Haven was freezing and miserable.
It had been just over two weeks since Dorian had officially joined the Inquisition, and the voice in the back of his head was constantly asking him what he was doing here -- a sentiment that increased with every glaring eye and hissing whisper that seemed to follow him wherever he went in Haven. Dorian had known his adventure outside of Tevinter would lend to shock and gossip, but he hadn’t quite realized how much people would outright detest him without ever speaking to him.
Still, there were perks. It’s nice feeling the hero for once , Dorian thought as he leaned against the wall of the tavern, a glass of wine in each hand, gazing up at the breach-free sky. Dorian Pavus, the terrifying Tevinter mage, had fought by the Herald of Andraste’s side and rescued him from Alexius’s time-altering trap in Redcliffe . Quite impressive, if Dorian thought so himself. And through all of that, the Inquisition was able to secure the mages, and finally possess enough power to close the breach in the sky. Sure, the townsfolk couldn’t give a damn what Dorian did to help -- he would always be the despicable magister to them. But whatever they thought, Dorian had earned a part of the celebration tonight, even if it meant drinking in the shadows.
And judgemental though the population of Haven may be, Dorian had to admit they did know how to throw an impromptu party. Alcohol was flowing freely; a band, led by Maryden, had struck up in the light of the bonfire; soldiers and workers alike were dancing, arms linked. But Dorian’s eye was trained on the small cluster of people that had formed just a few yards away from the tavern -- a young man with dark skin and high cheekbones was at the center, looking sheepish as his admirers fought for his attention.
Which brought Dorian to another perk of sticking around the Inquisition.
As soon as Dorian caught Tre’s eye, their fearless leader did a comical double-take, then quickly made excuses to the circle of adoring fans, extricating himself from the crowd and making a beeline for Dorian.
Dorian loved how the Herald of Andraste stumbled over himself like an overly excited and awkward puppy whenever Dorian smiled at him. And truth be told, he may have exploited it a bit -- the whispering-behind-hands and snide remarks were beginning to fade away the more the great Herald himself was making it blantantly obvious that Dorian was his favorite. Dorian raised a glass to one of the glaring onlookers as Tre made his way over.
“Hi,” said Tre, smiling widely as he ran a hand over his close-cropped curly hair to shake out some of the snowfall.
“Hi,” said Dorian, handing him a glass of wine and letting his fingers linger a little longer than was necessary on Tre’s hand.
Maybe “exploit” was the wrong word. Dorian quite enjoyed this flirting, after all, and it wasn’t like Tre was hard on the eyes. Still, the open flirting came so easily to Dorian in this case because it felt so safe and innocent, because Tre seemed so safe and innocent. Dorian wasn’t used to having someone act so obviously interested in him, and something about it felt sweet and pure. In Tevinter, it was all about playing the game, about who had the upperhand, who had the power . Tre didn’t seem to care at all about power. Maybe that’s why he made such a good leader.
Anyway, when it came down to the matter, Dorian liked Tre. He liked talking to him, traveling with him, eating dinner with him. Dorian would flirt, and joke, and make abundant innuendoes whenever conversation allotted, but he wasn’t about to ruin their friendship with sex. It was the same reason, he supposed, why he never considered crossing that line with Felix.
“To your great victory,” said Dorian, clinking his glass against Tre’s.
“Why does everyone keep talking like I did this alone?” said Tre. “If I hadn’t had all of you fighting by my side every step of the way -- ”
“Well, now, that was just self-preservation -- how were we supposed to close the damn thing if you were dead?”
“See, it wasn’t me you needed, just my hand.”
“If I had a gold piece for every time I heard that.”
Dorian smirked as Tre choked on his wine. For someone so open about his affections, Tre was delightfully easy to fluster. Though come to think of it, with his religious background, Tre was in all likelihood a virgin -- yet another reason Dorian wasn’t going to push their relationship beyond friendship; he did not want to be responsible for defiling the virginal Herald of Andraste. All things considered, Dorian supposed he should back off, but it was so much fun flirting with Tre.
