His hands wouldn’t stop shaking.
It was ridiculous, honestly. The siege had ended hours ago; they’d returned from the Fade hours ago. There was no reason for him to be so ... daunted. To be so unmoored. Surely he’d done more strenuous things, more terrifying things than facing down a demon in its own realm ... He’d left Tevinter on his own, left behind a life of luxury and privilege to wallow in the Ferelden wilderness with little more than the clothes on his back and his winning charm. He’d raced ahead of a mob of angry mages and Venatori, with a darkspawn magister and his archdemon nipping at his heels. Surely, surely this latest stint in the Fade should scarcely register as little more than a brief notation in the legend of Dorian Pavus of House Pavus, late of Minrathous and Qarinus, rebel archivist and the handsomest man in the Inquisition.
But still ... his hands wouldn’t stop shaking.
Oh, there were moments when he felt fine, moments where he didn’t feel mere heartbeats away from collapse. If he didn’t think about it, if he didn’t close his eyes and picture the crumbling walkway of Adamant Fortress, that dreadful plummet, that eternity of terror where he had been certain – certain – this would be the last time he would see ... the last time he would set eyes on ... the last ...
Dorian could admit, if only to himself – and even then, grudgingly – that the terror he had felt had not been for himself.
There was a possibility – a slight chance, scarcely worth mentioning, really – it was high time he stopped classifying his relationship with the Inquisitor as “merely a fling.” When the walkway had broken apart beneath the force of Warden-Commander Clarel’s last spell and Asher had tumbled head-first into the empty air ... the epiphany that Dorian had been keeping from himself had reared its ugly head and he had realized that he was about to watch the man he ...
“Oh, bloody hell,” Dorian murmured, standing just inside the tent, staff dangling limply from one hand. He kicked off his muddy boots, nudging them away from the entrance flaps, out of the way of anyone entering the tent. “I’m in love with the reckless idiot. Dorian Pavus, you damned fool, you’ve gone and done it now.”
His voice fell strangely flat in the silence of his tent. He’d set up a magical barrier to make it sound-proof – all the better to have his breakdown in relative peace and quiet, without disturbing the rest of the camp that lay outside the ruined walls of Adamant. He was aware, distantly, that in addition to his shaking hands, his breaths were coming in hard and fast, yet he didn’t seem to be drawing in much air. Certainly not enough air. His heart seemed dreadfully loud, as well. Perhaps this was what going mad felt like. Perhaps he was having an apoplexy: a little on the young side, yes, but hadn’t his grandmother – or was it his great-grandmother? – died of just such a thing when she was only a few years older than himself? Such a shame, folks would say; he was in the prime of his youth, the pinnacle of good health. No one saw it coming. It was probably all the Fereldan ale.
Fasta vass, but he was being absurd.
“Pull yourself together, man!” he said, and then felt foolish at the realization that he was talking to himself out loud.
At least no one could hear him. If he started screaming and ranting like a madman no one would know. The thought was oddly comforting.
Dorian staggered the last few steps inside the tent, carefully setting his staff on the ground next to his pack and bedroll. The tent was one of the larger ones in the camp, made to accommodate the Inquisition’s resident Qunari mercenary captain in addition to enabling four people to sleep in what passed for comfort out in the wilds. (He complained, but their shared tent was certainly preferable to how he’d been living rough back when he’d been on his own after leaving Tevinter. Back then he’d scarcely known what to pack or prepare for; he likely would have frozen to death on more than one occasion inside his little canvas tent had he not been capable of casting fire glyphs to keep himself warm and barrier spells to keep out the constant damp.) It was a far cry from down-filled mattresses and canopied beds, but arguably preferable to sleeping rough on the hard, sandy ground with the wind nipping at him through his threadbare blankets.
Aside from himself the tent was mercifully free of people. Lady Cassandra had gone to stand vigil over the dead with Commander Cullen, and thereafter no doubt to try and coerce the Commander of the Inquisition’s forces into catching a few minutes of much-needed sleep. For all that the siege of Adamant had been a success Cullen would still blame himself for the loss of every soldier, no matter how well-planned and executed the battle had been. With any luck the Seeker would be able to talk him down, at least enough for the man to get some shut-eye – possibly with the aid of a sleeping draught discreetly slipped into the Commander’s tea. Varric, shaken by the loss of his good friend Hawke, had gone off to sit by the fire. He’d claimed he needed to write some letters, but Dorian suspected the dwarf simply wanted to be alone for a while, to mourn and reflect in peace. And the Iron Bull, the fourth occupant of their tent, had left to do as soldiers did in the wake of battle: drink, mourn the dead, and then celebrate the living with one or more willing partners. A part of Dorian wanted to do the same, at least with regards to the drinking and celebrating part, but he’d given the last of his wine as a condolence gift to Varric and the only person he wanted to celebrate with was off doing his duties by the Inquisition.
