Dorian stares at his father open mouthed. There is no possible way the words he just heard are what his father actually said.
“You want me to marry a Soporata?” he chokes out.
“You’ve rejected every eligible Alta in Minrathous,” his father points out dryly shifting to cross his legs. They’re sitting in the gardens for what Dorian thought would be a pleasant game of chess. Instead he’s faced with yet another of his father’s schemes to shove a woman down his throat. “What was the reason for the last? Her neck was too long?” His father’s voice is acerbic and unamused as he moves his knight across the board to block the strategy Dorian had been five moves into involving one of his bishops and his queen side castle. Dorian stares dejectedly at the board for a moment before glaring at his father.
“You know very well why I rejected the last one, and all the others, and it has nothing to do with their necks. Long or otherwise,” Dorian doesn’t quite manage the same unaffected tone his father has taken and when he backtracks his castle he may place it back on the board with more force than is strictly necessary.
“Yes, Dorian, I’m very well aware of your proclivities. And every other nobleman in the city is becoming more and more suspicious of them. No one wants to present their daughter to a deviant.”
The word stings but Dorian’s heard it enough times that he no longer flinches. He leans back in his chair and gives his father an incredulous look.
“You’re saying she’s the only one desperate enough to have me?” he asks. His father leans forward across the table looking Dorian dead in the eye.
“That’s exactly what I’m saying,” he says slowly before laying his own bishop down on the board and leaning back. “Check.”
Dorian looks down at the board and frowns.
“Have you tried the provinces? I hear pickings are slim out there. We might spare a few horses some discomfort.” Dorian moves his king to the left and out of check.
“This is not a joking matter, Dorian. I am telling you this is the last option open to you. Do you believe I would even consider pairing you with a woman so far below your station if I weren’t at my wit’s end?”
Dorian looks up from the board and meets his father’s eyes for the first time since marriage was mentioned.
“No,” he says finally. “I don’t believe you would. How did this even get set up? Did you go trolling the slums for marriageable women?”
“Her father and I find ourselves in a somewhat similar situation.”
“His daughter also prefers the company of men? Scandalous.”
Dorian’s father holds his gaze in a way that can only be described as menacing, and Dorian decides it may perhaps be best to stow the humor for now.
“She is… also troubled. She recently ran away from home. They discovered her four months later enlisted in the army.”
“The army?” Dorian asks incredulously. “She ran away from home to join the army?”
“Indeed,” Halward confirms. He moves his knight and puts Dorian in check again. He opens his mouth to announce it but Dorian waves his hand dismissively.
“Yes, yes, I see.” He takes stock of the board, studying it intensely. “Was she any good?” he asks absently.
“Very. Apparently her commanding officer put up a fight when her father came for her. Wanted her to stay on.”
“Well regardless of her apparent knowledge of swords I’ve no intention of letting her anywhere near mine,” Dorian says with finality as he moves himself out of check again.
“You don’t seem to understand the situation, Dorian, so I’ll be plainer. I am not asking. You will do this.”
Dorian blinks at his father, disbelieving.
“Or what?” he asks.
“I’ll disown you,” Halward says simply as though he’s making a statement about the weather. “I’m sure a few weeks of living penniless on the street will make you see reason.”
Dorian stares at him, his mouth open in shock before he leans back in his chair, sizing up the stranger sitting before him wearing the face of the man who raised him.
“You’re serious,” he says simply. His father reaches across the table and moves his bishop, knocking over Dorian’s king.
“I am,” he answers then looks up from the board to meet Dorian’s eye. “It brings me no pleasure to do this to you, Dorian. If it were possible, in another world, I would see you happy. Married to a man you loved. But this is not that world and we must make do with what reality gives us. We will both have to settle for you being secure, if happiness is not on offer.”
Dorian starts to speak but his father holds up a hand.
“Say nothing now. Do not make this decision lightly, either from fear or anger. Think on it a while, then give me your answer.”
The older man stands and turns to go leaving Dorian stunned at the table. He makes it half way to the exit of gardens before he turns.
“I do love you, Dorian,” he says sadly. He pauses as though he wants to say more but after a moment he simply turns and leaves.
Dorian sits at the table staring at his overturned king. At some point a servant comes to fetch him for dinner. Dorian ignores her until she scurries nervously away. Finally, when it’s gotten dark enough that it’s getting hard to see he stands and walks back into the house in a daze.
He doesn’t sleep that night. He packs a bag. And then unpacks it. And then packs it again with different clothes as though to pretend he’s obviously leaving, just being picky about his fashion choices. He puts on his boots and his cloak and sits on his bed, his bag slung over his shoulder. He sits there until a different servant comes to fetch him for breakfast. He goes this time, still dressed for travel and carrying his bag.
When he enters the dining room his mother and father look up at him and his mother’s face tenses. Her hand shoots across the table to grip his father’s tightly. Halward says nothing he just stares grimly at Dorian. There are rings under his eyes and Dorian wonders if he stayed up all night too. If he was waiting to hear the sounds of his only child disappearing into the night.
He drops the bag to the tile floor at the entrance with a thump and takes his seat across from his mother at his father’s right. He dishes himself some eggs and spreads butter on a piece of toast in the midst of the most deathly silence he’s ever not heard.
“What’s her name?” he asks softly. He wonders if his mother is aware of just how loud that breath was.
“Cremisa Aclassi,” Halward answers just as softly, as though the sound of her name alone would make him flee. “Though I’m told she thinks more kindly of those who call her Cremisius.”
a wedding and a conversation
Warning: again there’s some misgendering and incorrect name usage in the first half of this or so before Dorian knows Krem is a man.
The wedding is a small affair by Tevinter standards, though that is in part because the bride’s mother and father have no one to invite aside from themselves. Most of the guests are Dorian’s family, immediate and extended, and members of those houses close to his own.
Dorian sees his new wife for the first time as she walks down the aisle. She’s tall and strong looking, her brown hair still cropped close from her stint in the military. She walks with a stilted uncomfortable gait and looks anywhere but Dorian. Her dress is lovely, a deep purple with glittering gems and beads sewn into it. She looks miserable in it.
The priest says the necessary words, they both prick their thumbs and leave their marks in blood on the marriage contract and share what Dorian thinks must be the most awkward kiss in the history of such things. All in all it’s brief and relatively painless. A few words and simple gestures and both of their respective rebellions have come to an end.
It’s the reception that’s truly terrible. The two of them have to mingle. To pretend to be happy. One by one everyone comes to their table and gives them their well wishes. And of course everyone wants to tell them how romantic it is that they’ve decided to throw convention to the wind and follow their hearts. Dorian feels ill.
“Truly it is so brave of you, Dear,” the woman in front of them says, her smile hectic with just a bit too much wine. He thinks she might his be his aunt, or something to that effect. Dorian takes Cremisa’s hand and thanks everything holy she allows it. Though she’s said nothing herself she seems happy enough to follow his lead. He looks at her with what he hopes is the correct amount of moonstruck devotion.
“I know it’s not really what’s done but,” he pauses briefly for effect and strokes his thumb over her hand. “When I saw her for the first time, I just knew I couldn’t live without her.”
“Well it’s certainly about time. We were beginning to wonder if you’d ever find a woman to settle down with.”
“Who, Dorian?” Cremisa speaks for the first time. Her voice is surprisingly deep and soothing. She leans into Dorian’s side with a similarly love sick expression. “I can’t imagine anyone not wanting him.” Maker bless her.
Dorian barely manages to beg off the dancing with a joke about how his family shouldn’t want to humiliate him in front of his love. Everyone laughs much more than the meager attempt at humor warrants and the mage wants to scream with how fake it all is.
Once the party is over they’re ushered into the carriage that’s to take them to the family estate in Qarinus where they’ll be spending their honeymoon, joyous as it is sure to be. The doors are shut, the carriage starts moving, and Dorian is left alone with his wife for the first time. She immediately begins stripping off her dress.
“What are you doing?” Dorian sputters launching himself to the other side of the carriage.
“Relax you delicate flower I’m not going to ravish you,” she says. Her voice is even deeper now and rougher, more of her Soparati accent seeping through now that she’s not acting. She rips the dress over the top of her head and Dorian is surprised to see she’s wearing a plain white shirt and brown trousers underneath. “Fuck I hate dresses!” she spits yanking open the window of the carriage and tossing the thing out of it. Dorian gapes at her before recovering himself.
“Oh, I don’t know,” he says, carelessly waving a hand, “I don’t mind them that much. I wear them all the time, after all.”
Cremisa stares at him.
“Was that a joke?” she crows incredulously. “Did you just make a joke about mage robes? Aren’t those like, the sacred trappings of your station or some shit?”
“You’ve quite a mouth on you, Cremisa,” Dorian remarks.
She makes a sour face and Dorian belatedly remembers that’s not what she prefers to be called. Everyone at the wedding had used it and he’d completely forgotten what his father had told him.
“Cremisius,” he corrects himself, “Forgive me it slipped my mind.” Wonderfully attentive husband he is turning out to be.
“Surprised you care,” she mutters, slouching in her seat, arms crossed over her chest.
“You seem like a reasonable woman, Cremisius. There’s nothing that says we have to hate each other.”
“I’m not a woman,” Cremisius spits at him with the furious tone of a person who’s been repeating something important to deaf ears for so long they’ve given up expecting to be heard. Dorian is all too familiar with that tone. He tilts his head curiously and thoroughly quashes the urge to look Cremisius up and down to make sure he hasn’t somehow missed something obvious. Instead he asks,
“How do you mean?”