“You know it’s really unfair when you do that,” said Tre, after he had stopped coughing. “You treat bantering like a sport and then cheat.”
“Well, I do have a title to upkeep.”
“King of snark?”
“That’s the one.”
They fell silent for a moment. Tre leaned against the wall next to Dorian and looked up at the sky. Dorian found himself gazing at Tre’s profile. The man really did have wonderful cheekbones.
“I’m glad you’re here, Dorian,” said Tre, turning his head against the wall to look at him, and Dorian realized just how close their faces were. “I’m glad you stayed.”
Dorian wanted to think of something sarcastic to say to release some of the sudden emotional tension, but he found himself unable to look away from Tre’s mouth. Was he drunk? He’d only had the one glass of wine so far, but for the briefest moment, Dorian found himself wanting to lean in…
Instead, Dorian tore his gaze away from Tre and laughed a little more forcefully than usual.
“Yes, well, you’d all be doomed without me,” he said, taking a large gulp of wine.
“Probably,” said Tre.
Just then, Varric’s head popped out of the tavern door.
“I thought I heard you two. C’mon, get in here, we’re about to start a game of Wicked Grace!”
“I should go find Cassandra,” said Tre. “She said she had some official business she wanted to discuss.”
“Can’t that wait?” said Varric. “We have celebrating to do!”
“Have you met Cassandra?” said Tre. “I won’t be long, I’ll be back by the second round.”
“I’ll hold you to that. C’mon, Sparkles, no excuses from you,” said Varric, and he retreated back into the tavern.
“Sparkles?” said Dorian, turning to Tre. “Was he talking to me?”
“You should be honored -- Varric doesn’t give just anyone a nickname,” said Tre, grinning. “You’re officially one of us now. How does it feel?”
Truthfully, Dorian felt a sudden unwanted and unexpected rush of emotion that he didn’t know how to make sense of, so he downed the rest of his wine in one go to try and clear the lump in his throat.
“Well,” he said after a moment, “there’s far worse company.”
“That’s the spirit,” said Tre, raising his glass to Dorian as he walked backwards toward the Chantry. “Thank you for the wine.”
“Hurry back,” Dorian called.
“Before you know it!”
Dorian wasn’t a superstitious man.
Still, when he heard the attack bells halfway through his first hand of Wicked Grace with Varric and Sera, he couldn’t help but feel that his last words with the Herald of Andraste had somehow tempted the universe.
As soon as Dorian saw the templars, deformed and infused with red lyrium, he began calling for Tre -- he wanted to be fighting by his side -- but in the chaos of the fighting, it was impossible to see where he had gone. Dorian stood with Varric and Sera on the stone wall, raining down fire and arrows on the swarms of demons and templars flooding in through the broken doors. When they heard Cullen call the retreat sometime later, Dorian kept fighting until Varric and Sera grabbed both of his arms and began trying to drag him to the Chantry.
“What about the Herald?” Dorian yelled furiously. “I’m not leaving him out there to die!”
“We don’t know if he’s still out there!” yelled Varric, at the same time Sera yelled, “There’s a fucking dragon !”
“If we stay here, we all die, Sparkles.”
We , thought Dorian. It was a heavy word, one that let him know that Varric and Sera weren’t going to leave him; if he insisted on going down in a bloody fight, they would go down with him.
“ Kaffas ,” swore Dorian, and he cast a barrier around the three of them as they ran toward the Chantry.
The Chantry entry hall was already packed with people when they were ushered through the doors. Dorian spotted Josephine standing near the middle of the hall; for the first time since Dorian had met her, she looked confused and out of place.
“The Herald?” Dorian asked.
“He hasn’t returned,” said Josephine, her voice higher than usual. “He went with Solas, Cassandra, and...and The Iron Bull, I think. To the trebuchets.”
“And none of them are here?”
Josephine shook her head sadly.
“ Kaffas ,” Dorian swore again, running his hands through his hair.
He pushed through the crowd, into the shadows of an alcove behind one of the pillars. He ran his hands through his hair once more -- something he did only when at the height of stress. He needed to pull himself together.