With a heavy sigh Dorian stripped out of his armour – sparing a moment to tsk and shake his head over the rips and tears in the fine leather, and the bloodstains that no amount of scrubbing would ever get out – and set it all aside, dropping it unceremoniously next to the rest of his gear. He’d sort it out in the morning, when he wasn’t so bone-deep exhausted and still reeling from this most recent near-death experience. At what point, he wondered, did one become accustomed to nearly dying? Would there come a time when he would be able to simply shrug it off as yet one more horrible thing to happen to him, or would he always feel this jarring sense of terror? What did it say about him, that he was starting to find it all rather pedestrian and tedious?
It wasn’t fear for himself, he knew that now. He’d been more afraid for his own well-being the night he discovered his father’s plan to ambush him and cast a blood-magic ritual in order to change him. This fear that he felt now had nothing to do with how close he’d come to dying, first on the ramparts of Adamant Fortress, then again when facing down the Nightmare in the Fade. While he certainly felt some apprehension about his own near-death the majority of his fear and concern was over how close he’d come to losing Asher, how certain he’d been that he was about to watch the Inquisitor die.
All his life Dorian had been taunted and tormented with the things he couldn’t have. The sight of his own gravestone – with his name and the word Temptation emblazoned upon its cold grey face – had not come as a surprise to him. Growing up in the Tevinter Empire, watching his father cavort with Elven slaves and his mother trying to drink herself into an early grave, he’d learned early on that it was unreasonable to expect love and happiness to be in his future. The nobility of Tevinter did not marry for love, and they most certainly did not marry someone of the same sex. It was all about bloodlines and good breeding – as he’d said to Asher ages ago, it was about distilling the perfect mage, the perfect leader. Ever since he’d first realized he would only ever be attracted to the masculine form temptation had dogged his steps. He could never have the things he wanted. He’d known that.
Life in Ferelden was different. Life in the Inquisition was different. No one in Ferelden gave a nug’s arse over who you slept with, who you married, who you fell in love with. No one in the Inquisition gave two shits over what you did so long as you pulled your weight. But still, it was foolish of him to think he could have what he wanted without consequence. He’d tricked himself into believing this thing with Asher Trevelyan was just a fling, a fun dalliance to bide the time between waging war against Corypheus and trying to unite Thedas against the ancient Darkspawn magister. Ridiculous, to convince himself that feelings weren’t involved. “It’s just sex, Dorian,” he’d told himself, time and time again. “It doesn’t mean anything.”
It did. It did mean something. It meant everything.
He sank down on top of his bedroll, every battered inch of his exhausted body protesting the movement. He wanted to curl up under the mass of furs and blankets and sleep for a month, but first he needed to clean himself up, at least enough that he wouldn’t wake up with blood and other grime caked into his skin and hair. Sighing heavily again he grabbed his pack and dragged it toward himself, tugging loose the straps so that he could rummage around inside until he found what he was looking for.
Dorian carefully unwound the cloth protecting his traveling looking-glass, turning the mirror over in his hands to inspect it for damage. He breathed a small sigh of relief to see that it had survived the journey from Skyhold to Adamant in his pack. Given the general Ferelden disregard for personal hygiene he wasn’t certain he would have been able to replace the mirror if it had broken en route. He raised the glass, taking another breath to steady himself; when he looked in the mirror there was only a slight tremble to his reflection, a faint shiver that made it difficult to focus on the image. He had to blink away unshed tears in order to clear his vision, and when he finally saw his own reflection clearly in the glass he felt an immediate twinge of regret at having gone to the trouble.
