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Settling into Skyhold is weird, and not just because Skyhold is weird. Bull is used to living in barracks, and living in camp, and bedding down the Chargers in inns or stables or courtyards. All of those things seem organized compared to Trevelyan’s orders when they arrive in Skyhold, which amount to: everyone should probably find somewhere to sleep.

Bull figures that Krem will take care of the Chargers, and in fact he finds them with their boots under the table at the tavern before the day is out. It’s not actually surprising that the place has a tavern already. Enough people made it a priority to save bottles and kegs when they fled Haven that the barman has something to pour for everyone who orders, although if you want anything special you’re out of luck.

“Camp’s set up, but in cold weather, I intend to live in this place,” Krem says, leaning back in his chair and taking an appreciative drink of ale.

Bull isn’t surprised that camp’s already set up, either, but he is satisfied. The Chargers moved out in good order despite an invading army and an Archdemon that made big bad Templars piss their pants. He’s proud of them. “Freezing your ass off is good for you.”

“If you’re tired of having an ass. Your gear’s upstairs in your quarters, by the way.”

It’s a square stone room in the wall that the tavern is built up against. The roof gave out at some point, and the place is a mess, but the view is pretty incredible. The heat of the tavern fireplaces comes up through the floor, and the whole place already smells like ale and meat pies.

It works for him. Before long Sera stakes out her own room in the tavern proper and fills it with crap she probably stole. It looks like a tailor’s shop exploded, but she seems happy. He rarely sees her out at the archery butts when the Chargers are training, but arrows appear stuck into random things, which he suspects is her idea of staying in practice. Sera is a prickly little ball of anger and glee, and it’s hard not to enjoy that even though there isn’t a disciplined bone in her body.

Cassandra stakes out a room above the armory, maybe to separate herself firmly from the mages running around the main part of the castle, or maybe just because the heat of the forge makes it the warmest place in Skyhold.  She trains as hard as the Chargers do, pushing herself to be better. Cassandra isn’t hard to understand, even if her rules aren’t his rules. She fights like a man and gives orders like a woman who’s used to being obeyed. He respects both of those things.

Solas is hard to understand, and Bull has too much going on to try to figure him out. Mages are weird, and Solas is weird for a mage. Leliana takes a room off the rookery, and Bull resists the temptation to try to intercept her ravens for the challenge of trying to break her codes. Cole is around somewhere, probably, but at first it’s hard for him to remember that Cole is with them at all. When it gets easier to remember, he’s not sure when he agreed to fight alongside a demon. It’s easier when he can think of Cole as a human kid, a very weird human kid who could stand to learn how to have fun.

Cullen could also stand to learn how to have fun. Cullen has staked out another one of the tower rooms, as high up and far away from anybody else as it’s possible to be. It doesn’t matter much, because Cullen barely sleeps. If he isn’t planning strategy or managing their troops or trying to get all the new arrivals clothed and armed, he’s pacing the battlements. There is something obviously wrong with Cullen, a knot of anger at himself and other people that the Ben-Hassrath part of Bull wants to pick apart to see where the weaknesses lie. He isn’t actually looking for ways to take these people down right now, though, so he leaves it alone.

Josephine has settled herself in the main wing of the castle where people can bother her all day. Bull didn’t pay much attention to Josephine back in Haven. She’s soft-hearted, not a fighter, and she cares a lot about how people say things. She doesn’t like big Qunari boots propped up on the chairs. He didn’t think there was any more to her, and then they got here and she immediately took over running the place, which is practically heroic considering the mess. Now craftsmen are getting delegated to fix things, supplies are getting ordered, and somehow every time they need something weird, it turns out that someone owes them a favor.   

Bull is used to managing the Chargers, but it’s surprising how much of a relief it is to have someone with good sense managing the whole sack of cats that is the Inquisition. That’s a Tamassran’s job, and while Josephine would probably not like being compared to a Tamassran, she’d make a damn good one.  He’s still not sure she likes him, but it isn’t about whether she likes him. Having her around and doing her job makes him feel better.

He’s not sure that Dorian likes him, either, but he’s also not sure that Dorian doesn’t like him. He was prepared not to like Dorian, because while he’s known some good Vints and some good mages, “Vint” plus “mage” added up to a lot to swallow. That lasted until the first time they waded into a skirmish and he watched Dorian fight, lighting up the field with fire, this sharp sideways smile appearing on his face every time some particularly slow enemy tried to rush him and burst into flames. 

