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A Greater Compliment

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They’re running around in the arse-end of nowhere when it happens. Dorian starts it, of course; once again he says something prickly and unkind to the Iron Bull, something intentionally incendiary, though in retrospect he realizes he may perhaps have used language a touch more florid than intended -- descriptions of flexing muscles and huffing breath weren't really necessary to make his point, after all -- but the response he gets from the Bull nearly strikes him mute. Which is, truly, a feat unto itself.

At first, Dorian is only shocked by the reply. The Bull laughs it off as a simple miscommunication, and while they’re stuck out here on these blighted, unending plains and beset on all sides by foul beasts and fouler people, Dorian is content to let it slide. The Bull’s words, however, circle around the periphery of his consciousness for the rest of the day, a gnawing itch that he does his best to ignore. When night falls and they’re settled in their tents, that’s when the words crash back down upon him, like a lightning bolt to the groin -- and it’s ridiculous, really, because he can hear the Bull snoring loudly from the next tent, and that’s a noise that should cool any libido -- but they hit him all the same.

It’s too cold in the desert at night to sneak off for privacy, and Dorian can’t do anything about his situation with the Inquisitor innocently sleeping next to him, so he concentrates on the the Bull’s obnoxious, utterly unarousing snoring and thinks about the fact that the Bull would likely rather fight him than fuck him -- not that he’d want the Iron Bull to want to fuck him, what a ridiculous thought -- and eventually his condition cools and allows him to fall asleep.

As the days pass, though, those words continue to hound him. At least Bull seems to have taken him at his word that filthy pillow talk had not, in fact, been Dorian’s intention when he’d brought up rippling muscles and conquest; however, the suggestive quips haven’t abated in the slightest. If Dorian hears one more euphemistic remark about his staff, he might actually have to dignify it with a response, if only to inform the Bull directly how tiresome the comparison has become. His put-upon groans and sighs of exasperation haven’t yet proved effective; in fact, they seem only to spur the man on to greater heights of absurdity.

Then Bull casually offers an opportunity for Dorian to “explore” his supposed urge to “do the forbidden,” and he finds himself flustered, something he hasn't felt since his awkward youth. He’s lost for words in the face of what seems on the surface to be simple flirtation. But he still doesn't know if he can trust this fragile camaraderie that’s built up around the Inquisitor. He may no longer sleep with one eye open, but he still wonders if -- or more likely when -- the knife will find its way into his back. Especially the Iron Bull’s knife, and that’s no euphemism. So he splutters, frustrated, and Bull teases him about that, too, and Dorian distantly wonders what’s gotten into him that he’d allow such simple, unsubtle overtures to rile him up so much.
___

There’s drinking the night they return to the rest of the Inquisition -- but then, there’s always drinking at Skyhold -- and Dorian is already deep in his cups when the Chargers start up with their rowdy singing and the Bull’s raucous laughter can be heard booming across the tavern, its deep rumble sending those words he’d said out in the field skittering once again through Dorian’s mind.

Tear those robes off…

Pin you down…

I. Will. Conquer you.

Dorian is thankful for the effects of deep inebriation on a man’s constitution: he couldn't maintain an erection now without magic if he wanted to, no matter how much of his blood is thudding its way directly to his dick. He orders another drink to forget the embarrassment of such an adolescent response, and then another after it, and when he wakes up the next morning he’s in his chair in the library with no recollection of how he got there. Fully clothed, thank Andraste, and none the worse for wear aside from the pounding headache and gut rot. Not that he expected… well, he’s made foolish drunken mistakes before.

___

Helisma tells him he got himself to the library with a little bit of assistance from one of the Chargers, but Helisma isn't sure which one. That would have been orchestrated by the Bull, of course, because of course the Qunari ex-spy would see to the safety of a Tevinter mage -- the son of a Magister, no less -- in his moment of weakness, of course he would. In the Inquisition, nothing really makes sense.

It’s been nearly a week since that day out in the field, but the Bull’s words haven’t left him alone for more than a few moments at a time since then. If anything, they’ve grown more insistent, and they’re multiplying, spinning off new snippets of phrases; things the Bull has never said to Dorian or even said around him, but they knock around in his head in that deep, gruff voice nonetheless. I’ll fuck you raw… make you beg. It’s those new ones that scare him, and not because they’re unwelcome. On the contrary, he’s brought himself off to them more than twice.

What frightens him is the way he looks at the Bull, now; how he notices the muscles in the Bull’s back and shoulders flexing during battle, how the Bull’s scent -- leather and sweat and metal, a warrior’s smell -- no longer repulses him. There isn't a night at the tavern that he isn't keenly aware of Bull’s every guffaw and shout, not a night where Dorian doesn't find himself staring across the tavern, hoping the Bull will look back at him and then averting his gaze when he does. Various drinking companions have commented on Dorian’s preoccupation; luckily, they’re not aware of what (or whom) he’s so distracted by, but he’s hardly able to hold a conversation anymore. Blaming it on drink only works for so long.

___

Tonight Dorian decides to join the Chargers in their nightly revelry. He’s done so before (before the last mission, before Bull said those things to him out on the plains) and it’s usually a good time, provided one can abide their breaking into song at any given moment and the many and varied inside jokes. He’s always a bit surprised by the ease with which he’s welcomed into the fold -- not just with the Chargers, either, but with the Inquisition as a whole. Oh, there have been a few gaffes, a few sideways glances here and there, even some whispers behind his back, but considering the way he’s glanced at and whispered about by the rest of the populace here in the South, it’s a vast improvement.

The Chargers welcome Dorian each in their own way: a few raised tankards, a few guarded looks, a nod here and a smile there, and Bull’s lieutenant has taken to sassing him in Tevene about his lineage by way of greeting. In the Imperium, a Soporati insulting an Altus thus was a dangerous game, but here in the Inquisition and among Bull’s company, Dorian understands it for what it is: a rite of passage. Dorian retorts in their mother tongue that Krem is the son of a vulture, and the rest of the Chargers fall silent, lowering the din in the tavern significantly. People at other tables take notice; the Chargers are never silent.

A few of Bull’s company -- Dalish, Stitches and… Skinner, Dorian thinks -- glance between the two of them with interest, seemingly waiting to see how Krem reacts to the insult they can’t understand. For a long moment there’s no change in the man’s stiff expression, but eventually the facade cracks and he laughs, so everyone else goes back to their carousing. Dorian orders a round and when it comes, they all toast, and within moments they’re singing. Equilibrium recovered.

Dorian meets Bull’s gaze then -- Bull looks happy, even proud, and that should really irritate him more than it does. It should feel patronizing. Look at you, making friends with my boys! They like you! Good on you! Dorian’s had enough patronizing for one lifetime. Several lifetimes, in fact. It irritates him that it doesn't irritate him, so he takes a large gulp of his ale and tries to put it out of his mind.

They joke and laugh and sing late into the night, the lot of them -- well, Dorian jokes and laughs along when he understands what they’re on about, but leaves the singing to the others -- and as usual the Chargers are among the last in the tavern when the barman announces closing time. Dorian is rather drunk and there’s a pleasant warmth in his belly that tells him he’s about to make a decision he’ll likely regret tomorrow, but right now he can’t find it in him to care. As the chatter winds down and goodbyes are being said, Dorian rises and bids them all good night. He claps Bull firmly on the shoulder as he passes, then makes his way as gracefully as he can toward the exit. Considering his state of inebriation, he is proud to be able to remain standing at all, let alone capable of his usual gait. Maybe there’s a bit of sashay in it tonight. Entirely unintentional, of course.

Hoots and whistles follow. The Chargers have doubtlessly noticed the glances exchanged between him and their captain over the hours: the Bull’s direct, unwavering gaze had felt almost physically heavy whenever he noticed it on him. Dorian is no shrinking violet, and he’d met that gaze with a brow delicately arched and his most beguiling smile every time. What the Chargers didn't know was the little magic-infused squeeze he’d given Bull’s shoulder on his way past: a burst of tingling warmth, just on this side of uncomfortable. He’s not sure whether his invitation has been understood as such, but the way the muscle tensed under his touch, he knows the Bull felt it.

One part of him, fueled by alcohol and loneliness, wants Bull to make good on his words, wants him to answer for all the distraction and the furtive glances. Another part of him knows himself well enough by now to anticipate the hollow feeling he’ll be left with in the aftermath. This dance has played out before. The physical release may be exactly what he wants, but they still have to work together afterward.

___

Dorian’s on his way back toward his room when he hears heavy footfalls on the stone walkway behind him. He resists the urge to turn around but slows his gait, hears the sound draw closer, only slightly louder than the nervous thumping of his heart. A gust of hot breath on his neck warns him of Bull’s proximity; Bull crowds up behind him in the empty courtyard, presses bodily against him and whispers low and gravelly in his ear. “If that meant what I think it meant--” A deep inhale against his neck, smelling him. Dorian’s legs feel weak, his head is swimming with alcohol and arousal, and as he feels himself melt against Bull’s muscular chest, he distantly acknowledges that he’s committed to this, now. Bull chuckles as Dorian goes nearly limp, but the deep husky thrum of his voice says he’s more aroused than amused. “We should take this inside. My room’s closer.”

“That’s probably wise,” Dorian answers, his voice strangely light, reedy. With concerted effort he pulls himself away, gets his feet firmly under him. “I’m not sure I could handle stairs in my current state.” He marches off toward Bull’s room, those heavy footfalls following him through the courtyard. He stops when he reaches the door, stands to the side while Bull opens it -- it’s not even locked, Dorian notes -- and leaves it open behind him for Dorian to follow. Dorian draws the door closed behind him as he clears the threshold and then Bull is in his space again, crowding him back against the wood, a veritable mountain of Qunari pressing him against the cool, hard surface.

Bull is head and horns taller than Dorian, and has to lean down to kiss him, which ends the full-body contact, but Bull shoves his leg between Dorian’s so that the hard muscle of his thigh is pressed firmly against Dorian’s cock through his leather trousers.

Dorian gasps at the contact, grinds against Bull’s thigh, bites Bull’s lower lip and pulls on it with his teeth. Bull growls into his mouth before sliding his hands around Dorian’s back to grab and knead his arse, and then lifts him -- picks him up! -- and grabs Dorian under the thighs, pulls on him until he wraps his legs around Bull’s waist. Dorian is not a small man, and the way he’s being manhandled is not something he ever expected he’d like, but it’s exhilarating.

Dorian bites Bull’s lip again, draws blood. The sound Bull makes is primal, it sends heat down his spine in waves. Bull grinds against him so hard it’s almost painful. Even between the layers of leather and the giant metallic buckle at Bull’s waist, Dorian can feel how hard he is. Not just his cock, though the way Bull’s rutting against him he’s sure that’s hard too, but him. He’s all rugged muscle, gristle and scar tissue; rough hands gripping Dorian’s hips, sandpaper stubble against Dorian’s cheek, his neck, leaving burning sensitivity in its wake as Bull kisses and sucks at his skin.

Bull’s grip tightens on the backs of Dorian’s thighs, he centers his weight, and suddenly Dorian’s back is no longer being supported by the door. Bull turns and takes a few unsteady steps into the room, and Dorian hears his own voice, shrill with momentary panic, saying “What do you think you’re--” before he’s suddenly dropped, deposited into the spill of blankets on Bull’s bed. “Doing,” he finishes, but Bull’s already following him down, climbing in over top of him and reclaiming his lips.

Bull settles much of his weight on top of Dorian, parting Dorian’s legs with his knees and propping himself up slightly on one elbow, his other hand sliding up under Dorian’s tunic, hot palm against his skin. Dorian uses what little leeway he’s got, pinned underneath Bull as he is, to worm out of his shirt -- a ridiculous thing of straps and buckles which looks devilishly handsome but only serves to frustrate him now when it catches around his rib cage and leaves him half bound. He makes a frustrated noise and Bull stops kissing him long enough to help him out of the blighted thing, tosses it aside, then looks down at Dorian with unrestrained want. Even so, he’s obviously holding himself back.

“See something you like?” Dorian crosses his arms above his head, posing unselfconsciously. He watches Bull’s eye track across his collarbones, over his pecs, down to his abs, then back up to his face. Dorian licks his lips, intentionally provocative, lets his eyes go hooded. “You can touch, you know.”

“There’s something we've got to talk about first,” Bull says, suddenly serious. He sits back on his knees between Dorian’s thighs, but Dorian sits up to follow, his deft hands moving to Bull’s belt and halfway unfastening it before he finds his hands immobilized, held in a firm grip.

“Hold on, just a minute,” Bull says, squeezing his good eye closed tightly and then opening it again. It seems to take him a while to focus -- his eye is red-rimmed, but strangely clear. “If there’s anything you don’t like--”

Dorian rolls his eyes, strains upward for another kiss to shut him up, but Bull holds firm and keeps his distance. Bull’s expression is uncharacteristically serious; it’s almost comical while they’re both so drunk -- almost, but not quite, because Dorian’s never seen that look on him in all the time they've spent together. Serious like he’s about to call the whole thing off if whatever it is he’s about to say doesn't go over well.

“Oh, all right,” Dorian sighs, settles back against the sheets. Bull releases his hands, so he folds them under his head and affects his best air of nonchalant boredom. Despite being drunk, he’s still very good at it. “Tell me whatever it is that’s so important you’d risk letting me reconsider, but do it quickly or--”

Bull cracks a bit of a smile as he interrupts Dorian’s grouching. “In case you reconsider,” he says, and then that serious look is back, so Dorian ignores the interruption and falls silent; “or if there’s anything you don’t like, we need a watchword.”

Dorian can feel his face flushing as his mind fills with all the various activities one might need a watchword for. By the sly grin on Bull’s face, it seems he’s picked up on Dorian’s wandering thoughts. “All right then, give me a word. I can’t be bothered to think one up myself.”

“Katoh,” says Bull, decisive. “You say that and I stop, no questions asked. All right?”

Dorian almost asks what it means, but he’s too impatient for that, and the expectant silence between them is growing heavier with each heartbeat, each breath, so he only repeats it to get the feel of it in his mouth. “Katoh. Point made. Can we get back to it now, or have I not sufficiently met my quota of waiting?”

At that, Bull laughs, and that intoxicatingly dangerous rumble is back. He leans forward, wrapping his arms under and around Dorian’s upper thighs and yanks him until Dorian’s bottom is firmly in his lap. He finishes the work Dorian had begun on his belt and then leans forward to hover over Dorian, draws a rough palm slowly down Dorian’s naked torso and begin the process of unfastening all the finicky buckles on his leather trousers.

“No more waiting,” Bull promises. His expression is hungry, and Dorian squirms under the intensity of it, the effect of which is far more pleasurable than it ought to be. With the belt buckle out of the way Dorian can feel the proof of Bull’s arousal, nestled into the cleft of his arse and rubbing ever so slightly against the base of his own erection.

“Just one thing,” Dorian says once Bull has peeled the leather from his legs, leaving him in nothing but his dreadfully expensive black silk small-clothes. He turns himself over, ostensibly to reach down to the floor where his trousers landed, but he stretches himself out needlessly and arches his back just so, ensuring a gentle curve of his spine that accentuates a round, pert bottom. He knows how the silk clings, and when he glances over his shoulder he can see that the maneuver worked: Bull is staring, transfixed, at his rear, and palming a rather impressive erection. Dorian places his prize on the bed next to him and waits until Bull’s attention finally falls on it: a small vial he’d slipped into a pocket before leaving for the tavern, full of a deep amber-coloured fluid. “Best Orlesian oil money can buy,” he says, and Bull grins his acknowledgement.

A calloused hand blazes a trail along Dorian’s flank, fingertips gripping his flesh and dragging the silk down to reveal his buttocks and thighs to the cool air. “So smooth,” Bull rumbles, leaning closer to press his lips to the swell of Dorian’s arse, stubble rasping lightly before he takes the flesh between his teeth and bites just hard enough to make Dorian tense. He releases his grip, gives the spot he bit a playful smack, then grabs and kneads it.

“Bathing regularly helps,” Dorian quips, pressing back into the rough caress, but the husky, breathy quality of his voice means the implied insult is toothless. Bull noses into the crease between cheek and thigh and inhales deeply, eliciting a noise of protest from Dorian, but Bull holds him in place so he can’t squirm away.

“You smell fantastic,” Bull growls, licking along that crease and inward, hands gripping both buttocks and parting them. “I’m going to eat your tight little asshole.”

Filthy creature,” Dorian splutters, turning as far as he can to glare at Bull more fully. “That’s barbaric.”

“You bathed just before you came to the tavern, I can smell it. Lavender,” Bull says with a deep inhale, his nose nudging the underside of Dorian’s balls. “Be a shame to waste all that effort.” He nips at the flesh of Dorian’s cheek again, enticingly close to his hole.

Dorian can feel the flush creeping up his neck, darkening his cheeks, so he turns back and presses his flushed face into the sheets. “Do what you want, you beast,” he says, voice muffled by the fabric, and he’s sure Bull can see right through him, see how intrigued he is by the idea despite his (admittedly weak) protests.

Bull laughs, digs his thumbs into the crease between Dorian’s cheeks and spreads him open. “You know what to say if you want me to stop?”

After a long moment, Dorian nods, just enough to be visible. Bull wastes no time, licks a warm, wet path from the underside of Dorian’s balls, along his perineum and over his hole, which flutters slightly at the touch. Dorian lets out a shuddered exhale with an embarrassing little whine at the end, and Bull responds with a guttural, animalistic growl, spreads him wider and spears Dorian with the hard tip of his tongue. Dorian rubs his face against the cool sheets and moans, head swimming with the forbidden pleasure of it, rocks his hips down just enough to rub his erection into the mattress to seek some relief for the pressure building in his groin.

As good as it feels, it’s not just the physical pleasure that’s got him so wound up: it’s the insolence of it, the way Bull nips and sucks at him, the wet writhing of Bull’s tongue inside him, the sounds it makes. It’s vulgar and bestial and it’s got him winding his fists in the sheets, spreading his thighs, seeking more. Bull’s thumbs push inside him, open him even wider while that tongue swirls wetly around the sensitive rim and then fucks into him again. “Filthy, filthy,” Dorian moans, and then Bull pulls back a bit, replaces his tongue with a thick fingertip, pressing lightly on his hole, just barely inside him.

“I knew you had a thing for the forbidden.” Bull traces little circles over Dorian’s hole, the pad of his finger dipping into him and then receding until Dorian groans in frustration. Then he pushes his finger in past the second knuckle and Dorian feels himself squeeze shut against the sudden intrusion after so much teasing, so he takes a breath, hears the quiet thup of the stopper being pulled from its vial. He glances over his shoulder again to see Bull let the oil drip down -- he can’t see where it lands, but he soon smells the fragrance of jasmine and honeysuckle as it fills the air. Bull twists his finger one way, then the other, the viscous oil smoothing his way while he massages the tight muscle into relaxing.

Just one finger is inside him but it’s been so long since Dorian has let anyone touch him like this that it feels immense, and not just physically. There had been a few trysts, a few rolls in the sheets, a quick rutting with some other Magister’s son in the dark, but always with the knowledge that an orgasm was all it could ever be. He’d bottomed, and he’d topped, whatever felt good at the time, but he’d rarely let himself be so vulnerable.

Now he’s spread, bare, offering himself up to a man he’d once have thought would gladly rend him limb from limb at the earliest convenience. After all the horrid, atrocious flirting, he finds he’s fairly certain now what Bull’s motives are, and he thoroughly approves, so he backs into the pressure of Bull’s finger to take more in.

“Good boy,” Bull huffs, breath hot on Dorian’s lower back, and Dorian’s mind wars with his body about what he thinks of the endearment. His body wins out when Bull pulses his finger a few times and curls it down to rub Dorian’s insides in a way that sends a jolt of pleasure through him and drags a harsh gasp from his throat. “That’s the spot, huh?” Bull chuckles, repeats the motion, and Dorian moans loudly this time. He’s only ever managed to do that on his own, before, and only through awkward contortions that made it impossible to find release at the same time.

“Fasta vass, oh…” Dorian writhes, seeking more of that stimulation, but stills when Bull’s hand presses down on his lower back and holds him there. Bull rubs his finger in slow circles over that spot inside him, gently at first but then pressing harder, and Dorian can’t hold back the huffs and moans that escape him.

“That’s right, let me hear you,” Bull says, his middle finger joining to tease the rim, eventually easing in to join the other. The added girth burns a bit at first, but Dorian’s so wracked with pleasure that the slight discomfort is a welcome distraction, keeping him grounded in his body.

Bull ups the pressure a little, then again, each time just to the edge of discomfort, and each time Dorian’s body adjusts and craves more. Soon Dorian is rutting into the sheets as much as he can with Bull holding him down, and he can feel his release building -- or something like it, at least; it’s never felt this big before -- so he clamps down around Bull’s fingers and tenses his body to keep himself still.

“Stop, kaffas, if you don’t stop now, I’ll--” but Bull doesn't stop, just keeps rubbing, firm and rhythmic, and far too soon the levee breaks. Dorian shouts as he spasms, feels the pleasure crash through him, an unfamiliar full-body pulsing that starts in his groin and spreads outward. “Fuck. Fuck.” His arse twitches and contracts around Bull’s fingers, which have stopped moving but remain inside him, pressing down until the last waves of his orgasm pass.

“Fucking gorgeous,” Bull says once Dorian has stilled, panting but not yet spent. He hasn't come, he realizes, even sliding a hand underneath himself to check. He’s still rock hard, and although there’s a pool of moisture around the tip of his cock, he knows he hasn't ejaculated.

“What,” Dorian pants against his own outstretched arm, unable to summon the energy to move just yet. “Was that?”

“Taught you something, did I?” Bull laughs, easing a third finger in next to the first two. Dorian is pliant now, every muscle relaxed, so the extra digit slips in easily. Bull has no problem fitting all three fingers inside him. Thick fingers. Dorian shivers from the sensation, as well as the memory of what he just felt. And the anticipation of what’s to come. Bull’s not directly rubbing him like he was anymore but Dorian can feel a brief echo of that pleasure each time his fingers slide past. Without noticing it, his hips are moving counter to Bull’s hand, pushing against the thrusts of Bull’s fingers until his knuckles prevent him from sinking any further.

“I really want to fuck you,” Bull says as he removes his fingers, leaving Dorian feeling open, bereft. The vial's stopper is audibly removed again, and Dorian’s seen Bull’s cock, knows he won’t feel empty for long.

“Yes, I had rather hoped you would.” Dorian lifts his hips a bit, reaches one arm back to spread himself, and watches over his shoulder as Bull smooths oil over his cock, watching him right back, that hunger there in his expression again. “Are you waiting for a formal invitation?”

Bull moves to kneel behind him, cock in hand, and he’s rubbing the slick head up and down over Dorian’s hole, dipping in a little on the way down, a little further on the way back up. “Just wanted to make sure we’re on the same page.” He pushes slowly in, in, then draws out a fraction. Then in again, and despite all the preparation, despite three of Bull’s fingers in him up to his fist just moments before, it’s still a tight fit. Bull’s being surprisingly gentle, though; he continues to push in slow, measured strokes, adds more oil to ease the way. Dorian bears down to let him in, and Bull makes an approving sort of groan, pets a hand down Dorian’s sweat-damp back.

“Yes, just like that… let me in. Good.” Bull says, low and breathy, and such simple words shouldn't be melting Dorian like they are. Bull eases into him little by little, stopping every few seconds to let Dorian adjust, till finally he’s buried to the hilt and Dorian can feel the front of Bull’s thighs against the the back of his own.

Dorian feels full to bursting but it’s not pain, just that thick, insistent hardness inside him. Bull leans forward over him, one hand on the bed next to Dorian’s head, the other on Dorian’s hip guiding him in a slow motion, pulling out just enough for Dorian to feel the slick slide and then pushing deep again, murmuring soft praise in his ear. “So fucking good.”

Dorian’s voice comes unbidden with each slow push, each hard grind, a breathless mantra of “Ah, ah, ah!” The thick weight of Bull’s cock drags over that sensitized spot inside him with each stroke, warm tendrils of pleasure winding in his gut, down his thighs. Bull gradually ups the tempo, drawing back further and thrusting home with more force, little by little, until he’s jarring Dorian forward with each thrust. Dorian reaches back behind him, his hand on Bull’s thigh just to feel him, feel the muscle tensing under his fingers. His other hand is fisted in the sheets, his elbow dug into the mattress to avoid being nudged further up the bed, but it’s not working. Bull must notice because he pauses just long enough to help Dorian up onto his knees, lifting him by the shoulder and waist so that he’s straddling Bull’s lap with his back against Bull’s chest and that thick cock still buried inside him.

The change in position impales him further and he practically whimpers as he settles, lets his head roll back against Bull’s shoulder, his hair sticking to his forehead and to Bull’s skin. With his legs spread so wide Dorian has no real leverage to fuck himself on Bull’s cock like he wants to, so instead he rocks his hips forward and back, writhes just for the pure haptic pleasure of it.

Bull slides one hand up Dorian’s chest until it rests between his collarbones, thumb against his carotid and fingers covering most of his neck; not choking him in the slightest, just restricting his movement while he fucks him with small, teasing strokes, and keeping Dorian’s head tilted back, the long line of neck and shoulder exposed so Bull can nibble and suck lightly at the delicate skin. “I want to mark you,” he says, voice husky, kissing a trail along Dorian’s neck and then giving one spot a testing nip. Dorian doesn’t respond except to shudder, hiss at the slight sting, roll his head to the side a bit to give Bull more room.

“Yes,” Bull murmurs his approval against Dorian’s skin, bites down hard as he thrusts up into him, and Dorian cries out from the mingled pain and pleasure. Then Bull’s laving the spot with his tongue, dragging his teeth over the tender skin, closing his lips around it and sucking more blood to the surface to darken the bruise, all while continuing the maddeningly, tortuously slow rocking of his hips.

Bull’s hand on Dorian’s hip shifts, then, moving toward his groin but bypassing his aching cock, snaking down instead between his legs to feel the rim of his hole, stretched as it is around Bull’s girth. Dorian’s moan is pleading, frustrated; he reaches for his own cock to jack himself off, but Bull answers with a low warning growl and grabs hold of Dorian’s arms, pulling them behind his back and holding his wrists together with one huge hand. It sends a fresh new wave of arousal spiking through Dorian, his cock twitching with it. “Oh, you like that,” Bull observes, uses his free hand to cup Dorian’s balls, the heel of his palm against the root of Dorian’s cock; just pressure, but no movement.

“Fuck, Bull,” Dorian cries, close to begging, and it seems like that’s something Bull particularly likes, because he starts to fuck him harder, using his grip on Dorian’s wrists to pull him down into it. In a far-off way, Dorian is mortified by the sounds he’s making -- keening, high-pitched whines, broken-off sobs as Bull slams up into him -- but right now, restrained and taken, he doesn't care how desperate he sounds. He is desperate: sweat-soaked and trembling, his cries falling near-constantly from his parted lips. Bull’s not being quiet either; little grunts and huffs of breath punctuate his thrusts, skin slaps against skin.

“Please, fuck. Please,” Dorian says, and Bull groans deep and finally, finally wraps his hand around Dorian’s blood-hot erection.

The relief is immediate, if not the release. Bull lets go of Dorian’s arms so he can steady him and Dorian reaches up and back, grabs onto one of Bull’s horns and holds tight, using the leverage the position gives him to thrust into Bull’s hand.

“Oh, fuck yes,” Bull groans, watching Dorian fuck himself between Bull’s cock and his fist, then taking over and matching his thrusts with quick jerks of his hand. “Come on,” he growls in Dorian’s ear. “Come for me.” Dorian feels it building again, as if his body is obeying Bull’s commands.

Sucking in deep breaths, Dorian’s voice leaves him on a whispered “Yes,” as his orgasm builds, his back tensing and thighs flexing rhythmically. “Maker, yes!” His whole body is winding tight, his mouth is dry from his labored breathing, his head rolls against Bull’s shoulder and then he’s coming, shouting and spasming, clamping down on Bull’s cock in waves while his come spurts out of him, the first of it hitting his chin, the rest landing warm and wet on his chest.

“Fuck, Dorian, yes. Perfect,” Bull groans, holding him through it until he’s shuddering and spent. He eases Dorian forward onto the mattress and starts to pull out, but Dorian reaches back to grab his wrist, turns just enough to glare at Bull with one eye.

Bull hasn't come yet, and considering the two fucking amazing orgasms Bull’s given him tonight, Dorian’s not about to let that stand. He has his pride. “You now. Inside me.” All he can manage are sentence fragments; he hopes the meaning is clear enough.

Evidently, it is. Bull wastes no time; he places one hand flat in the middle of Dorian’s back, braces himself with the other and fucks him wildly, not measured and purposeful like before but just a few shallow, desperate thrusts before he buries himself deep with a long, loud groan of completion. Dorian can feel Bull’s cock throbbing, spilling inside him, the ticking pulse of it giving him a brief muscle-memory of his own orgasm. He moans weakly.

They’re both panting, spent; Bull gently pulls out after a few long moments, then collapses next to Dorian, still humming with aftershocks of pleasure. Dorian doesn't so much as twitch in movement, face turned to the side against the pillow, limbs slightly askew, and he's only vaguely aware of the blanket settling over him. He's entirely unaware of falling asleep.

Chapter Text

Dorian startles awake to the cool sensation of a damp cloth gently wiping between his legs and thighs, over his buttocks, cleaning him of the oil and mess. The touch is so gentle that it surprises a soft gasp out of him.

“You’re awake,” Bull notes in a voice as soft and gentle as his hand, and equally surprising. He pauses in his ministrations and Dorian hears a swish of water followed by drips in a basin. Cloth thus wrung out, it returns to its task, freshly cool and damp, though it warms quickly against his skin. It’s caressing now instead of just cleaning him, trailing light from the base of his spine into the dip of his lower back, up between his shoulder blades and then back down. Dorian shivers slightly, stretches his arms up and under the pillow beneath him.

