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The Iron Bull chuckled to himself as he shifted the small child from his hip to his shoulder. The boy squirmed briefly but did not wake. It was a stark contrast from even a few days ago, when the child had been inconsolable and nobody had been getting any sleep. It didn’t help that his lover had turned out to be clumsy and frankly useless with a kid this young, despite his earnest efforts. He meant well, but…

Bull was considering the option of going back to bed for a quick midday nap as well when a party of Orlesians arrived at the gates of Skyhold. His Kadan was at the front of the group, looking like a walking overpolished armory. He’d had new armor fashioned recently, a rather more extravagant affair than what he’d worn in the past. Bull knew he felt self conscious these days, and to a degree, was perhaps overcompensating just a bit. He’d had to give up the two-handed greatswords he’d formerly favored, and it had taken a fair bit of sparring for Lucius to become comfortable with the bastard sword he used now in its stead. The suggestion that he use a plain shortsword had been dismissed loudly. Never let it be said that Lucius Trevelyan had no pride (or ego). 

Bull watched Lucius dismount and pass the reins of his horse to Dennett as the Orlesians did the same, a bevvy of stable boys appearing leading the animals away. Lucius still moved stiffly, and even at this distance, Bull could see Lucius’s schooled expression. The Free Marcher noble did not wear the elaborate masks the Orlesian blue bloods wore, but he made a serviceable mask of his own face to deal with them.

Lucius had become a fairly decent diplomat himself over the last few years, of out necessity, but his eyes were always far too honest, Bull thought, and the taut lines around them spoke of fatigue both physical and otherwise. The Orlesians would not notice such a thing, of course - they saw what they were meant to see, what they wanted to see. 

Bull mentally went through the list of potential babysitters still remaining at Skyhold. If he could get someone to look after Taran tonight, he might be able to do something about his partner’s anxiety. Lucius had played off the loss of his hand, shrugged as though it were nothing more than a bad haircut, but his moods had been more volatile lately. He’d been pushing Bull to greater extremes in their time together, although Bull firmly drew the line at causing actual damage. They needed to talk, first, that much was painfully clear, but that wasn’t an easy thing to achieve with a traumatized two year old in tow. Bull knew what it was like to want to push one’s emotions aside, to just take them out in the sparring yard, but over the last year, he’d learned that occasionally a different approach was needed, especially where Lucius was involved. The man was oddly sensitive in some ways, however much he tried to deny it.

There was also the matter of Fen'Harel, another betrayal that Lucius would never admit had wounded him. Even Bull had not quite seen that one coming, the Dread Wolf lived up to his trickster god reputation it seemed.

What an odd few years it had been. So much had changed. Bull had arrived at Haven with orders to infiltrate the Inquisition and to report on its activities and progress. He chuckled to himself thinking back to those earliest messages. “They have chosen as a figurehead a rather laughable figure,” he’d written. “The man believes he is their Maker’s chosen. He goes willingly by the title of ‘The Herald of Andraste’ and surrounds himself with conceit. He has little understanding of the world outside of his own limited experience and sheltered upbringing. He appears to have been raised by the soft and indulgent and is full of weakness. Fortuitously, he seems to be quite fascinated by myself. It should present no great challenge nudge his behavior in the right direction.”

He’d not anticipated getting so involved. He’d never thought he could leave Qun, either, but Hissrad, it seems, was as much of a lie as he was a liar. He’d certainly never thought he’d actually fall in love with a man who had ultimately proven him wrong on several counts. Lucius might be on occasion quite silly, he might be a bit conceited, but as it turned out, he was far from weak.

Taran squirmed in his grasp as he woke, but did not begin crying, at least. The child still cried for his mother or father at times, but that was to be expected. What Bull had absolutely not expected was ever ending up in the role of a Tamassran. No, not a Tamassran, a parent. Krem might still tease him from time to time, calling him “mother” in jest, and perhaps he did fuss over his Chargers sometimes… but it just hadn’t even crossed his mind that one day he’d be toting around an actual child. Lucius could be impulsive at times, hot-headed, and not always apt to mull over decisions, but this was probably the last thing Bull had expected. He was never good at denying Lucius what he wanted, though.