“That fire thing works,” Bull says afterwards, when they’re leaving the suddenly much quieter valley behind them.

Dorian shrugs one shoulder, a graceful sarcastic gesture that somehow involves moving his hips. “I’m not sure what I’d do without your good opinion of me. Would you like me to critique your hitting things with an axe?”

“Go ahead,” Bull says. “Points out of ten.”

“I’m afraid I can only give it a nine,” Dorian says. “There has to be room for improvement.”

“That’s fair.”

He’s still not sure that they’re friends, but he’s not sure that they’re not friends. Dorian visits the tavern frequently, working his way through his bottles with the deliberate pacing of a man who has a complicated relationship with drinking. Bull likes drinking, and is aware that getting drunk isn’t living according to the Qun, and does it anyway, sometimes, but mostly when he’s in a good mood and wants to have fun. When Dorian gets drunk, it’s with the expression of a man who wants to poison his brain until it stops producing thoughts. 

It takes him a while to discover that the room Dorian has claimed as his quarters is a tiny one off the library, with no fireplace and not much room for anything but a bed.  For all Dorian’s suggestive talk, it’s not the room of someone who intends to share.  He’s not sure what else it says.  Dorian takes up space in a conversation. There is always a lot of Dorian in a room where Dorian is. But claiming quarters in the castle is taking up space in a different way, staking a claim to territory. He’s not sure Dorian’s had as much practice doing that.

Bull is happy to share his room and his bed, at least for a night. He tumbles some of the kitchen girls – the rule that women who can cook are likely to be good in bed hasn’t failed him yet – and some curious foot-soldiers, mostly men.  It’s a good way to work off tension, and if he’s getting a reputation for being willing to sleep with anyone he doesn’t actively dislike, that’s not wrong. That’s a good Qunari way to handle being horny and needing something to get the worst shit he sees out in the field out of his head.

Having sex with friends is not a good Qunari way to handle anything, but he’s decided that he likes it. When you know a person, it’s easier to figure out what you really want rather than just sticking to the first thing that works. It can be harder and more intense, a more effective way to scratch a deeper itch, or just a way to pass the time when you’re both bored and on edge.

People are bored and on edge a lot in Skyhold, so Bull’s asked. Sera rolled her eyes and said “Only if you grow a pair of tits.” Cullen made the same objection, more uncomfortably.  Cassandra is fun to tease, and seems to have fun being teased, but she isn’t interested, maybe because she just isn’t interested, or maybe because she only has sex with people she loves. He isn’t sure, and what these people mean by “love” is something he isn’t touching. He’s already bending the rules of the Qun enough.

“So, about Dorian,” he says to Krem over drinks. “You’re a Vint.”

“Thanks for remembering, Chief, that’s how I know you care.”

“What’s his problem?”

“I take it you don’t mean ‘there are holes in the sky with demons pouring out, and we meet a lot of people who want to kill us.’”

“No.”

Krem seems to actually give that some thought. “He’s homesick, I think.”

“But he’s still here.”

“Well, demons pouring out of the sky. Also, Tevinter is a terrible place full of terrible people.”

“I’m not sure that’s what he thinks.”

“Probably it’s easier to like the place if you’re an altus, but if you’re that obvious about preferring men, you’ve probably taken enough shit for it to make even the weather here sound attractive.”

“He hits on women, too.”

“That’s just talk. I grew up in the Imperium, remember? By Tevinter standards, he’s not just making his tastes loud and clear, he’s daring everyone he meets to say something. If I’m wrong, you owe me five royals. And I’m not wrong.”

“No bet,” Bull says, because Krem should know how Vints work. 

Bull considers trying to be careful about a potential sore spot, and decides that Dorian mocks himself readily enough that he probably understands the idea of teasing about sore spots to get them out into the open where they won’t fester.  Dorian seizes on his first exploratory remarks to deny any interest in him whatsoever, at creative length, and then takes every opportunity to tease him back. He’s got a wicked mouth.

He thinks it’s probably not going anywhere, but it is something to do when they’re out in the field and they’re killing and killing and killing and can’t save anyone, and Dorian is getting more and more brittlely cheerful like this stopped being really fun the last time they stacked up a pile of dead bodies. Or when they’ve been wading through a hell of crossfire, everybody trying to kill everybody else with the Inquisition stuck in the middle, and afterwards it’s hard for Bull to calm down, everything looking like an enemy. That’s a good time to exchange insults that are increasingly also backhanded compliments, and to pretend that there’s any chance they’ll ever take this into the bedroom.

