“I wonder if this is how people always get close: They heal each other's wounds; they repair the broken skin.” - Lauren Oliver
The best nights were when he made Dorian squeal, actually squeal on a particularly hard thrust speared on the Iron Bull's cock, and Dorian gripped the sheets for purchase and urged him on in frantically whispered Tevene.
“Maker!” Dorian's voice was a whine, face half pressed into the bed in a wasted attempt not to broadcast their midnight fucking to all of Skyhold, as if they didn't already know. “You're so big, maker, I can't do this! You're too big! Fuck me!”
With a breathless laugh, the Bull snapped his hips hard against him, driving his pelvis down so Dorian's trapped cock rubbed against the bedsheets, knew how intense the sensation of the cotton on his exposed cock head would be. As if to confirm, Dorian whined again, breath hitching.
“Make me come,” he keened. “Oh please, Bull!”
As proud as Dorian was, he'd never had a problem begging in the bedroom, which was lucky, because it was one of the Bull's favourite things; to render the man that desperate and needy for release. Even when he teased, he made sure Dorian always knew he would be satisfied in the end. This time the Bull took pity on him, and hammered his hips hard against Dorian's backside, made hard deep thrusts as he braced a hand on the top of Dorian's back, careful that it was a firm motion but not enough to hurt him.
Dorian came with a shout into the mattress, kicking out his legs as wildly as he could under the Bull's weight and his body clamping down so deliciously. It didn't take him long after that to drive himself to orgasm deep in Dorian's hot, spasming body, grunting and pressing his head beside his hand at the top of his lover's spine.
Ever-careful of his size, the Bull allowed himself to relax across Dorian's back, each of their panting breaths just out of sync with the other. After a few long moments, Dorian moved a weak hand to brush his damp hair out of his face, grinning lazily.
“Always is,” Dorian murmured. The Bull stayed across his back for another minute, smiling at the high paise, before he carefully withdrew his softening cock. He savoured the last squeezes of Dorian's muscles, and the sound he made at the sudden emptiness. It wasn't unusual for them to go again after the first time of the night. Or day.
Dorian rolled onto his back and stretched luxuriously, eyes following the Bull as he crossed to the basin. He wet and wrung out two cloths, and threw one in Dorian's direction, where it landed on his chest with a wet slap and an indignant sound from Dorian. Chuckling, the Bull reached down to wipe his softening cock.
In the corner of his vision, there was a sudden burst of light. It wasn't enough to concern him, not enough for it to be another curtain fire, but the sound of a flame bursting into life made him look anyhow. Dorian's hand was still in mid-air were he'd flicked his wrist to light the nearest wall bracket, brightening the room beyond the soft glow of the crackling fire in the grate. Dorian was studying his other hand with mild interest, or at least, the cloth held there.
Dorian lowered the cloth towards his backside again, tilting his hips of the bed for access, and the Bull felt something fanged and long unfamiliar twist in his gut. Dorian raised the cloth again to look at it, and frowned.
“I'm bleeding a little.”
“Bleeding,” he repeated, still considering the cloth.
“Dorian—” The Bull's chest tightened, and his brain faltered for more words. He'd been too rough, and he'd hurt his lover. Dorian looked at him, face hard to read.
“You're not the first man to make me bleed.”
It could have been a cleaving blow, the way his knees wobbled traitorous at that. Dorian had told him in subtle asides and inferences about previous trysts, about men who didn't respect him enough to be careful with him. It settled like rocks in his gut that the Bull had now done the same thing, and could be counted with those men.
The Bull looked at his hand, and in the new brightness of the room he could see his own cloth was tinged pink-red where he'd wiped Dorian's blood off his cock. The painful inevitability of it stung in his throat and behind his eyes. Shit, of course he'd hurt him. Wasn't he always going to?
“Bull?” Dorian called out, and the Bull forced himself to meet Dorian's gaze, despite it making his throat tighten painfully.
“I can't do this!”
Recalling the words Dorian had used moments before in the middle of their fucking struck knocked the breath right out of the Bull, and he fought back the urge to hunch, to groan, to slam his fist against the wall by grabbing onto the dresser that the basin of water stood on. He had taken, he had ignored Dorian's pain for his own pleasure, and now his lover was violated and bleeding. The wood creased warningly under his hand.
“I'm so sorry.”
The words felt absolutely useless as they left his mouth, but there nothing else that he could think would be a worthwhile thing to say, or a wanted thing to hear. The Bull had never wanted this to happen, but should have known he couldn't truly escape what he had become; he was Tal-Vashoth, and he knew what they had the propensity for it, he'd seen the broken, mutilated, raped bodies, the dead children, but he'd never thought... never wanted to think he could be capable of such intimate violence. Hissrad; liar. He'd lied to himself, most of all, ever since he let the name go.
It would have to end. Familiarity bred complacency, and he'd been careless with another person's body in way he always strived not to be, careless with Dorian. He knew he could tear a person apart with his hands if he wanted, had torn people to pieces on battlefield when he needed to, and that was the only place his body was meant to cause harm, the only place he was meant to be a weapon.