Cremisius blinks confusedly.
“You say you’re not a woman,” Dorian clarifies. “What do you mean?”
“I…” she… he?... trails off. “No one’s ever asked me that before. I just… I’m just not. I’ve never felt like one.”
“What do you feel like?”
“A man,” Cremisius mutters and slumps even further turning dejectedly towards the window, clearly expecting to be rebuked or laughed at or something equally crass. Well, that simply won’t do.
“Would you prefer I refer to you in masculine terms?” he asks. Cremisius turns back to him wide eyed. Clearly no one ever asked that either. Sometimes, Dorian thinks the only way to improve Tevinter is with the liberal application of a raging inferno.
Slowly Cremisius nods.
Dorian nods back. There’s quiet for a moment before the mage breaks it.
“Why the army?” he asks. “You could have gone anywhere.”
“Nobody knew me there. I thought I could start over, be who I always wanted to be,” he answers. “It went well ‘til we had a late night drill and I didn’t have time to put a shirt on.” Dorian winces.
“Yes I suppose that would rather give it away.”
“What? Me standing at attention with my tits hanging out? Just a bit.”
Dorian can’t help but breathe a laugh at the image.
“They were apparently sad to lose you,” he says after his laughter fades.
“What?” Cremisius asks, brow furrowing.
“Didn’t anyone tell you? Your commander wanted to let you stay on, law be damned. Would have if your father had allowed it.”
Cremisius’ face falls and he looks back out the window.
“He said I was lucky not be arrested. Made it sound like he saved my life. Probably worried I’d have gone back if I knew,” he mutters bitterness coloring every word.
“I’m sorry,” Dorian says, softly.
“I’m sorry you had to marry a woman,” Cremisius returns. Though, he’s still facing the window Dorian can just make out the smirk lifting one corner of his lips.
“Oh good, you have been made aware of my degenerate proclivities. Saves us the awkward conversation later,” he responds smirking back. “I’m sure I’ll be able to find a way to carry on, since you seem to have survived the trauma of not only that dress but my ridiculous relatives.”
“’Oh, I’m so glad you’re both following your hearts’,” Cremisius mimics dramatically. “As though any of them gave half a fuck what was in our hearts.”
“As opposed to what’s in our pants you mean?” Dorian adds. Cremisius scoffs a laugh, still gazing at the scenery out the window.
“Besides,” Dorian says after another moment of quiet. “You’re not a woman.”
Cremisius glances at him out of the corner of his eyes, no small amount of surprise showing on what Dorian can see of his face. Dorian winks at him and he laughs again.
First day of the honeymoon
The estate is nearly empty when they arrive. Most of the servants had been taken to Minrathous with him and his parents for the summer session of the Magisterium and the estate had been left with only skeleton staff, just enough to keep it running. They’re greeted by the head servant as they exit the carriage, a male elf with a shock of bright red hair. Marcus, Dorian remembers, and he begins to lead them to their chambers.
Dorian feels a twinge of guilt for being here in what would usually be their season free of their masters. He feels terrible for interrupting what small portion of freedom they were given but he knows this was the best place for him and Cremisius to be. Anywhere else would be full of prying eyes studying their every movement and word, the Magister’s son and the Soporata. They’d be a source of gossip for weeks, if not months. Better to stay in hiding for their ‘honeymoon’ until the interest wore out for a lack of new material.
Marcus opens the door to their rooms and then leaves them with the quiet, polite abruptness of a slave and they’re alone again. Dorian closes the doors softly behind them and throws the bolt. Cremisius is standing awkwardly in the center of the room staring around himself with wide eyes. Dorian can’t blame him. The bedchamber is lavish, a large four poster bed centered against the left side wall and a large fireplace against the right, as though anyone ever needed fireplaces in Tevinter. Next to the hearth was a door that Dorian knew from experience most likely lead to a sitting room and from there to both their private chambers, though they would be expected to use this room for the duration of their stay here. Appearances, Dorian thought distastefully. The far wall had another set of doors, these ones made of glass and covered with sheer white curtains that led out to a balcony. If Dorian had his bearings correctly it would have a lovely view of the gardens.
“Well,” Dorian sighed. “I suppose I must admit they are nice.” Cremisius looks at him like he’s mad.
“This room is bigger than the house my family lives in,” he says matter of factly.
“Lived in,” Dorian corrects. “My in-laws can’t be seen to be living in squalor. They’ve been moved somewhere larger by now I assure you.” He turns to the bed and sighs dramatically. “Well, I suppose we’d better get this over with.”
He moves over to the bed and sits on it to remove his boots. He unties the left one letting it fall to the ground with a thud. Cremisius’ eyes widen and he stutters adorably, his hands held out in front of him.
“That’s- I mean- we’re not going to… are we?” his voice goes small towards the end of the sentence and Dorian frowns.
“I’ve no interest in ravishing you either, Cremisius,” he says mimicking the other man’s first honest words to him. He pulls his remaining boot off but instead of dropping it to the floor like the first he holds it in his hand and stands, climbing up onto the bed and placing the sole against the wall. Cremisius is back to looking at him like he’s mad.
“Appearances,” Dorian explains, voice pitched low so as not to carry. “At least one of the slaves in this house is spying for my father to make sure we’re playing by the rules. They’re probably hovering outside the door right now.” Cremisius’ expression is a thing of glory.
“They’re waiting to listen to us having sex?” he asks sounding well and truly scandalized.
“We’re not truly married until it’s consummated, you see,” Dorian explains. He ends the sentence with a loud groan. Cremisius’ eyes widen even further. Dorian smirks at him before throwing his head back and letting out another cry. Dorian turns back to his spouse his face alight with mirth. He holds out a hand.
“Well come on, I won’t have them thinking I’m a selfish lover.”
Cremisius smirks and takes his hand with a chuckle. Dorian pulls him up until they’re both standing on the bed. Dorian groans again and then motions to Cremisius who snickers but lets out a noise of his own. They carry on like that for a few moments groaning and crying out and trying to smother their laughter before Dorian starts jumping up and down.
“What are you doing?” Cremisius asks, laughing.
“Realism, my friend, come on,” Dorian eggs him on as he jumps. Cremisius laughs more loudly this time and follows suit, the bed beginning to creak and shift under their motions. Cremisius blushes a little at the sound but lets out a loud cry anyway.
“Oh fuck,” Dorian yells and then slams the boot he’s still holding against the wall. Cremisius collapses under the weight of his choked back guffawing leaning so he’s resting against Dorian his face pressed to the mage’s shoulder. When he gets himself back under control he leans back and they pick up the pace of the jumping. Dorian slamming his shoe into the wall every time their feet come down on the bed.
“Yes,” Cremisius cries enthusiastically. “Don’t stop.” Dorian smiles hectically at him and lets out a desperate sounding groan that brings another blush to both their faces. Dorian begins picking up his pace and his moans get more frequent and louder and more desperate. Cremisius follows suit acting as though he’s building to his own orgasm. Their eyes meet for a moment and the humor of the situation falls away. The air between them grows tense and there’s a strange heat in Dorian’s eyes. Cremisius’ smile falls slightly and he can’t help but lean in a little, captivated by that expression.
Dorian throws his head back and his eyes squeeze shut and he lets out a long low cry of ecstasy and for a moment it seems so real it steals Cremisius’ breath. Heat flashes through him and he needs a little less acting to let out his own cry of pleasured completion. They stand there for a moment catching their breath from all the jumping and when Dorian straightens out of his pose of fake orgasm there’s still a weight to his expression that wasn’t there before. But then he blinks and it’s gone in an instant replaced by the careless mirth that came before it.
“Simultaneously? Don’t you think that’s a bit over the top?” he asks, jokingly.
“Well, we can’t have them saying you’re a poor lover,” Cremisius responds flustered when he hears that the tension Dorian had so easily cast aside is lingering in his voice, making it low and soft. He clears his throat and climbs down from the bed. “What now?” he asks after a moment entirely at loose ends.
Dorian climbs down after him, still smiling.
“Do you by any chance play chess, amicus?”
He uses the masculine ending so casually, like it’s perfectly natural. There’s not even a hesitation, a moment when he goes to say ‘amica’ and has to correct himself. He’s not just playing along he’s really started to think of Cremisius as a man and for a moment the Soporatus has to stop himself from hugging the Altus within an inch of his life.
“I wouldn’t mind learning,” he says instead. Dorian claps his hands together.
“Excellent. You’re in luck, Cremisius, I happen to be a phenomenal teacher.”
“Krem,” Cremisius says. “You can call me Krem. If you want.”
Dorian smiles at and puts an arm around his shoulders leading him through the door into the sitting room.
“Krem,” he says softly, some of that seriousness back in his voice for a moment and gone just as quickly. “So how much do you know? Am I going to have to teach you from the ground up or are we building on pre-existing knowledge?”
“Um, white moves first?”
“It’s a start,” Dorian declares.
Later that evening, after Krem has lost more chess games than he can count, they somehow end up sprawled on the couch. Dorian appears to be writing in a journal, which was so Altus that Krem has to contain his snickers. Krem is dozing, drifting in and out of a light sleep. He can’t believe how entirely not traumatic this whole thing has been. When his father had told him he was marrying an Altus he’d pictured… well not Dorian. Some pompous egotistical blood mage who’d lord over him and shove him into women’s clothes the rest of his life and… well he’d expected actual sex to be involved not play acting while jumping on a bed, and he hadn’t been expecting to be laughing much, or even moaning for that matter, when it happened. He’d expected cruelty or at the very least indifference. He’d expected Dorian to protest when he’d thrown the dress out the window. To rage about how expensive it’d been and why are you wearing pants you foolish girl?
