Chapter 1: Life Changing Moments
Dorian had always known when critical moments of his life were occurring. He could still remember the first time. He had been six and he had been walking with his mother down the garden paths at night. It had been warm and the stars had twinkled overhead and Dorian was content to wander the brightly lit paths while his mother described the constellations to him. That they had both been looking skyward was the only explanation for the fact that as they turned a corner his mother’s skirt caught on one of the low garden lights, the oil within spilling onto the azure silk and setting her gown on fire. Even now Dorian could feel that sense of disassociating with his body, almost watching from outside himself as he raised a hand and coated his mother’s dress in a thick sheet of ice.
That she could have saved herself had never occurred to him and then she was embracing him and laughing and telling him what a good boy he was and how unusual it was for a talent for frost to manifest first. The pair had run back to his father and that smile, the love that had shown in his father’s eyes that night was both his favorite memory and worst nightmare.
His father dropping him off at the Circle in Carastes was another such time. Well, not his father exactly but a morning one week later when he’d walked down the halls and stared at the boys who were five years his senior and known with everything in him that no one of them could beat him in a duel. There had always been a small voice inside his head before then that said that all of the planning and calculating that had been done by Pavus’ for generations had failed. That though his magic manifested early he was going to be a disappointment to his father, the one son from a line of sons that stretched back for generations that would fail to improve the family line. But that day, that day walking down the halls and really seeing for himself the mages that the other prominent houses of Tevinter had produced, he knew that he would do his family proud. That he would make his father proud.
After that it was years before he had another critical moment, and even now he hated to think about it because the moment was the first of two that came back to back. First was his Harrowing, a moment that usually caused trepidation for young mages but there had never been any doubt in his mind that he would pass without difficulty. In fact, he had enjoyed a rather pleasant cup of tea with the demon who had chosen to tempt him before he had severed its head from its body. If possible his father’s smile had been even greater that day than the day Dorian’s magic had first manifested. In a rare show of public affection his father had wrapped his arm around Dorian’s shoulder and told him that they would go immediately and select a new staff to commemorate Dorian’s first step to one day being Archon. They had shopped and eaten and watched the street performers and for the first time in his life Dorian had felt first in his father’s life.
Which made it all the crueler when the next morning Dorian had woken up to find himself drenched in sweat, the normally luxurious silk sheets chafing against his skin. And the smells, sweet Andraste, he could swear he could tell where every person in the house was based on their smell alone. Throwing back the covers he had almost fallen to the ground as his muscles refused to react correctly, his entire body tense and heavy. But that moment, that dissociative feeling that he had come to relate with critical turning points in his life had occurred only seconds before he felt the slick sliding heavily down his thigh. Dorian Pavus, latest and greatest hope for his family finally achieving Archon, was an Omega.
In an instant his golden life was gone. There hadn’t been an Omega birthed to the Pavus line in over a hundred years, and even that one had had a proper Beta brother to continue the family lines. Venhedis, even being Alpha would have been more acceptable, at least he could have gone into the military, channeled the natural aggression into something benefitting Tevinter. Even the dream of being Archon would have still be possible, there hadn’t been an Alpha in that position for almost two hundred years but it wasn’t forbidden. But an Omega, Omega’s only had one role in Tevinter society and that was to warm the bed of an Alpha. There would be no Magisterium for him, no studies in the Royal Libraries, no life outside whatever his Alpha allowed him.
It was his mother who found the solution. Always the clever one she reasoned that they could not be the first prominent family to have such a thing occur and while Dorian was sequestered in his rooms she searched until she found a black market alchemist who prepared the scent blockers, both a potion to be taken daily and a lotion that was to be applied morning and night. Then there was the suppressant that was added to his food that ensured he would never again experience a heat. But those were the simple things. Finding an instructor to overwrite Dorian’s natural Omega tendencies had been more difficult. Dorian had hid in his bedroom for a week when the Qunari first walked through the door. Tall, with two horns that curved back along his skull tipped in gold, his arms thicker than Dorian’s legs and smelling so much of an Alpha that Dorian had instinctively wanted to drop to his knees. Instead he had run, locking the door to his room and refusing food or drink until finally one night his father had simply had the door removed and that was the end of that.
His name was Beres-Taar which he told Dorian meant shield as he was now a shield against Dorian’s natural tendencies and together they would rebuild Dorian until he no longer needed any shield but his own mind. It had taken three years in which the only people Dorian saw were Beres, his mother and the house slaves, and in the end his body bore more than one scar as a reminder that the Tal-Vashoth’s lessons were not to be ignored. And the lessons were plentiful. Never bow your head. Never shy away from looking an Alpha in the eye. Never step back from an Alpha’s advance, but do not challenge by advancing either, stand your ground like the oak tree. Do not serve an Alpha either food or drink, nor allow one to serve you. And perhaps most important, beyond even bowing, never tip your head to offer an Alpha your neck.
In the end Dorian learned, and to celebrate his father threw a dinner party that included several lesser Magisters whose sons were Alphas. When Dorian passed his father’s rather blatant test and behaved like a proper Beta his father spoke to him for the first time since that morning he had the door removed from Dorian’s bedroom. He never saw Beres-Taar again and he could only hope that the man had moved on and not been dispatched in some less savory way in an attempt to maintain Dorian’s secret.
From there his life became a series of complicated lies. In an effort to ensure Dorian remained untainted by his status he was sent to study with Magister Alexius for several years, enjoying what social life he could alongside Alexius’s son Felix and aiding Alexius with his own studies. Dorian’s father had apparently chosen a mentor for his son well as there were no Alphas within Alexius’s inner circle and therefore Dorian was not as hard pressed to maintain his shields at all times. Not, of course, that he shared the truth of himself with any of them but it was easier to be simply a Beta among a sea of Betas.
Dorian had begun to think that perhaps his father had decided to wash his hands of the entire matter and leave Dorian with Alexius permanently until the summons home came. Again that familiar feeling of being outside himself washed over him as the coach crossed through the gates to the Pavus estate and Dorian finally saw his family home come into view. He shivered as he moved to step from the coach, uncertain what the threat was but feeling it all the same.
His mother’s embrace at the door had done little to calm the anxiousness in his chest and when she had bid him to meet their guests in the drawing room Dorian had begged off asking for a chance to freshen up after his long trip. His mother had acquiesced and Dorian made a show of heading off to his room, which had finally had the door restored. Looking at his own reflection over the mirror Dorian was reminded of Beres’ teachings, of the way the old man would lay two fingers gently against Dorian’s gut and tell him that information that came from there was stronger than anything he could get from his head or his heart.
And so, Dorian found himself creeping down the servant stairs toward the drawing room, moving silent as a mouse until he could hear the conversation occurring within. His father’s voice was the first to reach him, “You can understand the need for discretion in this matter.”
“Of course Magister Pavus,” a deep baritone voice replied, Dorian’s mind immediately supplying the ‘Alpha’ to go with the description.
“I assure you Livia will do as her mother and I tell her.” Ah, that voice Dorian recognized, Magister Everens. Dorian had been engaged to his daughter since birth, although honestly Dorian hadn’t thought of her in years and had assumed the engagement had been ended after he had presented Omega.
“And she understands that any children will not truly be hers, yet she is willing to raise them as such?” Magister Pavus continued.
Dorian’s blood ran cold as he tried to tell himself he was not hearing what he thought he was hearing.
“As long as young Maritas here understands he has no claim to the offspring I see no problem,” Everens admitted, only further confirming Dorian’s suspicions.
Any doubt as to what his father was offering in compensation was cleared up as the Alpha, Maritas, laughed heartily. “What do I care for whelps? Magister Pavus has been kind enough to agree to take me on as his apprentice and when the time comes aid me in achieving my own seat in the Senate. It is a chance to reclaim my family’s honor and nothing more.”
“It will not be a true claiming, you realize that,” his father continued. “Dorian must appear always as Beta, he will take over my seat when the time comes. I will not have my life’s work ruined because of his failures.”
Dorian would have fallen to the ground if his knees hadn’t already been locked. He failed to hear any more of the conversation as his mind took over telling him to move, move, move. And thankfully his feet listened, climbing the stairs he had just come down he took only the time to grab his still packed bag and his staff before again using the servant’s stairs to exit the building, keeping to the dark gardens and using a seldom accessed back gate to flee from the property before he could be sold by his father not once but twice. Once in marriage to cement an alliance his whole life in the making and again to an Alpha just so that Halward would have his precious heir.
The next few years passed in a blur for Dorian, he had not dared go back to Alexius’ nor anywhere his father could be expected to look for him which left the less desirable areas of Minrathous. Surprisingly he found a form of employment with the black market alchemist who had originally supplied the scent blockers and suppressants he required, spending his time concocting healing potions for the man until the smell of elfroot made him sick, but in the end he had learned how to make the potions and lotions he needed. He might have been content to remain there, tinkering with new potions and improving the alchemists existing ones but one afternoon the son of one of his father’s friends entered the store and Dorian realized his only hope to truly remain free meant fleeing Tevinter entirely.
He had heard rumors of Alexius and Felix moving south, to Ferelden of all places and almost without thinking he found his feet moving that direction. There were tales that Alexius had changed, had become hardened after the death of his wife and Dorian found himself hoping that perhaps Alexius could be convinced to hide his presence from his father. It would be good to be among friends again.
Dorian would forever be thankful to the Maker that when he finally reached Redcliffe he encountered Felix first. His old friend looked like death warmed over but it was the stories he told Dorian about Alexius that truly chilled his blood. He might have moved on then, knowing that Redcliffe wasn’t going to be the sanctuary he had hoped for, but the look in Felix’s eyes stopped the words from falling and almost before he knew what he was saying he found himself agreeing to help his old friend stop Alexius’ plans.
That one decision led to the latest of Dorian’s critical moments. Felix had gotten word to the Herald of Andraste asking that the woman meet them in the old cathedral and Dorian, ever determined to protect his ailing friend, had arrived first knowing that one of the strange green rifts that had been appearing all over Thedas had opened right in the center of the holy place. He turned his attention to ridding the building of the demons that the rift spawned and only had two of the creatures left to dispatch when he smelt it. The overwhelming scent of an Alpha in his prime, all rich loam and vanilla and some sort of citrus Dorian hadn’t smelled since leaving Tevinter and he found himself clutching his staff so hard that his knuckles turned white as he forced himself to continue dispatching the demons.
As the four new arrivals entered the fray Dorian was careful to keep himself in front of the Alpha, not daring to distract himself from the fight as he tried to remind himself of all of Beres lessons. All too soon the auburn haired woman he had to assume was the Inquisitor was raising one green hand and closing the rift. It would have been fascinating had his attention not shifted to the warrior standing behind her.
Kaffas, and he had thought Beres a beast. This Qunari was better than seven feet tall and as wide as both the humans who stood before him put together. A patch covered his left eye and was tied on one side to horns that extended at least two feet out on either side of his bald head. Dorian found his eyes moving to catalog the multitude of scars the warrior carried seemingly everywhere on his body.
He was magnificent. He was dangerous. He was Alpha. And even knowing these things Dorian found it almost impossible not to fall at his feet and bare his neck.
“Watch yourself. The pretty ones are always the worst,” the Qunari’s deep baritone sent a fission of heat directly to Dorian’s core and he could only be thankful that the suppressants removed his ability to produce slick or he’d be standing in a puddle right about now.
Arching one brow regally at the Qunari Dorian turned away toward the Inquisitor, thankful that the Alpha didn’t seem to sense him for what he truly was. But that didn’t change the fact that Dorian knew and for the first time in his life he actually found himself wanting to be an Omega. Fuck.
Chapter 2: Enigmas
The ‘Vint was an enigma and Bull didn’t really care for enigmas. Well, it was less that he didn’t like them and more that he wasn’t used to having them in his life. In general there were three types of people in Bull’s world. Other Alphas, men and women who warranted careful observation and grudging respect. Omegas who fell either into the category of wanting to bed or wanting to protect, or some combination thereof. And Betas. He certainly had plenty of friends who were Betas, including most of the Chargers, and providing them reassurance and comfort was a familiar thing. But never had he found himself attracted to a Beta. Until the moment a Tevinter mage of all people had arched one delicately formed eyebrow at him and then turned from him in complete dismissal.
That simply didn’t happen. It wasn’t vanity. It was just that Bull was what he was and a seven foot Qunari Alpha in his prime just wasn’t someone that anyone dismissed. Some people feared him, most approached him with a healthy dose of curiosity, especially here in the south where he was somewhat of an oddity, and a few Alphas had even challenged him. In true battle if they were his enemy or under the guise of a sparring session if they weren’t. But he had never had anyone he didn’t know turn their back on him. And damn if that confidence wasn’t attractive.
So Bull had watched the ‘Vint and had found himself getting angry on the man’s behalf. He still wasn’t sure exactly what had happened between the Boss and Dorian in the alternate timeline but whatever it was he knew it was bad. He had seen the way the Boss sought out Cullen as soon as she’d returned to Haven, her body language conveying her need for comfort that the Commander provided with gentle touches and quiet conversation. He had expected Dorian to do the same, and with only the four Alphas in Haven the options were limited. But as far as Bull could see the mage had kept to himself, rarely leaving the cabin he had been assigned unless it was to seek out the Boss for one thing or another.
He knew the need to connect was an important one for Betas. They might not form the same deep attachments that an Alpha might form with his Omega but some of the needs were the same; reassurance, comfort, friendship. But the more he watched the more he realized that the people of Skyhold seemed to be refusing to accept the Tevinter mage. Bull had found himself growling when he watched the blacksmith actually spit on Dorian, and had only barely held himself back from walking over and punching the man as Dorian wiped his face and walked off.
Even in the bar Dorian never sat with anyone unless the Inquisitor was there, instead he would tuck himself away in the corner behind Maryden and drink in silence, or, more frequently, simply purchase an entire bottle and retreat to his cabin. It wasn’t normal or healthy for a Beta to spend so much time alone and no matter how frequently he told himself Dorian Pavus wasn’t his concern he still found himself debating how to bring the subject up to the Boss. Before he could make up his mind about sticking his nose into what was obviously not his business, Corypheus had shown his ugly face and then Bull had seen a different side of the ‘Vint.
It seemed like over the next couple of days everywhere Bull looked he saw Dorian. In the medic tents where he’d gone to see what he could do to help Stitches, Dorian was preparing flasks. In the quartermaster’s tent he was cataloging the supplies that had made it out of Haven. But Bull drew the line when he saw the mage take his own blanket and give it to one of Master Dennet’s stable hands. Ferreting out his own blanket Bull had finally approached Dorian for the first time since their meeting over a month ago in Redcliffe.
Shaking open the blanket he had wrapped it around Dorian’s shoulders, noticing the man was shivering despite sitting so close to the fire it was surprising his clothing didn’t begin to smolder. “Doesn’t do you any good to take care of everyone else if you freeze to death in the process.”
When Dorian’s startled eyes met his he was certain he saw an emotion before the split second of fear that was soon replaced by determination but he couldn’t decide exactly what it had been. And then the mage had been countering in that cultured Tevinter accent, “But wouldn’t the same then apply to you?”
Bull smiled, barely biting back the offer to share the blanket with the ‘Vint, then frowned at the fact he’d even had that thought. “The Chargers always end up in a pile, I can snitch a blanket from them.”
“Ah,” Dorian whispered with a nod and what he was almost certain was a subtle sniff of the woolen blanket. “I suppose I should thank you then.”
“Just don’t let me see you giving that one away. It’s a shame for all that gorgeous skin to be covered in goosebumps.”
What the fuck? The words went unspoken but Bull saw them in the ‘Vint’s eyes as much as he heard them in his own head. He had turned away without another word and stomped back toward the Chargers’ tent, all attempts to convince himself he hadn’t been flirting with the handsome Beta failing miserably.
After that he had avoided Dorian, or the Beta had avoided him. Either way it was easily done since only two days later they had stumbled upon Skyhold and the fortress offered enough space to easily hold ten times their number. He had learned from Varric that Dorian had holed up in the rotunda that had been turned into a library, claiming a corner of it and defending it as fiercely as any bear would its cave. As for Bull, well, he went where the Chargers went and that had, unsurprisingly, turned out to be a rather warm corner of the tavern. Cabot kept the ale flowing and there was food available as long as you weren’t too concerned over what type of meat was in it and when he wanted a bit of privacy there was a room off the third floor that no one else seemed to want and that his belongings slowly migrated into.
It wasn’t so much that Bull minded sharing a space with his Chargers, and some nights he would still spend time with them in the little outbuilding they had commandeered behind the tavern. But Bull had always had an open door policy…well, technically now it was three open doors…with any of the Omegas. The Qun frowned on forming permanent arrangements. You had a need, that’s what Tamassrans were for. But even the Qun had to make some exceptions when it came to Alpha/Omega dynamics.
However giving in to the need to claim an Omega was seen as a mark of weakness, something an Alpha only did if unable to control their natural Alpha tendencies. There had been a few times when he was in Seheron that he had been tempted. He had even moved one Tallis in with him for almost a year but in the end his innate need to protect his Omega had warred with the assassin’s assignments and they had finally agreed to separate. Last he heard she had found a fellow Tallis and they had become a formidable team still in service to the Qun.
No, it was better this way. Bull’s need to protect and cherish was focused on his Chargers for the most part and when an Omega came into heat or just needed to be reminded that there was someone who cared he gave them what they needed and sent them on their way. Everybody happy and no one got hurt.
So, he and Dorian might have continued to avoid each other without really avoiding each other had the Boss not requested they both accompany her to Crestwood in search of Hawke’s Warden contact. To say that Crestwood was a cesspool would have been insulting the cesspool, but Bull had quickly learned one benefit to the dank, gloomy landscape…it tended to leave Dorian’s robes plastered to his body like a second skin and Bull found himself learning to enjoy following in the mage’s wake.
The other thing he learned was that Dorian was a chronic complainer about anything and everything under the sun, but let them stumble across an enemy and veshedan, the man turned into a thing of deadly beauty. Bull had certainly seen his share of mages during his time in Seheron, but few moved with the grace in motion that Dorian did. As if everything he did was a dance, each muscle in his body maintaining the exact amount of tension in exactly the right position to extract the maximum effect.
Perhaps even more impressive was the fact that the mage always seemed to know the exact moment to refresh a barrier. At first Bull hadn’t paid much attention to it but as they were working their way through Caer Bronach he had gotten separated from the group following one of the Highwaymen up the stairs. He had just brought the man down with a cleave that took almost off the man’s arm and he turned to find Dorian battling an archer, his back to Bull. There was no way he should have known the barrier was down, especially not from that distance. Yet the moment Bull felt the magic around him fade Dorian spun, dropping to his knee to slide under one of the archers arrows and throwing a fresh barrier on Bull’s without ever stopping his spin. A bolt of lightning had finished off the archer.
Bull had spent the rest of the fight sporting a hard on that just catching sight of Dorian in battle would renew and he had finally given in and accepted the fact that while he wasn’t attracted to Betas, this Beta was an exception that he would give anything to explore.
Unfortunately as soon as they’d raised the Inquisition flag over the keep the Boss had wrapped her arm around Dorian’s waist and the mage had laughed and pressed a kiss to her temple before they both disappeared into one of the upstairs rooms. Biting back the growl that was building in his chest Bull told himself that Dorian and the Boss pairing up was a good thing. They were both strong Betas and would make a good couple. Unfortunately no amount of logic could seem to override the Alpha part of his brain that was screaming that no one should be touching the mage except him.
Nor did it change the fact that when he took himself in hand later that night it was copper skin he pictured kneeling before him and Dorian’s name that fell from his lips as he came.
Chapter 3: Theory of Attraction
Dorian barely waited for the door to slam shut behind him before tearing his robes from his body as he headed for the dwarven tub that occupied the corner of his room. As much as he didn’t like to use his relationship with Evie for personal gain, this room was the one exception he’d made. Small, with only one window that looked out on nothing other than the white snowcapped mountains, it wouldn’t have been at the top of anyone’s list of desired rooms if it weren’t for the private bath.
Turning the tap he stepped into the ice cold water before even activating the heating rune, his only thought was to get the smell of Bull off of his skin. He knew it was only in his mind, it wasn’t as if he was stupid enough to actually touch The Iron Bull or any of his belongings, but Dorian had known when Evie chose to take Sera with her on this trip that he would be forced to share quarters with Bull. Forced to sleep all night with that man’s scent wrapping around him until he could hardly breathe without wanting to eliminate the distance between them and beg the Alpha to take him.
