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The Implications of a Moment

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Dorian threw a hand out to catch himself against the stone wall before his drunken fumble sent him sprawling to the ground. He huffed out a laugh as he pushed himself up and away from the wall and continued his, only slightly wobbly, journey back to his chamber. It had been a good night. Drinking with people he worked with had never felt so… carefree back in Tevinter. Everything was so much simpler in Skyhold; soldiers swapping tales, bawdy songs, and friendly insults over cheap beers in a warm, cosy tavern. It wasn’t sophisticated, by any means, and Maker forbid he spent too much time with Bull and his rowdy gang of misfits! But it was straightforward in a way Tevinter gatherings, with their incessant and often deadly political manoeuvring, simply were not.

It was relaxing.

Dorian rolled his shoulder with a satisfied sigh, and glanced up at the night sky, drinking in the starlight. It couldn’t last, he knew, but here in Skyhold he felt safe. Safe in a way he never knew he needed until he experienced it. It was novel, and heady. The feeling that the people around him really didn’t want to kill him or see him disgraced. Nor did they much care what he did or did not achieve. He knew safety was an illusion of course; Haven had burned that into everyone’s minds more than effectively. But right this moment, he was enjoying the feeling of the people around him not wanting him dead. They quite liked him even.

The staircase up to the battlements was longer than he would have liked, but Dorian had postponed the climb long enough with drunken night time musings. There was almost no one in the courtyard, just the sounds of revelry from the tavern filling the air. There was another soldier just exiting the tavern, but other than that Dorian was alone. Dorian turned, heading to his room above the keep gardens. He smiled at the thought that the Iron Bull, who had discreetly excused himself earlier with a secretive wink, would be waiting for him. They weren’t hiding their relationship anymore, but the Iron Bull had some surprise plan for this evening that required a little preparation. Dorian shivered in anticipation.

Movement some way behind him caught his attention, and he realised the soldier who had exited the tavern was coming up the same way he had just done and seemed to be in something of a hurry. Dorian thought it odd, but maybe he was late for a rendezvous of his own? Or needed the privy badly? Dorian mentally shrugged off the behaviour but picked up his pace a little anyway as he entered the battlement tower between the main courtyard and the garden. It was an unused, dark, and deserted pocket of Skyhold, and despite knowing he was in no danger here Dorian couldn’t quite help but feel unnerved about being alone with a stranger there. That thought made him tense a little, and he picked up his pace again to be through the secluded spot and onto the landing of the battlements surrounding the garden quickly. 

He was almost at his door when he chanced a glance back and saw the soldier just a few steps behind him, arm stretched out and mouth open as if about to speak. Dorian froze with sudden indecision; had the man simply wanted to speak to him? Following him up the stairs in the quiet dark of a fortress long asleep was a certain way to give Dorian a heart attack, but maybe the soldier had thought to catch him as he left the tavern and miscalculated?

The horrifying refutation of that theory came moment later, with a quietly spoken chant followed by a flash of bright light around him that made his limbs lock and the bottom of his stomach drop painfully as he felt the mana drain from him instantly. The soldier was a Templar.

“Wha…? Mmmph!” Dorian’s stunned question was cut off by the man grabbing him roughly around the waist and clamping his other hand over Dorian’s mouth. He swayed dangerously; the wave of dizziness and nausea that passed over him from the Templar’s smite might have sent him to his knees if it wasn’t for the rough hands holding him upright.

“Quiet, maleficar,” the man whispered harshly in Dorian’s ear. Dorian struggled to focus on the words, disoriented from drink and being so suddenly stripped of his magic. The man’s grip was strong and tight around him, and in his weakened state he couldn’t hope to break free of it.

In a far-off part of his mind still able to focus on what was happening, something about the situation seemed ridiculous. What was this man intending to do? They were in full view of the garden and right outside occupied rooms with only drapes over the windows keeping them from being seen. Even paltry resistance was sure to be overheard and Bull was barely five meters from where they stood. 

As his mind adjusted to the pounding in his head and overwhelming urge to vomit, Dorian noticed that the man was trembling. And not with excitement. This had gone wrong, he realised with a jolt. The Templar had probably intended to catch up to him in the tower, where they would be unobserved. Not here on the balcony in full view of all the guest rooms!

“Your Qunari fuck toy visiting today?” the Templar continued.

Dorian made a muffled sound of angry protest at the descriptor but nodded anyway. Better the Templar know how close help was after all.

