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Displays of Affection

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The first time Herah goes in for a kiss, she misses.

Its before they really know each other. Before the Herald is named the Inquisitor of Cassandra’s Inquisition, before The Iron Bull watches the Qunari Dreadnought sink into the choppy waves of the storm coast, where Hissrad was dissolved. Its before they fall in love. Hell, it was before Haven was ruined and they are restless in the tavern, unknowingly standing at the edge of greatness.

After downing a dragon in Hinterlands, bone weary from travel but spirits high, the tavern is a bustle with the dreamy exhilaration of post battle glory. The chatter buzzes. Loud rumors and gossip set the ears ringing, the soldiers singing bawdy songs and tear their pants while jumping jigs, and breaking fiddle strings from going too hard. Drinking to their own beast slaying might, Herah has downed mugs of beer and wine triumphantly poured by her companions. Her throat is ragged from singing verses, her feet aching from leaping to the music, her ribs ache from laughing.

And in this time, she had found herself pressed up against Iron Bull in a small alcove. She’s feeling melty, from the hops and the heat. The tavern had all kinds of small corners, whose primary function was for storing extra stools and boxes, but often served as a separation from the main action of the pub. Thin slats of wood to create a makeshift closet, that doubles as a room of privacy for those who needed concealment or quiet.

Somehow, the night had led to Iron Bull and Herah pressed up against each other in one these spaces. Being the two of the largest people in the entire establishment, they are chest to chest, still smelling of dust, dragon and beer. But the tightness only serves as an excuse to pull each other close. A hand on a hip, pulling their thighs together, exchanging soft chuckles, each surprised to be alive and desperate to feel their blood pumping in lust rather than near-death. They bury their faces into each others neck to breathe deeply and remember how it felt to feel the hot breath of the dragon down their back, fire scorching hair and talons tearing flesh. They could have died but they didn’t.

Herah dared to rake her fingers down his spine, thinking of it.

“Anything I can help you with, Boss?” he whispered hotly. His words slid down her neck. She shivers. Though she was not cold, Herah was desperate for his heat.

“Yeah, you can stick your hand down my pants,” she dared to say, meeting his eye. With her tongue, she teased the tip of her teeth. He grinned a lion’s grin.

“Can do, Boss.”

He wrapped his good arm around her back, sliding her onto his thigh. She ground against him. There was so much of him to touch, his sternum, his collarbones, the slope of his neck, the rough of his jaw; so much inviting skin that she was overwhelmed to behold. He unbuckled her belt and slipped his hand into her pants, his palm pressed against her mound. With one finger he touched her already slick folds and rubbed against her. She groaned, not realizing how slowly her arousal had been building throughout the evening. Herah leaned against his neck, content to let him work.

He inhaled sharply and then gave a low groan. “You smell like dragon.” Then he worked his fingers hard, round and around. Finally two fingers rubbed her entrance and slipped in. she gasps loudly against his chest, watching the flicker of torches. the light dappled by the dried wood sheet that cuts them off from the rest of the commotion of the tavern, alone in their own room that’s not a room.

“That was lovely,” she mumbles in a blissful orgasmic other place. She leans in to kiss him, either his mouth, his lips, his jaw, anything to say thanks. But he smiles, thinking she’s drunk or clumsy with sleep. He lets her rest her head on his chest. The Iron Bull strokes her hair, not minding the horns at all and knowing how it feels to rest that weight. It's not what she wants but it will do. They barely know each other after all.

 

Herah begins notices the lack of kissing when she begins sleeping with him regularly. As in actual “bed sex”. Herah is on unfamiliar ground here . She has had no experience with ropes, with blindfolds, with having to wait to come. It's all very exciting and new and Iron Bull introduces everything to her slowly. Herah is content. Bull doesn’t kiss her but he’ll lick and bite her and he’ll caress her back with his hands in a way that feels like a thousands summer kisses.

It's hard to think about kissing when his breath tickles the damp skin of her back, or licking the salt of sweat between her breast; or when she’s pinching his nipples till he groans and comes or when she bites at the stretch of muscle between his shoulder and neck that has groaning and then thrusting harder inside her.