And as if the scent of the man wasn’t bad enough there were the comments the Qunari insisted on making. They had been easy to ignore at first, banal things about Dorian wearing a skirt or how he polished his staff, even one offer to warm Dorian’s freezing feet. Nothing that was markedly different from how he treated other members of the team and easy to fend off with a growl or a barely concealed threat against Bull’s horns.
But this time, kaffas, they had been on their way back to Skyhold, about to stop for what would surely be their last night on the road unless Evie found some blasted cave or swamp she had previously missed. They had setup a way of traveling, typically with Evie and Sera in the lead, Dorian following them then Bull at the rear of the party. As much as it made the hair on the back of his neck bristle Dorian had discovered that it was better for his own concentration to have the overwhelming Alpha behind him rather than in front of him where Dorian’s eyes would inevitably drift somewhere they shouldn’t.
Lost in his own thoughts of finally getting back to Skyhold and not being forced into constant contact with Bull Dorian missed just how far behind Sera and Evie he had fallen until he felt Bull’s hand connect with his ass, his own squeak of surprise drowned out by the Alpha’s deep baritone. “Get a move on Dorian, as appealing as watching your ass is I’d like to get to camp sometime tonight.”
Looking back now he knew he should have just thrown out some comment about freezing Bull where he stood, but embarrassingly enough the only thing that Dorian had been able to think of, besides the fact that he was half hard just from a swat to his ass and Bull’s deep voice, was ‘more please’. Of course he wasn’t stupid enough to actually say that and had instead mumbled, “I will never understand why you think I care about you finding my ass, or any other part of me, appealing.”
Dorian had to swallow a groan the moment the words fell from his lips. He might as well as waved a red flag in front of a druffalo. “I’m just saying, Dorian, you carry around this picture of the Qunari in your mind. Like you see us as this forbidden, terrible thing, and you’re inclined to do the forbidden.”
Picking up the pace Dorian tried to put as much dismissal as possible into his words. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
Then Bull had said the words that had haunted Dorian ever since. “All I’m saying is, you ever want to explore that, my door’s always open.”
Dorian had managed a dignified snort, years of training finally overcoming the rapid building of new needs, as he wrapped his cloak tighter to him and hurriedly followed Evie into camp. But that hadn’t stopped him from taking covert glances at Bull as they all sat around the campfire eating a stew that Dorian had learned the hard way not to ask the contents of. Certainly the towering Alpha had given no indication that he was aware of the effect his words had on Dorian, instead his focus had been on Evelyn and Sera for the rest of the night. Dorian couldn’t help but wonder if perhaps he had been negligent with his application of the scent masking lotion but if that were true he’d have likely already found himself pinned beneath the Alpha rather than tempted with appealing words.
Which only left two options. Either The Iron Bull was a horrible flirt and had made the offer only as a teasing suggestion or, perhaps even worse, the man was actually interested in Dorian. A fact that ran counter to all of the rumors Dorian had heard over the past several months. Oh, he had heard tales of Bull helping one of the kitchen girls, Emmaline, through her heat, thankfully while Dorian had been out on a mission with Evie. And rumor had it that when Dalish’s time came she could also be seen going to The Iron Bull for comfort. But the man simply did not bed Betas.
Breathing a sigh of relief when Bull had offered to stand first watch Dorian quickly said his goodnights and disappeared into the tent they shared. The tent that even without the hulking Alpha presence still carried his scent on everything the man touched. Just the smell was enough to bring back Bull’s earlier words, the way his deep voice had made a shiver crawl up Dorian’s spine, the feel of his hand, so large and strong, on Dorian’s ass. Dorian had tossed and turned for a long time, the fight within his own head fierce as part of his brain taunted him with the idea of being able to take Iron Bull up on his offer. To know just what it would feel like to have that huge body wrapped around him, buried so far inside him that he wouldn’t be able to tell where he stopped and Bull began. The saner part of him knew it was a risk he’d never take. He might occasionally bed a Beta, but to tempt an Alpha as powerful as Bull would be just one step this side of insane.
In some ways it might have been easier had Bull been in the tent with him, then Dorian would never have dared to loosen his own leathers, to close his eyes and breathe in the Alpha’s scent, replaying those few brief moments with Bull as he stroked himself to completion.
Even as mortifying as it had been the moment he had finished and as much time it had taken him to clean himself up then douse both his body and the cloth he’d used with one of his potions just in case Bull should somehow smell his release, there was no denying it had been the strongest climax of Dorian’s life.
Shivering now, Dorian realized he had been so lost in his thoughts of the captivating Alpha that he still hadn’t bothered activating the heating runes for the tub, doing so belatedly and sinking his now scrubbed red body into the rapidly warming water. Reaching for the soap he quickly lathered his entire body again, only fully relaxing once the only thing he could smell was the familiar scent of sandalwood and crystal grace.
Feeling a disturbing tug in the pit of his stomach as he realized he could no longer smell The Iron Bull, Dorian told himself this was the way it needed to be. The Iron Bull wasn’t some Beta to be enjoyed for a temporary fling and then allowed to walk away, he was an Alpha in his prime. Possibly the strongest threat to Dorian remaining with the Inquisition and keeping his secret hidden. Chiding himself for developing this hopeless infatuation Dorian tried to remind himself that The Iron Bull was the only Alpha he had ever spent any quantity of time with. Perhaps this irrational need he felt was one that could simply be explained by being an Omega at the core.
Dorian wondered if he could convince Evie to take Solas out with them on the next mission. She rarely entered the field with two mages with her, but Dorian knew that Solas had been wanting to test out some new theory on the reason fade rifts appeared in the exact locations they did. Perhaps he could impress upon Evie that his research capabilities would be of value on that mission. After that it should be a simple thing to arrange for he and Solas to share a tent.
While he doubted he’d be repeating his solo performance while on a mission again for quite some time, it would at least provide him with a chance to see if being around Solas for an extended period of time raised the same need in him that Bull did.
Satisfied that at least he had a plan of attack, Dorian drained the water and stepped from the tub, drying briskly with a towel before grabbing for his scent masking lotion and noticing the jar was getting a little light. He’d have to take some time tomorrow to make some more. He was fairly certain all the ingredients he required were now growing in Evie’s garden. It shouldn’t be too difficult to pinch the few he needed, provided he could avoid Mother Giselle’s disapproving eye.
Dorian had finished collecting the herbs he needed for his potion and was lacking only the felandaris for his lotion. Spying a few of the long springs in one of the back planters Dorian headed that way only to hear a familiar voice from behind him.
“Dorian, I was hoping to run into you. Might you have time for a game?”
Sighing softly, Dorian turned to the Commander. The herbs would keep and the poor man was truly looking as though he could use a break. “Of course. Anything for you Commander.”
“Cullen please,” the Commander asked on a sigh of his own as it wasn’t the first time he’d made the request, his hand clasped Dorian’s shoulder companionably in passing.
“Cullen,” Dorian parroted, willing his body not to shiver from the momentary contact with the Alpha. He would have to try to remember that. Calling the man Commander was simply an instinctive form of respect for the man’s Alpha status. If Beres had been here to hear Dorian say that he’d have cuffed the mage upside the head hard enough to have his ears ringing.
Thankfully there were enough people within the Inquisition that called the Alpha Commander that Dorian wasn’t entirely outside the realm of reality by using the title. Of more interest to Dorian was that while the Comman…Cullen’s…touch had caused his body to react, it was nothing like the response he’d had to Bull. Instead, of instant arousal it had been more an instinctive reaction to a perceived approval, that he had pleased the Alpha enough to warrant a companionable touch. Kaffas, now he sounded like a damned mabari.
Scowling as he moved to settle into his chair Dorian found himself leaning forward and sniffing deeply, for the first time in his life willingly drawing an Alpha’s scent into his lungs. Again, a feeling of well-being washed over him, like the comfort of a warm bed on a cold winter night. The uniqueness of the feeling had him opening his mouth slightly to draw in a deeper taste.
“Dorian?” Cullen’s tone evidenced a confusion that also drew together the man’s brows.
Blushing slightly Dorian forced a sneeze he didn’t feel before settling back in his chair. Venhedis, had he really been scenting the Comman…damn it, Cullen? “Sorry, I believe I may be allergic to something in Evie’s garden. Possibly the amrita vein, blasted thing always reminds me of the desert.”
Cullen’s lip curled in a hint of a smile. “You alright to continue?”
Forcing a sniffle he didn’t feel Dorian smirked. “Unless you’re willing to just concede to my superior skills.”
“Hardly,” Cullen laughed, nodding toward the board. “I believe it’s your turn though.”
By the time the men had played through three matches Dorian was certain that whatever it was that attracted him to Bull went beyond just simple Alpha dynamics. He had tried to be subtle in his investigation, a little nudge of Cullen’s leg with his own, a slight brush of fingers as he shifted a piece off the board, a deep laugh when he won a match that took him a little over the middle of the board into Cullen’s space, but nothing seemed to engender any response in Dorian other than comfort.
As he bid Cullen a good day at the end of the third match Dorian tried to tell himself that the lack of desire he felt for the handsome Alpha was a good thing. He still wanted to test his theory that prolonged contact with an Alpha could be the catalyst for his strong desires for Bull, but if he was able to spend time with Solas without feeling the same burning need he had for Bull then he could potentially relax a bit. Because then it would just be a matter of avoiding one man, in a keep of hundreds, how difficult could that be?
Chapter 4: Be Careful What You Wish For
Dorian was exhausted in a way that only two weeks spent in the Fallow Mire could make a man. He supposed he should be happy that they had been able to rescue Cullen’s men who had gone missing, but at the moment the only thing he could feel about the situation is that they shouldn’t have been there in the first place. The entire area was nothing but one big pit of rotting corpses and Evie should have long ago had the area blockaded off and stricken from the maps.
Adding to his desire to head directly to his room and fall into bed was the fact that he’d actually gotten his request and Solas had joined them on this mission. The only problem was if Bull engendered arousal and Cullen comfort, time spent with Solas just made Dorian…uneasy. He had never noticed it sitting above the elf for months on end in his library, but there was something distinctly unnerving about the quiet Alpha. Some sense that he was always watching and waiting but not being able to decide what it was he was expecting to happen.
The first couple of days hadn’t been so bad, it had taken that long for the Alpha’s scent to permeate the tent they shared, but for the past week and a half there had been little rest for Dorian within the confines of the canvas walls. When Solas was present he seemed to overwhelm the small space, the elf’s presence seemingly so much larger than the slight body he occupied. Dorian was constantly reminded of a blood mage he’d seen once lose himself in a dual and become an abomination, the man’s slight form morphing into a behemoth three times his original size. Not of course that he was accusing the Alpha of being a blood mage, but it was the same sensation, as though there was something…larger…lurking right under the surface of his fellow mage.
Almost worse was when the Alpha wasn’t in the tent with him yet the smell of elfroot and embrium still wrapped around Dorian until he felt like he couldn’t breathe. It was like being constantly surrounded by the fade but not being there…like the electric feeling right before a rift opened that made his skin crawl. After two sleepless nights Dorian had been on the verge of asking Evie to change tent assignments when he had reached into the bottom of his pack to pull out one of his potions and found the heavy cloak he had been wearing when they left Skyhold.
Pulling it out of the corner of his room the morning they left he had slipped it on only to notice the faint trace of Bull’s scent still clinging to the fabric from the day he’d slapped Dorian’s ass and, already running late, he had forced himself to ignore the traces of the Alpha and get going. As soon as they’d reached warmer climates however he’d changed to a lighter cloak and stuffed this one into the bottom of his pack.
Sitting in the tent brimming with Solas’ scent, his own emotions perilously close to the edge after several nights of no sleep and days of hard fighting, Dorian was ashamed to admit he almost wept with relief when he pulled the cloak from his pack and the familiar smell of Bull washed over him. Wrapping himself tightly in the cloak Dorian closed his eyes and forced himself to ignore the intruding scent of the elven Alpha, choosing instead to remember Bull’s spicy scent. The way the man’s boots would be tangled with Dorian’s in the small space, the faint snore that would wake Dorian sometimes in the middle of the night, the way Bull had looked at him that day when he told him his door would always be open to him. And for the first time in days, Dorian slept.
When Dorian woke the following morning it was to find Solas staring at him with a peculiar look on his face, the man’s head tilting slightly at the sight of the cloak Dorian wore like armor. With a blush Dorian had realized that of course the Alpha had been able to smell Bull on it, and yet the elf kept any questions to himself. By the end of the trip Bull’s scent had faded so much that Dorian had resorted to sleeping on the cloak like a pillow, only the strip of cloth that had actually been touched by Bull retaining any smell at all. Unfortunately as Bull’s scent faded, Solas’ scent only increased until the last few nights had yielded Dorian only scattered moments of sleep.
Which was why, when Evie asked him to join her for a drink as soon as they reached Skyhold, Dorian’s first response was no. Actually, in his head it was something much more vehement, but then she’d laid her hand gently on his arm and turned those expressive green eyes up at him so beseechingly that he’d found himself nodding yes. He supposed the brilliant grin she’d given him and the kiss to his cheek would get him through at least one drink before he fell asleep on his feet. Handing off his pack to the page who promised to get it to his room he followed after her, absolutely refusing to admit that maybe, just maybe, part of the reason he’d agreed to a drink was that he would have a chance to see The Iron Bull.
Bull was sitting in the tavern with the Chargers, listening to his team discuss which of their contracts had actually been the worst one ever, when word filtered in that the Inquisitor had returned. Spine stiffening slightly Bull reached for his tankard, feigning an indifference he certainly didn’t feel about the news. When the armful of redheaded barmaid in his lap shifted to place her hand on his cheek he knew he hadn’t been completely successful. “Alpha?”
Damn, rather than Ilsabeth’s usual purr the word held a trace of concern and he was careful to school his expression into complete calm as he bent to nuzzle her cheek. “All is well little one.”
The way her body relaxed against him said he’d been successful in his reassurance. The little Omega was still recovering from her heat cycle and had been particularly clingy after this one. Bull was concerned that she was beginning to develop feelings for him, but that would be something they could sort out in a few days, he certainly wasn’t going to tell an Omega that it was time to move on this close to her cycle.
Letting his hand run reassuringly across Ilsabeth’s back Bull continued drinking and appearing to listen to the Chargers, but really he was listening for additional information about the Boss’s return. It never failed to amaze him that no matter how large the Inquisition grew news of the Boss’s missions filtered through Skyhold faster than one of Dorian’s lightning bolts. Word had already reached them of the successful retrieval of Cullen’s missing men, what Bull was listening for now was any word of injury. He knew it was silly, and that if Dorian knew just how much he’d fretted over him during the past two weeks the very capable Beta would probably singe his horns off, but that didn’t change the fact that he had worried.
It shouldn’t have been a surprise then when after hiding his concern for two weeks Bull was unable to bite back the sigh of relief he felt when he watched Dorian walk into the tavern with the Boss. He didn’t hear the greeting that was exchanged between the pair and Varric and Cassandra, who had been cozied up at a table in the corner, but chairs were quickly rounded up and as the new arrivals sat down Varric stood to go grab drinks.
Nodding at Varric as he passed Bull’s attention was quickly drawn back to their table, his eyes raking over Dorian noting the way the usually formal mage sat slumped in the chair, the dark circles under his eyes and the way that his robes hung just slightly less than perfect. Even telling himself that the man had just gotten back off a mission something about the picture Dorian presented rubbed Bull wrong. The mage looked like he should be in his room getting some much needed sleep, not here in the tavern. Come to think of it he didn’t think he’d ever seen Dorian come directly to the tavern after a mission. Bull couldn’t help but wonder if there was something about the mission that made the mage feel he needed a drink more than he did sleep.
Instinct had him on his feet with only a quietly murmured apology to Ilsabeth as he resettled her into his seat, not even certain of where he was heading himself until he glanced at his own table and saw most of the Chargers drinks were almost empty. Making short work of the distance to the bar Bull stopped next to Varric and ordered another round before looking down to where the dwarf was gathering his own drinks. “Here, let me help you with those.”
“Didn’t know you were bartending in your spare time now Tiny,” Varric chuckled, but happily passed over two of the tankards to Bull before leading him back to the table.
As Bull slapped the two tankards down on the table the Boss leapt up to give him a quick hug. “Bull! It’s good to see you. Could have used you in the Mire.”
“Is that so?” He asked, forcing his attention to remain on the boss rather than the man next to her. The man that, now that he was so close, he could tell smelled of another Alpha. Solas, he realized with a deep growl that he barely bit off before it could do more than rumble in his chest.
“Maker, yes. Ended up running into some interesting folk, have you ever encountered the Avvar before?”
“No, can’t say I have.” Bull was proud of the fact his words came out even considering the places his mind was going. That the exhaustion Dorian was feeling could possibly be because he had connected with the Alpha mage, that Solas’ hands might have dared to touch the expanse of copper skin that Bull craved, that he might have kissed those full lips until they were red and swollen.
“They’re…they’re…well…” The Boss started, breaking off with a frown. “Bull, are you alright? You seem tense.”
Shit. He could feel the tension his frustration had brought out in all four Betas at the table and he tried to calm his own emotions. Drawing in a deep breath that did nothing to help because it only brought more of Solas’ scent into his lungs, Bull pasted a smile on his face as he willed his muscles to relax. “Just tired Boss. Been a long week. One of the Omegas, well…”
Bull broke off when he caught movement from the corner of his eye and turned toward Dorian just in time to see the mage bank something that looked like anger before his expression turned dismissive. “Yes, well, I can understand how difficult it would be to fuck the week away while we were out fighting a sea of corpses.”
Bull’s eye flared slightly at the bitterness he heard in the mage’s tone, his own frustration flaring at the Beta daring to question his helping an Omega’s heat when obviously he’d been taking his own pleasures with Solas. If Dorian should be questioning anyone it should be the Alpha he’d chosen, the man who obviously felt no guilt at wearing his partner out then abandoning him to the tavern rather than taking care to make sure he rested properly. Before Bull could decide just how to reply though Cabot’s voice rang out through the tavern. “Hey Bull, get these damned drinks off my bar. Got no room for other orders.”
“Yeah, yeah, be right there,” Bull bellowed back, turning his attention back to the Boss long enough to tell her it was good to have her back before heading off to retrieve the requested drinks.
By the time he got there Krem had appeared at his shoulder, hefting half of them himself as he gave Bull a curious look. “What was that about Chief?”
“I honestly have no idea,” Bull admitted, settling the drinks on the table before picking up Ilsabeth and settling her back on his lap.
“Welcome back Alpha.” Ilsabeth was back to purring, her nails dragging across his chest as she spoke. “I missed you.”
“Is that right little one?” He chuckled, bending to drink in the scent of her in an attempt to drown out that of the other Alpha. Closing his eyes he told himself again it was none of his concern who Dorian Pavus did or did not spend his time with. The man was a Beta, it had been an ill-conceived idea to contemplate bedding him in the first place.
Ill-conceived or not, it didn’t change the fact that later that night, when he had the lovely Ilsabeth on her knees before him, his hand fisted in her long red hair and his cock down her delightful throat he found himself wishing it were grey eyes he was looking down into, his hands full of ebony locks.
Chapter 5: Dangerous Games
Dorian told himself he had sunk to a new low. What else could explain what he was doing tucked into the corner table on the second floor of the tavern just to catch a glimpse of The Iron Bull? But the Qunari had been gone for the past three weeks, some mission with Evie to the Emerald Graves and loath though he was to admit it he had felt the Alpha’s absence. Had missed walking into the tavern and being able to smell that earthy citrus scent that followed the Alpha everywhere and never failed to leave Dorian half-hard. For the first week after Bull left it hadn’t been too bad, even without the Qunari’s presence in the tavern his small corner of it had continued to smell like him, but then the normal tavern smells had begun to take over and Dorian had been left with this small empty spot inside his chest.
“It’s a dangerous game you’re playing ‘Vint.”
Dorian startled, his chair tipping back to the point it would have fallen over had a heavily gauntleted hand not reached out to catch his own flailing one. Krem tugged Dorian until the chair legs smacked back down on the floor before releasing him. In an attempt to regain his dignity Dorian straightened, giving the Soporati an imperious look as he drawled, “I’m afraid I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
To Dorian’s dismay the warrior leaned closer, making no attempt to hide the fact that he was scenting Dorian before grabbing the chair from the other side of the table and spinning it around, dropping onto it backwards right in front of Dorian and folding his arms along the chair back. “Black lotus, dragonthorn, prophet’s laurel, felandaris…”
“I see someone has been studying his herbs,” Dorian managed to get out past the knot in his throat, pleased at least he didn’t squeak.