At one point, Dorian goes off with Trevelyan to deal with some kind of family business, and comes back in the mood to get spectacularly drunk. He chooses to do this in the tavern rather than taking the bottles to his room, which Bull figures is some kind of self-preservation instinct kicking in. Nobody’s fallen off the battlements while drunk yet, but there’s got to be a first time.

Bull waits until the fire is burning low and the Chargers have gone off to bed to see if Dorian really wants to sleep where he’s landed, sprawled forward across the table with one hand outstretched toward an overturned bottle. How he manages to still look pretty, Bull isn’t sure.

“The floor’s better for sleeping,” Bull says. This is home for all of them now, more or less, and Dorian won’t come to any harm stretched out in front of the fireplace for the night.

“I have a bed, thank you,” Dorian says.

Bull is about to say that he does, too, and it’s closer, but it occurs to him suddenly that he doesn’t actually want to hear what Dorian will say in response. He suspects it’s either “I haven’t sunk that low yet” or “Actually, I have sunk that low,” and he just – he’s having fun with the game, but if they start playing right now, he’s not sure how to keep Dorian from saying things that one of them is going to regret. 

“Go find it,” he encourages, and watches as Dorian stands up, which works about as well as he expects. He lets Dorian pitch far enough off balance to get the problem, but doesn’t actually let him hit the floor. “Let’s take a walk,” he says.

They end up sitting out on the courtyard steps, over where the courtyard smells like crushed flowers rather than like horse crap. Dorian folds his arms on his knees and rests his head there. Bull rubs his back without particularly thinking about it, the way you do.

“You’re not mocking me, and I find that suspicious,” Dorian says.

“You’re not so bad,” Bull says.

Dorian draws himself up, making more of an effort not to look like he’s falling-down drunk. “I am magnificent.”

“Sure you are.”

“You are mocking me. I am, currently, worthy of mocking. But for good reason.”

“Telling you you’re magnificent isn’t mocking you,” Bull says. “You are magnificent.”

He can see the shift in Dorian’s posture even when he’s hammered, a kind of softening he doesn’t do much. “You do say the sweetest things.” Bull doesn’t think even Dorian knows whether that’s mockery or not.

“I can compliment you some more.”

“It’s possible that more compliments would combine alchemically with everything else that’s been said about me and explode, so, no,” Dorian says, but he looks a little better. “I’m not actually trying to spite my father tonight, I think he’s spited, I’m just …” Dorian presses both fists to his forehead like his head hurts, which it definitely will in the morning.  “I would very much like this day to end.”

“Let’s try the stairs,” Bull says. He manhandles Dorian up the library stairs and into Dorian’s room. “Sleep tight,” he says, and kind of hopes that Dorian doesn’t remember any of this in the morning.  It’s good to have friends. He walks back to the tavern, and goes to bed alone, and gets himself off thinking about that wicked mouth, those bruised dark eyes, those clever hands. 

He's not sure if it's that night, or whatever happened that day, or just that he's pretty sure they are friends, at this point, but the dirty talk in the field heats up. There are moments where he's almost sure that in a few more seconds they'll be all over each other, and then Dorian gives him that little smile he gets when he's setting people on fire and turns away, or Sera sets off a grenade full of bees, or they come around the bend and meet some more people who want to kill them.

They camp together, and they get naked in streams washing off other people's blood together, and they insult each other and both clearly get off on it. It's more distracting than Bull intended for it to be. He has sex with a lot of people back in Skyhold -- one after the other, not all together, although there are a couple of threesomes in there somewhere -- and it takes the edge off, but it's starting to be this big distracting thing that makes him feel like he's on the verge of bursting into flames himself.

This is probably why, under the Qun, people don't have sex with people they know. It keeps them from spending endless missions thinking about pounding somebody's sweet ass when they're supposed to be hitting people very hard. Bull can do both at the same time, but it's an extra level of challenge that he's not sure he wanted.

Krem lingers one evening in the tavern after the rest of the Chargers have gone out, singing. They're not good at singing, but they are very enthusiastic. "Thought you ought to know Dorian was asking about you," he says.

"What about?"