The Templar shifted, as though looking toward Dorian’s door. Before turning his attention back to Dorian. “Ok, ok, you just… stay quiet,” there was a slight quiver in his voice, making the order sound nervous and uncertain, rather than intimidating.

The arm around Dorian’s waist shifted, loosening its grip and snaking downward, running down and then up his thigh. Calloused fingers hooked into the edge of Dorians breeches and inched underneath, teasing and exploring until they tickled the sensitive flesh between Dorian’s leg and pelvis. Dorian jumped at the intimate touch, eyes wide with disbelief. Did the man really think he could still get away with this? He couldn’t seriously be relying on Dorian standing there obediently while he was violated and raped when help was so close by, could he? Added to which, Dorian was very aware of what both the man’s hands were doing; he wasn’t even armed! 

Dorain was now restrained only by the hand over his mouth, and the probing touches of his assailant. Not a difficult grip to wrench himself out of, even smited. And, nervous as he was, the cowardly templar could well bolt the second his imbecilic plot went even further awry. Dorian felt good about those odds.

Dorian shoved back suddenly and violently so the man was thrown back against the balcony wall. “Get the fuck away from me!” he hissed, with all the haughty pride of a Tevinter Altus who expects to be obeyed that he could muster through a haze of alcohol and templar magic. He held the wide-eyed man’s gaze with a steely glare for a second, and the next moment his assailant dashed for the exit before Dorian could think to raise the alarm.

Dorian slumped, leaning heavily against the wall of Skyhold. His stomach rolled, the after effects of the Templar’s smite still hitting him in waves. He bent double, one hand clenched on the stone beside him, and vomited onto the floor. He didn’t bother to try and keep his retching and gagging silent. He didn’t care who he woke, or what they would think of him; drunk, sweating and shaking against the wall. A few metres away Dorian’s door creaked open, and he was aware of Bull’s hand resting comfortingly on the middle of his back as he continued to bring up the contents of his stomach. Dorian looked back at Bull wearily and was met with concern, but it was mixed with a glint of amusement.

“I must be slipping Kadan, had I known you’d drunk this much I would have hauled you back here with me to keep an eye on you,”

Dorian coughed, “It’s not… it’s not the alcohol…” then he thought for a moment before amending, “Not only the alcohol,”

Bull cast an appraising glance over him, shrewd eyes taking in the subtle shake to Dorian’s frame and sickly sheen of perspiration. “Are you sick?”

“There was a Templar. He… he cast smite and I…he…” Dorian stood abruptly, staggering a little, but catching himself and leaning back against the wall. “I’m ok. I’m alright.”

“A Templar cast smite on you? He attacked you?” Bull’s eyebrow had risen impossibly high, and Dorian could hardly blame him. There was no one here except Dorian, no signs of a struggle, no blood, no fuss. Only a sickening tingle on his body where the Templar had touched him, and that was probably imagined.

Dorian nodded, “It was over quickly. He lost his nerve when I decided to fight back. I suppose he’s used to a more docile breed of mage,” he spat viciously.

“He attacked you here?”

“Quite so,” Dorian chuckled, “And you’re not wrong to look so incredulous. I hardly believe it myself, only I still can’t feel the fade. But it did happen Bull.”

“Dorian, you don’t need to convince me. I believe you I just… I didn’t hear anything until I heard you being sick. There was a flash a minute ago, but it was gone so quickly, and storms are common here I…” Bull stopped abruptly and shook his head. “This isn’t helping. You need to sit down, let’s get you inside.”

Dorian nodded faintly and allowed himself to be led into his chamber where he sat down heavily on the bed. He heard the clink of ceramic as Bull poured water from the jug on the dresser, and soon enough Bull was crouching in front of him and pressing a full cup into his hands. Bull rested a large hand on each of Dorian’s thighs and massaged the muscle slightly, grounding him.

Bull caught Dorian’s gaze, “I’m going to find one of the night shift guard and get them to fetch Cullen. I won’t be gone long, and I’ll be back as quickly as I can,” he said gently.

“I’m fine, Bull. Once the damn smite wears off I’ll be right as rain. Go get Cullen, I’ll be ok on my own, I promise,” There was a brief pause, and Dorian knew Bull was deciding whether to believe him, so he smiled widely and hoped it was reassuring. “Really Bull, I’m alright,”

Bull let out a deep sigh and stood up, wincing slightly as he put his weight on his bad leg. He bent down and kissed the top of Dorian’s brow briefly before striding out quickly, clearly anxious to be done with his task and back with Dorian.