“I’m just saying, you aren’t the first ‘Vint to wish he was something other than what he was. And you don’t grow up on the backstreets of Minrathous without learning some things.”
The hard look Krem pinned him with told Dorian not to bother to lie. And with a resigned sigh he asked, “What is it you want?”
Krem shrugged. “I don’t want anything. I’m just saying it’s a dangerous game you’re playing and if the Chief were to get hurt by it…”
“Venhedis, I’m not playing a game,” Dorian growled, gaining him another scrutinizing look from Krem.
“Fuck, you really are attracted to him aren’t you?”
“No, I’m risking everything I’ve worked my entire life for on a whim.” Dorian winced at his own words, aware that he’d let more bitterness slip through than he would have wished. But it was true. Nothing about this could end well, and yet he couldn’t seem to stay away from the charismatic Alpha.
Dorian’s pride was dented further when Krem’s eyes softened into something resembling pity. “You know, you could just stop taking them. It’s not a crime in the South to be a…”
“Now, now, none of that please,” Dorian hissed, glancing around to make certain they were truly alone. He was almost positive he’d seen Sera head toward Evie’s quarters but there were just certain things that should remain unspoken of in a public place.
“I’m just saying, you have options. But you keep going the direction you’re going ‘Vint and those options get fewer and fewer.”
Sighing heavily Dorian asked, “Are you going to tell him?”
“Not my place,” Krem admitted with a shrug. “But I’m telling you that if you hurt him you’ll answer to me.”
Glancing past Krem to where Bull sat holding court with the Chargers, his head thrown back as his laughter rang out through the tavern Dorian admitted, “I think it far more likely that I’ll be the one hurt.”
“Then why not let it go? Save you both the trouble.”
You see us as this forbidden, terrible thing, and you’re inclined to do the forbidden. Bull’s words echoed through Dorian’s mind and he smiled sadly at the young warrior before him. “Because I think it was too late for me the first time I laid eyes on him.”
Standing, Krem shook his head slightly at Dorian and clasped the mage on the shoulder. “I wish you well then Altus. If you hurt him, I’ll kill you, but I still wish you well.”
Bull frowned as Krem returned to the table, his hands full of fresh tankards of ale and Dorian Pavus’ scent on him. Waiting until Krem had dropped the drinks in the middle of the table, claiming one for himself before falling into the chair beside Bull the Alpha leaned forward enough to draw in the scent again. Krem, a faint trace of Cabot, and definitely Dorian…but no Solas. Bull didn’t expect to scent the elf heavily, after all the man rarely stepped foot into the tavern, but he would have expected to at least get a trace smell of the Alpha mixed with Dorian’s spicy floral scent. Was the pair no longer together? Bull found it hard to believe Solas had gotten his fill of Dorian in the three weeks Bull had been gone. Koslun only knew if Bull ever got the intriguing mage into his bed he wouldn’t be finished with him in three weeks, or possibly even three years.
An elbow to his ribs brought Bull’s attention back to Krem. “Knock it off Chief.”
Bull grumbled but settled back into his seat. Looking around the room Bull failed to see the mage and was hard pressed not to ask the question that burned on his lips. Obviously the man was here, the question was…there, second floor, in the back corner, a silverite buckle flashed in the candlelight. Bull was already halfway out of his chair when Krem’s hand slammed down on his arm.
The growl was out before he even knew it began as Bull made to pull away from his second only to have the man pin his arm harder to the chair. “Cremisius,” the one word was dripping with Alpha command and yet his lieutenant just continued to look at him.
“Not tonight Chief.”
“The ‘Vint…not tonight.”
Bull’s growl deepened, his arm tensing beneath Krem’s hand. “What aren’t you telling me Krem?”
“Did Solas do something to him, hurt him?”
“Solas?” Krem asked, confusion evident in his tone and on his face. “Chief, far as I know Solas and Dorian have never…”
“Don’t tell me what I smelled Krem,” Bull growled, remembering the night several weeks earlier. Fuck, being unable to forget that night was one of the reasons he’d been so eager to get out on a mission with the Boss. Not that it had helped, instead he’d just had three weeks of imagining Solas here in Skyhold taking Dorian the way Bull wanted to. At least there had been plenty of Red Templars to work his frustrations out on.
Come to think of it, that night Dorian had been getting back off a mission himself. Was it possible he’d misread the signs? He supposed if Dorian had been sharing a tent with the other Alpha for weeks it could have made him smell like…fuck, and he’d acted like jealous fool, throwing the fact he’d been helping Ilsabeth through her heat out there like an idiot.
Dropping back into his chair he barely felt Krem remove his hand as he realized his second was right. Shit. He was getting all protective and jealous over a Beta for fuck’s sake. If he’d gone tearing up there the way he wanted to he’d have been lucky not to end up with a face full of fire. Wiping a tired hand over his face Bull glanced back up to the table in the corner to find that Dorian was gone. Sighing softly as he reached for his drink he told himself it was probably for the best.
Dorian sat in a corner of the great hall trying to ignore the pretentious Orlesians around him who were complaining about ham of all things, and waited for Harritt to leave the Undercroft. He knew the man typically took his lunch in the tavern, probably to escape the compelling Orlesian conversations Dorian was being subjected to at the moment, and Dorian needed to take advantage of that time to talk to Dagna.
After Krem had left him in the tavern the night before, Dorian had watched as the young warrior had covered for his visit with Dorian by buying drinks for the Chargers. But because he had been watching, he also saw the exact moment when Bull had smelled him on Krem. The way the Alpha had tensed, his eyes searching the entire tavern for Dorian. Just like Dorian had known the moment the Alpha found him, the way the man almost bolted from his seat, would have if not for Krem’s restraining arm, and Dorian felt a moment of panic. This wasn’t some affable Beta he was thinking of bedding, this was an Alpha in his prime. One who could apparently detect even the slightest trace of Dorian from where Krem had grabbed him for only a moment, and suddenly Dorian began to doubt that even the scent maskers would be enough.
He had slunk back to his room, using Sera’s roof access rather than having to pass by The Iron Bull, and told himself Krem was right, he should let go of this insane idea now. And yet his traitorous mind kept supplying Dorian with visions of Bull from their travels. The way the Alpha’s chest heaved in battle, how his arms swung that monstrous axe of his as though it were a child’s toy. The sound of the Alpha’s laughter, the deep timber of his battle cry. The gleam in the Alpha’s eye when he was teasing Evie, the desire in that same compelling grey gaze when he looked at Dorian and Dorian knew he wasn’t going to back away.
In the end he had thought of the Arcanist, Dagna. If anyone could help him come up with a way to further mask his nature, perhaps create a rune or enchantment that could perform the same function as his potion and lotion, it would be her. Surprisingly, he found that the thought of letting her in on his secret was less terrifying than he expected it to be. Despite being a chatterbox, the woman could be amazingly discrete when the occasion called for it.
Telling himself to be patient and stop tapping his foot Dorian almost sighed in relief when he finally saw the blacksmith appear and stride quickly through the hall, paying no attention to Dorian whatsoever. Waiting only long enough to see the man start down the steps out the front side of the great hall, Dorian quickly moved to the door to the undercroft and slipped inside.
“Dorian!” Dagna cried with a grin as she looked up from her worktable. Dorian wasn’t quite certain how the woman managed it but she had a way of making everyone seem like they were her favorite person in the world.
“Dagna,” Dorian’s own greeting was more sedate, but warm, he truly liked the Arcanist. “I hope I’m not interrupting anything.”
“No, no, of course not,” she chirped happily, meeting him halfway across the workshop and latching on to one of his arms. “Just seeing if adding a touch of refined dawnstone will enhance this fire resistance rune I’ve been working on.”
Dorian nodded. “A reasonable theory, considering that when added to a staff dawnstone will increase its fire damage output, I suppose the reverse might be true for a rune.”
“Exactly!” Dagna nodded. “I’ve been trying to explain that to Harritt but he just mutters about things being fine the way they are and why do I always have to go tinkering with them.”
“Because my dear, that is what you do,” Dorian chuckled, pleased with the smile that lit the dwarf’s face.
Dagna sat back down on the stool at her worktable and motioned towards a second one for Dorian. “Now, I assume this isn’t a social call. What can I do for you?”
“I’m afraid I have a matter of some sensitivity that I could use your assistance with, but I must insist that the information remain between you and I.”
Dagna frowned. “I can’t very well go hiding things from the Inquisitor Dorian.”
“I promise you it’s nothing that would put the Inquisition at risk. It is an entirely personal matter, something I trust you’ll understand once I tell you.”
Dagna wrung her hands together, her eyes focused intently on Dorian for several long moments as she obviously debated the merits of her responsibilities to the Inquisition versus her innately inquisitive nature. “Alright,” she finally agreed. “But I’m not promising to help you until I know what it is you want. I will however promise that even if I decide not to help it will stay between the two of us.”
“Fair enough,” Dorian agreed, drawing a deep breath only to find that now the moment was here he wasn’t quite certain how to begin.
As the moments stretched out Dagna’s expression began to change, a small smile crossing her lips. “I know I’m good but I can’t read minds Dorian.”
He could feel the blush work its way across his cheeks. “Yes, yes, it’s just that, well, this isn’t really something I’ve ever spoken of before. That is to say….fasta vass, this is ridiculous,” Dorian growled, sighing heavily before spitting the words out in a rush. “I need a way to mask an Omega’s scent.”
Dagna’s eyes grew wide for a moment before getting that faraway look that Dorian knew meant she was already contemplating the situation. “I don’t entirely understand, why would you…”
“Because in Tevinter being an Omega is tantamount to being a slave. And even some slaves have hope of being free someday.”
Fumbling in the bag at his waist he pulled out his jar of lotion. “This is the scent blocker I use. There is a potion as well, but it contains the same ingredients with the exception of the felandaris. I believe that it is of use in the lotion to allow the rest of the ingredients to be absorbed properly into the skin although I’ve never…”
“If you need one of the potions, I can get one of those for you also. I just thought that since the materials are the same. I can of course provide you with the exact amounts but I would appreciate it if you didn’t write them down, I’d hate for…”
Looking down at Dagna, who was looking at him with concern in her eyes Dorian realized he was shaking. The Arcanist pushed him toward the stool he’d never taken and had him sit, her small hands wrapping around his. “Dorian, its fine. Really.”
His heart still feeling like it was going to beat out of his chest, Dorian could do no more than just stare at her. Tightening her grip on his hands she gave him an understanding smile. “You know, the first time I told my father I wanted to be a mage I thought I was going to shake into a million pieces. I mean, even saying it I knew I couldn’t truly be a mage, not like there have ever been any dwarf mages running around. But I knew I wanted to study magic and that no one was going to understand that need. I may not understand why you feel you need to hide who you are, but I’ll help you if I can.”
Chapter 6: How Can Something So Wrong Feel So Right?
“So we finally find the guy in a dirty little dive bar by the harbor. Turns out his money had run out weeks ago so all the time the Chief spent staking out the bordello was a waste of time.”
“Well, not a total waste, he smelled pretty as a rose garden for the next month,” Rocky chuckled, making the rest of the team burst into laughter too.
Dorian smiled, looking up at Bull to see that the hulking Alpha wore what looked to be faint stripes of pink on his cheeks. “Yeah, yeah, keep it up,” Bull’s voice rumbled across the table. “Next time you can wear the dress.”
“But Chief, you’re such a pretty little thing,” Krem argued, batting his eyes at the Alpha until the entire table burst into laughter again.
“Ok, funny guy, now you get to go get the drinks,” Bull grumbled, but Dorian noticed him pass some coins Krem’s way as the man stood and headed toward Cabot.
“Glad you could join us tonight.”
Dorian’s stomach clenched as the full weight of Bull’s attention was focused on him, only years of training allowing him to relax back into his chair and smile. “It’s been…entertaining.”
“You mean it’s been a non-stop ‘let’s embarrass the boss’ evening.”
Dorian chuckled. “It’s nice to know something can embarrass you. I was beginning to think you were impervious to such mundane emotions.”
Bull laughed and Dorian could swear he felt it in his core, as if he could breathe the deep, rich sound in like air. “Well, if anyone could embarrass me it’d be these clowns. Hard to travel with someone for years and not ever do anything wrong. And trust me, they have minds like steel traps, especially if it’s something they can rib me for. Dalish is still laughing about the fact I thought when she said her clan communed with the trees she meant they really sat and talked to the trees.”
“A reasonable assumption.”
“Hey, what do I know about the Dalish? Not a lot of them wandering Par Vollen, we mostly get city elves.”
Tevinter slaves. Dorian heard the words even though they went unsaid and he was reminded again of why this was a bad idea. It went so far beyond Alpha/Omega for them. Fuck, their people had been at war for centuries. In an attempt to change the subject Dorian asked, “Speaking of Dalish, I haven’t seen her tonight. She out doing some of that communing?”
If possible Bull’s cheeks turned redder than they had when Krem was teasing him earlier and Dorian watched him look down the table to make certain that Rocky, Stitches and Grim were still involved in their own debate over which city in Nevarra had the prettiest barmaids. Even knowing the men weren’t paying them any attention Bull still cleared his throat a couple of times before admitting, “Her heat started today.”
Dorian’s eyes widened, but before he could say anything else Krem was dropping fresh drinks on the table and Rocky was starting a new tale, something about a giant and Bull in a dress (again) and by the time he was finished telling it Dorian was in tears. There was an easiness about the Chargers, a willingness to put aside the day’s work and just enjoy the time they had now that appealed to Dorian. He supposed it made sense. Mercenary work wasn’t exactly the most stable of careers so when you had time to drink and laugh and flirt with a pretty barmaid you did it.
Not, of course, that it was a barmaid he had his eye on. And somehow as the evening had progressed he had gotten even closer to Bull, his chair now tucked up alongside the Alpha’s so that whenever either of them moved the arms would scrape against each other. Close enough that Dorian was certain that even if he went back to his room now he’d still smell of Bull for a week yet other than their shoulders nudging each other from time to time they hadn’t touched at all.
At least not until Dorian was fidgeting with the new ring Dagna had enchanted for him and Bull, noticing the movement, laid one of his hands over Dorian’s, stilling his fingers and reminding the mage of just how much larger the Alpha was than him. Swallowing hard Dorian looked around to realize that the rest of the Chargers had drifted away one by one leaving just he and Bull to finish their drinks.
Now that Dorian had stopped fidgeting Bull was stroking one huge thumb over the back of Dorian’s hand. “Do I make you nervous?”
Dorian snorted. What kind of a question was that? Of course he did, both for what this little infatuation could cost Dorian and by the fact that at this very moment all Dorian wanted was to feel those hands of Bull’s running across the rest of him. Even so Dorian intended to deny it, to follow Beres teachings and not let the Alpha know he’d gotten to him. Which was why even he was surprised by the words that came from him instead. “Why aren’t you with Dalish tonight?”
Judging by how wide Bull’s eye got Dorian wasn’t the only one shocked by the question, and again Dorian was treated to a slight flush to all of that glorious silver skin. “Skinner has her.”
“But I thought you…”
Bull growled, the noise low and deep in his chest, obviously an Alpha move that was meant to stop further questions but only caused Dorian to arch his brow at Bull. With a shake of his head and a soft sigh Bull finally admitted, “Fine, I’m not with her because I know it makes you uncomfortable.”
Dorian was glad he was sitting already because he was quite certain after that admission a feather could have knocked him over. “Me?”
Bull’s bark of laughter was deep and true. “Don’t act all innocent. I could feel how pissed you were that night I admitted to helping Ilsabeth.”
It was Dorian’s turn to blush. He had been rather…annoyed that night. Still, he couldn’t believe Bull had actually…
Bull’s hand tightened on his own. “Listen Dorian, it’s like this. I admit I don’t know a damn thing about being with a Beta, never done it before. But I want you and I’m not stupid enough to think that I can just expect you to be ok with me fucking every Omega in Skyhold.”
Dorian knew he was staring. He couldn’t help it. In Tevinter an Alpha did what he wanted. Not without consent of course, but he had certainly never heard of an Alpha turning down an Omega to bed a Beta. He supposed it was no different than Cullen and Evie but kaffas, those two were practically mated. This was, well, not that.
“Here’s where you’d normally tell me what you want big guy,” Bull chuckled, but Dorian could feel how tense Bull’s hand was where it rested over his own, how tight the Alpha’s shoulders were, and he knew that his answer truly mattered to the Alpha.
Now or never Pavus. “I’ve never been with an Alpha either so I guess we’ll just have to figure it out as we go along,” Dorian admitted, a small grin forming as he continued, “might I suggest we start by finding someplace more private.”
Laughter was the only possible response as Bull leapt from his chair and dragged Dorian up two flights of stairs, past several startled bar patrons, before flinging open his bedroom door and pulling Dorian inside. The second the door was closed Dorian was thrust up against it, Bull’s body pinning him in place as the Alpha’s scent totally enveloped Dorian. A low moan was torn from the mage and Bull took advantage of the sound to drop his head and kiss Dorian hard. Nothing tentative from either of them, it was a kiss of passion and teeth and a battle for dominance that Bull finally won with a low growl of victory that echoed through Dorian’s chest. Dorian knew he whimpered then, thankful that the sound was swallowed by the Alpha who tasted of ale and vanilla and those tart little oranges that only grew in the summer months at home.
Locking his knees against the need to fall to them Dorian wrapped his arms around Bull’s neck, one hand reaching up to grasp a horn only to have them both pulled away and pushed over his head against the door, one of Bull’s hands easily capturing the pair as he pulled away from the kiss to whisper against Dorian’s lips, “Control, gotta have it this time. Let you explore later.”
Dorian moaned his approval, dropping his head back in submission before he’d even known what he’d done. Bull’s response was instant, a deep growl and his teeth at Dorian’s collarbone, biting just shy of being enough to break the skin and create a bond, before sucking hard. Dorian knew he’d bear the mark for days, just the thought enough to draw another moan from him that had Bull licking over the spot tenderly before backing away. The possessive look in the Alpha’s eye made Dorian’s cock ache. “You look good wearing my mark,” Bull rumbled, bending to kiss Dorian’s lips again, his free hand beginning to work the buckles at Dorian’s shoulder.
Unable to move his hands Dorian bucked his hips, a low groan falling from his lips as Bull pressed one huge thigh between his legs even as the Alpha’s teeth began nipping a path down Dorian’s neck, across his collarbone to the shoulder Bull had finally laid bare. Again the Alpha’s teeth dug in, his bite just the right side of painful as Bull marked him yet again.
Stretching, Dorian was just able to reach Bull’s neck, pressing kisses of his own there before licking his way up to the Alpha’s ear and nipping at the lobe. It was Bull’s turn to moan, the huge Alpha stilling against Dorian as he ran his tongue along the outer shell all the way to the tip where he nipped, again drawing a low moan from the Qunari who pressed even harder against Dorian. Damn, he’d never known a Qunari’s ears were so sensitive.
Then thought was driven from his mind as Bull tugged open his robes, his sure fingers splaying over Dorian’s chest, carefully trimmed claws scraping their way down his body and forcing Dorian to arch into Bull again, his hips thrusting against the Alpha’s thigh in a need for contact, for friction. His cock was aching and he could feel pre-come dampening his leathers as Bull dipped his head down to draw his tongue over one dusky nipple before biting it hard enough to tear a groan from Dorian’s lips.
His leathers now felt impossibly tight and he swore if Bull kept this up he was going to come before he even got them off. “Please Bull,” Dorian barely recognized the voice as his own as he rutted against Bull’s thigh.
Dorian whimpered when instead of moving his hand to Dorian’s laces Bull straightened, his lips taking Dorian’s again in a hard kiss before backing away. There was no play in the Alpha’s voice when he growled, “Gonna let go of your hands now, be a good boy and leave them where they are.”
Yes Alpha. Dorian had to bite his lip to keep from saying the words. Instead he’d nodded and when Bull grinned at him something inside Dorian broke free. It was powerful and strong, like the first time he’d felt magic course through him and he knew that if it made Bull happy he’d hold his damn arms up all night. Bull lowered himself without ever breaking eye contact with Dorian, the approval shining in that one expressive grey eye making Dorian’s chest swell with pride.
From his spot kneeling before Dorian Bull raked his claws down Dorian’s side, leaving slight scores in his skin and making Dorian’s head drop back on a moan. “So fucking sexy Dorian,” Bull rumbled, his breath hot against Dorian’s cock through the leather before the Alpha began to work the laces free. Dorian was tempted to tell him to just break them, fuck, he’d set fire to them himself if it would get Bull’s hand or mouth on him any sooner. But instead Bull was methodical, pulling each lace completely through the loop before reaching for the next lower lace.