"Whether you meant what you've been saying." Bull thought that was clear, but maybe Dorian thought they were playing a different kind of game. "I told him you don't make passes at people you don't actually want to screw, you're not fancy like that. Also told him some facts of life about romance and the Qun, in case he was pining."

"He's not pining." He's pretty sure of that, although he was also pretty sure that Dorian knew he wanted to have sex.

"He says 'perish the thought,' so he's probably not."

"Anything else about this you want to arrange for me? Got the positions picked out, too?"

"You're welcome, Chief."

"Out," Bull growls, but he's not all that sorry. It's better than Dorian asking Sera about him. And, anyway, Dorian's asking about him, which has to be good. He was thinking of finding company for the evening, but he thinks maybe he'll leave himself free, just in case.

He spends that night alone. Also the next night. By the third night, he's starting to wonder if he's wasting his time, but he knows better than to pursue a quarry that's shown signs of being willing to come to him. There's a time to sit your ass down and wait.

There's a knock on the door. He opens it. It's Dorian, reasonably sober, wearing even fewer clothes than usual, and looking like he's about to combust from a combination of nerves and sexual frustration. "May I come in?"

"Come on in," Bull says. Dorian somehow makes entering the room look like an advertisement for bending him over something and fucking him without delay. "This is the part where we have sex, right?"

"I sincerely hope so," Dorian says on a single breath.

"You know I want to run the show, right?"

"Somehow despite your retiring modesty about your sex life, I gathered that, yes."

"You good with that?" He circles Dorian, and Dorian cocks a hip and raises his chin, and it is all he can do to keep his hands off him long enough to have this conversation.

"Do your worst, although I'm afraid you'll find I'm not good at obeying orders."

He has no intention of going as hard as he can, tonight, and he suspects that by "not good at obeying orders" Dorian means that he'll fall apart if Bull actually tries to discipline him into behaving. That's not really what he has in mind. "How about being held down?"

"Yes, please," Dorian says breathlessly.

"Here's how it's going to work -- your watchword is katoh. If you want me to stop, say it."

"And I'm to believe that you'll stop, just like that?" Dorian says, so much skepticism in his voice that Bull isn't sure how anyone manages to live in Tevinter without being completely messed up by it.

"Just like that." He wonders for a moment whether that's going to ruin it for Dorian, whether it's real danger that he's chasing. He isn't willing to bend his own principles that far.

"Very well," Dorian says, and spreads his hands on Bull's bare chest. Bull takes Dorian's wrists in his own, and Dorian makes a noise in his throat and closes his eyes.

He lets go long enough to strip Dorian, which Dorian cooperates with willingly enough. Bull gets them both onto the bed and takes both of Dorian's wrists in one hand, pinning Dorian under him to hold him down, and just plays with him for a while. When he toys with Dorian's nipples, Dorian groans and writhes, and when he starts playing with the thatch of dark hair above Dorian's cock, Dorian swears creatively in Tevene and tries to thrust against empty air.

"Are you going to get on with it?" Dorian demands.

"No," he says. He slicks his hand with oil and works it down Dorian's belly and over the curve of his hip, and then up and down his hard shaft.

"Wait just a minute, that's too--"

"You remember what to say?"

"I don't want to stop," Dorian snaps, "but if you insist on doing that--"

"You're going to spend."

"If you keep that up, so fuck me already."

"Eventually," Bull says, and keeps working Dorian with his hand. He can feel Dorian trying to hold back, and feel the way his hips arch in embarrassment and relief when he reaches the point of no return. Bull holds Dorian's cock so that when he comes, it strips his tan belly with white. It's pretty.

He reaches for his own cock and starts jerking it in long, urgent strokes.

"Don't you dare," Dorian says, sounding outraged.

"You're not in charge." Bull keeps working himself, knowing he can't last long like this. He's got to take the edge off. Dorian struggles in earnest for the first time, trying to take some kind of active role in things, but it's easy enough to hold him down, and all that wrestling and grinding just gets him there faster. He comes in a flood all over Dorian's thighs, and Dorian makes an angry noise of disappointment.

"Well, are you going to let me up?" he demands.

"We're not done here," Bull says, and Dorian relaxes a little under him, as if starting to believe for the first time that Bull knows what he's doing. He slicks his hand with oil again and starts rubbing Dorian's chest with it, tweaking the nipples. It's not going to take long at all for Dorian to get hard again. He waits until Dorian's cock is starting to swell again before he works his fingers between the cleft in Dorian's buttocks, and then works one finger in.

