cat up at that, shaking his head.

“Well, I shall go and bring her to more refined company then,” he said.

There was some hooting and laughter, along with demands that he stay for a pint. Though the process had been slow, Dorian now fit in with the Chargers just fine, with them actively demanding his presence even without Bull as a buffer.

Dorian shook his head but promised to return after the day’s work. Normally Bull would have tried to seduce him into staying as well, but the goosebumps on his arms were a clear indication that removing the undead creature from his presence had priority for now.

 

*

 

That evening Dorian arrived with a bottle of strong liquor, dressed in what Bull knew to be his best robes and a fine sheen of gold powder on his cheekbones. He had prettied himself up just for Bull, ready to spend their first proper evening back in Skyhold together in the best way possible.

It went as it always did these days, them sharing their drink and sipping it from mismatched rough cups that had somehow found their way from the kitchen up into Bull’s room. Dorian leaned back against the table where he sat, lips curled in a smirk and positioned so that his body was displayed to the fullest, all smooth lines and elegance. What had started as seduction was now just part of their game, and Dorian didn’t stop though the two spent a good hour just talking and enjoying the drink.

When they finally did move on to the more fun activities of the night there was nothing left of the act and dance of Dorian being seduced by the big burly brute, or Bull being tempted into bed by the prettiest thing he’d ever laid eyes on. They were too familiar, too comfortable with each other and there was a routine in Dorian kissing Bull’s cheeks and scars as Bull undid the buckles of his robes with practiced ease.

The familiarity did nothing to make their sex life boring in any way. If anything, it made it more exciting. Knowing each thing that Dorian enjoyed and that would make him gasp and his eyes flutter shut, knowing how any moment Dorian would reach up to grip at his horns just the way he liked best…

Afterwards Dorian draped himself against Bull’s side, content and not even complaining about what state his hair was in. He’d fall asleep eventually anyway, no use in trying to fix it if nobody but the one responsible for the mess was here to see.

“It really took way too much effort to talk to those merchants,” Dorian sighed as he rambled on about the day. “They surely would have tried to charge me truly abhorrent amounts, if not for our dear Inquisitor. You know how I detest the idea of needing help with something as trivial as pursuing a pillow of all things, but I suppose I have to accept Isk’s assistance for Scintilla’s sake.”

“So… with all the cat beds and such you’re getting,” Bull started slowly, unsure of how to broach the subject. “Do you actually intend to keep her?”

“Of course,” Dorian’s face lit up immediately, a soft smile playing on his lips, the kind that Bull usually only saw directed at himself. “She’s a sweet little thing. It doesn’t look like the spell will leave her at all so I might as well make sure that my cat is comfortable. Only the best for my sweet little friend.”

Bull tried not to growl.

“You intend to spoil her? A… cat? One that is undead, if you forgot already.”

Dorian gave him a glance and grinned.

“Are you jealous, the Iron Bull? Does the idea of me giving my attention to anyone but you upset you so?”

This time Bull did growl, though he was fairly certain that he wasn’t pouting.

“I’m not! Is it so strange that I’m suspicious of something dead that’s only walking around because you threw a spell its way? It could be a demon!”

Dorian propped himself up on his elbow to gaze down at Bull, his expression no longer teasing but his smile still very much too gentle for Bull to feel as if he wasn’t being made fun of.

“Are you scared of a tiny cat?”

“I’m not scared of a cat!” Bull protested. “I’m just cautious around freaky magic stuff that goes beyond even what you lot do!”

Dorian sighed but leaned in to kiss Bull soothingly.

“If that is what you’re worried about, I can assure you that you have nothing to fear,” he promised. “You will probably barely even see her at all.”

Bull wanted to complain more about it, but Dorian was kissing him again, and there were much more interesting things to do that grumble over a bag of bones.

 

*

 

The prediction of not having to see the cursed little cat was proven wrong nearly immediately.

Bull had developed the habit of wandering up towards the library just past noon, where Dorian worked tirelessly on research that would benefit the Inquisition. Sometimes he forgot the time or got frustrated when he was stuck or couldn’t find a particular piece of text, forcing him to wait for Josephine to acquire it for him.

It did him good to have somebody to distract him for a while, or somebody to bounce ideas against when the other librarians were busy. While the Iron Bull was by no means a scholar, Dorian claimed that his way of thinking proved to be the best thing to break down blockades he found in his research.

Now that Scintilla was one of Skyhold’s residents, Dorian was never alone anymore when Bull arrived. The cat was always around somewhere, napping by the window or between Dorian’s back and the plush cover of his chair, observing the movements of his quill over parchment, or just winding her way between the stacks of books Dorian had tossed on the floor, purring when he reached down to stroke her back.

It was, frankly, disturbing.

“Doesn’t this bother you?” Bull asked as he watched Dorian push Scintilla away from the document he was reading. The mercenary had made himself comfortable in the only other available chair near Dorian’s desk, and the cat had already attempted to step on the priceless writing three times within five minutes.

“She’s helping,” Dorian said absentmindedly. “And I have committed the serious crime of not petting her thoroughly enough earlier. She evidently wants my attention.”

Scintilla chirped innocently, staring at the Bull. Now that he was closer to her he could see that there were faint outlines of fur and features on her. If he squinted he could even make out what must be the creature’s eyes, fixed on him. A shiver ran down his spine.

“You don’t allow anyone else to even come close to that desk when you write.”

“I can’t just shoo her away. She would be terribly offended.”

Bull frowned but let the matter rest for the day.

Another time he arrived just as Solas was walking past, carrying an ancient tome and raising his brows at the cat.

“It’s not something… demonic, is it,” Bull couldn’t help but ask the Elf, ignoring how Dorian snorted at that. Solas had some unique views on magic, as far as Bull could tell, and his studies were different from those of Dorian.

“I doubt it,” he said evenly. “Though I would assume there’s more than just Dorian’s magic animating this little animal, or else the spell would have worn off without conscious refreshing a while ago.”

“You’re not doing this on purpose, are you?” Bull asked Dorian, who shook his head firmly.

“In that case I would suggest studying it,” Solas said, though he tactfully didn’t press the matter after Dorian’s glare. Even Bull could see why one might refuse to treat a pet as a scientific object, no matter how weird and wrong said pet was.