“It's okay.” Dorian waved his hand dismissively, voice light, but there was a touch of discomfort in his manner as he shifted around on the bed. He wasn't even looking at him, or couldn't.
The Bull's tongue felt thick in his mouth. “I hurt you.”
Dorian frowned, going still on the bed. Words seemed to form, but he closed his mouth before he could give them voice, and continued to look at the Bull in silence. The intensity of the look bore into him.
“It was an accident, it's fine.”
“It's not fine.” The Bull made an attempt to keep his tone level, but heard from himself more of a whine than he anticipated. “I ignored you and I kept going.”
“Ignored me?” Dorian shuffled himself to the end of the bed, braced his hands on his knees and stuck out his elbows. “I didn't use the watchword.”
For all his walls, Dorian was someone the Bull had grown to understand. He knew Dorian didn't always like being such an open book to another person, but it had been something he'd come to accept, even if the acknowledgement of that thing Dorian thought was a weakness remained unspoken.
Now, the Bull couldn't place anything; he couldn't peg whether the way Dorian placed his body was defensive or exasperated, or whether anger seethed under the surface calm. There was a waver to Dorian's voice that usually meant pain, something hard to say, but it did not match his eyes or the confused crinkle of his brow.
“I should have checked in,” the Bull said, struggling to get each word out without his voice rising in pitch. “You wanted to stop.”
“No,” Dorian said, raising an eyebrow. “I didn't. I didn't say the watchword, and I didn't tell you to stop.”
“I was hurting you.”
Dorian narrowed his eyes slightly at him, gaze flicking up and down him, clearly taking in his body language, pressed his lips together in a thin line.. The Bull didn't move, though wasn't sure if he could without toppling over anyhow; one hand braced against the dresser, his other arm still drawn against his torso, bloody cloth in an open palm.
“I've never seen you like this.” Dorian's voice was barely a breath, audible only in the silence of the room, and his face softened into outright, obvious concern. “I didn't want you to stop, Bull. The watchword is something we've discussed and agreed on to keep us both safe. I understand how it works, and if I'd wanted you to stop, I would have used it.”
The Bull finally looked away, giving a little shake of his head. Dorian may not have used the word, but it did nothing to change the fact that he thought the man must have wanted to stop, and his ignorance of his protest was a violation.
“I can't do this!”
“This hasn't happened to you before, has it?” Dorian asked, and the carefulness in his voice should have alerted the Bull that Dorian had the best read of the situation, far better than his own, but rationality could not out-shout the guilt and the fear that wanted to rip open his ribcage and tear out of his chest into the open air. He shook his head.
He heard rather than saw Dorian draw a long breath in through his nose. “I shouldn't have mentioned past trysts. You have nothing in common with them.”
“You're still bleeding, aren't you?” The Bull said on a humourless laugh, a thing that sounded like it had been kicked out of him.
“Well, yes,” Dorian said. “But I don't feel dirty, or as if I’ve been used with no thought spared for me. None of those men were so ashamed of themselves that they looked as if they'd dash themselves on the ground from the nearest roof if I demanded it.”
The Bull couldn't be sure he wouldn't do it if Dorian told him to. He wondered just when dying had become a more attractive prospect than disappointing a damned Tevinter mage. Instead of thinking on it too long, he dragged his eyes back to meet Dorian's again.
“You did nothing wrong, Bull,” Dorian said, with such gentleness that the Bull had to blink back insistent tears stinging at his eyes. “No matter how you phrase it, if you can't trust my ability to decide whether or not you've harmed me, or overstepped our negotiations, then—”
Dorian huffed a breath before his words could get away from him, the floppy mess of hair over his forehead dancing in the up-draft. “I need you to trust me. I need you to trust that my words are truth, and not a—a platitude because I'm unwilling to risk this. What this is. I know my own mind, and my body, and you haven't mistreated either tonight. Not ever.”
The Bull made a sound in his throat that was close enough to a strangled sob for them both to know what it might become, but by sheer dumb luck the prickling at his eyes stayed just that. He released his shoulders from their tense position, unaware how painfully tight and still he'd been holding them, and watches the way him relaxing makes Dorian's worry ease slightly.
Dorian pushed himself up from the bed and crossed the few paces to where the Bull stood. He took the cloth from his hand and put both back in the basin, then stayed close, without touching him, looking up at him with kind eyes.
“It was an accident. We were simply over-eager, and careless. It was still good, Bull. I may be injured, but I don't perceive it a hurt.”
When Dorian smiled reassuringly at him, the Bull found the strength to return a small one of his own. Dorian, who was infamously hot-headed and short on patience, had proved once again that his kindness and gentleness was the best. Although his throat still felt tight, the Bull was also measurably less anxious, soothed by Dorian's calm.
“I'm sorry.” The Bull's voice was uncharacteristically small, an apology meant both for the injury he'd caused and for his response to it, but Dorian only touched his biceps gentle with the fingertips of each hand.
“None of that, now,” Dorian soothed. “Come to bed.”
“You should see a healer.” The Bull finally dared to reach out and wrap his hand around Dorian's waist. He would later feel like shit for being surprised that Dorian didn't flinch away from him.