He's not as tight as he would have been before he came, not as tense. Bull fucks him for a while with one finger, lazily, until he can feel Dorian starting to rock back against it, with hungry little breaths for each thrust. They're both hard again.

He rolls Dorian over onto his back and pins his hands over his head. "Yeah, this feels good."

"Having me spread out for you like a banquet?"

"Yep." He rubs his cock against Dorian's, and then lets go his hands to push Dorian's knees back to his chest. "You see where I'm going with this."

"Wherever you want, apparently."

"Some people get intimidated by the size, at this point," he says, because some people who aren't Qunari do.

Dorian looks superior. "It would take more than that."

"Like you've taken more than that."

"Do your worst," Dorian says, and once again Bull isn't sure whether that's the game they're playing or whether he actually wants it to hurt.

"If you want me to hurt you, I can smack you hard enough that you'll remember it every time you sit down," he says, and slaps the inside of Dorian's thigh by way of illustration.  

Dorian arches his hips, his cock jerking. "I most certainly do not want that," he says, and his voice says he's outraged, but his body says 'hit me again.'"

That's not the way to have that conversation, but Bull files it for later. "I'm going to be busy fucking you anyway." He lowers himself down and pushes in. It's a tight fit, but Dorian takes it with little hungry groans, and he makes the effort to give him all he can take.

Then he waits. It takes a while for Dorian to register that he isn't moving, just holding still with his cock filling Dorian up.

"You're going to kill me," Dorian says from between gritted teeth.

"It's called self-discipline."

"I've heard of it," Dorian says. Bull knows he has. Dorian is a mage, and outside the Qun, mages without self-discipline get possessed or hurt people. Inside the Qun, someone else would be responsible for the discipline. None of that is anything Bull wants to think about right now.

"You can move if you want."

Dorian makes a good effort at fucking himself on Bull's cock, slamming up with his hips despite not really having much leverage in this position. It's not enough for either of them, and he knows Dorian knows it.

"If you're trying to get me to ask nicely—"

"Well, now that you've put the idea into my head."

"Never," Dorian says, with a light in his eyes that suggests he likes a challenge.

He holds out a surprisingly long time, despite Bull occasionally reaching down to stroke Dorian's cock just to keep it achingly hard where it's pinned between them. Much longer and he'll have to change the game to make sure it's one he can win.

But then Dorian starts to actually tremble under him, straining for it, his breath coming in harsh pants. "Please," he says, like it's a dirty word.

"Please what?" Bull says, although he really can't wait much longer. Every little jerk of Dorian's hips is making his balls clench.

"Please fuck me harder, you insufferable brute."

"I like your way with words," Bull says, and thrusts hard for the first time. He hammers himself into Dorian, and Dorian looks, for a moment, like the world has finally given him something he's wanted badly but didn't really expect. It's a look Bull didn't know he wanted to see on Dorian's face, and now that he's seen it, he wants to see it a lot more.

They're both gasping for breath, and when Dorian arches up under him and starts to spurt against his belly, he loses it, finally, thrusts in one more time and empties himself in a flood. "Yes!"

He rolls off Dorian as soon as he's finished, and flops back on the bed. Dorian sprawls beside him, breathing like they've been hotly pursued.

"Look at the state of us," Dorian says, although he sounds satisfied. "I need a bath."

"I can get one brought up."

"I'd rather not put on that much of a show, thank you."

Bull shrugs and scoots over so that Dorian can rest his head on his arm. Dorian does, but cautiously, as if he expects it to be a trick. Bull rakes his fingers through Dorian's hair and feels some of the lingering tension go out of him. He's still poised to make an immediate exit, like a bird Bull could startle into flight with the wrong word.

"Next time I'll have the tub waiting. I figure you can heat it up."

"You're very confident there's going to be a next time," Dorian says, but he sounds relieved as he sits up and stretches. Bull isn't sure why someone who is that entertaining in bed expects to be thrown out and not get invited back. Maybe Krem went overboard with the "this isn't a romance" talk. He doesn't think that's all there is to it, though. He'll work on figuring it out.

"I'm a confident guy."

"Perhaps if I find myself unexpectedly free."

"You know where I live," Bull says.

He’s not, actually, certain that Dorian’s going to come back, but Dorian does come back. He figures out things, as they keep doing this. Dorian likes being pinned by the wrists, being manhandled like he doesn’t weigh a thing, being held down while he strains and moans. Dorian likes having the back of his neck rubbed, right below the hairline where the muscles are tight. Dorian likes being tied up and teased for longer than Bull expected, letting the tension build up in every sensitive nerve until when he finally comes it wrecks him, and on one memorable occasion the curtains.