“Lies,” Dorian rasps, his voice muffled by fabric. He’s not sure how long he slept, but from what he can see of the sky through the window, it’s still night. When the cloth leaves his skin again, likely for a dip in the water basin, Dorian summons up the motivation to turn onto his side and winces slightly at the odd, loose feeling between his legs. He hadn’t been asleep long, then. The strangeness of the sensation passes quickly.

“Got you a drink,” says Bull, holding out a tankard of fresh water. Dorian accepts it gratefully, pushes up to lean on one arm so he can drink, the motion causing the blanket to slip from his chest and settle around his waist. He downs nearly half of the water, only belatedly realizing how parched he had been.

“Needed that,” Dorian says. A few breaths later, he takes another long gulp and then hands the nearly empty tankard back to Bull, who sets it down on the floor at his feet. Bull’s sitting on the edge of the bed near Dorian’s shins, his large torso tilted toward Dorian and his head turned so he can look him over. Dorian lays back down on his side facing the man, one arm bent with his forearm under his neck to prop up his head.

Bull is watching him with a gentle, careful expression. “You okay?” he asks, and it’s not what Dorian’s expecting -- though Dorian isn’t entirely certain what he was expecting. Turns out the Iron Bull is just full of surprises.

“Perfectly,” says Dorian, and though he isn’t particularly suspicious, he can’t help when his eyes narrow ever so slightly. Force of habit. “Should I be otherwise?”

“Nope,” says Bull, his gaze unwavering but perhaps a little guarded. “Just making sure. You were pretty drunk.”

Ah, Dorian realizes. “We were both quite intoxicated, as I recall. Though I do seem to remember a discussion -- correct me if I’m wrong -- in which you insisted upon designating some word or another which might serve to rescue me from your clutches if I opposed something or changed my mind. But perhaps I imagined it, in my drunkenness.” The fingers of Dorian’s free hand flutter near his temple, his eyes widening a fraction as he says the last part. Some of the caution edges out of Bull’s expression as he does so, replaced with the crinkles and folds of a smile. Seemingly a relieved one.

“Trust me, the Iron Bull,” Dorian continues, and he doesn’t actually roll his eyes, but it’s a near thing. “I’m not delicate. You can’t break me.”

Bull’s smile fades a bit at that, and Dorian realizes he’s touched a nerve when Bull’s one-eyed gaze goes unfocused and far-off. It’s only for a moment, and then Bull’s back with him, nods, even smiles a little, but there’s no denying that the careless jab has stirred something up. Dorian takes a deep breath. He pushes himself back up to sit, pulling the blanket back up and around his shoulders as he does, and maneuvers his legs around so he can sit properly next to Bull. The floor is surprisingly cold; he stacks one foot on top of the other so that both don’t freeze on him.

Dorian exhales. Contrary to the Bull (in a surprise twist of expectation versus reality), Dorian is not gentle. He doesn’t really know how to be. But he’s not cruel, either; he takes no pleasure in poking open sores or salting wounds. He leans sideways until their bodies connect, shoulder to hulking bicep. The man is a tower, and if Dorian recalls his own inexperienced adolescent fumblings, it isn’t difficult to imagine a man as large and powerful as the Bull doing something he doesn’t mean to do and perhaps even leaving someone injured in the process. The silence hangs around them, a sobering shroud.

“Not without a fight, in any case,” Dorian says at last, and he hopes his meaning is clear enough, because saying precisely what he means without sarcasm or wit has never really been his strong suit. “They’d see the flames from Val Royeaux. Never mind the smell.” His quip earns him a laugh from Bull, at least, which is promising; even more so the subtle relaxation in Bull’s posture and the arm that winds around him to pull him closer.

Dorian keenly understands what it’s like to look back on one’s past and see only smouldering, burnt-out ruins, so on the chance he’s guessed correctly, he has apologized -- in his own way, of course. And the apology is accepted in the Bull’s way; another surprise, there, that they seem able to understand each other’s unspoken languages.

Silence settles over them again, but it’s calmer now, not so oppressive. They sit like that for a while, long enough that Dorian’s mind grows hazy and he hovers somewhere between not-quite-awake and not-quite-asleep, until a distant-sounding snore jolts him back to consciousness and he realizes it came from him. Bull chuckles and nudges him, and Dorian yawns and stretches, arches his back till he feels the gratifying pop in his spine. Next to him, Bull is a furnace; he can feel the body heat rolling off the man and it would be so tempting to fall right back to sleep. He leans away. “I’ll never admit it,” Dorian says archly, “and it was nowhere near as obnoxious as your snoring, in any case.”

“Your secret is safe with me,” Bull says with a laugh.

Dorian nudges his toes out toward the untidy pile of his discarded clothing on the floor, still where Bull had thrown it before. He drags the garments closer, though he’s not willing to leave the warm cocoon of the blanket-shawl to reach for them, so he merely shuffles them into a pile between his feet and then wiggles his toes underneath for some small measure of warmth.

Bull, meanwhile, is still entirely naked in the chill air; Dorian’s attention is drawn to that fact when the man leans back and rests on his hands behind him, leaving the entire front of him exposed and visible: shoulder muscles and biceps flexed to hold his weight, giant pectorals pocked here and slashed there with scar tissue, the rounded swell of his belly -- the soft layer of fat disguising the steel-solid muscles beneath -- and the pronounced V of his iliac crest which leads Dorian’s gaze directly to the cock nestled between his muscular thighs. Despite being flaccid it’s still quite large, dark grey like the rest of his skin; though Dorian knows that under the foreskin, the thick crown is a deep purple, rounded and gleaming.

Dorian is snapped out of his thoughts when the bit of anatomy he’s considering bobs a little and begins to swell. He darts his gaze to Bull’s face; the cocky half-smile tells him that Bull’s been watching him in his appraisal, that Bull enjoys watching.

“Impossible,” Dorian says with a pointed look at Bull’s cock, which gives another little twitch as if in response. “Absolutely impossible. There’s no way--”

“Oh, I can go all night, baby,” Bull teases with a lopsided grin. Dorian is momentarily distracted by the endearment, baby, wondering if it should concern him that he rather didn’t mind it. His experiences in the boudoir thus far have all been quick, dark things; if his previous sexual partners had called him anything at all, it certainly wasn’t anything endearing.

If Bull notices the moment of stunned silence -- and really, to think that the ex-Ben Hassrath agent has failed to notice something would be naive indeed -- he doesn’t say anything about it. Instead he shifts his hips a bit, drawing Dorian’s attention back.

“I can’t believe you,” Dorian says reproachfully, but despite his tone, his gaze sticks to Bull’s slowly filling cock in open fascination. “Has it even been an hour?”

“Hey, I’m good for another round or two tonight,” says Bull, but without much ego, so Dorian doesn’t doubt he’s telling the truth. Bull leans back further and shifts his weight onto one elbow behind him, his other hand moving his cock from where it rests in the crease of his thigh to lay instead against his belly, its tip aimed at his navel. He leaves his hand there, thumb underneath to prop it up some so that Dorian can just see the flushed crown peeking out from the foreskin, thick fingers stretched down alongside the length, fingertips carded into the hair on his balls.

Dorian is enthralled and he’s sure Bull can tell; he has no doubt that Bull is showing off for him, knows Bull is reading and responding to his fascination. He’s being played to, which is usually Dorian’s tactic -- wind them up, make them want you so badly they’ll do anything to have you -- but he’s too intrigued for the role reversal to bother him. For all the sex he’s engaged in, he’s never yet had the opportunity to just watch, to simply observe the process of another man’s arousal.

“I’m going to get more comfortable,” says Bull, and when Dorian gives him a quizzical look, Bull nods toward the head of the bed where the pillows are still haphazardly stacked. Dorian can’t say it’s a bad idea so they reposition themselves hastily, Bull with his back against the raw wood that serves as a headboard and his legs slightly spread in front of him, Dorian stretched out along his side and propped up enough that he has an unimpeded view of Bull’s erection. It had flagged a little as they moved, but under Dorian’s gaze it begins to stiffen again with renewed vigor.

“I take requests,” Bull says, and there may be a little bit of a tease there, but it’s the kind that serves to deflect the shame Dorian thinks he ought to feel rather than encouraging it. Bull has a way about him of making it okay to want something, even the strange things.

“Make it hard, then,” Dorian says, fluttering a hand in the direction of Bull’s groin. “However you must. But let me see.”

“Easy enough,” Bull chuckles and does as he’s told, forming a ring of two fingers and thumb around himself and sliding it down his length, dragging the foreskin down to expose the glans. When the foreskin draws tight he reverses direction back up to the crown, slow enough that Dorian can see every wrinkle of the skin.

Soon Bull is rock hard and straining, foreskin fully retracted, the crown dark and glistening with a bead of moisture at the tip. Dorian’s mouth waters at the sight, and the urge to taste is another surprise: to want to lick and suck him, not with the expectation of a favour returned but just because he wants the bitter brine on his tongue, wants to feel the satiny-soft texture of it against his lips. He shifts to lean closer, repositions himself, ends up curled over Bull’s lap with his bent legs on one side and his elbow indenting the mattress on the other, the position giving him a perfect bird’s eye view.

“Move,” Dorian orders, injecting more annoyance into his voice than he actually feels. He pushes Bull’s hand away and Bull chuckles again, deep and low, but complies and lets his hand drop to his side. Dorian trails a fingertip up the ridge along the underside of Bull’s cock from base to tip, gratified by the way the flesh twitches under his touch. He wraps his hand around the base to stand it up, drops his head and dab his tongue at that bead of moisture at the tip, hears Bull exhale above. He spreads the bitter slickness around the head of Bull’s cock with a swirl of his tongue, then purses his lips around it and sucks the taste from the smooth skin. Bull’s measured breath carries a rumbled edge, and that’s gratifying too.

“You realize I’ve no intention of sucking you off,” Dorian intones, his lips smearing against the skin with each word. He glances up to see Bull’s eye focused intently on his mouth, so Dorian makes a good show of lipping around the sensitive coronal ridge, then curls his lips into a smile to show the gleam of his teeth as he carefully drags their smooth edges over the skin.

“Don’t fucking care,” says Bull, all deep rumble. “I can get myself off when you’re done. Just do whatever you want, ‘cause so far I’ve got no complaints.”

“Oh, such sparkling commendation. No complaints.” There’s no bite to Dorian’s retort, though, and he goes right on exploring Bull’s cock with his mouth, licking and kissing down the shaft.

“You’re the one that sparkles,” says Bull, and then he moans because Dorian’s cupping his balls, fingers gently massaging. “Magic fucking fingers,” says Bull, and Dorian summons a bit of magical heat to his palm, some ice at his fingertip, and Bull’s next exhale comes out all at once in a loud huff.

Dorian laughs, practically giggles, against Bull’s cock. “Oh, you’ve no idea what I can do with my magical fingers.” Something about the way Bull’s just letting him explore and play has him giddy; before now he’s never been relaxed enough to actually laugh while naked in bed with someone.

“Haven’t met many mages willing to use it in the bedroom,” Bull says, breathy, sounding both amused and intrigued by the idea.

“Yes, well,” Dorian starts, then decides he’s done exploring for now. He sits up straight and slings a leg over both of Bull’s to straddle his lap. “These southern mages are told all their lives how evil and shameful their magic is. Is it any wonder they never learn to have fun with it?” Dorian raises a hand between the two of them and summons a bit of magic, enough to make purple sparks fly between his fingers while he wiggles them. The electricity raises the fine hairs along his arms and at the back of his neck.

Bull rests his hands on Dorian’s thighs, squeezes the muscle and then drags his calloused hands up toward Dorian’s body. Dorian touches his fingers to Bull’s lower lip, letting the static discharge and the magic fade. The spell is barely strong enough to sting, even though the static crackle is audible; still, he expects Bull to twitch or react in some way, but he doesn’t react except to press a kiss to Dorian’s fingertips. Dorian is beginning to expect the unexpected with Bull, though, so he’s fairly certain the surprise doesn’t register on his face this time. He drops his hand to Bull’s chest and draws an icy circle around one nipple, watches the skin around it bloom with goosebumps.

Bull’s gaze tracks from Dorian’s face down to his groin, where his own cock is beginning to take notice of the situation. Dorian rolls his eyes when Bull smirks at him. “Okay, yes, alright. Perhaps twice in one night is possible.”

“Wait.” Bull’s expression shifts from playful to something more like incredulous. He pushes his hands up over Dorian’s hips and around behind, squeezing his arse and pulling him closer at the same time. “You’ve really never done it more than once in a night? Ever?”

Dorian’s pulled up onto his knees by Bull’s rough grasp, and he drops his hands to Bull’s shoulders. “Mm, no. A lot of sneaking off for clandestine meetings during parties. Brevity tends to be high on the priority list when one is expected elsewhere within the hour.”

“Huh. Then I guess you’ve never stayed the night with someone.”

Dorian laughs out loud at that; a single loud “Ha!” Then, “No. Nor would I want to. While not everyone in Tevinter is actively trying to sabotage everyone else, it would be foolish to tempt fate by allowing someone unhindered access to one’s prone, sleeping form. Even the good ones were so paranoid of discovery; no, it would be too risky to -- why are you smiling? How is this funny?”

“You were sleeping, earlier. You even snored on my shoulder.” Bull’s lips quirk, the corner of his eye crinkles in a way that Dorian doesn’t want to find as endearing as he does.

“And you are entirely too pleased by that fact. It means nothing more than that I don’t recognize you as a threat.” Dorian leans forward, letting his arms drape over Bull’s shoulder, his eyelids dropping to half mast as he gets in close, his lips just a whisper away from Bull’s. “You clearly don’t want me dead, and unless there’s something you’ve been hiding very well from the rest of us, I don’t suspect you’ll be mucking about in my mind anytime soon.”

“More than one way to get into someone’s head,” Bull notes, off-hand, his voice low. Before Dorian can reply, though, Bull continues in that same murmur. “You should stay the night.”

Dorian pulls back enough to bring Bull’s face into view, crosses his arms in front of his chest and gives his best suspicious glare, but between the nudity and his erection, he’s fairly certain it’s not particularly effective. “Why should I?”

Bull’s hands squeeze Dorian’s hips. “Because it’s cold out there and I’m very warm.” Dorian appraises him silently, keeps his expression neutral. After a moment, Bull amends his answer. “Because I want you to.” Dorian quirks an eyebrow. Bull seems sincere.

“And I’m just clamouring to do your bidding. Truly, your wish is my command.” He unfolds his arms to gesture dramatically, then settles his hands back on Bull’s shoulders.

“Now that’s more like it,” Bull says, rubbing his thumbs over the jut of Dorian’s hips in a rather distracting manner: a slow, deliberate caress.

Through the small window in the opposite wall, Dorian can see the snow in the distance, piling in drifts against Skyhold’s inner walls and illuminated by moonlight. He bites his lower lip as he considers. “It is cold.”

“Freezing,” agrees Bull.

“And you are a decent heater, if nothing else.”

“I’m decent at plenty of things,” Bull protests with a grin. He digs his fingertips into the flesh of Dorian’s buttocks and presses his own hips up so that Dorian can feel the hard line of Bull’s cock under him.

“Debatable,” says Dorian, and he’s proud of himself for maintaining a cool air despite the spike of warmth between his legs. He draws himself up tall, straightens his spine. “In any case, you have a point. Very well: I accept.”

“You honour me,” Bull teases, and with a twist of his hips and a strong arm behind Dorian’s shoulders, in the next moment Dorian finds himself flipped onto his back with Bull looming over him. “So, what do you say? You up for another go?”

“Impossible. Out of the question.” Dorian reaches up even as he says it to grab one of Bull’s horns and pull his head closer to kiss him. His next words are smeared against Bull’s lips. “Don’t even think about it.”

“Too late for that,” Bull says, nips his lower lip. “Watchword?”

“Unnecessary,” says Dorian, but Bull’s eye narrows at him so he sighs dramatically. “Katoh. Now get on with it.”

“With pleasure,” Bull husks, and then they’re finally kissing. It’s soft this time, gentle, almost sweet. Bull’s large hand cradles Dorian’s jaw, barely touching him, just enough contact to tickle the fine hairs on his cheek. Bull kisses from Dorian’s lips to his jaw, then down his throat, pausing briefly to bite the spot he’d marked earlier -- it aches in a way that jolts up Dorian’s spine and makes his back arch and his breath hiss sharply.

Bull’s stubble scratches Dorian’s chest, tickles his belly as Bull kisses and nibbles further down. Bull’s hand is still on Dorian’s face, and Dorian grabs Bull’s thumb between his teeth as Bull’s lips close hot and wet around his cock. Bull takes him down to the root and sucks hard on the way back up, and Dorian’s head rolls back, his mouth open in a soundless moan.

Bulls had plenty of practice with this, it seems; he knows all the right places to use his tongue, and when he presses his knuckles up under Dorian’s balls, Dorian’s body remembers the way it felt when Bull massaged that spot inside him earlier and he shudders, whines when Bull works his knuckles in circles while sucking him in long, heavy drags.

“Oh, fuck,” says Dorian, words slurred somewhat around Bull’s thumb. He returns his hands to Bull’s horns and grabs hold, and when Bull makes that low growl-like sound again with his mouth around Dorian’s cock, the sound vibrates straight through him.

Dorian’s release hits him like a fireball, not as strong as the first of the night but no less satisfying. Bull swallows it all down and keeps sucking gently until Dorian gasps from the oversensitivity. Dorian shudders a long sigh. He’s come twice in as many hours and he feels completely wrung out. He’d collapse if he wasn’t already flat on his back, except Bull’s still hard and Dorian still wants to watch him come.

“Up. Up here, come now.” Dorian makes as if to grab at some part of Bull, but his arms are so heavy that he settles instead for patting his own abdomen. Bull looks at him quizzically. “That interlude was quite entertaining,” he qualifies, “but you still owe me a show.”

“Tough customer,” Bull quips as he maneuvers himself, careful of his bad knee, so that he’s straddling Dorian’s chest. His cock strains toward Dorian’s mouth, though it falls short of its mark: the perfect distance for Dorian to see everything. Bull palms himself lazily.

“I expect a man to deliver on his promises,” says Dorian, though he’s mostly lost the trail of their banter and is instead absorbed in watching Bull stroke himself. The pace is slow and measured; Bull is indeed giving Dorian the show he’s asked for. Fascinating as it is, though, right now he just wants to see Bull come. “How you normally do,” Dorian directs. “If you please.”

Bull grunts his assent and changes his grip on his cock so that his knuckles are on top and his fingers and thumb curled under. “Won’t take long like this,” Bull warns, tugging quickly and occasionally sliding his palm over the crown. His thighs on either side of Dorian’s chest are taut, tense, the muscle quivering slightly under the skin.

Dorian doesn’t respond verbally, but he slides one hand under Bull to cup and knead his balls. The position bends his arm awkwardly but it’s worth it for the way Bull grinds out a low groan and speeds his hand. Dorian slides his fingers to Bull’s perineum, massages gently the way Bull had done to him earlier. He has no idea if he’s doing it properly, but Bull seems to approve; he groans, his entire body tenses, his hand goes still around the base of his cock, and Dorian can see it throb as he spends in thick spurts across Dorian’s chest and neck, some even landing on his face. Dorian hears himself moan, a soft mirror of the noise Bull made, and he looks up to see that Bull is staring down at him, looking dazed.

A moment later, Bull brings a hand to Dorian’s face, his thumb just beside Dorian’s lips. When that thumb smears, slick, over his mouth, Dorian parts his lips, lets the digit slip between them so he can suck the flavour from Bull’s skin. Bull’s gaze is riveted to Dorian’s lips. Its intensity is thrilling.

After a long, shuddered exhale, Bull carefully climbs off Dorian, positions himself well out of horn’s-reach from Dorian’s head, and then collapses ungracefully onto the bed. “You,” he starts, still breathing heavily. “Are.”

“Fantastic?” Dorian supplies helpfully. “Amazing. Seductive. A foul tempter of men. The best you’ve ever had.”

“Fucking sexy,” says Bull. He half-sits so he can turn his head, grabs Dorian’s arm and tugs until Dorian shifts closer, manhandles him so that in the end Bull is laying on his back with Dorian’s leaner form along his side, Dorian’s head on Bull’s shoulder. Bull cleans him up quickly with a corner of the blanket, then arranges it over them both with the wet patch down near Bull’s feet.

In other circumstances Dorian might have protested what he can only describe as cuddling, but right now, warm and sated and feeling completely safe in a way he’d never thought he could feel with another person, he’s more than happy to oblige. He even throws his arm over Bull’s chest, lets his fingers idly trace a ridge of scar tissue. “I am, aren’t I?” he says around a yawn, which makes Bull yawn too. “You’re not so bad yourself,” he allows, feels Bull chuckle underneath him. “One might even say you’re decent.”

“Told you,” says Bull.

“Mm,” Dorian agrees. This time he’s well aware he’s falling asleep. If he snores a little, he doesn’t notice.

Chapter Text

It’s the birds that wake him. Dorian cracks an eye open to see there’s one on the windowsill -- not one of Leliana’s, thankfully, those things are beyond obnoxious -- but one of the small, round winter birds that can be found here in the South. It peeps happily for a moment, then flies off and out of sight. The sun is just risen, judging by the sounds of early-morning Skyhold life outside: the noise is much louder here than it is from Dorian’s second-story bedroom or his little corner of the library; he wonders how Bull sleeps through it every morning.

The shuffling next to him suggests that maybe he doesn’t. “Morning,” says Bull, his voice hoarse. It’s ridiculously attractive. “Sleep well?”

Dorian’s only response is a grunt of protest at the cruelty of sunlight and mornings.

They’d shifted in the night so that Dorian is in roughly the center of the large bed, face-down with his toes stuffed under the back of Bull’s knee for warmth, and Bull lays on his back somewhat diagonally with one arm hanging off the edge.

“Should have guessed you’d be a bed hog,” Bull teases. A glance shows that he’s covered only over the lap by a corner of the blanket; the rest of it is wrapped around Dorian like swaddling. Dorian grips the fabric, pulls it up over his head, buries his blanket-covered head against Bull’s side and grunts again.

Mornings. Not really his area of expertise.

Eventually Bull sits up to stretch and Dorian rolls into the warm space left behind. Despite the blanket and the leftover warmth, the weather at Skyhold still sees fit to torment him with the endless chill, and the tip of his nose feels like ice. “You’re supposed to be keeping me warm. Why aren’t you keeping me warm?”

“Oh, it speaks!” Bull laughs, patting Dorian’s flank. Dorian feels the mattress dip and release and guesses that Bull has left the bed. He struggles briefly in the blankets until his head is free, his eyes quickly locating Bull on the other side of the small room, bent at the waist to dig out a set of awful, ridiculous, horrible slacks. Dorian is torn between admiring Bull’s muscular physique and the need to loudly bemoan those pants -- they must have been torn off a circus tent; somewhere there are troupes of runaways and acrobats mourning the loss of their favourite big top -- but in the end, the novelty of seeing his naked sex partner strutting around unselfconsciously in the light of day wins out.

Dorian rests his chin on crossed arms. “You know, it really is a travesty. Under those rags, you have a perfectly decent physique.” He can’t help himself, after all. They really are awful. “Those trousers are a crime. You are a criminal.

Bull tosses the slacks over his shoulder as he straightens and turns around to face Dorian again. He scratches behind his ear, rubs the back of his neck, but he’s appraising Dorian with a sly grin. “So, you suggesting I should go around naked? Or you just saying you got a thing for the bad boys?”

Dorian props his head up on his hand, runs his finger along his jawline and purses his lips. “The latter is undeniable,” he says in a musing tone. “But that doesn’t mean the former is without merit.”

Bull takes a few steps toward him; his gait reminds Dorian of a predator on the prowl. The way his shoulders sway with each step, the confident swagger of one whose prey is just within reach. “I’m naked now. Should I stay that way for a while?”

“You are insatiable,” Dorian says, pushing himself up to sit on the edge of the bed as Bull draws closer. Bull steps in front of him and nudges between his knees, presses his fingers under Dorian’s chin to tilt his face up. Dorian mouth goes dry so he swallows, licks his lower lip, feels his cheeks flush with heat. Bull’s fingers slide along his jaw and around to his nape, thumb alongside his ear, and Dorian feels dizzy with sudden arousal. He takes a breath, clears his throat. “Not that I’m complaining.” His voice is far softer than he intends it to be.

“You’re fucking gorgeous like this,” Bull says, and the praise is like a physical caress, tingling down Dorian’s neck and along his spine. His eyelids flutter. Bull traces Dorian’s cheekbone with his thumb. “You look at me like that and then wonder why I can’t get enough?” Bull’s fingers are massaging his nape, blunt nails scratching through the cropped hair.

This dominant, predatory side of Bull really gets to him, has him practically vibrating with pure want. The look on Bull’s face, the intense focus and that wicked little grin says Bull knows exactly what he’s doing and how Dorian feels about it. “Maker,” Dorian says, whisper-quiet.

“Nah, just me,” Bull replies. He slides his fingers up and cards them into the longer hair higher up on Dorian’s head, tightens his grip so that Dorian has to tilt his head back further. His breath leaves him on a soft moan, his lips slack and open, and his eyelids fall closed as Bull tilts Dorian’s head to the side, gentle but firm, runs coarse fingertips down the line of his neck, over the mark he left last night. Dorian trembles with the effort of keeping still.

“Lay down,” says Bull, his finger continuing along Dorian’s shoulder and finally leaving him. “On your back. Leave the blanket.”

Dorian’s too worked up to bother with his usual sass, so he does as he’s told without comment. Bull just looks down at him, taking him in for long moments. “Watchword,” he says after a time, and his tone brooks no argument. Dorian gives it to him without fuss.

“Katoh.”

“Good boy.”

In some distant corner of his mind, Dorian acknowledges that his younger self would have fought like a firebrand against such endearments. Baby. Good boy. Partners had tried to condescend to him in the past, generally to disastrous effect: such a man was lucky to have left with his clothes, let alone his dignity intact.

But this doesn’t feel like condescension. Bull bends down next to the bed, retrieves something, then climbs in with him, his knees bracketing Dorian’s hips. The awful, ugly, terrible trousers are gone, thankfully. “Arms up,” Bull says, and Dorian gladly complies, because this is as far from the arrogant posturing of Tevinter society boys as it’s possible to be. Dorian resists the frisson that tingles down his spine, urges him to writhe. Instead he crosses his wrists above his head and feels a flutter of delight in his belly at Bull’s approving smile.

Bull runs his hand up Dorian’s side, along his arm, closes his fingers around Dorian’s wrists. Dorian tests the grip -- just a little, just enough to see that it’s strong. He knows he could get out of it if he fought, but why would he fight something so exhilarating? He can feel his pulse jumping in his neck, the heat rising in his cheeks, and when he looks up to meet Bull’s gaze, fighting is the last idea on his mind. He feels rather like he’s floating.

“I’ll take care of you,” Bull says, words soft like velvet. He holds up his other hand, and it takes Dorian a moment to realize that probably means something. Bull’s holding a small glass vial -- his oil.

“Yes. Fuck me,” Dorian says -- pleads, really.

Bull laughs, but it’s a gentle sound. “Let me just check you out first.” Dorian’s not exactly sure what Bull means by that until he releases his hold on Dorian’s wrists, slides down the bed, pushes his shoulders under Dorian’s legs and folds him in half so that the tops of his thighs meet his chest.

Dorian’s mind wants him to splutter something indignant at the turn of events, but he’s unwilling to break the spell. It feels so nice to let go like this, to let himself be swept away in someone else’s current. Gentle fingers rub over his rim, spread him slightly. “Pain?” Bull asks.

“Not what I’d call it,” says Dorian. He digs his foot into Bull’s shoulder with as much force as he can muster; it isn’t much. “Are you satisfied?” There’s no bite in his tone, just breath.

“You’ll tell me if it hurts?” Bull kisses his inner thigh, bites where he’d kissed.

“You’d -- ah! Never get me to shut up about it.”

“Fair enough,” Bull says with a chuckle. “Keep your arms up.”

With that, Bull uncaps the vial again -- Dorian can’t see it but he hears it, smells it, and feels the smooth wetness on Bull’s finger as it presses into him. He holds his own wrist with his other hand to keep from moving his arms. His legs are still slung over Bull’s shoulders; Bull mouths at his inner thighs, stubble chafing the sensitive skin while he probes him with his finger, rubs him inside like he had last night but not hard enough, and Dorian whines plaintively and moves his hips, seeking more.

“Not yet,” says Bull, and he holds frustratingly still until Dorian settles down again. “That thing I did last night with my fingers,” he says then, into the flesh of Dorian’s inner thigh. Another sharp bite, making Dorian gasp, and then he sucks at the skin to raise another red welt there. A second finger joins the first, slick and smooth and opening him wider. “I wanna see you fall apart like that while I’m fucking you.” Dorian moans, grabs what he can of the sheets between his knuckles. Bull adds a third finger and it makes his toes curl. Dorian’s cock strains, ignored, between them.

“Fuck,” is all Dorian can think to say, because now Bull’s fingers are twisting inside him with each thrust, thumb probing into him at the end of the descent to open him ever wider, but Bull is just teasing where he wants those fingers most. The prostate gland, according to his anatomy lessons, though he’d never particularly believed the rumours about it until last night.

Then Bull pulls his fingers out and gently lowers Dorian’s legs off his shoulders so that they fall around his waist instead. He wipes his hand on the discarded cloth from last night, then pours the rest of the oil onto his cock; he sits back on his knees and spreads the slick over himself, watching Dorian the whole time. Dorian swallows, lets his legs fall limp, squeezes his wrist hard enough that he likely indents the skin with his finger nails. “Now,” says Dorian.

Bull bends over him and rubs his cock into the crease of Dorian’s arse, over his hole and in. Dorian winds his legs around Bull’s hips; he gasps, his brow furrows and he bites his lip as his sphincter clenches against the intrusion. Bull stops moving, traces his fingertips down the side of Dorian’s face, calm and soothing. “Want to stop?”

