The Iron Bull sits back against the headboard of his bed, legs crossed at the ankles and arms folded across his chest as he enjoys the scene in front of him.
Dorian looks perfect.
He is dressed in a fine black robe, decorated with a white sash and trimmings. His kohl is heavy, making his eyes look larger, and his hair is of course immaculate. Not that this stops Dorian from making some final touches to the style as he studies himself in the mirror.
“Your verdict, Amatus?”
“Too much clothing.” Bull says immediately.
Bull grins. “You look amazing, Kadan.”
Dorian returns the smile, before turning towards the small door to Cole’s bedroom. “Are you ready, Cole?”
A moment later, the boy steps out of the room, dressed in a simple white shirt with red trousers and black boots. In his hand he is holding a small Orlesian mask.
“I can’t choose a hat. They ALL want to be worn.”
“Well, which hat do you think will go with the outfit?”
Cole looks down. “The trousers are red. So my red hat?”
“If by ‘my red hat’ you mean the feathered monstrosity that Dalish and Skinner gave you, then no.”
“Hey.” The Iron Bull sits up. “That hat looks great on him.”
“It looks like a peacock flew into the side of his head and died there.” Dorian then turns back to Cole. “What about the hat that Josephine got you for your birthday.”
Cole smiles before disappearing back into his room.
“Fashion crisis averted.” Dorian turns back to Bull. “Where’s your shirt?”
“Amatus, we are attending, on the invitation of the First Enchanter of Montsimmard, a Cotillion that will include Dukes, Banns and Ambassadors of high standing The Iron Bull WHERE. IS. YOUR. SHIRT?”
Bull rolls his eye, chuckling as he slides off the bed and, with a playful stomp, makes his way over to one of the two large wardrobes in the room. He takes out the shirt that he wore at the Winter Palace, and a pair of yellow and black striped trousers.”
“They will never find your body.”
Bull throws Dorian a smile before putting the yellow trousers back in favour of plain brown pair. He changes quickly into the outfit, while on the other side of the room Cole has emerged again, now wearing a black hat, and still carrying the mask.
“Well look at you.” Dorian smiles as he adjusts the collar of Cole’s shirt and then takes the mask. “You look very nice, Cole.” He says as he carefully places the ornate silver mask over Cole’s eyes and secures it in place.
“Am I handsome like you?”
“Why don’t you see for yourself.” Dorian leads him over to the mirror, standing behind Cole as he studies his outfit.
“I like it.”
“Yes, Bonny Sims chose well with this one.” Dorian smiles. “Now, did you want to practice dancing one last time?”
“Alright, you lead.” Dorian lets Cole take his hand, holding it up while his arm tentatively wraps around Dorian’s back before starting a slow, slightly clumsy, but acceptable waltz. “Very good.” Dorian says as they dance. “But it won’t just be me who you dance with. Who else are you going to ask?”
“I ask Vivienne, because she is our host so it’s polite to ask her to dance.”
“Yes, although I strongly suspect that Vivienne will say no.”
The Iron Bull coughs to cover up his laugh.
“And then I ask Josephine, because she helped Vivienne to organise the party so it is polite to ask her.”
“Will SHE say no?”
“Why do you think that Josephine will say no?”
The Iron Bull smiles as he watches Dorian and Cole together.
Cole had been a ball of anxiety when he had first found out about the Cotillion.
“But Vivienne hates me?” “But I don’t know how to dance?” “What if I ruin Josephine’s dress like at the banquet?” “I do things that make people feel bad.”
Dorian had talked and guided him through each insecurity, sometimes the same insecurity over and over, with commendable patience. Now, Cole’s excitement is clear in his smile as he practices dancing and discusses what he is going to do that evening.
“I should ask The Inquisitor to dance.”
“If you’d like to.”
The Iron Bull isn’t religious by nature, but he isn’t above wishing. And as he mentally compares the happy Cole in front of him now to the Cole of not that long ago, when he had been mute from trauma and made wretched by despair, The Iron Bull wishes for Cole to have nothing but fun tonight.
He thinks the boy will. He thinks Dorian has already made it his personal mission.
The Iron Bull can’t help the warm feeling in his chest as he thinks that. Watching the two younger men together, the love between them is clear. It is clear in Dorian’s protectiveness and advice, and it is clear in Cole’s innocent acceptance of Dorian’s mentoring and encouragement. It is something that The Iron Bull doesn’t think that he will ever grow tired of witnessing.
A bond is what Solas had called it.
And Bull finds himself making another wish now. A wish that he is strong enough to protect that bond against ANYTHING that ever threatens it.
The main keep is unrecognisable, all the furniture having been removed to make way for a small but functional dance floor. Josephine’s room has also been commandeered. The door has been propped open, and it is here that food tables can be found.
“Dorian, Darling, you made it.” Vivienne says brightly.
“But of course.” Dorian says. Behind him, Bull keeps both hands on Cole’s shoulders as the boy takes in the scene, and wonderful array of hats, in quiet awe. Then he finds himself making eye contact with Dorian, who widens his eyes slightly.
Cole nods. “That is a lovely dress, Vivienne.” He says.