Instead he’d gotten honest questions and masculine forms. It probably helped that Dorian was inclined towards males. He would know what it was like to be treated like a deviant for something you couldn’t control. And the man is hardly difficult to look at. The image of Dorian faking an orgasm sparks behind Krem’s eyes and he shakes his head to clear it from his mind. Just his luck, he ends up actually attracted to the surprisingly kind man he’s been married off to and he doesn’t have the right parts to attract him in return. Betrayed by his body again.
Dorian closes his journal, Krem rolls his eyes again, a journal, and stands.
“I’m feeling a bit hungry, you?” he asks as he stretches. Krem looks out the window and realizes it’s gotten dark.
“I could eat,” he says. Dorian looks Krem over before reaching down and gently taking hold of the leg he has sprawling over the arm of the couch. He rucks up Cremisius’ trousers until it’s bare to the knee before nodding to himself and laying it back down.
“Um?” Krem asks.
“Appearances, amicus,” Dorian says again before unlacing his shirt and trousers and running his hands through his hair and mustache until they’re in a state of terrible disarray. He shifts so his shirt is leaning off one shoulder and winks at Cremisius before turning to the door. Krem laughs a little as he hears Dorian open the door to the hall speak to the servant who was absolutely hovering outside. That’s definitely going to take some getting used to.
“My wife and I will be taking out dinner in our rooms tonight if that’s alright,” he says softly.
“Of course, Master Dorian,” the servant responds and Krem clenches his jaw a little.
“Thank you, Aurelia,” Dorian says in the same soft voice. “Tell your mother I said hello, and that I have missed her biscuits terribly while I was away. Nothing in Minrathous compares.”
“Of course, ser,” the girl says, a smile clearly audible in her voice and Krem relaxes a little at that.
He takes a moment to pitch his voice, which is strange, it used to be he had to try to make it deeper but now he’s been doing that for so long its second nature and returning to his original range is the harder task.
“Amatus, where did you go?” he calls swinging his leg up and down to draw attention to what would look like his nakedness to anyone on the other side of the couch.
“I’ll just go fetch that food, ser,” Aurelia says a teasing smirk clearly audible in her voice. Dorian gives something of an embarrassed chuckle.
“Thank you, duty calls it seems.”
There’s the sound of a door closing and Dorian walks back around the couch retying his clothes and smiling at Krem.
“You,” he says, “are a natural.”
Krem smirks at him before closing his eyes again and settling back to continue his doze.
“You’re welcome to any of the books, you know,” Dorian tells him and Krem frowns. His opens his eyes and looks at Dorian to see if he’s being had but his expression looks earnest enough.
“Dorian,” he starts slowly. “I can’t read.” Dorian blinks rapidly before squeezing his eyes shut and pinching the bridge of his nose.
“Of course you can’t, forgive me,"he mutters. "Would you like me to teach you?”
Krem gapes a little at the thought. He’d never even bothered with wishing he could read, he was Soporati and it would never happen, but now… with Dorian offering.
“Yes,” he says surprised by his own vehemence. Dorian smiles and pats his still bared leg.
The food arrives not long after that and Krem’s excitement about the idea of reading is stamped down by the meal in front of him. The lunch at the reception had been lavish but he’d assumed that was because it was a party. The tray in front of him is covered with meats and cheeses and at least three different kinds of bread and…
“Is that real butter?” Krem chokes out. Dorian blinks at him from where he’d started spreading said butter on a piece of bread.
“Yes, would you like some?” He slides the dish across to Krem like it’s nothing and the man boggles.
“Do you really eat like this all the time?” he asks as he snags the butter and a piece of bread. Dorian shifts uncomfortably and nods. Cremisius takes a bite of his buttered bread and groans loudly.
“Fuck, that is incredible,” he enthuses around his mouthful. Dorian smiles at him.
“You haven’t even had the wine yet,” he teases. Krem makes a face.
“I’ve never cared for wine,” he admits.
“You’ll care for this,” Dorian promises pouring him a glass. Krem puts his bread down with reluctance, reminding himself it’s not going to disappear if he lets it go, and sips cautiously at the wine. He makes another pleased noise at the taste. It’s strong but not overwhelming and it almost seems to have a fruity taste to it. He takes another less cautious sip and smiles at Dorian.
“It’s not terrible,” he allows.
Dorian laughs. They spend the rest of the meal in a companionable silence, mainly because Krem is too busy savoring the food to engage in much conversation. There’s fruit. And it’s fresh.
Once the tray is clean of anything even remotely edible Dorian returns to the door to hand it off to whoever’s at their door now. The voice is different, masculine and teasing and when Dorian returns there’s something of a blush on his face. Krem arches an eyebrow but Dorian doesn’t explain.
“Tired?” he asks instead. Between all the food and the late our Krem is growing somewhat drowsy so he nods and follows Dorian back into the bedchamber. He pauses once Dorian begins stripping out of the last of his marriage robes and into a night shirt.
“I don’t have anything to wear,” he realizes.
“You didn’t pack anything?” Dorian asks puzzled.
“They’re… its all-.”
“Women’s clothes,” Dorian finishes for him with a disgusted huff. He moves back over to his closet and pulls out a shirt tossing it to Krem. “I’m a little bigger than you but that should fit well enough. We can get you some clothes of your own later.”
Krem just stares at the shirt in his hands. Dorian arches an eyebrow.
“Do you not like it?” he asks.
“No it’s not that…I- this is purple,” he says.
“So was your dress at the wedding,” Dorian points out. “Made quite the statement as you weren’t technically a noble when you first put it on.”
“I tried not to notice the dress,” Krem says quietly. Mechanically, he pulls off the plain white shirt he’s wearing, for once not worried about showing his bindings in front of someone else, and pulls the shirt on over his head. It’s loose and falls off one shoulder but it fits well enough. He strips off his pants next and stands there in the room in the too-large purple shirt that falls halfway to his knees.
“I feel like I’m getting away with something,” he jokes weakly. Soporati could be whipped or worse for being caught wearing purple. Dorian comes closer and puts his hands on Krem’s shoulders gently.
“You’re an Altus now, Cremisius. That color is your right,” he says seriously. He gives Krem’s shoulders a reassuring squeeze before moving to the bed and stripping the comforter off, spreading it on the floor.
“What are you doing?” Krem asks.
“Taking the floor,” Dorian answers as though that makes any sense. Krem rolls his eyes and climbs onto the bed.
“Don’t be ridiculous, I’m not making you sleep on the floor. If you had any designs on my virtue you’ve had plenty of chances already.”
Dorian hesitates but after a moment he throws the cover back on the bed and climbs in next to Krem, though a respectful distance away.
“’Night, amicus,” Krem mutters into the pillow, returning the endearment Dorian had been using for him.
“Goodnight,” Dorian returns, sounding just as dazed as Krem feels. He’s half expecting to close his eyes and wake up back in his father’s house, this whole day having been some kind of fever dream.
How in the Void did he get so lucky?
getting to know you
Dorian wakes slowly, warm and languid. He shifts slightly against the sheets and feels movement behind and around him. He tenses and jolts the rest of the way awake. There are arms around him, and someone’s face is buried in his hair. Why had he stayed the night? He knows how dangerous that is. What was he thinking? He’s just about to scramble as quickly out of the bed as possible when the previous day’s events come back to him in a rush.
He’s married now. That had actually happened. He married a member of the Soporati who turned out to actually be a man. And not an entirely unpleasant one at that, kind enough and witty, with a sharp sort of intelligence. He wasn’t exactly difficult to look at either, with his close cropped brown hair and eyes to match. Add that to the fact that the man had a voice that could make doves weep and Dorian is not ashamed to admit, to himself at least, he’s a little attracted. Which is not something he ever thought he’d be thinking in relation to a person he thought a week ago was going to be his wife.
Dorian has a husband. The Maker’s sense of humor is not to be trifled with.
There remains, however, the fact that Cremisius was just as unwilling in this as Dorian was. Just because the man has cuddled up to him in his sleep unknowingly doesn’t mean Dorian can take advantage. He starts to extricate himself from the embrace with as much care as possible. If he can get out of Krem’s arms before the man wakes up he need never know this happened at all and all will be well. Unfortunately, as soon as Dorian begins to move Krem makes a disgruntled sound behind him and tightens his grip. Dorian squirms a little more forcefully and the arms around him tighten further. Kaffas the man’s grip is strong, which Dorian definitely does not need to be thinking about if he doesn’t want to make this situation any more awkward than it’s already going to be. Krem makes another unhappy noise and then tenses everywhere. Damn.
“Shit! Shit, sorry,” he sputters out, releasing Dorian and scrambling backwards. “I didn’t know I was- I mean- sorry.”
“Quite alright,” Dorian mutters into the pillow. It is too early for this. He closes his eyes rebelliously, determined to at least pretend he’ll be falling back asleep. “I’m sorry as well.”
“For what? I was the one snuggling you without permission.”
“We’re married, Cremisius. Legally half of everything that’s mine is yours, including my personal space. I was just worried you would be uncomfortable when you woke.”
Dorian sighs and supposes he should just give in. He opens his eyes and sits up, running a hand through his hair.