He looked every bit as awful as he felt. His hair hung loose and greasy-looking from sweat, every bit of styling and product long gone in the wake of battle, and the kohl around his eyes was badly smudged and the rest of his makeup sweated away entirely. There were huge bags under his eyes and he was desperately in need of a shave, his mustache drooping like a wilted flower. He had a split lip and a bruise along his cheekbone thanks to a bash from a Grey Warden’s shield, and although he couldn’t tell just by looking at his face in the mirror he suspected at least one tooth had been knocked loose by the attack. His smile, practiced and near-perfect and entirely fake, was somewhat dimmed by blood and swelling. The linen shirt he wore under his armour was sweat-stained and badly wrinkled, and now that he was sitting and resting he was beginning to feel every bruise, every strain, every burn and laceration. He conjured a small amount of ice – any mage worth his salt who spent as much time as Dorian did casting about fireballs learned to create ice to put out accidental flare-ups and nurse burns – and, flinching briefly, pressed it to his swollen mouth. The healers and surgeons of the Inquisition were tied up with those soldiers far more injured than Dorian, and he wasn’t about to waste their time or dwindling resources to treat what were essentially just minor aches and pains. A little ice and a little rest and he’d be right as rain. A shame he had no wine with which to self-medicate, but one must make sacrifices in the interests of the greater good.
Shirt off, he spent a few minutes using the flat, strange-tasting water from his canteen to wash away the worst of the grime and caked-on makeup. The tent was a bit cool to be stripped down to just his trousers, but the cold was worth it to feel somewhat clean again even if this hasty, half-hearted scrubbing was the best he could manage. He set the water and dirtied cloths aside and was in the process of trying to remember when he had last had anything to eat when there was a muffled knock on the tent-pole outside.
“Come in!” he called out before belatedly remembering the sound-proofing spell he’d cast earlier. Grumbling under his breath – he had expected to be left alone for the night and had been almost pathetically grateful for the chance to break down in private – he climbed back to his feet and went to open the flap. He thought perhaps Blackwall or Sera had come to drag him off to join one of the campfires that had sprouted up in the wake of the battle, and was entirely unprepared to find himself face to face with the Inquisitor.
“Asher,” he said, hating the way his voice broke on the name.
“Dorian,” the Inquisitor returned, and the two of them just stood there, staring at each other.
Asher Trevelyan was a handsome man, although Dorian had initially been too distracted by the Free Marcher’s scruffy beard and messy hair to notice. Underneath the scruff and rough veneer there was charm and excellent bone structure, and while there were some days when Dorian ached to take a pair of scissors and a razor to the man’s ill-kempt facial hair he had grown accustomed and – dare he say it? – fond of the man’s appearance. Tall and broad-shouldered, with skin a shade or two darker than Dorian’s own, the Inquisitor was well-made; Dorian liked to joke that he himself had a face made to be immortalized in marble, but in truth he’d never wanted to commission a portrait or sculpture until he’d seen and fallen for Asher. The man was beautiful, with dark brown hair that slipped free of his ponytail to curl loose and fine about his face, and wide hazel eyes that shifted from gold to green and had now gone so dark as to be almost black as he and Dorian looked at each other in the dim light of the tent.
Then Dorian glanced down and saw the covered tray in Asher’s large hands, and when he looked up at the Inquisitor he thought he saw a brief moment of uncertainty cross the other man’s face before disappearing.
“What’s this?” Dorian asked.
Asher grinned and whipped the cover off with a flourish, revealing plates of cheese, meats, dried fruit, nuts, and bread freshly slathered in butter.
“After I finished meeting with Blackwall, Alistair and the other Grey Wardens a little birdy came and told me he hadn’t seen you in the queue for food,” Asher explained, tossing the cover to one side and holding the tray out with both hands like an offering. He shrugged, his grin growing broader. “Well, a rather large birdy, actually. He seemed quite concerned that you hadn’t had anything to eat today.”
Iron Bull, Dorian thought, with a sudden feeling of inexplicable fondness. Never in his wildest dreams had he imagined he would one day be fussed over by a cheerfully bloodthirsty Qunari mother hen, and yet, such was his life within the Inquisition. Sera was just as bad: whenever he worked long hours in the library she would come and find him and hand-feed him cookies and slices of cake. The Dorian of a year ago would have been horrified at the thought of where her grubby little hands had been prior to shoving them in his face, but present-day Dorian had long come to the conclusion that it was more prudent to avoid the potential consequences of her believing he was rejecting her “gift.” It was best simply to ignore worries about when Sera had last washed her hands and simply let her drop bits of pastry in his mouth like a little baby bird. On the plus side, Dorian couldn’t remember the last time he’d caught a cold or suffered an upset stomach from something he’d consumed, so perhaps Sera’s coddling was doing something for his well-being outside of making him put on weight.