“Though I understand that you are quite fond of her now. I am just surprised…” Solas frowned briefly, giving Bull some hope that he would pass some judgement after all. “I wouldn’t have wanted a cat, if I had a choice in what creature to reanimate.”

Bull gave him a blank stare and Dorian bit back his comment until Solas was well out of earshot.

“Oh really! I would bet that insufferable man would join the Fereldens in their love for slobbering mabari if it weren’t so undignified!”

Bull, who didn’t really prefer cats over dogs or the other way round merely shrugged.

He couldn’t really fault Solas for his comment about cats though, as later that day he observed Scintilla bother the mage as he was mediating. Solas, his consciousness in the Fade, clearly wasn’t aware of what was going on as the little cat sat down on his face to nap with him. It was funny enough that Dorian and Bull stood at the balustrade to look down at it for a while, before Bull finally decided to make better use of their alone time.

Two weeks after Scintilla joining the Inquisition, Bull arrived at the library to coax Dorian into eating with him and the Chargers. He looked around several times to make sure she wasn’t just hiding somewhere, ready to jump at him and startle him, before finally approaching Dorian.

“Still working?” he asked Dorian and laid his hands on the mage’s shoulders, rubbing soothingly.

Dorian sighed happily and pushed his book away before smiling up at him.

“Yes, unfortunately. The old magister who wrote this record here really had a talent for writing as dry and boring as possible.”

Bull grinned, ready to make his offer of taking a break and having some lunch, when something shiny and purple darted across the floor and towards them. Scintilla jumped up onto the desk easily, and, to Bull’s horror, carried a mouse between her teeth. There was something uniquely disturbing about a skeletal beast carrying a very much real but also very dead mouse.

She dropped the dead mouse on the desk with a loud meow, and bumped her head against Dorian’s shoulder.

Bull’s eye darted towards Dorian’s face, waiting for his reaction, for anger or disgust or complaints about the mouse being so close to the books. Instead Dorian positively melted and unbridled affection played over his features.

“For me? How kind of you! You clever girl, you noticed that I haven’t had lunch yet!”

Dorian closed the book and scooped Scintilla up in his arms briefly, hugging her and then placing her on his shoulder to perch there. It was one of her favourite spots.

“Then I might as well take a break. How about it Bull? Do you think there will be good food at the Herald’s Rest today?”

Bull hid his grimace and disappointment. He had wanted to be the one to remind Dorian to eat and shower him with care and affection. And he certainly hadn’t planned on Dorian dragging his demonic pet along either. The latter would make it hard to convince Dorian to stay just a little bit longer for more than just lunch.

“I’m sure we’ll find something to satisfy our needs,” he said, and offered Dorian his arm.

 

*

 

When Isk decided that it was time to go run around in the Hissing Wastes and both Dorian and Bull were asked to come along, Scintilla was handed over to Josephine. She was quite pleased about it, gushing about how much she enjoyed the company of small animals and promising to take good care of her.

Given that Scintilla needed neither food nor, presumably, anything else to survive, it seemed nearly silly to have somebody look out for her. But Bull didn’t question Dorian and simply enjoyed the time away from the creepy little beast.

Bull didn’t think of her at all when they were out and about though, not when there were ancient ruins to explore and Venatori to fight. Especially not when he got to share his tent with Dorian every night, and neither had any reason to hurry away or get up before the other. It was very nice, especially as Dorian enjoyed the climate during the day and cuddled up close during the icy desert nights.

He had so thoroughly enjoyed his time out and about that it took Bull a moment to remember why Josephine was running towards them the moment the party returned back to Skyhold. She normally didn’t venture out to meet them unless she had urgent news.

She made a beeline towards Dorian, wringing her hands and looking utterly panicked. None of her usual grace and ability to solve problems remained.

“It’s Scintilla,” she said in lieu of a greeting. “I don’t know why it happened, but one day she stopped moving and I… I am so sorry Dorian.”

Dorian blanched at Bull’s side, gripping his staff anxiously as he stared at Josephine.

“Show me,” he demanded, and she ushered him along. Bull decided to follow. Though he really would be glad to have the creepy undead thing gone, he didn’t want Dorian to face the bad news alone. Much as he disliked his pet, Bull also wouldn’t wish for it to be torn from his side so abruptly.

Josephine led the two towards her office, apologizing and looking quite upset about whatever happened, and not just fearful of Dorian’s reaction. There was a pillow by the side of her desk, the same Dorian had gotten for Scintilla to rest on. The skeleton of a cat was curled on it, as if napping, only now there was no trace of the strange purple glow and body left.

Dorian sank to his knees with a soft sigh, shoulders slumping.

“Hey,” Bull began, gently placing his hand on Dorian’s back in comfort.

“The spell must have run out after all,” Dorian said. He reached out to pet the cat’s head one last time, fingers shaking a little.

The second his fingertips nudged the bone, the skeleton rattled and with a soft puff the glow of magic returned, and Scintilla raised her head with a soft meow as if nothing had happened, right back to her usual creepy and undead self.

Bull would deny that he yelped to the grave, or that he had been terribly startled. Josephine gasped and clasped her hands before her mouth while Dorian had the audacity to just laugh.

“You silly thing just ran out of magic!” he scolded Scintilla as he scooped her up, holding her slightly too tight which she complained about quietly.

“What a relief,” Josephine said, reaching out to pet the cat as Bull backed up against the wall. The display of the cat actually springing to life had been a little too much. His heart was racing and he desperately wished that Krem was there, preferably with a stick…

“I really didn’t know if I did something wrong to the poor little lady.”

Dorian held Scintilla closer still, ignoring how she started to struggle against his hands.

“Don’t worry, it seems as if she does need a little bit of my magic to keep her going after all. I didn’t feel her taking any at all when I was around. We will have to figure this out. I can’t have her crumble like this when I’m gone.”

Bull wasn’t present when Dorian found the solution to the problem, only vaguely listened in to him speaking to Dagna and discussing how to go about keeping his cat on all fours without his presence. One day Dorian showed up at the Herald’s Rest with Scintilla though, announcing that he had found a way to keep the cat going.

Everyone cheered for that, glad that she was fine. The news of the scare had spread, and even Sera immediately demanded to pet Cinty.

The solution, as it turned out, was a cute little leather collar around the cat’s neck, much like Orlesian ladies had for their pets. Not a comparison Bull would bring up around Dorian, of course, but it was strange to see something so mundane on something so unnatural.