“I wasn’t uncomfortable,” Krem reassures him, “Just worried you would be.”
“Well then, no harm done. What do you say we go see what Risa and Aurelia have made for breakfast,” Dorian suggests as he climbs out of the bed.
“They’re making us breakfast already?” Krem asks following suit.
“No,” Dorian says dressing quickly and haphazardly. It wasn’t as if he’d be leaving the estate today. “They’re making me breakfast, but legally half of it is yours so I suppose I’ll have to share.”
Breakfast is a quiet affair. They’re at the table in the dining room today but there’s not much in the way of conversation. Krem is still too overwhelmed by the quantity and quality of the food to be willing to spare time to talk and the servants keep giving Dorian knowing, teasing smirks. He spends most of the meal staring at his plate and trying not to blush.
When they’re finished they take the plates back to the kitchen, one of them winking at Dorian as he leans over the table and the man stutters out his thanks before making a hasty retreat.
Krem has a frown on his face the whole way back to their rooms but he says nothing so Dorian doesn’t ask. If he wants to talk he will. They’re both staring at the chess board over an hour later when Krem finally speaks up.
“You know all their names,” he says. “The… servants I mean.”
Dorian arches an eyebrow, waiting for him to continue.
“Why are you so nice to them?” Krem asks looking at him with suspicion in his eyes. Dorian leans back in his chair.
“Because it’s the decent thing to do?” he ventures confused as to what brought this on.
“Decent,” the other man says incredulously. “We’re talking about your slaves and you’re talking about decency.”
Dorian folds his hands in his lap and blanks his expression carefully.
“What would you have me do?” he asks. Krem moves one of his pawns placing it with a bit more force than necessary. Dorian winces internally. He’s left his knight open.
“You could let them go,” he says as though it’s obvious. Dorian nods, sliding his bishop across the board to take Krem’s knight.
“I could. Where would they go?”
Krem looks up at him.
“If I freed them tomorrow, where would they go? They’d have no homes, no money, and no means of income. No one is willing to pay a worker to do something they can force someone else to do for free. The slums are full of Liberati. Elves scratching a living off rocks. Most of them would starve by the time the year was out. If they didn’t, if they managed to find work, they’d spend the rest of their lives in crippling poverty. At least here they have clothes, three meals a day.”
“You could start paying them yourself,” he challenges.
“We could,” Dorian answers calmly. “And then my family would lose our seat in the Magisterium. Magisters are required to have a certain number of slaves. It’s good for keeping out the poor and the reformers and making the abolitionists who are there look like raving hypocrites. We’d save all of the servants living here but we’d lose any ability to help all the others. If one wants to free slaves one has to work from within the system. It isn’t right or decent but if you want to outlaw it all together it’s what has to be done.”
Krem looks at him mutinously for another moment before sighing.
“You’ve thought this all through,” he says. Dorian nods. “Is that what you’re going to do then? When you become a Magister? Outlaw slavery?”
“And several other things as well, yes. Beginning with arranged marriages, I should think,” Dorian mutters bitterly moving one of his pawns back a square. Krem breathes a laugh.
“Sorry,” he says. “It just… I don’t like it.”
“Good. That means you’re a civilized person.”
“So, how are you gonna do it? You’ll never get the Archon to agree,” Krem challenges, making a rather aggressive move with one of his castles. Dorian blinks for a moment before sliding his queen to the left to adjust. Did he do that on purpose or by accident?
“Well, considering that I’ll be the Archon I feel somewhat confident we’ll see eye to eye.”
Krem arches an eyebrow.
“Setting your sights high,” he comments, moving his remaining knight in a way that makes Dorian frown. What is he doing? This has to be accidental.
“All I have to do is play by their rules long enough to get them to elect me, then I’m burning this entire loathsome dung heap to the ground,” he answers. He moves his bishop to the left hesitantly, eyeing the board for a full minute before he lets go of it.
“Sign me up,” Krem says. He moves his queen forward and smirks. “Check mate by the way.” Dorian’s eyes widen. He stares at the board, then Cremisius, then back to the board.
“What… how? No, show me what just happened,” he sputters while Krem laughs.
Later that night as they settle into bed, Krem in his own nightshirt now thanks to the young elven boy who’d been sent to get him some clothes he could actually wear, the man lays down as close to the opposite side of the bed from Dorian as possible. Dorian rolls his eyes.
“Krem, if you try to sleep like that you’re going to fall out in the middle of the night,” he tells him. Krem says nothing in response. Dorian sighs. “Do you want me to sleep on the floor?” he asks. “I’d go to my private room and leave you in peace, but there’s no linens on the bed and if I ask for any I’ll raise suspicion.”
“I already told you I’m not making you sleep on the floor. I just don’t wanna accidentally smother you in my sleep again.”
“Falling asleep on the opposite side of the bed didn’t stop you last time,” Dorian points out.
“Do you want me to cuddle you?” Krem asks clearly annoyed. Dorian sighs gustily again.
“Fine, have it your way.” He closes his eyes and he’s just started drifting off when he feels arms come around him from behind. He opens his mouth to speak but Krem cuts him off.
“Not a word, Altus,” he says warningly.
Dorian’s still smiling when he falls asleep.
A trip to market and a duel
About two weeks into their honeymoon they make a mutual decision that they will both go mad if they stay in the estate any longer, so Dorian arranges for them to spend a day in Quarinus proper. It’s not a large town, being provincial, but it’s large enough to be diverting and it’s a change of scenery.
It’s also made up nearly entirely of tenants and other people who owe his father some sort of allegiance so there’s no one willing to bat an eyelash at Krem’s choice of clothing. They walk up and down the rows of shops, arm in arm of course they are newlyweds and it wouldn’t do for rumors to spread among the serfs that the marriage was cooling already, and breathe a sigh of relief at being away from the house.
Some few of the people around the square come forward to congratulate them or to wish them well, or simply for the pleasure of meeting their Lord’s new spouse. Krem conducts himself with aplomb, gracious and friendly in the face of attention Dorian had forgotten to properly warn him about. When they extricate themselves from the current crowd of well-wishers Krem steers them to a fruit stand that’s mostly abandoned.
“You were wasted among the Soporati,” Dorian tells him examining an apple. Krem arches an eyebrow at him. “I’m serious, the way you conduct yourself. Just wait until we introduce you to court intrigue. You are going to be a natural.”
“I’m not sure anyone’s ever called me a good liar and meant it as a compliment before.”
“That is a crying shame. Because you are and it is one.”
Krem shakes his head a little before pointing to a strangely colored fruit in the corner of the booth.
“A mango,” Dorian tells him. “Have you ever had one?”
“No,” Krem answers. “Are they good?”
“Oh, Cremisius,” Dorian says with a smile. “Brace yourself.” He motions the shop keeper over. She’s an older women, hair gone grey and face wrinkled. She smiles openly at them.
“What can I do for your Graces?”
“How much for a mango?” Krem asks. The woman just smiles taking it from the stand and handing it to him.
“On the house,” she says. “Consider it a wedding present, your Grace.”
“Thank you,” Krem says with a smile. Dorian watches out of corner of his eye as Krem slides a few coins between one of the fruit displays and the table, far too much for one mango. As they walk away Dorian leans close to him again.
“See what I mean? A natural,” he says quietly. Krem makes a face at having been caught.
“She can’t afford to be giving things away,” he replies.
“Yes, and you found a way to reimburse her without shaming her, while expressing your gratitude for the present.”
Krem shrugs, taking a bite of the mango. He stops walking and lets out a noise of delight. Dorian laughs a little.
“Sweet Maker that is incredible,” Krem enthuses.
“Would I lead you astray?” Dorian asks jokingly.
A little way further down the road Dorian catches sight of a stand with gemstones and sea shells and moves them over to it.
“Speaking of being led astray,” Krem mutters.
“Oh hush,” Dorian says. “I indulged your fascination with fruit.”
“My fascination with fruit actually makes sense.”
“I like pretty things,” Dorian defends. Krem scoffs.
“As long as you don’t ever make me go with you when you buy your make-up,” he says.
“Deal,” Dorians answers with a laugh. He’s admiring a particularly beautiful bit of amethyst when he hears the first snicker from his left. He casts his eye to the side and sees three young men standing at the next booth over, occasionally looking at him and sneering slightly. They’re not even being subtle really. Dorian’s seen the one doing most of the talking before, the non-mage second son of a minor lord, Lucius something or other. Dorian rolls his eyes and turns his attention back to more important things.
“Can you believe the gall? Absolutely no shame,” the man mutters. Dorian assumes he thinks he’s being quieter than he is. He’s almost managed it. Dorian has to strain to hear him and Krem hasn’t reacted at all.
“Is absolutely nothing sacred anymore? Just watch, now that this precedent has been set we’ll all have grasping social climbers at our doors day and night, looking to take advantage.”
Dorian looks over at the man, eyes narrowed. He’s talking about Krem.
“Considering the fact that magical blood doesn’t hold true in your line, I doubt you have much to worry about,” Dorian says, pitching his voice to carry. Krem gives him a confused look but Dorian turns his attention to the gossiping little guttersnipe currently reeling from the fact that he’s been caught out. He recovers himself quickly enough, unfortunately.
“You’re one to talk about magical blood, with the way you’ve muddied your own. Do you hope to have many mage children by your pet Soporata?”
“You should learn to control your tongue in the presence of your betters, boy,” Dorian mutters, acid in his voice.