When one of Bull’s claws scraped the underside of his cock as he pulled on a lace Dorian’s hips arched and with a chuckle Bull used his second hand to pin Dorian’s hip against the door. “Please…”
“Look at me,” Bull commanded, and Dorian forced his head up, his eyes open just in time to watch Bull pull his cock from his leathers, a low moan of relief falling from his lips just as the Alpha ran his tongue up the entire length of his cock. Resisting the urge to touch Dorian forced his arms to stay where they were and accepted he was at Bull’s mercy as the warrior ran his tongue down around Dorian’s balls before returning his attention to Dorian’s cock. This time when he ran his tongue to the tip he circled the crown before swallowing Dorian down with one long dip of his head.
Again Dorian’s eyes dropped shut and in an instant all that warm, wet heat was gone and Dorian groaned at the loss. “Eyes on me big guy or everything stops.”
Dorian knew it had to be him that whimpered, but he did as Bull demanded and kept his eyes on Bull, watching as the huge Alpha swallowed his cock all the way to the root with no effort at all. Bull’s tongue tracing patterns as he moved his head up and down, both hands now gripping Dorian’s hips so tightly the mage was certain he’d have bruises tomorrow.
Only the approval he saw in the Alpha’s eye kept his own open when Bull hummed, the sensation travelling down his cock and tightening his balls until with a low cry he crested, Bull swallowing every last drop of his come before straightening and wrapping one hand around the back of Dorian’s head he pulled him in for a kiss. Tasting himself over the Alpha’s true scent Dorian mourned its loss, missing the taste of the Alpha as they again fought for dominance of a kiss that went on until they were forced apart by a need for air, Dorian’s head dipping down to rest against Bull’s chest as he drew in deep, shuddering breathes.
He hadn’t even realized his arms were still up until Bull brought them gently down, his strong fingers digging into the muscles at Dorian’s shoulders that had gone tense from holding the position for so long. Wincing as the blood started to flow to his hands again Dorian relaxed, letting Bull scoop him up and carry him to the bed. Bull sat down on the edge of it, settling Dorian in his lap before working those magic fingers of his down Dorian’s arm slowly, massaging feeling back into each inch of skin from shoulder to fingertip. When he finished Bull raised both of Dorian’s hands to his lips and pressed a kiss to the knuckles of each.
“You were so fucking good for me,” Bull practically purred, and again Dorian’s chest tightened with pride. This is what it could be like between an Alpha and Omega. The dangerous thought was through his mind before he could stop it. No. This was about sex and attraction, not mating.
Shit. Dorian realized he’d been growling at himself and looking up at Bull it was obvious the Alpha had heard. Ignoring the small part of him that was screaming this was a bad idea Dorian grinned and dropped to his knees between Bull’s legs. “I believe you said something about me getting to explore.”
Bull’s laughter echoed through the room, drowning out Beres voice in Dorian’s head telling him to never kneel to an Alpha. Besides, this wasn’t just any Alpha, this was Bull and Dorian was pretty certain that if he didn’t get to taste the warrior soon he was going to go insane.
Still, remembering how Bull had teased him, Dorian quickly stripped the belt from around Bull’s waist, making certain that his fingers brushed against the Alpha’s sizable erection several times before he pulled back and set to work on the man’s boots instead. “Dorian…”
Bull’s tone said he knew exactly what the mage was up to but Dorian just kept his head down to hide his smirk. Better the Alpha learn now that Dorian wasn’t a man to be trifled with. Slipping off first one boot, then the first, Dorian took the time to line them up nicely at the end of the bed despite the fact that Bull was now growling at him. The brace took a minute to figure out, in the future it would be easier but to be honest he hadn’t paid much attention to it before now, which was odd since it was obviously something the Bull wore often. Finally having his own expression under control Dorian dared to look up and meet Bull’s gaze. “I refuse to look at these hideous pants one second longer than necessary.”
“So, this wouldn’t be payback for earlier?” Bull smirked, raising his hips obligingly so that Dorian could remove the offending garment.
An answering smirk was Dorian’s only reply and then even that was gone as he got his first look at Bull’s cock and had a moment of panic. He’d known that Alphas tended to be larger than normal but good lord, Bull’s cock was easily half again the size of his and much thicker, and that wasn’t taking into account the knot at the base that right now was only slightly larger around than the rest of his cock but Dorian knew that would expand…
“Dorian, breathe,” Bull chuckled, one large hand settling on the back of Dorian’s neck, grounding him. Closing his eyes for a second he told himself he was being foolish to worry. There was no way he needed to concern himself with Bull’s knot, that was something for mate’s only and as for his size, well Dorian would do his best and he had yet to meet a man who was disappointed with a blowjob.
Opening his eyes he met Bull’s concerned gaze with an embarrassed grin. “Sorry.”
“Hey, I know I’m a lot to handle,” Bull chuckled, letting his hand slide from behind Dorian’s neck to lay against his cheek. “Seriously Dorian, you don’t…”
Dorian turned his head, biting at the flesh of Bull’s palm to silence the man before kissing it better. Oh, he was going to do this alright. Running his hands up the inside of Bull’s thighs he realized just how tense the Alpha was and he pressed a soft kiss to the inside of Bull’s knee. “Relax, Bull.”
Bull chuffed at him, but didn’t say anything and so Dorian continued pressing a trail of kisses along the path his hands had taken, his fingers wrapping around Bull’s hips as much as possible and tugging the Alpha closer to the edge of the bed. When his mouth reached the juncture of Bull’s hip Dorian retreated, ignoring Bull’s soft moan of protest to start again at the other knee, his fingers continuing to knead at the hard flesh of Bull’s hips until with a low groan the Alpha finally gave in and his muscles began to relax.
This time as he reached Bull’s hip Dorian allowed his head to dip, taking in the rich musky scent of the Alpha and barely swallowing a groan of his own. What was it about this man that made him so willing to risk a lifetime of work?
Dorian smiled against Bull’s thigh. He should have known the Alpha wouldn’t beg, but he could hear the unsaid word anyway and he shifted so that he could lift Bull’s balls with one hand, licking the delicate skin below and pulling a deep growl from the Alpha that hid his own moan of appreciation. Suddenly needy rather than concerned he licked around Bull’s sac, rolling his balls gently in his mouth before returning them to his hand, cupping them carefully as he finally ran his tongue up the underside of Bull’s cock. The flesh at the base, his knot, was thicker, not only in size but in texture, which only made the climb more interesting as his tongue felt the skin change to silky soft as he reached the crown. Nipping gently he was unsurprised when one of Bull’s hands fisted in his hair, grinning against the Alpha’s skin at the realization that the 'no touching' thing obviously didn’t go both ways.
Not that he cared, he liked the tug against his scalp as he wrapped his lips around Bull, the Alpha’s sharp cry when Dorian slid Bull’s cock down his throat only encouraging him to try to get another inch in before having to back off. Dorian’s tongue wrapped around Bull’s length as he pulled off, licking a circle around the crown before taking him down again and again.
As Bull’s cries began to deepen Dorian brought his free hand up to wrap around the base of Bull’s cock, tugging in time to his movements as he took as much of the Alpha’s cock down his throat as he could. Bull’s fingers in his hair tightened, but he didn’t force Dorian down, leaving it up to the mage to decide when he had to pull off to draw in another breath of air.
Again the unsaid ‘please’ went straight to Dorian’s core, his own cock twitching in response as he doubled his efforts, hollowing his cheeks as he moved up Bull’s length, humming when he had him buried so far down his throat breathing was impossible, and then with a low groan Bull’s entire body tightened, and Dorian could feel the swelling against his hand where Bull’s knot was growing. Finally, with a low roar Bull came, his legs twitching against Dorian’s side as the mage did his best to swallow everything Bull had to give him.
When he finally pulled away from the Alpha his tongue darting out to catch a stray drop of come that had slipped past him Bull growled and Dorian felt himself hauled through the air, landing on Bull’s lap as the Alpha kissed him hard. His teeth biting at Dorian’s lip demanding entry, his tongue sweeping into Dorian’s mouth with a low growl as if daring the mage to deny him. Knowing when he’d been bested Dorian yielded, melting against Bull with a soft whimper that saw the Alpha freezing for a moment before resuming his onslaught. This time with gentle kisses pressed to Dorian’s jaw, his temple, soft nips to his neck and collarbone.
Arching his neck Dorian allowed Bull access to his throat for the second time. The Alpha’s touch now soothing rather than demanding but still sucking hard enough to leave a matching mark to the one he’d left in a frenzy of passion earlier. As Bull regarded the mark carefully then nuzzled the skin gently Dorian heard the Alpha whisper against his skin, “Mine.”
Dorian didn’t bother to correct him.
Chapter 7: Wants And Needs
What the fuck had he been thinking? Well, the ‘what’ wasn’t really the question, he knew the answer to that one. He had been thinking that he wanted to make certain that every damned Alpha…fuck, every Beta too for that matter, knew that Dorian Pavus was off limits. Even now, a two day ride from Skyhold, just thinking about Dorian sitting in that little nook of his wearing Bull’s mark on his neck was enough to make his chest puff out with pride. And damn, if that didn’t make him sound like the most possessive bastard that had ever lived, he didn’t know what did. The real question was why?
And the problem with ‘why’ was that it was a wyvern trap of complications. Maybe it was because Dorian was a Beta, because sex with him had been all fight and fire instead of compliance and ease. Maybe because for a few minutes there when his cock had been buried down Dorian’s throat he had been able to relax and enjoy the sensation, to lose himself in the moment without having to worry about hurting his partner or if his instinctive needs as an Alpha were going to push to the surface and demand he complete the mating bond the way they inevitably did as he eased the Omega’s through their heat. Or maybe, just maybe, it was that when he’d hauled Dorian up onto his lap, the mage all pliant against him, all thought driven from his head until the only sound he’d been able to make was a whimper, in that moment Bull wanted Dorian for himself. Not because Bull was an Alpha or even that Dorian was a Beta, but because the mage intrigued him like no other.
And that thought, that was the dangerous one. “Sataareth Kadan hass-toh issala ebasit,” Bull muttered to himself. It is my purpose to do what I must for those that are important. It was Bull’s place to serve the Inquisition, his place to comfort the Omegas, his place to satisfy even Dorian’s needs…it was not his place to acknowledge wants of his own. To admit as an Alpha that he was feeling the need for a mate was a weakness he couldn’t allow. To even acknowledge those needs was to start walking a path away from the Qun that could only lead to destruction.
“You ok Chief?”
Bull looked up to find Krem regarding him curiously from the other side of the campfire. Shit. Muttering to himself in Qunlat probably wasn’t the best thing for encouraging your people to think nothing was wrong. “Just thinking Krem.”
“That would explain the smoke,” Krem chuckled, raising a low laugh from the rest of the team.
“Keep that up and you’ll be standing last watch,” Bull grumbled, watching his lieutenant swallow heavily. He never had learned why Krem hated that watch shift so much, but it often proved a good incentive to shut the nosey man up, even if Bull would never actually follow through on it.
“Yep. I’ve got first watch, you lot get some sleep. I’ll wake you when it’s time.”
He watched as the Chargers dispersed to their tents, before moving away from the fire himself. Better night vision farther out and thankfully this little busy mission Cullen had them on was to Crestwood rather than the Fallow Mire. Not that there had been much difference between the two when they’d first visited the area, but after they got the rift closed in the middle of the lake the weather had calmed down significantly. Bull had to admit that when Cullen had come to him two days ago, the morning after he’d woken up alone in his room that still smelled of sex and Dorian, he'd have taken the mission even if it had led to the Fallow Mire.
Now, he only hoped Cullen was right, word had it the old mayor of Crestwood was holed up in a cave south of where they’d found the Grey Warden, Stroud. They should reach it tomorrow and with any luck be back on their way to Skyhold. And Dorian.
Fuck. Bull’s growl was a partial sigh. This is what it had been like for the last two days. His mind was like a damned bow string, he’d pull it away from Dorian Pavus and then, when he wasn’t expecting it, it would snap right back to the Beta. Shitty thing was all that ‘my wants and needs don’t matter’ crap was just that, crap. Shit he was supposed to think because that’s what the Qun demanded when really one night with Dorian Pavus had only served to whet his appetite for the handsome mage and no amount of trying to talk himself out of it was going to change that.
That is, if the mage still wanted him after his rather possessive behavior. He might not have a lot of sexual experience with Betas, but he knew enough of them to know that they didn’t usually take well to Alpha displays. The fact that Dorian had chosen to sneak out of his room in the dead of night wasn’t really a glowing recommendation for the mage wanting anything more to do with him. Although that whimper that Dorian had made when Bull declared him his would tend to disagree with that.
Fuck, that whimper.
Dorian could still hear the word echoing through his brain just like he could still feel where Bull’s teeth and claws had marked his body. Of the two, he knew that deeply growled proclamation would prove more permanent, a brand somewhere deep inside Dorian that he wasn’t certain he could erase. Almost worse, he wasn’t sure he wanted to.
Kaffas, but he was a moron. Three long years he had trained with Beres for a moment such as this. Three years of having his knuckles smacked with the flat of the man’s sword, of having his skin nicked with a blade when he’d dared to tip his head or drop his eyes, of having the Alpha use his innate command to force Dorian to do his bidding until Dorian had been able to resist even the strongest compulsion without breaking a sweat.
And now, one kiss from The Iron Bull and Dorian may as well have dropped to his knees and begged the man to claim him. Giving the powerful Alpha his neck not once but twice. Venhedis. The memory was enough to have Dorian raising his hand to the spot that still throbbed, his fingers pressing lightly against the bruised flesh that was concealed by the highest collared robe he owned.
Almost worse than the bruising was that he had actually allowed himself to fall asleep with the Alpha, waking up curled into Bull like some pampered house cat that had found a spot of sun, one of the warrior’s huge hands wrapped possessively around Dorian’s hip. Thankfully some semblance of sanity had restored itself to Dorian’s brain and he’d forced himself to slip from the room by the light of the moon. Even with Dagna’s new enchantment it had been dangerous to tempt fate like that. To chance that the lotion would remain effective through the night.
Even worse was that the entire way back to his room Dorian had had to force his feet to continue moving forward, the cold night air an unpleasant contrast to Bull’s soothing warmth. And even knowing he should bathe immediately to remove the Alpha’s scent he had instead fallen into his bed, allowing that earthy citrus smell to curl around him, a poor substitute for the man he desperately wanted.
And if his sheets still smelled of the Alpha, well, that was no one’s business but his own.
Chapter 8: When the Past Won't Stay Past
Now there was a tone he didn’t think he’d ever heard from Evie before. Looking up from the pair of books he was currently comparing Dorian frowned slightly at the hesitancy he read in her expression. “Yes?”
“Dorian, there’s a letter you need to see.”
“I’m not so certain you should be showing me those sorts of letters from your Commander,” Dorian smirked, enjoying the blush that rose to her cheeks.
“Not that sort of a letter,” she grumbled, holding out the folded parchment so that Dorian could see the broken seal, a seal he knew only too well. “It’s from your father.”
Dorian regarded the letter as if it were capable of attacking him. Then again, anything to do with family had a tendency to do that. “Yes, yes, I can see that.”
“Don’t you want to know what it says?”
Oh, he could imagine well enough. Setting his books aside he stood and walked toward the railing that led down to Solas’ domain. It spoke volumes to Dorian’s state of mind that even the uncomfortably foreign Alpha’s scent was soothing compared to the nerves that just seeing his father’s seal had caused. Closing his eyes he discretely ran his hand over the side of his throat, his fingers digging in to Bull’s fading marks, the slight bite of discomfort more calming still. Some small part of him wished Bull's scent hadn't already faded. “No, I most certainly do not.”
Evelyn sighed heavily behind him before moving to his side, resting her forearms on the banister in a duplicate of his own position. “He has sent a retainer to meet with you Dorian. In Redcliffe.”
“Absolutely not,” Dorian hissed, straightening and drawing in a deep breath before turning to lean against the banister. “You’ll have to trust me on this Evie, there is nothing that man can say that I want to hear.”
“He went to the Chantry first Dorian, Mother Giselle brought me his letter,” Evelyn admitted on a sigh before straightening herself, one hand moving to lay gently on Dorian’s arm. “Your father is accusing us of holding you against your will.”
“Fasta vass,” Dorian hissed, no longer able to remain in place and instead beginning to pace back and forth from his nook to the railing. “Festis bei umo canavarum. Manipulative bastard. Of course he went to the Chantry first. Can’t have it appear as though his son leaving was in any way because of his own actions. And by accusing you of kidnapping me. Venhedis. He leaves me no choice.”
Stopping his pacing to thrust his hand out for the letter Dorian growled, “Fine, I will meet him. But if he tries to drag me back to Tevinter I cannot promise that Redcliffe will remain standing.”
Evelyn gasped before her eyes narrowed. “Would he do that?”
Dorian’s bark of laughter was dark. “You have obviously never met my father. I would pray you never will.”
“Oh, I will,” Evelyn swore, the twist of her lips anything but a smile. “I’m going with you and if he thinks to take you from me we shall show him the might of the Inquisition.”
Four very long days later Dorian was watching Evelyn drink a very palatable Sun Blonde Vint-1 directly out of the bottle and found himself wondering if she was regretting her unconditional backing of him. He would have spared her the scene with his father if he could have, but she had been so determined and in the end he had decided to allow her to accompany him. Only her. After all, while it would have been an easy thing to make one Tevinter mage disappear, his father could hardly kidnap the head of the Inquisition.
Still, if he had known before leaving Skyhold that it would actually be his father rather than some paid lackey he would be meeting he would have gone alone. Would have spared Evelyn the knowledge she now possessed, not only about his history but about his very nature.
As if reading his mind she passed the bottle his direction and asked, “So, an Omega. How does that even work?”
He had known the question was coming. To be honest he was surprised she’d been able to keep herself from asking the question during the two nights it had taken them to return to Skyhold. At the rate his secret was being parceled out he might as well embroider a banner to announce it to the entire keep. Tipping the bottle back against his lips he drank deeply before leaning back against the couch. “Well, Evie, it’s like this. There are three types of…”
“Not like that you prat,” she growled, kicking at his leg with one of her feet before settling the pair of them in his lap. “How is it you pass as a Beta?”
“Honestly? Years of training. I was lucky I guess that I had just passed my Harrowing when I matured and not still in the Circle so my parents were able to keep the fact that I was actually an Omega secret.”
“I didn’t leave the estate for over three years,” Dorian admitted, passing the bottle back to her when he heard her surprised gasp.
“But how do you, you know, not smell like an Omega?”
“Suppressants and scent maskers. I have to use them every day but they do the trick.”
“Oh Dorian.” He heard the plethora of words behind those two. Oh Dorian, how sad. Oh Dorian, that’s horrible. Oh Dorian, you shouldn’t have to pretend to be something you aren’t.
This time he grabbed the bottle before she even held it out to him, draining it before turning his attention to the fire roaring before them. He couldn’t stand to see the pity in her eyes. “Yes, well, as you heard me tell father. Better a lifetime of hiding who I am than sold off in private to maintain the family pride, or worse.”
“Dorian, what could possibly be worse?”
Such a simple question and yet it unlocked such a bounty of memories. Of going to his father’s study one day after his lessons with Beres. He couldn’t remember exactly when but it had been sometime in that first year, when what was expected of him had seemed impossible. He was who he was and no amount of wishing on his father’s part could change that.
Except when Dorian had gotten to the study he found the place in disarray. If there was anything his father couldn’t stand, other than his son being an Omega, it was for anything to be out of place. Even the housekeepers knew that when they dusted everything must be returned to the exact spot it had originally occupied. For the man would know, he always knew.
An unexpected mess was perhaps a weak excuse for invading his father’s privacy but he had done so anyway, looking over the papers with a growing sense of horror. It would appear that there was ancient magic that could possibly make Dorian…acceptable. Not normal, not a Beta, but a form of blood magic that exact an extreme change. An Omega to an Alpha. Still not optimal but at least it was possible for an Alpha to petition to be Archon, something no Omega could dream of doing. Of course such change was not without risk. Insanity, instability of his magic, death.
He had wanted to flee that day, to refuse to accept that his father found Dorian’s possible death preferable to him being an Omega, but had instead moved each piece of paper back to its exact original location before slowly making his way back to his own room. From then on Beres’ lessons had been easier to accept. After all, what was a life spent pretending to be something he was not compared to actually losing everything that made him him?
