Dorian had a problem. This problem was huge, nearly nine feet tall, in fact, with obscenely vast horns and washboard abs. Definitely not what Dorian would call handsome, he’d picked up too many scars for the mage’s tastes, but there was no missing the strength there, the power in even the smallest things he did. The Iron Bull was a force to be reckoned with, in bed and on the battlefield.
For a long time, Dorian wrote him off as a muscle-brained brute. He was a good meat shield for the more intelligent, craftier fighters--like the mages. Iron Bull was a Qunari, an animal. He was dumb by definition. Dorian dismissed him, and the matter was settled. Nice and clean and in line with everything he thought he knew about the world.
Dorian was quick to call judgements, but he wasn’t blind. It didn’t take long for him to start seeing the sort of mannerisms that didn’t fit in with his view of the Iron Bull. It didn’t take long for him to get wrapped up in that man’s bed, and then it was downhill from there. That one drunken night that he still regretted, weeks later. If he’d just decided to not get shitfaced that night, he wouldn’t have had to accept the fact that Iron Bull was hot, that he was amazing in bed and that Dorian had other desires that he’d ignored his entire life. Beyond just being gay. Desires that Bull had picked right up on like a damn blood hound and hadn’t hesitated to explore.
A Ben-Hassrath agent. That was the first thing Dorian didn’t get right. Yes, Bull was a Qunari warrior with all his blood rage and battlefield fury. But he was something much more twisted than that, beneath his tough guy shell. It was in the absolute bone deep chill in his one good eye, the way he seemed to know exactly what to say in any situation. A dumb brute would’ve said the first thing that came to mind, honest and true. Bull sometimes said the truth, sometimes said what he knew you wanted to hear. Sometimes he thought those two were one in the same.
Bull didn’t lie, per say, although Dorian abided by that only because he’d never caught Bull in one before. But he was a fucking terrifying actor. Dorian knew, he’d seen it, he didn’t know when or how but he could taste Bull’s strategies like smoke on the air. He said one thing, he meant another, but he would never say it outright. He knew how to herd the conversation to his own end-goals.
And Bull was meticulous. His lodgings were always shitty, the lowest of the low, trashed with wine bottles and stale with sex. But his packs, his leather satchels and saddlebags were beyond organized. The rambunctious mercenary captain Iron Bull lived like an animal, fucked and ate and fought like an animal. But the Qunari was a trained assassin. Dorian understood that the second he saw the letters, kept in pristine condition each with their own folder. His daggers, his poison supplies, his herbs all kept in small glass vials labeled in symbols Dorian had never seen before. And Dorian had studied every major language, it was part of becoming a magister. What was it? Code?
Where had the Bull been, what tasks had he accomplished with mathematically accurate organization like that? Who was he, beyond the front he hid behind? Was he hiding? Bull wasn’t some case of double-agency, he didn’t flip between masks like a poor stage show. He was Bull, Iron Bull of the Chargers, but he was also this thing that served the Qun and lived a half-life of obedience and goals and accomplishments. Bull was a man Dorian could love, and a thing Dorian hated all at once.
“Uh...Dorian, right? Did you need the Chief or something--?”
Dorian stared blankly at Krem for nearly five seconds before his brain caught up to where he was standing--the walkway outside the Skyhold barracks--and realized that he might’ve been staring at nothing for some time. Maybe his thoughts were running a little rampant, admittedly, and his feet seemed to want to lead him to the one place he absolutely didn’t want to be.
“No!” Dorian cleared his throat, realized that was a little harsh, and laughed it off. “No, I’m perfectly fine. Although, if you’d be so kind to enlighten me as to your Chief’s whereabouts, I’d be much obliged.” Mostly so he could avoid Bull like the Blight, actually, but he wasn’t going to say that aloud.
Krem gave him a distinctly befuddled look. Did he know? Did all the Chargers know? Oh, gods above. What if everyone in Skyhold knew? Damn Cole and his blabber mouth. Damn Varric, too, because the dwarf heard that one thought Cole had so kindly broadcast, and now Dorian had no idea who he could trust. Varric could have told the whole Inquisition by now. But it was just sex, right? Just a one night stand. Dorian wasn't coming back for that, that would be preposterous.
It doesn't mean anything, he wanted to shout at Krem's confused stare. Don't think about it, it's not like that.
This was so much more publicity than Dorian ever wanted. Yes, he liked being noticed, but as a mage. Not as the man sharing the Iron Bull’s bed.
“Well, he’s down at the training grounds,” Krem said. There was a hint of a grin on his face. “I’ll tell him you’re looking for him.”
“While I’m sure he--” Dorian’s eyes widened when he realized Krem was walking away. Why was he so far off his game today? He felt like he was thinking through a thick dish of liquid caramel, slugging his way to conclusions when he was usually so quick on his feet. “Wait--no that’s okay, I’ll just--”
Krem was gone, already half-way down the stairs to the lower courtyard. Evidently, he didn’t particularly care what else Dorian had to say. Dorian huffed, then promptly went to the bannister and looked over the edge. He could see the training grounds from where he stood, and sure enough, Bull was down there, swinging a sword around. Dorian watched--mildly horrified--as Krem crossed the courtyard, flagged Bull down, and said something well out of Dorian’s earshot. Bull turned, looked straight up at him, and gave him a lazy two-finger salute. The other five men--two Chargers, three soldiers--all stopped to give Dorian a wave, too.
At least that answered his questions about who exactly in Skyhold knew he was sleeping with Bull. Everyone knew. Absolutely everyone.