“Don’t see any of them here,” the young man counters. “Far as I’m concerned anyone who sleeps with a dog becomes a dog.”
Dorian crosses the distance between them in a step and punches the little mudlark in the face. The man, clearly not expecting it nearly falls backwards, his two friends having to hold him up as he reclaims his feet.
“How dare you?” he asks furiously. Dorian rolls his eyes. The boy is so out of his depth it would almost be funny if it hadn’t involved him. Dorian shakes out his hand carelessly.
“Shall we settle this properly then? I’d prefer to do it like civilized people, but as you’ve no magic at your disposal it’ll have to be rapiers. I trust you know how to use one?”
The man sputters for a moment, clearly looking for an out, but between the crowd of onlookers they’ve gathered and his friends staring at him, he has nothing.
“Dawn tomorrow then?” he asks, with much more confidence than is in his eyes.
“That’s acceptable,” Dorian agrees. That nastiness finished he turns back to Krem and finds the man glaring at him. Dorian’s brow furrows but before he can ask the man turns on his heel and walks away leaving Dorian to follow or be left behind.
“Krem,” Dorian calls after him once they’re out of earshot of the market. “Cremisius!” Dorian jogs until he catches up and takes the other man’s arm only to have him whirl on him and yank his arm out of the Altus’ grip.
“What in the Void was that?” Krem asks.
“He insulted you,” Dorian says, confused. “I defended you.”
“I don’t need you to defend me,” Krem yells. “I can take care of myself. I’m not some swooning damsel, I don’t need a big strapping husband to swoop in and save me!” He turns on his heel again walking at speed to where the carriage is waiting for them.
Dorian doesn’t jog to catch up again, following several paces behind. When they finally reach the carriage Krem climbs in ahead of him and slams the door shut in his face. He’s half worried Krem will tell the driver to leave and make him walk back to the estate but the carriage doesn’t move and after a moment he tentatively opens the door and climbs in. Krem is slouched in the far corner staring determinedly out the window.
Dorian decides silence is the better part of valor and says nothing. Krem reaches out the window smacking the wall of the carriage twice and the driver urges the horses into motion.
It is by far the most awkward carriage ride Dorian has ever had to endure and that includes the ride with his parents to his wedding.
When they arrive back at the estate Krem again takes off without him, how does the man walk so fast, and sits immediately at the desk in the common room, picking up the book Dorian had been helping him with.
Dorian hesitates, taking a faltering step towards the desk.
“No,” Krem says firmly. Well, that answers that question.
Dorian settles awkwardly on the couch with his own book, though he can’t focus on it at all. He replays the scene over and over in his head trying to figure where it went wrong. He knows, of course, that Krem doesn’t need him to defend him but it’s his duty. They are married. Krem’s honor is his own and someone had challenged it. More than that Krem is his friend. That bastard had called him grasping. Called him a dog.
Dorian sighs in frustration and looks at Krem over his book. The man has a flush on his face and fire in his eyes. He’s furious that much is clear.
Dorian has fucked this up.
He sighs again and stands, walking over to the door. Aurelia is standing outside and he closes the door quietly before turning to her.
“Would your mother be able to accommodate a special request for dinner?”
“What is it?” she asks.
“Fruit,” he answers. “Lots of fruit.”
“Are you trying to bribe me?” Krem asks when he sees the tray. There are grapes and apple slices with caramel sauce and strawberries with whipped cream. Dorian makes a note to do something incredibly nice for Aurelia and her mother.
“I’m trying to apologize,” Dorian says. Krem huffs.
“It’s a start.”
They eat in silence, but it’s not quite as choking as it’s been since the market. When they finish, and Krem has all but licked the bowls clean of all the cream and caramel, Dorian shifts uncomfortably.
“I’ve been trying to figure out what I did wrong. But I think I might need you to spell it out for me,” he admits.
“With really, really small words?” Krem mutters spitefully.
“It couldn’t hurt.”
“You acted like a husband defending his wife’s honor,” Krem muttered. “You made me feel weak and helpless, and you made me look that way on front of them. They were insulting me, but you acted like that meant they were insulting you. Like I wasn’t even there. You didn’t even ask me first. How I felt about any of it didn’t matter, only how you felt and how insulted you were. Like I’m just a piece of you, not even my own person.”
Dorian stares at him a moment. He’s looking down at the empty tray, avoiding eye contact. Dorian doesn’t blame him. That sounds… Maker that sounds awful.
“Krem,” Dorian says softly, and the other man looks at him. “I’m sorry. It won’t happen again.”
“That’s not all,” Krem says. “The way you insulted him.” Dorian looks at him confused and he continues. “’I’d prefer to do this like a civilized person but you don’t have magic so swords will have to do’?”
“He called me a dog but you called me uncivilized.”
Dorian stands from his seat and walks around the table. He moves slowly giving Krem ample time to pull away or smack him before wrapping his arms around him.
“I’m so sorry, Amicus,” he mutters into Krem’s shoulder.
“And now you’re just going to do the whole thing all over again tomorrow,” Krem says.
“I could call it off, there’s still time,” Dorian offers.
“Don’t be ridiculous. You’d look like a coward” Krem mutters angrily.
Dorian sighs. They stay like for a bit before Krem pulls away and stands, moving to the desk and his book.
“Get over here and help me with this stupid thing. I can’t figure out this one word it’s been driving me crazy all day.”
Dorian smiles a little weakly and follows.
They’re lying in bed later that night when the idea comes to him and he curses himself for ten different kinds of idiot.
“You were in the army,” he says. Krem gives him a look.
“Yes,” he says slowly.
“Any good with a sword?”
“Better with a maul, why?” Dorian’s brain stutters for a moment at the image of Krem swinging a maul around. That’s going to be keeping him warm at night for quite some time. He shakes his head telling himself to focus.
“Why don’t you fight him?” Dorian suggests. “I’ll declare you my second and defer the fight to you.” Krem turns to face him more fully a smile slowly coming over his features.
“You might just have a brain in there after all, Altus.”
The field they’ve chosen as the location is foggy and cool in the morning air. In addition to the duelists and their seconds there’s an impartial overseer who entire job appears to be refereeing these kinds of duels. He holds out his hands each one holding a rapier.
The look on Lucius’ face when Krem takes one instead of Dorian is nothing short of priceless.
“You can’t be serious. You let your wife fight your battles for you?” he asks Dorian, incredulously.
“I fight my own battles actually,” Krem responds. “Unless you don’t think you can win. I’ll still let you call it off if you want.”
The man’s face turns red with embarrassed rage and he takes a stance. Krem follows suit. The overseer tells them the rules, one of which is no biting and Krem would love to hear the story behind that, and then drops his arms signaling the start of the duel.
Krem and Lucius circle each other for a moment both of them looking for an opening. Krem takes the initiative coming from the left, then the right, then the left again, at about half his speed before falling back. Lucius had blocked all three fairly well, but he’d been just a bit slower on his left side. His non-dominate side, probably used to holding a shield there and not quite sure what to do without one. Krem circles from side to side then, watching the other man’s feet carefully as he follows to compensate. He moves his left leg first no matter what direction he’s going in.
This time Lucius attacks first heavily from the right, definitely used to a shield, and telegraphing terribly. He’s clearly never been in a real fight before, as opposed to a half-assed practice one. A noble who learned the sword for fun rather than survival. Krem blocks him easily, letting him fall back when goes.
He takes a moment to find his center then strikes. Moving with all the speed he has now he attacks to the lord’s left catching his arm, and then quickly while he’s still in position for the missed block slices a similar cut to his right leg. The man goes to fall back and, as expected, lifts his left leg putting all his weight on his now injured right. It buckles underneath him and he falls backwards, losing his grip on his sword on impact.
Krem swings the rapier around pressing the tip to his neck and kicking his fallen weapon away. It’s over so quickly Krem’s almost embarrassed for him.
“Do you yield?” Krem asks. The man glares up at him mutinously for a moment and Krem presses the tip of his sword a little harder into his neck forcing his head back. The man swallows thickly before nodding. Good enough.
Krem turns to the sidelines of the improvised arena fetching his sheath and returning the sword to the overseer. Lucius says nothing as he does the same, limping just a little, and slinks away with his second.
“That was incredible,” Dorian says, sounding a little breathless, when Krem walks up to him.
“Yeah,” Krem says, “So don’t piss me off again.” He gives Dorian a smirk to show he’s not really angry anymore and the man smiles tentatively back.
“I’ll make sure the kitchens always have plenty of fruit. Just in case.”
“Can’t hurt,” Krem agrees with a smile.
"Are we..." Dorian starts to ask but trails off.
"Yeah, we're good," Krem tells him, before pointing a finger at him. "But don't do it again." Dorian nods. "Good. Now take me home, big strapping husband."
"Strapping am I?" Dorian teases, confidence coming back to his voice at the confirmation that his blunder has been forgiven.
"Eh, You're alright. For a mage."
Dorian sputters a little in indignation. alright?
"I bet this mage could carry you all the way back to the carriage, thank you very much," he retorts.
"Oh you think so, huh?" Krem asks. There's a look in his eyes that Dorian does not like.Krem closes the distance between them and before Dorian can react scoops the man up onto his shoulders. Dorian squeaks as his feet leave the ground and immediately starts struggling.
"What in the name of all things holy do you think you're doing?!" he yells.
"Carrying my damsel to his carriage," Krem teases with a laugh. "I am, after all, your big strapping husband too."
"Put me down this instant!" Dorian yells back but his own laughter is starting to impede his struggles. "Cremisius!"