“She has a rune here,” Dorian explained to Dalish at one point during the evening, pointing at the clasp of Scintilla’s collar. “Whatever energy she needs to keep my spell going comes from here, which means she can be a proper little cat even if I’m away. As long as she wears her collar, of course. Our Dagna really outdid herself.”

For the rest of the night Dorian entertained his cat and everyone who wanted to take a turn holding her, leaving Bull in his corner, where he drank an entire bottle of wine by himself, definitely not sulking.

 

*

 

As far as emotional support went, it was surprisingly Cullen that took Bull’s side. He was the only one in the Inquisitor’s Inner Circle not charmed by Scintilla or Dorian’s obvious love for the little creature.

“Honestly, it creeps me out a little,” he admitted with a nervous smile when he joined Bull for drinks and their conversation drifted to the undead cat. “I trust Isk and the rest of our mages when they say it’s harmless but-”

The commander waved his hand awkwardly and Bull nodded.

“Yeah, I feel the same. Just doesn’t seem right to have a dead thing walk around.”

“Exactly,” Cullen said with a twitch of his lips and sipped from his ale.

It gave Bull some confidence to know he had backup, even if he never planned on bringing the cat situation up to anyone. It would needlessly upset Dorian, who was too stubborn to kick out the cat “just because it was undead”. If Bull truly asked and demanded for it to be gone, Dorian might oblige, but even thinking about that made Bull feel like an asshole. No, best to just have somebody to complain to occasionally when they drank.

So when Bull wandered into the gardens to observe Dorian and Cullen’s weekly chessgames, the betrayal hit especially hard.

Dorian was lounging back against his chair, eyes on the chessboard with a soft smirk, and Cullen sat in the chair opposite, relaxed, but not focused on the board, instead-

“I thought you didn’t like undead things,” Bull said accusingly, staring at the purring bag of bones on Cullen’s lap. The commander’s hands were stroking all over her little body and Scintilla was rubbing her head against the fur of his coat.

“Yes well,” Cullen said with a laugh. “She charmed me right out of that.”

“Scintilla is a true Pavus,” Dorian said with a smirk, moving one of the chess pieces and leaning back again. “She can charm her way into any man’s heart.”

“I never had a cat,” Cullen admitted. “Back home we had a few living in the barn, but they were only meant for hunting mice, not as pets. I had a few dogs around but… This is actually very nice.”

Bull raised his brow and grunted, leaning against a pillar to stare down at the cat. Scintilla meowed happily, purring even louder as Cullen rubbed between her ears.

“This has nothing to do with Dorian trying to use the cat to distract you from the game?”

“I would never do such a thing! My own dear Amatus, accusing me of such horrid behaviour?” Dorian gasped out, hand on his chest in a mockery of shock.

Cullen snorted and rolled his eyes as Scintilla leapt from his lap and onto the chessboard, carefully stepping between the pieces but still nudging them with her paws. If Dorian nudged them a little too far in correcting their position, then that was his business. It seemed to amuse Cullen that Dorian would cheat like this, so Bull didn’t bring it up anymore.

Scintilla stopped and stared up at Bull, meowing again.

“It seems she would like for you to pet her,” Cullen commented, grinning up at Bull.

“So the little beast can bewitch me and suck out my sense of self-preservation? No thank you.”

Bull waved them off and wandered away, frowning when the laughter of both men followed him out.

So much for solidarity in suffering.

 

*

 

When his thing with Dorian had started to become more, more than just lustful trysts and heated passion, Bull had been surprised how much he enjoyed all the things he assumed would grow boring quick. He had never had something as steady as with Dorian, somebody who fought beside him and laughed with him and was a friend first and a good lay second.

There were so many nights when they didn’t do anything at all, or when Dorian would recline back against Bull to read or when the only touches they shared were soft caresses and Dorian’s magic heated fingers working the aches out of Bull’s body.

Making love was all the sweeter when there was no urgency.

It was Bull’s favourite thing to lie under the covers with Dorian, first kissing and stroking what skin he could reach, enjoying Dorian’s soft sighs and then going further than that. He knew Dorian well enough now to unravel him without even moving much, only using kisses and firm touches.

Dorian’s arms wrapped around his shoulders, legs around Bull’s waist as Bull rocked into him near painfully slow and gentle was just as good as heated clashes right after battle with blood still rushing with adrenaline.

The fire of the lamp painted Dorian’s body a gorgeous copper, making it positively shine. Looking at him like that made Bull wonder why he powdered his cheekbones with a fine golden dust sometimes, as he certainly didn’t need that decoration to glow.

Dorian’s eyes had fluttered shut, lashes resting on his cheeks and lips parted ever so slightly as he gasped out softly with each lazy push of Bull’s hips. He was the most beautiful like this, deserving somebody to wax poetically about it all and compare him to everything pretty in the world.

With a sight like that to focus on, it was really no wonder that it took Bull an embarrassingly long time to notice their audience.

He glanced up briefly, something catching his attention, and froze as he found himself face to face with the shiny purple face of an undead cat.

“Fuck,” he cursed, tensing up.

Dorian gasped and his nails scraped over Bull’s shoulders.

“What’s wrong, Amatus, you-“

“The cat. Is here.”

Dorian glanced up as well, startling when he saw Scintilla sitting on the pillow by his head, rumbling curiously. For a few moments he gaped at her, and then groaned.

“Oh Maker, I can’t with her here- shoo. Go away Scintilla!”

At least Dorian hadn’t sunk so low as to permit the little monster in their bed when they were fucking. The cat didn’t seem bothered at all, purring now that attention was paid to her.

Dorian tried to push her away, and when she didn’t budge he shoved her off the bed. They heard a soft thud and then Scintilla hopped up on the desk, meowing indignantly.

“This is embarrassing,” Dorian groaned and Bull agreed.

“I don’t suppose she’ll leave if we-“

“I don’t think she will, no.”

They stared at the cat for few more moments, tense and unsure on how to proceed. Neither wanted to get up to take her out, but they obviously couldn’t go on with the mood shift if the cat was there so-

There was a knock at the door, and between one blink and the next Cole stood in front of the desk, the door never opening, smiling and picking Scintilla up from the desk.

“She won’t bother you,” he said softly. “She’s confused about why you are upset, but she doesn’t want you to be.”

Then he was gone as quick as he came, taking the cat with him.

