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Three weeks we’ve been left behind at Skyhold. This library is a deception - half the books in it are copies of Varric’s fiction. It is… admittedly entertaining, actually. Writing anything else would be lying.

I would make some requests of the librarian, only... I believe he’s fallen victim to my charms. While I can’t blame him, the man’s vacuous stares when I hand him a list of reading materials is really more irritating than flattering.

Doesn’t anyone know how to properly flirt in the south?

Dorian left the comfort of his arm chair for the hard seat of a wooden bench in Skyhold’s ramshackle tavern. He sat next to The Iron Bull, his most common drinking partner of late, who was staring at him with rapt attention as Dorian sipped from one of several goblets sitting before him.

“Hm. Faint notes of dirt. It reminds me of… nugs? This must be some dwarven nastiness.” Dorian opened his mouth slightly, sticking his tongue out. “Ith offenthiv.”

Bull laughed raucously, clearly inebriated. “Pretty sure that came out of a carta stash, so… yeah. Probably nug.”

Dorian continued to struggle with use of his mouth. “I think it’s left an afterimage on my tongue. This is a flavor that is never leaving my mouth. Thank you, Bull, I can no longer taste.”

The Iron Bull leered, skin wrinkling around his eye in merriment. “You better close that mouth or I’ll find something else to put in it.”

“Oh, that would definitely help, yes, ox is the best flavor for nullifying nug.” Dorian made further exaggerated facial expressions. “Please, spare me.”

He pushed a smaller glass across the table, watching Bull’s large hands as they carefully picked it up by the stem, cradling the bowl in his palm before swirling, smelling, and tasting. “That act of civility almost has me fooled.”

This was the game, as of one week ago: they taste enough of one another’s alcoholic picks until one or the other obtains particularly grabby hands. Then they retire to their respective rooms and speak of it to no one (unless you are The Iron Bull, at which point you talk about your conquests as if they were parts of a weather report and none of it fucking matters and you wonder why you even bothered with rules).

Dorian was building a tolerance to many things, bad drinks among them.

Bull swallowed, laughing. “I think I drank an apple.”

“That would be,” said Dorian, reaching over to pluck the glass from his hand, “an apple wine, so, yes, very observant. Light, with strong aromatics. Cinnamon and cloves make this an excellent seasonal drink to pair with harvest feast desserts.”

“It’s … sweet. Like a candy. Or a cake. Not like alcohol.” Bull shook his head as he reached, in return, for one of the goblets that sat before Dorian. “This… this is a drink. It should burn a little on the way down. That’s how you know it works.”

“It’s official. You have zero taste.”

The Iron Bull held this drink different, as if knowing that without a firm hand it might fight him back - and he is always firm with those who fight him back - before succumbing to a swallow. He grimaced as he downed the foul drink, then coughed, or laughed, victorious against it. The muscles in his neck and back tensed with each staccato sound - from myself or from him - a grin breaking across his face.

Bull was a machine built for death. Built for tearing a broad axe through a person and leaving them in pieces behind. For taking and for breaking. His hands could encircle one of Dorian’s wrists with little effort - and had, oh yes, they had - and hold, helpless. The muscles in his arms were so powerful, from ripping and carrying - bedsheets, me, everything - day in and day out.

“Dorian?”

Dorian glanced up quickly, realizing he had been staring at Bull’s hands for a solid fifteen seconds. Bull’s grin spread.

“Had enough to drink, then?” Dorian asked, standing up shortly and leaving nothing uncertain in his tone of where his mind had been.

“Ah, for now, yes. Maybe I’ll have some more later.” Bull stood, clasping a hand onto Dorian’s shoulder. “Do you need an escort? It’s, uh, really dark around here at night. You know. Adaar should install some lanterns. Or fires. Maybe just light some more things on fire.”

Dorian rolled his eyes, looking at Bull as he walked around the table, leaving the half-finished glasses of alcohol behind. “Yes, an escort, I would so hate to run into a puddle or a brick or you on the way to your chambers.”

Bull laughed. “I was being polite! I don’t want to assume your location of choice for tonight.”

“How kind.”