Dorian opens his eyes and takes in Bull’s worried expression. “Not even remotely,” he says truthfully. He takes a deep breath, bears down. Bull sinks deeper into him. “You’re… very large. Ah!”

“So I’ve heard,” Bull says, his eye scanning Dorian’s face, probably trying to detect if he’s in pain. Dorian squirms his hips down, lets Bull in further.

“I rather enjoy it.” The stretch, the pressure, the fullness. He squeezes around Bull’s cock and Bull moans. Dorian shivers.

Bull kisses him, a growl deep in his throat. “You’re fucking perfect. Fuck, you feel so good.” Bull slides his arm down under Dorian’s lower back, lifting him off the bed as he presses the rest of the way in. Dorian turns his head against his raised arm and breathes, humid puffs of air against his own skin as his body adjusts.

Bull presses into him just a little at first, letting Dorian’s sensitized skin feel every minute movement. Then Bull withdraws a little further, changes his position slightly, and Dorian lets out an embarrassingly high moan as Bull’s cock drags heavily over his prostate along the way back in. The new position has Dorian’s cock pressed against Bull’s chest, rubbing with their every movement.

“Oh, that--” Dorian groans, twisting his hands in the sheets. “That, that,” and he’s laughing now; a delirious, breathless kind of laughter. “That’s it, right there.”

“Yeah, that’s it,” says Bull, grabbing his hip to hold him in place, to keep fucking him at that angle. “Don’t move.” Dorian moans, rolls his head side to side, his thighs quivering with the effort of keeping his lower body still so Bull can keep up that damnable, amazing pressure. White hot pleasure flashes low in his gut with each drag of Bull’s cock inside him, and his own cock rubbing between their bodies is just enough to ramp him up and wind him tight.

“Right there, Maker, right there,” Dorian moans, nearly insensate with it. “Going to -- Bull, I’m going to --”

“Come on, baby. I've got you.”

“Hah!” Dorian shouts, his hips twitching as his orgasm takes him and he spills between them in hard spurts, his head tipped back, lips slack on a high, keening moan. “Fuck, oh fuck.” He’s gasping, panting, his legs shaking with the force of it, and he can’t stop himself from grabbing his own hair and pulling, sobbing as the last of his orgasm shudders out of him.

“You are so fucking gorgeous when you come,” Bull says, still fucking him, though his pace is faltering, growing unsteady. Dorian’s still got aftershocks fizzing along his nerves, it still feels good even if he feels completely boneless. He digs his heels into the backs of Bull’s thighs to urge him on.

“Harder,” Dorian demands, mustering the most imperious tone he’s capable of right now. He’s fairly sure Bull’s been holding back, wanting to make it good for him. It was good. Thrice in a day, and Bull never once came before he did. “Fuck me hard, like you want to.”

Bull surges then, with a growl, covers Dorian’s hands with his own at either side of Dorian’s head, takes Dorian’s mouth in a searing kiss that smears down along his jaw as Bull lets loose and truly pounds him. His breath punches out of him and he does his best to simply hold on for the ride until Bull slams home with a loud groan and Dorian feels the throbbing pulse deep inside as Bull comes.

Bull pulls out and collapses on top of him rather gently for such an enormous lummox, careful to avoid crushing him or injuring him with an errant horn, but still keeping him pinned to the bed. Not that Dorian’s got anywhere particularly urgent to be. He squeezes what he can of Bull’s hands and they doze in the afterglow for a few moments, the sounds of soldiers training in the yard and Skyhold’s staff going about their daily routines a distant backdrop.

***

“I need a bath.” Dorian’s got his trousers on, but he wrinkles his nose as he observes his shirt, hanging wrinkled and dusty from between his pinched thumb and forefinger. Bull has managed to don his own slacks, despite Dorian’s rather intense look of disagreement with them.

“You just bathed last night,” Bull notes from behind his shoulder. Dorian can feel the small hairs stand on end when Bull draws close. “You smell fine.”

“So says the man who talks of masturbation while knee-deep in dragon gore. I don’t trust your judgment on the matter. No offense.” He lets himself enjoy the proximity for a moment before he slips the garment on -- better to leave Bull’s room in a dirty shirt than without one at all, surely, though Dorian doubts it matters much what he wears. Between his dramatic departure from the tavern last night and the various noises he hadn’t cared to muffle since then, he can’t imagine anyone who sees him leave being at all surprised by it.

It’s early still; if he’s lucky, he’ll bypass the Chargers and their rowdy congratulations altogether. He slips into his boots at the door and pauses there, hand on the doorknob. Bull doesn’t seem upset to see him go so quickly, which is good -- no reason for this to be awkward. But he doesn’t want to leave it without saying something.

“Don’t be late,” he hears himself say, because wordplay is for evisceration and he’s never really learned how to be kind. “We’re off with the Inquisitor at mid-day.”

“I’ll be there,” Bull says as Dorian pulls the door closed behind him. Nobody but soldiers and a few servants to see him leave. He heads for his room; he needs a change of clothes, a bath, and perhaps a flagon of the Fereldan ale he’s so ashamed to admit he likes. If he spends the rest of the morning watching Bull and his men training on the field below his library window rather than reading his book, well. Who’s to know?

Chapter Text

“So, Dorian, about last night,” Bull starts, and Maker’s sake they’re in the blighted desert. Dorian’s got sand in places -- to quote the ever eloquent Sera -- this is not really the time for reminiscing.

"Discretion isn't your thing, is it?" Dorian halfheartedly protests, but it’s mainly for show. He's not upset; he's not really even surprised.

“Three times!” Bull crows, and yes, that’s technically true, though they weren’t all three times last night. “Also, did you want your silky underthings back, or did you leave those like a token? Or… wait, did you ‘forget’ them so you’d have an excuse to come back? You sly dog!”

“If you choose to leave your door unlocked like a savage,” Dorian quips, glad for the excuse to slip into their familiar repartee, “I may or may not come.”

“Speak for yourself,” Bull says, amused. Dorian prepares himself for… something. Rebuke? Chastisement? A reminder of his rightful place in the shadows? It never comes. Any fears he might’ve had about how such a pronouncement would be received appear to be unfounded. Aside from a rather aggressive case of side-eye from the Inquisitor -- one which means there will be Conversations later, Dorian muses -- nothing really happens. The earth doesn’t part beneath his feet to swallow him, the sky doesn’t fall down around him, there’s not a single river of blood to be seen. A breeze whips up briefly and blows dust into his eyes, making them water, but he assumes that’s unrelated. A small voice in his mind finally falls silent, the part of him that had never stopped wondering whether his father’s opinion was justified.

With the release of that last irrational fear, Dorian realizes he’s actually quite pleased to have it all out in the open. Furtive glances and secret affairs hold no romance for him now, if they ever did. By comparison, Bull’s forthrightness is refreshing. For one incandescent moment, the relief is almost overwhelming.

The desert, however, quickly saps it away. “If I have to climb another ladder,” Dorian groans as the Inquisitor heads off in the direction of no less than three of the blighted things. His put-upon, pained sigh is a thing of legend. He climbs behind the Inquisitor anyway.

“It’s good for you,” Bull huffs from behind him. Dorian waits for some comment about ‘the view’ or some other allusion to his backside, but Bull just says “Keeps the blood pumping.”

“I’ve a heart which does that perfectly well on its own, thank you,” Dorian sniffs. Once he reaches the top of the ladder he sighs again, glares daggers at the back of the Inquisitor’s head, then begins the trudge up the next one.

“Hard work makes a strong heart,” says Bull. Dorian doesn’t see fit to argue.

Eventually the sea of ladders is behind them, though Dorian dreams of ladders for three nights afterward. Ladders down to infernal depths, crawling with filth, and he can’t keep his grip to climb so he keeps slipping back down. A ladder extending infinitely before him, no end to be seen, just his hands and feet on the rungs until his fingers bleed and if he falls asleep he’ll plummet to his death so he must stay awake but he just can’t seem to open his eyes. A ladder to freedom and just as he reaches the top, his father kicks it out from under him.

They’re not really nightmares, Dorian thinks upon waking. Fear demons are clever things; these hadn’t been particularly clever or particularly frightening, either. Likely just the fade’s lesser denizens playing with his mindscape while he sleeps -- wisps and little spirits, too weak to test him but strong enough to take familiar forms. Still, they leave him slightly unnerved.

The party passes through Val Royeaux on their way back to Skyhold. The Inquisitor has some errands to run, so Dorian excuses himself from the shopping trip and locates the nearest courier. He hands the woman a letter and a few sovereigns. “For Messere Ponchard, please.”

When Dorian rejoins the party it is with a lighter coinpurse and a small cloth bag from the parfumerie down one of the many side streets off Val Royeaux’s market district. Bull looks at him oddly, head slightly askance as Dorian walks toward them, and Dorian wonders why until he notices what Bull is doing. Scenting the air, the way he sometimes does in the field when there are enemies nearby. Except now he’s grinning knowingly at Dorian as he does it.

“No. You can’t smell it from back there,” Dorian insists, his voice loud enough to carry across the distance between them, twenty paces at least.

“I’ve got a good sense of smell.”

Dorian straightens his posture and falls in step with the others, turns his gaze in front of him and resolutely does not think about what Bull is most likely thinking about. “You’re leering,” Dorian says. “Don’t leer. It’s a popular scent.”

“So what, you got some fancy-pants perfume, who cares?” Sera asks, oblivious of the vial of oil in Dorian’s pack or why it’s relevant. Thankfully, Bull doesn’t let the others in on the joke.

Dorian huffs. “Who cares, indeed.”

On their way out of the city, Dorian catches a glimpse of his own reflection in the highly polished surface of a shop sign. His high collar has sagged a bit in their travels; he can just see the dark smudge of the bruise peeking over the fabric. He brushes his hand up the fabric to cover it again, his hand lingering over the mark, and he presses on it ever so gently just to feel the ache.

Dorian remembers himself before the moment resolves in anything so embarrasing as a blush, but he’s got a tingling sensation in his spine telling him he’s being watched. A glance to the side confirms it. He lets his hand drop, brushes off his tunic along the way as if it was what he’d meant to do, and lets an arched brow speak for him. Bull doesn’t comment, but within a few minutes he’s humming under his breath while they walk. One of those tavern songs -- Dorian hasn’t a clue how Bull isn’t sick of them, practically living in the tavern as he does. There are a lot of things Dorian is clueless about when it comes to Bull.

___

They return to Skyhold the following day, late in the evening. The sky on the horizon is the deep teal of serpentstone, the sky above dark blue with no cloud cover to obscure the moons and stars. It’s beautiful, in its own way -- a cold, lonely, weary way that’s as sad as it is lovely. If he’d sent his younger self forward in time to see him now, here in the frigid wilderness of the Frostbacks, would he have believed it? No, wrong question; of course he wouldn’t have believed it. He would think it a vision from a demon, but would he have seen it as desire’s honeyed promise, or would he have presumed it a fear demon’s doing?

Either way, it’s certainly better than some of the futures fate had ordained for him.

Dorian heads straight for his room once they clear the outer gate, sparing only a wave over his shoulder to the others. The trek through the courtyard feels farther than fifty paces and fourteen stairs. His heels and calves ache from hiking over rock and sand for days, his lips are chapped and dry, the skin on his hands is starting to crack. It takes him entirely too long to retrieve his key once he reaches his door, tired hands fumbling in his pack until he just wills the blighted thing into his hand.

It’s dark inside, but a wave of his hand lights the torch on the wall. Real fire, because he needs real warmth. One would think he’d have had quite enough of the heat after the desert, but just one step back in the direction of Skyhold and he’s fantasizing about balmy days and sea breezes anew.

Dorian puts away his few purchases, peels out of his sweat-stained, grimy travel gear, wipes away the layers of caked sand and grit from his arms and chest and hears it rattle on the stone at his feet. He pads over to his vanity, a small decorative thing he’d picked up in Val Royeaux on his last trip because it reminded him a little bit of home.

Small rocks and grains of sand stick to the bottoms of Dorian’s feet as he walks. When he comes to stand in front of the vanity, he shifts his weight onto one foot so he can wipe his sole on his opposite shin to dislodge the sand there, then steps onto the other leg to do the same. He looks himself over in the smudged and tarnished surface of the glass, his reflection oddly warped in places where the polished surface is uneven. It serves its purpose well enough, though, especially when he leans in.

There’s a dark shadow of stubble on his cheeks, too many days without a proper shave. From this position he can just see the dark smudge on his neck. He shifts his torso and rotates his shoulder until he can see the whole thing. It’s angry looking, still deep red in the center with purple spots where Bull’s teeth had sunk in. It’s faded a bit in four days, ringed around the outside with that awful yellow hue of old bruises, but the rest is remarkably vivid even against his dark skin.

Dorian straightens up and smiles broadly at his reflection, tongues along his gum line to check the state of his teeth. He’ll have to do something about those, too -- there’s only so much one can do on the road, but he won’t go another day with sour breath.

He turns around, inspects his back over his shoulder. Bruises mottle the skin here and there along one side, a few scrapes over his ribcage, but he is thankfully still whole. He gently prods the darkest parts of the bruising with his fingers to test the damage; it’s tender but he supposes he’ll manage to survive.

They’d run into darkspawn in the desert: two hurlocks and an alpha, along with a great many decrepit, shambling ghouls. In the middle of the battle Bull had elbowed him hard in the side, interrupting his spellcasting and sending him sprawling in the dirt. He’d been furious, ready to force-feed Bull a fistful of fire once the fight was done, except his murderous rage had been interrupted by an enormous crash of metal above his head.

The commotion had come from somewhere near the place Dorian’s head had been moments before, in fact, and it was clear that Bull’s options had been few: take the hit of the creature’s greataxe himself, cleave Dorian’s head off with a swing of his own, or shove Dorian out of the way while he parries so they might both live. All things considered, the bruising is a small price to pay.

One last check in the looking glass and Dorian goes to his dresser for clean clothes and everything he needs for a bath.

___

The first time Dorian had been told of Skyhold’s bathhouse, he’d been intrigued. He’d immediately recalled the ancient Tevinter-style bathhouses of his youth, but he’d just as immediately reminded himself where he was. He’d then wondered what Elven bathhouses might look like, or whether they had hot running water, but he’d been sorely disappointed on both counts.

Skyhold’s ‘bathhouse’ is deserving of the term only in the barest sense: it is a large, cold room with stone walls and a stone floor like the rest of the hold, torches in each corner providing light but little heat. The room is filled with a number of free-standing washbasins and a few tubs against either wall hooked up to a rudimentary plumbing system. The pipes draw water from the nearby lake rather than the dweomer-powered cisterns he’s used to, and it only comes in one temperature, which appears to be just warm enough not to be ice. Luckily, given a large basin and clean water, Dorian can make a bath work just about anywhere.

There are a few men and women in the bathhouse when Dorian arrives. There is no strict separation of gender, just a few folding dividers someone had brought in for a bit of temporary privacy for those who want it. Dorian heads for the southeastern corner, his preferred basin. It’s the only one that’s entirely metallic, making it easier for him to heat the water without the risk of setting anything alight.

Dorian sets his staff against the wall next to the tub and turns on the tap, which sets the ancient pipes rattling and creaking on rusted hinges before the water starts to pour. The tub’s feet leave enough space underneath it for Dorian to set a small circle of fire magic, heating the water without the metal burning his skin when he steps in. The fire’s yellow-orange glow lights up the bronze underbelly of the basin while Dorian retrieves a small silk satchel from his things and empties its contents into the water: elfroot, chamomile and rose hips. It’s a calming, familiar scent, though somewhat lost to the more earthy smells of his surroundings.

The ambient noise in the place, while never particularly loud, has by now faded to a low din, but Dorian pays it no mind. He drops two large sponges into the water, watches them expand as they soak it up and sink to the bottom, then he strips down and steps in, sits on the one sponge and props the other behind his back.

Dorian lets out a breath he feels like he’s been holding for four days. He sinks into the water until he feels the warmth of it on his lower lip, his breath indenting the water under his nose in little ripples and waves.

“Y-you, ah… you shouldn’t do that, Ser,” comes a young, tremulous male voice off to his side. The deliberate volume of it in the near-silence suggests the boy is speaking to Dorian; otherwise, he’d have kept to quiet murmurs like everyone else.

Dorian twists at the shoulders, turns his head enough to see the young man out of one eye, his eyebrow raised in question. “I beg your pardon?”

“The water, Ser. Magic,” the boy stammers, pointing vaguely toward the bottom of Dorian’s tub. “They say it invites demons.”

Ah. Of course these southern barbarians would have superstitions around warm bathwater. “I’ve lived nearly 30 years demon-free,” Dorian says with a smile he hopes disguises the chagrin. “I hardly think one more heated bath will be the end of me.”

“Ah, yes Ser,” says the boy, red-cheeked and shyly averting his gaze. “Sorry Ser.”

“I could heat yours too, if you like,” Dorian offers with a flourish in the lad’s direction, but he shakes his head quickly in negation.

“N-n-n-no Ser, that won’t be necessary, thank you Ser!”

“Alright,” Dorian says with a final wave in the lad’s direction. “Have it your way. Cold.”

No one bothers him after that, so he is able to soak in peace. Eventually, thanks to the late hour, the room clears out completely and he’s left to the silence. He lets the warm water soak away the last four days, soothe the aches in his muscles and calm his mind. He tips his head back to soak his hair, works his fingers through to massage his scalp and shake out the dirt. Alone with his thoughts, Dorian thinks about just what kind of mess he’s gotten himself into.

The Iron Fucking Bull. Not just any of the Inquisition’s eligible bachelors, no; Dorian had bedded the hulking, one-eyed Qunari mercenary captain, and it had been fucking fantastic. Dorian holds his breath and lowers himself in the basin till the water reaches the bridge of his nose, his burning face warm enough that the water feels cool against his cheeks.

Dorian had thought that a night with the Bull would be something of a palate cleanser; just a taste to rid him of his dreadful yearning so he could go back to being his usual charming self. Bull was supposed to be too rough, too demanding; he was supposed to take his own pleasure and leave Dorian wanting. It was supposed to be easy to laugh the whole thing off as an ill-advised, drunken misadventure.

But Bull had shown himself to be nothing at all like what Dorian had expected. The rumours of the man’s prowess and generosity as a lover -- rumours Dorian had assumed were more embellishment and prideful boasting than fact -- have infuriatingly been proven accurate. Worse, they’re memories now, burned crystal-clear into Dorian’s mind even through the fog of his inebriation that night.

Dorian drops under the water completely for a moment with his eyes tightly clenched, then resurfaces and exhales heavily, breathes in deeply; for once he welcomes the cold air on his hot face. A glance at his wrinkled fingertips reminds him how long he’s been here, and Dorian’s got somewhere to be so he pulls the sponge from behind his back and sets to work scouring off four days of filth. When he leaves the bath, freshly clean and lightly scented, his skin is dusky rose from the heat and the scrubbing.

Dorian dresses quickly and gathers his things, drains the water from the tub and clears out the soaked and wilted herbs that clump over the grate. Luckily they still smell delightful because they feel like stringy mush, and he can’t help but wrinkle his nose up at the texture before he tosses them into one of the many small basins nearby. Someone will empty it later.

Dorian makes his way quickly back to his room. This is the worst part of bathing in the Inquisition: the mad dash back to some semblance of warmth with wet hair and damp clothes while icicles form in one’s fringe and at the tips of one’s mustache. He shivers for hours afterward, every time, and yet he still bathes regularly. Because he’s not a savage.

At least there are ways of warming his room to a suitable temperature, though it drains him somewhat to do so. He lights his wall sconces and torches with a few flicks of his fingers and sets a small pyre ablaze at the far end of the room. It’s the control he exerts on the fire that costs him mana; the fire itself is incidental, but keeping it small takes concentration. It’s worth it for the edge it takes off the biting cold.

Dorian brushes his damp hair back from his face, adding a little magic heat to dry it in place so it holds its shape, and crosses the room in quick strides. He sits at his vanity and opens its drawer, retrieves several jeweled containers, a small brass bowl and a supple black leather pouch and sets them all on the wooden surface in front of him in precise order. His straight razor gleams from the pouch; an enchanted alloy of silverite and dawnstone, very expensive but well worth it. The polished blade takes only a few swipes on the strop to keep it sharp.

No barber -- indeed, no other living being -- has been near Dorian with a razor since he left Tevinter. He’d learned to use a straight razor in his adolescence, of course, but had never had adequate cause to master the skill until he found himself in Orlais without a spare sovereign to afford the service. After that he’d spent time in Ferelden, where any hope of a relaxing shave and haircut fled for the hills; Dorian prefers a very close shave, something the locals seem never to have heard of, let alone considered. He mixes his shaving cream to a satisfying lather and brushes it onto his cheeks, his throat.

He’s grown quite adept at this; his hand is steady as he draws the blade over his skin, first with the grain and then against it. He finds the small silverite scissors in the pouch and trims the ragged edges of his mustache. Soon his reflection in the glass looks back at him with a rakish mustache and cheeky miniature goatee. Dorian wipes away what foam remains on his face and neck, then pours some astringent into his palm and pats it on his cheeks. There’s just the slightest burn, but it quickly fades to soothing cool.

Dorian takes a tiny pinch of wax out of one of the containers in front of him and spreads it over his fingertips, then rolls the ends of his mustache to sharp points, touches up the dark kohl around his eyes, and then he’s done. He cleans and puts away his shaving implements, leaving just one container on the vanity when he’s done.

Dorian isn’t often quite this fastidious; he can’t be, not with research to be done and missions to complete, and the ever-looming threat of an ages-old disgruntled Magister who would love nothing more than to crush their little resistance. This routine is an indulgence he reserves for special occasions, when he feels particularly deserving of pampering or when he has a point to make. Today meets both conditions.

Perhaps Dorian is the vain, self-indulgent man others think him to be, or perhaps he simply recognizes his beauty for the tool it is, no different from his magic or his affluence. To ignore such a perfectly useful instrument, and for what? Modesty? Humility? No, let them call him vain.

He opens the last container of fine, densely packed powder, light brown with flecks of gold and an opalescent shimmer. A light dusting over his cheekbones and along his eyelids, a few dabs under the arch of each eyebrow and a touch on the pout of his lower lip leaves a warm glow where it touches his skin, millions of tiny crystals reacting to his magic the way the tip of his staff does, the gold flecks reflecting and enhancing the glow. It’s an alluring effect.

Dorian arches a brow at himself in the looking glass, gives himself his best enigmatic little smile. This is his armor. The Qunari have their poisonous, skin-hardening face-paint, and Dorian has his own Vitaar: a perfect, shimmering mask to protect the more fragile facades beneath. If he’s donning his armor, then the tavern is to be the battlefield.

It’s an imperfect metaphor, of course, since Dorian has no intention of fighting anyone tonight. Inside that tavern are his allies, his compatriots. He dare not call them friends, but they are on his side. And yet, he heads into an unknown space: a room full of people who know about him. Perhaps he’s being dramatic, but years of conditioning are not so easily broken. Telling a few people of his preferences is one thing; sleeping with the captain of a mercenary group and then walking directly into their midst is something else entirely. Even if Bull hasn’t told the Chargers anything -- and what are the chances of that? The man isn’t exactly known for his subtlety -- they must surely have figured it out on their own, the way he and Bull had carried on that night.

Mask in place, Dorian turns to the task of finding something a little fancier to wear than his usual gear. He chooses a strapped-down and buckled-up leather outfit, such a dark brown it’s almost black, with velvety accents and satin lining in red. The vest has a high collar that covers the sides of his neck and frames his jaw but remains open at the front, leaving a tempting swath of skin exposed down to the metallic fastening just below the dip of his suprasternal notch.

Dorian straps himself into a pair of heeled leather boots with plates of gleaming silverite at the toes. They’re the loudest shoes he owns, literally: the clacking of the heel on the stone with each step he takes is highly satisfying. He flicks his fingers to extinguish the fires around the room, then locks his door and clacks a quick pace along the stone walkway toward the tavern.

It’s hours past sundown now so the tavern is quite loud when Dorian enters, and while the rabble doesn’t flatter his ego quite so much as to fall silent in awe of his arrival, his purposeful stride does draw a few more looks than he normally attracts. He walks directly to where Bull and the Chargers are gathered, along the way grabbing a chair and dragging it behind him the few paces it takes to reach them. He spins the chair around on one of its legs before he sits, crosses one leg over the other, folds his hands on his knee and straightens his posture.

“Well, hello,” says Dalish, giving him an open once over.

Krem glances at him, too, over the rim of his flagon. “Don’t you look fancy,” he says. “What’s the occasion?”

“No occasion,” Dorian replies with a lazy shrug. “Can’t a man look nice without an excuse?”

“Well, you do look very nice,” Dalish says. Krem leans forward in his chair, his eyes narrowed on Dorian’s face.

“Is that glitter?” Krem asks. “You’re wearing glitter.”

Dorian gives him a look of mock affront. “Of course not! I am naturally radiant.” Krem snorts and Dalish gives him an indulgent sort of nod.

“You sure about that, Dorian?” Bull asks. “You sure it’s not Orlesian shimmer powder? For that lovely, sun-kissed glow?” While the others snicker and laugh, Dorian is actually taken aback.

“You know the slogan? Why do you know the slogan?”

Bull’s wearing a lopsided grin. “I know a lot of things. Used to be my job.”

Dorian is delighted. “What kind of sordid escapades would require you to know about shimmer powder, I wonder? Poison-by-cosmetics? Oh, did you impersonate a woman to seduce a target?”

“He’s got the bosoms for it,” Krem interjects while Bull shakes his head. Dalish attempts to avoid choking on her ale with the laughter.

“Nothing so mysterious,” Bull laughs. “It’s illegal in Seheron because of how it reacts with raw lyrium. Get enough of it together, you can make one hell of a flash bomb. Only problem is anyone too close to it goes blind, and the amount of lyrium needed to make it work leaves the blast radius toxic for years. Found some smugglers dealing in it, had to clear out a den full of the stuff. I sparkled for weeks after that mission.”

The laughter is cacophonous for a few seconds, and even Dorian finds himself chuckling. He gestures to the barkeeper for his usual Ferelden ale.

“Ah, it’s good to be back,” Bull booms, then drains his ale, slams the empty tankard on the table in front of him, and lets out a loud exhale.

“Good to have you back, Chief,” Krem says, raising his flagon. The other Chargers do the same before they drink, and Dorian inspects his fingernails to distract himself from a brief pang of loneliness. It passes quickly because soon the serving girl is dropping off his ale. He nods his thanks.

___

Over the hours Dorian drinks a lot of Ferelden ale. Sometime around his fifth tankard he realizes that nobody has even brought it up, nobody has so much as mentioned himself and Bull and how things had gone the last time they were all here. He migrates over time, ends up sitting next to Bull without being consciously aware of how he got there. Nobody so much as bats an eye when he leans his arm on Bull’s shoulder, nor when Bull briefly squeezes his knee. Everyone carries on as they always carry on, and it’s such a relief that Dorian drinks another four rounds before he realizes he’s had far too much to drink.

“I think I’ll be off,” Dorian says, overly loud as he stands, too quickly, nearly toppling his chair when the dizziness takes him. It’s only by the grace of Bull’s arm behind him that he manages not to fall. He pats Bull’s shoulder gracelessly. He gets a few nods and a cheery “Be safe!” from Dalish in response, but the conversations go on mostly as if he hadn’t said anything.

Dorian’s eyes fall closed, just for a second. A few seconds. When he opens them again, a few people have stopped talking to each other and are watching him cautiously. “I’m fine,” he assures them, though he’s teetering on his feet a little. “I’ll be fine.”

“How about I get you to your room,” Bull offers, standing placing his hand against Dorian’s lower back.

“Oh dear, a gentleman-caller at this hour? How scandalous,” says Dorian, and he waves his hand up somewhere over his shoulder, chuckling at his own wit. The back of his index finger touches Bull’s skin, so he taps it there a few times, then turns his head to see he’s tapping Bull’s cheek, below his eye, which starts him giggling.

Bull wraps his hand around Dorian’s to stop the tapping, laughs along with him. “No funny business, don’t worry. I just want to make sure you don’t wake up in a bush. Goodnight folks.” The last part he says to the Chargers as he heads away with Dorian in tow.

“A bush, you say,” Dorian says conversationally with Bull leading him through the tavern and outside into the cold night air, his large hand warm and gentle at the small of Dorian’s back. “I once slept in a holly bush on a dare. Well, I say ‘slept’ but in truth I merely spent the night. That was a very long night.”

Bull chuckles, then Dorian stumbles on an uneven bit of stone on the path and Bull steadies him. Dorian rights himself with Bull’s help, then goes on walking. And talking. “They say holly is one of the more comfortable bushes in a pinch, but I couldn’t tell. Even these Ferelden cots make better beds.”

“I’ve slept on worse than bushes,” Bull laughs, and Dorian doesn’t doubt it.

“Yes, well, you’re a savage.” When they reach the stone staircase that leads up to the stretch of ramparts over the garden, Dorian stops talking so he can concentrate on the steps. Bull is a steady, solid presence at his side. “You were drinking too,” Dorian mutters. “Why aren’t you drunk?”

“I’m not sober,” Bull says. “I just hold my liquor well.”

I hold my liquor well, Bull,” Dorian says, then rounds on him unsteadily once they reach the top step. “You grapple yours. You wrestle it into submission and make it say uncle.” When he blinks, it takes actual willpower to urge his eyes open again. “You put my alcohol tolerance to shame; my pride may never recover.”

You have a way with hyperbole.” Bull smiles at him fondly. “Come on, let’s get you inside before you freeze.”

Dorian digs out his key for the second time tonight and this time he manages to get it all the way out of his pack before he drops it onto the stone at his feet. “Dear me,” says Dorian. “Do you know that’s the second time I’ve done that today? Clumsy.” Rather than lean down to pick it up, he lets the magic do it for him: a flick of the wrist and the key leaps straight up into his hand. He unlocks his door and opens it a crack, but hesitates before heading in.