Krem just laughs harder.
Krem is in trouble. Real, objective, trouble. He’d thought that watching Dorian put his foot in it would help with his little problem, but the way the Altus had reacted, how he’d immediately apologized and tried so hard to come up with a way to make it right, had only made it worse.
At first he’d thought it was only physical, calling the mage handsome would be like declaring water wet, and that was part of it, but there was more as well. Dorian’s smile, the way he gestured enthusiastically when he was talking about something he enjoyed, the way his ridiculous mustache twitched when he smirked, his incredibly expressive eyes, all serve to make Krem weak in the knees in a very not good way. He tries to keep reminding himself that Dorian hadn’t wanted this any more than he had. That he’d been forced into a marriage to someone he’d never met, who was below his station and very much not his type. Every time Dorian smiles conspiratorially at him over the chess board or manages to help him with a difficult word without making him feel stupid that gets a little harder to remember.
And then there's the sleeping arrangement. Krem is starting to regret not making the mage sleep on the floor. Every night the man cuddles up with him, sighing contentedly in a way that makes Krem wonder if he even knows he’s doing it. Krem always wakes first, a holdover from the early rising demanded by the army, and so every morning he’s confronted by the mage’s peaceful sleeping form warm against him, back pressed to his front or the man’s head resting on his chest or his face nestled into the crook of his shoulder.
On this particular morning Dorian is sprawled half on top of the warrior, an arm and leg thrown over him and his head tucked just under Krem’s chin. Before Krem realizes it he has a hand on Dorian’s hair, stroking gently. The man sighs in his sleep and presses even closer. Krem squeezes his eyes shut reminding himself firmly that Dorian is asleep and has no idea what he’s doing or who he’s doing it with and that if he were awake he would not want Krem petting him. He moves his hand but can’t quite manage to disentangle himself from Dorian’s person.
Krem is in so much trouble.
“What do you mean your parents are coming here?” Krem asks incredulously over breakfast. “I thought honeymoons were supposed to be private.” Dorian frowns.
“They are, but we’re entering the third week now. It’s traditional for the groom’s parents to visit at this point to make sure everything’s going smoothly. They’ll come for dinner, stay the night, and be gone in the morning.”
Krem frowns wondering what exactly the definition of ‘going smoothly’ is.
“What…” he starts but trails off. “What should I wear?” he shudders at the idea of shambling around in a dress again. He’d known it would have to happen eventually but he’d been hoping he’d at least have the month. He feels a touch to his hand and looks up from his plate. Dorian is looking at him with a serious expression.
“This is our home now. They will be our guests. Wear whatever you like, Cremisius. If they don’t like it they can fuck off back to Minrathous.”
Krem smiles shakily at Dorian and the mage strokes his hand gently with his thumb before pulling back and going back to eating.
Dorian’s parents take notice of Krem’s state of dress immediately. He had dressed up but in men’s clothes. Dorian had helped him pick the outfit out, fussing over color combinations and collar heights while Krem tried to figure out what exactly the difference was between the two shades of brown Dorian was apparently agonizing over. In the end Krem ended up wearing a red high collared vest and the pair of slightly darker brown pants.
“It’s almond Cremisius, and it brings out your eyes. Speaking of your eyes I can feel you rolling them at me, Amicus. Stop moaning and put it on.”
Krem had nearly muttered something about how if it was moaning Dorian wanted Krem could show him moaning but he’d managed to stop himself at the last moment.
Dorian moves forward to greet his parents, taking them each by the hands in turn and kissing their cheeks in that weird not actually kissing way the Alti did. When it was Krem’s turn he went for handshakes. Much more sensible if you ask him.
“The two of you are looking… well.” Dorian’s mother offers as they sit at the table. She’s very obviously trying not to stare at Krem. The warrior shifts uncomfortably in his chair. Dorian isn’t fazed at all by the words or the pointed pause.
“Thank you, mother,” he says with a bright smile. “You look lovely tonight, as always.” She smiles at him demurely. There’s a long uncomfortable pause before Dorian’s father clears his throat and turns to Krem.
“How are you finding Quarinus?” he asks.
“It’s very different than the city, but I like it,” Krem answers. “It’s quiet.”
“Dorian has always preferred it here to Minrathous. I never could him get him properly interested in politics,” Halward says. Krem frowns. There’s nothing rude about the statement per se, and it could just be paternal teasing if not for the deadpan way it was delivered and the way Dorian’s shoulders shrink a bit under it, before he recovers himself.
“Oh yes, a gaggle of self-important old men clinging desperately to relevance while they argue among themselves and accomplish nothing. What’s not to love?”
“Those self-important old men will be your colleagues someday and every one of them has accomplished more than you have as yet.”
Krem winces in the silence that follows the Magister’s words. The tension is so thick he feels like he’s swallowing some of it every time he breathes. He takes his glass of wine and downs more of it in a single swallow than is probably considered decorous.
“That’s a lovely color red you’re wearing, Cremisius,” Livia says. Krem smiles at her and hopes it conveys his gratitude for the change of subject.
“Thank you,” he says. “To be honest I’m hopeless at clothes. Dorian helped me pick it out.” Livia smiles at him but it’s apparently the wrong thing to say. Halward puts down his fork and rubs his forehead.
“Do you have something to say, Father?” Dorian asks a challenge audible in his voice.
“I’ve given up trying to get through to you, Dorian. You’re going to behave however you please no matter what I say,” Halward says in an exhausted tone.
Livia looks like she’s going to try to diffuse the situation again but Krem speaks up first.
“I wouldn’t sound so despairing if I were you, Ser. Surely some of your lessons must have sunk in. Dorian is a very kind and intelligent man. The sort any good father would be proud of,” he says. If he puts a bit of pointed emphasis on the word ‘good’ so much the better. Halward opens his mouth like he might say something but Livia interrupts.
“Oh you simply must call us Mother and Father now, dear. We are, after all, your in-laws.”
Krem smiles at her.
“Thank you, Mother.” He stumbles over the word a little but she grins and reaches across the table to pat his hand.
“So when can I expect grandchildren?” she asks suddenly. Krem chokes on the wine he was drinking and Dorian sputters indignantly.
“Mother!” he scolds sounding scandalized.as Krem coughs next to him. When krem manages to get his breath back and looks across the table at her her eyes are sparkling with unvoiced laughter. Oh, he likes her.
The goodnights are just as awkward as the dinner was and by the time Krem and Dorian get back to their rooms Krem wants nothing more than to drown himself in more wine, a bath, and bed, not necessarily in that order. He doesn’t get a chance to do any of those things, however, before Dorian rounds on him.
“Cremisius,” he says. He takes Krem’s face in his hands and stares at the warrior as though he’s the most amazing thing the mage has ever seen and then Dorian’s lips are on his.
Dorian kisses Krem with everything he has. His parents had behaved exactly like he’d expected, his father spitting vague insults and his mother desperately trying to keep conversation pleasant, but Krem, he hadn’t expected how Krem had reacted.
A man any good father would be proud of.
At the memory of the words he leans even further into the kiss, pressing his lips to Krem’s as though it’s the only chance he’ll get, which, he supposes, it very well may be.
The other man’s hands up come up to rest his shoulders and he makes a small shocked sound against Dorian’s mouth. That finally jolts Dorian out of whatever state he’d fallen in to make him think this was a good idea. He pulls back just as suddenly as he’d initiated the kiss in the first place.
“I’m sorry,” he says breathlessly. “I shouldn’t have done that, forgive me.” He means to say more but Krem’s eyes on him grow heated and his hands shift from Dorian’s shoulders to his hair and the back of his neck and the warrior leans into him and presses their lips back together.
It puts Dorian’s rushed kiss to shame. Krem’s mouth moves slow and heated against his, the man’s tongue sliding along his lips and then, when Dorian opens his mouth in response, between them, exploring and caressing. Dorian moans into the kiss, sucking on the warrior’s tongue and earning a small grunt in response.
Krem begins to pull away, biting at Dorian’s lips as he does, but he doesn’t go far. He rests his forehead against Dorian’s, both of them breathing hard.
“Do you have any idea how long I’ve wanted to do that?” Krem asks quietly. Dorian breathes a laugh.
“Probably about as long as I have,” he says.
“Fuck, we’re a pair,” Krem mutters, leaning back into Dorian and pressing another lingering kiss to his mouth. His hands move down from Dorian’s hair and neck to slide along his back and forward along his chest, feeling the hard planes of muscle there through the thin cotton shirt the mage is wearing. Krem makes a deep noise of approval and moves his hands further down sliding them under the hem of the shirt to touch bare skin. Dorian gasps under the unexpected attention, and the muscles of his stomach jump and twitch under Krem’s hands. The warrior runs his fingertips up Dorian’s sides and the mage jumps breathing a laugh into the kiss and pulling away, catching Krem’s hands in his.
The man’s eyes light with mischief and he smirks.
“Are you ticklish?” he asks sounding delighted.
“Don’t you dare,” Dorian says firmly. “I will stop kissing you and go find something to do in my own room.” He can hear how empty the threat in his voice is and judging by Krem’s expression so can he. He stands on his toes to press the lengths of their bodies together and leans in close to Dorian’s mouth, teasing but not touching.
“No you won’t,” he whispers, and Dorian can feel the man’s breath on his lips. His mouth falls open without his permission and Krem makes a noise of appreciation, leaning in and swiping his tongue over Dorian’s lips before capturing the bottom one in his mouth and sucking on it. Dorian moans and his hands release Krem’s to clutch at his shirt.