But who knows - they might all survive this, with a bit of luck. The world was full of surprises, it seemed. But how had they ever ended up here?

One Week Ago

“The Chantry sisters will be here to pick up the soldiers’ orphan tomorrow, m'lord.”

Lucius nodded at the servant, one of the few he hadn’t thrown out of Skyhold immediately after they returned from the Winter Palace. He’d been used and he felt it. His absent hand somehow still managed to pain him. How could you feel pain in a limb that was no longer there? One of the healers had given him a long-winded lecture on the subject, something about the Fade and the memory of it, of the body’s unwillingness to accept the loss, accept the change in its shape.

The young boy was sitting on an old rug in front of the fireplace in the main hall of Skyhold. He’d spent hours howling for his mum and dad, but had finally exhausted himself. The odd tear and whimper still escaped, but mostly he was staring at the flames in front of him, absently picking at the weave of the rug, his tiny fingers slowly pulling the fibers loose. His parents were both Inquisition soldiers. Well, they had been, before they had gotten caught up in the fighting between the Qunari agents and the servants of Fen'Harel at the Winer Palace.

In a distant sort of way, this child’s fate was his fault. He’d been stupid, he knew. He’d been stupid in a lot of ways for most of his life, but it had never mattered before. In the ancestral Trevelyan home, he’d had no real responsibilities. His eldest brother was the head of the household, his second oldest brother dealt with the family finances and business dealings on a daily basis, and one of his sisters oversaw the servants and staff. It had been that way since his father had passed on and his mother had grown too old and feeble to keep up with such demands, and he’d never anticipated it changing much. He was the last of his parents’ children, a spare of sorts that had not been expected to do much of anything. When he was a child, they’d thought he might marry a nice girl and forge a connection with some other family of good name, but as he grew older, it became obvious that would not happen. His parents had let go of that plan with little more than a shrug, thankfully.

He didn’t know much about children, either. His siblings had children, and he loved his nieces and nephews, but his own involvement did not extend much past occasional sparring lessons with wooden swords and birthday gifts.

This child would probably make a fine Templar when he was older. It was an admirable calling, wasn’t it? He’d certainly admired them for most of his own life. His own father had once entertained the idea of giving him to the Chantry, but his mother had been unwilling to let him go. She’d always been a rather sentimental sort. What would he have become, though, if she had let him go? He’d have been at the conclave, as a Templar, rather than as an observer. Would he have survived? What of Corypheus? Would he have ended up one of those red lyrium-blighted wretches?

Lucius’s fingers strayed to the hard shape in one of his pockets, the small blue lyrium dose that would stave off the worst of his suffering later. He’d not managed to stop entirely, but he’d cut back to the minimum of what he could do with and not be left too crippled to function. They weren’t fighting demons at the moment, the Fade rifts had been closed and only the lingering distortion in the sky remained to remind the world of what could have happened if the Inquisition had failed.

Solas, or whatever the creature’s true name was, still waited somewhere, plotting against him and his people - against the whole world. One day he would face the ancient mage again, and he would need to be ready. He would need those skills he had learned from the Templar trainer. Magic had its uses, but to tear down the veil and allow it to run unfettered? Solas had admitted that it would be the end of his world, and all the people in it. And for what? To exhume a past long dead and forgotten by all but himself? How utterly stupid.

The world did not belong to Solas, Lucius thought. It didn’t really belong to any one person or group, even if some happened to show up earlier than others. What Solas planned was cowardly and unjust. Lucius looked at the little boy, named Taran, as he rocked himself slowly on the rug. This child deserved a future as much as anyone else, did he not?

Another servant walked past and Lucius stopped him. “I need to send a message to the Chantry sisters. We won’t be needing them after all, I think.”

He had his own portion of the Trevelyan fortune due to him, after all, and could make sure the boy had an education, at least. Maybe Bull would enjoy having a little one around, perhaps? Lots of people raised children, some had very large familes, so it couldn’t be too hard...