“Bull,” he starts, but he has no words on hand to follow. He turns around, leans against the doorframe to stop the spinning in his head. It would be so easy, he thinks, if Bull was looming over him, stealing into his space. It would be so dreadfully easy to be swept up, to invite the man in. Their tryst four days ago had been good, very good; Dorian doesn’t regret it in the slightest. But right now, going with what’s easy would absolutely be a mistake.

Luckily, Bull is keeping a respectful distance, standing at ease an arm’s length away. Dorian is distracted by his lips and thinking about how kissable they look quirked up into a grin like that.

“Something on your mind?” Bull’s prompt breaks through the fog and Dorian snaps his eyes up to meet Bull’s gaze.

“Ah, yes,” says Dorian with a quick nod, and he squares his shoulders and stands straight. “I -- well, ah…” His eyes unfocus; his bed is calling. He clears his throat. Tries again. “About what… when we. Do you... hm.”

Bull’s expression does that knowing thing it likes to do; that amused, understanding face he makes. It feels nice to be on the receiving end of it right now. “You ever want to do that again, you know where to find me,” Bull says. “No hard feelings if you don’t.”

“You are difficult to miss,” says Dorian, and without realizing it he’s accidentally taken a step closer to Bull. Or more appropriately he’s let his desire take control, just for a moment.

Bull doesn’t move forward, but he doesn’t move back either. His smile is lopsided. “Probably not a good idea tonight though,” he murmurs, once Dorian is close enough to feel his body heat.

“It would be a dreadful idea,” Dorian agrees, raising his hand to Bull’s cheek and sliding it gently upward, along the side of his face to his horn. He grabs on and pulls down at the same time as he rises up onto his toes, and Bull dips his head with a quiet chuckle, lets Dorian kiss him. It’s soft and sloppy and Dorian hums into it a little, nips Bull’s lower lip as he lowers back onto his heels. Dorian licks his own lips, releases his hold on Bull’s horn. His face feels hot. “Just wanted a kiss.”

“That’s an idea I can get behind,” says Bull. He steps forward, crowds Dorian until his back hits the doorframe. Bull’s fingers slide into the hair at his temple, tugs just slightly to tilt Dorian’s head back. Bull parts Dorian’s lips with his own, pushes his tongue into Dorian’s mouth, trails his other hand up Dorian’s neck and gently holds his head in place while he consumes him. Dorian hooks his foot around one of Bull’s legs, drags his heel up the back of his calf, and moans hotly into the kiss.

When Bull releases his lips, Dorian is left languid and panting, their breath mingling swirls of white vapour between them. There’s a purple hue rising to the surface of Bull’s gray lips and Dorian wants to kiss him again, but when he leans in to do so Bull stops him, his hands still cradling Dorian’s neck and tangled in his hair. “Just a kiss,” Bull reminds him, presses his lips softly to Dorian’s once more. “Goodnight, Dorian.”

Dorian gives him one last long, significant look before slipping inside and closing the door.

Chapter Text

Crashing swords in the distance jar Dorian awake, the sounds of men grunting and shouting, the sounds of battle. A brief flash of anxiety grips Dorian until his memory catches up to him: he’s in his room at Skyhold, which means the sounds he’s hearing are just the soldiers training in the courtyard. Once the fear passes, Dorian is left with the pain.

The pain is immense: a throbbing flurry of agony in his head and down his neck. It only gets worse when he cracks his eyes open, his irises contracting to keep out the sunlight streaming in through the nearby window. Too bright; he clenches his eyes tightly shut again and turns himself away from the window, mashing his face into his pillow with a groan.

Nine tankards of Ferelden ale last night, nine, and then he’d let himself be goaded into drinking half a flagon of the awful Qunari stuff the Bull favours. Dorian has a strong constitution for alcohol, he’s developed a remarkable tolerance over the years, but last night was pushing it. Even for him.

Dorian lays stubbornly still, attempting to ignore his parched, sticky mouth and pounding head for as long as he can, but the onslaught of his various discomforts quickly overpowers his determination not to leave his bed. It takes monumental effort to pull himself out of his cocoon of blankets but he manages, eventually. Upon standing, however, his stomach turns over in protest of the sudden motion. He doesn’t fall but it’s a near thing and he promises himself, not for the first time, that he’ll never drink again. An oft-repeated little lie.

He dresses quickly and drags himself to his looking glass to refresh the kohl lining around his eyes, not for the sake of his appearance -- well, not just for the sake of his appearance -- but for the sake of his aching skull. The custom had all started as a way to protect the eyes from the sun, after all; the dark powder absorbs some of the sunlight and makes the brightness of daylight a little more tolerable.

Even with the extra protection, though, the bright glare when he opens his door is enough to stop him short with his hand on the doorknob and make him seriously consider going straight back to bed.

If nothing else, his thirst compels him forward. He locks up, heads across the ramparts, down the stairs and through the courtyard to the tavern. “Water,” he tells the barkeep, though it comes out a bit like a croak. The dwarf fills a mug from a nearby barrel and hands it to him; he empties it in a few quick swigs and hands it back. “More,” he says. “Please.”

The dwarf refills his mug and then disappears into the little pantry behind the bar, returning a moment later with a small loaf of bread and a few thick slices of jerky. “Eat,” the man says as he sets the food down in front of Dorian. “The bread’ll sop up the brew.”

Dorian considers refusing, his stomach roiling uneasily at just the smell of food, but the dwarf stares at him and he knows he’ll lose this battle of wills. “And the jerky? What’s that for?”

That’s to put some meat on your bones, skinny.” The man laughs when Dorian gives him an affronted look. “Just eat it, you’ll feel better.”

Dorian is frankly too hungover to argue, so he rips off the end of the bread and takes a small, cautious bite, washes it down with another long gulp of water. “Thank you,” he mutters.

There’s a clomping overhead then, a quick and uneven staccato that hammers into Dorian’s skull as it passes by and moves in the direction of the staircase. It gets even louder on the stairs -- thump thump thump thudthudthud THUMP -- and Dorian groans miserably, rubs his head in a vain effort to soothe the stabbing pain. Sera gets to the bottom of the staircase and takes a little hop off the last stair, then notices him and makes a beeline in his direction.

“Jerky!” she announces, grabbing a piece of the dried meat. She bites at one corner, screwing up her face with the effort to tear it.

“Help yourself,” Dorian offers retroactively, still chewing slowly on the same chunk of bread he’d nibbled on a minute ago.

“Oh, Dorian,” says Sera as if she’s just now realized he’s here. “Ugh, you look like you’re going to spew. If you’re going to spew, do it that way.” She wrinkles her nose and gestures somewhere behind him with a nod.

“I’m not going to vomit,” Dorian says, as much to assure himself as her, still massaging his temple with thumb and forefinger. “But I may expire.”

Sera giggles. “Your boyfriend won’t like that, drunky,” Sera says. Dorian peers at her out of the corner of his eye. “Well it’s true, innit?” Dorian sighs, loudly. Sera doesn’t take the hint. “You’re riding the bull now?”

“Alright, Sera. Let’s have this conversation if we must.” Dorian says blandly. “What is it you’d like to say?”

Big boy, he is,” Sera says with a low whistle. She bites off another piece of meat, her arm jerking back with the force of tearing it free. Her chewing is obnoxious, it makes Dorian’s stomach clench just to hear it.

“Do you really want to discuss his stature,” Dorian asks archly, turning in his chair and sitting straight, crossing his legs and facing Sera full-on, his lips puckered in irritation. He feels his ire raise like the spines of a cornered quillback. “Or is there something else on your mind?”

“Woah, calm your tits, grumpy,” says Sera, holding her hands up in mock surrender with the strip of jerky still dangling from her fingers. “Don’t get your panties in a twist about it, or… you know, start sprouting demons at me. I’m just asking.” Another bite, more noisy chewing.

Dorian deflates a little. It doesn’t seem like Sera is here to judge him. Well, not for his bedmates, in any case. He sighs again, softly this time, turning back to the bar to take a drink. “I can’t really say I’m used to open discussion of such things.”

“Yeah, well, get used to it,” Sera scoffs. She folds one leg up near her chest, swings the other below. “Blighty magister shit-faces running loose ripping gaping arseholes in the sky, and everyone still cares who everyone else is sticking it in. Just the way it is.” She seems to be oblivious to the fact that she is, in fact, including herself in her little rant. Dorian doesn’t point it out.

“That’s not very comforting,” he says instead. He finishes his piece of bread and rips off another. He’s still not hungry, but the bread does seem to be taking the edge off of his nausea.

Sera goes quiet, then, and Dorian isn’t sure if it’s out of awkwardness or just Sera being… well, Sera. In either case, he can’t really blame her; he wouldn’t know what to say to him either. “He is rather big,” Dorian offers after a few moments. “Everywhere.”

“Okay, eww,” says Sera. “Really didn’t need to know that.”

“If you’re going to be spreading rumours, though, he’s not my --” Dorian pauses, unable to even say the word. Boyfriend. He taps his fingers on the bar top. “We’re not together.”

“Ohh, just a one-time dealie, is it?” Dorian doesn’t answer. Sera sticks the end of the jerky in her mouth and sucks on it pensively. “Do you paint your toes?”

The non-sequitur gives Dorian pause. Conversation over, then. He narrows his eyes as he regards her, perplexed. “My toes?”

Sera nods and gestures with the small bit of remaining jerky towards his closest hand, the shiny black paint on his nails with delicate golden designs etched into the surface. “You paint your fingernails. Wondered if you did your toes too. Bet you do. Bet you put pink little frillies between them. Do you put curlers in your hair?” She erupts in giggles.

“Ha ha,” says Dorian, mirthless. “No, I do not paint my toenails, nor do I wear curlers. My hair carries a natural wave, that’s all.” The last he delivers with his best haughty noble tone and a hint of a smirk.

Natural wave,” Sera mimics in a nasally whine. “Blahdy blah.” Dorian drinks the last of his water to hide his smile.

“Well!” Dorian says abruptly, setting down the empty mug and pushing his chair back from the bar as he stands. “I must be off. Some of us have work to do.” He inclines his head to bid her farewell and turns to leave, taking the partially eaten loaf of bread with him and leaving the rest for her.

A loud “Pbbbbth!” sounds from behind him. When Dorian looks back at its source, Sera’s got her tongue out and she’s miming the motions of male masturbation in his direction while giving him a one-fingered salute. Dorian barks a laugh at the display, he can’t help himself. He’s still amused and chuckling when he gets to the library.

___

Dorian spends the rest of the day holed up in his little nook, ostensibly doing research but making no progress at all. He does confirm a few theories, though, chief among them that working in the Inquisition with Bull is going to be a lot more difficult now that they’ve fucked.

Looking back on his day Dorian remembers a lot of vacant staring at various tomes without absorbing anything within. Instead of reading, his mind had spiraled off into vivid memories that made the backs of his thighs tingle with heat, made his eyes drift closed with echoes of remembered pleasure. It hadn’t helped matters when the Chargers began training in the late afternoon; Bull’s voice booming from the grounds below had only served remind him of his preoccupation.

He’d tried to convince himself that sleeping with Bull had been a decision made out of loneliness and inebriation, maybe even a little bit of desperation after having been reunited with his father. He’d told himself that any connection he’d felt with Bull had likely been no more than a product of that desperation. The notorious Iron Bull, a man of so many conquests; and Dorian, just another notch on the bedpost -- he’d tried to make himself believe that he didn’t want to do it again at the earliest convenience. He’d managed only to convince himself that it was best not to.

Now, with the light of the setting sun too dim to read by, Dorian finally relents and puts away his books. He could light a candle or even use his staff, but he knows he’ll only succeed in more of this ridiculous pining, and he’s had enough of that for one day.

Dorian has every intention of going back to his room, but halfway there he recalls another memory that had drifted through his mind during the day: the alpha hurlock looming over him out in the desert. (He’s not a lech, he hadn’t been thinking exclusively about sex all day.)

He’d looked up from the dusty desert ground and caught a glimpse of the blinding rage that had twisted Bull’s features as he’d cleaved the darkspawn nearly in half with one swing. In the next moment Bull had glanced toward him, the rage melting into a look of concern as he offered an arm to help Dorian up off the sand.

It had all happened in a flash, and then the fighting had continued and there had been other things to worry about. By the time the dust had settled on the darkspawn corpses around them, the fatigue of battle had set in and their minds were all focused elsewhere.

Dorian changes his mind, changes direction. Whatever might happen between him and Bull in the future, he feels he at least owes the man his gratitude for saving his life. He heads for the tavern instead.

___

“Looking for the chief?” Krem asks when Dorian gets there. Dalish smiles at him, Stitches nods in greeting, and everyone else more or less ignores him. Dorian briefly wants to deny why he’s there, but it’s an irrational reaction born of the remnants of his fear and he refuses to humour it.

“Yes, actually,” he says, setting his jaw and squaring his shoulders. “Do you know where he is?”

“Packing,” says Krem.

“He’s off with the Inquisitor tomorrow,” Dalish adds. “No more than a week, or so he says.”

“Leaving first thing in the morning,” Krem returns, leaning back slightly in his chair, one hand on his leg and the other holding his ale. “He’ll be in his quarters.” Despite all the time Dorian spends with the Chargers these days, there’s still a palpable undercurrent of distrust there, an uneasy charge in the atmosphere when Bull isn’t around to soften it.

Dorian nods to Krem and Dalish, gives a smile he hopes isn’t too terse. “My thanks.” He leaves the tavern and walks the short distance to Bull’s room, finds the door closed. Dorian hesitates before knocking. He can’t help but wonder…

The doorknob turns smoothly when he tests it and he quietly pushes the door open. Savage. Inside the room, Dorian sees Bull’s wide shoulders and back where he’s bent over his gear chest. He swings the door most of the way closed behind him but leaves it open just a bit to avoid making noise. He doesn’t move into the room, just leans quietly against the door frame; he’s not entirely sure why but he wants to remain undetected, wants to watch silently a little while longer.

“Damn, you smell good,” Bull says as he rises, looks over his shoulder at Dorian. There’s a half-full travel pack open at his feet and he’s holding his leather pauldron in his hands.

Cover blown, Dorian sighs and pulls the door fully closed behind him. He shakes his head but he’s smiling when he does it. “Can’t sneak up on you. Noted.” He takes a few steps into the room but stops a few paces from Bull, and he’s not quite sure what to do after that.

“Not smelling like that you can’t.” Bull smirks. “Did you come to take your underthings back?”

“I -- what? No,” Dorian says, momentarily dazed, distracted by the question. “I came to, hm. I’ll take them back, if you’d like.” It’s an effort not to avert his eyes like a timid adolescent. He manages, somehow. Preserves his dignity.

Bull drops his pauldron in his pack and slowly closes the distance between them. “What did you come to do, if not to collect your underthings?” His voice is pitched low, he’s wearing that lopsided grin, and Dorian feels a giddy fluttering in his chest when Bull’s knuckles brush lightly against his hand.

Dorian opens his mouth to speak but his lips move wordlessly, so he shuts his mouth with a click of teeth and clears his throat. Perhaps one day he’ll stop being flustered by Bull, but apparently not today. He feels dwarfed looking up at Bull’s face, seeing the height and heft of him so close. It’s a good feeling, the kind that gets his heart beating like the irresistible pull of magic: it’s dangerous and exciting. Bull could break him if he caught him unaware. Big boy, indeed. “I hear you’re leaving tomorrow morning,” Dorian eventually manages.

“Yeah, first thing.” Bull is staring intently at him, his good eye flicking between both of Dorian’s. They’re as close as they can be without touching. “You going to miss me?”

“I’m sure I’ll survive,” Dorian says with a smirk, the breathiness of his voice surely betraying him. Then he remembers why he came to find Bull in the first place. He takes a deep breath to snap himself out of his distracted trance, takes half a step back, puts enough distance between them to give him room to think. ”But I didn’t come here to flirt, much as I enjoy doing so. There’s something I wanted to say.”

“Fair enough,” Bull says lightly, then glances back to the pack still on the ground. “I’m almost done here. Mind waiting?”

“By all means,” says Dorian with a nod and takes a seat on the edge of Bull’s bed. Bull quickly moves a few more items into his pack, closes it and pulls the cord tight. Once done, he joins Dorian on the bed by falling into it and settling half-reclined against the headboard. He crosses his arms behind his head and extends his legs out in front of him, one ankle over the other.

Dorian shifts so that he’s turned more toward Bull, one leg folded in front of him and the other hanging over the edge of the bed. “I wanted to say,” he starts, then stops. Clears his throat. “I never thanked you. In the desert. You saved my life --”

“Dorian, hey, I would have --” Bull interrupts, but Dorian quickly cuts him off.

“And put your life in significant peril to do so. Accept my gratitude, you lummox, I demand it.” He sets his jaw, lifts his chin, crosses his arms and puts on his best imperious air, daring Bull to defy him. Bull stares at him for a few seconds as if he’s considering pushing it just to see what happens. Dorian has to admit his word choice was deliberately provocative, maybe even for that very reason.

In the end, Bull relents. “Alright. You’re welcome,” he says finally. Dorian relaxes, uncrosses his arms. “How about you come for a drink with me and the boys tonight?”

“Ah, no. No thank you,” Dorian says with a shake of his head and a polite smile. His stomach still feels vaguely uneasy. “I think I’ll be abstaining tonight.”

Bull gives him a knowing smile. “Heh, still hurting from yesterday?”

“I’ll never understand how you can drink that… what was it? Disgusting is what it was.”

“Maraas-Lok,” Bull laughs. “It’s not for everyone.”

“It’s not for anyone.” Dorian grimaces with the memory of it, how it had never stopped burning on the way down, contrary to what Bull had told him. “Never again, no matter how much you try to tempt me.”

“Well, I hope I can still tempt you into other things.” Bull’s tough brow ridge doesn’t allow him to suggestively arch his eyebrows, precisely, but with a certain tilt of his head he achieves much the same effect. Dorian laughs.

“You can try.” Before Bull decides to try right away, however, Dorian stands. “But not tonight. While I may not be joining you on your sojourn with the Inquisitor, I also have an early morning tomorrow. May your mission be successful.” He steps back and gives a showy little bow before turning to leave.

When he reaches the door, Dorian looks back over his shoulder. “And Bull, be sure to come back alive. I do rather prefer you in one piece.”

“I’ll do my best,” Bull says as he watches him go.

___

Time passes slowly at Skyhold while Dorian waits for the Inquisitor’s party to return. It’s not the longest week in his memory, of course -- the prize for that particular feat belongs to his father for the creative use of solitary confinement as a brainwashing tool. This week at Skyhold has been an absolute joy in comparison, but it has nonetheless been very long and very dull.

There are two people in the Inquisition -- nay, two people in all of southern Thedas -- who don’t look upon Dorian with suspicion or distrust, and both of them are currently off on some adventure in the backwaters of Ferelden. Dorian had watched them walk through the stretch of courtyard visible from his library window the morning of their departure, and had glanced out that same window numerous times every day since, as if by looking he might summon them back.

Every day he’d looked out that window and not really seen the courtyard or the soldiers training in it. Dorian had assumed that the distracting memories and the giddy fluttering they stirred up in him would fade before the week was out, but he’d been wrong. His pile of texts had sat untouched on the little table next to his chair for days, along with the few scribbled notes of translation he’d managed to complete.

Thus it is with thinly-veiled excitement that Dorian is present to celebrate the Inquisitor and party’s triumphant return. He hasn’t been to the tavern since the four of them left, except to take his solitary meals before retiring to his room, and he’s dying for the company. The place is packed tonight as it usually is after the conclusion of a mission. Any chance to celebrate, even if the Inquisitor isn’t there with them when they do.

Sitting with Bull and the Chargers, tankard in hand, Dorian luxuriates in the bustle of activity, the rowdy conversations and laughter around him. He’s happy just to listen. It catches him by surprise when Bull nudges him with the corner of an envelope.

“We ran into a courier on the way through the pass,” Bull says, holding it out to him. Dorian takes it. It’s made of high quality parchment, with Messere Pavus printed in fancy brown script across the front and it’s sealed with thick red wax.

“Ah,” says Dorian, “I was wondering when that would arrive. Thank you.” He stuffs the envelope into a pocket on his vest, then folds his hands in his lap again.

“You’re not going to read it?”

Dorian drains his ale, gestures to the barkeeper for another. Bull smiles and accepts the non-reply, for which Dorian is grateful. The night goes on.

Bull tells them about the field full of giants in the Emerald Graves and how their party had watched just one of the beasts take out an entire red templar squad, including a behemoth. The man is so animated when he talks about something that he thinks of as a challenge, there’s a fire in his gaze and an infectious excitement that surrounds him, and Dorian can’t help but be drawn in. His gaze is riveted to Bull’s lips, the scars and stubble, the cocky half-grin, and when Bull stops talking, Dorian’s eyes flick instead to the ropy musculature of his throat and the slope of his neck where it connects to impossibly broad shoulders.

Dorian had always been attracted to the hyper-masculine, and Bull is definitely that, in so many ways. But he’s also a lot of things that Dorian had never thought to associate with someone so overwhelmingly masculine: acceptant, tolerant, compassionate. Dorian had long ago decided that such masculinity was to be appreciated from afar; perhaps an occasional tumble, but nothing more. Bull has consistently challenged that long-held belief, and it’s uncomfortable when Dorian thinks too hard about it, so he tries not to.

A few drinks later, when the conversation has turned down its usual avenues -- fighting, women, and drink, mostly -- Dorian retrieves the envelope from his pocket. He turns it over in his hands, hesitates before breaking the wax seal. By all accounts, he shouldn’t be so nervous about this. It’s not really important in the grand scheme of things, it’s just a symbol. A symbol of a family who hates what he is and a fortune he doesn’t particularly want. Still, it is his one tie to his country and its people, and he’s more invested than he really cares to be. He opens the envelope and pulls out the heavy parchment within.

Flowery prose and smarmy, ingratiating obfuscation fill the page but they don’t fool him; he is well accustomed to such empty politicking and Ponchard’s meaning is clear. He won’t even meet with Dorian about the return of his amulet unless the Inquisitor is present. Dorian resists the urge to tear the thing to shreds and stuffs it back in its envelope instead. He shoves the envelope into his pocket again and taps his foot on the floor, agitated and no longer paying any attention to the conversations around him.

After a minute or two Dorian rises abruptly from his chair. The noise level around him drops as he walks away but he barely notices. “Don’t mind me,” he calls over his shoulder. “Just getting some air.”

Outside in the cold night, Dorian’s breath billows in white swirls in front of him. Much as he hates the cold, it does occasionally have its uses. Cooling one’s temper, for example. He paces toward the ramparts, pulls the envelope out again and glares at it as if by doing so he might change its contents through the sheer power of his frustration. He leans against the tavern’s outer wall over near the stone staircase that leads up to the ramparts, then slides down to sit in the dirt and sparse grass there, folding his legs up toward his chest to conserve heat and resting his elbows on his knees to re-read the letter.

Dorian’s ire builds anew with each pretentious, overwrought sentence and thinly-veiled demand. The pompous, status-seeking, tuft-hunting, conniving, impertinent little swindler. “Vishante kaffas,” he hisses angrily as he calls the magic forward, channels it into flames that lick up from his fingertips to ignite the letter and the envelope behind it. The flame consumes the paper in seconds, leaving behind only ash and melting wax from the envelope’s seal that drips down his fingers. It hardens quickly in lines like veins reaching toward his palm.

“Feel better?” Bull asks, and Dorian startles and wonders how someone so large can move so quietly. Or perhaps he’d just been too preoccupied to notice.

“Not particularly,” Dorian says with a rueful chuckle, dusting his fingers of ash and picking away the bits of wax. “Less burdened, perhaps.”

Bull sits down next to him, favouring the bad knee as he lowers himself carefully to the ground. It makes Dorian feel guilty suddenly, and the guilt makes him irritable. “I really don’t need comforting,” he says petulantly, but he immediately regrets it. Bull’s presence is comforting and it’s far better than sitting alone. “That was unworthy. Forgive me.”

“No problem,” says Bull. He leans his head back against the stone wall and blows out a breath, watching it swirl away from him and dissipate in the night air. They sit in silence for a few moments.

“When I left Tevinter,” Dorian starts, because it’s clear that Bull isn’t going to ask him about it and somehow that makes it easier to talk. “I ran. I left with only the clothes on my back, my staff, and the few small trinkets I could fit in my pockets. I sold everything I had to get to Redcliffe. Well, except for the clothes. Obviously.” They both chuckle a bit at that.

“One of the trinkets was an amulet,” Dorian continues. “My family crest. My birthright. It was the most valuable possession I owned, and its sale kept me fed and sheltered until I joined the Inquisition. I sold it to an Orlesian merchant with the explicit understanding that I would buy it back the moment I had the resources to do so.”

“But now he’s not selling,” Bull guesses. “Not for sovereigns, anyway, right?” Once again Dorian has cause to be surprised by the Iron Bull. The man is so much more than he appears to be.

“Indeed,” Dorian sighs. “Ponchard wants an audience with the Inquisitor in order to discuss the exchange, and he likely won’t exchange it for anything less than a personal favour.”

“So, why not set up a meeting?” Bull asks.

Dorian shakes his head firmly. “Absolutely not. Our dear Inquisitor has more than enough to deal with already. I won’t be another vulture circling overhead, waiting for scraps of the Inquisition’s precious time and resources.”

“You know it wouldn’t be a problem,” Bull says gently, but Dorian negates the suggestion with a pointed look.

“It would be for me,” he says simply.

“Why is this amulet so valuable?” Bull asks after a moment. Dorian stifles the defensive sarcasm that struggles toward the surface because there isn’t a hint of condescension or mockery in Bull’s tone. It’s just a question.

“The fact that it’s an heirloom bearing my family crest notwithstanding,” he begins, keeping his own tone neutral. “It signifies my status as an Altus and all that entails. With that amulet, I could travel anywhere in the Imperium and be treated as befits my station, even if no one knows me or my lineage. Without it I have only my word, which isn’t worth much in Tevinter.”

Bull seems to consider that for a moment. “Is that why you want it back?” Dorian gives a half-hearted chuckle and shakes his head.

“I admit, I’d like to be able to return someday without having to either smuggle myself in or prove my lineage by courier.” Bull looks at him quizzically, so he clarifies. “If I were to attempt to gain entrance without my amulet or some other indication of who I am, I would likely be detained for as long as it took for a courier to bring news of my arrival to my father and for my father to send back verification of my identity as his son.”

Bull looks momentarily surprised. “Security is that tight?”

“In Minrathous, certainly. And there’s no point in going anywhere else, aside perhaps from Vyrantium. If I go back at all, it will be to change things. I cannot do that from some small countryside village. The amulet would make things much simpler.”

Silence descends again. Dorian is starting to shiver from the cold, but just as he’s about to suggest going back inside, Bull speaks. “So after all this business with Corypheus is done, you’re going back home?” The casual neutrality of Bull’s tone says something to Dorian, but he’s not sure what. Does Bull want him to stay? He banishes the thought. Here there be dragons.

“To be honest,” Dorian begins slowly, not entirely sure how to proceed. He has always wanted to return to Tevinter one day, from the very moment he left, but it had always been in some far-off hypothetical future where Corypheus is dealt with and changing the Imperium is possible. “Even if I had my amulet, I’m not sure. I want to, but…” he sighs, shakes his head. “There are too many unknowns.”

“Ah,” Bull says with a nod. Dorian wonders if Bull is relieved, or if he’s as unaffected as he sounds. Conjecture is useless, though, so Dorian commands himself to stop wondering. Instead pushes himself up off the ground as he’s now shivering in earnest. It’s not the same as the biting cold that he truly loathes but a slow, seeping chill that sinks into the bones and takes up residence. He feels like he won’t be warm again for days.

“Let’s get back inside before I lose my extremities to frostbite.” Dorian offers a hand down to help Bull up; Bull accepts it, and even though Dorian braces for the strain he still almost topples back down with Bull’s weight.

Bull laughs and claps him on the back once he’s standing. “A valiant effort,” he says, smiling, and Dorian just huffs at him.

As they reach the tavern door, Dorian hesitates before stepping inside. “Thank you.”

___

They end up in Bull’s room again because it’s closer to the tavern, because stairs are difficult to navigate while tipsy, because it’s familiar. Bull has Dorian pinned, facing the wall, his wrists held together above his head by one large hand while Bull presses up behind him. His other hand is down the front of Dorian’s trousers while Bull whispers all the filthy things he wants to do to him in his ear, hot breath down his neck. Dorian’s head is swimming with arousal and he’s grinding his leather-clad arse back wantonly against Bull’s groin.

Based on their first time together nearly a fortnight ago -- first three times, Dorian corrects himself -- this is around the point where Bull should demand to hear the watchword, and Dorian decides to beat him to it. “Watchword,” he pants. “Katoh.”

The reaction is immediate and startling: Bull releases his grip on Dorian’s hands and takes a step back; the absence of his body leaves Dorian cold. The sound Dorian makes in protest ought to be called a squawk, though Dorian would never admit to such a thing. He spins around, prepared to demand that they continue, but he realizes at the same time that it’s he who messed up.

Bull’s expression is heartbreaking in its concern. “No, I --” Dorian stammers quickly. “I was just --”

“Are you okay?” Bull asks and holds out his hands, palms-up, completely unthreatening. “Can I touch you?”

“Yes, of course you can -- I didn’t mean --” Dorian splutters. The apologetic look on Bull’s face has him unmoored and confused. He wants to explain, he wants to reassure, but he can’t do both at once. Bull puts his hands gently on Dorian’s shoulders and he looks unbearably gentle. It would be funny if it weren’t so infuriatingly endearing.

“I wasn’t actually using the watchword,” Dorian finally manages. Bull’s thumbs trace over either side of his neck in calming sweeps. He doesn’t say anything but he tilts his head a bit in question. “You always tell me to say it before we begin, I was simply getting it out of the way.” His cheeks flush and he darts his eyes away at the admission. Alcohol may lower inhibitions, but right now it’s doing nothing for his embarrassment.