Dorian slumped against the stone bannister. He didn’t really know what the next step was, after a few quick fucks. He’d never been in a situation where everyone seemed to know--and no one that mattered cared. So obviously, he rationalized, they must care. People would always be people, throwing around their judgements and stereotypes and expectations. Dorian hadn’t heard anything yet, but that didn’t mean rumors weren’t being spread about them. This was his cue to run, get out of Skyhold before something awful happened.
The affair could mean the end of Dorian’s career in the Inquisitor’s inner circle, he knew this. And it could also mean something worse for Bull. Qunari couldn’t love, and he was a Ben-Hassrath agent. This wouldn’t end well. For either of them.
“So, you enjoying the view, or…?”
Dorian nearly jumped out of his skin. How long had he been thinking about the ramifications of just running? Well, Bull was standing some dozen yards away, at the top of the stairs coming closer. At some point he had left the training area, crossed the courtyard and climbed the stairs up the ramparts. Dorian had missed the entire thing, too busy glaring at his own knuckles, as if that would help him make decisions about this.
Bull moved like a killer. He wasn’t the beast of burden Dorian wanted him to be, that would’ve made things simple. No, every little thing he did was measured, even the fumbles and the smacks on the back and the brawling with the soldiers. Even walking up the stairs was a showcase of his liquid power. His movements were all such fluid poetry, Dorian could watch him for hours--and that wasn’t even an exaggeration. And that’s what scared him, he thought. It wasn’t really the rumors, it was how much he cared that Bull would be in danger over this. It was all the little things Bull did, all his tiny mannerisms that Dorian loved to watch, loved to harass him for. That he just...loved.
“Something like that, yes,” Dorian said. His mouth ran on automatic. “Sometimes I come up here just on the off-chance that one day, someone will throw you in the dirt. That is a sight I cannot afford to miss.”
Bull snorted. “You’re gonna be watching a damn long time for that one.”
“I can be patient.” It slipped before Dorian could stop himself.
The Iron Bull smiled, flashed his canines and slid back a step, to point at the line of doors behind him. One particular door, actually--his bedroom door. Dorian eyed the familiar entrance and wondered if this was really why he’d walked to this part of the ramparts in the first place. He hadn’t consciously thought that he’d come to see Bull, but now that he was here and Bull was inviting him in, he didn’t want to leave.
“What? What is that? Are you insinuating something in broad daylight?” Dorian hissed. There was a painful number of eyes around and he had to at least try for appearances. He was going to ignore that anyone knew about this arrangement for as long as humanly possible.
Bull growled. “Am I supposed to believe you came up here for a midday stroll? You never leave that library.”
“Point.” Dorian sighed. That really only left one option, the way Dorian saw it. He couldn’t deny Bull’s argument, meaning he’d actually come up here to see Bull. And that meant one thing--
“Well. Get on with it,” he said. “Quickly, before anyone notices.”
Laughing, Bull led the way. He opened the door and let Dorian into his barracks. As soon as they were alone--door shut, locked, the world somewhere else--Bull shoved him into the wall and ravaged his mouth. His taste was becoming so familiar that it turned him on, something about the way Bull was learning all the small things he liked done to him. Bull’s fingers left his skin burning for more, his strength was overpowering. Dorian couldn’t get rid of his shirt fast enough.
Bull gathered up his wrists like they were nothing, pinned them against the wall above him with one hand. Then he slowed down. He pulled his mouth away, smirking, and ran his knuckles down the length of Dorian’s chest, starting up at his jaw to explore the contours of his bared skin. Dorian jerked his hands, realized it was a lost cause, and settled for glaring at him.
“Enjoying the view?” Dorian asked sarcastically.
Bull snorted. “We need to get you a gag. You talk too much.”
Dorian bristled. “You get those fingers anywhere near my mouth and I will bite them off.”
“Oooh, fiesty,” Bull taunted. “You’ll need sharper teeth to get through Qunari bone, though.”
Bull unlaced Dorian’s pants with a single twisting motion of his forefinger, and while Dorian was busy marveling at how he did that so fast Bull switched up positions. He spun Dorian around with one massive hand on his shoulder, unrelenting, front-to-back-to-wall. Dorian stared at the stone wall while he played mental catch-up, realized this was exactly what he wanted.
That’s where Bull took him, in end. Right up against the wall.
Bull slept like the dead. Silent, immobile. Dorian wondered if that was a battlefield thing, if something in that Qun upbringing had ingrained a death-like rest into him. It was unnatural, yet peaceful, and Dorian wondered--again--why he was still there. Witnessing this felt like he was tripping some unspoken boundary between them. Dorian had never stayed like this. He left when he woke up. That was the rule.
It was late, well past midnight. Dorian had woken to the sound of the single bell toll signaling ‘all’s well,’ and he’d been lying awake since. This was his second time laying in Bull’s bed that day, once in the afternoon and now again after dinner. Dorian didn’t know why. His feet carried him to Bull’s room like it was the end point of every possible trajectory he could feasibly take, like his own room didn’t even exist anymore.
Maybe it was because Bull was never surprised by it. He just accepted Dorian’s presence, like it was a natural thing. He’d come to Bull’s door after he’d eaten and it was unlocked, like every other night he’d come. Bull had put his axe down, and the whetstone he’d been sharpening it on, and looked at Dorian like he’d been waiting for him. What ever had taken him so long?
Dorian didn’t do this anymore. He didn’t stay with one guy, he didn’t risk the discovery. All of this was wrong. Staying was wrong, coming back was wrong.
Bull slept like the dead, and he wondered why. What scared him was that he wanted to know.