Come to think of it, everyone within the Inquisitor’s so-called “Inner Circle” looked out for each other like this, even those who otherwise did not generally get along. More than once Dorian had walked in on the Iron Bull massaging Madame de Fer’s sore feet, or Blackwall and Varric sharing a flask of whiskey after a long day, or Cullen and Solas hunched over the chessboard, discussing strategy. Oh, they all bickered and fought like the proverbial cats and dogs, but Asher’s advisors and Inner Circle closed ranks against any outsiders who dared to threaten them. Somewhere along the way over this past year and change this disparate group of strangers had become something rather like a family.
And the reason for all of this was the man standing before Dorian right now.
Suddenly overwhelmed by the rush of affection he felt for that man, Dorian took the tray out of Asher’s hands and carefully set it on the ground, mindful not to spill any of the food. Straightening to almost match Asher in height, Dorian leaned forward and, with far less care, grabbed the other man by the front of his wrinkled linen shirt and yanked him in close for a graceless but heartfelt kiss.
For a brief moment Asher was frozen, caught off guard by Dorian’s display of affection. Then his hands came up to grip Dorian’s waist and pull him in even closer until their bodies were pressed together. Asher’s lips were chapped and his scruffy beard scratched at Dorian’s face, but Dorian just moaned and held on to the Inquisitor’s shirt for dear life, his fingers twisting in the fabric. The kiss was hard and messy, all teeth and tongue, and as Dorian’s earlier fears reared their ugly head again he poured everything he was and everything he felt into the action. For all that he was clever with words he’d never learned to say those words – those words that meant everything – without them being used against him, and so instead he put his clever mouth to other uses.
Just as Dorian’s lungs were starting to remind him about the necessity of air he felt one of Asher’s big hands come up to clasp the back of his neck. With an audible noise of regret the Inquisitor pulled back far enough to look at Dorian’s face. Warm hazel eyes met Dorian’s own, darting back and forth as if in search of something.
“What is this about, Dorian?” Asher asked, leaning forward until their foreheads were touching. His breath, warm and slightly sour, blew out over Dorian’s lips. His hand felt dry and strong on Dorian’s neck, the weight making Dorian feel safe and secure and ever so precious and loved.
Dorian bit his lip, afraid to share everything he had felt when the stone walkway had crumbled underneath them and they had fallen into the Fade. The press of Asher’s forehead against his own and his other hand on Dorian’s hip, thumb stroking the bare skin above the waist of Dorian’s trousers, reminded him that all of that was in the past, and now they were both safe. Still, he hesitated before speaking, painfully aware of the way his voice trembled: “When we fell into the chasm, into the Fade … I thought you were done for. I don’t know if I can forgive you for that moment.”
Asher sucked in a startled breath, drawing back again to meet Dorian’s gaze.
“I’m sorry you had to go through it with me,” he said, his eyes darting down to Dorian’s mouth. He frowned, the hand on Dorian’s hip coming up to brush over the cut on Dorian’s lip. His fingers trailed upwards, to the painful bruise along his cheekbone. Funny, Dorian had completely forgot about his injuries, although now that he’d been reminded he was aware of the way his mouth throbbed in response to their passionate kiss. Not all of the warmth and tingling came from an excess of emotion.
“I’m not sorry I was there with you,” Dorian clarified. And he wasn’t. He’d been terrified, yes, and certain they were all going to die in the Fade, but he was glad to have been there to guard Asher’s back. If they had died, at least they would have died together. Damn the man for making him think such romantic drivel. Next thing you know Dorian will be swooning and fluttering his handkerchiefs like one of the ladies in those horrible novels Cassandra was always poring over. “I thought I’d lost you. You sent me ahead and then didn’t follow. For just a moment, I was certain you wouldn’t. I thought: ‘This is it. This is where I finally lose him forever.’ Are you … all right?”
Asher was silent, eyes downcast. When he spoke his voice was soft and thoughtful. “It was like walking in a nightmare, but everything was real. I couldn’t …” He trailed off, forehead bumping against Dorian’s again. “At least you were at my side.”