“Green eyes like the sea, beautiful,” said a strange and lofty voice. “Bright as the mark on his hand. Warmth, acceptance, understanding -- new and frightening and wanted . But no, can’t allow that, push it away.”
Dorian turned and saw the figure of a boy in a large hat -- at least, he did for a moment. Dorian blinked a few times and tried to follow the boy with his eyes, but it was as if the figure was always in his periphery, no matter how much Dorian turned to face him.
“Pain and fear, after Redcliffe,” continued the boy. “He pulled me in, held me close. ‘No one will ever understand what it was like,’ he said. He was right.”
Dorian stood with his mouth slightly open as the strange unseeable boy described the moment that Dorian and Tre had shared in Redcliffe, when Tre had pulled Dorian aside away from the others and hugged him tightly. Dorian still remembered the feel--
“--of the vibration of his voice against my neck. Pain now -- deeper than a wound. What if I never see him again?”
“What the fuck ?” said Dorian. Who was this miscreant and why did he find the need to narrate Dorian’s deepest, private thoughts out loud?
“He would not have wanted you to get yourself killed,” said the voice, with a little less whimsy and more strength. “You did the right thing, coming here. He wants you safe.”
Before Dorian could think to say anything, the figure was gone; Dorian could focus more clearly on the boy with the large hat now that he was farther away from him, kneeling next to the severely wounded Chancellor Roderick. Dorian felt rattled by what he had just experienced. He found himself walking to the basement with no real plan for why he was doing it. They were all going to die, he supposed. Sure, they were safe in the Chantry now, but for how long? The demon army would break through soon enough. Dorian took a few deep breaths with his head in his hands. Well, if he was going down, it would be fighting. He readied his staff and turned to walk once more up the stairs, mentally preparing himself to defend the Chantry entrance for as long as he could. Maybe some of the workers and children would be able to get out, somehow.
Just as Dorian reached the bottom of the stairs, he heard a commotion. Dorian jumped to the side just as a river of people began rushing down into the basement.
“What’s going on?” said Dorian, grabbing the arm of a passing man.
“He said we should gather here, that there’s a way out --”
“ Who said?” asked Dorian.
Dorian was running -- or moving as fast as he could, anyway, against the river of people pushing in the opposite direction. He made it to the top of the stairs, fighting through the bottleneck at the doorway. Dorian looked around frantically, and their eyes met at the same moment. Dorian fought harder against the moving crowd. Without thinking he reached a hand out, and Tre grabbed it, clutching his fingers around Dorian’s and pulling him through the last cluster of people separating them.
“What’s going on?” asked Dorian, searching the Herald’s face. He looked a mess -- blood was pouring down the left side of his head from a large gash on his forehead, and there was a tear near the shoulder of his armor -- but he was in one piece, and Dorian felt a surge of relief that he didn’t have time to contemplate in such a state of emergency and chaos.
“Roderick knows a retreat route,” said Tre, still clutching Dorian’s hand in his and holding on tightly, as if afraid that the current of people might tear him away again. “He’s going to help you all get to safety.”
“What do you mean ‘you all’? You aren’t going back out there?”
The resigned look on Tre’s face was all the answer Dorian needed.
“Then I’m coming with you,” Dorian said defiantly.
“No, you’re not,” said Tre firmly.
“Dorian, I need you to help them,” said Tre, looking over Dorian’s shoulder to where the survivors were pushing through the door to the basement.
Dorian opened his mouth to protest, but Tre shook his head stubbornly.
“Don’t fight me on this,” said Tre. “You saved my life at Redcliffe, and I don’t just mean with your magic. Dorian, I never would have been able to keep my wits if you hadn’t been there. There’s no one I’ve ever met who can stay so calm under pressure as you can. Be that calm for them now. They need you.”
“They hate me,” said Dorian. “What makes you think they would trust me?”
“Because I do,” said Tre, the ghost of a smile playing at his lips. Tre brought Dorian’s hand to his mouth quickly. He kissed Dorian’s fingers, his eyes closed and a pained expression on his face. Dorian felt that pain reverberate in his own chest. He wanted to say something, anything, but his throat was tight.
