The call came at midnight. Varric Tethras finished the current line on the old type writer before he turned in his chair to answer the phone.
“This is Tethras, if you owe me money pay it to my paypal and no you can’t pay it off some other way.” Varric eased back into the chair, phone held between his ear and shoulder. It was an old, dated thing, but so was everything else in his office.
A man answered on the other side, “Varric! Glad I got you. Didn’t wake you up, did I?”
Varric recognised the voice but couldn’t place a name, “Nah, I’m up working. So, what you got for me. . .” The guy’s name was on the tip of his tongue. With a flash of cognition he got it, “Timothy, gossip or work this time?”
“Work. Got a ‘vint fleeing the ‘vint border. He needs a new life, and got the money to cover your costs. He asked for the very best, you know.” The man shuffled his phone around, “He’s a wealthy kid by the look of it. Says he won’t change his name either.”
“Tell him that’s stupid,” Varric shook his head. “Look, he can keep his first name if he wants but he’ll need a fake last one.” Varric turned around as much as the cord would let him and grabbed the card-holder off of his desk. He thumbed through the collection of cards and stopped at an old business card for a place in Skyhold. Big city, easy to blend in, plenty of opportunities for a new life. “Alright, I got a place for him. Send him to 13-14 Herald Avenue in Skyhold. My people will fix it up. Send his payment to my account at Kirkwall City Bank.”
“Got it, and good luck with this one, Varric.” The line cut out.
Varric hung up the phone and turned back to his typewriter. Behind it and to the side was his computer, sleek and modern, the only thing that could be described as such in his Movie Noir styled office. He even had a door with a glass window, his name on the front and blinds in the back. He pushed the typewriter aside and started several emails to his contacts. Timothy had already sent an email with the guy’s information and a picture.
“Dorian Pavus. . .” Varric pulled up a search engine and typed in the name. Hundreds of results popped up and Varric swore under his breath. This kid was the son of a Maker dammed Magister. No way would Dorian keep that last name, but Varric will come up with a good one for the kid to use.
Several minutes later, Varric sent the last emails and pulled his typewriter back into place. No one ever appreciated how difficult it was to be a writer on top of having a day and night job.
x x x x x x x x x x x x
“I told ya you were pushing her too hard,” Krem stood beside the prone monster of a motorcycle. Iron Bull kneeled beside the bike, the broken bike chain in his hands.
“She’s handled worse than that,” Bull said. The old girl was a mess, chain broken, the whole right side scraped and dent to hell, metal parts twisted and broken. Damn near made him cry to see the beauty in such a mess. She was custom made with an extra wide seat, powerful shocks, and a neon pink finish so bright it could make eyes bleed.
“Yeah, but that was in her prime, and your’s, chief,” Krem’s tone had no humor in it.
Bull ignored Krem and lifted the bike back to standing. He looked no worse than wear from the fall, all the damage taken by his clothes. Bull could feel soreness creep up his hip and he could feel it in his bad knee but he’ll be damned if that ever slowed him. The rest of the Chargers rested to the side of the road, and took the break to give their own bikes a good inspection. Good boys them, learned safety early and now they’re good for life.
“How far are we from Skyhold, Krem?” Bull patted his girl’s good side, and frowned when he saw scratches in the paint.
Krem looked at the city in the distance, most of the tall buildings hidden behind even taller snowy mountains. “I’d say about an hour or two.”
Bull frowned at the distance, but accepted fate. What else could he do? Shake his fist and yell at circumstance? “Alright, you and the boys go on ahead. Get us registered and checked-in at the hotel. I’ll call around for a garage to tow her.”
Krem nodded and took charge of their group. It didn’t take long for the others to finish inspection, rev up and ride off. Bull watched them go until they disappeared around the next turn. He patted the seat of his girl and dug his thankfully unharmed phone from the bike saddle. He dialed the only person he knew who could find a garage for his baby girl.
Bull hummed as the phone rang, and grinned when the line picked up, “Hey, Varric!”
“Well if it isn’t, Tiny.” Varric Tethras chuckled from the other side, “Good to hear from you. You and your gang still riding?”
“Of course. But this isn’t a pleasure call, Varric. Baby got busted up,” Bull’s said.
“Finally collapsed under your weight, did she?”
“Varric, that hurts.”
“Just a joke, so what’s the problem?”