Dorian and Bull stared at the spot he had occupied so briefly, still frozen in shock.

“Did he just… help us out. While… seeing-”

Dorian groaned again, hiding his face in his hands. He was halfway to being soft again, from what Bull could feel against his stomach. He fared no better himself really.

“How did she even get in here?” Dorian whined after a while.

“Uh. I think she probably climbed in through the roof,” Bull admitted and glanced up at the hole in his ceiling. “I’ll actually have to fix this now, won’t I?”

“Oh, that only just occurred to you?”

They were silent for a few moments more, before Bull cleared his throat, still joined with Dorian and starting to feel awkward about it.

“I don’t suppose you’re in the mood to go on?” he asked Dorian, unsure of whether he wanted to anymore either. That upset him the most about the double mood ruining of an audience. He knew neither Scintilla nor Cole would really care, but he had been enjoying himself.

Dorian was still hiding his face, but he seemed to have relaxed a little.

“No, no stay where you are. I’m sure we can go on if you just give me a minute.”

It turned out to be much longer than a minute, but eventually they both managed to compartmentalize the events of the evening, and the night did end in a satisfying way after all. Bull did promise himself to make sure the cat was nowhere near his room if he and Dorian were about to have some fun though.

 

*

 

After weeks of being around Scintilla Bull had very nearly learned to hide his discomfort completely. He simply didn’t approach the little beast at all, and while some made fun of him for that, it worked out just fine. Dorian still noticed how much Bull disliked the cat, but he seemed pleased that Bull was more than happy to ignore it for his lover’s sake.

It was unavoidable to have some interactions with the cat. Scintilla seemed to have decided that the Iron Bull would be very good at petting her. If Bull was near and she was with Dorian, she would watch him, and meow at him occasionally before retreating to sulk if he did nothing to show affection.

“She probably wants to climb all over you,” Dorian suggested at some point. “She likes sitting on tall things.”

It was only a matter of time before Bull would run out of luck in avoiding the cat, or before she decided to go ahead and climb on him.

Bull arrived in the library to see how Dorian was doing, finding him brooding over several books and frowning. He was actually focused on a bigger problem, judging by the state of his hair. He must have ran his hand through it several times, undoing the effortless looking style Dorian actually spent quite a lot of time on in the moment. Scintilla was next to him, obviously trying to get his attention but being pushed away each time with several apologies.

“Everything alright?” Bull asked as he glanced over Dorian’s shoulder. There were several manuscripts in terrible handwriting, composed in what Bull could barely recognize as ancient Tevene.

“No, nothing is! I have to decipher this… atrocity! And I can’t focus.”

Bull threw a glance at Scintilla, who meowed pitifully. She wasn’t very used to people not paying attention or at the very least petting her absently.

“Do you want me to distract her?”

“Maker’s breath, please!”

Bull searched his pockets to find a piece of thread and his handkerchief. He quickly rolled up the handkerchief and folded it, tying one end of the threat around it. The other was tied around the tip of his right horn, leaving the handkerchief to dangle.

“Come here, kitty kitty,” he called, clicking his tongue and walking backwards until he found a chair to sit down on, a little away from Dorian.

Scintilla perked up, watching Bull curiously before leaping down to the floor and approaching the dangling fabric. It was hanging just a little over the floor, swinging when Bull turned his head. It was hard to tell in the light pouring in from the window, but Scintilla’s eyes seemed wide and fixed on the new toy.

She pounced with a speed that was quite admirable for such a small thing, and Bull jerked his head to the side to send the handkerchief flying. He snorted when the cat ran after it, claws extended, trying to catch it. It was easy to pull it out of reach with the tiniest nod or head tilt.

Bull played with her for a while, sometimes letting the handkerchief dangle quite out of reach and watching as Scintilla focused and then tried to leap up. Other times he’d actually let her catch up and watched as she tried to sink her claws in the fabric and chewed on it, only to tug it out of her grasp again. He would probably have to replace the handkerchief or fix some of the tears if this went on, but it was funny to watch the cat play and at the very least she was out of the way.

He wasn’t sure how long he spent entertaining the cat like that, but eventually Scintilla seemed to tire of it. She plopped down in the spot of sunshine by the window, exhausted, and fell asleep immediately. Bull watched her for a while, before finally relieving his horn from the makeshift cat toy.

Eventually Dorian put away his work and rose, stretching and smiling.

“That was the most adorable thing I have ever seen,” he commented, and groaned as he rolled his shoulders.

“Yeah? I thought I’d rather keep you from a mental breakdown.”

“Hm, it wouldn’t have come to this,” Dorian waved him off. “But you could give me a nice back rub later if you are so concerned for my wellbeing.”

Bull grinned and rose from his chair as Dorian let Scintilla sleep. She did enjoy being in the library on her own sometimes.

“Is this the thanks I get for watching your pet?”

“Oh you love it,” Dorian said as he hooked his arm around Bull’s. “Now, lets go see about finding some late lunch.”

 

*

 

Wandering out Thedas with Isk and his new circle of friends was incredibly rewarding work. They helped people, hunted down red Templars and demons and other crap terrorizing the common folk. It was fun to tell Isk about the Qun, or how things used to be in Par Vollen. Though she was raised by Vashoth parents she was quite eager when he described his former homeland, and there were some similarities after all. Like their shared glee at finding traces of a high dragon around…

But sometimes being part of the Inquisition meant that the Iron Bull was sent out on an errand with just his Chargers. This time they were to guard an outpost as it was fortified. Easy work, relaxing work. Usually.

They were two days out of Skyhold, setting up camp, when Dalish suddenly let out a startled scream and raised her “special bow” in defence.

Everyone was ready to attack immediately, all attention on her as she pointed towards the Bull’s pack.

“Chief! That thing just- moved?”

Bull raised his brow and stepped forwards, staring down at the unassuming pack.

“Really? That spooked you?”

“It fell over and something inside was definitely moving,” Dalish confirmed.

Using the handle of his greataxe Bull nudged the pack, and startled when it actually did shift away from the touch. Then it fell open, and a ball of purple rolled out, unfurling with a sad little meow.

Scintilla sat on the grass by the campfire, looking up sadly and her paws tangled in a spare sock.

The Chargers burst out in laughter as Bull groaned. How had the beast gotten into his things? Did Dorian do this as a prank? No, he’d be loath to part with the cat for this long.