“Made especially for the occasion.” She looks Cole up and down. “Your outfit is an interesting combination of Orlesian and Ferelden fashion.”
“I am one, but like the other too.”
“It is acceptable.” Vivienne looks straight from Cole to Dorian and Bull. “The reputation of the Inquisition must be maintained, tonight. I trust you are both versed in the propriety of introducing a...young man...at his first high society function.”
Bull smiles. “Tevintor or Orlesian?”
“The one that won’t get us arrested.” Vivienne says, sternly.
“Madame de Fer.” Dorian says in an exaggerated manner as he loops his arm through Cole. “As if I would allow your fine Cotillion to play host to a substandard debut.” He then turns to Bull. “Let the schmoozing commence.”
Dorian rests a hand against Bull’s chest for a moment, sharing a smile with his Amatus, then leads Cole to follow Vivienne into the party.
Bull is content to be left behind. Both he and Dorian know that this is not really his scene, especially when they are not hunting for assassins at the same time. But watching he can enjoy, smiling as his Kadan settles straight back in to his natural habitat of high society while leading Cole around and introducing him to various Duke’s and Ambassadors as if the boy is his scion. Cole, for his part, seems to be happy as, under Dorian’s guidance, he greets each guest. He bows to the men, and kisses the hands of the ladies, before joining them and the mage in various short conversations. At one point he darts off to collect a champagne fluke from one of the passing servants, ferrying it over to give to the Duke he had been talking to.
All the time he has a small but carefree smile on his face.
“He seems to be enjoying himself.”
Bull nods as Cullen, dressed in formal attire, comes to stand beside him.
“That’s good.” Cullen crosses his arms. “He deserves nights like this, after everything he’s been through.”
“You deserve to have some fun too. Boss says you’ve been burning the candle at both ends.”
“Inquisition soldiers don’t command themselves.”
“You have Lieutenants for a reason, Cullen.” Bull says.
“I...suppose I just benefit from becoming lost in my work.”
“Yeah.” Bull nods. “You get my notes?”
“The Ben-Hassrath techniques? Yes, thank you. I’ve been practising some of them.” Cullen chuckles, quietly. “Leliana said that they are techniques for resisting torture.”
“From what I’ve heard, lyrium withdrawal IS torture.”
“On that we can agree.” Cullen looks down. “Sorry. Can I get you anything from the food tables?”
“Thanks, but I’ll go over myself later.”
“Very well. Have a good evening.”
“You too. I mean it.”
Cullen nods as he takes his leave.
“Right then.” Dorian approaches Bull and puts his arms around the Qunari. “Now that Cole has been properly assimilated into things, time for you to ask me for a dance.”
Bull chuckles, and takes Dorian’s hand.
Dorian lets Bull lead the dance, his head rested against the larger man’s chest. The music changes, and the dance slows. Dorian closes his eyes, living in the moment and listening to Bull’s heartbeat and he thinks that he could quite happily stay like this for the rest of the evening.
“Are you two seeing what I’m seeing?” Cullen swallows as he taps both men on the shoulder and indicates the other side of the dance floor with a nod.
Dorian follows Cullen’s line of sight. “Fasta vass.”
“Could we all be having the same hallucination?” Cullen asks.
Bull sees what they are seeing and his eye widens with surprise.
“And with Cole LEADING.” Cullen shakes his head. “Who taught him to dance?”
“Dorian.” The Qunari provides.
Cullen nods. “You should go into business.”
Dorian remains transfixed on the dance floor. “Thank you for the advice.”
The dance ends, and everyone applauds everyone else. Vivienne then quickly ushers Cole in the direction of Josephine.
“Well.” Dorian shrugs. “THAT was historic.” This said, he makes his way across the dance floor, greeting Vivienne.
”Thank you.” He says to his fellow mage.
“A mere politeness.” Vivienne dismisses Dorian’s comment with a wave. “The creature made his request with such manners that he actually set an example. A credit to your influence, I’m sure.”
“Well, one tries.” Dorian says.
She smiles. “Good practice for if you and Iron Bull ever decide to have children of your own.”
Dorian coughs. “I...um...I’ve never thought about it....”
“Thedas is full of orphans in need of love, my dear. One or two of whom you could make very lucky.”
“Maybe.” Dorian says with a quiet voice as he looks back over to where Bull is talking to Cullen. He smiles. “Maybe.”
“Did you feed your current child before coming here tonight?”
He turns back to her, confused. “We...didn’t eat first, no.”
“Only it looks like Josephine is about to introduce Cole to the Antivan Brandy.”
Dorian looks over his shoulder, laughing fondly as he watches Cole take, and react to, his first sip.
“It is an acquired taste.” Vivienne says, a laugh in her voice.
The rotunda is silent, the only sound the scratching of Solas’s pen against the parchment as he takes notes.
He looks up as a plate of small cakes appears on the desk in front of him.
“Cole said you liked those.” Bull says quietly, before returning the tired smile that Solas gives him. “Working late?”
“A scout report that came to my attention earlier.” Solas indicates the chair across from his, and Bull sits down. “I trust that the party my dessert contraband comes from is going well?”