Dorian startled at the feel of Evie’s hand against his cheek. When had she moved on the couch to sit directly beside him? Her hands wrapped around the sides of his face, fingers soft as silk. “Dorian, are you alright? Do you need me to go get Cullen?”
Dorian chuckled darkly. Two days. She’d known he was an Omega for two days and already she was trying to treat him differently. “No, I do not need you to go get an Alpha to calm the silly Omega.”
His words were sharper than he had intended, as was evidenced by the way she rocked back and the frown that drew her brows together. “I didn’t. That is. Fuck, I’m sorry.”
Dorian’s laugh this time was much brighter. “I don’t think I’ve ever heard you curse before.”
“Yes, well, sometimes just call for it,” she admitted, drawing closer again and laying her hand on his arm. “You do know that it makes no difference to me don’t you? Whether you’re Omega or Beta or even Alpha. It’s you I trust at my back.”
“Thank you Evie, truly.”
“Speaking of Alpha’s though, I have to ask…how’s that work with Bull?”
“I don’t really know Evie,” Dorian admitted with a soft shrug. “I’ve never encountered anyone like him before. And I know it’s foolish and I’m going to end up getting burned and still…”
“You could try telling him the truth.”
“Oh yes, because that’s worked so well for me so far. Look at you Evie, you’ve known what I am for two days and you’re already trying to protect me. What do you think Bull would do? Can you see him letting me follow you into battle? Or even worse, lumping me in with the rest of the Omegas here at Skyhold. Take a number, wait your turn?”
“Dorian, I hardly think…”
“You won’t tell him will you? You have to promise me Evie or I might as well have just gone home with father and allowed him to sell me off.”
“Dorian!” His name was followed by a hard smack to his shoulder. They stared at each other for several long moments before Evie finally sighed, “Fine. Your secrets are yours to hold or reveal, but I think you’re wrong about Bull.”
“Yes, well, we’ll have to just agree to disagree on that one my dear,” Dorian muttered, climbing to his feet. “For now, you’ll have to excuse me. I believe I’m done with the talking portion of the evening and wish to start with the becoming so inebriated I can’t remember my own name portion.”
“Dorian, you don’t have to go,” Evelyn countered, pulling the startled mage in for a hard hug. “You could stay here.”
“I’m not so certain your Commander would appreciate that,” Dorian chuckled, refusing to accept the security she offered. No, this trip had done too much to tear at the walls Dorian had erected around that softer part of himself. He needed time to build them back up. Time. And wine.
Neither of which explained how he ended up in the tavern. He had intended to go raid Evie’s wine stash when he’d left her room only to find himself walking out of the great hall instead and right into the tavern. The loud, smelly tavern that’s only choices for wine were white and red. Of course the tavern also held Bull, and while he wasn’t quite willing to admit that some part of him had needed to see the that familiar face as much as he needed the drink he was currently working on, he was willing to admit that just the sight of the warrior had pulled a relieved sigh from his lips.
He had ignored the Bull’s blatant invitation to join he and the Chargers, at least that was what Dorian assumed the Alpha meant by arching his brow at Dorian and patting at his thigh as if Dorian would truly perch upon him like a bird. Even if Dorian were so inclined, which he was not, he wasn’t up for the Chargers tonight. Instead he had taken the table just inside the door, shifting to the seat closest to the wall and just letting himself breathe.
Though he would deny it if asked, the noise in the tavern ended up being just what Dorian needed. No one talking directly to him, no difficult questions to answer or theories to contemplate, just a soft background noise that told him he wasn’t alone. The familiar voices, not only the Chargers, but some of Cullen’s men and even Sera, braying about something from the second floor, all serving to remind him that he was in Skyhold. That he was safe.
And, if he was being honest with himself, which apparently two bottles of wine was going to force him to be, there was Bull. The Alpha’s deep, clear laugh at something the Chargers were saying, his baritone voice responding to a question, not quite loud enough for Dorian to follow the conversation but a noticeably unique voice from the other patrons. And the smell, sweet Maker, even across the room Dorian could smell that scent he’d been missing for almost a week. The rich earthy scent that had faded from his sheets too quickly, the citrus notes that both made Dorian sad because they reminded him of home and pleased because they were just so much a part of Bull it would be wrong not to smell them.
Dorian found himself wondering if they had the same little bitter fruit in Par Vollen, if Bull even knew that he smelled like citrus. Waving at Ilsabeth for another bottle he tipped the last of his current one into his glass.
“Think you’ve had enough big guy.”
Venhedis. How had Bull gotten across the room without him noticing? Frowning up at the Qunari he grumbled, “I believe I'll know when I’ve had enough.”
Bull crouched down next to the table so he could look Dorian in the eye. “Boss said you were dealing with family shit.”
Dorian felt a moment of panic. Already? How could Bull know already? Certainly Evie wouldn’t have told him… “I don’t know where you get your information…”
Bull’s sharp look cut Dorian off. “Cullen told me that’s where you and the Boss were when we got back yesterday. I don’t pretend to know much about families but I know that stuff can be fucked up.”
Dorian let out a sharp bark of laughter. “Yes, well, that’s one way of describing it. Another would be ‘bad enough to need that third bottle of wine’.”
“There are better ways to deal with things Dorian,” Bull’s voice was a low rumble, soft enough to keep their conversation private even in the crowded tavern.
“And I’m supposed to believe this is a selfless gesture?” Dorian chuckled.
“Oh no, done right, it’s going to be satisfying for both of us.”
Fuck, but that deep tone of Bull’s was doing things to Dorian, things that Dorian really should be ignoring. “Is that so?”
“Oh yeah,” Bull growled, one hand slipping from the table to squeeze Dorian’s thigh.
“And if I’m disappointed?”
The momentary look of shock on Bull’s face was worth the taunt, even if it did drag an Alpha growl out of Bull that had Dorian pinned to his seat. “Watch yourself before you end up over my knee.”
It was a bad idea. Dorian knew it was a bad idea even before he opened his mouth and still the words poured out, his own voice a seductive purr. “And if that’s where I want to be?”
He swore this time his feet didn’t even hit the stairs Bull had him up them so fast, a low warning growl echoing from the Alpha’s chest at anyone foolish enough to get too close as he pulled Dorian into his room, slamming the mage against the door again and branding him with a kiss so hot Dorian felt like his bones had melted.
By the time Dorian slipped from Bull’s room in the pre-dawn hours he had to admit Bull had been right. His whole body ached, his skin covered in bruises and bite marks that would take days to fade but his meeting with his father was only a distant memory. Burned away by the feeling of Bull’s hand on his ass, by the moans he had pulled from the Alpha and the way Bull had felt moving inside him. But most importantly, by the way his name had fallen from the warrior’s lips as he’d climaxed, as if Dorian were something precious and important in his world instead of a useless Omega.
Chapter 9: It's Just Stew (And Other Lies You Tell Yourself)
Bull looked from the bowl of rapidly cooling stew to the door of the tavern and back again. His own bowl long empty and removed, he frowned as he wondered what was keeping Dorian only to snort at his own stupid question a moment later. They had ridden in from the Western Approach just before sundown, and knowing the ‘Vint he was probably still scrubbing the sand from between his toes. Either that or putting on that lotion he insisted on slathering on his body twice a day.
Bull swore he’d never seen a man more obsessed with his skin than Dorian Pavus. Not, of course, that he was complaining. There was certainly something sexy in the contrast of all that silky skin covering hard muscle. The way his claws could rake down Dorian’s side in one smooth movement, the mage arching beneath him as Bull’s hands gripped his hips hard enough to bruise. Oh yeah, there was a lot to be said for the care Dorian put into himself…even if it did mean the meal Bull had tried to provide for him was getting cold.
Raising his hand to flag down Ilsabeth he ignored the annoyed look on her face when he asked her to please heat the stew back up and passed her a few coins along with the bowl. As expected, the coins made all the difference and she even offered to bring back some fresher slices of bread when she returned.
“Gee Chief, I don’t remember you ever checking to make sure my food was hot enough,” Krem teased.
“That’s ‘cause he’s never ordered food for you,” Rocky volunteered from the end of the table.
“Guessing you’re not pretty enough Krem,” Skinner added, batting her eyelashes at Bull and making the entire table erupt into laughter.
“Yeah, yeah, keep it up and I won’t be buying the next round either,” Bull grumbled. He knew giving him shit was just the team’s way of welcoming him home, but he wasn’t so certain Dorian would be as understanding. The ‘Vint still had a tendency to be prickly, and the last thing Bull wanted their first night back in Skyhold was to upset him. After all, those damned tents were only so thick and Bull was hoping that maybe after a few drinks he could convince Dorian to join him upstairs for a little catching up of a different sort.
“’er you go Alpha,” Ilsabeth said, sliding a now steaming bowl of stew onto the table in front of the empty seat, a hunk of bread balanced on the edge.
“Thanks Beth, think you could get us another round?”
“Aye, back in a moment,” she nodded, letting one of her hands trail over Bull’s shoulder as she walked off.
The touch meant nothing, a little familiarity among old lovers, but of course that was the moment Dorian picked to step through the door of the tavern, his eyes narrowing in displeasure at witnessing the woman’s hand on Bull. Arching his brow at Dorian Bull gave no other indication he knew that Dorian was annoyed, but he had to admit, there was a little part of him that liked the Beta’s possessiveness.
It wasn’t something Bull was used to. Not that Omegas couldn’t get possessive, it was just that Bull always made certain they knew where they stood with him. He wasn’t in the market for a mate and either they were ok with that or they found another Alpha to meet their needs. But with Dorian it was different. Fuck, the Beta wouldn’t even spend the entire night with him, always disappearing before morning in a clear sign that he wasn’t looking for anything more than what Bull had to give.
But knowing where he stood didn’t mean that a little jealousy wasn’t sexy. Especially the way it made the ‘Vint’s eyes darken, and Bull could swear the Beta put a little extra sway to his hips as he crossed the crowded tavern to take the empty seat next to Bull.
Only after sitting did Dorian notice the food sitting in front of him, his eyes flying to Bull’s in confusion. “I’m sorry, am I interrupting something?”
Shit. Bull hadn’t thought about what it would look like to Dorian to have Beth walking away and dinner already on the table. A dinner the ‘Vint didn’t ask for. Suddenly uncertain as to if he had overstepped Bull mumbled, “Thought you might be hungry.”
Even with his years of training Bull wasn’t certain what emotion flitted across Dorian’s face before the mage turned from him to stare at the bowl as if it were going to bite him. “You don’t have to eat it Dorian. I just thought since we didn’t stop for lunch you might want something.”
“Don’t let him fool you ‘Vint,” Krem crowed, “he’s had that damn bowl reheated twice already. Pretty sure if you don’t eat it now Ilsabeth’s gonna make the Chief wear it.”
“Shut…up…Krem,” Bull growled, aware of the warmth that was heating his cheeks and relieved Dorian hadn’t looked up to notice yet. Veshedan. He’d just wanted to make sure the man had some food in his belly, he didn’t understand why it had to be such a big fucking deal.
“’er we go loves,” Ilsabeth called out, slipping between Bull and Dorian to drop fresh tankards on the table, eliciting a frenzy of motion from the Chargers as they all claimed a new drink, Bull’s hands slapping down over two of them quickly, sliding one towards Dorian and taking one for himself.
By the time Beth had walked away Dorian had the spoon in his hand, his eyes finally meeting Bull’s shyly. “Thank you Bull.”
Lifting his own drink Bull watched the mage begin to eat from over the edge of his tankard, the soft moan Dorian made as he swallowed the first bite of hot stew sending a warm spike of satisfaction through Bull’s chest.
Dorian cast a cautious glance over at Bull as he dunked a piece of bread into his stew and popped it into his mouth. Another of Beres’ lessons thrown away. Following up his bite of food with a drink of the Ferelden ale Bull knew he liked, even though the Alpha said it tasted like piss and demanded something darker for himself and the Chargers, Dorian wondered if Bull even knew what he was doing.
Somehow Dorian doubted it. As far as Dorian knew Qunari Alphas didn’t mate, so certainly the fact that at some point in this last mission Bull had made it his mission to make certain that Dorian ate had to be a coincidence. It had been an easy enough thing to shrug off while it was just the four of them around a campfire, where often whoever cooked just dished up food for everyone. But this, this was premeditated and the fact that Bull had had his plate warmed…vishante kaffas, it had taken every bit of training Dorian had ever had to not make a big deal of it.
The dangerous part wasn’t even that small part of him that had screamed for him to push the offering away, that Beta’s didn’t accept food and drink offerings from Alphas. No, the danger instead lay in the fact that an even larger portion of him was pleased by the gesture. A low slow warmth starting in his belly at the thought of Bull selecting a meal and a drink for him, that the Alpha cared enough that when he finally arrived the food was still warm, that even now Bull was watching him with a soft smile on his face that said he was pleased Dorian had accepted his offering.
Kaffas. It was not an offering. They were not courting. It was simply an act of consideration, nothing to get himself all worked up over. Certainly something The Iron Bull had done dozens of times for the Chargers.
Shifting his attention across the table Dorian saw the concerned look in Krem’s eyes, the man’s words from several weeks earlier returning to Dorian. He had told the young warrior then that this wasn’t a game, and he stood by that.
But whatever this was he was afraid the stakes had just been raised.
Chapter 10: The Problem With Secrets
Dorian had that feeling again. The one that always crept up on him when something major in his life was about to happen. Which made absolutely no sense because today wasn’t about him in the least. It was about the Inquisition and the Qun and Bull. Yet the moment he saw that little rat-like elf, Gatt, he got the feeling. Even before the man looked at Dorian as if he wasn’t worthy to breathe the same air as the rest of them, and even before the bastard insisted on calling Bull ‘Hissrad’. But most importantly, before he gleefully told Evie that Hissrad meant liar. A move that almost got him a fireball to the face. Dorian only refrained from delivering it because Evie was giving him that look that said she knew what he was thinking and that this was why she almost left him in Skyhold.
Hah. Like he would have actually let the pair of them leave him behind when it came to the Qun. Even if Evie hadn’t said she wanted him there as a counterpoint for whoever the Qunari sent as a contact, Dorian would have followed. Much as he might trust Bull, he didn’t have much use for the rest of the Qunari, especially the Ben-Hassrath. There was no way he would have left his lover and his closest friend to face them alone.
Which was why, when they finally cut through the last of the Venatori that stood between them and lighting the signal fire for the Qunari dreadnaught, Dorian kept his eyes on that little weasel Gatt. Saw the spark of jealousy in the man’s eyes when Bull crowed about how the Chargers already had their signal fire lit, Gatt’s only comment that Bull had given his men the easier task. But it was the way the man’s shoulders tensed when Bull lit his own fire that really put Dorian on edge.
The group’s focus was on the dreadnaught and the way it decimated the incoming Venatori vessel, the explosion leaving no doubt there would be no survivors. But even as Bull was smiling and commenting about it bringing back old times Dorian’s eyes were locking onto the Venatori mages stealthily working their way up the beach toward the Chargers. “Bull!”
Suddenly sober, Bull’s one eye took in everything, the number of mages, their proximity to the Qunari dreadnaught, the fact that only the Chargers stood a chance of actually engaging them but the sheer number left no doubt it would be a suicide mission. “Shit.”
“They still have time Bull, call them back,” Evie cried, her attention bouncing from Bull to the advancing Venatori.
“You do that and they’ll take out the dreadnaught. Your men need to hold the line Hissrad.”
Dorian growled. There was no surprise in Gatt's voice, he’d been expecting this. Dorian took two steps, putting himself between the elf and Bull. “Fuck the dreadnaught Bull, those are the Chargers. Sound the retreat.”
“Damned Omega, this is why your kind should be seen and not heard,” Gatt hissed, shoving Dorian out of his way to get close to Bull, whose attention was now on Dorian rather than his men.
“Dorian?” Confusion ran rampant in Bull’s expression as he looked from Gatt to Dorian and back again.
“Sound the retreat Bull,” Dorian practically begged. If this was to be the moment he lost Bull, he would not let the Alpha lose his team too.
“Now Bull,” Evie chimed in, the pair of them sighing in relief as Bull raised the horn to his lips and called the Chargers back to safety.
“I trusted you Hissrad.” Gatt’s voice was flat, defeat radiating from the man’s very pores. “Half the Ben-Hassrath believed you had turned but I stuck up for you, I told them you would never become Tal-Vashoth.”
“You trusted him so much you set him up you mean, provided this little test to make certain he was still loyal,” Dorian growled, electricity sparking at his fingertips and curling around his wrists as he struggled not to take the elf down.
“You’re one to talk of trust, Omega,” Gatt spat out, glaring at Dorian. “Why couldn’t you just stay in Tevinter and fulfill your purpose?”
Dorian took a confused step backward before he could stop himself but he made up for it with the venom in his voice when he asked, “What would a conniving bastard like you know about purpose?”
“Even as a slave in Tevinter I outranked you Omega. Still, the Qun tried to give you a reason for being, sent you Beres-Taar to make certain you learned well, that you would be in place when you were needed and even then you went and ruined everything,” Gatt hissed, taking another step toward Dorian only to find his path blocked by Bull.
“Beres,” Dorian whispered, his magic sputtering out as realization sparked.
No, no, no, his mind screamed. Memories of the huge Qunari flashing through his mind as he struggled to find fault with Gatt’s words. The problem is they made sense. Horrible, Qunari-type sense. If you can’t beat your enemy in open warfare you do it behind the scenes. Add in his parents desperation to prove Dorian a Beta and what better blackmail existed? Father and son brought to heel for a lifetime in one stunning moment.
A sharp, bitter laugh exploded from Dorian. Venhedis, fifteen years spent hiding who he was and the whole time the entirety of the Qunari Empire was aware of what he truly was. It would be humorous if it wasn’t so fucking pathetic.
“Dorian?” The absolute betrayal Dorian saw reflected in that one expressive eye of Bull’s almost dropped him to the ground. Apparently while he’d been having his breakdown Bull had decided Gatt was telling the truth, and still Bull's tone begged Dorian to tell him differently.
Unable to stomach maintaining Bull’s gaze Dorian turned his attention back to Gatt. Here at least he had done something right, by fleeing Tevinter he had made any future blackmail of his family impossible. “I’m so sorry to have ruined your plans for me to become a puppet of the Qun.”
“You are not worthy of the Qun,” Gatt growled, his piercing gaze flipping in an instant from Dorian’s stunned face to Bull. “And you, you gave up everything for this? A lying Tevinter Altus? You used to be great Hissrad, how far you have fallen.”
Only Evie’s hand on Dorian’s arm stopped him from frying the elf where he stood. He felt the way Evelyn straightened, everything about her the Inquisitor as she ground out, “His name is The Iron Bull.”
“Yes, yes I suppose it is,” Gatt whispered sadly, disappearing in a flash of powder that left the three of them staring at each other.
Well, technically Evie was staring at Dorian, uncertain whether she should stay or go, Dorian was staring at Bull, not certain if there was anything to stay for and Bull, he was staring at some point over Dorian’s shoulder. After months of feeling Bull’s focus on him Dorian knew the difference and it hurt. Still, he couldn’t say he hadn’t been warned, he had been the one who insisted on playing with fire.
How long the three stood there Dorian wasn’t sure, their armor drenched with rain and blood, the flames from the burning bits of dreadnaught finally extinguished as if the ship had never been there to begin with.
“Is what he said true?” The resignation Dorian heard in Bull’s voice said that he knew it was. The man was a spy for Andraste’s sake, he knew a lie when he heard it.
Yes, but I didn’t mean it. Yes, but I didn’t set out to deceive you. Yes, but you have to understand. Dorian sighed as he realized all the excuses in the world weren’t going to fix this and settled on, “Yes.”
More silence, broken only by Evie finally stepping away. Dorian didn’t dare to move, knowing that if nothing else he owed Bull this. “You know how I feel about Omegas, you let me turn away my friends when they needed me to try and make this work with us and all the time you were lying to me.”
“Bull, you have to understand, I’ve lived my entire life as a Beta…”
“But you’re not a Beta,” Bull roared, his gaze finally coming to rest on Dorian. The disappointment and pain Dorian read in Bull’s one silver orb had the Omega shaking. He had failed the Alpha, had lied to his lover, had betrayed Bull and Dorian realized that while any one of those might be forgivable, the combination left no room for redemption.
The Alpha shook his head sadly, his voice was resigned as he whispered, “You aren’t the man I thought you were.”
“Because I’m an Omega?”
“No, because you’re a liar.”
Bull had already turned to follow Evie by the time Dorian hit his knees. It would seem his premonition had been right all along. Today he would lose what was most important to him and it was all his own damned fault.