But as she rests, and he softly cleans her body with a warm cloth and then drags the downy covers up to her chin, she loves the way the evening light reflects off his nose. He has massive shoulders that Herah will never get over. His mere presence is so much bigger than anyone else she’s ever slept. For once Herah feels likes she fits someone. And the thoughtfulness, his constant attention to details, the rough pads of his fingers, she wants to kiss him to tell him thanks.

But she’s bone tired, and drifting off the to the land of nod as he watches over her, brushing her hair out of her eyes. She grabs him by his chin and The Iron Bull lets her pull him. She wants to kiss him; She will kiss him, to say thanks, to bite his lips, to express how incomplete she feels without him. When he touches her, she feels sunlight and she wants to kiss him. But as his face draws close, Herah drifts to sleep.

Chapter Text

They’re in a relationship now. It's a sweet time; Herah is happy with Iron Bull in and out of bed. She likes the taste of katoh in her mouth and finds it hard to imagine a time where she needs to say it. Anything with that they do is wonderful, anything Bull is pleasurable. The world is growing bigger with that hole in the sky tearing the world a part and Herah has to shoulder the sky and keep the end at bay. But in the quite firelit moments of their room, with Bull, her shoulders relax.

However.

However, Herah is acutely aware that something is missing from this domestic package. Smooching. Pecks on the cheeks. A smack on the lips, not the ass for once. And Herah is unsure how to bring the subject up. They do everything couples ought to do. They break thier bread and talk about their days, they share beds and loose tentative plans for the future, while eating, fucking and loving each other.

Herah considers asking one of her friends. Perhaps, Cassandra. But the seeker would be too busy stammering to make a good argument. And Sera would just laugh at her dilemma and just say “just tell him! Or kiss him! Or what!”. Josephine might be an option but…

But she wouldn’t want this rumor, this “problem” for lack of a better word, floating around the inner circle, especially if it gets back to Bull before she gets the chance to talk to him. And he will be hurt or confused as to why she just didn’t speak up to him first! It's far too much of a risk.

Finally, Herah instead pens a letter to her mother. She inquired about the family bakery, touched on the Inquisition's agenda, begged for her parents to send her a special loaf of olive bread; and then oh by the way, was it common for couples not to ever kiss, particularly for qunaris?

Herah’s mother wrote back, accompanied by a basket of two olive loaves and a few buttery rolls. Kissing, Herah’s mother wrote, was something one ought to do everyday. Herah’s mother said that she kissed her father, her children. Her father, Mother wrote, kissed the first bread of the day for good luck. When her parents had bought their store and home, Herah’s mother had made a point to kiss the threshold stone. They did this because kissing did not exist in qunari society and thus was not alive. So to the young free tal vashoth, kissing was done in defiance of the Qun. For them, it was a daily loving sedition against the rules that had once dominated their life.

Oh.

That made sense.

 

Finally, Herah decided to broach the subject with Bull. He hadn’t known that she had written her family, even though as a spy to turned lover, he still sorted the mail, cautious of any poisons embedded in seals or fatal powders on paper. She knew he had handled the letter but knew nothing of the contents. Soon she worked up to nerve discuss kissing.

 

“I just never really got into it.”

That’s fair. That’s reasonable. He was born and raised under the Qun which apparently is a no kissing zone, which is fine. It's fine.

“Seriously?” Herah asks, the question escaping before she can catch it. Herah hadn’t planned on pressing the issue but she was confused as to the inner machinations of Iron Bull. He shrugged.

“It's not sexy.”

Not sexy?

Alright, it might not be inherently sexy. Herah had experienced enough smushed lips to know that pecks could be quite annoying especially when given by doting parents. But kissing had often led to all of her sexual encounters. Except, of course, save the times with Iron Bull.

Herah remembers her first kiss, the baking apprentice of her father, who had fine black horns and kept the stock room orderly. he always a bit flour on his nose. And then the stable girl, down the road, after her father banished her from the stock room after Herah kept getting flour everywhere. The sweet smell of hay, as Herah kissed the brown haired girl on a stack of hay, kissing down her neck and on the tips of her ears. Kissing was fun, it was easy with low commitments. But it also had the potential to be sincere, an expression of care and thoughtfulness.

Just like Bull.

as much as kissing meant to her, it was clear it was not the same for him. With a sigh, she knew she wouldn’t press the issue.

