‘Don’t take this the wrong way. I like the boss. He’s doing a good job as Inquisitor. I just think he has a fucked up sense of humour.’
Dorian rubbed his eye with the heel of his hand. He had been lying on his belly in the undergrowth for three and a half hours now, and his eyes were beginning to itch. The Iron Bull lay next to him breaking twigs idly and flicking the broken bits at Dorian. Cadash had sent them to watch a mountain pass. Lelianna’s reports suggested it may have been a smuggling route for Red Lyrium. But so far the only red Dorian was seeing was the red fog building up behind his eyes.
‘And you’re the expert on such matters.’ Dorian replied, desperately trying to ignore the tiny piece of wood that just hit him in the side of the face. They had been told to wait there until sunrise and the moon wasn’t even up.
‘Think about it.’ Bull said, his sentence punctuated by another stick snapping. ‘Ten people in the Inner Circle, right?’ Snap. ‘Cadash divides us into pairs.’ Snap. ‘Sends us out to watch all the different routes.’ Snap. ‘From the outside-‘ Snap. ‘-it’s all very innocent.’ Snap. ‘But then think about.’ ‘Who in their right mind-‘ Snap. ‘-would send me out with you.’
Dorian felt a twig bounce off the top of his head. ‘I have been asking myself the same question for hours.’
‘Everyone knows we butt heads.’ Snap. ‘If it was just us, it’s not suspicious at all.’ Snap. ‘Sometimes you just get stuck with the people you least want to be with.’
Bull ignored him. ‘But look at the other pairs.’ Snap. ‘Cass and Varric.’ Snap. ‘Vivienne and Blackwall.’ Snap. ‘Sera and Solas.’ Snap. ‘There is no way Cadash did that arrangement by accident.’ Snap. ‘He’s probably pissing himself laughing right now.’ Snap.
‘You think our noble leader deliberately teamed us up with the people we find the least tolerable for his own sick amusement? That’s a bit far-fetched. How can he possibly enjoy everyone clashing when he’s not there to watch?’
Snap. ‘That’s the evil-genius part.’ Snap. ‘Who is left for Cadash to be paired up with?’ Snap.
Dorian ran through the list of the Inquisition’s inner circle in his mind until he came to the last unpaired member. ‘Cole?’ A chunk of twig pinged him in the neck.
‘Yep.’ Snap. ‘Our very own Cole.’ Snap. ‘A mind-reading, demon boy who can’t stop himself going for a wander through our brains on a regular basis.’ Snap. ‘How close do you think you have to be for Cole to pick up our thoughts?’
‘I haven’t given it any consideration.’
‘I’d bet gold the boss has.’ Snap.
‘You have a very cynical view of a man who was apparently chosen by Andraste herself to deliver us from Corypheus’ clutches.’
‘If Andraste chose a dwarf to be her herald-’ Snap, ‘-then there is a good chance her sense of humour is just as bad as his.’
‘”If” Andraste chose him? You don’t believe it happened?’
‘Don’t know, don’t care.’ Snap. ‘It’s not why I signed on.’ Snap. ‘What do you believe went down?’
‘I believe-’ Dorian’s hand shot out, latched onto the stick in Bull’s hand, and sent a flare of heat into it. It burst into flame. Bull dropped it and it fizzled into ashes on the ground, ‘that if you throw a twig at me one more time I will freeze your arm solid and break it off.’
To Dorian’s annoyance Bull grinned. ‘I was wondering how long it would take for you to…’ he paused for emphasis, ‘snap.’
Dorian shoved his face into his palm. ‘Bull, I know this may be asking the impossible, but for the rest of the night, could you curb your urge to act like an obnoxious preadolescent. Restrain it.’ Dorian stopped for a second before adding the final touch. ‘Conquer it, even.’
The emphasis was clear and unambiguous. Bull groaned. The cold night air made his breath huff out in a cloud. ‘Are you ever going to let that go?’
Dorian noticed a beetle had crawled onto his sleeve. He flicked it off. ‘I’m not the one who casually slips graphic sexual images into conversations. In front of the Inquisitor, no less.’
‘Were you just embarrassed because people heard? Or was what I said over the line?’ Dorian knew Bull must be mocking him, but Bull’s tone was all wrong; too serious and questioning.
‘It was completely inappropriate. Although from you I’d not as though I expect any better.’
The cool night air sat thickly between them for a minute. Dorian could hear crickets chirping in the forest behind him.
‘I apologise,’ Bull broke the quiet. ‘I didn’t intend any offence. It won’t happen again.’
Dorian shifted his gaze onto Bull. The mercenary was looking straight ahead onto the road, but his expression was solemn.
‘Honestly?’ Dorian asked. Bull glanced at him.
‘Yes. I’ve told Cassandra the same thing. She doesn’t mind the flirting as long as it’s clear nothing’s ever going to happen. But if it’s something that really rubs you the wrong way, I’ll back off. It’s no fun otherwise.’
Dorian looked away, running a hand over his moustache. He clicked his tongue and said ‘Well then, I can’t leave the Seeker to suffer alone then, can I?’
Bull raised an eyebrow. ‘Oh Really?’
Bull began to smile and Dorian found he both did and didn’t like it. ‘All for poor Cass’ sake, eh?’
‘Cause she’s such a shrinking violet who needs her honour protected?’
‘Because you’re a lecherous beast, who can’t stop himself voicing his perverted desires to everything and everyone.’
Dorian heard a rustle as Bull’s body shifted an inch closer. His voice was low and coarse. ‘Not because you enjoy the rush of blood to your nethers, when I whisper dirty things in your ear? Not because those “perverted desires” keep you tossing and turning until the sun has risen and your sheets are stained?’
Dorian mustered all of his willpower to not look at Bull. There was none left over to stop himself wiping his sweaty palm on his sleeve. ‘You are infuriating.’
‘You just said twelve seconds ago you were fine with the flirting!’ Bull grumbled.
‘I said I could bear-up. There’s a difference. And that, for your enlightenment, was not flirting! That was vulgarity!’
Bull nodded in fake earnestness. ‘It’s alright, Dorian. I get it. You’re not the first human to have a crush on me. Your lot see me as something exotic. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about.’
‘To have a cru… I never… wipe that smirk off your face, Bull.’
‘I could. But I bet you would like to do it for me.’
Bull made an exaggerated kissy face at Dorian. The mage crinkled his nose and shoved his open palm into the side of Bull’s face, trying to steer the Qunari’s expression away from himself and back to the road.
‘No! That’s it! I take it all back! Maker preserve me from big-horned idiots who...
Suddenly, Bull grabbed Dorian’s wrist. Dorian stilled. Gently, with his other hand, Bull curled the mage’s fingers over his own. The Qunari turned the hand downwards, exposing the back, before locking eyes with Dorian, whose expression was sheer bewilderment. The corner of Bull’s mouth slid upwards and he pressed his lips onto the smooth skin that covered Dorian’s knuckles. It was the sort of kiss one would expect a chevalier to bestow on a high noble, after winning a tournament in their honour.
Dorian sat for a moment, stunned. Bull cleared his throat.
‘Was that flirting?’
Dorian yanked his hand away. Bull let him without resistance.
‘Bull, you really are the most insufferable creature in all of Thedas! Are you aware of that?’
Bull shrugged and grinned. ‘I’m just giving Cole something interesting to tell the Boss.’