They had been back in Skyhold for almost a week by the time Bull got wind that the guard rotation had been changed last minute. Seemed a couple of Cullen’s men got ahold of some bad meat and had to had to be taken to the healers leaving two new guards to walk the stretch near his room. Could be nothing, but he had seen the disappoint on Gatt’s face that day, had heard the disapproval in the man’s tone only two days earlier when he’d shown back up to confirm that any possible alliance between the Qunari and the Inquisition was now as dead in the water as those men on the dreadnaught.
Sighing heavily, Bull drained the last of his ale before standing, letting himself lean a little harder against the table than he normally would have, his words holding just a trace of a slur as he bid the Chargers goodnight and headed for the door. Unfortunately, just as he reached for the handle the door swung open, the Boss on the other side. “Bull, just the man I was looking for.”
“Listen Boss, now’s not a good time,” Bull muttered quietly, following it up with a too loud laugh. After all, could be nothing or it could be everything and he really didn’t want the Boss caught up in ‘everything’.
“It’ll just take a few minutes, I’ll walk with you,” Evie encouraged, the look in her eyes saying he wasn’t going to get rid of her.
Shit. Careful to keep his stumbles in a direction away from the Boss he ignored the concerned glances she was giving him, her hand reaching out to steady him when he actually missed a couple of stairs. “Bull, are you sure you’re alright?”
Just the edge of a shadow against the battlement warned Bull that he had been right in being cautious and he thrust the Boss away from him only seconds before the pair of assassins descended on him. Slamming the one on his left with a fist to the chest the man staggered back and Bull felt the bite of a dagger to his shoulder as he pulled the throwing axe from his hip, snarling with pleasure when he heard it slam wetly into the second assassin’s chest, dropping him instantly.
“I’ve got it,” he growled, ignoring the taunting of the second assassin to rush the man, tossing him from the battlement before tearing the blade from his shoulder and throwing it over as well. Fucking amateurs.
“Bull, are you alright?”
“Fine Boss, sorry you had to get caught up in that,” he grumbled, kicking the remaining assassin to assure himself the man was dead before removing his axe from his chest and wiping it off on his pants.
“Those men were dressed like Cullen’s guards.”
“Yeah, Tallis. Ben-Hassrath assassins. I noticed a change in the guard rotation and figured something like this might happen.”
“You knew they’d send assassins after you?”
“Yeah, can hardly call this trash assassins though,” Bull growled, kicking the dead man again for good measure. “No Tallis worth his weight would leave a shadow.”
“You should let a healer take a look at that,” Evie chided as Bull stuck his finger in the wound and pulled it away wet with blood.
“Naw, it’ll heal,” he shrugged. Fucking thing stung like hell though. Damn saar-qamek. Only thing that was worse than the sting would have been the hallucinations before his death if he hadn’t already been taking the antidote.
The Boss growled, a cute little sound but Bull knew better than to laugh, especially considering the determined look in her eyes. “At least let me bandage it.”
“Alright Boss, if it’ll make you feel better,” he agreed, motioning for her to precede him into his room.
Sitting there ten minutes later Bull had to admit he was surprised, and a little impressed. He wasn’t certain exactly why the Boss had been so insistent on talking to him tonight but so far she’d remained quiet while she cleaned and sutured his wound. He’d told her she didn’t need to bother with that, he’d had worse cuts screwing around in bed, but she’d just growled again and he’d let her tend to him.
He knew how she got, it was part of the whole Beta thing, needing to take care of the Alpha. Bull had certainly seen her pull that growling routine on Cullen enough times when the man failed to take care of himself to her expectations. A vision of Dorian popped into his mind from the last time they’d been out on a mission together. The way the mage had obsessed over a cut on Bull’s forearm left by a lucky slice by one of those Freeman bastards. You’d have thought he was going to bleed to death from the way the mage had tutted and fussed.
Shit. He really didn’t want to be thinking about Dorian right now. Somehow they’d managed to avoid each other ever since that damned day he’d been declared Tal-Vashoth and he was just fine with them continuing the trend.
“There you go, all done,” the Boss chirped, her hand resting lightly against the bandage she’d wrapped his shoulder in. “I still think you should see a healer.”
“If I see a healer I don’t get a scar…ladies love scars.”
The Boss snorted. “Ladies love a man who is smart enough to know when he needs a healer.”
Bull laughed. “Just doesn’t have the same ring to it Boss.”
“Yes, well, either way, you’ll live.”
The room fell silent again as Bull watched her gather up the thread and scissors, returning them to the dresser before turning her attention to the blood soaked rags. He really did appreciate her help. It’s not that he couldn’t have bandaged himself up but it was a bitch to get his own shoulder. When she turned back to face him, her eyes trailing over the stark white bandage Bull opened his mouth to tell her that only to find himself asking instead, “Did you know?”
The way her eyes narrowed as she dropped down onto the edge of his bed told him not only did she know what he was asking, but the answer to his question was...
Bull frowned. He knew he should be pissed that she’d known and kept it from him, but then again, she was the Boss, there was a lot of shit she knew that didn’t trickle his way. “When? Did he tell you from the beginning?”
She looked like she was debating not answering, and he supposed it was a rather rude question to ask. What went on between she and Dorian wasn’t really his business. But if Dorian had been upfront with her while lying to Bull…well, it was hard to say something so fucked up could be any worse, but it just would be. He wasn’t certain what she read on his face but she finally sighed and admitted, “No Bull, not even. It was when we went to see his father.”
Crap. That was months ago, but still after he and Bull had started…well, whatever the fuck it had been. “I don’t understand Boss, how can you still trust him when he lied about something like that?”
“For what it’s worth Bull, I encouraged him to tell you the truth. But Dorian..." The Boss broke off, her eyes distant as she sighed softly before continuing, "Bull, you should have heard the things his father was saying. It was like Dorian wasn’t even a person, just a possession to be traded for the most status. I can’t, won’t, say anymore. It’s not my story to tell, but I can tell you this Bull. Dorian didn’t lie to you to hurt you, he just didn’t know how to tell you and not lose what the two of you had."
“Yeah. That worked out well.”
“He’s still the same man Bull. He was afraid once you heard 'Omega' it would be the only thing you saw." The look on her face said that as far as she was concerned that's exactly what Bull had done.
He didn't blame her for not realizing it had nothing to do with the fact that Dorian was an Omega and everything to do with the lie that concealed it. How could he expect her to understand that he knew it sounded hypocritical for a man who'd spent his life enmeshed in lies to make them a hard limit, but he'd seen where they led. And he'd seen the outcome of those actions. Too many outcomes for one lifetime.
And it certainly wasn't because Bull felt like he should have known better, should have somehow felt the truth. Because that would just be pride talking and it couldn't be that, right?
"At the end of the day I trust him because whether he's Beta or Omega he's still the best mage I've ever seen. And really, the only one he's hurting keeping up this lie is himself.”
Chapter 11: Omega Doesn't Mean Weak
Ok, so between being sick for the last three days and being about an hour away from leaving for an extended weekend, I have not been able to get the chapters pre-posted to continue to come out daily while I'm gone. So, if I'm lucky, I'll have an internet connection this weekend but the odds of that are low and so, this may be the last update until Tuesday.
I apologize in advance for leaving the tale where it is ending at and letting you wonder for the weekend but as always I appreciate the support this piece has gotten, it has been tremendous and I promise to be back by late Tuesday with an update :)
Dorian took being bumped from Evie's preferred team with his typical aplomb. Which basically meant he raided her personal wine cellars every time the team left without him and spent the entire first night drinking and regretting the moment he'd dared start believing he could actually have something of his own that being an Omega wouldn't ruin.
Then, the next day, he'd pull himself together and get back to work. After all, those were his countrymen they were fighting and there were still some answers Dorian believed could only be found in the Tevinter texts he managed to slowly collect. As luck would have it, he was the only person in Skyhold with more than a passing knowledge of Tevene, which made him the logical choice to remain behind and try to learn the truth of who Corypheus had once been. That it made sense didn't make it any easier to accept though.
But while he’d rather be in the field with Evie, he acknowledged this entire situation was of his own making. It would hardly have been fair for Evie to drop Bull from the team instead. He just hated that whether from his own stubborn pride or some sense of misplaced guilt on Evie's part, they had begun to drift apart. Which was why Dorian was surprised to receive the summons to her personal quarters only two days before he knew she was scheduled to depart on another mission. The last time he'd been in her quarters had been after their dismal return from Redcliffe. Maker, had it really been over six months ago?
It felt petty to admit that there was a small part of him that debated ignoring her summons, but in the end he found himself climbing those seemingly endless flight of stairs and knocking at her door at the appointed time. The truth was he missed her. Missed their easy friendship and the fact that after that first night back in Skyhold after learning the reality of his nature, she had kept her word not to treat him any differently.
When he heard her yell for him to come in Dorian frowned slightly, usually she met him at the door, only too happy for any excuse to vault over the railing in a move that still gave Cullen heart palpitations. She had at least finally stopped leaping over the library railing down to Solas' domain, but only after she had landed on the elf one day after misjudging his location. Dorian chuckled at the memory as he let himself into her quarters only to face one final flight of stairs. Kaffas, if he had to climb these things everyday he might start leaping from place to place too.
Dorian was somewhat surprised to find Evelyn sitting behind her huge desk, almost buried by paperwork. He didn't think he'd ever seen her actually working at the damned thing, which begged the question, "Am I intruding?"
"Maker no," Evie hissed, hurrying to her feet and around that monstrosity of a desk to wrap him in a hug. When it went on longer than would normally be acceptable Dorian frowned again, wrapping his arms tighter around her and feeling her slight tremor.
"Fasta vass, Evie, are you alright?"
Burying her face in his chest he could feel her scenting him which only made the scowl on his face grow. Something was definitely wrong here. Giving him a decidedly wry grin she asked, "Do you want the polite answer or the honest one?"
"Really, Evelyn?" Dorian growled softly, managing to pull away from her enough that he could get them both settled on the couch in front of the fire. "Did something happen with Cullen?"
"No, no, of course not," she whispered, turning to stare into the fire before hastily wiping at her eyes. "I've just missed you."
"Yes, well I can quite understand that, after all I am infinitely missable. But that is hardly cause for tears."
Her chuckle was tense, but at least her shoulders relaxed a bit. Still, when she didn't say anything further Dorian began to truly worry. While Evelyn might not be quite as chatty as Dorian could be, she at least usually held up her end of the conversation. "Evie, I hope you know whatever it is, you can tell me."
There were still tears in her eyes when she finally turned to face him, tucking one leg under her so she could look at him full on, but thankfully no more tears fell. If there was anything guaranteed to send Dorian into a panic it was Evelyn's tears. "Dorian, I have a favor to ask."
"You know I am yours to command." Dorian reached for one of her hands, surprised to feel the digits cold and clammy.
"You might not say that once you know what I need," she sighed, winding her fingers with his. Drawing a deep breath she finally rushed out, “I need you to go to the Hissing Wastes with me in two days."
Dorian laughed. Really, this was what had her so worked up? After sitting in this drafty keep for two months even that barren wasteland would be an improvement. At least he wouldn't have to worry about freezing to death. "Goodness Evie I thought you were going to ask for my first born. Something that would have been..."
"...rather hard to promise all things..." Dorian broke off as her word sunk in leaving him to stare at her with what he was certain was a dumbfounded expression. "I could have sworn you just said..."
"Bull will be on the team." Evelyn's words this time were strong and clear, no chance for misunderstanding.
Dorian would have stood, just the thought of being in Bull's presence enough to have his mind screaming 'flee'. Unfortunately Evie still retained possession of his hand. Staring at their entertained fingers Dorian frowned. "Are you certain that's a wise idea Evie?"
If anything her fingers just tighten against his own, her expression taking on the one he always identified as her wrapping her Inquisitor obligations around herself. "Things have been bad lately Dorian. Not with the Venatori but with Bull."
"So you thought if you gave him a chance to kill me it would soothe things?"
He supposed he deserved the punch to the shoulder he got from her free hand. "This isn't a joke. I swear in Emprise last week he and Solas nearly came to blows over Solas wanting to heal a wound."
"You know how Bull feels about using magic for that sort of thing Evie. He likes the..."
"Scars, yes I know. Suffice it to say this wasn't exactly a wound that could be ignored."
Dorian blanched, finding it suddenly hard to breathe past the druffalo that had taken up residence on his chest. Bull had been injured, severely, and he hadn't been there, hadn't even know. Every Omega cell in his body was demanding he seek out the Alpha and ensure that he was indeed healed. That something hadn't been missed. That Bull didn't...
"Dorian," Evelyn's voice penetrated his thoughts only to realize that he was halfway to the stairs, dragging her along with him.
Drawing in a shuddering breathe he released her and ran a shaking hand through his hair. "Kaffas, Evie, I'm sorry. I don't know what I was thinking."
Drawing him back toward the couch he could see the faint trace of pink on her cheeks. "No, it's my fault. I shouldn't have sprung that on you, I forget sometimes that no matter how you smell and act, you're an Omega at heart."
Dorian thought it might just be the nicest thing anyone had ever said to him. He had to clear his throat twice before he could get out, "So Bull is fine?"
"Physically yes. Solas healed him despite the complaining and the growling. Eventually Bull calmed down and apologized. But something is wrong with him Dorian, ever since that day with the dreadnaught..."
"So you think this is my fault?"
"Maker no!" Evie growled, sighing softly before continuing, "If I thought this was about you I'd never ask you to come with us, but Bull has mentioned something about being Tal-Vashoth, said losing the Qun makes his people unstable, but he's not really willing to talk to anyone about it. Krem said he's even avoiding the Chargers. Told Krem it was none of his business."
"Kaffas Evie, he hasn't spoken to me since that day. What makes you think he'll talk to me?"
Evelyn's grin was just a little too dark to be called pleasant. "Because you're the most stubborn man I know. And because I know that even if he'd never admit it, Bull regrets how things with you ended which means he's more likely to give you a chance."
Dorian sighed before patting her leg gently. "Maker I hope you're right Evie, or you might just come back from that blasted desert short one mage."
"Does that mean you'll do it?"
Dorian snorted. "Against my better judgement, yes."
Her squeal about made him deaf and he suddenly found himself encompassed by her lithe form as she hugged him tightly. Still, when she spoke her words held no trace of humor. "Thank you Dorian, I'm seriously afraid of what might happen if you can't get through to him."
"I'll do my best Evie, I owe it to him." What he didn't bother to say was that he owed it to himself just as much. He had only been half alive since losing Bull, perhaps if he and the imposing Alpha could at least move past their anger at each other they could both begin to heal.
Dorian was doubting the wisdom of that thought the next afternoon as he made his way across the upper courtyard toward the quartermaster's office. After not being put on a mission in two months there were a few supplies he needed restocked. Why he was so surprised to see The Iron Bull in the training ring he wasn't certain, it was certainly a common enough place for him in the late afternoon. He would have turned back into the keep and taken the long way to Ser Morris had Bull not already seen him.
The Qunari barely hesitated long enough to throw his shield to the ground before storming out of the ring toward Dorian, fury etched on every line of his face. Refusing to cower Dorian stood his ground on the bottom step, trying to ignore the scattering of people that were sure to hear every word of the argument he knew was coming.
"Boss told me you're coming with us tomorrow," Bull growled, and Dorian cursed the fact that just hearing that deep gravelly voice again was making him weak in the knees. To say nothing about the Alpha's scent, even stronger right now from the sparring he'd been doing.
Dorian was so focused on not doing something stupid, like dropping to his knees and begging Bull to forgive him, that he almost missed the Alpha's next words. Then he told himself he had to have misheard, certainly not even Bull would dare... "Excuse me?"
"I said tell her you can't go. Make something up, it's what you're good at."
Dorian straightened, taking an instinctive step forward despite the anger that was rolling off the Qunari. "I most certainly will not."
"Listen, things are hard enough out there, I don't have time to worry about..."
Dorian's eyes narrowed and there was little doubt that had it been anyone but an Alpha he was dealing with they would currently be backpedaling. Instead Bull took a step closer, a low growl rumbling from his chest.
"We've gotten along just fine without you for the past two months. This mission is important and I can't be having to babysit..."
Whatever Bull would have said was cut off when with a flick of his wrist Dorian threw him back fifteen feet into the stone wall beside the dungeon door, pinning him there with but a thought. Before anyone in the courtyard could even draw a breathe Dorian had thrown a fire bolt, the ball of flame as large as Bull's head and only stopped at the last moment by the barrier Dorian threw up to protect the warrior, flames shattering against the green shield with a blinding radiance. With a growl of his own Dorian closed the distance between them, ignoring the stunned look on Bull's face to hiss, "I don't care what you think you know about me. You ever question my combat abilities again and next time I won't bother with the barrier."
Bull watched as, without another word, Dorian stormed off toward the quartermaster's, releasing Bull with a flick of his wrist that had him stumbling as he tried to get his feet under him. Damn, he had known his words would piss the mage off, but he hadn’t expected quite that blatant a show of power. Even now the handful of people who had witnessed it were still swiveling their heads from Bull to the corner Dorian had disappeared around.
When Krem started towards him Bull quickly waved him off. He wasn’t hurt, well other than his pride being a bit bruised. Stretching his arms over his head he worked the kinks out of his back as he relived the feeling of flying through the air from nothing more than Dorian’s will. And then that moment, that split second when the fireball had been rushing for his face and he had questioned whether he had perhaps pushed Dorian past the point of reason. He had to admit, that familiar itch on his skin that happened a split second before the green barrier had slammed into placed had been a welcome relief.
Fuck, the mage might be an Omega but he wielded power like nothing Bull had ever seen. Which seemed like a foolish thing to just be acknowledging considering the number of battles he’d fought with Dorian at his back, but this was the first time all that power had been directed right at him. For the first time Bull found himself thinking perhaps Dorian joining them didn't have to be a bad thing. Maybe the mage was strong enough to keep him from hurting anyone else.
Bull snorted as he rubbed at the back of his neck, his mind helpfully suggesting that perhaps that little revelation might have been better realized before pissing off the powerful mage and ending up eating the side of the keep. Unfortunately, the moment he’d caught sight of Dorian walking down the steps of the keep all Bull had been able to think of was the foolish fight he’d gotten into with Solas on their last mission and how if Dorian had been with them it could have been him in the line of fire of Bull’s rage.
The thought alone had been enough to make Bull’s blood run cold and his feet had been moving before he’d had a chance to even decide what he was going to say, his taunting of the mage based on years of experience in Seheron learning what wounds to pour salt in to distract the enemy. The only problem was rather than back down Dorian had instead pushed back. Fuck, had he pushed back.
For a moment Bull debated following Dorian and apologizing, but there really wasn’t anything he could say to save the situation at this point. If he said he hadn’t really meant it Dorian would assume he was placating him and if he tried to explain why he really didn’t want Dorian along on this mission he knew the stubborn mage would insist on going because Bull was concerned. No, better at this point to just let the comment lie. Dorian would be all prickly for the first couple days of the mission and then he’d settle down and with any luck Bull would be able to keep his head about him. If not, well at least he knew Dorian could put him in his place.
Chapter 12: Feels Like Old Times…Well, Aside From The Whole Insanity Thing
I promise to get back to everyone who was lovely enough to comment on the last chapter but since I made you wait 4 days for the next part I wanted to get this posted ASAP.
Hopefully it was worth the wait...
“Ha ha, I could to this all day!”
Bull couldn’t stop the slight smile that tugged at his lips as Dorian’s voice echoed out across the valley. They had been on the road three days, almost through the Exalted Plains, when they’d encountered a small group of Freemen who apparently hadn’t gotten the message that their forces had been decimated already. His own targets lying dead at his feet Bull leaned against his axe and watched the elaborate dance that was Dorian Pavus in battle.
There was always a sparsity of motion when Solas fought, as if even an extra finger twitch was too much to be bothered with while dispersing the rabble before him. And while Madame de Fer was certainly more eloquent with her motions there was no passion to them, all technique and no flair. But Dorian, he brought an elegant passion to the battlefield that Bull had never seen equaled, even in Seheron.
Dorian finally stilled, his robes still settling around him as his last fireball exploded in an archer’s face and downed the man, and Bull frowned as he found himself regretting the two months of anger that had resulted in him missing this. And, surprisingly enough, he had indeed missed it. Missed traveling with Dorian even when the mage was bitching about everything and nothing. Missed watching him engage the enemy as if they were beginning a dance and not a battle to the death. Missed having that same passion and energy in his bed.