“In fact,” Dorian added after a silent minute of walking up to the ramparts. “I have a small surprise for you, if you are so inclined.”

“Does this surprise bite?” Bull leaned closer to him, breath misting in the cold night air.

“What? No. Why would it bite?” Dorian opened the door to The Iron Bull’s room.

Bull shrugged as he closed and locked the door behind him. “Because that would be surprising.”

The room was dark, no candles left burning, lit only by the moonlight coming through the broken window, but Dorian knew it was military-neat. Armor hung on a massive frame in the corner, the smell of polish strong. The furnishings were spartan but efficient; a few personal belongings sat on top of a dresser that held what items didn’t fit in the footlocker at the end of the bed. The bed itself was clean and neatly made, a habit Dorian was surprised by. The Iron Bull took fastidious care of his space, as he took care of most things that were undeniably his.

“Now, now, Bull, let’s be honest: that would hardly be a surprise.” Dorian sat on the bed, firm but with give - perfect for the heavy weight of him over me - and reached into one of his pockets for a small tin. He tossed it over to Bull before turning attention to carefully undoing the buckles on his clothes to remove the more intricate layers - I don’t want to lose another outfit to impossibly strong hands.

“This is horn balm!” Bull announced, turning an open-mouthed expression onto Dorian.

“Oh good, then I wasn't lied to.” Dorian stretched his legs out. “I overheard your discussion with Varric regarding the stuff. Do your horns truly itch?”

“Oh, do they ever.” The Iron Bull twisted off the top of the tin, sticking his fingers into the thick waxy grease. He tilted his head and began rubbing it into the base of the horn opposite his eye patch, eyes closing and a pleased smile settling on his face. He hummed, a deep rumble.

“My, my, Bull! You are practically purring. Over here, now, allow me.” Dorian moved his hands away from his own clothes (the hard work was really mostly done now) for a come hither motion. Bull was happy to oblige, passing the tin to him as he sat down on the floor in front of the bed. Tucking a leg underneath him, the other by Bull’s shoulder, Dorian began to work some of the balm onto the skin at the base of bull’s horns.

He massaged the balm into gray skin. He was honestly surprised at the suppleness of Qunari skin, once up close and personal to it. It looked so harsh at a distance, and certainly with vitaar applied it was a danger to touch. But washed clean, it was firm but forgiving and had an almost suede quality in more … tender areas.

The skin surrounding Bull’s horns was, now that Dorian was examining it so closely, very dry compared to the rest, and it responded very well to the thick wax of the balm. There were some clear blisters where the skin had been scratched raw; Dorian tsked as he massaged. “You do take such poor care of your skin.” He sniffed. “But this smells delightful. Spicy. A little tingly on the skin as well…”

“That’s the rashvine.”

Dorian stopped his ministrations. “Rashvine.”

“Mm, yeah. Horn balm uses a lot of it, some elfoot… ah, I don’t know the rest. Why’d you stop?”

Dorian slapped him across the back of his head. “Stupid ox of a man! Rashvine causes rashes for those of us not covered head to toe in gray. It’s in the name.” Dorian moved around him to stand up, making for the hand basin on the side table and washing his hands thoroughly.

The Iron Bull said, holding back laughter. “There’s an ingredient list-”

“Because you know just how well versed I am in Qunlat. So helpful! Thank you, Bull.” He dried his hands carefully, examining them closely. “I’ll have some regrets about this tomorrow.”

He felt Bull’s breath on the top of his head as he moved to stand behind Dorian. “Making you regret things is a skill of mine,” he said, voice rumbly and deep.

“You don’t say…”

Bull put one arm around Dorian’s waist and picked him up, effortlessly, then deposited him unceremoniously onto the bed. Dorian let out a huff. “Beast.” Excitement and expectation took control of his processes as Bull pulled silk trappings from a chest under his bed.

The Iron Bull was warm, close and radiating heat as he leaned over Dorian. He was also quite efficient at tying the knots around Dorian’s wrists, binding him quickly to the head of the bed. It was all a giant tease. “Thanks for the horn stuff.”

“Thank Varric, he’s the resident smuggler.”

“I dedicate this moment to him, in his honor.”

“Ew."