“No offense, but I’d almost rather I hadn’t been,” Dorian said with a faint chuckle, although he didn’t mean it.
“No sense of adventure? That’s surprising.”
“I’ve not your talent for survival, and not everyone is as discerning as I.”
“Mmm, yes,” Asher replied, lips twisting up in a smirk. “So I’ve noticed.”
This time when they kissed it was slower, almost careful. Asher was cautious around Dorian’s sore mouth, mindful of the split and swollen lip.
“Why didn’t you see Ma’am?” the Inquisitor asked once they’d drawn apart again. Dorian thought it was adorable the way he and the Iron Bull both continued to refer to the First Enchanter as ‘Ma’am.’ In truth Dorian suspected that by this point Vivienne was so charmed by Asher that he could have gotten away with calling her Viv – or at the very least, by calling her by her first name rather than her lengthy title. And she was certainly fond of Bull as well. Still, the two men were like children around her, hopping to her every command and waiting with bated breath for her praise. It was remarkably endearing all around, although it would have taken a team of horses to drag it out of him.
“This?” Dorian gestured to his sore mouth, affecting a nonchalant air. “This is nothing, darling. A few bumps and bruises aren’t worth bothering Madame de Fer over.” Not when there are men and women who are dying, he thought darkly, looking down at where his other hand still gripped the Inquisitor’s shirt. Forcing what he hoped was a dashing smile he added, “My lovely face will be back in pristine shape by the time we return to Skyhold, though if you’d like to fan me and feed me peeled grapes until I’m fully healed again I wouldn’t say no to the offer.”
Asher chuckled softly before drawing Dorian back for another lengthy kiss. This time around their bodies pressed close together, mouths colliding. Dorian nipped at Asher’s lip until it was almost as swollen as his own, hearing the other man moan into his mouth just as Asher’s hand clenched hard around the short hair at the nape of Dorian’s neck. The sound and sensation went right to Dorian’s groin and he groaned, bringing his hands down to clutch at Asher’s ass.
“This,” he gasped after a moment, tugging at Asher’s shirt, “This needs to go.”
Asher grunted in affirmation, pulling away long enough to grip at the neckline of his shirt and yank it up over his head. Dorian took the opportunity to back away, sinking down onto his bedroll so that he could stare up at the other man. He was always somewhat dimly aware of Asher’s size, but in the close confines of the tent all that height and muscle was almost overwhelming. Asher’s skin, darker than Dorian’s own and marked by faint silvery scars, was stretched taut over smooth planes of muscle, his broad chest sprinkled liberally with dark hair. His shoulders were wide, expansive, and he had strong arms and big, callused hands. There was very little that was soft about the Free Marcher lord, but no man had ever held Dorian so carefully or gently, no man had ever made Dorian feel so cherished and precious.
I love you, Dorian thought, but bit the words back at the last minute. Surely it was too soon for such things? He and Asher had been sleeping together for months, yes, but Dorian’s experience with intimate relationships was limited at best, and severely lacking at worst. In his experience he always said the words too soon – but he had no notion as to what constituted the right time. With previous lovers the right time appeared to have fallen somewhere between “sometime in the next Age” and “never.”
You’re too needy, Dorian, he’d heard, time and time again. Don’t make more of this than what we have. It’s a fling, nothing more. You’re too much. You knew what this was when we started. Time and time again, over and over again: it’s too soon, too much, you’re too needy, you’re too blighted much, Dorian. He thought, perhaps, that Asher was different – and yet, with every previous lover, he’d thought the same and been proven wrong. If what he and Asher had was real – and he sincerely hoped it was – then perhaps the best thing to do would be to bide his time and let Asher be the one to make that first declaration. He wasn’t being cowardly, he was being prudent.
Asher was never one to make a big show of things. Dorian could draw out a striptease for hours if he had the mind to, but Asher saw undressing himself as a chore, his clothing nothing more than an impediment to getting what he wanted – which was skin on skin contact and immediate gratification. He stripped out of his trousers with such haste Dorian wouldn’t be surprised if he’d torn a hole in them somewhere, and then that long, battered, beautiful body was stretched out on the bedroll over Dorian, bracketing him between his legs.
“Festis bei umo canavarum, amatus,” Dorian murmured, as Asher bent over him for a long, wet kiss that left them both breathless. Then Asher’s hand slipped under the waist of Dorian’s trousers, cupping him, and suddenly any hope for coherent thought or conversation disappeared.