Not happening. Bull reminded himself with a low growl. Even if Dorian hadn’t lied to him there was no way he could even think of rekindling their, for lack of a better word, relationship. It would be dangerous enough if Dorian were actually a Beta, but now that he knew Dorian was actually an Omega, it would be inexcusable. Fuck, to be honest the fact that Bull was still with the Inquisition at this point was questionable enough.
So far the madness that being declared Tal-Vashoth was wreaking with his life had been curbed by constantly being in motion. By accompanying the Boss on every mission he was able to take out his increased aggression on people that truly deserved it, and by doing so continue to protect those he had sworn to protect. But how long could that continue? How long until the Boss chose someone else or until they actually defeated Corypheus and Bull was left with no way to curb the rage that seemed to build in his blood by the minute? Bull wasn’t even sure he could trust himself to take in new merc contracts at this point. The last thing he wanted was for his problem to get one of the Chargers killed.
“Bull, are you alright?” The words reached Bull at the same time that Dorian’s scent did, his frustration dissipating slightly as he drew in the familiar smell of spice and floral that was diluted right now by the addition of lyrium and ozone from the fade. He’d forgotten how strong the scent was when Dorian had been summoning fade spirits, as though part of the fade clung to him every time he cast a spell. Feeling some of the tension in his shoulders release from just Dorian’s proximity Bull wondered when the scent that used to bother him so much had started to be comforting.
“Fine. I’d just forgotten how flashy you are when you fight.”
“Don’t call him Sparkler for nothing,” Varric piped up, slapping Dorian on the shoulder as he walked past them. “It’s good to have you back.”
Bull found himself biting back a growl, his eyes focused on that bit of exposed skin that Varric had dared to touch. His fingers curled into fists and he had already taken a step toward the retreating rogue when Dorian hissed, “Bull.”
Fuck. Bull shook his head. Had he really been going to attack Varric? Over what? An innocent touch to a man who wasn’t even his anymore? Forcing his hands to relax was more complicated than it should have been and he couldn’t quite meet Dorian’s eyes when he muttered, “Sorry ‘bout that.”
“Sorry? I don’t even know what ‘that’ was,” Dorian admitted, reaching out to lay one hand on Bull’s arm, the touch so light he could almost believe it wasn’t there. Except the skin Dorian was currently in contact with was the only spot on Bull that didn’t feel like it was stretched too tight over his frame. “What is the matter with you?”
Nothing. The word fought to break free of Bull’s lips but was stopped by his unwillingness to lie to the Beta…Omega, before him. Fuck, and wasn’t that confusing? His mind knew Dorian was an Omega but his senses kept screaming Beta, leaving Bull torn between wanting to be honest with Dorian and needing to protect him. Shaking his head he pulled away from Dorian’s touch, refusing to acknowledge that it felt like a loss, and instead growled, “Just still a little worked up from that fight.”
Dorian’s dismissive snort told him he knew it was a lie but the mage didn’t make any further attempts to question Bull, instead turning to follow Varric to where the Boss was waiting for them all.
Four days later Bull was in the tent writing a letter to his handler about the incident. About how he had gone from content to savage jealousy in the blink of an eye. Never mind that he no longer had a reason to write the letter, or a handler to send it to. The problem was, as much as he might dismiss his reports to the Ben-Hassrath as being mundane, Bull knew that in reality they formed a much needed security net for him. He would tell his superiors about what he’d been doing and their responses would let him gauge whether he was becoming erratic or not. One carefully placed word could tell him if his latest missive made it sound like he was drifting from the Qun, from the teachings that kept him sane. And now he had lost that and no matter how many letters he wrote that he would never send, he already knew the answer…he was losing his center.
Perhaps even worse than that, he was beginning to fear he had crossed the line from asset to liability. Because if the fight that day had been bad, the one he’d just had with Varric had been at least three steps over the line. And the worst thing about it was the rogue hadn’t done anything wrong. Just his usual shit talk, and it hadn’t even been directed at Bull.
Instead, it had been Dorian Varric was teasing as the pair worked on preparing the quail Varric had brought down for dinner. The same dinner that was supposed to be ram stew, except the lightning spell Dorian had prepared to throw at the ram had gone wild, bouncing off a chunk of lazurite and careening into a Red Templar guard who had been hidden from sight by one of the many rock formations that dotted the area.
It was hard to say who had been more surprised, Dorian or the Templar. Without a doubt the look on Dorian’s face had been priceless. Which was just one of the things Varric had been teasing Dorian about. That and questioning Dorian about his unique methods of flushing out their enemies. Dorian countered that if he had known all it took to make the rogue happy was a few tiny birds he’d have killed them earlier, no Templars required.
There was nothing in the bickering that should have set Bull off. On a normal day the conversation wouldn’t have even registered with him. But today, suddenly all he could see was the fight and the way that damned Shadow had come out of stealth, red lyrium flashing in the sun as he slashed repeatedly at the air now occupying the space Dorian had been only moments before.
It had been a near miss, but certainly not the closest call they’d ever had. Ultimately none of them had even been injured which is why it made no sense when Bull suddenly found himself across camp with Varric dangling by his shirt as Bull growled at him. “Someone could have been killed.”
Varric’s eyes were wide as rage drove Bull to shake the rogue, to make him understand. Then, before Bull could really be certain what he intended to do next, Dorian was there, shoving himself between the pair and forcing Bull to let Varric go. Dorian’s fist slammed into Bull’s chest as the mage hissed, “Kaffas, what is wrong with you?”
“Death shouldn’t be a joke.”
“Fuck, Tiny. Who was talking about death? I was just giving Sparkler shit,” Varric choked out, straightening his tunic while maintaining a cautious distance from Bull.
Between Dorian’s glare and Varric’s cautious posturing Bull had felt the rage drain from him like it had never been, leaving him feeling hollow and confused. Muttering something that was close to an apology he had fled to the tent, feeling two sets of eyes on him the whole way.
Bull was so lost in his own thoughts that he was caught off guard by that familiar cinnamon and black lotus scent. Looking up he found Dorian flipping back the flap to his tent, the mage’s shoulders set and a determined look on his face as he stormed in and dropped his belongings on the other side of the tent and began to unroll his bedding.
“You lost Dorian?”
The mage shot him a quick glare but otherwise said nothing, choosing instead to drop onto his bedroll and begin sorting through his pack. He pulled out that lotion of his and dropped it onto the bedding beside him before moving to unlace his boots.
Shit, this wasn’t looking good. “I asked you a question Omega,” Bull growled the last word, getting the desired effect when Dorian looked up at him with a snarl.
“Really? You are really going to go there…Alpha?” Dorian growled back, fire flashing in his eyes.
Memories of his back slamming into the wall in Skyhold flooded Bull’s mind and he decided perhaps baiting the mage wasn’t the smartest choice. Drawing in a deep breath Bull released it slowly before asking, “What are you doing here Dorian?”
“It would seem that Varric isn’t comfortable bunking with you since you’ve lost your damn mind. And since I’m pretty certain Cullen would lose his mind if Evie got back to Skyhold smelling of you that leaves me stuck with the crazy Alpha.”
Oh fuck no. There was no way he could possibly share a tent with Dorian. Bull would just have to sleep outside for the remainder of the mission. No problems, he’d slept worse places. At least it was unlikely to rain on him. With a resigned sigh Bull reached for the box that normally held his parchment and pen and slipped the newly written letters to the bottom of the box before stowing it away in his pack. Reaching for his blanket he was distracted by the deep floral scent that blossomed through the room and looked over to find that Dorian had opened his jar of lotion.
Bull watched as Dorian’s long, strong fingers began working the lotion into his skin, starting at his toes and working his way across the arch of his foot. Bull doubted Dorian was aware of the little moan that he let out as his fingers worked at a sore muscle, digging in to release the tension before returning to a lighter touch as he moved his way up to his ankle. But Bull found himself very aware of each tiny sound Dorian made.
Blanket hanging forgotten from his hand, Bull’s eye tracked as Dorian dipped his fingers into the light green colored lotion again before returning to work his way up his calves, the mage’s strong hands moving across copper skin that Bull could still remember the feel of, the way Dorian’s muscles would bunch when Bull’s own callused hands would slide over them, the exact strength they could exert when they were wrapped tight around Bull’s waist. He really needed to get out of here before he did something stupid…
“So, that shit the reason you can pass as a Beta?”
Fuck. That was stupid alright, but on a whole other level. He could feel Dorian’s eyes on him but Bull forced his attention to stay on Dorian’s hands, the way they tensed so he could see each muscle raised against the skin as the mage obviously tried to decide whether to answer or not. When Dorian relaxed and resumed his ministrations Bull knew he’d made up his mind. “One of them yes.”
“Thought you just liked to be soft,” Bull chuffed.
“Yes, well, that is a side benefit. Just because I may have to live like a Southern barbarian doesn’t mean I have to behave as one.”
They fell silent again, Bull watching as Dorian shed his leathers and sat before him in just his smalls, his hands now working the lotion into his thighs. Dorian studiously kept his attention only on his own skin and Bull wondered if it was because he really was that worried about missing an inch or if it was his own way of ignoring the fact that Bull was still staring at him. “Why do you do it?”
Again Dorian’s fingers went white and Bull found himself glancing up to Dorian’s face, the mage’s jaw tense, his lips set in a thin line. Even knowing the question upset Dorian Bull found he couldn’t regret asking it. Shit, he should have asked it two months ago.
“Oh, I don’t know. Why don’t you find a nice Omega and mate?” There was no missing the bitterness in Dorian’s voice.
“Qunari don’t mate.” Bull’s response was rote by this point. Not like this was the first time he’d been asked that question and even if his answer was somewhat less than honest, it was the simplest one.
“And Tevinter doesn’t breed Omegas, at least not among the Altus.”
Bull snorted. Leave it to the ‘Vints to think that they could control that. Even the Qun acknowledged that sometimes Alphas needed to mate. It might be frowned upon, and you certainly weren’t going to be put into a position that required absolute faith in your loyalties, but for some Alphas it was the only way. Better to allow a mate than to lose a productive member of society because of urges they couldn’t control. The Qun did not waste what could be saved. “You’re not in Tevinter any longer, why keep up the illusion?”
It was Dorian’s turn to snort. The mage finished rubbing the lotion into his arms, ending with wringing his two hands together, working the scented cream even between his fingers before putting the lid back on the jar and wrapping it carefully in cloth before putting it back into his pack. Bull half thought Dorian wasn’t going to answer him at all when the mage finally looked up at him and the pain he saw reflected in those stormy grey eyes hit Bull like a maul to the chest. “Because without the illusion who am I? Everything Omega was taken from me years ago Bull. Trained and potioned and masked away until all that’s left is the shell of a Beta who never was. I’ll never truly be a Beta, but I have no ability to function as an Omega either and at least as a Beta I’m allowed the rights to be eccentric and alone. Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s been a long day.”
Bull sat there for the longest time, watching the hard set of Dorian’s shoulders and the way his back stayed ramrod straight and knew the mage wasn’t asleep. Not that it mattered, what more was there to say? Even if Bull’s chest ached at the old hurt he had heard in Dorian’s words there was nothing he could do to make it better. ‘Sorry’ just didn’t seem to be enough and ‘forgive me for assuming’ was just so damned self-serving Bull couldn’t make himself actually utter the words.
What he really wanted to do was reach over and pull Dorian into his arms, to wrap himself around the mage and carry his pain as his own for a while. To let Dorian know that with Bull he didn’t have to be Beta or Omega, that he could just be Dorian. That that was enough. That it had always been enough.
If this moment had happened two months ago Bull might have actually done it. But now Bull had burdens of his own to carry, concerns he didn’t dare involve Dorian in, and so he did nothing. Eventually laying down on his own bedroll and drifting off to the soft sound of Dorian breathing, the floral scent of the mage’s lotion wrapping around him like a blanket.
Chapter 13: Solutions and Stalemates
Dorian was sitting on a rock outcropping looking out over the expanse of the Hissing Waste, which by the light of the full moon was actually rather beautiful. Unfortunately, he wasn’t seeing any of it. Instead, his mind was still trapped in that moment from earlier today. He could only refer to it as that moment because it was when Dorian had truly accepted that something was very wrong with The Iron Bull.
It wasn’t as if there hadn’t been plenty of signs over the past two weeks, starting with the incident with Varric that had led to Dorian ending up as Bull’s reluctant tent mate. But Dorian had known that his narrow escape from the Templar Shadow had disturbed Bull, he had seen that split second of fear on the warrior’s face before he realized Dorian had fade stepped away from danger, and so he’d written off Bull’s actions later as left over stress.
That hadn’t explained why Bull had ignored the Inquisitor’s orders two days later when they had been fighting a group of Venatori and one of the marksmen had broken off, running for his life down the canyon and Bull had taken off in pursuit. Evie had screamed at him to disengage, the narrow canyons providing way too many options for ambush but Bull had ignored her, disappearing into the buff-colored maze with only a slight hitch in his step to prove he’d heard her at all.
By the time they had found Bull standing over the dead Venatori Evie had been fit to be tied. Dorian had actually experienced a moment of relief that she wasn’t a mage because, had she possessed a shred of magic, Dorian had little doubt she’d have fried Bull where he stood. As it was she settled for bitching him out the entire way back to camp, leaving Dorian and Varric to follow mutely behind the pair, occasionally glancing at each other and wondering if they should have just kept going the other direction.
Then there had been the day they had encountered the varghest near the oasis. Admittedly, wiping out the local pests didn’t normally require a great deal of planning, but this particular valley was rampant with wyvern so Evie wanted to work out a method of approach that resulted in them having to skin the least number of creatures. Bull had blown that idea out of the water when he’d charged into the fray, drawing the attention of what had seemed like every damn beast in the entire valley. Evie hadn’t even bothered to reprimand Bull that day. By the time they had killed and skinned all the beasts it had just seemed like too much of an effort and she’d settled instead for glaring and tsking to herself the entire way back to camp.
Unfortunately, rather than providing a reprieve, spending time in camp only made things worse for Dorian. Unwilling to risk triggering Bull’s ire Evie and Varric had taken to disappearing into their tent as soon as the evening meal was finished, leaving Dorian to entertain Bull. In some ways that would have been easier if Bull wasn’t aware that his actions were erratic to say the least. But it was obvious from the way Bull attempted to sidestep any conversation that he expected to be questioned on a nightly basis. No matter how innocent the conversation Bull’s answers remained monosyllabic, and that was if he bothered to answer at all.
Eventually they settled into a pattern of Bull writing his correspondence, and Maker, did the Alpha certain seem to have no end to it, while Dorian took his time applying his lotion, perhaps making more of a show of it than was necessary but damn it, did Bull really think he could ignore him? The pair of them would cast covert glances at each other when they were certain the other wasn’t looking, but aside from that they might as well have been alone.
Had today’s incident not happened, they would undoubtedly be following the same pattern of studied avoidance. But it had, so Dorian was sitting out here, as far from camp as he could get and still be within sight so that Evie didn’t worry, electricity crackling between his hands as he restlessly sparked it back and forth while he replayed the day’s events and that moment.
They had finally begun to clear out the main Venatori encampment only to realize that the bastards had set-up what equated to a rabbit warren of wooden fences, some leading to dead ends, others forcing them to filter through bottlenecks where they were easy pickings for the Venatori marksmen and mages. It had been a long, bloody fight and still they hadn’t found what they were truly looking for. There had been plenty of clues left on the bodies they left scattered behind them but the book the Venatori supposedly were using to fuel their research was nowhere to be found.
Certain that at least the path behind them was clear, Evie had called a short break. Time for Dorian’s mana to recharge and for Varric to quickly oil Bianca’s parts that the heat and sand kept drying out. Dorian knew from the fact that Bull didn’t bother to sit that the Alpha disagreed with Evelyn, but since the warrior contented himself with pacing circles around them, his eyes scanning for potential problems Dorian kept his mouth shut. He knew how Bull got once his Reaver abilities kicked in, how fervor made it difficult for the warrior to disengage.
Still, he didn’t think any of them expected Bull to just disappear. The three of them were, admittedly, more focused on quickly bringing themselves back to peak condition. Evie and Varric counting bolts and comparing which grenades they still had left and Dorian had actually dared to close his eyes for a moment, directing his focus inward as his connection with the fade slowly strengthened, his mana replenishing.
Even so, it was Dorian who felt the change first, a fading of Bull’s scent and a distinct lack of the Alpha’s usual overwhelming presence told him the warrior was gone even before his eyes were able to confirm the fact. With Varric and Evie still chatting, it was obvious neither of them had noticed Bull disappearing and, loathe though he was to bring up yet another of Bull’s acts of insubordination, Dorian had to say something. In a flash all three were up and moving again, finding the bodies of two more Venatori that had been almost completely beheaded before hearing the sounds of battle before them.
Racing through the maze their steps faltered as a loud roar echoed through the canyon. There was no doubt the sound had come from Bull and with just a glance at each other they doubled their speed in the direction it had come from. Bursting from the maze into a small dead-end pocket they arrived just in time to watch Bull cleave the head off of a Venatori mage, the remains of three other Venatori, including one brute, scattered around him.
Feeling Evie straighten beside him Dorian knew she was preparing to go all Inquisitor on Bull, something he quickly stopped with a hand to her arm and a slight shake of his head. Instead he alone had started into the alcove, cautious to keep his distance from the warrior, as he was approaching from behind him, and quietly calling his name.
The growl that rumbled deep in Bull’s chest was Dorian’s only warning before he found himself slammed against the sandstone, no recognition in Bull’s eye as he stared at Dorian, his axe half raised.
“Kaffas Bull. It’s me. Venhedis, let me down,” Dorian growled, slamming his fist against Bull’s chest with as much effect as if he’d slammed it directly into the stone behind him.
Dorian felt a moment of fear as he stared into that slate grey eye of Bull’s and realized he wasn’t looking at Bull at all. That in this very moment the man he knew was no more there than if he had died and Dorian resurrected him as a spirit in The Iron Bull’s form. Before he could second guess his own actions Dorian pushed a mind blast at the warrior, sending him flying back and onto his ass.
Hands still raised, uncertain if he was actually going to have to cast something more lethal Dorian was relieved to see Bull shake his head slowly before looking up at Dorian, confusion now rampant on the warrior’s features. “Dorian?”
Aware of their audience and not wanting to give either rogue anymore reason to doubt Bull Dorian adopted a superior smirk as he held out his hand to Bull. “I’m starting to think you like me throwing you around.”
Varric’s sharp bark of laughter cut through the tension and Evie just shook her head at the pair of them as she walked past them to search the area. Dorian and Bull stood there not quite looking at each other for a few moments before Bull finally opened his mouth to speak only to have Dorian shake his head and hiss, “Not now.”
Thankfully Evie had picked that moment to locate the book they had come in search of in the first place and with it carefully tucked away in her pack they quickly made their way back to camp. Unfortunately once there Dorian found that he was no closer to being ready to talk to Bull than he had been when he had covered for him hours earlier.
Which was why he was currently freezing out here in the dark rather than having to be cooped up in the tent with the imposing Alpha. Not just because he knew that he could no longer pretend being a Reaver, or even an Alpha, had anything to do with Bull’s sudden mood swings and acts of insubordination. But also because by covering up Bull’s act of aggression today, Dorian had involved himself in it up to his neck. He just wished he knew what ‘it’ actually was.
He heard the scrape of Bull’s boots long before the warrior reached him, which Dorian knew was a courtesy because Bull could certainly move silently when he felt like it. Even so he felt himself tense slightly when a blanket was dropped over his shoulders. Bull’s, considering it positively exuded the Alpha’s scent.
Dorian felt the larger man drop down to sit next to him on the rock, Bull only glancing his way before turning his attention to the moonlit landscape. “You’re going to freeze if you stay out here all night.”
Dorian snorted. “Really, with everything that happened today, that’s what you’re going to lead with?”
The only reply Dorian got was a heavy sigh and the pair settled into silence. There had been a time when silence between them wasn’t a bad thing, when it had been enough to simply be together, but that time had been lost somewhere between Dorian’s lies and Bull’s erratic behavior, leaving this silence to be uncomfortable and tense. Deciding that Bull wasn’t going to be any more forthcoming than he had been on previous nights Dorian shifted to stand just as Bull finally started to speak, his words low and laced with regret. “I don’t know what to say Dorian. I almost killed you today. Sorry just doesn’t seem to cut it.”
“No, I suppose not,” Dorian huffed with a slight shake of his head. “But telling me what’s going on with you would be a start. And I swear if you tell me it’s ‘nothing’ again I’m going to set your horns on fire.”