 

But once Herah made an active decision to stop thinking about the fact that they don’t kiss, that was all she thinks about. Lips that curved like the lapping waves or bend like the bow pulled by a fine archer. It did not help that Bull has very shapely lips with complimentary stubble. But she would not pursue it, if Bull did not want to.

Yet, he catches her staring at his lips a lot. When he’s talking to her, telling her about the Chargers’ old adventures or about the recent secret he picked up from a couple chevaliers, she gets distracted. Attractive, shapely lips, it's such a waste that they aren’t kissing right now.

Perhaps he was actually a bad kisser and he simply didn’t want to admit. hat would really be a pity. But Herah did not believe that.

“Hey, boss, eyes up here,” Bull says once along the coast of crestwood. Everyone laughs through the cold rain that continues to pour down. There’s a comment about Bull’s lack of a shirt and the endless chill that pervades the land. She bites back her embarrassment and suggest they find shelter before they continue on their way, her cheeks heated. Iron Bull laughs heartily, and slides his arm around her waist, as if to say it's fine. His closeness is a gift, an anchor that helps her forget the numbness of the cold and the burden of leadership.

They bed down for the night, in tents under a cropping of rocks. Inside Herah catches sight of his brow set in an uneasy furrow. She finishes braiding her hair for the night. Bull is in a moment of rare solemn contemplation, his hand covering his mouth.

“Ready for bed?” she asks, getting under the wool blanket. He catches her eyes and his own eye dance from hers to her lips. she freezes still waiting, hoping he will do something. instead he smiles and joins her in bed. But Herah realizes that Bull is thinking about kissing just as much as she is.

Chapter Text

Interestingly enough it's Bull who first goes in for that first kiss.

Its after a long hour of tension. Her hands are bound behind her back, tight and justshy of tortuous. Her legs tied, leaving her spread open for Iron Bull. She is feeling right now, not seeing, thanks to a blindfold. The burden of sight gone, Herah can simply rely on the sensations he’s giving her.

A rough hand slaps against the tender inside of her thigh. Her muscle twitches, her toes curl. The tiniest squeak escapes her lips. Iron Bull laughs gently, his warm breath ghost against her knee. She blushes, and bites back her own mirth. Finally all thoughts of inadequacy, insecurity and lips are driven from her brain. This, this is good; this is what she wants. The pain is the perfect flavor to soften the pleasure, like adding vinegar to raspberries. Her skin feels hot and burning, her folds, her inner thigh, the flesh against the stretch of the rope. It burns wonderfully as he pushes his fingers against her gently and into her, working Herah’s body up and up until she comes hard. The world dips into a sweet darkness.

She can hear him as she slowly comes to, licking and mouthing ‘very good’ along the inside of her palm. Herah has been untied and he is brushing his fingertips against the rope marks. Still blindfolded, in the dark, he rubs his hands softly against her belly. He tenderly strokes over the rope marks in her skin, smoothing them out, bringing her skin back to the world of sensation. His other hand grabs the back of her knee. The joints are wooden, like a rarely used mechanism. He is stretching her leg and smoothing the tense muscle.

Salt dried at the edge of her eyes. The throbbing of her body feels far away and beautiful. Somewhere Bull is holding her while she breathes. She’s never been this exposed; laying naked, trusting someone so completely. The air rides against her goosebump flesh. Where there once was silence, Herah recognize the hum of the world outside. She can smell the wood of the bedframe and the ice cold mountain air. She has returns to the world.

Bull lifts her head up, bringing a cup to mouth. she drinks the water, feeling it hydrate her throat. bull is holding her close, her head in his hands. she breathe and waits. Bull gently paces her head on the pillow, mindful of her curling spiral horns as only a qunari does.

In that moment, a thought comes unbidden, as she eases back into reality.

Why won’t he kiss me?

Herah ignores that icy question, swallows it and lets it dissolve in the warm afterglow. Bull’s hands reach under her calves stretching out her stiff limbs.

“Good?”

“Mhm,” she affirms.

“Do you want the blindfold off now?”

“Uh-huh.” She nods and finally the blindfold is removed. He’s there, rugged cheeks and charcoal flushed with heat. He’s above her, checking her face, her eyes as his hand cradles her flushed cheek. She leans back against the bed, feeling his fingers brushed against her skin, sending tingles through her.