“Go,” said Tre gently, releasing Dorian’s hand and backing away.
“ Go !”
And Dorian watched as the Herald of Andraste turned, joining Cassandra, Solas, and Bull in walking through the Chantry doors and back into the fight.
If there was one thing Dorian had mastered, it was repressing his emotions.
So after the doors to the Chantry had closed behind the Herald of Andraste, Dorian took a deep breath, pulled himself together, and helped the strange boy pull Roderick to his feet. They staggered down the stairs and through the crowd of people. Cullen followed not long after and once Roderick made certain that they knew the way (he was fading fast and they couldn’t guarantee how long he would survive), they began to file as a group out of a hidden passageway in the basement.
Cullen organized the soldiers; Vivienne, the mages; and Varric, the workers. Dorian walked between them all, doing his best to use what little healing magic he knew to close the wounds he could. They trudged through the snow, Dorian focusing on each small task, on putting one foot in front of the other.
They had only been walking for ten minutes when they heard a loud roar and an explosion. Many of their number stopped in their tracks, Dorian included, to look back at Haven. They could see smoke rising behind the trees.
“Keep moving!” Cullen commanded.
Dorian wanted to tell the Commander to fuck off, to run back and help his friends, to help Tre . But then he looked around at the terrified faces around him, remembered the Herald’s words, and joined in Cullen’s encouragement to move onward.
When they heard the unmistakable rumble of the avalanche less than five minutes later, however, even Cullen stopped. Dorian turned to look back toward Haven -- he could no longer see smoke. Dorian turned to Cullen, who nodded to a few soldiers to clear a spot for a campfire.
“Ten minutes,” was all Cullen said as Dorian lit the fire.
They had left a hastily drawn map in the Chantry, in the event that the others were able to escape. They took turns, warming themselves by the fire. Dorian fought the anticipation rising in his chest -- even if they had survived, they wouldn’t be able to catch up to the group in ten minutes. Dorian left the fire burning as they continued their march, as a beacon. Just in case.
Dorian wasn’t sure how long they had been walking when they heard the commotion behind them. Dorian had been near the front, speaking with Cullen and Josephine about how far they should keep moving before making camp. There hadn’t been much talking as they trudged through the snow, but there was a slow building of chatter spreading now.
“What is it?” said Josephine, as Cullen took off running toward the back of the group. Dorian followed him, his heartbeat picking up.
“Commander!” called a voice. The crowd parted, and Cassandra, Bull, and Solas pushed their way through, breathing hard.
“We followed your tracks,” said Bull. “Thanks for leaving the fire.”
“Cassandra,” said Cullen heavily. “The Herald?”
Cassandra shook her head. She looked distraught.
“We...we thought he was behind us, at first. The dragon was coming -- the Herald told us to run. We ran back to the Chantry, but by the time we turned back…”
Cassandra slumped, her head falling into her hands.
“Corypheus -- the monster leading the army -- was upon him,” said Solas, speaking in his usual infuriatingly detached manner. “Before we could even think how to act, the Herald did as you instructed, Commander. He set off the trebuchet and caused the avalanche. There was no turning back.”
“No turning back?!” snarled Dorian, before he could contain himself.
Cassandra lifted her head and looked at Dorian, meeting his eyes.
“Dorian,” she said softly. “I’m sorry.”
Dorian took a deep breath. Be that calm for them now , he heard Tre saying in his mind. He stepped forward and put his hands on Cassandra’s arms comfortingly.
“Let’s take a moment to rest,” said Dorian. “We’ll light another fire...”
They walked for another hour, it seemed, before they finally reached the base of the mountain and Cullen deemed it safe enough to set up camp. The soldiers and workers got to work pitching tents. Dorian helped start several more campfires. Vivienne led the mages in calming meditation.