To Bull’s credit, he doesn’t laugh. He slides his hands down Dorian’s arms and clasps Dorian’s hands lightly in his own while blowing out a relieved little breath.

“How about saying ‘my watchword is katoh,’ if it comes up again,” Bull suggests with a smile, and Dorian nods, focusing his gaze somewhere around Bull’s sternum. The embarrassment fades somewhat but he’s still blushing all the way down his neck as he assimilates this new information. In the span of a second, Bull had gone from a dominant, demanding, foul-mouthed, savage creature to the man who now stands before Dorian, holding his hands and smiling down at him with gentle understanding. No questions asked.

“You would really just… stop?” Dorian asks, something hot welling up in him. “If I said I wanted to just talk for the rest of the night…”

“Then we’d just talk,” Bull says with a nod.

“And if I wanted to leave?”

“I’d offer to walk with you. Do you want to leave?”

Bull is completely serious, Dorian realizes. “Quite the opposite,” he admits quietly, nearly a whisper. Then, louder, “So… what now?”

“Whatever you want,” says Bull. A vision flashes in Dorian’s mind, half-memory and half-fantasy, and he knows precisely what he wants.

“Go sit down,” Dorian says.

Bull sits on the side of his bed as Dorian peels out of his vest and follows to stand in front of him, between his knees. “My watchword is katoh,” he says with a cheeky grin before leaning down -- not very far; even when he’s sitting, Bull’s eyeline is somewhere around Dorian’s chin -- and kissing him lightly. Bull winds his arms around Dorian’s torso, the calluses on his hands scraping the soft skin of Dorian’s back and sides.

“Pillow,” Dorian says against Bull’s lips. Bull twists his torso to grab one from the head of the bed and hands it to him without question. Dorian drops it on the floor between them, nudges it into place with his foot, and stares straight into Bull’s eye as he gracefully descends to his knees. Bull’s pupil dilates as he goes, their gazes locked while Dorian arranges himself between Bull’s spread legs. Dorian presses a quick kiss to Bull’s bad knee through the fabric of his (ridiculous circus-tent) slacks, then slides his hands up Bull’s thighs to the giant belt buckle at his waist.

Bull huffs a breath and helps Dorian divest him of his pants, lifting his hips while Dorian tugs on them until they’re pooled around his ankles and caught in his boots. Bull’s cock is well on its way back to full hardness again after their little break, and it bobs slightly when Dorian leans closer and trails light fingertips up the insides of Bull’s thighs along the way.

Dorian looks up to see Bull watching him, rapt, and when he takes hold of Bull’s cock to rest the swollen head against his lower lip, Bull’s nostrils flare and his mouth goes slack. Having the intensity of that gaze completely focused on him is an intoxicating thing. Dorian opens his mouth, lets Bull’s cock sit on his tongue, then wraps his lips around the very tip and sucks delicately. The deep rumble of Bull’s moan sends a frisson of pleasure from Dorian’s scalp all the way down his spine to pool as warmth deep in his gut. He swirls his tongue over the thick crown, tasting the salt at its tip and flicking his tongue across the sensitive ridge, and then he bends further to lip and tongue at the firm ridge running along the underside of Bull’s cock.

When he comes back up, Dorian wraps his mouth around the glans with gentle suction and descends as far as he can down Bull’s length, his hand squeezing at the base. Bull is huge, and Dorian knows his jaw is going to ache after he’s done. It’s irrational to want this so much, he thinks, but he doesn’t care. He sucks hard as he drags his head back and Bull groans loud. “Fuck, Dorian.”

Dorian presses a kiss against the glans. “Use me, Bull,” he says, low and breathy while holding Bull’s gaze, lips smearing the words onto Bull’s frenulum. Bull’s cock twitches against Dorian’s lip; his eye is nearly all pupil now. It’s fascinating, and Dorian wonders if his arousal is so evident in his own expression. Bull understands what he’s saying, of course he does. He slides rough fingers along Dorian’s cheek and cups his head, their blazing eye-contact unbroken as he exerts a bit of pressure. Dorian moans softly as his mouth is slowly filled, relaxing his jaw to accommodate Bull’s size.

“Gorgeous,” Bull whispers, almost reverently, and Dorian’s eyes flutter closed from the warmth in his voice. Dorian braces his arms on Bull’s thighs, lets Bull push into his mouth until his glans hits the back of Dorian’s throat. It’s been a long time, and the position isn’t ideal, but Dorian holds his breath and takes Bull in further just to let Bull know he can. He swallows around him a few times, stifles the urge to cough, moans for the vibration. “Fucking beautiful, oh fuck,” Bull gasps from above, his hands still on Dorian’s head but just touching, not holding him there.

It’s a bit more uncomfortable than Dorian remembers, probably because he’s never done this with someone so large, and Dorian’s eyes are watering when he pulls back to breathe. “That was so fucking hot,” Bull says as he wipes at the tears with his thumb. “Amazing. So fucking good.” Dorian is glad his eyes are already watering so he can blame the fresh moisture that gathers in them in response to Bull’s words on the same reason, and not have to own up to the desperation with which his mind clings to Bull’s praise.

Bull guides him in a slow pace and Dorian focuses on breathing and on using his lips and tongue to make it feel even better. Bull only presses in until he meets the resistance of Dorian’s throat, never pushes past it, though Dorian does that on his own for the renewed bursts of praise and adoration it inspires from Bull. “You look so fucking good with your lips stretched around my cock like that. Fuck, Dorian, you are so good at this. So perfect.” Dorian drinks it all down greedily. His knees and his jaw and his back all ache, his muscles are starting to tremble from the effort of holding himself still while keeping himself maneuverable, but he doesn’t care about any of it because Bull is softly stroking Dorian’s cheek and looking down at him with that fervent gaze while those words stir up secrets from the deepest parts of Dorian’s psyche.

“I want to come in your mouth,” Bull rumbles and Dorian moans his approval around his cock. Bull moves forward and Dorian has to shuffle back a bit to make room for him to stand. Bull strokes his cock in quick jerks to finish himself off while Dorian watches him intently. Bull sweeps the thumb of his free hand over Dorian’s lips, huffs a heavy breath as he presses it between them. Dorian opens his mouth obediently, resting his hands on Bull’s thighs to keep him steady as he kneels at the right height to catch Bull’s spend.

“Fuck,” Bull grinds out, his thighs tensing under Dorian’s fingers, and the first warm, bitter stripe lands on his tongue, over his lips and cheek. Bull groans as his cock throbs again and again, and when the last spurt lands Dorian closes his lips around the head for one last soft kiss. Bull shudders a great, tremulous breath, sways on his feet a little, then bends down to grab Dorian around the biceps and heave him up onto the bed, his bent legs hanging over the side.

Bull falls in overtop him and kisses the taste of himself from Dorian’s lips, the low thunder of his breathing still rumbling as he comes down. Bull licks his own spend from Dorian’s cheek and then kisses him again, and Dorian writhes and squirms underneath him, overloaded with the delicious indecency of it all.

Bull snakes his hand once again down into Dorian’s trousers, tugging at them ineffectually in his sated fatigue. Dorian unfastens them himself and squirms out of them, kicking them off his legs.

“You have any of that oil with you?” Bull asks, and Dorian gestures vaguely toward the pile of his pants now on the floor. Bull searches through the pockets and retrieves the oil, then tosses the garment aside again. “How about I give you a massage? Seemed like you enjoyed it last time.”

Dorian can only nod and whine, insensate with wanting. Bull hooks an arm under one of Dorian’s leg and tugs him sideways until he’s laying properly in the middle of the bed. He’s sure he must look absolutely wrecked with his legs laying open and his cock hard and straining.

Bull covers his fingers in oil, lifts one of Dorian’s legs and hefts it over his shoulder. He kisses the inside of Dorian’s thigh, circles slick fingers around his hole, and Dorian gasps and arches while his hands grip and release the sheets. The anticipation is driving him crazy.

“Please,” Dorian whispers. “Bull, I need --” Bull shocks him with a bite to sensitive skin, which he then soothes with his tongue.

“I’ve got you, baby,” Bull says with another kiss further up Dorian’s inner thigh, one finger finally breaching Dorian’s body as he does. “You were so good, giving yourself to me like that, letting me have you. Don’t worry, I’ll take care of you.” Dorian keens plaintively and turns his head in the pillows as Bull adds a second finger and starts rubbing slow circles over his prostate.

“Fasta vass,” Dorian curses. “Please.” He doesn’t even care that he’s begging anymore, he’s too far gone for that now. Bull isn’t laughing at him; Bull likes it when he begs, it makes him bite and nip and growl, makes him thrust his fingers faster and rub harder inside Dorian. Bull won’t use this desperate, debauched, shameless side of Dorian against him, so he makes a whispered prayer of it, a mantra: “Please, please, please!”

Bull licks along the sensitive seam at the very top of his thigh where it meets his body. “One day I’m going to make you come just like this again, just with my fingers,” Bull murmurs as he nips a stinging trail closer to Dorian’s erection, then licks a broad stripe from base to tip. “But you’ve been so good today, baby. You want it so bad, don’t you? I’m not going to make you wait.”

With that, Bull takes the head of Dorian’s cock into the warm, wet cavern of his mouth, presses with his tongue so that Dorian’s sensitive glans hits the roof of Bull’s mouth as he slides further down the shaft, all while his fingers keep up the maddening, delicious little motions over Dorian’s prostate. The combined sensations spark through him and light his nerves on fire, and he can feel the pressure building again between his legs, that strange tingling thrill deep inside him.

Dorian’s frantic fingers find their way to Bull’s horns and grab hold; he grinds his hips down on Bull’s hand, his voice breaking on a wail as he falls apart. Curses and pleas give way to harsh, whining breaths as he’s wracked from within by concentric circles of pleasure. His cock twitches in Bull’s mouth and his arsehole contracts around Bull’s fingers in synchronous, throbbing release as he comes, and Bull keeps sucking him until the last pulse of his orgasm leaves him trembling with aftershocks.

Hands falling limp from Bull’s horns, Dorian lays gasping shivery breaths, his eyes closed and his mind reeling. Bull gently removes his fingers, tugs the blankets out from under Dorian so he can cover them both when he lays down next to him. Dorian gives no protest when Bull tugs and paws at him, manhandling him until he’s stretched out along Bull’s side, skin-to-skin from sternum to thighs, his head on Bull’s shoulder and Bull’s arm around his back.

Drifting in the afterglow, Dorian barely even notices his body or what it’s doing; he’s too busy enjoying the unfortunately temporary euphoria. He lets himself hover on the edge of sleep and luxuriates in warmth and comfort. For one fleeting moment, he’s completely content.

___

Sleep doesn’t claim him. Dorian hangs in the limbo at the edge of the Fade for what could be minutes or hours, but he never quite crosses over. Next to him Bull is a furnace, and Dorian soaks up the warmth greedily, keeps as much of himself in contact with as much of Bull as he can.

“Just like rashvine,” Bull says fondly, his voice snapping Dorian out of his muzzy contemplation.

Dorian responds by pinching the flesh under his fingers, somewhere on Bull’s chest, though as boneless and relaxed as he is, Dorian’s not sure Bull even feels it. “Rashvine is poisonous,” he complains, but otherwise doesn’t move or even open his eyes. “What exactly are you trying to suggest?”

“Nothing bad,” Bull assures him. “I’m immune to rashvine, so it just kind of tickles.”

Dorian snorts a laugh in response. For a few minutes, all is silent between them. Then he sighs. “What are we doing?”

The question is meant to be rhetorical but Bull answers it anyway. “Having sex,” he says, and Dorian huffs, amused. “Having really. Fucking. Great. Sex.”

“That we are,” Dorian admits, idly tracing the raised ridge of one of Bull’s scars with gentle fingertips. “I wonder if that’s all we’re doing.”

Dorian regrets the question almost as soon as it’s out. He braces for the response, berating himself internally and keeping his eyes closed, his face turned down. He fears the rejection or dispassion he might find if he gives in to the temptation to see Bull’s expression. The silence is heavy, and Dorian starts to feel a chill creep into him that has nothing to do with the temperature.

“It could be more. If you want it to be,” Bull says simply, like it’s the easiest thing in the world. Dorian swallows around a lump in his throat as the chill dissipates and leaves him feeling overly warm instead.

He’d expected Bull to brush him off, to laugh and say ‘Of course that’s all it is.’ He’d been ready to soothe himself with the platitude that it’s better to know where he stands now than to be blindsided by the knowledge somewhere down the road. He’d been so sure of a casual dismissal or swift rebuff, in fact, that he had barely considered the alternative. “I… don’t really know what I want,” he says honestly, apologetically.

Bull’s arm tightens around Dorian’s shoulders. “When you know, let me know,” he says, absolving Dorian of his indecision and once again leaving the choice firmly in his hands. Dorian nods against his shoulder.

“Do you want to stop having sex until then?” Bull asks a few moments later.

Dorian pushes up onto his elbow, looks down at him from a scant few inches away. “Let’s not be hasty,” he says with a grin. “The sex is quite good.”

“That works for me,” says Bull, and who would ever have thought the Iron Bull could look so kissable? Dorian kisses him, lazy and slow, his lips lingering even after it’s done. Bull rubs a hand up his spine and back down again and it’s surprisingly comfortable between them now, despite the unanswered questions still lingering in Dorian’s mind. Dorian lays back down, snuggles in against Bull’s side. There will be time for answers later.

Chapter Text

Bull’s room is bright with mid-morning sunlight when Dorian awakens to find he’s still wrapped up in strong arms and surrounded by Bull’s scent, his warmth. He’s shifted down in the night, and now his head is on Bull’s chest, arm slung across his abdomen. Dorian mashes his face into Bull’s pectoral, both to blot out the brightness of the room and to warm the chilled tip of his nose against Bull’s skin.

Bull’s ribcage trembles a bit underneath his face, then shudders more violently along with the huffed exhales of Bull’s laughter from above Dorian’s head. “It is entirely too early for you to be laughing at me,” Dorian says, his voice muffled by Bull’s skin. “In fact, there’s never a good time for you to laugh at me. Desist immediately.”

At that, Bull laughs audibly, the throaty rumble of it shaking Dorian’s head even as it vibrates in his ears. “Can’t help it,” he says, and for Andraste’s sake, how is it that Dorian can hear him smiling? “Your nose is freezing and your mustache tickles.” Bull runs his fingers through Dorian’s hair, scratching lightly at his scalp with blunt fingernails, sending tingling pinpricks down Dorian’s spine.

Memories of last night swirl in Dorian’s mind, start to kick up a vortex of self-reproach at the edge of his consciousness. The last time he’d allowed himself such brazen abandon, it had ended poorly.

He’d been young and foolish then, seventeen and so enamoured by the flirtations of an older boy -- a boy named Gaius, the son of one of his father’s acquaintances -- that he’d followed him without question, the moment they could safely sneak away from the party, through the mansion’s hallways and into an empty bedroom

Gaius had been rough in a way that had sent Dorian’s pulse racing, had made his head swim from more than just the expensive champagne they’d imbibed. He’d bound Dorian with straps of leather from his own clothing, had shoved him onto the bed, had manipulated Dorian’s body like it belonged to him. It had all been so dreadfully thrilling, right up until a noise from the hallway outside had sent his would-be lover scrambling out of a window, frantic to preserve his own reputation.

Moments later Dorian had been found trussed up and defenseless with his clothing askew, his hair a mess, cheeks flushed and lips kiss-bruised. It would have been far worse if they’d been caught together, but Dorian had been the unfortunate participant left to explain to his father and the hostess of the night’s soiree why he’d been in such a state in one of her private rooms. Dorian’s fractious adolescent temper had saved him at the time, but he’d learned a valuable lesson from the ordeal -- he’d learned the dangers of allowing oneself to be compromised by one’s appetites. He’d been careful not to let himself get so carried away again since then. Until Bull.

Last night makes two reckless, intoxicated nights of sex -- fantastic, mind-blowing sex, the kind he’s avoided having for over a decade, long enough almost to have convinced himself he didn’t crave it -- and it’s significantly more difficult to write off two such evenings as meaningless than it had been to write one off. Dorian fights his uneasy feelings back to the perimeter of his mind, to be acknowledged once he’s alone and can berate himself in peace.

A deep, cleansing breath helps return Dorian to the present, where Bull is still stroking his head and tolerating his cold nose and his apparently ticklish facial hair. Dorian shifts his position, turns and twists until he can rest his chin on crossed arms on Bull’s chest and he’s got Bull’s face in view.

“Morning,” Bull says, brushing a few stray hairs off Dorian’s forehead with gentle fingers.

“It is that,” agrees Dorian, squinting up at him while his eyes adjust to the light. He’s certain his hair and mustache are a complete mess and he probably has kohl smeared halfway down his face, but the way Bull is looking at him, he doesn’t feel like quite such a wreck. He tilts his head to rest his cheek on his arm and idly wonders if Bull would ever let him take a straight razor to his face.

“You know you talk in your sleep?” Bull asks, and that piques Dorian’s interest enough to distract him from thoughts of what the man might look like clean-shaven.

“Do I really?” Dorian asks, moving his arms so he can clasp his fingers under his chin. “Anything interesting?”

Bull shrugs. “Probably. If you ever do it in a language I understand, I’ll let you know.”

Dorian gives his best mysterious smile. “Excellent. It’s too soon for you to know all my secrets.” He drops his gaze and frowns when he sees a chip in the black polish on one of his fingernails. “I should probably go,” he sighs, though he makes no immediate move to get up.

“If you have to,” Bull chuckles. Eventually Dorian’s will resolves and he sits up, stretches, sighs in relief when his spine pops in three places. Bull shifts too, sits against the headboard and watches as Dorian rises out of bed to retrieve his things, naked as the day he was born.

Dorian hears a low hum of appreciation behind him and he stops, half turns, quirks a questioning eyebrow in Bull’s direction. “I presume there’s something you’d like to say,” he remarks, centering his weight over one foot to ensure that his posture emphasizes the curve of his spine and the swell of his buttocks in the profile view he presents to Bull. If the man notices his deliberate posturing, he’s courteous enough not to mention it.

Bull draws his gaze slowly down Dorian’s body and back up like a physical caress. When he meets Dorian’s eyes again, he gives him that lopsided grin that Dorian finds so endearing. “Just enjoying the view,” he says, and Dorian resists the urge to preen.

Mostly resists the urge.

Utterly fails to resist the urge.

Dorian squares his shoulders, lifts his chin, dons an elegant smile. “By all means,” he says, resting a hand on his hip. “I am happy to be admired.” He’d never admit to making a grand show of retrieving his things, but he’s swanning about while he slips back into his clothes and he knows it. The thrill of Bull’s gaze spurs him on.

“Never seen a strip-tease in reverse before,” Bull says, and Dorian rubs his hands down his torso -- ostensibly to smooth out his vest, though his mischievous smirk likely gives him away. “I like it,” Bull adds when Dorian moves on from feeling himself up and bends down slowly to tie his boots, his pose unnecessarily and deliberately suggestive.

Once dressed and ready to leave Dorian turns back from the doorway to see that Bull is finally out of bed and dressing himself. “Perhaps I’ll see you later,” he says, fluttering his fingers against the door frame. Then he leaves.

___

By late afternoon Dorian has bathed, shaved, changed his clothes, tamed his hair, waxed his mustache, and refreshed the paint on his nails. Finally presentable, he now sits at a low table in the courtyard with his legs crossed, an elbow on his knee and his fingers against his lower lip as he studies the chess board in front of him. Across the table, Cullen looks smug. Dorian takes his turn, leans back in his chair. Raises an eyebrow in challenge.

“Well played,” Cullen says, and while he sounds surprised, he no longer comments on the recklessness of Dorian’s more unorthodox maneuvers. He reaches out for a piece but doesn’t move it right away, taps it thoughtfully with his forefinger instead.

Dorian takes advantage of Cullen’s distracted perusal of the board to eye him openly. The Commander is quite a handsome man, and so very wholesome. Dorian has no intentions on the man -- he’s got more than enough in the way of romantic entanglement already. He’s quite content just to look at another attractive gentleman, maybe to flirt with him occasionally for the charming sight of his bewilderment, the delightful flush that creeps up his neck and colours his cheeks.

Cullen makes his move and flashes Dorian a cocky grin -- or as close to one as such an adorable man can manage -- but his smile falters when he notices Dorian staring and he quickly looks away. “Is something the matter?” he asks, and there it is, that pink tinge under his collar. How utterly enchanting.

“My apologies, Commander, I was lost in thought,” says Dorian, twirling the tip of his mustache between his fingers. The way Cullen avoids meeting his eyes is so fascinating, but he doesn’t seek to make the man overly uncomfortable. He flicks his gaze to the board to give Cullen a reprieve. Dorian’s been told he can be rather… intense in his appreciation. “Is it my turn?”

Cullen huffs a breath and nods, rubbing nervously at the back of his neck with one hand. “Yes,” he says, then clears his throat. “Your turn.” Dorian makes as if he’s examining the pieces, though he watches Cullen’s awkward shifting in his peripheral vision.

They’d first played together just after the Inquisition had set up at Skyhold, while initial repairs were underway and Cullen had still been coordinating the troops in the open air of the lower courtyard. Dorian had happened upon the man playing both sides of the board one evening, and when Cullen had seen him watching, he’d invited Dorian to join.

They’d talked amiably the entire time, discussing the troops, the mages and templars, the Imperium, the Inquisitor. Dorian had flirted, Cullen had squirmed under the attention; they’d joked and Cullen had shown himself to have quite the sense of humour: quick wit veiled in sheepish modesty. The following night they had met up for another round, and after that it had become something of a habit between them, especially on the slow days when both of them had the time to spare. The Inquisitor had even interrupted them once, the day Dorian had learned about the Commander’s aptitude for sass.

They’re well matched in skill. Where Dorian favours a bold and innovative approach, Cullen tends toward the tactics and strategy befitting an army Commander. They’ve maintained a very close tally over the months, neither ever surpassing the other by more than three games, though the Commander is currently two ahead.

“I was thinking about Skyhold,” Dorian says as he makes his move. An easy lie, a benign topic that has nothing to do with work; the Commander only ever seems to relax when he’s been coerced into playing some game or another, so Dorian makes a point of avoiding any work-related conversation while they play these days. And he has been curious, so he’s not being completely dishonest to ask.

“What about it?” Cullen sounds preoccupied and he rubs his index finger idly over the scar bisecting his upper lip while he considers his options in their game.

“Rather serendipitous, isn’t it,” Dorian says, steepling his fingers in front of his lips. “An enormous, unclaimed keep in the wilderness, not a day’s travel from the location of our greatest defeat, appearing right when we needed it most.” Cullen takes one of his pieces. Dorian clicks his tongue, purses his lips.

“We were very fortunate,” Cullen agrees. “Unlike you, right now.”

“You haven’t won yet, Commander.” Dorian tests a few possibilities in his mind, bounces his leg restlessly while he thinks. “We don’t know whether the Inquisitor is truly guided by Andraste, but this place…” He pauses while he makes his move. “Check. It makes me wonder if there isn’t some divine intervention at work here after all.”

When he glances up again, Cullen is looking at him intently, as if scrutinizing him. “I didn’t know you were Andrastean.”

“My dear Commander,” Dorian says, smiling impishly. “Are you seeing me in a new light? Have I impressed you with my conviction?” Cullen chuckles and casts his eyes downward, taps a finger on the chessboard before moving himself out of check.

“I suppose I never thought of you as the devout type,” Cullen says sheepishly. “I apologize, I shouldn’t have assumed--”

“You’re not the first, good ser, and you won’t be the last,” Dorian says lightly. He uncrosses his legs and crosses them again the other way. “Even the Inquisitor was surprised.” Dorian presses his advantage, takes one of Cullen’s pieces, clasps his hands together under his chin and watches Cullen plan his next move.

Dorian knows he isn’t the easiest person to read -- by design, not by accident. In the Imperium, obfuscation had been a necessary survival skill. Obscuring the essential parts of oneself was the only way to protect them, and Dorian still finds himself using the same old shrouds to conceal himself from those around him: mystery, sarcasm, and wit. It’s an old and deeply-entrenched habit.

“As difficult as it may be to believe,” Dorian continues after a moment, because he knows the best way to un-learn a habit is to break it, “I do believe in something greater than myself.”

“It’s not at all difficult to believe,” Cullen argues. It catches Dorian off-guard and Cullen chuckles when he sees the look it takes Dorian too long to conceal. “You may be able to fool strangers into believing that whole --” he gestures with one hand toward all of Dorian. “-- self-centered noble thing, but…”

“You underestimate my sense of self-importance,” Dorian interrupts. Cullen laughs and nods, granting him the point, then continues.

“I’ve seen the work you do here. You believe in our cause, you believe in the Inquisitor, that much is obvious. I just didn’t know you believed in Andraste, too.”

It’s a bit of a revelation for Dorian. Perhaps there are more than just the two people in Dorian’s new life who like him, who don’t find him untrustworthy. “Commander,” he says, placing his palm over his sternum. “I’m touched!” He affects a pleased expression, and while he’s not lying, he’s no good at sincerity without the shelter of humour. “It warms the cold, hard cockles of my shriveled little heart. Check mate.”

“What? No, I --” Cullen splutters, checking over the board. “I was distracted,” he complains, but he’s grinning. “You distracted me! I demand a rematch.”

“Come now, Commander. Don’t be a sore loser, it’s unbecoming.” Dorian begins to reset the board. Cullen helps. Once done, Dorian bids him farewell. “Perhaps tomorrow I’ll defeat you again,” he says while walking away.

“Don’t count on it,” Cullen calls after him. Dorian waves over his shoulder without looking back. He heads for the rotunda; he can use the few remaining daylight hours to follow up on some leads for the Inquisitor.
___

A delivery comes to the library courtesy of the University of Orlais, a gift of books and scrolls. Gratitude for the Inquisition’s help in their hour of need. Dorian reads by the soft light of his staff for hours after sunset, completely engrossed in one of the new volumes, a tome comparing magical theory throughout Thedas. It was written by an Orlesian, so it’s horribly overwrought, factually inaccurate, pompous, sanctimonious, and hopelessly condescending. Dorian finds it fascinating.

He has no idea how long the sun’s been down when he’s finished, only that the rotunda and the great hall beyond are eerily silent and empty. It’s far too quiet; he hurries through and out to the courtyard beyond, his heels filling the silence, gratifyingly loud clacks against the stone with each step he takes. Soon he hears the rowdy din of the tavern in the distance.

There’s a new face among the Chargers tonight, one that’s currently incredibly close to Krem’s face while its owner sits side-straddle across his lap. The barmaid, Beitris, has her fingers in Krem’s hair and she’s kissing him to within an inch of his life while his hands hover uncertainly around her waist. A chorus of hoots and whistles erupts from the peanut gallery.

The lass pulls away from Krem when she’s done, a last nip to his lower lip before she rises and sashays back toward the bar with a coquettish little glance over her shoulder when she gets there. Krem gazes after her, red-faced and trying not to smile too broadly.

“About time you two hooked up,” says Rocky, patting Krem amiably on the back.

Krem attempts to school his expression into something not quite so dopey, and failing that, he tries covering his mouth with his fingers. “What are you talking about?” he asks. Nobody is particularly convinced by the act.

“Finally,” Bull says with a laugh, “the months spent making doe’s eyes at each other has paid off! Well done, Krem.”

“That’s rich, Chief, coming from you.”

Suddenly, several pairs of eyes are trained on Dorian. He glances at Bull for clarification, but Bull is looking at Krem, who’s wearing a rather smug expression. “I believe I may be missing something.”

“Just that the Chief’s been making the kitchen staff cry since he took up with you,” says Krem. “He’s breaking hearts left and right.”

“Krem,” Bull warns, shifts in his seat a bit, and Dorian is intrigued to see the Iron Bull looking vaguely uncomfortable.

It seems like Krem might be thinking something similar, because the self-satisfied smile melts off his face. “Was it supposed to be a secret?” Bull sighs.

“Definitely missing something,” Dorian announces to no one in particular. Dalish, Skinner, Rocky, Stitches, and even Grim are all looking between the trio of Dorian, Bull and Krem, captivated. Or at least vaguely amused.

“Chief’s been turning everyone down since… well.” Krem clears his throat awkwardly. “Didn’t know it was supposed to be a secret.”

Bull sighs. “It’s not,” he says, but he looks a bit uncomfortable, and Dorian’s inner monologue helpfully supplies all the things Bull might be thinking in Krem’s direction: You’re making a big deal out of nothing; It doesn’t mean anything; perhaps even You’re going to get his hopes up. He ignores the latter.

There’s a split second of indecision in Dorian’s mind as he vacillates on whether to deny it all or make a joke out of it, and decides it’s far too late for denial. “I’d be surprised if he had the energy for further conquests after I’m done with him,” he quips, affecting nonchalance. “I’m sure it comes as no surprise to anyone that I’m as demanding a lover as I am an exceptional one.”

The change in the atmosphere is immediate and tangible: Dalish, Rocky and Bull all burst into laughter, while Krem rolls his eyes with a half-grin on his face and a few perturbed sighs can be heard from the others. “You laugh,” says Dorian with badly feigned affront, his smile breaking through the ploy. “I assure you it’s the truth.”

With the tension thus broken, everything returns to normal. Dorian takes advantage of the reprieve from being the center of attention to glance over at Bull, and notices he’s rubbing distractedly at his knee, digging his thumb into the muscle above his patella. Dorian knows the old wound acts up sometimes, whether from humidity or stress or some other unknown trigger. He wonders if it’s the humidity today or the agitation from just now. When Bull catches Dorian looking he flashes an apologetic little smile, and Dorian responds in kind with a quirk of his lips and a hint of a nod. A conversation for another time.