“I need a garage. A good one that can tow her and get her fixed up for the race.” Bull would never give his baby over to some garage-chain that gave measly look-overs and overcharge everything. “Only the best for my baby.”
“Don’t worry, Tiny, I know just the place for you. A out of the way mom ‘n pop garage run by a guy I know. He’s great with this stuff, and he’ll take good care of you. Just don’t take it personally if he offends you in some way. He’s got a chip on his shoulder.”
“Got it.” Bull gave Varric his approximate location and after a few final pleasantries disconnected. Bull settled against the good side of his girl, confident that the kickstand would keep them both standing. Besides, the ground was freezing cold.
An hour later the tow truck came around the bend. Bull didn’t bother to wave the guy down, it was hard to miss The Iron Bull and his pink baby. The truck was non-descript, no company name on the doors or anything like that. Thing looked ancient to Bull, the model at least twenty years old. As it passed he saw patches where the paint had chipped and the exposed metal had rusted.
The truck’s tires crunched over the gravel spread out on the sides of the road as it went past and backed up till the bumper was four feet away from his baby. Bull leaned back to get a look at the driver as he came out. He got a fleeting look at the guy as he drove pass, but nothing that could give him a good read.
Bull wasn’t ready for the guy who stepped out of the truck because holy hell it was not the kind of man Bull expected. The guy looked like a damn prince straight out of a rom com. There was nothing about his face that wasn’t devilishly attractive. For a moment Bull thought this was the wrong guy, or that he was dreaming. Handsome men with sharp features and a curled mustache belong in a porno, not in real life to tow his bike.
Please tell him that a Maker dammed ‘vint wasn’t his mechanic.
The ‘vint stopped dead as soon as he laid eyes on Bull’s girl. “It’s. . .pink. I wasn’t expecting pink.”
Bull chuckled, “It’s pretty.”
The ‘vint looked like he was going to be sick with the way his face twisted, “It’s gaudy.”
No one ever understood his baby. Bull chuckled and stood up to let the “mechanic” do his job.
The ‘vint approached, and bent down to examine baby’s roughed up side. “Let me guess, leaned too far into the Corypheus’ Knuckles turn back there? Then skidded down the road, oh, about twelve or so feet. Give or take. And look! A broken chain and busted fuel lines, isn’t this a dandy treat for me.”
“You got it on the nose,” Bull had to give the guy some credit, but did the ‘vint know the stuff to repair his baby? “Listen, I need her fixed up in time for the-”
“The Skyhold 500 mile Dragon’s Tail race, yes, that whole affair.” The ‘vint waved his hand. “One can hardly turn a corner without finding a dozen reminders of the whole event.” The ‘vint placed his hands on his knees and stood.
Bull gave the guy a once-over, for a mechanic he was surprisingly clean with manicured nails. That’s something he never expected to see. Wasn’t dirt and grime in the job description? Either he never did the dirty work, or he cleaned up after every little mess to get on him.
“What’s your name, anyways?” Bull stood aside to let the guy take baby off her kickstand and hook her up to the tow. The guy moved quickly, but with confidence.
The ‘vint kept his eyes on the bike and the chains while he spoke. “Dorian Coturn, I’d ask for your name but that’d be rude of me seeing how the Qun gives you numbers instead.”
Ouch, but Bull liked that bite, “Numbers are hard to remember, you can just call me The Iron Bull. The article is important.” He grinned and waited for the ‘vint’s response.
“The Iron Bull? What a charmingly. . . quaint name that is.” Dorian puffed up, perhaps offended that the Bull could shrug off his insults so quickly and quietly. If the ‘vint wanted to get a rise out of Bull he’ll have to do a lot better.
“It sends a clear message,” Bull said. He shifted to his good leg, the bad one protested the cold and still felt sore from the fall.
“Yes, such a loud message that is. Me Bull. You human. I stomp.”
Dorian worked like an artist and the bike his canvas. The man shifted and moved in little but meaningful ways. His hands would go from his work, to pat down his jumpsuit or flick an imaginary speck of dust off. It was a wonderful facade of pompous carelessness and mastered self-control that made Bull ache to pull it apart.
Bull laughed, an easy thing and observed the tiny movements that betrayed Dorian and showed the seams of his mask, “Only on Saturdays.”
Dorian gave Bull and woefully unimpressed look before working the lift to pull the bike off the ground and secure it to a narrow platform that pulled out from under the bumper. Bull winced at the lack of a proper carrier for a bike. He didn’t like the idea of baby bound and suspended, she needed to be treated like a proper lady.