Herah smiles. “Thanks.”

He returns the smile with the soft curve of those beautiful lips. His hand cups the back of her head and she leans into his touch. Bull’s thumb traces the curve of her cheek. Oh hellions, will he.

He does. He kisses her.

But it's a poor smack of lips pressed against each other. Lips smushed, wet and annoying. This is not the kiss of a lover, its the kiss of a relative the kind you smear off your cheek. More akin with the smooches Herah’s mother gives than any she has shared with a lover. Herah thrown off the gesture, stunned and a little disappointed. That disappointment must be obvious because Bull sighs loudly.

“See.”

“See?” She asks, completely lost in the fog of his action. “See what?”

“It's not all it's cracked up to be,” he says, taking the red silk rope in hand. He begins to coil it back with practiced ease into a perfect round shape. Herah’s body still aches. It will for a few days, but her skin is humming with tingling sensation and she is filled with righteous fury.

“That was just one kiss! A bad one,” she says.

Bull gives her a look. The one that says he, king of sex and making people cream, could never give anyone anything short of orgasmic excellence.

“Oh don’t give me that face,” Herah says.

“I’m not doing anything, I’m just looking.”

“You gotta try kissing more than once.” 

“Herah, you are not the first person I’ve kissed, Herah,” He says sharply. her mouth drops at what sounds nearly like an accusation.

“I know that.”

“Good. So we don’t have to talk about it again.”

“Ok but listen-” she says, standing up. The room bends. Her legs give out. Herah feels the world move in eery stillness yet fast as the floor approaches. She falls for what feels like the length of a dream. Disoriented by her new position on the floor, she blinks. The stones are cold and her head swims. “Whoa.”

“Hey, take it ease,” Bull says, filling her vision. Herah hadn’t even seen him move but he was right beside her. “You just took a lot of play. You might feel ready to take on the world, a brooding dragon and its spawn, but, I promise, you’re not.”

“I’m fine, I’m fine.” she mumbles, despite her feet that feel like they’re dancing while they lay motionless. The Iron Bull clucks his tongue. He picks her up. It takes some effort to tuck her knees over his arm and pull her close to his chest but he manages. He take them to the chaise. Her body sinks down into the silken pillows. Iron Bull’s hand eased her head onto the armrest. Before he could leave, she pulled his hand.

“Stay.”

“Kadan, if you want to sleep on a clean bed, I’m gonna have to change the sheets so-”

“Sit. Sit with me. Please, my love.”

His stormy grey stares at her. Sometimes she wonders if Bull gained more than he lost with his missing eye, if perhaps he had been blessed with the ability to see into a person mind to understand them to their core, to see them stripped and naked of all defensives. Because he sees not just the inquisitor, but into Herah’s very being.

Or maybe it was simply his espionage background that provided with near supernatural powers of observation. Not for the first, a shameful part of her mind wonders if she is is being vulnerable by an agent of a foreign power, playing into a spymaster’s plan. She hopes Bull is blind to this doubt.

Yet,Iron Bull rolls his eye admitting to himself, that Herah’s brattiness has gotten the best of him. She moves her legs to give him room on the silk chaise. He sits down, pulling her legs across his lap. The sun is setting, the window to the west is a wall of blinding light. Iron Bull breaks it with his silhouette and the light fractures like a diamond around him, infinitesimal valuable. His hands fold against the shape of her knees under the blanket. His hands have many scars, tiny pale cuts against his dark gray skin. There is so much of him that is still hidden, that he won’t - hasn’t - told her of.

But right now, they are together and she wouldn’t trade this for anything in the world. Not even the integrity of the Inquisition.

“I don’t need kisses,” she tries to say, but her voice is smaller than a sliver of light. Bull misses the whisper.

“Hmm?”

“I shouldn’t expect you to kiss me, if you don’t want to. I thought I needed it as proof but, what we have. That is enough. It has been for a while,” She admits.

Bull is silent. The sunlight is still blinding but she feels his hand tightens on her knees reflexive. He draws patterns impossibly small onto her skin.

“You comfortable?” he finally asks.

“Yeah-huh.”

“Good.”

“You?”

“Me too.”

“Good, that’s all I need to hear, Bull.”