They had done this before, countless times – and in a tent, even, which was certainly incentive enough for Dorian to perfect his sound-proofing spell – and yet somehow with Asher everything felt new and exciting every time. Their first time together had mostly involved drunken fumbling in the dark, but it hadn’t been awkward or strange; somehow, everything just seemed to fit together perfectly. With each progressive experience they had learned more and more about each other, and now Dorian was fairly confident they could get each other off with little more than a handshake and a suggestive smile, they knew one another’s desires and bodies so well.
Normally, given some space, Asher liked to roll Dorian around, putting all that casual strength to use flipping their bodies from one position to the next. Dorian would never admit it, but he rather liked the way the Inquisitor man-handled him. He was not a small man himself: generations of careful breeding ensured that Dorian was tall and well-proportioned, and years of hard work left him lean and muscled. It was rare to find a man who could make him feel dainty or delicate, and yet Asher somehow managed to do so without also making Dorian feel inferior or weak. The Inquisitor would toss Dorian around as if he weighed next to nothing – and then would cradle him like he was something precious, something to be cherished.
There wasn’t enough room in the tent for a bout of truly acrobatic sex, and in truth neither Dorian nor Asher were up for it in any event, not after the day’s trials and tribulations. Instead, Asher poured himself over Dorian, crowding him, pressing his body down into the soft bedroll and covering him like a warm, hairy blanket. With the outside camp cut off by Dorian’s spell and the inside of the tent lit only by a single covered lantern, the world fell away until it was just the two of them.
Mouths and bodies slotted together, Dorian and Asher took their time in reminding each other that they were still alive. Every now and then a hand would fall on a fresh bruise or their weight would shift in a way that brought to light every ache and strain they had received that day, and a hushed apology would follow, both of them dissolving into helpless, breathless laughter at the absurdity of it all.
It was a long, slow climb, the two of them in no hurry to end things. Every brush of Asher’s hands brought fire in their wake, every kiss left Dorian breathless and wanting more. Asher’s mouth tasted of stale Fereldan beer and up close Dorian could smell the blood and smoke and sweat from the day’s fighting, and yet even the reminder that he himself was not exactly fresh as a daisy couldn’t shake him loose from this moment of drawn-out bliss. When, after long minutes of kissing and grinding and groping, Asher’s large hand finally wrapped around both their cocks and began moving in a series of rough, steady strokes, it was only a matter of seconds before Dorian was gasping and crying out.
“I love you,” Dorian said, murmuring the words in breathless Tevene. He knew Asher didn’t speak the language, and yet nonetheless a part of him was terrified the Inquisitor would understand him – and would reject him. Still, he said it again. “I love you. I am in love with you.”
Dorian didn’t know if it was his own desperate proclamation or simply the snapping of a thread that had been pulled at too long, but the moment the words left his mouth he was coming in Asher’s hand. His vision didn’t white out and he didn’t lose consciousness, but for a few seconds the world felt warm and wondrously fuzzy. Asher groaned, burying his face in the crook of Dorian’s neck, lips and teeth worrying at the skin there as he came in hot pulses over Dorian’s stomach.
“You’re so beautiful like this,” Asher whispered, pushing up on shaking arms so that he could look down at Dorian. His eyes were half-lidded, his mouth curling in a smile. Asher usually limited his praise and compliments to things Dorian had control over: his fashion sense, his sarcastic wit, his keen insights. Dorian had admitted once that most of his previous lovers had treated him like a toy, a doll to play with when they were bored and then to be put back up on the shelf when they’d had their fun. They used words like ‘beautiful’ and ‘gorgeous’ and ‘handsome,’ and while their praise stoked Dorian’s vanity it always rang hollow to him. When Asher complimented him on his choice of scarf or the subtle barb he’d landed against some snooty Orlesian or the way his fireballs sent their enemies screaming it somehow meant more to Dorian, because his fashion sense and his social finesse and fighting style were all things he had spent a lifetime working at. He had earned that praise. He’d done nothing to be born beautiful other than to be the offspring of the right set of parents.