“Looks like Little Sparky loves you, chief,” Krem grinned, kneeling down to pet her.

“She didn’t want you to leave,” Rocky added, and everyone was snickering quietly. “Poor cat doesn’t realize her love is unrequited.”

“She doesn’t-“ Bull groaned and shook his head.

“I know there’s no love under the Qun, Chief, but to deny a cat is just cruel!”

“What do we do with her, chief?” Dalish asked, already joining Krem in playing with the cat. “Can she find her way back to Skyhold?”

Bull stared at Scintilla for a while, considering. The trip back and forth would take no more than two weeks, but returning now to deposit the cat and set out again would lose them several days. While not a matter of life or death, Josephine had insisted that they needed the Charger’s support a lot while the main force of Cullen’s troops was elsewhere. It would set the workers at the outpost back as well if they were late.

“No, we’ll lose too much time. Just… keep an eye on her and make sure she doesn’t run away.”

The cat was deposited in Krem’s care and a letter was written to Skyhold to make sure somebody told Dorian what had happened.

The endeavour of keeping a tiny cat in their company proved much more stressful than Bull anticipated.

During the day Scintilla was carried in people’s packs or arms. She wasn’t pleased with it, happy to be held but sometimes squirming and wanting to move. It probably wasn’t the best idea to force a cat to sit still this long, and each time the Chargers stopped to eat and rest for the night Scintilla tried to explore the area. It really did keep Bull on his toes to try and make sure that the cat wouldn’t run too far or escape his line of sight. He couldn’t possibly be responsible for not only accidentally abducting Scintilla but also losing her.

“I have some herbs that will distract her a little,” Stitches said one day when Scintilla had nearly climbed up a tree high enough that nobody could reach her. “Catnip, will make her happy and keep her too busy to get into too much trouble.”

Bull agreed, and really, that evening had been hilarious.

To his surprise, he gained a little appreciation for Scintilla when they were assailed by bandits. Bull fought his way through them, noticing one trying to sneak up on Krem. Scintilla was yowling angrily at the battle around her, hopping about and lashing out her tiny paws as if she could even reach anyone. The sight of a glowing purple skeleton in the shape of a cat startled the bandit quite a bit, making him freeze in his tracks long enough for Bull to take him out with one swift blow.

Scintilla got even more cuddles from the company after that, and for once Bull didn’t mind.

The rest of the trip was uneventful. Bull still refused to go anywhere near Scintilla, apart from the one time she tried to make a nest of his spare pants and hissed at any attempt to free the clothing from her tiny claws. The Chargers guarded the builders as the outpost was fortified, made sure everything was in order, and then swiftly headed home.

Bull was quite happy to see the towers of Skyhold appear between the mountaintops. The keep really had grown to be his home, the place he was the most comfortable in, where all his friends gathered and his lover awaited him. He tried not to look too eager as they approached the gates.

Once inside the courtyard, Bull looked up just in time to see Dorian rushing down the steps towards them. Bull’s heart soared at the sight of him, and he readied himself to catch Dorian in his arms and kiss him deeply.

Instead Dorian ran right past him, towards Krem. His Lieutenant grinned and held out Scintilla, who chirped happily at the sight of her master. She purred when Dorian scooped her up to bury his face in her fur.

“Oh my silly little girl!” he cried out, holding her a little too tightly and ignoring the laughter of the Chargers. “Don’t you scare me like that again!”

Bull stood by a little awkwardly,ignoring the pats to his back in sympathy as he watched Dorian cuddle his cat. After a while Dorian cradled Scintilla in his arm and turned to Bull, smiling.

“And you, darling man, thank you for keeping her safe,” he said, wrapping his free arm around Bull’s neck to pull himself up for a kiss.

“The least I could do for that little troublemaker,” Bull chuckled and wrapped his arms around Dorian’s waist. They kissed for a while, savouring the contact, until Dorian finally pulled away.

“I have some work I need to finish before you distract me. But I’ll meet you in your room later?”

“Of course.”

Dorian kissed him again and turned to leave, muttering something to Scintilla. Bull watched him go for a while before finally retreating back to the Herald’s Rest.

He was greeted by a pint ready for him and a vacant chair already pulled out, and he immediately set to chugging the ale.

“So chief,” Krem asked with a grin. “Is it the proximity to the undead that’s bothering you, or are you jealous that your loverboy pays more attention to a kitten now?”

“I’m not the jealous type,” Bull grumbled. It was true, he never had problems with seeing his lovers sharing intimacy elsewhere.

“But you were never competing with a cat before.”

Bull nudged Krem back to his own ale and the Chargers started singing their song, telling everyone within earshot tales of their exploits and just having a grand old time. After a few drinks Bull had relaxed into his chair and was quite pleased with everything.

The door slammed open and Dorian walked in, eyes searching the room. Bull was about to sit up straight when he realized that Dorian looked furious.

“Oh no-” he whispered, just as Dorian bit out.

“Which one of you is responsible to giving drugs to my cat?”

All eyes moved to Bull, just as he realized that Stitches could and would deflect all blame on the man who had given him the go ahead.

“Here we go,” he muttered, and downed the last of his ale as he felt Dorian’s burning gaze turn to him.

 

*

 

Despite countless assurances that catnip was entirely safe and would not lead Scintilla down a path of feline drug addiction it took Dorian several days to forgive Bull for his transgression or stop ignoring the Chargers. He ignored all of them, which made it hard to figure out who the snitch had been. Not that Bull really had much of a mind to find out anyway.

In the end Dorian merely acted as if nothing had happened at all, neatly returning to the routine that didn’t involve giving him the cold shoulder. Scintilla of House Pavus, most recently of Orlais didn’t seem upset either way, happily waiting for Bull to pet her, though that never happened. Bull was more than a little preoccupied with petting the other Pavus of Skyhold.

A sturdy canvas had been placed over the hole in Bull’s roof, with the quartermaster promising that fixing it properly was high on the list now. It was warmer and more comfortable in the room with even just the covering, much to Dorian’s delight.

Dorian was currently dozing in Bull’s bed, arms wrapped around one of the pillows and face squished against it with slightly parted lips. He looked the most precious like that, exhausted and utterly relaxed from several rounds of mind-blowing sex and making himself at home in Bull’s space.