Wrecked and contented, Dorian sprawls in the now-steaming bath water, one foot draped over the edge of the metal tub. Bull has his back to the tub, having sponged himself off enough to satisfy Dorian’s sensibilities. A Qunari-sized tub wouldn’t fit up the stairs.

Dorian runs a warm hand down the back of Bull’s neck, tracing the scars there with his fingertips. Bull leans his head back.

I have to admit I miss proper baths,” Dorian says. “Hot baths big enough to swim in, scented oil, and soap that wasn’t made from anything we killed and butchered in the wilderness.”

“That sounds nice.”

“Also, coded attempts to arrange socially unacceptable rendezvous. Exciting, if somehow exhausting.”

“I’m not interested in sneaking around for sex.”

“I would never have known,” Dorian says dryly.

He shrugs and turns around so that Dorian can see his face, sitting back on his heels. “I don’t always do what I’m supposed to do,” he says. “But whatever I do, I’m willing to own.”

“Yes, well, a disinclination to handle my affairs with appropriate discretion was what persuaded my father that he should use blood magic to remove my inconvenient preferences.”

Bull’s heard enough that he guessed at that story, but it still means something to hear it from Dorian. He isn’t a Tamassran, trained to ease pain through sex and the stuff people say after they’ve had sex. But where there aren’t any Tamassrans, maybe that’s part of what fucking means for everybody.

“That’s messed up,” Bull says, even though the Qunari ways of making people fit where they’re supposed to fit aren’t any gentler. The Qun would be as terrible for Dorian as the Imperium was. Worse. Bull stopped believing a while back that the Qun would be good for everyone, which is a problem, because the whole point of the Qun is that there aren’t exceptions.

“At which point, I bravely fled the country,” Dorian says. He says that like it’s mockery, and Bull thinks it’s true.

“And you landed in such a soft spot, too.”

“Practically palatial.” His voice is still a little off, but he’s starting to relax again. “It has everything one could want in a summer villa. A long and storied history – meaning 'falling apart' -- mysterious origins – meaning 'who put these holes in the walls?' -- and a bracing climate, meaning 'it’s still too cold.’”

“It’s got a good view, though.”

“That’s probably why people keep coming back.”

Dorian leans his head back for a while, and then sits up, the water streaming off him, steam rising from his skin. “I want to take a walk outside,” he says. “And since you don’t mind the weather …"

They get minimally dressed and walk out onto the battlements, Dorian’s hair still wet from the bath. The unbroken expanse of snow beyond the walls stretches out to the towering mountain peaks. He would have to be a poet to have the right words for the smell of the snow and the way the moonlight gleams off the high peaks and makes even him feel small.

“There are moments,” Dorian says after a while, “when I don't wish for anything to be different.”

“And that’s when you worry about losing what you’ve got,” Bull says.

“How well you know me.”

“Sleep here tonight,” Bull says. “The books won’t miss you.”

“Are you implying that you’d miss me?” Dorian’s tone is teasing.

“I’d miss you,” he says.

That hangs there in the air between them for a while. Bull resists the urge to fill the silence with anything.

“You steal the blankets,” Dorian says finally.

“You can have more of them, because you’re delicate.”

“Dangerous, very dangerous.“

“I like playing with fire,” Bull says.

“Yes, clever. How long have you been waiting to make that remark?”

“A while,” he admits, and they go back to bed. Dorian wraps up in a blanket and falls into an immediate, sound sleep. They’ve slept this close together in the field, but that’s different. There’s a feeling about it that’s the same, though, something easing in his chest at having Dorian there. He feels safe, he decides after a while. Weird but true.

As soon as they start negotiating with the Qun, he feels anything but safe. He can’t put his finger on what feels wrong about it while he's talking with Trevelyan to set the whole thing up. It ought to feel right, getting the Qun into this fight, bringing the two parts of his life back together. Instead it feels worse and worse, like he’s being torn apart.

He stands on a storm-tossed cliff and makes a choice. He turns his back on the Qun to save his men. He knows it’s the wrong choice, and it still feels right.