___

The rest of the evening had passed uneventfully and Dorian had eventually said his goodbyes after the Chargers started up their third rousing rendition of the company song. He’d gone back to his room, stripped out of his clothes, and fallen into his bed. Within seconds, the thoughts he’d been successfully evading all day crept back in, began circling the edge of his consciousness like wolves on the hunt.

Reckless. Irresponsible. Careless. Utterly foolish. The words swirl in his mind, little recriminations that weave into each other and tangle into knots of contempt and self-doubt. For a while he lets them. He gives them their due, allows them to chip away at him piece by tiny piece. He allows it because he knows they’ll do so whether he permits them to or not; at least by humouring them, they stay in the front of his mind where they do relatively little damage. Years of suppression had only ever served to add fuel to the fire, so now he accepts the thoughts for what they are: manifestations of his own insecurities and fears.

Foolishness, his mind prattles on while he stares unseeing at the rafters above him. Foolish to reveal so much of himself, foolish to let himself get so carried away, foolish to let this continue when he’s already so invested. Incredibly, irredeemably foolish not to end it even when he knows it can’t last -- and there it is, Dorian thinks, closing his eyes and isolating that thought, extricating it from the jumble of the others. That’s the fear driving tonight’s mental self-flagellation: that it can’t last, that he’s being toyed with, that he might be cast aside at any moment and all the pieces of himself he’s laid bare in the last few weeks will be left exposed and stinging.

It’s an utterly unfamiliar predicament. Even at 17, he’d only had his pride bruised from being found in such a mortifying predicament; Gaius had meant nothing to him. It startles him, not to realize that Bull means something to him, but to realize exactly how much Bull means to him. He’d been so wrong about the man from the very beginning and now he realizes that he’d been wrong about himself, too.

That first night when he’d followed Bull to his room, he’d hoped simply to scratch an itch, nothing more. He’d assumed himself immune to this kind of dilemma, because surely he’d never come to crave the affections of a Qunari. It had been laughable at the time. The worst outcome he’d predicted from the affair had been that things might be awkward between them for a while afterward. The idea that within a fortnight he’d be fretting late over the prospect of losing those affections… it hadn’t even been a possibility then.

Dorian presses the heels of his palms against his closed eyes, the pressure causing swirls and textures to appear in the black behind his eyelids. He wants clarity but he fears it. There have been no promises, no declarations, just their bodies and Bull’s damnable words -- worshipful, reverent words, words of adoration and praise that had dug down into the deepest corners of Dorian’s mind and taken up residence there without him knowing. If it turns out that it’s all been just a temporary diversion as Dorian can’t help but suspect, well. The only way out is through. Eventually, he’ll work up the nerve to ask.

Chapter Text

Time marches inexorably forward at Skyhold, measured in missions, research, games of chess. The Inquisitor takes Dorian to the Exalted Plains to hunt down the last of his Venatori leads, then almost immediately upon returning, calls Bull away to clear out a Red Templar base of operations in the Storm Coast. With time and distance comes perspective, and Dorian’s restless self-reproach calms a little more each day, so that it’s with slightly more anticipation than apprehension that he agrees to a night at the tavern with the Inquisitor and party upon their arrival.

Equilibrium restores itself in jokes and laughter and easy banter over too many mugs of Ferelden ale. Dorian doesn’t stay long -- he’s spent so much time alone with his books recently that he’s having trouble acclimating to the volume and activity level in the tavern. One conversation, however, does pique his interest, and he formulates a plan for the following day.

He gets up to leave but before he does, he circles behind Bull’s chair, leans heavily on his shoulder to make a request. “You’ll show me, won’t you,” he says privately, and wonders what the others must think he’s saying, whispering in Bull’s ear the way he is. “Tomorrow morning?”

“Sure,” says Bull, with a slight tilt of his head.

“Good man,” he says to Bull, squeezing the muscle under his hand before pushing himself up to bid farewell to the others.“I’m for bed,” he announces, then gives an exaggerated and slightly wobbly bow. “Drink and be merry, friends. I’ll see you anon.”

___

Dorian scans his surroundings with an incredulous frown, holding a bundle of his clothes under one arm, his other hand on his hip as he stands contrapposto like the ancient Tevinter sculptures of long-dead Magisters that adorn the gardens and halls of every great house in the Imperium.

Bull has led them down a dirt path through the dense tree cover that surrounds Skyhold and into a small clearing about a hundred paces from the hold’s southeastern tower. A craggy rock ledge to the west blocks all but the top of the fortifications from sight, and in turn obscures Skyhold’s view of the clearing. Dorian sets down his clothes on an outcropping of rock that juts from the stone shelf, one of the only flat surfaces that isn’t made entirely of dirt.

A clear stream burbles quietly just past the eastern edge of the clearing, meandering southward on its way out of the Frostbacks. On its pebbled bank the trees are thin, only a few sparse, small saplings between the clearing and the water. In the center of the clearing Dorian sees the only thing that suggests this place might actually be what he’d been told to expect.

Dorian peers at a large wooden cistern that’s easily big enough to fit three people. Or two, if Bull is one of them. “You call this a bath?” He’d assumed there would at least be a roof.

Bull chuckles. “What would you call it?”

It’s… something, to be sure. Nothing like the stories the Chargers had spun for him last night at the tavern, fanciful tales of their luxurious private bath: the large marble basin in its scenic garden enclosure, the warm running water, the extensive collection of fine soaps and scented oils.

“It looks like a campsite,” he says, sidelong. Dorian had known the stories were exaggerated, obviously, but he hadn’t understood just how much of it was pure embellishment until he’d arrived in the clearing. Almost all of it, as it turns out. “I see a campfire and a cookpot, and for some reason I can’t quite fathom, an enormous tub. Perhaps some naive, primitive soul found it and dragged it here, assuming it to be some sort of bed.”

To be fair, the campfire is actually a fire pit about five paces away from the cistern, a metal cookpot suspended over it by a simple frame. Dorian approaches it and walks a slow circle around its perimeter, running his forefinger along the rim of the pot. “Do you cook with this too?”

Bull has only brought two things with him: a folded bolt of linen and a tattered old towel that’s seen better days. He sets the towel on the jut of rock next to Dorian’s things and follows him over toward the fire pit. “We’ve used it once or twice in the past, when times got rough,” he says, pausing to unfurl the linen cloth and drape it over the tub so that the fabric settles into the hollow. “But don’t worry, it’s been washed since.”

“It’s all just so… ” Dorian starts, imagining all the work involved: hauling water from the stream to boil over the fire pit, pouring the heated water it into the cistern, then repeating the process until the tub is full. “Inefficient. Surely there must be easier ways.”

“Not everyone has magic,” Bull shrugs. “Or servants. So we do things the old-fashioned way.”

Dorian scoffs. “What about Dalish?” Bull looks at him dubiously but doesn’t answer, and Dorian supposes he can’t blame him for declining to do so; Dorian wouldn’t want to be the designated bathman among a company of filthy, stinking mercenaries either. “Never mind. Point taken.”

“So, what do you say?” Bull asks, glancing meaningfully toward the tub. “We’ve got the place to ourselves for a few hours.”

Dorian lifts a brow. “What, together? Are you serious? We’re in the middle of a forest. There’s no cover. What if it rains?”

Bull barks a laugh and shakes his head with a smirk. “You’re worried about rain? What does it matter if you’re getting wet anyway?”

Dorian’s only response to that is a roll of his eyes and a dramatic exhale, because really, the man’s got a point. “I suppose you’ll say the cold doesn’t bother you either,” he sighs. He almost can’t believe he’s really considering it.

“Nah,” Bull replies. “As long as you keep a spare pot on the boil to keep the water warm, you don’t really notice it.”

“I’ll have you know,” says Dorian, holding his hand out in front of him and calling forth a whirling ball of fire to hover a few inches above his palm. “I’m far better at warming bathwater than a cookpot.” He notices the way Bull’s eye fixates on the flame, the way his lip curls into a beguiled grin, and when he clenches his fist around the fire to extinguish it, he sees the look of -- what is it, excitement? Awe? Is Bull impressed? Dorian isn’t surprised; the Iron Bull would enjoy playing with fire, even if only vicariously.

“Is that a yes?” Bull grabs the cookpot by its handle and lugs it over his shoulder, then shoots him an inquiring glance.

“Fine,” Dorian says with a wave and a flutter of his fingers. “You do your part, I’ll do mine.”

The fact that the cistern is made of wood and lined with linen means heating the water will be more difficult and require more time than the metal basins in the bath house, but it’s still possible. Bull carts potfuls of water the twenty or so paces from the stream to the tub, and once the cistern is about halfway full, Dorian sets to work. He swirls mana-heated fingertips in the water, inscribing its surface with a modified fire glyph that glows bright red for a moment, then begins to spin, creating a churning little whirlpool in the center of the cistern.

Dorian retrieves a sachet from the pouch at his hip and empties the fragrant contents into the whirling water, the bits of dried herbs and flowers drawn along in the currents created by the spell. Bull sniffs audibly as he returns with the pot. “Roses,” he says, still sniffing as he pours more water into the cistern. “And elfroot. You know, if I go into my next battle smelling like flowers, I’m never going to live it down with the men.”

“I’m sure you’ll survive,” Dorian says unapologetically. Bull huffs and shakes his head, but Dorian sees him smile before he turns and heads toward the stream once more. The next pot brings the water level almost to the top of the cistern and Dorian dips his fingertips in to test the temperature. It’s not quite hot enough yet to suit Dorian’s taste, so he adds another heated little whirlpool. “It should be ready shortly.”

Bull sets the pot back on its stand, then walks the few steps to the ledge where his towel sits in a heap next to Dorian’s clothes. He leans a hip against the rock, bends down to unfasten his brace, then kicks off his boots. He strips down unselfconsciously, leaving his slacks in a pile where they fall, and Dorian takes advantage of the opportunity to see Bull fully naked in the sunlight for the first time, his every scar and blemish on full display.

Dorian’s gaze flicks downward and he’s momentarily distracted by the sight of Bull’s bad leg: the scarred and gnarled skin, the visual evidence of a warrior’s life. Dorian doesn’t know how it happened and he’s never really seen fit to ask, but he does wonder occasionally. The extent of the damage is far more stark and visible in the sunlight than it ever was in the warm, muted glow of the torches on Bull’s walls; firelight is far more forgiving.

Without the brace, Bull limps slightly as he walks over to the basin, and he holds onto its rim for support as he climbs in. “It really seems to be bothering you,” Dorian notes gently. “Is it always this bad?”

Bull sinks into the water with a groan of relief. “Some days are better than others.” He leans back, drapes his arms along the sides of the basin and looks to Dorian, who’s still fully clothed. “Are you just going to watch?”

Dorian had first learned about the extent of Bull’s old injuries on their trip to the Storm Coast, the day Bull had become Tal Vashoth. The missing eye and fingertips, the slashes of scars on his face and chest, those were all obvious and Bull had always seemed to wear them with pride. The leg, however… after they’d completed their mission, Dorian had noticed Bull significantly favouring his left leg on their travels back to Skyhold, and whenever they’d made camp, he’d watched Bull spend much of his time at the fire staring silently into the flames and rubbing his knee.

The Chargers had done their best to cheer up their chief; Dorian had watched them with some amount of interest, seen them exchange worried glances and whisper things to each other behind Bull’s back, or bring him tankards of ale and plates of food he’d barely touched. One night Bull had removed the brace by the fire and inspected his leg, and that’s when Dorian had seen the mass of keloids and scars etched into his skin, a web of damaged tissue spreading from knee to ankle.

They hadn’t been close then. At the time, Dorian had been wholly occupied by some perverse need to test Bull’s patience with a steady stream of insults and unfair allusions. He remembers, with no small sense of regret, that he’d been too busy trying to elicit a response from Bull -- one more in line with his preconceptions about the Qunari -- to notice much about the man beyond his race.

It still surprises him sometimes that Bull had never responded to him with anything but good-natured flirtation or, at worst, with nonchalant wisecracks or indifferent one-liners. Dorian’s deplorable behaviour had certainly earned him much worse than that. Then again, if Bull had given Dorian the animosity or the outrage he’d rightly earned in his pique, they likely never would have ended up here.

You’re a better man than I, Dorian thinks, but what he says is, “Patience. I’ll join you soon, but there’s something I want to do first.” He’s got another bag of herbs in his pouch, fresh ones: elfroot and arbor’s blessing and some dawn lotus from their travels. He’s no healer, but he does know how to make a simple salve to soothe weary limbs and aching joints. It’s a recipe he picked up on his travels through Orlais and Ferelden, before he’d learned about Alexius’ presence in Redcliffe. Dorian even has a small mortar and pestle he keeps in his pouch, and he’s glad he thought to bring it.

“What’s all that for?” Bull watches him drop pinches of herbs into the small stone bowl in his hand, add a few drops of amrita oil from a tiny vial, and return the unused materials to his pack.

“A simple balm,” Dorian says as he sets about grinding the mixture. “It won’t heal you, but it should help with the pain for a little while.” It takes only a minute to crush the herbs into a paste, and once done, he kneels on the ground beside the basin near Bull’s left knee, holding the mortar in one hand and patting the rim of the basin with the other. “Leg up,” he says, and Bull looks at him with something between amusement and curiosity in his expression but does as he’s told, hauling his well-muscled leg out of the water and resting it on the tub’s edge.

Dorian dips his fingers into the green paste and smears a line of it along the top of Bull’s shin. He feels the ridges of scar tissue under his fingertips, the damaged muscle and healed bone underneath the marred gray skin. They’re old wounds, long-healed, but it’s clear that they had been fairly severe. Bull hums a low, quiet rumble, an appreciative sound, as Dorian spreads the salve out with circular motions of his fingers and thumbs along the dense muscle.

“Feels good,” Bull groans, rolling his head back to rest against the rim of the basin. Dorian smiles to himself and keeps up his massage, spending a moment to trace around the bony hardness of Bull’s ankle, digging his thumbs into the divots at the top of his foot and around behind to the back of his heel. The coolness of the arbor’s blessing is starting to kick in; Dorian can feel his fingertips start to tingle with it, so he uses a bit of extra mana to heat his hands for the contrast it provides. “Oh, yeah,” says Bull, surprised and pleased. “I could get used to this.”

“Well, don’t,” says Dorian tartly, working his heated fingers back up toward Bull’s knee. He’s careful around the patella; that’s where Bull seems to fuss the most, so it’s probably fairly tender. “I’m no one’s personal masseuse. This is simply a special occasion.”

“Oh? What’s the occasion?” It’s gratifying that Bull doesn’t seem the least bit wary, that he’s allowing Dorian to tend to him without question or concern. Dorian wonders if it’s a sign of trust or if it’s folly, but he’s never known the Iron Bull to be particularly foolish.

Dorian gathers some more of the salve to massage into Bull’s knee. “Today we celebrate my illustrious and glorious discovery that you do, in fact, bathe.” He meets Bull’s eye with an arched brow and a sardonic smile, then looks back to what he’s doing.

“If I’d known it was this exciting for you, I’d have brought you here sooner,” Bull laughs, the sound melting into a moan.

“The importance of good hygiene can not be overstated,” says Dorian primly, glancing up through his lashes.

“Well, whatever the occasion,” says Bull, and he catches Dorian’s eyes with an utterly serious expression. “Thank you.”

Dorian feels heat welling under his collar and averts his gaze, returns to watching his own hands while they work. “The salve will only last a few hours, unfortunately,” he says, more subdued than he intends, as he swipes the last of it out of his mortar and spreads it where the scarring is worst, just under Bull’s knee. “I can always make more, however, so long as I’ve the ingredients.”

Bull lays a hand over one of Dorian’s then, draws his attention. There’s a softness to Bull’s features that he’s not accustomed to seeing in the daylight, out in the open; he’s only ever seen it in Bull’s bed before, and even then, only in fleeting glimpses. Dorian’s hands still and he almost loses his focus on the mana he’s been channeling into the water to keep it warm. Luckily he recovers before the whirlpool dissipates completely. Bull closes his hand around Dorian’s and slides his leg back into the water. “Why don’t you join me?”

“Alright,” Dorian says with a nod, then stands and replaces his mortar and pestle in his pouch. If they’d been indoors, out of the elements, he would have taken his time and disrobed slowly, made a tease out of it, put on a show. As it is, though, there’s a chill wind blowing from the northeast and Dorian refuses to suffer even a single moment of exposure more than he absolutely must. He’s barely out of his clothes when he steps into the basin opposite Bull and immediately submerges himself up to his neck in the steaming water.

Bull laughs at him, nudges him in the side with a foot. “This is nice,” he says. “It’s still so warm. Normally it would already be cooling down by now.”

“Ah yes, the wonders of magic.” Dorian raises an arm out of the water to wave his hand with a theatrical flourish, but aborts the gesture halfway to return it to the warmth of the bath. “It does more than control minds. Who knew?”

“It would be even nicer if you were over here,” Bull invites, grinning. Dorian shifts closer, moving toward the center of the basin and onto his knees on either side of Bull’s legs. Under the water, Bull’s hands slide to Dorian’s hips and he uses the buoyancy to aid him in pulling Dorian further forward so that he’s straddling his thighs. Dorian emits an embarrassingly high-pitched yelp at the relocation, then clears his throat and glares, a preemptive strike daring Bull to laugh. He doesn’t; he just grins.

Dorian clucks his tongue, then leans in to kiss the smile off his lips. Bull doesn’t complain, just runs his palms up Dorian’s sides and kisses him back between huffs of laughter. The water level is only at Dorian’s chest now, and his damp skin chills quickly in the cool breeze, but the sunlight is warm and he’s too focused on Bull’s tongue in his mouth, Bull’s hands trailing down to his upper thighs and kneading the muscle there in a most distracting way. Between their bodies, Dorian’s cock stirs and thickens, and a glance down shows that Bull’s in a similar state.

“Something tells me you planned this little excursion just to seduce me,” Dorian says coquettishly, resting his hands on Bull’s shoulders. He rolls his hips forward until his pelvis meets Bull’s, feels the hard ridge of Bull’s cock slotted along his iliac crest. Bull grabs him hard, fingers digging into the flesh of his buttocks and he pulls, grinds them against each other, and it’s not enough, it’s just a tease, but it’s a good tease. “It’s -- ah -- working.”

“Good,” Bull rumbles, and Dorian vaguely remembers that he had intended to ask some questions before doing this again, but the questions are difficult and the heat between them is so much simpler. Questions can wait. Dorian shifts in Bull’s lap, draws his hands down the wide expanse of his chest and closes his fingers around Bull’s cock under the water. He runs his closed hand down Bull’s length and Bull groans, pushes one hand up into Dorian’s hair and pulls him into another searing kiss.

It’s somewhat strange to do this in water: Dorian’s hands slip and catch against Bull’s skin in ways he’s not used to, so he tightens his grip and Bull’s hips jerk from the added pressure. Bull moans deep in his throat and Dorian feels Bull’s leg raise up between his thighs, offering the relief of firm pressure against his balls and the root of his dick. The hand not tangled in Dorian’s hair moves to grip his rear, urging him to rock against Bull’s thigh while he twists and slides the tunnel of his fist around as much of Bull’s cock as he can reach.

Dorian rubs him with slow, measured strokes that cause the water to splosh noisily between them. His arm aches a little from the awkwardness of the position and from keeping his hand clenched tight; he does his best to keep up the pace but it’s difficult to focus with everything else competing for his attention. Bull nips at his mouth, trails kisses along his jaw, bites a new bruise on his neck -- the opposite side from the old one, which is now little more than a slightly darker splotch against his dark skin.

When Bull’s fingers release their hold of his arse and push between his cheeks to rub over his hole, Dorian’s attention lapses completely. It takes half a minute for him to realize that not only has his hand stilled on Bull’s cock, but that he’s also lost the thread of his spellcasting and the gentle swirling of the water around them has started to slow.

“Stop,” Dorian gasps, leaning away from Bull with great effort, bringing his hands to Bull’s collarbones to prevent him from following. “I can’t be expected to channel a spell while being ravished,” he says, “And I refuse to be ravished in a cold bath.”

Dorian stands abruptly and steps out of the bath so that Bull won’t have the chance to try to change his mind, sucks in a hissed breath when the air hits his wet skin and sets him trembling from the cold. He hurries over to his clothes and wraps a towel around his shoulders for some semblance of warmth, then tosses the other towel to Bull. He rubs himself down furiously, shivering until he pulls on his clean change of clothes, the dark leather pleasantly sun-warmed.

It feels a bit silly to be scrambling to dress himself so that he can retreat to somewhere private and take it all off again, but the alternative is a mad, naked dash through Skyhold’s courtyard, and that isn’t going to happen any time soon. With trousers and vest on but unbuckled, Dorian steps into his boots and then begins the tedious process of fastening, belting and tightening.

Bull’s hand on his shoulder interrupts him, and Dorian only has a split second to wonder what it’s doing there before he’s being turned and hefted bodily over Bull’s shoulder in one fluid motion. Dorian’s voice comes out an undignified splutter of indignation and he flails unsteadily, panicked that he’s going to fall, but then the vertigo passes.

“What are you doing, you lout,” Dorian spits in protest as he tries to twist out of Bull’s grasp, but that large arm is like an iron bar across his legs and all he manages to do is make Bull laugh at him.

“You were taking too long,” says Bull, patting Dorian’s rear in a way that’s both patronizing and indulgent. Dorian squawks with an outrage he doesn’t actually feel, because his heart is pounding and his face is hot and it’s not shame he’s experiencing, not even remotely. There are, however, appearances to be maintained.

“Your leg,” Dorian objects, and then Bull rounds a bend in the path that puts the clearing out of his line of sight along with the pile of his dirty clothes next to the tub. “My clothes! They’re genuine halla leather, if that tub leaks, if it rains, they’ll be ruined.”

Bull doesn’t even slow down. “We’ll get them later, and my leg is fine,” he says gruffly, marching steadily up the path, and only chuckles when Dorian kicks his feet in another half-hearted attempt to escape.

“I am an Altus mage of the Tevinter Imperium, scion of House Pavus -- you can’t just haul me away like some -- I could burn you to ashes, you lummox!” Dorian gives one last ineffective full-body squirm, and then finally falls limp with a sigh. “You know, when I said ravish, this wasn’t what I had in mind.”

Bull lets him down just outside Skyhold’s outer gates, then slaps him playfully on the arse as Dorian attempts to put his disheveled clothing back in order. Dorian turns a peevish glare over his shoulder, though he knows it’s futile to pretend he hadn’t enjoyed every moment of it, not when his erection had been pressed against Bull’s shoulder for almost a full minute and hadn’t waned in the slightest in that time.

Bull steps up behind him, leans in close so that his lips brush Dorian’s ear when he speaks. “I’m going to ravish you,” he says, his voice about an octave lower than usual, more vibration than sound. Dorian swallows and concentrates very hard on not melting, and eventually he somehow manages to put one foot in front of the other and resume walking.

Bull doesn’t make any more overt gestures once they’re past the inner gate and Dorian is glad for it, partly because he’s still a bit uncomfortable with the idea of being overt, but also because the anticipation is building rapidly in the time it takes to cross the courtyard and the heady knowledge of what they’re going to do as soon as they’re behind closed doors is a warm flutter in his chest, in his gut, between his legs.

He feels ridiculously conspicuous, but the people bustling around the hold pay him no more mind than usual as they go about their own business. The closer they get to Bull’s door, the quicker his pulse races, and he’s starting to feel dizzy from the thrill of it.

They reach their destination without incident and Bull ushers Dorian inside, then immediately starts yanking his vest up and off -- an easy task with all the buckles hanging open. He tosses the garment aside and crowds Dorian back a few steps till the backs of his knees make contact with the end of the bed. Bull grabs him under the arms, picks him up and tosses him into the center of the bed, and it really shouldn’t be so intoxicating to be flung about like that, but it is.

Bull stares down at Dorian hungrily, palms the tented jut of his erection under his slacks, the material doing nothing to hide its rigid girth. Dorian hooks his thumbs in the waistband of his own trousers, pushes them down to reveal his hipbones and the trail of dark hair that runs downward from his navel, biting his lip and looking up from lowered eyelids with his best come hither gaze.

“Your watchword,” says Bull, and Dorian answers almost before he’s finished speaking.

“Is Katoh.” He pushes his trousers a little further down his hips, but Bull grabs hold of the leather at his ankles, tugs and pulls until they come off, leaving him unveiled, exposed to Bull’s ravenous scrutiny. Dorian feels paralyzed by the way Bull looks at him like he’s the only thing in the entire world, but he likes it, he wants it. It delights him far more than it frightens him.

Bull drops his slacks and steps out of them, then rounds the side of the bed. “Turn over,” he orders, then grabs one of his pillows as Dorian moves to comply. Bull slides his forearm under Dorian’s hips and physically lifts him, stuffing the pillow underneath and removing his arm, letting him fall back down. The new angle of his pelvis leaves Dorian even more exposed than before, but it only serves to arouse him further, especially when he hears Bull’s appreciative rumble.

Bull climbs onto the bed on his knees, swings a leg over him and lowers to hands and knees to hover above Dorian’s back on all fours, resting his weight on one arm beside Dorian’s head. The other hand tangles in Dorian’s hair, pulls his head to the side so that Bull can lean in and whisper hotly in his ear. “I’m going to eat that pretty little ass,” he says, sliding his hand out of Dorian’s hair to grasp the nape of his neck. Dorian’s voice wavers when he moans, his groin flooding with heat, and fuck, he wants that. “Then I’m going to ravish you.”

Bull moves his hand off Dorian’s neck, bites his nape, and Dorian’s going to be covered in bruises if they keep this up but right now he couldn’t possibly care less. Bull’s lips and teeth on his neck are Dorian’s only point of sensation and he arches his back, squirms against the sheets, whimpers plaintively for more. “Please, Bull,” he says, and it’s so much easier to say that word now, knowing how much Bull likes to hear it, knowing how it gets to him. “Yes, please.”

One last bite to Dorian’s neck and Bull shifts down the bed, smears a wet kiss into the dip of Dorian’s lower back, nips sharply at the swell of one buttock. When Bull works his thumbs between Dorian’s cheeks and spreads him open to breathe a hot gust of air against his hole, Dorian shudders in exhilarated anticipation.

This time, instead of jerking away from the first wet swipe of Bull’s tongue, Dorian presses eagerly back into it. His cock is trapped between his belly and the pillow beneath him, which provides little friction, but he ruts against it anyway, shivery little movements of his hips as Bull squirms the tip of his tongue around and inside him.

“Spread yourself open for me, baby,” Bull says, shifting his weight onto his elbows. When he does as he’s told, Bull slides his forearms under Dorian’s legs and hooks his arms up around Dorian’s spread thighs, effectively locking himself in place with his face buried between Dorian’s cheeks so that he can shove his tongue in deep and even the worst of Dorian’s writhing can’t dislodge him.

“Oh, fuck,” Dorian chokes out. Bull’s tongue is thick and wet and slithering inside him, fucking into him slowly and then retreating to flick at his rim. He can feel the burn of Bull’s stubble against his perineum amidst the wet trail of his saliva and it’s so fucking good. “What have you done to me, you beast? You’ve conquered me, I am conquered. Why are you stopping?”

Bull pulls away with a wet slurp that would be disgusting if it weren’t so delightfully obscene. “I love it when you say shit like that,” he growls, then unwinds his arms and pulls on Dorian’s hip until he turns over. “You have that oil with you?”

Dorian groans and flops down against the sheets, suddenly deflated. “In my pack,” he says with a dramatic, exasperated sigh. “On the ground, next to the bath.”

“It’s fine, I have some.” Bull chuckles as he climbs out of bed and crosses to his armor chest against the wall. Dorian raises up onto his elbows to watch him. “It doesn’t smell as good as yours,” he says on his way back, holding a brown glass vial that’s rather a lot larger than the one Dorian keeps, “but it gets the job done.”

Bull climbs back into the bed, settles in to sit with his back against the headboard. Dorian turns to face him, allows Bull to pull him into his lap so that he’s straddling Bull’s thighs again, just like earlier in the bath. Bull runs his hands up Dorian’s thighs and around behind to squeeze his buttocks and urge him up onto his knees. “I want to watch your face while I fuck you,” Bull rumbles, snaking his fingers inward to rub Dorian’s hole. “I want to see what expression you make when you come.”

Dorian feels his face flush hot, but not just with arousal. It’s utterly ridiculous that he’d be so touched by such a base, carnal thing, but he’s touched by it all the same -- in fact, it’s probably the most romantic thing anyone’s ever said to him. Laughter threatens to bubble up in his chest at the thought, even as foreboding pinpricks sting the corners of his eyes.

He manages to keep the laughter at bay and though they threaten, the tears never quite take form. He’s sure Bull had noticed the conflict play out on his face, but Dorian wonders what it must look like without the context of what’s going on inside his head. What must Bull be thinking?

Dorian composes himself quickly. “I can’t blame you,” he says, looking Bull directly in the eye with a cocky grin. “I’m stunning. I’d watch myself too, if I could.”

Bull scrutinizes him as if he’s searching for something, but only for a moment -- the answering chuckle tells Dorian he’s found whatever he was looking for. “Stunning,” Bull rumbles in agreement. “Magnificent. Brilliant, impressive, one might even say ravishing.” It’s nothing Dorian hasn’t said about himself, but it’s so much better coming from someone else. Coming from Bull.

Dorian searches Bull’s expression for any sign that the words are disingenuous -- in his darker moments, he’d wondered if all the praise was just a game Bull plays because he knows Dorian will fall for it -- but despite the cocky little half-smile on his lips, as usual, Bull seems entirely sincere.

“Flattery will get you everywhere,” Dorian says at last. He smiles, rests his hands on Bull’s shoulders. Bull opens the vial and pours a puddle of oil into his large palm, rubs it between his hands to warm it and coats his fingers in the process. He snakes one hand underneath Dorian and presses the pads of two fingertips against his hole, rubbing in slick circles.