Bull smiled softly at his Kadan, running a hand over his exposed lower back as Dorian shifted slightly under the touch but didn’t wake up. Then he pulled the covers up, lest his delicate man catch a cold. That simply wouldn’t do. When Dorian was safely tucked in, Bull unlocked one of the doors leading to the battlements to catch some fresh air. It was the middle of the day and even bedroom exertion didn’t usually make him fall asleep when the sun was still up. Force of habit, that.

He leaned against the battlements just by his door and observed the courtyard below. Soldiers and agents of the Inquisition were milling about, enjoying the sunshine, relaxing, or training. It was a normal day, familiar by now.

As Bull looked around idly his eyes fell on a familiar tall silhouette towering over most others in Skyhold. Their Inquisitor was only slightly shorter than Bull himself, and it was hard for Isk to get lost in a crowd. There was something about her that drew attention to her, and it wasn’t just the currently hidden mark on her hand.

Today Isk was taking a stroll, talking to Varric and laughing at something Bull couldn’t hear at the distance. He frowned, remembering that Dorian had mentioned handing Scintilla off to Varric for the day. Despite the hole in the rood being blocked off, he had taken to making sure that somebody babysat his little monster anyway. It permitted him to stay over at Bull’s place for as long as he wanted without the cat interrupting.

If Varric was in the courtyard, then Scintilla was either unsupervised or nearby. At that distance the tiny purple thing would be hard to spot, but Bull tried anyway, scanning the area. She was nowhere near, but then Isk reached up to her horns to adjust something and-

Scintilla was there, curled up and napping nestled between Isk’s curled horns, hard to spot against her hair. Isk adjusted the cat’s tail so it wouldn’t hang in her face, and proceeded to talk to Varric.

A pang of some indiscernible emotion hit Bull’s chest, and it took him a few seconds to recognize it. The sight was familiar and brought a wave of nostalgia as he realized that it was a sight he had seen back on Par Vollen more than once. Tamassrans would carry their imekari just like that, sat securely between their horns, letting the younglings enjoy both the height and the view. In fact, Bull could remember his own Tama doing it for him when he was small enough, her horns curled in a similar fashion as Isk’s, and how secure and grand he had felt at the time, just a pudgy little boy himself.

And now Isk was carrying Scintilla like that, as casually as any tamassran though the cat wasn’t hers. Of course Dorian couldn’t very well carry the cat like that, what with his lack of horns and the way his painstakingly styled hair would get ruined. But Bull could do it. His horns were big enough to carry Scintilla five times over, if they had that many little monsters-

Bull growled slightly, the clashing sensation of parental instinct and the horror of having a spirit on his head warring in his mind. He didn’t even notice the soft shuffle of bare feet against the stone of the battlements.

“Come back to bed,” Dorian muttered at his side. He was still standing in the doorway, a silk robe covering his body for modesty, though his hair and moustache were too dishevelled to step into full view of anyone who might walk past him.

Bull threw one last miffed glance towards Isk and followed Dorian back into his room. As soon as the door was closed Dorian pushed him back against it to lean up into kissing range.

“You look so grumbly,” Dorian teased, running his fingers over Bull’s chest. “What’s happened in the few minutes we were apart.”

“Just remembered something from back home,” Bull said, mostly truthfully. Dorian didn’t push the matter, both of them quite tactful about each other’s homelands and what a sore spot it was.

“Then let me distract you,” Dorian beckoned, pulling Bull along towards the bed. “I have found a book with ancient Antivan poetry. I’ve yet to prove your opinion on it wrong, and what better way to do so than to recite it?”

“There is none,” Bull agreed, making himself comfortable against the pillows and letting Dorian lean against his chest once he had retrieved the book.

“You’re not a hopeless case then,” Dorian said and opened the book, searching for the poem he wanted. He was right about that at least, Bull figured. It was hard to think about cats sitting on qunari heads when your lover was reading poetry.

 

*

 

Dorian was gone from Skyhold and Bull was more than just a little annoyed.

Lately they had barely left Skyhold together and he missed it. Not that being with his Chargers wasn’t great as well, but he missed working with Dorian, the way they so smoothly operated as a team, how their styles of fighting complimented each other’s and filled in the gaps of weak spots they had. Now Dorian was travelling to help some Inquisition scouts with Ventaroi problems though, and the mission hadn’t really required Bull’s assistance.

It didn’t really help that Bull was currently squatting in Dorian’s room. His own was finally being fixed to block off the hole in his ceiling, and as Dorian wasn’t there he had suggested that Bull use his own.

Everything inside reminded Bull of Dorian, making him miss the man even more. He had tidied up the organized mess to try and do something with his time when he couldn’t fall asleep in Dorian’s bed. That had only served to remind him that Dorian wasn’t around to throw his stuff all over the place carelessly, and that the mess wouldn’t be recreated until he was back in Skyhold.

His bad mood didn’t really help in trying to distract himself with company. Krem and Skinner had more or less kicked him out of the Herald’s Rest last time he tried that one, saying that he didn’t need to drink while he was in such a mood and that his lovesick attitude was ruining everyone else’s respective fun. He’d ended up back in Dorian’s room, surrounded by Dorian’s things and smelling faintly of incense and Dorian’s scented hair oil.

Sitting on the floor with his back leaning against the bed Bull stared out the window, trying to think of anything but how annoyed he was by his own bad mood. It was only a few weeks, he could survive that.

Something shifted under the bed and after a few moments Scintilla poked her head out, half caught under a discarded robe and looking up at Bull.

“Of course there’s a mess under the bed too,” Bull sighed, and plucked the item off her head to deposit it on the bed. He was tempted to let it lie there, but he knew he’d eventually fold it neatly to put back into Dorian’s closet.

Scintilla opened her mouth in a yawn and sat down by Bull’s feet. He watched for a few minutes as she licked her paws daintily, wondering if this was more habit or whether the undead thing actually did need to keep her fur neat. Though, he considered, any cat that belonged to Dorian would surely develop the habit of spending a long time on personal grooming anyway. Occasionally she would stop to look up at Bull expectantly.

“Sorry, little one,” Bull said after a while, sighing. “It’s not that I don’t like you. ‘S just that I don’t like being near spirits. Went to the Fade once, so I’ve got my fill of that.”

The cat stared up at him, as if listening. Surely she couldn’t understand but now that he started…

Bull sighed and rubbed between his horns awkwardly.