Once freed the warrior’s hands continue their journey upwards, Dorian’s shirt rising with them. Dorian is so distracted by the kiss he jumps again when one of Krem’s thumbs grazes a nipple. He makes a pleasured noise into the kiss and Krem pulls away to smile at him.
“Sensitive?” he asks, rubbing his thumb back and forth over the hardening bud. Dorian squeezes his eyes shut and nods pressing forward into the touch. When Krem pinches the other nipple between his thumb and forefinger still keeping up his gentle caresses with the other hand, Dorian makes a desperate sound and he knees threaten to buckle as his cock twitches hard in his pants.
“Fuck,” Krem mutters vehemently. “Can I take this off you?” He asks tugging on the shirt. Dorian nods and raises his arms helpfully as Krem slides the shirt over his head and off. Dorian shifts under Krem’s open appreciation of his chest.
The man pushes on Dorian’s shoulders walking him backwards until his knees hit the couch and he falls onto it.
“We have a bed, you know,” Dorian says into their next kiss. “A nice one. We’ve been sleeping in it for weeks perhaps you remember.”
“Too far,” Krem mutters. He brings his hands up again to play with the mage’s nipples and Dorian squirms under the attention, the sensations going straight to his cock.
“You’re a little overdressed,” he says, pulling away from the kiss and taking hold of Krem’s shirt questioningly. Krem looks uncertain for a moment but nods. Dorian pulls the shirt up and off, both of them flailing and laughing for a moment when the tight collar gets stuck on Krem’s head. He takes in the sight of the warrior in front of him with what he hopes is obvious approval. The man is as muscled as one expects a warrior to be, his skin smooth and soft looking. Finally his eye is caught by the bindings wrapped around Krem’s chest. It looks almost like a normal breast band except it’s obviously much more tight and made of a different material. He runs a hand over it curiously.
“Is this uncomfortable?” he asks, softly, looking up at the warrior’s still uncertain face.
“Sometimes,” he admits. “Mostly only when I wear it too long.”
Dorian arches an eyebrow.
“You’ve been wearing it almost constantly,” he says. Krem nods shifting nervously on Dorian’s lap. Dorian tells his cock firmly to shut up for a moment because this is important dammit.
“Would you like to take it off?” he asks, careful to keep his voice nonchalant. He can tell Krem is nervous and the last thing he wants is to pressure the man into doing something that will make him uncomfortable, but he also doesn’t want to Krem to be uncomfortable physically.
“That won’t… put you off?” Krem asks.
Dorian blinks rapidly.
“Why would it?”
“I have breasts, Dorian,” the man says flatly.
“Yes I’m sure they’re lovely,” Dorian says. He reaches up to stroke his hand down Krem’s cheek. “I want to do this with you, Cremisius. I’m attracted to you, not some picture of you I’ve built in my head. You don’t need to hide pieces of yourself from me to make me want you. If you want to keep them hidden for your own comfort, then you should, but you don’t need to do it for mine.”
Krem stares at Dorian for a moment before reaching down and slowly wrestling the garment up over his head. It looks like a struggle and Dorian would try to help if he wasn’t sure he’d just end up getting them both tangled in it. When it’s finally off of him and tossed across the room Krem breathes a sigh of relief and Dorian smiles at him.
“See? No harm done. As long you have no second thoughts about doing this sort of thing with a deviant like myself, that is. After all you’ve no idea where I’ve been.” Dorian attempts to allay the tension with the joke but in the end it comes out sounding a bit to serious. He winces a little but before he can look away Krem’s hands are on either side of his face.
“There is nothing wrong with you, Dorian,” he says fiercely.
Dorian clears his throat.
“Well then, we’re in agreement. Nothing wrong with either of us!” Dorian voice shoots up in pitch and volume as Krem swoops down and takes one of his nipples into his mouth, sucking on it lightly at first and then harder. He lets out a moan and buries his hands in Krem’s hair wishing it was long enough to clutch, but having to settle for running his fingers through it. Krem gives the flesh in his mouth a sharp nip, making Dorian arch and hiss, before pulling back.
“Think we’ve talked enough, don’t you?” Krem asks a smirk on his face. Oh, that arrogance simply can’t stand. Dorian grabs Krem by his shoulders and pushes him down to lie on the couch, moving so that he’s crouching over the warrior.
“Yes, in fact,” he says, wearing his own smirk now at Krem’s flabbergasted expression. He lets it fall from his face after a moment though. “Is there anything I shouldn’t do, anywhere I shouldn’t touch?” he asks.
Krem swallows thickly.
“I don’t want anything inside me,” he says firmly. “Otherwise, you’re good.”
Dorian lets out a noise that can really only be called a purr, though Maker help anyone who points that out, and leans down to kiss along Krem’s neck. The other man arches his head to the side giving the mage more room. Dorian sucks firmly on a bit of skin, biting at it and Krem moans, clutching at the back of his head.
The mage pulls back to admire the mark already forming, and Krem arches an eyebrow.
“Feeling possessive?” he asks, teasingly.
“Perhaps I just want everyone to know how lucky I am,” Dorian returns sliding slowly down Krem’s body.
“We’re married, Dorian. Everyone already knows.”
“A little visual reinforcement can’t hurt.”
“You are talking too much. I must be doing something wrong,” Dorian says, punctuating the words with a tentative caress to Krem’s chest, cupping the flesh there in his hand and sliding his thumb over a nipple. Krem makes a noise that blurs the line between moan and whimper and Dorian smiles.
“I’m not the only one who’s sensitive,” he murmurs huskily before taking the other nipple into his mouth in an echo of what Krem had done to him earlier. The warrior cries out, his hand clenching in Dorian’s hair and pulling. Dorian repays the rough treatment with a gentle bite and the other man arches up further, squirming a little beneath him. After a moment Dorian switches off, kissing across Krem’s chest to the other nipple and taking it into his mouth as well, pinching and twisting the other between his fingers.
“Dorian,” Krem gasps and the sound of his name spoken like that in the other man’s rough voice makes Dorian’s cock twitch, constrained as it is in his pants. He moans a little around his mouthful and moves his hands down Krem’s stomach to the waistband of his pants. He pulls away, reveling in Krem’s little noise of loss, and meets the warrior’s eyes.
“May I?” he asks. Krem nods and Dorian works quickly on the fastenings on the man’s pants before sliding them down along with his smallclothes, Krem lifting his hips to make it easier.
Dorian stares at the now naked man beneath him taking him in. Krem shifts a little under the attention and Dorian looks up to meet his eyes again.
“You are…,” he falls short of words before finally settling on, “exquisite.”
Krem blushes a little before motioning to the pants Dorian is still wearing.
“Your turn,” he says. Dorian struggles to hold back a sound of relief as he undoes his own fastenings and his cock is let free from its fabric prison. He kicks his the garment off his feet and settles back down between Krem’s legs.
“You’re not too bad yourself,” Krem murmurs running his eyes over the mage’s form.
“Not too bad?” Dorian exclaims with mock affront. “I am gorgeous Cremisius.” The man beneath him laughs rolling his eyes.
“Yeah, yeah, you’re the most beautiful man I’ve ever laid eyes on. Now get down here.”
Dorian does as he’s told leaning forward and kissing Krem thoroughly, sliding his tongue out to tangle with the other man’s. As they kiss he lays a hand on Krem’s leg, just above the knee and slowly starts to stroke his way upward, pressing firmly with his thumb on the man’s inner thigh. Krem squirms a little under the attention, spreading his legs further and Dorian makes a noise of approval into the kiss. He reaches the juncture of hip and thigh and pauses pulling back.
“You’ll have to tell me what to do,” he says. Krem swallows, before reaching down to take hold of Dorian’s hand and move it to where he wants it. They gasp in unison as Dorian’s finger slide along Krem’s folds.
“Just, right here, little circles. Lightly with two fingers.”
Dorian does as he’s told and Krem’s hand pulls away to burry in the sheets.
“Oh fuck, just like that.”
Dorian watches in fascination as the simple touch seems to drive Krem mad. The man lets out little noises with every circle of Dorian’s fingers, moans and whines and after a moment he begins moving his hips, grinding down into Dorian’s hand. Dorian eyes the man’s blissed expression and licks his lips, struck by a sudden, and unexpected, desire.
He moves down Krem’s body pulling his hand away. Krem makes an affronted noise at the cessation of the attention and looks down at Dorian with a confused expression that
melts into pure want when he sees how Dorian’s moved.
“Yes,” Krem says vehemently and Dorian chuckles a little before moving his face further between Krem’s thighs. He truly has no idea where to begin so he decides to stick with what he knows works. He slides his tongue along the same place he was rubbing with his fingers and Krem cries out, arching his back up hard. Okay, yes, that definitely works. He experiments for a moment with different motions and pressures before he finds the one that seems to make Krem the loudest and sticks the with it, occasionally running his tongue up the length of the slick skin in front of him before returning to that sensitive spot again.
Dorian makes a noise of enjoyment as Krem’s hands come down to burry themselves in his hair again clutching and petting as he writhes under Dorian’s tongue. It’s certainly different than what he’s used to, the taste is somewhat sweeter, though just as musky and delicious, and it’s surprisingly a bit messier. He shivers as he imagines what he’ll look like when he pulls away, face slick with the evidence of what he’s done to his lover. There’s also a lot more licking as opposed to sucking. Dorian smirks against Krem a little as he gets an idea. Carefully, he takes the bit of sensitive skin into his mouth and sucks gently, remembering the other man cautioning him to touch lightly.