After that, though, for a while everything feels wrong. He can’t find his center, can’t trust himself about anything. Dorian steers clear at first, maybe because Krem told him to, or maybe just because he doesn’t want to deal with Bull when he’s like this. He doesn't admit that he’s waiting for Dorian to show up at his door until Dorian does show up, with a bottle in hand.

“I wasn’t sure if you wanted to be left alone,” Dorian says.

He shrugs. “It's getting boring.”

“We could go kill something, if you’re really feeling deprived.”

“Don’t make promises you can't keep.”

“All right, it may be a little late at night for an excursion somewhere demon-infested. I thought you might want to drink, talk, or fuck. That’s my entire repertoire of ‘things that make people feel better when they’ve just exiled themselves,’ so I’m hoping one of them works.”

“Getting drunk won’t help, and I don’t want to talk about it.”

“I note one thing remains on the menu.”

“What do you want?” he asks, because he’s not sure what he wants.

“Take your clothes off,” Dorian says, and he takes his clothes off. “And lie down on your back, if you please.”

He does it, not entirely sure where Dorian is going with this. He’s had Dorian like that, Dorian riding him, impaled on his cock and unable to make any motion that didn’t drive it deeper into him.  Dorian strips, which is always something to watch, and then finds the oil bottle and tips it liberally over Bull’s hardening cock, giving it a few exploratory strokes.

“I had this in mind,” Dorian says. “I get comfortable with that inside me — a challenge, to be sure, but one I think I’ve proven myself capable of rising to — and you demonstrate some of that self-control, and don’t come until I’m ready.”

He nods before he can even put a name to the feeling he has right now. Like Dorian knows him, maybe not all the way down, but farther down than he ever expected. Like sex is another way of knowing somebody sees him. “Bring it on.”

As soon as Dorian is straddling him, riding his cock, he feels the urge to move his hips, but he schools himself to stay still. It’s what he needs right now, a way to discipline himself without being aware the entire time that he’s missing the discipline of the Qun. The Qun doesn’t have anything to say about how long you last while you’re fucking someone you love.

Dorian reaches for his own cock and starts stroking himself. For all that he likes to show off, this isn’t something he usually likes to show off, but he’s doing it now, letting Bull see how much he likes it every time he moves his own hand.

“I can go a lot longer than this,” Bull says.

“You will, but I can’t,” Dorian says. It’s obvious that he can’t, his face changing every time he moves his hand, his hips shifting the tiniest fraction to get Bull’s cock deeper into him. “Feel free to feel superior.” He strains, suddenly, and comes across Bull’s belly, settling more heavily onto Bull’s cock afterwards, sweat beading on his forehead. “This is working nicely for me, how is it suiting you?”

“This is good,” Bull manages.

It is good, a long slow fight to master the urge to thrust, to strain, to grind his ass against the blankets. He lets himself rake his nails down Dorian’s thighs, and wins a groan and a shift of Dorian’s weight that makes his own breath catch. He’s starting to feel like he’s entirely in his body, like he’s the same person who’s in this room and in this bed.

By the time he's starting to have real trouble holding out, Dorian has been hard again for a while, and is breathing like he’s been on a long-distance run.

“I’m going to move,” Dorian says. “I think you can take it.”

At first he can. He’s in that still place where he’s just feeling, not thinking, and it’s impossible to tell how much time is passing. Every time Dorian slides up and down on his cock, it’s another huge hot wave of sensation. He rides it, and rides it, and then all at once he’s aware of how urgent his need to come is. He’s pushed all the way to the point where it’s not a choice anymore. Something in him relaxes when he understands that. He’s done everything he can.

“You’d better be ready,” he says.

“I’m ready,” Dorian says, and kneels up and drives down, reaching down to grip himself at the same time. He’s distantly aware of Dorian coming the moment he touches himself, striping his belly again, but he’s busy coming so hard himself that it feels like an earthquake, something that shakes through him and breaks him and leaves him lying there, wrecked.

He’s aware after a while that Dorian is sprawled beside him. "I’m not going to be able to sit down tomorrow, I hope you know,” Dorian says.

He breathes a laugh. “I needed that.”

“Well. You somehow manage to be what I need more often than I’d like to admit. I thought I might return the favor.” Dorian rolls over to look up at him, shrugging one shoulder. “I hope you're not planning to make me hike back to my room after all that."

"You say the sweetest things," Bull says.

Dorian settles into the curve of his arm like that's somewhere he's decided he fits. It doesn't, right at that particular moment, feel like being a long way from home.