Dorian sighed, tried to take a sip of water, and cursed himself inwardly when his trembling hands sloshed water onto the bed covers. A headache was rapidly forming behind his eyes, and he wasn’t sure what was nerves, what was the smite and what was alcohol withdrawal. If he thought for a second he could hold it down he’d have cracked open a bottle of something to stave off the hangover for a little while longer. He stretched a hand out in front of him and clenched it into a fist, hating the dull empty feeling that followed when the fade didn’t respond to his call. He was hit with a sudden sense of his own powerlessness, acutely aware that he was alone without either Bull or his magic to shield him. If someone were to attack him now they would probably overpower him easily. What if the Templar hadn’t run off? What if he’d stayed nearby and watched until Bull left to find a guard, and was even now sneaking back along the walkway outside his room? His mind conjured the image of a dark figure slipping in through his door and closing the latch. He shuddered and cradled the cup of water close to his chest, staring resolutely at the door to reassure himself that no one was entering. He wanted to go over and lock it, but he didn’t want Bull to think he didn’t feel safe here.

 

Dorian jumped unpleasantly when the door finally opened. “Fasta vas…” he muttered and tried to wipe away the water he’d sent directly into his face away with his sleeve. He released the cup to the Iron Bull willingly, but didn’t acknowledge his lover, feeling the blush burn his cheeks.

Cullen, standing in the doorway behind Bull, coughed awkwardly, “Please accept our apologies for startling you, Dorian,”

“You came quickly,” Dorian commented, surprised but a little grateful.

Cullen walked over to the desk and pulled out the chair, swinging it round so it was squarely in front of Dorian and sat down. Dorian felt the bed beside him sink as Bull placed himself down and slid an arm around him.

“I think given the late hour most of the details can wait until morning, but I would know the basics if you feel up to it. Are you hurt?”

Dorian shook his head, “Not at all, thank you Commander. The effects of the smite are unpleasant, but not lasting, as you know,”

Cullen nodded, “How do you feel?”

“Headache, nausea, shaking, and this Maker be damned feeling in the back of my head like I’ve forgotten something every time I try to cast a spell. The first three of those I’d read about, but apparently medical treatises have omitted the more subjective elements of the experience. It’s quite fascinating really. Like the worst hangover I’ve ever had,”

The tentative smile in response to his humour didn’t quite reach Cullen’s eyes. “All to be expected following a smite I’m afraid. The only real danger is you going into mana shock. Suddenly being stripped of your magic can be much like acute lyrium withdrawal; shaking, heart racing, nausea are all normal.” 

“Lovely, just lovely,” Dorian muttered, swallowing down the urge to vomit. 

Cullen glanced at the Bull, “You may want to keep an eye on him just in case, but I’m not overly concerned,”

Bull nodded, pulling Dorian slightly closer. “Will do, Commander,”

Dorian scowled, “That’s not necessary. I’ve been on the receiving end of Red Templar abilities before today, and will be many times again, I’m quite sure. I don’t need a babysitter because a drunk lout got handsy,”

The Iron Bull frowned, but only glanced toward Cullen.

Cullen shrugged, “Fatal mana shock is rare, and his symptoms are mild. I prefer to err on the side of caution, but there’s no immediate danger,” he paused, turning back to Dorian, “Can you describe the man?”

“I… I got a good look at him. I must have, because I remember the way he looked at me just before he used smite, and afterwards when I shoved him. But…” Dorian let out a long, frustrated breath, “brown hair, fair skin. Ferelden probably”

Cullen drew in a long breath and puffed it out, clearly thinking through the implications, “Dorian… there are over six hundred Templars working with our army. Most of them are Ferelden, and most of those have dark hair. I could rule out those on assignment of course, but even so that’s easily over a hundred suspects, likely more”

Dorian felt himself shrink in on himself with every word. He had known it of course, that there would be almost no hope of finding the assailant, but to hear it said so plainly…

“I’m not giving up, Dorian,” Cullen said quietly, correctly reading the mage’s body language, “I ordered a sweep of the keep, and anyone found outside brought to my office for questioning. I’ll question all the night shift guard about what they saw tonight, and I’ll instruct the captains to ask for alibis from all Templars under their command, and report anyone to me who can’t account for their whereabouts with witnesses. But even so…”

“And what about your captains’ alibis?” Bull demanded levelly. He seemed to be taking this harder than Dorian was.

“Those I will look into personally,” Cullen paused then, as though unsure of what he was about to say, “what am I dealing with here Dorian?”