“You’re probably a very good… cat… demon. Whatever you are. And you make Dorian happy so I’m glad about that. He must have wanted a cat forever now, but he doesn’t like admitting that he has allergies at all.”

Scintilla stretched, tail flicking.

“I would actually like to try and get along with you better, Scintilla. I know he doesn’t mind but it would make Dorian happy if I could more than just tolerate you. Or think of you without shuddering. And I do want that. Make Dorian happy.”

Scintilla meowed and rose up. She walked over towards Bull and rubbed against his boot, purring and shifting against it. Bull froze, staring down at her. They weren’t really touching but he could still feel the solid body of a cat against him through the leather, and his entire body went stiff.

He wouldn’t kick her away, of course not, but he couldn’t help but wish that she would just get bored and leave.

Bull wasn’t sure how long he sat there and let Scintilla do that, when somebody knocked on the door. It opened a moment later and Isk poked her head into the room, looking around and lighting up when she noticed Bull on the floor.

“There you are!” the Inquisitor said with a smile, stepping inside. “Cullen asked me to invite you over for chess.”

“Sure, boss,” Bull said, remaining where he was. Getting up would inevitably kick Scintilla to the side.

Isk’s eyes widened when she spotted the cat, and she grinned.

“Bonding, are we?”

She closed the door behind her and stepped inside to drop down on the floor cross-legged. At the appearance of a new person to bother Scintilla immediately waltzed over and plopped down on Isk’s lap.

“She kind of didn’t give me much of a choice here.”

Isk rubbed between Scintilla’s ears and raised her eyebrow.

“You’re still afraid of her, aren’t you?”

Bull groaned.

“I can’t shake the fear of spirits,” he said. It was easier to admit this to the mage, as she’d personally smacked him with a stick more than once already. There was no need to explain his aversion to demons to her. “I don’t want to be like this around Dorian’s cat.”

“But do you want to try and not be afraid?”

“Of course. If she were a normal cat I’d be doing my best to bond with her no matter what sort of blighted creature she was. But like this-“

He waved his hand weakly and Isk nodded.

“You know, it might help to not really think of her as a demon,” Isk said thoughtfully. “Because she isn’t. I can promise you that.”

At his doubtful expression she laughed.

“And I don’t expect you to just shake that worry. I grew up with some Tal-Vashoth after all. They weren’t all comfortable around me and my father, you know. Took them a while to shake the instinctive worry and once I was old enough to understand why they were afraid, I didn’t even mind anymore. You can’t force somebody to stop it. As long as they didn’t mistreat us it was fine.”

Bull nodded along, listening to her story. It wasn’t often that Isk talked to him about her Vashoth upbringing, at first because she hadn’t felt quite comfortable talking to a Ben-Hassrath about such things, and later to avoid his sore spot of Bull being a Tal-Vashoth himself.

“Really the best solution was to… do nothing I guess.”

“Nothing?” Bull asked with a snort.

“Sure. You grow used to things if you keep seeing them a lot and get used to them not actually being dangerous. Hard to fear magic and the vague threat of demons when you see a tiny child casually light a fireplace or mages doing mundane things.”

They sat quietly for a while.

“It might be harder with this thing because I see Dorian use similar magic to attack enemies a lot,” Bull said. “It’s dangerous and powerful. Her bones being visible doesn’t exactly help.”

Isk grinned.

“That might be a problem, yes. You’re a creepy kitten, aren’t you Scintilla?”

Bull watched as she pet the cat some more.

“Hm...how about this. Scintilla is just a very weird extension of Dorian’s magic. You trust Dorian’s use of magic, don’t you?”

“With my life,” Bull said without hesitation.

“Good,” Isk smiled. “Then, if you want, I can try helping you get more used to Scintilla? Very slowly? Maybe somebody who knows a little about where your fear comes from, and about magic too, can help? Do you want to try?”

Bull thought for a moment. Scintilla had rubbed against his boot and he hadn’t suffered for it. Dorian would be so happy.

“Yeah, boss,” he said after a while. “Let’s do it.”

 

*

 

Skyhold was a welcome sight after days of riding through the Frostbacks. Dorian very nearly let out a relieved sigh, biting it back only to avoid being teased by his fellow soldiers. The excursion had been rewarding work, taking up his energy completely and earning him the satisfaction of beating down the worst of his countrymen. The weather had even been reasonable.

But as enjoyable as that little journey had been, it was all the better to return home. And wasn’t that a strange thought? To consider some half crumbled southern castle on top of a freezing mountain his home. To consider that he had friends to return home to.

The gates were already open by the time the party arrived, and Commander Cullen waited just beyond it with some of the stable hands.

“Welcome back,” he said in greeting, politely waiting for Dorian to dismount his horse by himself. The first time Dorian had done so in his presence Cullen had rushed in to try and assist him, resulting in Dorian getting tangled in the stirrups. He had more than enough experience with riding horses, and a well-meaning southerner trying to help could only get in the way. At least now Cullen knew that Dorian wasn’t helpless on a horse after all.

One of the soldiers saluted him, and Cullen nodded.

“Meet me in my office to report in.”

The horses were led away and the supply packs were taken, leaving Dorian to stand by with his own modest travel pack. Cullen observed for a few moments, making sure that his men were alright before moving over to stand by Dorian’s side.

“Did everything go well?”

“Yes quite, the Venatori will think twice about trying to set up this far south in Ferelden,” Dorian replied. “The last remnants remaining near Redcliff were barely holding on anyway, I’m surprised they didn’t retreat earlier. Misplaced pride, I suppose.”

Cullen nodded, rubbing the back of his neck. Then he grinned.

“I heard the Iron Bull has finally gotten the hole in his roof patched up. Didn’t get to see the results for myself yet but I got the report.”

Dorian let a quiet sigh slip past his lips.

“Finally. Took him long enough too.”

He looked around hoping to catch a glimpse of the man.

“Where is he anyway, I should congratulate him on that achievement.”

Cullen shrugged.

“I haven’t seen him around, sorry. He might be at the Herald’s Rest.”

“Thank you, I will go look for him then,” Dorian said. “And I believe we have several missed chess dates to make up for, if you want.”

“Absolutely,” Cullen replied with a smile. He waved slightly and went to join his soldiers again, leaving Dorian to go search for his wayward lover.

