I love you.
Three little words.
The words that had decorated the inside of his wrist for as long as he could remember.
They frighten him.
So open, so sincere, the way they resound within his head, words he's never heard spoken aloud. Each time his hand brushes over it,a flash of warmth floods through him.
He dreads the words.
The last words the one who holds his soul will speak.
One word, bold and huge across his crippled thigh, in Qunlat.
Honestly, at this point, he can't count the number of people it might have been.
But it couldn't have been any of them—because he's never experienced soul death before.
The loss of your other half that drives men to take their lives in the most shameful way to be rejoined with their soulmate. That drives them insane, to the point of hallucination and suicide.
It scares him to think how easily he could become one such shade.
He can't see the words on other people's wrists. He supposed it's a magic thing, that it's only when people tell you what's written there that you're allowed to see it.
He only learns that after joining the Inquisition.
Cullen tells him the words on his wrist: I will always be with you until the end of my days. It sounds like a marriage vow, he thinks.
Later, he asks Sera. Hers says I will never die. The shadow the covers her face when she says it tells him her partner is gone, moreso than the scars like scratch marks that don't hide the words.
His fingernails bite into his palms as he repeats his silent vow to never fall in love.
Fate has a bad sense of humor.
The first night was curiosity. The second, a mistake. The third, a craving he couldn't satisfy himself. It becomes a thing. Bull tells him to say katoh if he wants him to stop.
The word never leaves his lips.
It's after the Storm Coast that things change dramatically.
They don't have sex for a while. For the most part, when Dorian goes to the Iron Bull's chambers, they sleep together, with the Iron Bull's arms wrapped around him protectively, never too hard. Dorian fends off his demons as best he can, but it seems the best medicine is just this cuddling.
It scares Dorian to find he doesn't mind.
And it scares Dorian the way he'll hear The Iron Bull whisper kadan, the word bursting with warmth that sends a tingling feeling through him, right before he falls asleep.
It's a battle with the Venatori that finally does it.
Ah, he thinks, this is where I end.
The wound bleeds sluggishly now, and The Iron Bull is putting pressure against it, his hands slick with Dorian's blood, tears in his eyes as he mouths something Dorian can't hear until he focuses, and his eyes widen in horror.
"I love you Dorian, don't die, kadan, don't die, I love you, I love you too damn much, I love you."
His hands, limp at his sides, shake. Slowly, his breath hissing out with the pain, he lays it upon Bull's chest, gently pressing against the split tooth that rests over his heart. Bull stops shaking, and he meets his eyes. He smiles faintly, before the word leaves his mouth.
His eyes go glassy as Bull's anguished howl echoes across the battlefield.