Dorian’s smile goes slack on a soft gasp when one finger breaches him, sliding in to the second knuckle, the other massaging around the sensitive rim to relax the muscle that tightens in response to the sudden intrusion. Dorian bites his lip, his brow furrowing from the twinge of discomfort, but it soon melts into pleasure as Bull rubs slowly inside him. It’s a heady thing to know that Bull is watching him with that keen eye, that knowing gaze that misses nothing.

When Bull’s second finger joins the first, Dorian moans and his eyelids fall closed. Bull’s hand stills. “Open your eyes, Kadan.”

Dorian obliges, though he isn’t sure what the last word means; he’d assume it to be some kind of Qunari endearment if he thought the Qunari had use for such things. Then again, so many of his preconceptions about Bull’s people have been proven wrong already, so perhaps he ought to stop assuming. He resolves to add it to his list of questions for later and focuses his gaze on Bull’s good eye. There’s tenderness there, adoration, mingled in with all of the want. “Good boy,” Bull says. “Keep them open for me, baby. I want to see you.”

“If you insist,” says Dorian. It’s a bit of a struggle to keep his eyes fixed on Bull’s with the man’s fingers pumping and twisting in him, pushing in hard and rubbing over his prostate on the way out. The building pleasure weighs down his eyelids, but the difficult part is that Bull’s gaze feels too heavy, too full of a meaning Dorian doesn’t quite trust himself to decipher. As much as he craves Bull’s rapt attention, there’s an unfamiliar intimacy here that sets Dorian’s nerves on edge, makes the more vulnerable parts of him want to hide themselves from Bull’s penetrating gaze.

Just when the weight of it starts to seem too intense, Bull’s voice calms him with soothing words, like a balm for his mind. “You’re beautiful,” he says, a warm rumble that envelops Dorian and brings blood rushing to the surface of his cheeks. “I love seeing you like this, Dorian. I wish you could see yourself.” He adds a third finger, pushes them in deep.

The stretch makes Dorian gasp and arch, but he doesn’t break eye contact and neither does Bull. “Fuck, you’re gorgeous.” Bull twists his fingers, pulses them a little, and Dorian rolls his hips, rocks down on them with a shivery moan. Bull spreads his fingers just inside Dorian’s hole, stretching him wider. “You ready for my cock, baby?”

Yes,” Dorian hisses, more breath than voice, and his own fingernails bite into the flesh of Bull’s shoulders to punctuate his desire. Dorian glances down between their bodies when Bull’s fingers leave his body; Bull’s cock is already glistening with moisture. At some point he’d coated himself with oil and Dorian hadn’t even noticed, pinned as he was by Bull’s gaze.

Bull moves his hands to Dorian’s hips, guides him forward and down until he feels Bull’s hot, slick hardness in the crease of his arse, sliding smoothly between his cheeks. One of Bull’s hands leaves Dorian’s skin -- a small travesty -- to hold his cock in place while Dorian sinks down, impales himself little by little, until the wide crown has breached his body.

Bull’s hands close on Dorian’s hips but he doesn’t push or pull, just holds him, his thumbs gently tracing the jut of Dorian’s hipbones. “Slow,” he says gently. “Take your time.” Dorian’s thighs tremble slightly with the effort of holding him up, dragging it out, letting himself adjust to the stretch and pressure of Bull’s girth. Much as he’d like for Bull to be buried in him to the hilt, he knows it would be a mistake to rush it.

“You feel amazing, baby.” When had it become so normal to hear that ridiculous endearment? When had it become something he wants to hear? Bull raises a hand to cradle Dorian’s face, the pad of his thumb brushing over Dorian’s lower lip and down his chin. “So hot and tight around my cock.” Dorian moans and sinks a little further, and some far-off part of him marvels at Bull’s ability to say such things with a straight face, to make them sound so unbelievably seductive when the same thing said by any other man would only make him want to laugh.

The backs of Dorian’s thighs meet the tops of Bull’s and Dorian takes a moment to enjoy the feeling of being so thoroughly filled, then sways in Bull’s lap, little undulations of his hips just to feel the way their bodies fit together, the delicate friction where they’re joined, the pull and stretch of Dorian’s flesh where it yields to Bull’s. “Can’t get enough of you,” Bull says, hushed. It feels like a confession, and something bright and optimistic flares briefly in Dorian’s chest, something that whispers promisingly, suggests that perhaps he’s not as alone in these feelings as he’d thought.

“Be careful what you wish for,” Dorian says breathlessly, and while he’s glad to know his wits haven’t left him completely, it’s not exactly what he wants to say, not really.

“Or I might get it?” Bull hums, grinning. “I could live with that.”

Dorian feels heat tingle through him with the promise in those words. He runs his hands up from Bull’s shoulders to cup the sides of that thick neck, leans forward to kiss him, and in that moment it doesn’t matter where Bull’s tongue has been today because he needs this, he pours every ounce of his need into it, and Bull seems to understand because he responds in kind, holding Dorian tight with one hand on his nape and the other arm encircling his lower back.

It feels like a conversation without words, and Dorian knows he’ll still have to ask his questions if he wants to be sure, but right now he feels like there might actually be a chance for him. Perhaps he’ll get what he wants, for the first time in a very long time.

Bull uses the gentle pressure of his arm at Dorian’s back to encourage him to move, rolls his hips in counterpoint to Dorian’s motions until they’re rocking together steadily, Dorian’s erection smearing moisture on Bull’s belly while Bull moves hot and slick inside him. Dorian’s eyes are closed -- he can’t, he can’t, not right now -- but Bull doesn’t say anything about it this time. He eats at Dorian’s mouth, bites his lips and sucks on his tongue, and Dorian will never get over how good it feels to be kissed while being fucked, how the pleasure washes through him from everywhere at once and fuses in his center, settles in his gut like warm honey, coating him from the inside with sweet, sticky heat.

Bull swallows down Dorian’s cries as he jerks his hips up harder, his large hands falling to Dorian’s buttocks and gripping, pulling and shoving him to meet each thrust. The slight change in angle has Bull’s cock dragging teasingly over Dorian’s sensitized prostate; it’s not enough pressure to recreate that mind-blowing orgasm Bull had given him before, not with his cock alone, but it does send tingling frissons of pleasure up his spine and down his thighs.

“Touch yourself,” Bull growls against Dorian’s chin, bites at Dorian’s lip. Dorian’s breath comes out as a whine as he takes hold of his cock, relief flooding him along with the pleasure. “Get yourself off, baby, let me see you come.” Dorian breaks away from their kiss to mutter a complicated stream of sacrilegious ancient Tevene curses between panted breaths, wasting no time in jerking himself. Bull groans, tenses his arm behind Dorian’s back to hold him firmly in place while he pounds up into him, the sound of flesh slapping against flesh filling the room from his vigorous thrusting.

Dorian is too impatient to drag it out and it’s not long before the pleasure builds to a crescendo. He hovers for a giddy moment on the precipice of his climax, the image of Bull’s intense, hungry expression burning itself into his mind. “Come on, Dorian. Come for me,” Bull demands, his voice deep but breathless, faltering from his exertion, and the needy insistence of it is all it takes to send Dorian crashing to pieces.

It takes considerable effort not to roll his head back as the pleasure washes through him, to keep his face where Bull can see every twitch and tremble that crosses his features as he keens and moans. Even more difficult to keep his eyes open through the onslaught, his hole spasming and contracting around Bull’s cock in time with the throbbing pulse of his ejaculation. A small miracle that he manages, but well worth it for the look Bull gives him: intense, emphatic, captivated.

Bull shoves hard into Dorian’s body and then stills, a long, forceful groan rumbling deep in his throat. For a moment Dorian wonders why he’s stopping, but then he feels it: the throb of Bull’s cock, the warm ticking deep inside him. Once the last of Bull’s orgasm shudders out of him, he seems just as surprised by the suddenness of it as Dorian is; he barks a surprised laugh that pulls a sympathetic giggle out of Dorian in return. Dorian leans forward, presses his forehead to Bull’s while they laugh, panting and breathless.

“Was that --” Dorian starts once he’s caught his breath a little.

At the same time, Bull says, “We just --”

They both stop talking, and then they’re laughing again. Despite the popularity of the simultaneous orgasm in the kind of tawdry romance novels penned by so many writers of Varric’s persuasion, Dorian’s never heard of such a thing actually happening. It’s certainly never happened to him. “Wow,” he says, his voice an amused sigh.

“Yeah,” Bull replies. “Wow.”

“How cliche,” Dorian clucks with a parody of an unimpressed frown -- he can’t quite maintain it with the smile that wants to burst forth from it. Bull strokes his back gently and chuckles. Dorian rises up onto his knees slowly, wincing slightly when Bull’s cock slips out of him, and he shifts over to Bull’s side so he can lay himself gingerly back against the sheets. “Andraste’s tits,” he exhales, which sets Bull laughing again as he shifts down the bed to lay next to Dorian.

Dorian holds his hands up above his head. “I’m shaking,” he says, astonished, watching his fingers tremble. “My legs feel like mush. How am I to accomplish anything today when you’ve turned me to jelly?” The post-orgasmic lethargy is starting to set in and he lets his hands drop limply back to the bed.

“Looks like you’ll just have to put off your important business till tomorrow,” Bull says, sounding as sleepy as Dorian feels.

“A tempting offer.” Dorian’s voice fades with each word. He’s swiftly losing the battle, and though it’s only early afternoon, he’s happy to rest a while in this comfortable, hazy peace. Bull’s hand covers his, Bull’s fingers slotting in the spaces between his own, and the last thing he feels before sleep takes him is that large, terrifying, exhilarating, welling thing in his chest. Hope.

He hadn’t known it still lived there.

Chapter Text

Dorian wakes from a dream he can’t quite remember, though the emotions he’d felt in his sleep are still fresh in his mind. An apprehensive feeling, disquieted, the way one might feel at the edge of a great precipice, the wondering: not whether one will fall, but whether one will jump.

Bull’s breathing is slow and deep and measured next to him, which suggests he’s asleep, or at least very near it. The curtains hanging over the windows obscure most of the light from outside, but a single shaft of sunlight manages to illuminate a small patch of window sill and the floor just underneath it. By the angle of the beam and the brightness of the light, Dorian guesses it’s still some time in the early afternoon. Normally Bull would be out training with the Chargers at this time of day, but the man has been known to take an occasional lazy Sunday. It seems this one may have been planned in advance.

It’s pleasantly warm under the covers from their trapped body heat -- Bull must have retrieved the blanket some time after Dorian had fallen asleep. Next to him, Bull shifts a bit and yawns, then lazily stretches his arm up and nudges it behind Dorian’s head and over his shoulders. Dorian lets himself be pulled closer, rests his cheek on the pillow of Bull’s pectoral and rests a hand on Bull’s chest, his fingers curling into a loose fist against the man’s wide sternum.

They lay like that in silence for a while. Perhaps Bull is drifting in hazy, post-nap lethargy; perhaps, from the outside, the scene looks calm and serene, but there’s a feeling of uneasy foreboding rippling on the surface of Dorian’s thoughts.

“You okay?” Bull’s voice is hoarse, sleepy; he tightens his arm around Dorian’s shoulders a bit, but otherwise doesn’t move. “You’re getting all tense.”

Dorian hadn’t noticed the tension, but now that Bull’s mentioned it, he realizes it’s true. He expels a heavy breath in an attempt to relax and blinks a few times to clear his head. “Fine. Just lost in thought,” he says, hoping he sounds convincing. “I was curious, though,” he continues after a brief pause, lifting up on his elbow to look down at Bull, hoping he might be able to change the subject. “That word you said earlier. What was it?”

“Oh, Kadan?” Bull asks, and Dorian is shocked to see a sheepish smile, of all things, quirk in the corners of his mouth and crinkle the skin around his good eye. It’s a terribly endearing expression. “I was wondering if you’d noticed.”

“Of course I noticed,” Dorian scoffs, not unkindly. “I was practically --” Hanging on your every word, he doesn’t say, cuts himself off instead and snaps his mouth shut as it occurs to him that perhaps the whole thing had been an accident, just an unintended side-effect of being caught up in the moment. “Well, no matter.” He waves his hand as if the entire subject is a buzzing insect he can swat away. “We all say things we don’t mean sometimes, heat of the moment, completely understandable --”

“Nah, it’s not like that,” Bull interrupts, chuckling softly and shaking his head. “Kadan literally means the place where the heart lies.” That little grin is back, and though Dorian would never think to use the word timid to describe the Iron Bull, it’s the closest fit at the moment. “It’s an expression of respect and affection for someone you care about. A close friend, a brother-in-arms.”

“Is that what we are?” Dorian’s voice comes out more brittle than he means it. Really, he should have known that’s all it was between them -- no, he had known. It’s what he’d wanted, even; he shouldn’t have let himself think otherwise.

“There you go, getting all tense again,” Bull observes, and Dorian rolls away from him with a sigh, laying flat against the mattress for a moment before pulling himself up to sit, turning away to hang his legs over the side of the bed.

“It’s fine,” says Dorian, hoping his voice won’t waver. He casts about for his clothes, finds his trousers and pulls them on, and he feels certain Bull is watching him but he isn’t about to turn around and check. There’s an uneasy conflict in his mind; he’s happy to know that Bull considers him a friend, but it’s a small comfort at the moment. Dorian picks up his vest, stares at his own trembling fingers against the leather, his eyes prickling uncomfortably and he will not cry about this, that’s absurd.

Dorian clears his throat and says, “What better arrangement could there be than that? Friends who fuck.” The last word comes out as a sort of breathy, mirthless laugh, and the betrayal of his unhappiness threatens to bring the entire facade crashing down around him. His vision blurs around the edges with moisture, but he blinks it away.

“Dorian, come here.” Bull’s voice cuts into his thoughts and he realizes he’s been bitterly picking at the frayed threads along the seam of his vest and managed to make them worse. When he doesn’t move -- can’t move, he feels utterly paralyzed -- he hears the bed groan and pop behind him, announcing Bull’s presence on Dorian’s side of the bed just a pace or two away from where he now stands. He briefly wonders when he’d started thinking of it as his side, but just as quickly shuts out the thought.

Another groan of protest from the bed and then Dorian can feel Bull’s proximity behind him in the shift of air and static in the room. Bull’s hand is light when it finds his shoulder, a gentle nudge to get him to turn around, and he’s not ready for this but he does it anyway. He keeps his eyes cast down, keeps his gaze fixed on his own hands gripping his vest so that he sees neither Bull’s face nor his naked body.

“Hey, look at me,” says Bull, and Dorian takes a steadying breath before he does so, aided by Bull’s fingers under his chin tipping his head up. “I may be Tal Vashoth now,” Bull starts, and it’s still such a bitter subject for him, judging by the way the bridge of his nose crinkles when he says the words. Dorian opens his mouth to protest that he isn’t, not really, but Bull shushes him with a finger over his lips.

Dorian jerks his head back and manages to splutter a bit, but Bull cuts him off. “No, listen to me first, then you can say whatever you want when I’m done.” Dorian rolls his eyes and sighs, but nods to indicate he’ll do as he’s told, and Bull drops his hand to rest it on Dorian’s hip instead.

“I’m Tal Vashoth now,” Bull starts again, “but I lived a long time under the Qun, and I got used to things being a certain way. You take care of your body in whatever way it needs. When it’s hungry, you feed it. When it’s cold, you clothe it. When it’s horny, you go to the Tamassrans, or failing that, you find someone who wants to fuck. That’s just how it is.”

“Are you done?” Dorian butts in impatiently, crossing his arms over his chest with his vest wound up between them.

“Shut up and listen,” Bull says, but his voice and expression are far kinder than the words. “Under the Qun, the people you care about aren’t the people you fuck. Even if they are, those things have nothing to do with each other. So yeah, we’re friends who fuck, and we can keep fucking if that’s what you want, or we can stop whenever you want. And either way,” he pauses, brings his other hand up to Dorian’s neck, blunted nails scratching pleasantly up into the short, cropped hair at his nape. Bull’s voice goes quiet and he tilts his head down so that he’s almost brushing Dorian’s forehead with the bony pate between his horns. “Either way, I’m still gonna care about you.”

Dorian is stunned into silence, and all he can do is hold Bull’s gaze; from this close he can see the flecks of silver and slate in the pale blue-gray of his iris, the sparse but dense lashes just peeking out from the fold of his eyelid. “I’m not sure I understand,” he admits after a time, soft and hesitant, because the Iron Bull has basically just told him they’re nothing more than glorified friends with benefits, and yet it all feels so significant, somehow.

“At the tavern, when Krem said… is there anyone else you’re…” Dorian feels ridiculous as the words tumble out, and he shuts himself up with a click of his teeth and a shake of his head. “No, never mind, I think I’d rather not know about --”

“No one else,” Bull assures him, and some of the tension eases out of Dorian’s shoulders when he unfolds his arms. “I’m all yours, for as long as you want to keep doing what we’ve been doing.”

It goes a long way to put Dorian’s mind at ease, but he still doesn’t really understand. “What about what you want?”

“What I want doesn’t matter,” says Bull matter-of-factly, as if it’s the most obvious thing in the world. Dorian grimaces up at him, his brow furrowed with his confusion.

“What do you mean, it doesn’t matter? Of course it matters. If you’re simply… if this is all just… that’s absurd!” Dorian’s arms itch to move, his fingers clenching and releasing the leather of his vest with the repressed urge to flit and flutter around him as he talks. Bull is chuckling amiably, the way he does when Dorian is being deliberately fractious, but this time he’s not and the laughter only frustrates him further.

“No,” says Dorian, tossing his vest aside without a care for the garment, and there must be something about the action that gives away how serious he is because Bull stops laughing, looks bemused. “No, you can’t just. There has to be, you have to… kaffas, you idiot, it matters to me.”

Bull huffs a breath out of his nose, his lips quirking into a hint of a grin. “Why’s that?”

Normally, Dorian would be working up a snide or witty response, but right now the question catches him off-guard, not because he’s not expecting it, but because he’s just asked himself the same thing. “I,” he starts, swallows when Bull’s hands both go to his hips, thumbs tucked into the belt loops on either side to tug him closer. There’s a tangled mess of reasons in his head, a jumble of half-truths and obfuscations and diversions, and buried far underneath it all is a glimmer of the truth.

“I once thought,” Dorian begins, choosing his words carefully, “that the best I could hope for was a kind of… a mutually beneficial arrangement, with a man I didn’t find entirely unattractive.” He swallows, tries to ease the dryness of his throat -- he’s never said any of this out loud, hardly let himself think about it. One of his dirty little secrets: that he’d willingly been someone’s illicit love affair just to ease the loneliness, that he’d done so more than once. That he’d do it again, even now, as long as it meant he got to experience something more meaningful than a hasty rub and tug in a dark corner with a stranger.

“A month ago, I thought that’s all we would be,” he continues. Bull takes a small breath as if he’s about to say something, but Dorian doesn’t give him the chance; aims an urgent look at him instead, because now that he’s begun he can’t stop, not until he gets it all out. “I was alright with that at the time -- I thought that’s what I wanted. But…” His face is starting to heat up, and he averts his gaze so he won’t see Bull’s reaction on his face, whatever it happens to be. It will only make this more difficult. He stares at a patch of scarred, blemished skin on Bull’s neck instead.

“I don’t want any promises or declarations of devotion or anything so garish,” Dorian continues quickly, then takes a moment to compose himself; it’s all fits and starts, but thankfully Bull seems content to let him finish his thought. When he feels a bit more calm, Dorian meets Bull’s eye again. “I simply… it matters. That you want me, matters. That… fasta vass, I don’t know, that it wouldn’t be the same for you if it wasn’t me. That I’m not merely a convenience.”

“Dorian, you’ve never been convenient.” The audacity of the comment breaks some of the tension and pulls a single loud bark of laughter from Dorian. It’’s a good-natured jibe and there’s a sympathetic set to Bull’s brow, the skin around his eye crinkled into laugh lines from his lopsided smile.

“No, I suppose I haven’t,” Dorian says wryly, pinching Bull’s arm hard in retaliation for his horrible timing. Though, he has to admit, it has lightened the mood. “I’m flippant, impatient, and melodramatic. Not to mention desperately attractive.” He drops his eyes back to Bull’s neck. “So, did you mean it? Kadan?”

“Yeah,” says Bull, soft and sincere, running his palms up Dorian’s bare sides and slowly back down, a soothing gesture. “I meant it. And if it means so much to you, then what I want is to keep doing what we’ve been doing, until you don’t want to anymore.”

“And what about... all the other things you’ve said?” Dorian’s already dug himself this deep; it can’t hurt to ask about this, too. All the sweet, passionate words Dorian had soaked up, luxuriated in, all the things Bull had said in growls and whispers that had seeped down into Dorian’s core and now sit like glowing embers in his belly. They could be stoked either to warm him, or to burn him from the inside.

“I meant every word,” says Bull, utterly serious, and Dorian has to suppress what feels like a tidal wave of relief or risk being consumed by it. He swallows it down, tucks it away for later, and still feels suddenly boneless. Luckily Bull’s solid frame is there for him to lean on.

“I believe you,” Dorian says with a strange little laugh, astonished to discover as he says it that it’s true -- he doesn’t doubt Bull’s word, not even a little. It’s a revelation.

“You seem surprised,” Bull chuckles, still lightly rubbing Dorian’s back.

“I am!” Dorian says with rather too much panache, catching the fleeting edge of a look of -- hurt? Disappointment? -- in Bull’s expression just before it vanishes. Dorian realizes too late what he’s just said, what it must have sounded like, and he shakes his head quickly, tripping over his words in his haste to reverse the damage. “No, Bull, that’s not -- I didn’t -- I simply meant -- fenhedis.” He blows out a breath to calm himself and tries again.

“I only meant that I don’t trust easily,” he says, hurried, his brows pinched in concern as he tries to make up for the unintended insult. “I can count the people I trust on one hand, and one of them is dead.”

“Hey, it’s alright,” Bull starts, looking down at him like he thinks Dorian is something fragile and delicate that Bull has handled too roughly; ridiculous. “I don’t expect you to --”

“Just shut up and let me talk now,” says Dorian, absently rubbing at his temple. His head feels weighed down by what he’s saying, what he’s about to say. “Maker help me, you’re among that number. I trust you. I simply hadn’t quite realized it until now.” He drops his hand, looks up at Bull with an apologetic look, and he hopes it’s enough.

Bull seems momentarily struck speechless, but he recovers in the span of a few of Dorian’s too-hard heartbeats. “I think that might be the sweetest thing you’ve ever said to me, Kadan,” he says, threading his fingers into the hair at Dorian’s temple, rubbing his thumb gently across Dorian’s cheek.

A fresh wave of relief washes through Dorian; he is forgiven. “Don’t tell anyone,” he says, trying to affect a distasteful look, but all this maudlin, sentimental nonsense in his head does something to his face that makes it difficult to hold a satisfactory grimace. “I have a reputation to protect.”

Bull laughs, and it seems like he’s about to say something, but it’s interrupted by a loud knock and Krem’s voice shouting through the door, “Oy, Chief, you in there?”

“Yeah,” Bull calls back, and there’s no time to pull on his discarded vest before the doorknob turns and the door opens, so Dorian doesn’t bother trying.

“The Inquisitor’s been looking for you and your little mage friend,” says Krem as he walks into the room, though he’s looking at something in his hand. “Says you’re up tomorrow -- oh.” Krem stops when he looks up and spots Dorian, and he grins, a lopsided smile that looks like a mirror of Bull’s. Dorian wonders who influenced whom in that respect. “Hullo, little mage friend,” Krem says with a wave, and Dorian just sighs, rolls his eyes, and crosses his arms in front of his bare chest. “Excellent, two birds with one stone. Inquisitor says you’re up tomorrow, both of you, something about the Emerald Graves.”

Dorian ignores Krem, levels a glare toward Bull instead. “Do you ever lock your door?”

Bull gives him a smirk and an overtly lecherous once-over, and Dorian regrets asking. “Can’t help it if I had other things on my mind,” he rumbles with a pointed look in the direction of Dorian’s groin on the word things.

“Oh, eugh, enough,” Krem groans, putting his hands up in front of his eyes. He’s still holding something, a package wrapped in brown paper. “Spare the innocent bystander, no one needs to see that. And Chief, this came for you by courier.” He holds out the package and Bull takes it from him with a nod, places it on his work table. “I’m out of here before you two start up again,” Krem says as he leaves.

“He says I’m not entirely unattractive, Krem,” Bull calls after the man as he closes the door.

“Couldn’t possibly care less, Chief,” Krem calls back, his voice fading as he walks away.

“Must you?” Dorian purses his lips, but Bull’s tilting his head with a roguish smile and Dorian is far more charmed by it than he really should be. Dorian is curious about the parcel, of course, but Bull’s mail is none of his business, so he doesn’t mention it. Instead he finds his vest and pulls it on, letting his magic do most of his work for him. That’s when he remembers -- “My clothes!
___

Back in the clearing, Dorian is not pleased. “Well, they were genuine halla leather,” he says, kicking sullenly at the sopping wet pile of his ruined clothes. Even a well-maintained wooden basin leaks eventually, and this one had done so copiously, the water pooling around his discarded outfit on its way down the slope of the stream bank. “Now, they look like wet Mabari, and I’m sure they smell worse.”

Bull only laughs. “I’ll buy you a new outfit next time we’re in Val Royeaux,” he offers, and Dorian turns on him with a glare, his nose wrinkled in disgust.

“First you destroy my property and then you insult my taste? Do you want me to set you on fire? Is that what you’re after?” He calls forth a swirling ball of invisible mana in each palm and ignites them in twin bursts of flame that burn themselves out in a few seconds, dissipating in the open air.

“Alright, alright.” Bull’s hands go up in a placating gesture, a parody of surrender, and he’s grinning when he lets his arms drop. “I’ll find a way to make it up to you.”

“You’d better,” Dorian sniffs. “And it had better be good; that was an expensive outfit, and since I can’t just go waltzing back to the Imperium to have a new one made, irreplaceable.”

“I’m sure I can think of something,” says Bull.

Dorian gives his ruined leathers another desultory prod with his toe and lets out a put-upon sigh, then takes a step back. With a thought and a gesture, he engulfs them in magical flame, and for a moment they pop and sizzle on the rocky ground as the water burns away. Then the leather shrivels away, leaving only a pile of ash and charred metal buckles.

“Cutting it a little close, isn’t it?” Bull steps toward the remains and crouches down to inspect the side of the basin, presumably for scorch marks, but it is -- to Dorian, at least -- unsurprisingly unharmed.

“You underestimate my ability,” Dorian huffs, indignant, crossing his arms over his chest. Bull stands up again and shrugs with a noncommittal sort of grunt. “You think I -- an Altus mage of Tevinter, who has been training in magical studies all my life -- wouldn’t be able to prevent a little splash damage?”

“I think you might accidentally --” The emphasis is enough to indicate Bull’s sarcastic use of the word, no air quotations necessary. “-- exact a little revenge for your loss.”

Dorian widens his eyes and gasps, his hand to his breast, as if scandalized by the implication. “You really believe I’d be petty enough to take out my vengeance on the only decently private bath in Skyhold?” He turns on his heel with a flippant wave over his shoulder as he steps toward the trail that leads back to the gate. “I’ll make my displeasure known, make no mistake, but it shan’t be at the expense of your hygiene.”

He hears Bull’s rumbling laughter behind him, the shuffle of heavy footsteps on the dirt that says he’s following, and soon the trail is wide enough for Bull to fall in step beside him. “I assume you’ll be at the tavern tonight,” Dorian says with a glance to his side.

“Probably,” says Bull. “You?”

“Mm, no, I don’t think so. Preparations to make for tomorrow.”

“You mean you have to get your beauty sleep,” says Bull, and he chuckles when Dorian huffs in mock annoyance.

“You jest,” Dorian says wryly, “but you clearly have no idea how much work it takes to look this good.” Bull’s answering laugh is good-natured, and Dorian lines up another playful verbal jab. “Someone has to keep up appearances, and since you thoroughly refuse…” He aims a pointed look at Bull’s slacks to prove his point, the ones with the alternating stripes of dark red and olive green. Hideous.

“I thought you said I’m not unattractive.” It’s not really a protest, more of a comment; the Iron Bull is not a vain creature, Dorian knows, but he checks the man’s expression anyway, out of habit. Bull is smirking. Skyhold looms just ahead, its wide yawning entryway casting them in shadow.

“Not entirely unattractive, I believe were my exact words,” says Dorian as he passes through the outer gates. He’s not expecting it when, just inside, he’s roughly spun around and shoved back against the inner stone wall, so fast it nearly knocks the breath out of him; his pulse kicks up immediately as Bull steps in close, large hands pressed flat to the wall on either side of his head.

Bull’s not touching him anywhere but the way he’s looming over Dorian, looking down at him with that intense, perceptive gaze feels like a physical weight. Dorian swallows against a suddenly dry throat, feels his temperature rise along with the fluttering in his chest, awash in the warmth of helpless arousal. He forgets to breathe, then sucks in a great lungful of air when he starts to feel faint. Whatever expression is on his face must be rather pleasing, because Bull smirks again, leans in to brush his lips against Dorian’s flushed cheek. “Thought so,” he rumbles, a deep velvet purr in Dorian’s ear.

“Dirty, underhanded tricks. Fine,” says Dorian, “you’ve made your point.” His voice gives him away: it’s thready, breathless, and when Bull pulls back to get a look at him, Dorian drops all pretense of not enjoying this, grabs him by the horns and tugs him into a kiss.

A buzz of nervy excitement electrifies every touch of lips, tongues and teeth; even hidden as they are in their dark little alcove, the idea that anyone passing through the gates might spot them is both terrifying and exhilarating.

Dorian lets go of Bull’s horns when they part, drops his hands to Bull’s sturdy shoulders and hums softly as Bull gives his lower lip a last little nibble before pushing off the wall, freeing Dorian from the cage of his arms. Dorian blinks his eyes open, heavy-lidded, but doesn’t move just yet, offers a languorous smile instead.

“You can’t lie to me, Kadan,” Bull says then with a devilishly attractive crooked grin.