“Oh, don’t give me that look. Your bike is perfectly safe, this isn’t the first time I’ve towed one.” Dorian turned around to face Bull, one hand perched on his side the other lifted to size Bull between fingers. “I don’t think you are going to fit in my truck. Not with those those horns.”
“I’m not walking back.”
“You won’t fit.”
Bull rolled his shoulders while he thought. It would be a tight fit to get him in that truck, one built for humans. “I’ll sit in the flatbed, I may take up your whole rear window but I’ll fit.”
“In the flat. . .” Dorian looked from his truck to Bull with a speculative air, but the ‘vint deflated, his shoulders stooped in defeat, “Alright. If I’m going to tow a Qunari’s bike I might as well tow the Qunari too, not like my truck can’t handle it. Well, go on, get yourself situated, as I would prefer to not stand in the cold for any longer.”
With a huff, Bull hefted himself into the flat and perched himself on the bulk of the tow machine, his good leg propped on the side of the flat for balance. The truck rumbled to life and turned onto the road.
The ride was long, boring and cold as hell. Bull didn’t ride with a helmet, like there will ever be one he could wear over his horns, but on that ride he wished he had some kind of head protection to keep the wind off his skin. After an hour buffered by wind any man would feel raw and frozen. Thankfully the wind let up as they approached the city.
Skyhold was a monster of a city, all cold, steel skyscrapers with dark mirrored windows. Perched between Orlais and Ferelden, it was a hotbed of culture and politics. The culture part was good, Bull hoped to spend some time in the Orlesian district to get candied nuts and exotic chocolates.
Dorian didn’t take them into the city proper, but around the edge of it, through an old suburb that couldn’t decide if had a shiny wrapping over an old treat or was just an old treat. Parts of the suburb looked refurbished while other parts held the rotted remains of old businesses like a museum of entropy. Dorian’s shop was on the edge between the two sides with the left side newly constructed. Looked like that missed the garage though. It was an old brick building painted gold on the outside. To think the guy called Bull’s bike gaudy.
“Still back there, are you?” Dorian called out as he made his way around the truck, and flashed Bull a cheeky grin, “You were so quiet I thought you had fallen off.”
“Oh, you’d notice if I had, because then you wouldn’t have my muscular back to stare at.”
Dorian bristled for half a second before he hid it under smirk, “Yes, those muscles that would see me stabbed in the back, or bound in chains.”
Bull returned the volley with a wide grin, “I’d take you to dinner first,”
The angry little huff that came out of Dorian kept Bull’s smile on his face. He hopped out the back and helped unchain his bike from the truck while Dorian got the double garage door open. The inside was perfectly clean, not a spot of dirt or grime on the floor and everything was organized and in its place. On the walls there was a hook for everything with its name above. Bull figured the guy to be a clean freak.
For a garage, the place was oddly stylish, the walls painted in solid colors, bright yellow with the far wall a deep shade of blue. Orange shelves accented the yellow walls, and in the corner was a small reception area with an old fashioned couch and modern style throw pillows. Bull didn’t know how it worked but it did. Beyond the couch was a counter and register. This was as small as garages get.
“This is going to be expensive, you know,” Dorian said. Bull’s baby was on an air lift and Dorian had pulled over a cart loaded with toolkits. The ‘vint was on his knees and elbow deep into baby’s guts, “With a standard like this I can get new panels, though, none in this color. Dawnstone pink, never thought I’d see it on a bike. For a Qunari no less. For everything else well, I’ll see what I have. Most of my product is gone due to the race.”
“How many bikes you service in a small shop like this?” Bull stood to the side, close enough to watch Dorian work while not being in the way.
“Usually two at a time, three at most. No more than seven a month.” Dorian pulled out the broken parts, his pretty fingers mucked with grime from inspection.
Bull whistled, “And you keep your doors open with that?”
“You’d be surprised.” Dorian set the broken parts aside in a pile of plates, fuel lines and warped metal. “I cater to specific clients who pay very well. The only reason you’re here now is as a favor to Varric. Otherwise, I get parts for other shops. You see, I have a knack for being able to get my hands on anything.”
In thanks to Varric, Bull thought. That dwarf could get you anything if you had the money. Damn guy knew everyone worth knowing, and Dorian seemed to be one of those people. Wouldn’t surprise Bull, Varric was the kind of guy to know everyone from all walks of life.