“You’re asking if he intended to murder me, rape me, or simply ‘teach me a lesson’ yes?” Dorian replied tiredly. He felt Bull stiffen beside him and placed a placating hand over his lover’s. “It was abundantly clear that it was the more carnal of the available options, though I can’t rule out the others I suppose. He did not get far; I am quite unharmed,”

“I’m glad,” another pause, “is there anything else you can give me to go on?”

Dorian shrugged hopelessly, “he was off duty. He was wearing brown common clothes, not a uniform. I didn’t recognise him, so you can rule out most of the senior officers probably. Other than that… Oh, he came out of the tavern shortly after I did. Following me probably,”

Cullen nodded, “That’s something. I’ll send guards to question the patrons now and maybe we’ll be fortunate,” Cullen stood, and clasped Dorian on the shoulder briefly, “Get some rest. I can come by tomorrow late morning to get the full details from you, or you can come to my offices. Whichever you prefer,”

The softness in Cullen’s voice grated on Dorian’s nerves, but he fought down the urge to snap at the well-meaning commander “I’ll come to you, thank you for the prompt attention to this matter,” a strange look passed over Cullen’s face, but he didn’t comment, only bowing neatly in farewell and leaving to carry out further investigations. Dorian felt a twinge of guilt; Cullen was unlikely to get much more sleep tonight.

Bull was stroking gently up and down his arm in small comforting movements, his one eye regarding him intently, “You should rest, Kadan. Need a hand getting out of all that fancy Vint get up?” 

“No I… no,” he pulled away slightly, “You can go Bull. Really I’m fine. Just exhausted,” saying the words seemed to make the tiredness hit him full force. He felt completely drained; of energy, of mana, right down to his bones. He badly wanted the oblivion of sleep, and he didn’t have the energy for Bull right now.

Bull shifted so he was facing Dorian and slid his hand up so it rested on Dorian’s neck and cupping cheek softly, “I’m not leaving you alone, Kadan, you don’t need to do that,”

The gentle, careful tone elicited another flash of irritation and Dorian bristled, “I said I’m fine,” he all but hissed, “I just want to sleep Bull, and right now I just need you to let me do that,” couldn’t Bull see that he was too tired for this?

The Iron Bull cocked his head and gave Dorian an appraising look, “I know, that’s why I offered,”

That was a fair point. Dorian fought the impulse to lash out in response to the reasonable response, instead gathering his self-control and looking Bull determinedly in the eye, “I know, I’m sorry. But I’m ok on my own, and I… need some space right now,”

“How long will it take for your magic to come back?”

Dorian did snap this time, “I’m not some defenceless waif of a mage who’s never left the Circle in their life Bull, I happen to be quite adept at combat without my magic!”

Bull raised his hands up in a surrendering gesture, “Woah there spitfire, I didn’t mean to imply you weren’t,” he placed his hands on Dorian’s shoulders and bent over so he was looking directly into Dorian’s eyes, “I want you to feel safe. And Cullen told me to keep an eye on you remember?”

Dorian ignored the image his mind presented of a Templar stalking into the room while he lay prone and focused on his annoyance instead. “There’s no need. As I have said many times already tonight: I’m completely fine. I’m not injured. The mean old Templar didn’t steal my virtue away. I. Am. Fine. Honestly Bull, I’ve suffered worse injuries in the library; paper cuts at least bleed,”

Bull made a weak sound, half frustrated, half pained, “That’s not…”

“Please Bull,” Dorian said softly, “My head’s full of cotton, I ache all over, and my arms feel like lead. I can’t handle you… fretting over me right now,” The heartbroken look in Bull’s eye made Dorian wince inwardly, but he set his jaw and held his lover’s gaze.

“Dorian, I really think…”

“This isn’t a negotiation!” Dorian snapped.

“Ok,” Bull finally relented, raising his hands in a gesture of surrender, “it’s your call. Can I come back in the morning?”

Dorian nodded slowly, “I’ll probably sleep late and head to straight to see Cullen when I wake. Not sure when exactly I’ll do that, so maybe better if I meet you for lunch in the main hall?”

Bull smiled, but it still looked a little broken. Dorian wanted to scream.

Dorian only vaguely registered the Bull kissing his forehead and slowly retreating. He hovered in the entrance to the door, torn, before sighing. “Sleep well, Kadan,” he said, and closed the door behind him. Dorian sagged with relief when he was finally alone, and pulled his legs up, resting his forehead on his knees. He breathed deeply in and out a few times, willing away the nausea. He huffed out a plaintive chuckle under his breath. 

So much for people here not wanting to hurt him.