“I will not be doing that,” Dorian said with no real firmness, but the Bull knew there wouldn't be any talking him round to the possibility. “We just need to avoid that sort of intimacy for a while.”
Dorian calling their sex intimacy was new, and warming. He let Dorian tug him over towards the bed by his hand, and they climbed in beside each other. The Bull watched Dorian carefully, but without disguising his focused eyes. Dorian, apparently sensing the Bull's unsettled mind, crossed his legs and folded his hands in his lap instead of moving under the bedsheets.
“It doesn't hurt,” Dorian assured him in the silence. The Bull knew he was being quiet, but staying calm was hard, words were hard, and Dorian had proved he was the master of them tonight. “Doesn't feel any different to when you've usually had me.”
“How many times has this happened to you?” He watched Dorian's face for response, for anything he might not verbalise. The man's expression was calm, but he considered him a while before he said anything.
“A few. As many as the fingers on one hand, perhaps, before tonight.”
The Bull nodded, swallowing hard. It hurt to think of himself in the company of those other times.
“I don't think I have an innate tendency towards such delicacy. If that were the case I think this would have happened sooner, considering your size, and our combined enthusiasm.” Dorian reached over and squeezed his scarred knee, smiled reassuringly at him. It was hard to return even though he believed Dorian, believed he didn't feel violated, but still possessing the knowledge that he had hurt him.
Despite how it made him feel, the Bull wanted to know how close his actions were to the men who had made him bleed before, even though it was self-pitying shit that might do no good. He asked anyway.
“How did it happen before?”
Dorian fixed him with a look.
“I'm not going into details about those times. I won't have you compare this night to those. One day... I'll tell you more, about things that have happened. Men, romps, a fantastic story set in a bathhouse.”
Dorian smiled, coaxing, and the Bull wouldn't help mirroring it.
“But for now, in short,” Dorian said, “I have had sex with men who had no concern for my enjoyment or my comfort, and with those whom my discomfort was paramount to their own enjoyment.”
The Bull took a long, steadying breath in through his nose. He wanted to ask him more, wanted to know who could have wanted to hurt Dorian, but Dorian was being clear, and the Bull didn't want to push him to discuss something that was clearly unpleasant to drag up, even if he dismissed it casually now.
“Those times were the hazard of desperation and risk,” Dorian went on. “Tonight was the unfortunate consequence of passion.”
Dorian took one of the Bull's large hands between his own, lifting it to kiss over the knuckles. “This is really no different to the time I kicked you in the head when you were manhandling me. Or when I sat on your cock awkwardly and bent it.” He paused, lips pursing a little. “Or when I burnt you. Come to think of it, you've had many more sex-related injuries than I've sustained.”
The Bull laughed weakly, and cupped his hand around Dorian's cheek. “This feels different to those times.”
“Because it's my arse, yes.” Dorian leaned into the touch. “I understand that, considering you've never dealt with this before. Have you really not, Bull? Not with men or women?”
The Bull shook his head. “I always carried oil, got good at prep so even if it was a quick fuck, everyone enjoyed themselves. There were other injuries, sometimes,” he conceded. “Bruises, marks. And even if they weren't planned, I never-” He shrugged, unable to verbally acknowledge a reaction that had taken him by surprise. “Not like tonight, not that sort of damage.”
Dorian turned his face into the Bull's palm, kissing it. “You are a good man, Bull. Don't think your efforts go unnoticed.”
“I should have been more careful tonight.”
“We,” Dorian corrected him. “I'm not a passive partner, even when I'm impaled on your cock. We were careless. We will both be more inclined to pause for a second application of oil even when the sex is delightfully rough. Alright?”
“Okay.” The Bull nodded. He did trust Dorian, trusted what they had and what they were becoming, and once the haze of panic and self-loathing had mostly passed, he trusted that Dorian was not placating him to avoid a confrontation. He truly was unfazed by the incident, confident in their joint responsibility for it.
Dorian unfolded his legs and pushed firmly on the Bull's chest, easing him down onto his back. He tugged the blankets up around them and settled in his usual place curled at his side, leg and arm flung over him to anchor him to the Bull's solid form, whose arm looped around his back.
“Don't dwell on it, Bull. Sleep.” Dorian muttered. The Bull ran fingertips firmly down Dorian's sides, too hard to tickle, and settled his hand against his hip, thumb fitting along the slight hint of bone pressed up there.
The light Dorian had lit up in the old wall bracket had dimmed to embers, and the fire was slowly dying, leaving the room in a low orange glow that gave way to the shadows. The Bull let out a shuddering breath that he felt like he'd been holding because it might break him, and Dorian lazily kissed the skin nearest to his mouth, already tempted by sleep. He knew it would be harder to let it take him, but he tried to clear his mind. Dorian trusted him completely, trusted his comparatively fragile form to the Bull's hands, but more importantly, trusted the Bull's intentions. He'd shown no doubt in him, even when the Bull's own trust in himself had wavered.
He would always try to be worthy of that.
“There's nothing more intimate in life than simply being understood. And understanding someone else.” - Brad Meltzer