The reaction is immediate and almost violent. Krem arches hard and cries out loud, running his nails over Dorian’s scalp before clenching his hands hard in the mage’s hair. He writhes and his moans become rhythmic, decadent things.
He’s coming Dorian realizes with a start. He groans into Krem’s skin and sucks a little harder coaxing every second of pleasure he can out of his lovers body. Finally, the warrior lets out an overstimulated whimper and his hands begin pushing instead of clutching Dorian to him and the mage reluctantly pulls away licking his lips.
Krem is staring down at him, with an incredibly flattering stunned expression.
“Good?” he asks.
“Good? That was blighted fantastic,” Krem tells him breathlessly. “Get up here.” Dorian obeys moving back up Krem’s body and the man all but attacks him with a kiss, biting at his lips and sucking on his tongue, before pulling away to lick the mess off Dorian’s chin and cheeks.
“Get on your back for me,” he says huskily when he’s done. Dorian scrambles to obey. Fuck, he’s so hard. His cock is twitching in time with his every heartbeat and he can feel precome dripping down the length.
Once they’ve traded positions, Dorian on his back and Krem crouching over him, the man smirks down at him.
“You look very confident,” Dorian says as teasingly as he can manage with arousal stealing his breath.
“Oh, I am. See everyone knows what the Alti think about same sex relationships. So you talk like you’ve been around, but I bet you’ve never had anybody really take their time with you. All handjobs in closets, quick fuck in the gardens if you’re lucky, right? You ever even had anybody touch that spot inside you?”
Dorian rolls his eyes.
“‘That spot’ is a myth,” he says derisively. Krem’s smirk merely widens.
“Oh, Dorian, you better hold on to something,” he says, He leans back towards the side table and dips his fingers into the unlit lamp coating them in the oil. Dorian would protest that but frankly he’s too hard to care and more than a bit curious if he’s honest.
“Legs open,” he says when he turns back to the mage. Dorian blushes slightly at the perfunctory command but obeys, throwing one leg over the back of the couch and letting the other fall over the side so his foot is resting on the floor.
“Fuck,” Krem mutters. “You are gorgeous.”
Dorian smirk up at him.
“I told you,” he says haughtily.
“Yeah get it in while you can, sweetheart. In a minute you won’t be able to talk.”
“Promises, promises,” Dorian says rather more breathlessly than he’d planned as Krem’s slick fingers press against his entrance. They run smooth circles around the skin there before one slowly presses in. Dorian makes a pleased noise and presses back into the sensation, letting out a small moan when the finger is all the way inside him. He shifts back and forth impatiently as Krem thrusts the finger slowly in and out.
“Stop teasing,” he mutters, cock still lying hard and needy, untouched against his stomach.
“Patience,” Krem responds, but even as he does he presses a second finger slowly into Dorian. The mage moans at the added stretch. Kaffas, it’s been too long. He continues to thrust them for a moment a little faster and harder now drawing small gasps and huffs from Dorian as he does so, before he stops moving altogether. Dorian gives him a questioning look and Krem smirks again.
“You ready?” he asks.
Dorian rolls his eyes again.
“Yes I’m ready, but I’m telling you nothing is going to AAAGHnnng!” Dorian’s protest is interrupted by a loud cry that tapers off into a whimper as Krem crooks his fingers and rubs them a spot that seems to have a direct connection to every pleasure center in his body. He’s left panting as the sensation fades and he stares up at Krem in shock.
“Again. Please,” is all Dorian can manage in return. Luckily Krem doesn’t seem to have expected anything more eloquent because he strokes his fingers over that spot again but this time he doesn’t stop, just rubs back and forth and oh sweet Maker he’s going to die. Nothing can feel this good without killing him. He arches his back and one hand flies to his own hair to clutch and pull, the other grabbing Krem’s working forearm. He’s distantly aware that his caterwauling is bordering on screaming but he can’t help it.
“Maker, look at you,” Krem mutters reverently. “Can you come like this? Just from my fingers?”
Dorian lets out a wild moan. Does Krem expect him to speak?
“I, ah! I don’t, oh fuck, I don’t know,” he chokes out around his cries of pleasure. He can feel something like orgasm building in his stomach, burning in his poor, aching, neglected cock, but he’s not sure it’ll be enough to push him over.
“Do you want to find out?” Krem asks rubbing harder over that amazing spot for a moment as he speaks.
“Yes!” Dorian cries out shoving back into Krem’s hand. The man starts rubbing faster adding a thrusting motion to his movements and Dorian chokes on his own breath. It’s so good. It’s too good. Dorian thrashes his head back and forth, toes curling, and nearly insensate with it.
Distantly he can hear Krem murmuring words of encouragement and soothing him. Just when he thinks he’ll have to beg Krem to stop and touch his cock for mercy’s sake the warrior rubs his fingers in a rough circle over the spot and Dorian’s entire world shatters. He is screaming now, but it doesn’t matter, nothing matters but the white hot pleasure burning through his body in waves. His cock kicks violently against his stomach and pulses the evidence of his pleasure over his own chest. It goes on forever, far longer than he’s used to until he’s reduced to little whimpers as the aftershocks blaze through him.
When the outside world comes back into focus Krem is resting on top of him stroking his hair, and laying gentle kisses on his shoulder. Dorian lets out of a huff and wraps his arms around his lover’s form.
“There you are. Thought for a minute I’d killed you, Amatus,” Krem teases.
“You nearly did, I think,” He murmurs back, then after a moment, “Say it again?”
“Amatus,” Krem sighs into his ear. Dorian tightens his arms around the warrior.
“Husband,” he whispers back. Krem smiles into his neck.
Chapter 8: Epilogue
Dorian sighs and leans back in his chair. He’s been writing letters for hours and he’d swear the pile of those he has yet to correspond to hasn’t gotten any smaller. He pinches the bridge of his nose and squeezes his eyes shut in a attempt to ward off the headache he can feel coming.
He sighs again when familiar hands slide down his chest and a chin rests on top of his head.
“I didn’t hear you come in,” he says leaning back into the embrace.
“You were distracted,” Krem replies. “Long day?”
“Soothing ruffled feathers mostly. The more conservative members of the Magesterium are still in a huff over the last bill Gracchus and I managed to get pushed through. Magister Augustine, for example,” Dorian tells him picking up the offending letter so that he can read it verbatim, “is demanding to know ‘what I think I’m playing at’.”
Krem snorts a laugh.
“He’s just upset you managed to wrangle a majority. I still can’t believe it went through.”
“Yes, well it had to be done. Slavery as a punishment for debtors, can you imagine? And we call the Southerners Barbarians,” Dorian mutters, reaching up to take Krem’s hands in his.
The warrior laughs again.
“What?” Dorian asks.
“Nothing,” He says. “You’re cute when you get all radical.”
“Tell that to Magister Augustine,” Dorian scoffs.
“Soon it’ll be election season and then the whole Magisterium will have to do what you say,” Krem comforts. Dorian laughs.
“If I get elected. And if the first resolution I pass doesn’t get me assassinated.”
Krem’s arms tighten around him and Dorian leans back to kiss him on the cheek.
“I love you,” he whispers into Krem’s skin. The warrior pulls back slightly in surprise to look at his face. Dorian shakes his head self-deprecatingly. “I’ve been so reluctant to say it. It’s a little ridiculous, really, it’s been years.”
“I knew,” Krem reassures him. “What were you afraid of?”
“I don’t really know. I suppose I was afraid that if I told you, I’d wake up and this would all have been a dream, or you’d disappear.”
“I’m not going anywhere, Amatus,” Krem says firmly.
“Yes, well, I suppose if that debacle at Magister Theodosius’ summer gala didn’t scare you away, nothing will.”
“That’s right,” the warrior says pressing a kiss to Dorian’s neck and then speaking into the skin there. “Now, tell Magister Augustine to calm the tempest in his plumage. If you do it tactfully enough I have something nice for you.”
“Oh?” Dorian asks interestedly. Krem hums in assurance. Dorian laughs a little. “What would I do without you to encourage me to be delicate?”
“Spend all your time dueling the rest of the Magisterium,” Krem says flatly. “You may be a revolutionary, but you have no mind for diplomacy.”
“Revolutionaries rarely do. I thought you like that I speak my mind?”
“Oh, I do. And I’ll show you just how much, if you don’t speak it to Magister Augustine.”
Dorian sighs and picks his quill back up.
"Good Husband," Krem teases patting him on the head.
"You keep that up and you can keep your surprise."
"You wouldn't be saying that if you'd seen it. It's made of glass," Krem murmurs teasingly into Dorian's ear.
"Where did that letter go?" Dorian says urgently, sending Krem into a fit of laughter.
"Hand it to me?" Krem asks. Dorian passes it to him over his shoulder once he finds it. Krem reads it quickly before making a disgusted noise.
"That fucking pissant," he spits when he finishes.
"Did you want me to write that?" Dorian teases, quill at the ready.
"Unfortunately, no," Krem mutters. "Here, start like this, 'My dear Augustine, I am terribly sorry to hear of your distress. You really must be more mindful of your stress levels. One worries for your blood pressure, especially at your exceptional age."
Dorian cracks up laughing.
"Have I mentioned that I love you?"
Krem smiles at him
"Focus, Amatus. Next you should say..."