“Far as I can tell.” Bull shrugs. “Dorian and Cole are enjoying themselves, that’s all that matters to me.” Bull shrugs. “You know, Solas, there’s still time for you to be fashionably late. Orlesians dig that, and Vivienne invited the entire Inner Circle.”
Solas shakes his head. “My party days are long behind me. Although I have been told that my formal letter of refusal was more polite than Sera’s”
“Sera wrote a formal letter?”
“If lude pictures count.”
“How has Cole been?” Solas sits back in his chair. “He still has nightmares?”
Bull nods. “And ‘bad days’ as we’re calling them. He’ll probably have them on and off for years. But we’ve been helping him through it.” He smiles. “Dorian’s been amazing with him.”
“Understandable.” Solas smiles. “They have a special bond. They are brothers in every way.”
“You sure it isn’t father and son.”
“I doubt that Dorian was fathering children when he was ten.” Solas shakes his head. “But I do agree. You have BOTH clearly taken the boy in as your ward, and in doing so you have given him the most basic of childhood needs, a safe and loving family life. One in which the boy has flourished. I...try not to think how differently things might have been had you not been there that horrible night, The Iron Bull.”
“You’d have looked after the kid.”
“I take comfort in believing so. Thank you.” Solas sits forward. “I shall let you return to the Cotillion, but a request first?”
“I wondered if I might hire the services of two of your chargers.” He indicates the scout report. “A cave has been discovered, hidden by ice and not far from Skyhold. The markings on the entrance indicate ties to an old elven myth. Vir da’len .” He looks at Bull. “I hope to investigate it. And while I have every faith in my abilities in a fight, only a fool explores a cave ruin alone.”
“Agreed. But I’ve got a better plan.” Bull leans forward across the table. “Cole hasn’t left Skyhold since that demon attack. A change of scenery would do him good. And I love the look on Dorian’s face when I drag him through caves. Shit, for that alone, I won’t even charge you.”
“If you are available, I plan to leave the day after tomorrow, in the morning.” Solas nods. “I would welcome your company, free or otherwise.”
“Works for me.” Bull says, nodding. “So, what does Vir da’len mean?”
“Roughly translated. Well of Childhood?”
“A fountain of youth.” Bull nods. “Sounds like some weird demon crap.”
“I’m hoping for weird elven crap.” Solas says, while studying the diagram in front of him.
“You sure it’s safe?”
“Oh perfectly safe. Hence why I’m requesting a protection detail?”
Bull laughs. “Sounds like it’s going to be fun.”
“I also appreciate the food, Iron Bull. Thank you.”
“Vivienne is right, Dorian?”
“Oh?” Dorian says as he opens the door to their rooms. “And on which of her MANY statements tonight was she correct?”
“You and Bull would make good parents.”
Dorian coughs, the sound descending into an awkward laughter as he looks at the currently dumbfounded Iron Bull.
The Qunari shakes his head. “Did you enjoy the Cotillion, Cole?”
Cole giggles at the look on Dorian’s face, before turning to Bull. “There were hats. And dancing.” He giggles again. “And brandy.”
“Yes you liked the brandy, didn’t you.” The Iron Bull smiles fondly as he takes off Cole’s hat, ruffling his hair. “Go sit down. I’m getting you some water.”
When it becomes clear that Cole isn’t going to remove the mask himself, Dorian steps in. “I’m glad you had a good time, Cole.”
“Did you have a good time?”
“Yes. It was a fun evening. We must remember to formally thank Vivienne.”
Cole nods, then looks down. “Dorian?”
Cole is noticeably avoiding eye contact as Dorian encourages him to sit on the edge of Dorian and Bull’s bed. “Do you think that I would make a good father?”
“Well, yes.” He crouches down in front of the sitting boy, smiling at The Iron Bull as the Qunari hands Cole a cup of water. “You’re kind. And you care deeply about others. I think you would be a devoted parent. And I think your child would be very blessed.” Dorian falls silent.
“Darkness. Cold. Hunger and pain.” Cole trembles. “He knows what makes a good father, because he remembers what makes a bad one.”
“Shhhh.” Dorian rests his hands on both of Cole’s knees. “Our little family had good fun tonight, didn’t it.”
Cole nods, smiling.
“But now I think that we are all quite tired, and you and I are DEFINITELY on the outside of too much Antivan Brandy.” He smiles. “So finish your water, and go and get some sleep.”
Cole nods, drinking the entire cup before standing and going to his room. “Good night.”
“Good night, kid.” Bull says.
As soon as Cole’s door is closed, Bull walks towards Dorian, not stopping his gentle pushing until Dorian’s back is against the wall.
“You look amazing in that outfit, my bas saarebas.”
“And you want to see me out of it.” Dorian smiles as Bull pulls the mage’s arms above his head, securing the wrists against the wall with a single grip.
“Maybe.” Bull growls in his ear. “Exactly how much brandy did you drink?”
“Enough to know that being alone with you, in or out of my amazing outfit, is definitely a bad idea.” He hums.
“Enough to forget your watchword?”
“Always so caring.” Dorian says, before kissing the other man.