Dorian finally pushes himself away from the wall, makes a show of brushing off his clothes and sweeping back his hair. “If that’s to be my punishment when I do,” he intones as he takes a step past Bull, “then I’ll have to try it again.” This time, he’s fully expecting the slap on his arse as he walks away so he doesn’t jump, despite the sting. Instead he glances sidelong over his shoulder and says, “Is that the best you’ve got?”

Bull laughs then, a throaty thing, and follows Dorian toward the staircase that leads up to the great hall and upper courtyard. “That’s what I’m talking about,” he says in that booming voice of his. Then, quieter, when he catches up to Dorian on the stairs, “Love it when you’re feisty, makes me want to throw you over my shoulder again and take you back to my room for seconds.”

Dorian hesitates on the steps at that, manages to fight the sudden choking constriction in his throat. He turns to Bull, folds his arms loosely in front of his chest and looks him up and down as if considering the offer -- he can’t deny that he’s sorely tempted -- but he hadn’t been lying about preparations. “I’m afraid round two will have to wait,” he says with regret that’s not at all faked.

The smile on Bull’s face suggests he’d already known that would be the case. “Doesn’t hurt to ask.”

Bull nods to him before heading off in the direction of the tavern, and Dorian watches him go a moment, then makes for the second set of steps up to the great hall and the rotunda beyond, and wonders how he’s gotten himself into such a mess. Somehow, when he hadn’t been paying attention, he’d fallen for the Iron Bull, and then he’d dug himself a pit and buried himself in it.

A frantic, giddy thought occurs to him as he climbs the rotunda stairs, before he shoves it back down into the depths of his consciousness: what would Father say?
___

The Emerald Graves have to be conspiring to destroy whatever sense of appreciation he’d ever had for the place. Beautiful though they may be, Dorian has never much cared for nature, particularly the foresty kind: full of biting insects that leave itchy welts, nettles that get stuck under one’s clothes, roots that seem to rise out of the earth with the express purpose of tripping him, rashvine climbing the bark of every tree so that the slightest accidental brush against a trunk might lead to days of burning redness, not to mention bathing in frigid springs or not at all. It’s beastly.

As if all that weren’t enough, Dorian keeps catching the Inquisitor looking at him, or at Bull, or between the two of them. He’d thought the matter settled after their conversation back at Skyhold, but apparently not. Then again, he had been rather vague in his responses, but honestly. How much did anyone else need to know? Especially when he, himself, knew so little.

It’s something, he’d said. A whole lot of something. He’d explained that he didn’t really know what was ‘going on’, that he suspected the Bull didn’t either. What more was there to say?

But still, the Inquisitor stares, and as if to make matters even worse, Sera follows their leader’s gaze. The Inquisitor might be able to watch in silence, but Sera is incapable of not commenting. She giggles, and Dorian rolls his eyes before glancing over at her. “Something particularly funny?”

“You. And Bull,” she says, laughing again.

“I’m glad it amuses you,” says Dorian, his voice snappish. Hadn’t they already had this discussion? Apparently Sera hadn’t been satisfied with his answer the first time. “but what I get out of my affairs is my affair.” The Inquisitor watches them closely, like they’re some kind of comedy duo. Perhaps, right now, they are.

“I know what you get,” says Sera, and Maker, here it comes. “It’s like falling through a tree into custard. Too high! Wham! Too fast! Wham! Leaves! Wham! Splat!” She mimes each wham with a jerk of her torso, as if she’s slamming into an invisible wall, then flails her arms wide on the splat.

“I’m not sure which is worse,” Dorian sighs, long-suffering, “The mockery or the accuracy.”

“Eh,” Bull pipes up from behind them, “Depends how much rest the tree’s had.” It sends Sera into a renewed fit of giggles and even gets a snicker out of the Inquisitor, and all Dorian can do is roll his eyes again, because discretion. It seems nobody in this blighted group knows the meaning of the term. However, everyone seems content to drop it after that, leaving Dorian to contend with the bugs and the trees and everything else in relative peace.

According to the debriefing before they left, they’re here in the Graves to pay a visit to a red templar lieutenant named Carroll who -- as it turns out -- had been behind much of the Freemen activity in the Dales. They take a slight detour along the way to check in on Fairbanks and his motley crew of refugees, whom the Inquisitor had liberated from the Freemen on a previous visit, and who had since moved his people into one of the cleared camps. They’re now doing quite well for themselves, it seems. The party makes a quick stop to trade with the merchant there, then moves on to the northwest, to the Lion’s Pavillion where Carroll and his men will be waiting.

The Inquisitor tends to want to talk first, but they’re not given the chance. Carroll and his men -- well, they were once men, but they’re hideous red lyrium monsters now -- attack on sight.

Of all the Inquisitor’s many companions, Dorian finds he feels most in-tune with the current party. Blackwall and Cassandra are fine warriors, to be sure, but Bull is a one-man battalion. Dorian has seen him keep three warriors in full plate off-balance for the duration of a fight, has watched the man singlehandedly take on a hurlock alpha and win.

As for Sera, the way she and Bull work together is like an artform. Though she’d laughed off or turned down all of Bull’s suggestions in the early days, now she leaps onto his shoulder when he bends down, holds onto his horns to keep steady as he rises, uses the sudden vantage point to shoot off a few well-aimed arrows -- neatly dispatching two of the templars -- then leaps off him again in time for Bull to counter the swing of a greatsword in his direction.

She’s so quick, so light on her feet, and she knows how to disappear from view at just the right moment to leave the enemy confused and open to attack. Dorian watches Sera for just such an opening, timing his flashfire to take advantage of the enemy’s disorientation and send them running in panic as their blood boils in their veins.

And the Inquisitor -- well, that’s a subject for the scholars and academics to tackle; the Inquisitor is a force of nature, simple as that.

When the fight is over the four of them stand, panting, over six dead red templars, popping potions while the Inquisitor checks the bodies for useful items and information. There are a few shards of corrupted lyrium, a bit of gold, but not much else. At least the bastards are dead.

“Well done,” Dorian says, laying a hand on the Inquisitor’s -- his friend’s -- shoulder. For a moment he almost forgets about the bites, the rashes, the murderous foliage… but the reprieve doesn’t last long.
___

Heading back to Skyhold by way of Emprise du Lion, the sun begins to set behind them just as they reach Sahrnia, so they make camp there for the night. They’re sitting around a roaring fire with a few other members of the Inquisition, the smell of roasting meat filling the air as they eat a meal of august ram and boiled tubers, and someone opens a barrel of mead and passes around wooden flagons. Dorian accepts one with a nod of thanks and takes a sip, scowling a bit at the taste -- Chasind sack mead, awful stuff. He’d much prefer wine tonight if he had his choice, but he drinks it anyway.

Sera is telling animated stories of no doubt highly embellished Red Jenny escapades, entertaining the Inquisition scouts and officers, but Dorian is only half listening. “Something on your mind?” Bull’s voice is pitched low, quiet, and nobody else seems to notice.

“Mm, I was thinking about my leads on the Venatori.” Dorian returns, staring into the fire. “There’s one more out here in the Dales, but he was last seen in the Exalted Plains. I’d meant to talk our Illustrious Leader into extending our trip by a few days, but I never did, and it’s far too late now.” The roaring fire only really heats the front of him and Dorian shivers, fine tremors through his torso from the cold on all other sides.

“You’re serious about hunting down these Venatori assholes, huh?” Bull slides a little closer on the bench they share and even though they’re not touching, Dorian can feel the heat radiating off him -- the man is a furnace. “Aren’t they your countrymen?”

There’s a brief moment of defensiveness that rises in Dorian, an instinctual stiffening in his spine and a hardening of his temper as he anticipates judgment. There’s even an unpleasant remark on the tip of his tongue about killing one’s people, and the venom in that barb snaps him back to reality, where no one is judging him but himself.

In the wake of his self-protective shell, he’s left with the regret of what he’d almost said. It clips his voice when he speaks, makes the words come out hard and curt.

“The Venatori forfeited their right to call themselves my countrymen,” he says, a disgusted curl to his lip, “the moment they decided to trust an ancient corrupted magister bent on world domination with the future of the Imperium -- no, of all Thedas. They are everything that is wrong with my home and its people, and they deserve neither my sympathy nor my mercy.”

“Fair enough.” Bull goes quiet for a moment, thoughtful. “You really care about it, don’t you? Your home.” The calm, uncomplicated way he says it is disarming. Usually when people ask Dorian about Tevinter, they talk as if he’s a fool to care as he does, as if he’s naive; he senses no such incredulity or hostility from Bull.

“I really do,” Dorian sighs. “We have so much potential. We could accomplish so much if we could just stop posturing and squabbling amongst ourselves over who has the largest staff.”

Bull snickers at the innuendo while Dorian tries not to, but his irritation doesn’t last long and he eventually gives in to the smile that’s tugging at the edge of his mouth.

“So, have you given any more thought to that necklace of yours?”

“It’s not a necklace,” Dorian says petulantly, pursing his lips. “It’s an amulet, and yes; I’ve decided Ponchard isn’t worth the effort needed to persuade him. He can keep the blighted thing, I don’t need it.”

“You sure?” Bull scratches at his chin. “If you want, me and the Chargers could --”

“What? Intimidate him into giving it back? Steal it?” Dorian laughs, only a little bitterly. “No, that would just bring more trouble down on the Inquisition, which is precisely what I want to avoid.” He softens his smile, shifts to nudge Bull’s arm with his shoulder. “Besides, if I can’t retake my homeland and change its entire political atmosphere without the aid of a necklace, perhaps I’m not the man for the job.”

Bull leans back against him, a warm line of contact from Dorian’s shoulder to his elbow. They sit like that for a while, empty plates in their laps and flagons in their hands.

“So you’ve decided to go back,” Bull says after a while, breaking the silence, his voice steady but quiet. It only vaguely sounds like a question.

Dorian blows out a soft breath. “Not exactly. There are still a lot of ifs to consider. If we survive. If the Venatori don’t succeed in neutralizing their dissenters in the Imperium. If there’s even still an Imperium to return to.” He pauses, not sure whether he should verbalize the other if, the one that’s been flitting in and out of his mind every time he thinks about returning. If there’s no reason for me to stay. In the end, he chooses not to say it; it’s too much pressure, too much strain for something that’s still so fragile.

“Makes sense,” says Bull. “No use making plans when you don’t know what you’re going into.” Then he chuckles. The way Bull keeps looking at him, it feels like he’s got more to say. Dorian almost asks him, almost, but then Bull turns back to the fire and the moment ends. Bull stretches his arms out in front of him, knits his fingers together and pops his knuckles, the loud cracking setting Dorian’s teeth on edge. “Well,” he continues after a time, “if you ever need any mercs to do the stuff you can’t do while you’re over there changing things, you know who to call.”
___

The Inquisition officers and scouts take the largest of the camp’s three tents, leaving the other two for their party. Sera and the Inquisitor take the second tent, leaving the third to Dorian and Bull -- obviously by design. Perhaps they’re hoping to hear something incriminating in the night, Dorian’s mind suggests, and he has to remind himself of where he is and who he’s with. Not incriminating then, just something to tease him about later. Either way, he decides, he shan’t give it to them.

Bull, unsurprisingly, has other plans. Before Dorian can even get his boots off, Bull wraps an arm around his waist, pulls Dorian down on top of himself. Dorian just manages to stifle his squawk of protest, and it comes out as a kind of gurgle instead, which makes Bull chuckle as he kisses the visible patch of skin under Dorian’s ear, just above his high collar.

“At least let me take off my shoes,” Dorian hisses, wriggling in an attempt to free himself, to try to get back to the entrance of the tent. “Otherwise we’ll be sleeping on dirt and pebbles, and need I remind you --”

“No, no need to remind me of your delicate constitution, Kadan,” Bull laughs, letting him go. “Just leave the rest to me, all right?”

It’s never particularly difficult to convince Dorian to accept a bit of pampering, and it’s significantly easier after a long trek through treacherous terrain. “Fine,” he sighs, flourishing a hand over his shoulder as he moves to the edge of the bedroll. He quickly unties his boots and kicks them off in the direction of the entrance, then slides himself backward on his haunches until his bottom is tucked into the space between Bull’s spread legs, his back to Bull’s chest. “Now: undress me,” he says, relaxing to sprawl against Bull’s sturdy torso and spreading his arms to either side.

“Right away, Messere,” Bull says, a rumbling chuckle in his ear. Bull’s large hands encircle Dorian’s chest, finding the strap that fastens Dorian’s outer cloak together over the black leather of his vest and undoing the buckle so he can shrug it off his shoulders. Dorian drops his arms to his sides after that, keeps them out of the way, though he makes no move to help when Bull starts to undo the buckles down the right side of Dorian’s chest.

It’s unfair that a man with such large, clumsy-looking hands -- missing fingers, even -- should be so dextrous, so nimble. Even though he’s doing it from behind and has to look down Dorian’s chest over his shoulder to see what he’s doing, it only takes a minute for him to work the vest open. He slips one warm, rough hand underneath the leather, his fingers finding Dorian’s nipple and rubbing until it hardens under his touch. He pinches the pebbled flesh and rolls it between his thumb and forefinger, rough at first and then delicate, and Dorian gasps with the flash of pleasure-pain that spears directly to his dick.

“You’re not very good at this, manservant,” Dorian protests, aiming for admonishment but landing on breathless, his voice hitching at the end when Bull twists his nipple again.

“Huh, that’s funny,” Bull says, nosing along the line of Dorian’s neck and behind his ear, the scratch of stubble on sensitive skin a counterpoint to the humidity of Bull’s breath. He slides his hand further into Dorian’s vest, seeks out Dorian’s other nipple, flicks it sharply with his fingernail, and then pinches it to hardness. At the same time, Bull’s free hand snakes down Dorian’s torso and over his trousers to cup the growing hardness there. “And here I thought I was doing pretty well.”

“About that, I’ve no complaints,” Dorian says, soft with the warmth of arousal that curls in his belly at Bull’s touch. “But you’re a terrible servant. You can’t just fondle your master, it’s bad form.” A firm squeeze of his cock stops Dorian’s voice momentarily, cuts him off in favour of a heavy exhale tinged with a whine, makes him arch into the touch.

“A good servant would have had me fully undressed by now,” he continues tartly, once he gets his breath back. “Instead I’m half-exposed to the cold while you enjoy a bit of a grope.” Bull’s only response is to hum thoughtfully while he presses warm, wet kisses along Dorian’s neck and shoulder and continues fondling Dorian’s cock through his trousers, bringing him ever closer to full hardness.

“You’re incorrigible,” Dorian moans quietly. “Oh, we shouldn’t, it’s uncouth.” Despite all his feeble protests, Dorian does nothing to stop Bull’s hands, nor to move out of his grasp; he only rolls his head back on Bull’s shoulder and bites his lower lip as he spreads his legs wider, makes more room for Bull’s hand to wander.

Bull licks the shell of his ear, drags his fingers up the hard ridge of Dorian’s erection and teases his fingertips just under the waist of Dorian’s trousers. “Can you keep quiet?”

“It’s not me I’m worried about,” Dorian whispers. “I was once fucked against the wall behind a curtain at a soiree with guests not ten paces away. I daresay I’ve mastered the art. What about you?”

“I’m sure I can manage somehow,” Bull laughs, pressing a kiss to his temple as he unhooks the belt at Dorian’s waist one-handed, then works the buttons free underneath. “You know what I think? I think you’re used to getting your way, and I think I could make you scream if I just teased you enough.”

“You wouldn’t dare,” Dorian hisses, turning his head to see as much of Bull’s face as he can. What he sees is Bull’s playful expression, the frustratingly charming curve of his lips. He can’t say he’s entirely appalled by the idea; quite the opposite, in fact, but the current situation is far from ideal for that kind of thing.

“Some other time, maybe,” Bull says, soft and full of promise, and Dorian shivers as much from the idea of it as from the hand that slides down under his smalls and grasps his erection again. “But not today.”

As nice as it feels, Dorian is distracted by the chill that’s seeping through his clothes and raising goosebumps on his exposed skin. “If you don’t get me naked and under a quilt immediately, I’m going to have to call the whole thing off.”

“Alright,” Bull says, amused, and he eagerly switches to yanking and pulling on Dorian’s clothes instead to help remove them. While Dorian kicks off his trousers, Bull wraps a quilt around Dorian’s shoulders, and as soon as Dorian’s hands are free he pulls it tight around himself, holding the ends together up over his nose and mouth so that the warmth of his breath might heat the air in his little cocoon.

“You really are a hothouse orchid, aren’t you?” Bull laughs as he begins the comparatively simple task of undressing himself. Dorian narrows his eyes at him and wonders whether the Bull has been going through his mail, but then, Maevaris’ letters had been sent to the Inquisitor, so perhaps they’ve just been talking about Dorian behind his back again.

“You’re surprisingly picky yourself,” Dorian notes, changing the subject with a significant glance toward Bull’s hands as he folds up his clothes and methodically replaces everything in his pack. It’s not the first time Dorian has noticed Bull’s meticulousness in certain things, like the way he takes care of his gear or the spartan spotlessness of his room -- the sole exception being his worktable, which is usually covered in bits of metal, scraps of leather, scattered pieces of paper, and other such miscellany.

Bull doesn’t answer, but he pulls a familiar vial out of his pack, and that -- well. They’ve never fucked in a tent before. They’ve gotten each other off with hands and mouths on occasion, sometimes at camp but usually in a secluded, wild place just outside -- but even that’s a rare thing. Usually it’s too cold or too wet, or they’re too battle-weary and sore, or one or both of them is otherwise just not in the mood.

After long days of fighting their enemies and the landscape both, sex tended to be the last thing on anyone’s mind. Despite being a light sleeper in general, Dorian is usually so exhausted by the time he gets into his bedroll at the end of a day on the road that he’s asleep before his head hits the pillow.

Today, though, they’ve reached the tail end of their journey, only a day out from Skyhold; they’ve long since cleared the entire area of threats, so they’re relatively safe; and they’ve got nothing particularly strenuous to do tomorrow, so if ever there was a time to fuck in a tent, it would be now. Still, Dorian raises an eyebrow and says, “My, how presumptuous of you.”

“Never hurts to come prepared,” Bull says with a grin as he sets the vial down within easy reach of the bedroll, then sits back down next to Dorian and wraps him up in his arms. “Let’s get you warmed up first.” He reaches for Dorian’s hands where they hold the blanket tightly closed in front of his face and plucks the fabric from Dorian’s fingers, drawing it around himself as well. Dorian hisses when the air hits his naked skin, but lets out a relieved breath once he’s back in the shelter of the blanket, this time with the added benefit of Bull’s warmth.

With a nudge to Dorian’s shoulder, Bull lowers them both to lay on the bedroll and fits himself to Dorian’s back, one arm under Dorian’s neck as a makeshift pillow, the other braced over his side. Bull’s got his hand against Dorian’s chest, fingers curled loosely to scrape his fingernails through the hair there. “Oh, wonderful,” Dorian moans, luxuriating in the warmth that’s steadily rising between them. Bull chuckles and presses his lips to Dorian’s shoulder, follows with a bite. Dorian inhales sharply, the drag of Bull’s teeth over his skin sending a shiver down his spine.

Dorian can feel Bull’s erection already hard, hot and heavy against the curve of his lower back, but for a while Bull only lets his hand drift down Dorian’s chest, following the trail of hair on his abdomen with the smooth backs of his fingernails. He sucks at Dorian’s neck, just how he likes it, the way that tingles all the way down his spine, makes his back arch of its own volition as pleasure coils warmly in his belly and tightens in his groin.

“You said you wouldn’t tease,” Dorian moans, but it’s not actually a complaint: he feels delectably warm right now, finally comfortable after the freezing winds and snowy hills of Emprise du Lion, and he’s relaxed in a way he hasn’t been for days. “No, you know what, disregard that. Tease all you like. Too warm to care.”

Dorian feels Bull’s laughter shaking his chest. “That all it takes, huh? Warm you up a bit?” Bull’s hand goes to Dorian’s hip and he squeezes, then taps his flank. “Grab the oil for me, baby. I’ll open you up, get you ready.”

Much as Dorian is loathe to pull away from that glorious warmth, and despite his words to the contrary, he’s actually quite motivated to keep things moving: there’s a hollow yearning in his core, a bare wanting, begging to be filled. He darts his arm out from under the blanket to reach for the vial, grabs it and hurries back with it in hand, passing it behind him to Bull and squirming back into place against his chest. Dorian hums as Bull runs light fingertips from his hip to his thigh, lets Bull push him half onto his front with his knee bent out, to give him room to work.

Bull opens the vial, pulling the stopper out with his teeth and tipping it to pour some oil into his palm. He closes his hand to coat his fingers, then lifts up the quilt for a moment, letting the cool air in, but only long enough to see where he’s putting his hand. Then Dorian is covered again and Bull’s slicked fingers press between Dorian’s cheeks, spreading oil from the dip under his tailbone down to his perineum. He’s used a lot of oil; Dorian feels it dripping over his balls, but he can’t really find it in himself to care about the mess at the moment.

It’s too nice in the muggy heat under the blanket, with Bull leaning over him and sucking kisses against his back and shoulders, rubbing his fingers in slow circles around and over Dorian’s hole. Dorian buries his head in crossed arms when Bull presses a finger in, bites down on the flesh of his own forearm to muffle his moan as the digit twists in a slow semi-circle inside him,. He arches his back to tilt his hips up and whispers, “More. Two, Bull. Please,” his voice cracking toward the end.

Bull removes his finger instead and Dorian whines, but Bull shushes him with a kiss to the side of his mouth. “Just need a bit more oil, baby,” he says, low and soft, and Dorian settles. “Good boy. I’m going to make you feel so good.”

“Make me feel good quickly,” Dorian urges, a petulant murmur, and Bull laughs under his breath. Then he replaces his fingers at Dorian’s hole and pushes two in, quick, up to the second knuckle. “Ah, yes, fuck,” Dorian groans, fighting the instinctual clenching, bearing down to let his thick fingers in. He rolls his forehead against his arm while Bull pulses his fingers further into him, scissoring them apart to stretch him. All the sex they’ve been having recently has made it easier, and soon Bull’s fucking him smoothly with his hand, fingertips dragging delightfully along his insides.

“You want my cock now, want me to fuck you?” Bull growls the words into his ear, against his neck, sending hot shimmers of arousal through him. “You’re almost ready for me, aren’t you?” Dorian can’t trust his voice; he’s too busy trying to stifle all the little noises fighting their way out of his throat, but he nods sharply against his arm.

“Just a little longer, baby. Almost there.” Bull’s voice rumbles from above him, around him; he can feel the vibration of the words from where Bull’s chest is pressed against his back. Dorian is writhing against the bedroll, slow undulations of his hips to give his throbbing dick some relief, but when Bull’s third finger presses in beside the other two, Dorian holds himself as still as he can aside from the slight shivery little movements that he can’t seem to control.

“So fucking hot, how much you enjoy this,” says Bull, nipping at his shoulder and fucking him slowly with his fingers, curling them down on the way out to rub over Dorian’s prostate and make him jerk. Dorian bites back a yelp and shudders with the effort of holding still, which gets him a deep, rumbling sound of approval. “Love watching you come apart just from my fingers,” Bull continues, pushing all three back in, twisting his hand and echoing Dorian’s moan when he brushes his prostate again.

“Could do this all night, Dorian, just watch you like this, listen to you trying not to make any noise. Feel you tighten up around my fingers whenever I hit the right spot or --” he twists his hand again, this time with a purposeful roll of his knuckles that makes Dorian jolt, sets his legs trembling, “say the right thing.”

Dorian can’t suppress the way his breath keeps hitching into whimpers. He’s a shivering, ragged mess, blissfully overwhelmed by the assault on three fronts: Bull’s fingers, his proximity, his voice. Dorian winds one hand overtop his head and curls his fingers tight into his own hair, the sting grounding him enough to bring him back to himself a little. “Bull,” he groans, manages to keep it low but his voice breaks again in the process. “Want you to… please, now, fuck me, fuck--”

With a low growl, Bull’s fingers pull out of him, but Dorian doesn’t have time to miss them before he’s grabbed by the hip and pulled back onto his side. Bull’s hand moves to his inner thigh, hoisting his leg up while Bull shifts his own knee forward underneath it to prop it up. He keeps Dorian’s legs spread enough to line up his cock between Dorian’s cheeks and push against his twitching hole, and for a few pounding heartbeats Dorian feels only the blunt pressure of that first nudge, then the sudden rush of his body yielding to the slick shift of flesh inside him, an intense burst of sensation that pulls a too-loud, plaintive sob out of him.

Bull stills, covers his sweat-soaked neck in kisses. “You’re doing so well,” he says, breath hot on Dorian’s skin. “Just breathe, baby.” Dorian’s breath shudders out of him once, then again, and Bull keeps on praising him as he begins his slow push in anew. “Fuck, you’re so tight, so hot. So good for me,” he says, and those last two words hit Dorian like a punch in the gut; for him.

“Yes,” Dorian whispers, turning his head and reaching an arm back behind him, as far around Bull’s neck as he can get it. For you, he doesn’t say, because the fervency of the thought surprises him. Bull is leaning over him, kissing him breathless, though it’s less like being kissed and more like being consumed. Dorian is twisted awkwardly, his shoulders and hips at odd angles from each other and his neck craned so that Bull can devour his mouth, but it’s breathtaking and hot and fucking perfect; it almost feels like he could come right here, with Bull still only halfway inside him.

Bull groans into his mouth and stills again, drawing a whimper of complaint from Dorian. “Oh fuck,” Bull growls, nips Dorian’s lower lip and tugs on it with his teeth before continuing. “Fucking gorgeous. You just got so tight, Kadan.”

Dorian’s impatience gets the best of him and he presses himself back, hard and fast, and Bull lets out a deep groan as he’s engulfed. “Stop stalling and fuck me,” Dorian pants, just enough voice in it for the emphasis. Bull grabs hold of Dorian’s hip, and mercifully he doesn’t see fit to play games tonight; he cups his pelvis back and quickly forward again to grind up against him, just the slightest stirring inside him, and Dorian’s mouth goes slack, his eyes fall closed as he finally gets what he wants.

Bull gives him a few more careful rolls of his hips, slow and sensual. Bull’s giving him time to adjust, like he always does, and Dorian remembers with a pang of guilt that he’d once thought it so obvious that the Iron Bull would be an inconsiderate lover. He couldn’t have been more wrong. Bull’s often rough, the way Dorian likes it; he’s lewd, too, and Dorian never knew he could be so affected by obscenity, but that deep rumble in his ear makes every word sound like pure sex. Bull has been many things, where sex is concerned, but never inconsiderate.

But Dorian is ready; he’s beyond ready. He makes a mantra of his pleas, all breath now, and he feels Bull’s cock throbbing and growing impossibly harder inside him. “Oh, fuck, touch me,” he pleads. He’s never been particularly adept at pillow talk, never had much practice, but the words are bubbling up in his chest and he doesn’t crush them back down. “Fuck me, harder, make me come, please Bull --”

Dorian doesn’t understand the words Bull growls at him before crushing their lips together again, but Bull’s hand wraps around his dick, still slick with oil -- or maybe he’s added some more -- and Dorian’s cock slides easy into the tunnel of Bull’s fist. He’s caught between those two sources of delicious friction, and he’d be embarrassed by how quickly he comes undone if he wasn’t so far gone. But all he can do is ride the crest of his pleasure as Bull fucks him, works his cock with his fist, tongues into his mouth and swallows down all his frantic noises while Dorian tenses and trembles and finally falls to pieces, shaking and spasming and gasping with his release.

Bull’s voice soothes him through it, a litany of “Beautiful,” and “gorgeous,” and “amazing,” while Dorian’s ragged breath punches out of him in the aftermath. He whimpers when Bull’s cock leaves him, but he lets himself be gently turned over onto his back on the bedroll. “I’m so fucking close, baby,” says Bull as he looms over Dorian on his knees and one elbow, his other hand working over his cock in quick jerks. “You’re so beautiful like this, Kadan, going to come just looking at you.”

Blissed out as he is, Dorian flutters his eyes halfway open with a lazy smile and brings a hand up to caress Bull’s face. The cold air is drifting in under the blanket and it hits the sweat on his neck and shoulders, but after all the heat it’s momentarily a bit of a relief.

“Look at me all you want,” Dorian says, soft and sated. “I’m all yours.” The words are out before he can think about them, and Bull lets out a groan when he comes, his head dropping down between his shoulders as he spurts hot over Dorian’s belly. Dorian uses what little strength he’s got to grab one of Bull’s horns and drag his head back up, pulling him into a slow, post-orgasmic kiss that gentles gradually until they’re both just lazily pressing their lips together.

“I’m not leaving this blanket,” Dorian murmurs with a smile against Bull’s lips, then pushes feebly against his chest. “But I refuse to sleep covered in semen.” Bull hovers a few seconds longer as he comes down, then gives a breathless laugh and reaches out for his pack, rustling around in it one-handed and returning with a clean scrap of plaideweave. He quickly mops up the mess on Dorian’s chest and belly, wipes away the oil between Dorian’s legs, then folds the cloth and cleans off his own hands. “Ah,” says Dorian, “you’ve managed to find an appropriate use for the stuff -- I didn’t think it could be done.”

Bull tosses the rag aside with a grin but doesn’t comment. Instead, he says, “One bedroll’s a bit small for two people,” and grabs for the edge of the other to drag it closer. A bit of awkward shuffling and a cold draught of air later, their bedrolls are side by side and Dorian is stretched out along Bull’s flank in a way that’s become comfortingly familiar for them of late.

Dorian hopes they wake up before the other members of their party. Fucking in a tent is one thing, but to be caught cuddling in one the next morning? He’d never hear the end of it. So it’s a surprise even to him that the threat of it is more a nagging whisper than a roar, and not nearly adamant enough for him to consider going back to his cold, solitary bedroll. His pride will just have to suffer, if it comes to that. And really, what good had his pride ever done him? He stays.