But when Asher praised him like this, when they’d fallen apart in each other’s arms and Dorian’s hair was a tangled mess and his kohl was smudged and his lips all kiss-swollen – when Dorian was lying there, sex-wrecked and filled to the brim with smug satisfaction – Asher was taking pride in the fact that he had made this mess of Dorian. Asher had admitted, the first time they’d slept together, that the moment he’d first laid eyes on Dorian he’d wanted to wreck him. And so he had, gloriously and utterly, and maybe it was too soon for heartfelt declarations but oh, by Andraste’s blessed tits, Dorian wanted him to ruin him like this forever.
“What was that you said, earlier?” Asher asked, running his fingers through Dorian’s sweat-dampened hair. He flopped over onto his side, tugging Dorian in close and rearranging them both so that their limbs were tangled together and their bodies pressed tight. Dorian knew one of them should get up to fetch a cloth so they could clean up, but that seemed like an awful lot of effort when all he wanted to do was fall asleep in the arms of the man he loved.
“Hmm?” Dorian replied, feigning ignorance. He managed – barely – to keep himself from tensing, certain that this was the moment it all came crashing down.
“Before,” Asher clarified. “When we were …” He gestured vaguely with the hand that wasn’t tangled in Dorian’s hair, cheeks reddening as he was unable to say anything further. It amused Dorian, how absolutely debauched the man could be in the moment despite being utterly incapable of expressing himself outside of it without blushing like a school-boy with his first crush. There the two of them were, cuddled together on Dorian’s bedroll, bodies covered in each other’s sweat and spend, and Asher couldn’t even bring himself to say “when we were having sex” – or any of the many other delightful euphemisms Dorian could come up with on the fly.
Dorian pretended to think, closing his eyes so he wouldn’t have to meet the other man’s gaze. After a moment he shrugged. “I can’t quite recall,” he lied as he traced his fingertips over the Inquisitor’s broad chest. He opened his eyes again and dredged up a convincing leer, adding, “Whatever it was, I imagine it was something utterly filthy.”
Asher let out a small, breathy gasp before licking his lips. Dorian found himself fascinated by the pink tip of his tongue, unable to tear his eyes away as he considered all the things the man had done with it mere moments ago. It was such a confusing mix, to want and love so much and yet to be terrified of it all. This could be it for him, Dorian realized. This man, this love: this could be what he’d been searching for, long before he’d worked up the courage to leave Tevinter. Perhaps he was still trapped in the Fade and this was a demon come to tempt him. When Dorian had read the word Temptation on his tombstone in the Nightmare’s realm, this was what had been meant.
“I liked it,” Asher said, lifting his head enough to give Dorian a kiss. He murmured the rest of his words into Dorian’s mouth. “I love it when you speak in Tevene. It’s like …” His blush deepened and he gave Dorian another kiss to buy himself time before continuing, “It’s like you’re so worked up you can’t remember how to speak in the King’s Tongue.”
“Well,” Dorian acknowledged, “you’re not wrong.”
“Would you teach me?” Asher’s hand drifted to the nape of Dorian’s neck, strong fingers digging in to the knots there. Half-flopped across the other man’s chest and being petted like a cat, Dorian had the strong urge to start purring, even as the Inquisitor’s question made his heart skip a beat.
“I would be delighted, amatus,” he said, and this time it was only partly a lie. If he taught Asher Tevene then the other man would learn what he had said, the words of adoration that had fallen heedless from his lips. Maybe … maybe that would be all right. Maybe, by the time they got around to language lessons – because, in truth, neither of them had a significant amount of spare time on their hands and what they did have they spent in bed together, most assuredly not practicing their linguistic skills – it would be safe for him to say those words out loud to Asher and for Asher to know what they meant. Perhaps by then it would be safe for him to say those words in the King’s Tongue. And maybe he would get to hear Asher say them back.
Dorian yawned, exaggerating the force of it, and let himself sag forward against Asher. He met the other man’s mouth in a sleepy, sloppy kiss before saying softly, “But later, yes? I’m scarcely able to put two thoughts together, much less teach you to speak a proper language.”
Asher snorted, rolling his eyes. “Yes, of course. I’m halfway to falling asleep myself.”
Later, Dorian thought, as Asher stroked his hair and he melted like butter in the other man’s arms, the sound of the Inquisitor’s steady heartbeat a reassuring tempo against his ear. Now that he knew there would be a later. They’d survived the siege at Adamant and the Nightmare’s realm in the Fade. They’d earned their respite. Temptation could wait, and for once in his life it didn’t frighten Dorian in the least.