Dorian wandered the campsite. The general atmosphere was calmer now that they were far from Haven and in general safety. Strangely, the calmer everything else was, the more riled up Dorian began to feel. He supposed it was because he didn’t have anything else to do but pace and worry. Dorian knew his worrying was useless; he knew the truth: a dragon, a darkspawn monster, an avalanche -- there was absolutely no way that the Herald of Andraste managed to survive. He was certainly dead. So why did Dorian keep circling the camp, peering into the darkness as if it would perform miracles?
Dorian wasn’t the only one. Leliana had sent scouts to sweep the area, and Cullen and Cassandra were walking the perimeter of the camp as much as Dorian. It was late when the tiredness finally began to catch up with Dorian. He sat on an empty camp bed and put his head in his hands. He felt his head growing heavy, sleep pricking at the corners of his consciousness, when he could have sworn he heard Cullen shouting...something about the Herald…
Dorian sat bolt upright, breathing hard.
“Coming through!” yelled Cullen.
A group of soldiers parted, and Dorian actually heard himself gasp. Slumped between Cullen and Cassandra was the limp form of the Herald of Andraste.
Dorian wasn’t certain he wasn’t dreaming, but he stood and waved his arms.
“Here!” he called, and Cullen and Cassandra limped toward him, gently lowering the unconscious Tre onto the cot. He was shivering violently, his complexion ashy and his lips much paler than usual.
“He needs blankets,” said Cassandra, running off and shouting orders as she went.
Dorian knelt next to the bed and took Tre’s hands in both of his own. They were cold as marble. Closing his eyes and concentrating hard, Dorian conjured the fire to his palms, not enough to burn, just enough to warm. Dorian hated being cold, so he had spent some time practicing how to bring the fire to just under the surface of his skin, to raise his body temperature for short periods of time. Tre let out another violent shiver, and Dorian began to unbuckle the top of Tre’s leather armor.
“What are you doing?” asked Cullen, though he sounded more baffled than stern.
“Just trust me,” said Dorian quietly.
Dorian slid his hands inside Tre’s armor, pressing his hands against bare flesh (telling himself all the while that the warmth he felt spreading in his own body was entirely of the magical sort -- even though lending warmth to another person like this should have left him cold). Dorian moved his hands slowly to the center of Tre’s chest. He could feel Tre’s heartbeat, sure and steady despite how weak he currently looked. Dorian closed his eyes as he focused on bringing warmth back to the Herald. It was a few moments before the shivering stopped. Dorian let out a long sigh, and was surprised when, seemingly in response, he felt a hand gently cover his own. Dorian opened his eyes and saw Tre gazing up at him through hooded eyes.
“Dorian,” he whispered softly, before his head lolled to the side and he passed out once more.
Dorian swallowed over the lump that had formed in his throat. He brought his hands (still clasping Tre’s) to his forehead and let out another deep sigh of relief.
A few moments of quiet passed, during which Dorian became suddenly overcome with the feeling that he was being watched. He turned slowly and saw Cullen, Cassandra, and half a dozen soldiers holding blankets staring at him openly, some with their mouths agape.
“Right,” said Dorian, letting go of Tre’s hand and standing. “I’ll let you all take it from here.”
But as Dorian tried to slip away through the crowd bustling forward to fuss over Tre, Cullen grabbed his arm. Dorian raised his eyebrows in surprise, and Cullen looked like he was struggling to find the words to say something. Eventually he said simply, “You’re a good man, Dorian.”
“Don’t go saying that too loudly,” said Dorian dryly. “I have a reputation to uphold.”
Cullen patted his arm awkwardly and Dorian went to find another cot. He collapsed on the first empty one he saw, exhaustion washing over him. He watched through drooping eyelids as Cassandra shooed away the crowd that had gathered to see the Herald for themselves. Dorian could catch glimpses of Tre -- sleeping soundly -- between their forms.
Please don’t let this be a dream , Dorian thought as he began to slip out of consciousness. Please let him be here when I wake up .
“He will be,” said the strange voice Dorian knew belonged to the boy in the hat. “He isn’t going to leave you, Dorian. Sleep now.”
Dorian wouldn’t remember the words in the morning, but he felt their effect in his bones as he relaxed into a deep sleep.