“You seem to know your way around a bike, ride yourself?” Bull glanced around the shop, he thought he’d find pictures or something to reveal more about the Vint.
Dorian said nothing for a long moment, then, “On occasion, when the mood strikes me,”
Okay, this guy may be a damn Vint but Bull was starting to like him. Not only was he pretty as fuck, but could repair and ride a bike. “Oh yeah? What’s your ride? Sport make? Cruiser?”
“Modified Imperium Spitfire,” Dorian said after a significant pause. He wiped his hands on a rag and pulled parts from a locker in the back. Bull’s jaw dropped.
“An Imperium Spitfire. . . and you modified it?” Tevinter had nice bikes, all power machines built for speed and looked damn good doing it too. Spitfires were a league of their own, practically collectors items with only five hundred ever made. Bull and his boys once traveled across the whole of Orlais just to see one in show. A miracle of its own as very few ever made it out of the Imperium.
Dorian turned to roll his eyes in exaggeration, “You’re giving me that stupid look again. Do pick up your mouth from the ground, jealousy is most unbecoming.”
Bull sputtered several words, “You modified a Spitfire!” He ran his hands down his face, shock and disbelief mingled there, “You gotta be shitting me. There’s no way you have a Spitfire.”
“Believe what you wish, however limited that is with your ox mind.” Dorian had stiffened, his back straight as he began work on Bull’s bike. Bull couldn’t tell if the guy was honest or not. The guy was a ‘vint, sure, but a Spitfire doesn’t just end up in a little shop like this. Did Varric get the bike for Dorian? If so then Bull and Varric will have to have a very long discussion on friendship and favors between friends.
Maker be dammed, a fucking Spitfire in a little garage.
Bull moved off to the reception area to sit and call Krem. It took several rings before his second answered the phone.
“Hey, Chief, we’re at the hotel, you at a shop?”
“Yeah, it’s just outside the city, 13-14 Herald Avenue, little garage with gold siding, hard to miss.” Bull looked over at Dorian hunched over his baby. The ‘vint looked damn good, and Bull swore he could see a hint of muscle under that jumpsuit. “I’m going to stay here while baby is fixed up, you and the guys should get some RNR.”
“Already on it, chief. The others were talking ‘bout seeing the old fortress. They have some big tour starting in an hour. Sure you don’t want one of us to come pick you up?”
“Nah, I’m good here. I’ll meet up with you guys at the hotel later.” Bull said his goodbyes, Krem huffed and hung up.
Bull settled into the couch and grabbed a pile of magazines from a holder. Mixed with bike magazines were ones on fashion, Tevinter and Orlesian going by the look, and the local Skyhold ‘zine. Bull flipped through each several times, and periodically looked up to see Dorian working or moving about. His jumpsuit was splotched with dirt and grime, suggesting the ‘vint wasn’t so against filth as Bull originally thought.
Dorian took one break to make a call, and an hour later a guy delivered new side plates for the bike. They were white ones that could be painted pink later. Once those were in place everything was ready to go except the chain.
“I’m going to have to go to another shop to get a chain. I don’t have any left in stock. I’d have it delivered but last time I did that I was cheated so I will be going in person this go around. Wait here, there’s a mini refrigerator behind the counter with soda and snacks. Try not to eat everything.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll be good.” Bull gave the ‘vint a casual grin. Dorian paused, his eyes focused on Bull’s face as if he could detect lies. Then Dorian was out the door. Bull heard the truck start, and watched it leave through a window.
After five minutes of flipping through the fashion ‘zines for the eighth time, Bull got up with the mental excuse to stretch his legs. He stepped outside through the door, and wandered behind the garage. To get his blood going. There was another building nestled behind it, all the widows covered by gold curtains so Bull couldn’t look inside. Beside the building was a plain shed. Bull tested the doors and they opened up.
Now there was no hiding his intent to find the mythical Spitfire owned by the ‘vint mechanic. Because you never pass up a chance to see a Spitfire, ruined or not.
The shed was empty save for a bike covered by a blue tarp and another bike pressed flush with the side of the right-hand wall. The exposed bike had a custom frame that curved and coiled like the body of a snake. The seat was a perched low on the frame with a high back with two thick saddle packs perched on either side. Bull gave an appreciative whistle as he ran his hand over the smooth steel frame. Her plates were speckled gold and white.