The Herald’s Rest was mostly empty at this time of day, though all present Chargers cheered when Dorian stepped through the door. They seemed to actually like him well enough by now, even if their displays of affection seemed to focus on what Dorian may or may not be doing with their chief.

Dorian walked up the stairs towards their room, encountering nobody and opening the door to find nobody there. The mended hole in the roof was immediately noticeable, a patch of slightly brighter stone indicating where it had been. There were no random dried leaves on the ground and everything was as neat as it could be with the lack of furniture.

With a smile Dorian let his pack drop to the ground and hung up his staff and holster on a hook by the wall. The things he had left behind in Bull’s room where neatly folded and placed over a chest, and Bull must have arranged his personal belongings on the one tiny table. A few books, quills, and make up was carefully arranged there, put in order by Bull himself surely. Dorian couldn’t imagine that any of the things would be tidy if Bull hadn’t been there after the roof construction had been completed.

He sat down and ran his hands over his items and picked up the polished copper mirror he’d left in the room. Dorian checked his hair, deeming it presentable enough with a few tugs at errand curls and then freshened up the khol around his eyes. There was no sense in getting changed and picking nicer robes, as Bull would surely know that Dorian had only just recently arrived in Skyhold. A little touch up was more than enough to go looking for him.

Out on the battlements Dorian looked around what he could see of the courtyard. The familiar shape of Bull wasn’t anywhere to be seen, so Dorian looked for the nearest guard instead.

“Excuse me, have you seen the Iron Bull anywhere?” he asked, trying very hard to seem nonchalant and not let any of his excitement show.

The guard smirked at him, as if she expected him to behave like a lovesick maiden.

“Think he’s with the Inquisitor,” she told Dorian. “Probably in her quarters.”

Dorian thanked her and walked towards the main part of the keep with a deliberately casual pace. He would not rush to see Bull, no matter how much he wanted to. There were enough snickers and charmed onlookers already, he would not give them more material to talk about.

He was nearly running after all by the time he reached the door to Isk’s private rooms, and opened it to find the mage sprawled over a chair with a book. She perked up when she noticed Dorian.

“So you’ve returned! Wonderful!”

“I am sure you were simply suffering without my presence,” Dorian said, permitting Isk to embrace him briefly, returning the hug. “And from what I heard you’ve been with the Iron Bull a lot? My dear, do I have to challenge you to a duel for trying to steal my man?”

Isk let out a barking laugh and shook her head.

“I’d have to get in line for that.”

Dorian raised an eyebrow at her but she waved him towards her large balcony. The view from there was fantastic, Dorian knew from experience, and he stepped out to find Bull on the floor, dozing in the sunlight amongst several pillows, his back against the wall

A surprising picture, with how rare it was to see the Bull napping at all. What really did catch Dorian off guard was Scintilla.

The little cat was dozing as well, rolled up tight. On Bull’s head. Nestled right between his horns like it was nothing.

Dorian couldn’t help but laugh at that, waking Bull up immediately.

He blinked, then looked up at Dorian and smiled sleepily.

“Kadan! I didn’t know you were back already!”

“Oh that I am,” Dorian said, hiding his smile behind his hand. “As if I would miss… that. Since when do you and my dear cat get along?”

Bull’s shoulders twitched uncomfortable, and he glanced up to where Scintilla’s tail was draped over his forehead.

“Ah, she’s still there-”

Dorian watched as Bull made no move to remove the cat from his head, though he looked a little tense.

“How did you manage sleep, with Scintilla on your head?”

“Having something small and warm between your horns awakens parental instincts in Qunari,” Bull explained. “Makes you try not to move too harshly, so with nothing better to do I fell asleep.”

“Parental? No, this is for another time. I am surprised because… well you don’t exactly get along with her. Has that changed?”

Bull looked a little nervous as he shook his head slightly. Dorian shrugged and picked Scintilla up gently, cradling her against his chest. She stirred briefly but went right back to sleep.

“I wouldn’t have thought she could sneak up on you and climb on your head without you noticing.”

“I put her there.”

Dorian paused and gave Bull a disbelieving look.

“Voluntarily? You?”

Bull rubbed at the base of his horns, grunting in confirmation.

“I’ve been trying to get used to her. Boss has been trying to help me get over my fear of demons, so frequent exposure to Scintilla is logical, right? Work my way up to being around her without getting nervous,” Bull explained. “You care about this cat, don’t you? And you’re really nice about keeping her out of my way, but you shouldn’t have to. I thought it’d make you happy if I could be comfortable around her.”

Dorian didn’t expect to be struck speechless so soon after reuniting with Bull. Yet here he was, listening to a man with a known fear of spirits and magic about trying his hardest to get used to an undead cat for Dorian’s sake. Because it would maybe make Dorian happy.

“You alright there, big guy?” Bull laughed. “You look kind of-”

Before he could finish Dorian threw himself into Bull’s lap and wrapped an arm around his neck, squeezing hard. Bull’s hands were on his side on instinct, holding him too, and Scintilla let out an offended whine as she was pressed between their chests and woken up.

She wiggled her way out between them and walked back inside with a disgruntled sneeze, leaving Dorian to cling to Bull.

“That’s the nicest thing anyone’s ever done for me, I think,” Dorian said against Bull’s neck, feeling something in his chest swell with happiness, his heart fluttering.

“Trying to like your cat is the nicest thing? That’s a low standard you have there,” Bull chuckled, pulling Dorian into his lap properly.

“Oh shut up, you know what I mean.”

“Yeah.”

Dorian reached for Bull’s horns to tug him down into a kiss, and Bull let him. It was sweet and deep, large hands cradling his back and head, stubble catching against his skin and Bull’s breath hitching slightly. Sweeter and softer than their reunion kisses normally went, but better.

“Please, if you want to celebrate your reunion, don’t do it on my balcony,” Isk said from somewhere near the door.

Dorian pulled away from Bull with a huff.

“Don’t worry about that. I’m merely expressing my thanks.”

Bull leered at him but thankfully didn’t say anything else about it. He didn’t flinch when Scintilla walked over to nudge against Dorian’s leg, and remained calm when he placed the cat in his lap.

“So,” Dorian said, running his hand over Scintilla’s fur. After a little hesitation Bull briefly pet her head too. “How about I take over the training and we start over with Scintilla?”

Bull grinned, briefly glancing down at Scintilla and then locking eyes with Dorian.

“I’d love nothing more, Kadan.”