Then there was the bike hidden under the tarp. With a flick of his wrists, Bull pulled the tarp off. The Spitfire’s chrome frame glittered in the minimal light from the open door. It had no bulk, the whole thing chopped down to bare parts. Spitfires always had black plates with red accent lines like it was a requirement for something from Tevinter, but this beauty had white plates with gold lines to frame her curves. Maker, she was a beauty, but was it really a Spitfire?
With some effort he got down on his knees to check the engine. It was a Jarvis 400, a build used only by Spitfires, and by the look of it modified to perfection. She was disguised but this beauty was a Spitfire, honest to Maker. Bull spent time examining the engine and frame. At that show in Orlais he and his crew had to stare from behind a rail a good fifteen feet from the bike. He relished the chance to get close and personal.
Somewhere in his exploration he lost track of how much time had passed, and was reminded by a cleared throat.
Dorian stood in the doorway, back from his errand.
“Nice bike,” Bull stood and leaned against the side of the shed. He hadn’t intended to get caught, but Dorian didn’t look angry, just annoyed. Bull noted the crooked line Dorian’s mouth made when bothered, like he were caught between a smirk and a frown.
“I figured I’d find you here, to snoop. Couldn’t resist looking at him, eh?”
“Him?” Bull leaned forward, a shine in his eyes.
Dorian pursed his lips, “Yes, him. Not every bike is a ‘she’ if you must know.”
“Is that your preference. . . or?” Bull watched Dorian’s face, mesmerised. In a moment it had gone from teasing to guarded, the ‘vint’s eyebrows drawn together and mouth a thin line. Dorian was a very expressive fellow, his masks switched with practiced ease.
“I think that’s none of your business. The chain is in the garage, I hope you could manage getting it on while I write up a bill, yes?” Dorian switched to the high and lofty mask of a pampered prince. Bull wanted to know what other faces he could pull from the ‘vint.
Dorian locked the shed door after Bull stepped out, and shot the Qunari glares as they made their way back around to the front. Inside Dorian headed to the counter and pulled a tablet out from underneath. The cash register must be for show.
Bull put the chain on, and tested it out. He checked everything else and was pleased to see a perfect job done on his bike. He brought baby down from the lift and turned the ignition to hear her engine rumble to life. Baby purred like a quilback. Bull placed his hands on the handlebars to feel her tremble. That’s his girl.
“I’m sending Varric the bill as I’m sure it’s more than you’re used to paying at one of those chain garages.”
“Woah now, its only the best for my baby. The day she sees the inside of a chain garage is no day. Because she never will.” Bull switched baby off and made sure she was settled on her kickstand before he made his way to the counter. “Just how expensive is this?” He leaned on his forearms and pressed into Dorian’s space. The ‘vint cast him looks but stood his ground.
Dorian held up the tablet for Bull to see. The Qunari whistled one low note.
“That expensive. Well, I can’t complain, you treated my girl like a princess.” He pushed off, and pulled out his phone to send a quick text to Krem. Bull could have said his thanks, went outside and waited for someone to pick him up, and explore the city with the rest of his boys as they waited for the start of the Skyhold 500. Could have, but there was a bigger adventure to have here.
“That Spitfire of yours. . .” Bull started, the words loose as he pondered his phrasing. Dorian was quick with a reply, the ‘vint’s attention pulled from the tablet.
“No, you can’t ride it. You’ll bend the frame.”
“No, no, I’m just thinking here.” Bull went back to the counter, rested against it and leaned into Dorian’s space, closer than before. Dorian remained still, but wary, “A Spitfire like yours, she-- sorry, he, isn’t there for show. A chopper like that was made for speed. For racing, aye?”
“I don’t see how this is relevant.” Dorian wet his lips, and Bull’s eye shifted to stare at the ‘vint’s mouth. Redness creeped onto Dorian’s cheeks but the man kept his face determinedly neutral.
“I’m saying that your Spitfire has nothing on my baby.” Bull smirked, looked Dorian in the eye as he issued the challenge. The ‘vint looked shocked, like he expected something else, something physical. Bull tucked that juicy tidbit of information away.
Dorian cleared his throat, sucked in a sharp breath, “I think you’re deluded, but if you’re so insistent to be left in my dust how could I refuse?”
“It’s a date,” Bull grinned.