Bull chuckled, the sound tired and weak, but enough to draw an answering half smile from Dorian. Bull leaned back on his hands, tilting his head back to look at the stars before asking, “Do you know what I did the most of in Seheron?”
Dorian frowned. “I think I can guess. I suppose I should count myself lucky I never got sent over there.”
“Yes, you can. It’s a cesspool. If it’s not the ‘Vints it’s the Fog Warriors and if it’s not the Fog Warriors it’s the Tal-Vashoth. Tal-Va-fucking-shoth. See, the Qun, it’s not for everybody. Some folks get drafted into it and spend their whole time looking for a way to get out of it. Viddathari, like ex-Tevinter slaves, who think that serving the Qun has to be better than slavery, but then they get a taste of freedom and decide they don’t want to serve the Qun anymore than they wanted to serve the ‘Vints. They aren’t so bad. I mean we got the orders to hunt them down but they weren’t really our first priority.
“No, true Tal-Vashoth was what I spent most of my time hunting down. Men and women who had been born and raised to the Qun but for some reason lost their way. Sometimes it was over a lover, sometimes over wanting off that fucking island but not getting the transfer, sometimes a man just killed one too many times and something inside snapped. But the Qun exists for a reason. Structure exists for a reason.
“We are born and raised to believe in the importance of the whole and then suddenly one day someone decides that their own needs are more important. That what they want matters more than the rest of the village. That they need the food the farmer planted and so innocents starve. That their life is worth more than anyone who might get in their way and so they cut a path of blood across the entire island.
“That’s all it takes Dorian. One man who decides that the family he has grown accustom to, the one that is forbidden by the Qun, is more important than his orders.”
Dorian didn’t even pretend to not understand what Bull was talking about. “Saving the Chargers was the right thing to do Bull.”
“Maybe, maybe not,” Bull shrugged. “Point is it wasn’t my call to make. But I made it anyway and now I’m paying the price. The Qun provides a path, a clear set of what’s right and what’s wrong and now I’m left having to figure that out for myself. Left letting myself sink so deep into blood rage that I would have killed you today if you hadn’t stopped me.”
“Well, I think we can both agree that maybe next time you should listen to Evie.”
“That’s the thing Dorian. I can’t promise that. It’s like there’s a filter that’s been in my head my whole life and now that’s gone. Everything around me is just more. Brighter, louder, more intense. I swear some days I feel like my head is pulling in so much information I can’t hold it all, like my skin will split from trying and then I just lose it. It’s like rage is the only thing that releases the pressure and makes me feel more like myself. Except then I look around at what I’ve done and I can’t bear the guilt.” Bull broke off and Dorian caught him running a shaking hand over his face. “Veshedan, Dorian, if I had killed you.”
Dorian could no more resist reaching out for the Alpha than he could stop his own heart from beating, though the recrimination he heard in Bull’s last words almost did that for him. Kaffas, while Dorian had been sitting in his nook pouting and getting drunk on Evie’s liquor Bull had been going through this. Alone.
Reaching out, Dorian lifted Bull’s hand from where it lay against his thigh and wrapped both of his own hands around it. It was a struggle to keep his words even when he whispered, “I don’t know how, but we’re going to fix this Bull. I swear, we’ll make this better.”
Bull’s fingers tightened against his own as the warrior shifted so he could look down at Dorian. “Just promise me that if it comes down to it you won’t hesitate to take me down Dorian. I need to know that I’m not going to hurt you or one of our friends.”
“Please, as if I’m that easy to kill,” Dorian chuckled, little actual humor in it.
“Fine, I’ll promise you that if you swear to me that you’ll actually work at finding a solution. If you were still in the Qun what would they do?”
“Honestly? Reeducate me. Find me some nice farm to tend where I didn’t have to deal with many people.”
Dorian found it hard to smother his gasp of surprise. He wasn’t sure what he’d expected Bull to say, but certainly not that. “And you’d be ok with that?”
Bull’s slight smile was a sad one, his words heavy. “Ok with not hurting anyone? Not feeling like I was being torn apart any longer? Yeah, I’d be good with that.”
“Kaffas Bull,” Dorian sighed. “Any options that don’t involve losing who you are to pursue a bucolic existence?”
“Well, I’m an Alpha so my guess is that they’d consider mating me off.”
Dorian frowned. “I thought Qunari didn’t mate.”
“Yeah, well, about that,” Bull started, breaking off with a small shrug. “It’s not so much that we can’t, it’s just seen as a weakness. I mean, not even the Qun thinks they can mandate away nature, but they can sure make it unpleasant for you to acknowledge those needs. Most of the time it’s ok, an Alpha goes into rut and the Tamassrans pick out a nice Omega and you take care of it. Sometimes it’s an Omega that needs an Alpha and the Tamassrans send you a message, ask you to clear some time and make sure the Omega’s needs are met. All on the up and up.
“Occasionally though, an Alpha ends up seeking out the Tamassrans more than he should. Maybe his ruts are unusually strong or he just needs that rush that taking care of an Omega gives you. Either way, he’s not focused on his job the way he should be and so the Tamassrans might agree to a mating. Link him with one Omega and then his rut is tied with the Omega’s, productivity increases and everyone is happy.”
“Never let it be said your people aren’t romantics,” Dorian scoffed, ignoring Bull’s frown as he considered what the Alpha had said. Besides, he wasn’t really complaining, not like things were any better for Omegas in Tevinter. “So basically the Tamassrans would mate you off to get you your focus back.”
“Yes. But in case you hadn’t noticed. Not many Tamassrans here, and even if there were…Tal-Vashoth remember.”
“Please, now you’re just being dense,” Dorian sighed. “You hardly need a Tamassran to find you an Omega, Skyhold is full of them. And if none suit you then Val…why are you laughing at me?” Dorian punctuated his question with a glare and a slap to Bull’s shoulder.
Bull pulled himself back together, though a smile lingered on his lips as he barked out, “Sorry Dorian. It’s just that a Qunari…in full rut? Might as well try to mate a nug to a druffalo.”
Dorian rolled his eyes. “Please, it’s not as if I haven’t fucked you. You might be on the large side of things but you’re hardly deadly.”
“I never knotted you Dorian, nor would I,” Bull countered with a shake of his head. “Fucking’s fine, but mating…no, I could never take a chance. It’s why I haven’t knotted an Omega since I left Seheron. Too dangerous to try.”
Dorian snorted and tried to tell himself that Bull’s words weren’t like waving a red flag in front of, well, a bull. Oh, he had no doubt Qunari sex could be savage and intense, he had several wonderful memories about the bruises that lasted weeks when he and Bull had been together, but deadly. Really? He barely resisted rolling his eyes at the thought.
“Whatever you’re thinking Dorian, just stop,” Bull was using his best Alpha voice, all low and deep and damned if it didn’t just spur Dorian’s thoughts onward in what was admittedly a poor direction.
Kaffas, was Dorian actually contemplating this? Could he give up any hope of ever returning home, any hope of continuing on with the Inquisition in the same capacity he was now?
Perhaps even more important, could he really stand to the side and let Bull mate with another Omega? Every cell in his body said the answer to that was a resounding no.
Chapter 14: Truth and Loyalties
“So, you ready to tell me just what the fuck that was about yesterday?”
Dorian looked over at where Evelyn sat astride her hart and shook his head slowly. “Why Evelyn Trevelyan I wasn’t aware you knew such language.”
“And I wasn’t aware you’d taken up lying to me,” Evie scowled at him and twitched the reins, making her hart make that horrible bleating sound that made Dorian’s skin crawl. “I can keep this up all day.”
“Vishante kaffas, the thing sounds like its dying.”
Tugging at the reins again Evie shouted out over the bleating. “All day Dorian.”
“Festis bei umo canavarum.”
“I’ll assume that mean’s ‘stop making poor Dutchess make that dreadful noise’.”
“Close enough,” Dorian groaned with a theatrical roll of his eyes.
Dorian drew in a deep breath. It wasn’t so much that he was surprised she’d known he was making light of the situation yesterday, more that actually speaking of it felt like a betrayal of Bull. Which begged the question of when his loyalties had shifted, because when he began to speak it became glaringly obvious that they had. “I’m not comfortable talking to you about most of this Evie. But I can tell you that it’s not good.”
When the tsking started and Evelyn’s shoulders straightened, her entire spine going rigid, Dorian knew he was no longer talking to his friend but the Inquisitor. “I didn’t drag you out to the middle of nowhere so that you could tell me ‘not good’. I knew that before I left. I need to know if he is a liability or not.”
It was Dorian’s turn to shake his head. “You know the answer to that Evie, you just want me to tell you something different so you can tell yourself you’re wrong. What I will tell you is that Bull has some options to fix this and I’m hoping he takes advantage of them. And that I believe if you stop taking him on missions the situation will only get worse.”
“And who am I supposed to take with us on the missions? Solas? Varric? He’s alienated half the inner circle already.”
“I’m trying Evie, really I am. But you need to discuss this with him. As for the team, I’m here whenever you need me….”
“I appreciate that Dorian, but I think I’m going to have to cut Bull from the mission teams until he can be honest about what is going on.”
The thought of Bull the night before, the way the huge Alpha’s hand had shook in his own made Dorian’s voice come out more desperate than he would have liked. “Evie please, we should have some down time between missions, don’t write Bull off just yet. I really think he can still fix this. Give him time.”
Evelyn’s sigh was audible even over the sound of her damn hart as she reined the creature in and Dorian pulled his own mount to a stop also, before looking up to find her regarding him critically. He didn’t realize he was holding his breath until she finally nodded. “Alright Dorian, we keep things as is…for now.”
Later that night Dorian was trying to focus on the last bit of a book on Tevinter genealogy, he had caught mention of one of the older houses, Amladaris, that might possibly be where Corypheus had originally come from. Interestingly enough, the house still possessed both wealth and influence. Which could explain how they had been able to hide the fact that Corypheus shared their blood for all this time. Yes, it made sense. Of course it would have to be verified. He needed to send a letter to…
“So, Dorian,” Bull’s voice was deceptively casual, but the fact that they hadn’t spoken to each other while in the tent in weeks said it was anything but.
Frowning slightly as he reached for a scrap of leather to mark his place Dorian asked, “Yes?”
“You and the Boss seemed thick as thieves today.”
Venhedis, what were they debutantes at a sleepover? “We are not doing this Bull.”
Dorian glared, acknowledging that it was absolutely unfair that a seven foot ex-Ben-Hassrath spy could possibly have a look that damned innocent. And he would absolutely not acknowledge that said look was kind of arousing and made Dorian want to wipe it off Bull’s face with a wicked kiss. “I am not passing Evie a note for you. If you have things to say to the Inquisitor, and I think we both know that’s true, then you need to say them to her not to me.”
“Hey, no one’s asking you to be a mediator.”
“Aren’t you?” Dorian snarled, sighing heavily. “Look Bull, Evie is one of my closest friends and you are my ex-lover. Please don’t ask me to get in the middle of this anymore than I have to.”
Dorian feared he let too much of his inner turmoil slip through because Bull’s expression turned thoughtful. “Alright Dorian, no problem.”
Rolling over to face the tent wall all Dorian could think was that Bull was wrong. There were no end to the problems. Bull’s being Tal-Vashoth, his choosing Bull’s confidence over Evie, that he had basically staked his reputation with Evie on Bull maintaining control that they both knew wasn’t going to happen. Oh, and Dorian couldn’t possibly forget the big one…that he had the ability to make this all go away. If he was willing to give up who he had been his entire life to embrace his Omega side. And get mated. To a man he wasn’t even sure really wanted him anymore.
Oh yeah, things were just stellar.
Bull watched the Boss chat with Varric as they rode along all morning knowing that Dorian had been right. He needed to talk to her and explain what was going on with him, and soon. It had been two days now since they’d cleared out the Venatori camp and Bull could feel that now familiar sense of his skin tightening, his mind constantly at work trying to figure out a myriad of different things that used to not even register with him.
It was ridiculous. On a conscious level he knew nothing had changed. He was still the same man he’d been before he’d been declared Tal-Vashoth and yet internally, it was like being a child again, uncertain about where he was going and what he was doing and becoming more frustrated with every unanswered question. He was starting to feel like a tapped keg of gattlok just waiting for a match.
Besides battle, the only thing Bull had found to combat his growing instability was of all things, Dorian. Not that he dared tell the mage that. Veshedan, he had almost killed him only two days ago, he could hardly admit that the short time they spent in the tent with each other at night was some of the only peace Bull found during his day. No, he knew the stubborn ‘Vint too well, admit that and he had a feeling Dorian would end up doing something extreme. Something that could possibly get him killed which was not an acceptable outcome under any circumstances. Fuck, Bull would rather walk into a bar with a dozen Ben-Hassrath assassins than chance injuring Dorian.
Watching Varric let his horse drop back Bull kicked his destrier into a trot and caught up with the Boss’s hart, the two mammoth animals almost matched in height. “Hey Boss.”
“Bull! I’ve been hoping you would find time to talk to me.”
Rubbing the back of his neck Bull was reminded of Cullen making the same nervous gesture, chuckling softly to himself before admitting. “Yeah, guess it’s been a little overdue.”
They rode along in silence for a while, the Boss obviously willing to let him get his thoughts together. Fuck, wasn’t like there was much else to do. They’d cleared out most of the Venatori and Templars and it was too soon to be seeing replacements yet. Maybe as they got closer to Skyhold. Bull scowled at the little thrill just the thought of encountering their enemy gave him. Was this part of his new problem or just his normal bloodlust? Not like he’d ever had a problem with taking out the trash when it was needed.
None of these thoughts were helping him explain things to the Boss though. Bull drew in a deep breath and released it, telling himself just to let her know the same things he’d told Dorian two nights ago. Worst came to worst he’d be out of the Inquisition. “See Boss, it’s like this…”
Bull couldn’t say the act of filling the Boss in made him feel any better, but it didn’t go as badly as he’d feared either. Several times he could hear her start that tsking sound that Dorian always said meant she was thinking about something but other than that she didn’t interrupt him. When he finally finished speaking she looked up at him several times before sighing, “Wow.”
Bull couldn’t help but laugh. Shit, if that didn’t just about sum it up. “Yeah, that about covers it Boss.”
Was it possible to feel someone blush from three feet away? Bull was pretty certain he just had. “I’m sorry Bull. I could have had a better response.”
“Preplan those things do you?” he chuckled.
“No, not really. I mean, I’m sure Josephine does but…I should probably just stop talking now.”
“I don’t know, I’m finding it pretty entertaining,” Bull admitted with a smile, pleased when she returned it.
“I live to please,” the Boss smirked, her expression sobering before she continued. “So, Dorian mentioned you might have some options to resolve this, or at least minimize the effects.”
“Dorian needs to learn to keep his mouth shut.” Bull growled. Fuck, did the ‘Vint ever need to learn that.
“Hey, don’t go blaming him. He didn’t tell me anything specific, just that I should talk to you and that you had a couple of ideas about how to fix whatever was happening. Told me the rest wasn’t his business.”
Oh, but it could very much be Dorian’s business. Suddenly a vision of Dorian wearing Bull’s marks flashed through his mind, too fast to even deny and he found himself growling softly at his own traitorous thoughts. He was not going to mate with Dorian Pavus. Fuck, he wasn’t going to mate with anyone. There had to be another way.
“Sorry Boss. Listen, I don’t really want to talk about solutions right now. I’m not certain that any of them would work and the ones that might could have…complications.”
“Well that certainly sounds ominous.”
Bull gave her a wry grin. “Naw, not really. I promise you this though, I’m working on it. If that’s not enough, I understand. You’ve got the…”
The Boss started laughing in earnest. “Please, I have a Grey Warden who isn’t, a prankster Red Jenny who’s as likely to poison the nobles as pants them, a Tevinter Altus refugee and a Commander who is still struggling from the effects of lyrium…what’s one more in the mix?”
Chapter 15: Decisions Made and Questioned
Dorian stared at his reflection in the mirror propped against the wall opposite his bed. The hand that hovered over the jar holding his lotion shook, he could see the motion even in the reflection before he cautiously pulled his hand away and dropped it down onto the bed. Now left staring at his own naked body, seated on the edge of the bed, Dorian wasn’t quite certain what he was looking for.
He knew there was no magic sign on his body to show that he had stopped taking his suppressants almost a week ago, after he had seen Bull and Evie finally take the first steps toward communication. After Bull had come into the tent they shared and apologized for putting Dorian in the untenable situation of choosing between his loyalty to Evie or Bull. But more importantly, after Bull had admitted that there might be something to their conversation the night before, something that they should investigate once they returned to Skyhold.
Dorian’s reflection smirked. Ok, so he was fairly certain Bull meant that they should actually do some research into whether mating could actually curb Bull’s rage, but Dorian had seen the Qunari. The way his hands trembled in camp and the fact that the usually gregarious Alpha had almost bitten his lip raw from forcing himself to keep silent when Dorian knew his frustrations were riding him to rage, the way Bull tried to hide the deep breaths he took in the evening when Dorian pulled out his lotion and began to apply it and Dorian’s mind had been made up.
Despite the rift that had opened between he and Bull, a rift predominately of Dorian’s own making, the fact was The Iron Bull was the best man that Dorian had ever known. The only Alpha that Dorian would even consider allowing to control him. Because there was no walking into this with illusions. Once Dorian accepted Bull’s mark, if that is Bull accepted his offer, nothing would ever be the same for either of them. Dorian had seen enough mated Omegas, not only in Tevinter, but also here in the South to know what he was sacrificing.
Independence. The one thing he’d fought for all his life, the reason he’d run from his father’s insane scheme in the first place, and now he was giving it away to a man he couldn’t even be certain would want him. That was the scary part of the whole thing, because in order for this to work Dorian had to give up not only the suppressants but also the scent maskers and by the time he was through there would be no doubt to anyone in Skyhold that there was another Omega in residence.
Even knowing that his efforts might prove to be for naught Dorian had woken the next morning and skipped adding the powder he’d taken for more years than not to his tea, the ring Dagna gave him was tucked securely into the pocket of his pack. The lotion he had kept applying while on the road, not only because he didn’t dare to let Bull know yet what he’d done, but also because the scent seemed to calm Bull in some way and Dorian was unwilling to deprive the warrior before absolutely necessary.
Which led to Dorian sitting here now, having reluctantly bathed Bull’s scent from his body along with the accumulated dust and grime that traveling always caused. He wasn’t quite certain why this part of things felt somehow more significant than stopping his suppressants, maybe because when the scent maskers faded there would be no hiding who he truly was even if his heat didn’t immediately return. The thought of the stares alone was enough to have him reaching for the jar again, like a security blanket he could wear closer than any wool could ever get. Scowling at his reflection Dorian sprang to his feet, reaching for a clean robe.
Beyond all else, he was the Altus of House Pavus, member of the Inquisition’s inner circle and a powerful mage in his own right. He would not be swayed from doing what was right by the thought of a few stares and snide comments. He was the one who had chosen to deceive these people and the ones who mattered would have things explained to them and those that didn’t, well, they could believe what they’d like.
Sliding his feet into his boots Dorian buckled them quickly before gathering up not only his lotion but all of his remaining potions into a pack and storming from his room, headed for the battlements. It spoke volumes to his determination that he wasn’t waylaid before he reached the deserted section of wall that he had been seeking. Well, either determination or sheer madness, without the mirror he wasn’t quite certain which look he had settled on as he set out across the garden.
Either way, he wasted no time in beginning to throw the assorted bottles and jars off the battlement, finding a certain freedom as each one left his hand only to begin its long descent, the eventual tinkling of broken glass indicating it had reached its destination. It was a waste of resources to be certain, glass was never plentiful even in Skyhold, but there was a symbolism in the gesture that Dorian needed, a dedication to seeing this course of action through that simply emptying the potions out would not have delivered.
When the final bottle had been flung, the last tinkle of glass recorded Dorian dropped his head against the stone by his side and tried to calm his breathing. He idly wondered if the speed he had thrown the dozen or so bottles over the edge or the fact that he’d actually thrown them in the first place was responsible for the fact he felt so out of breath. Venhedis. He’d actually done it. A slow smile began to form on his lips followed closely by a laugh.
Sweet Andraste’s ass, for the first time in over fifteen years he was…free.
Fasta vass. Dorian spun around to find not only Evie but also Cullen staring at him with something between amusement and concern from the top of the stairs. When their expressions started sliding closer to concern Dorian realized he hadn’t responded. “Yes?’
It was Cullen who cleared his throat. “Are you…alright?”
“Of course, just…” Dorian broke off, not certain that Cullen would appreciate the truth of what he’d been doing. Nor Evie for that matter. “…clearing away some trash.”
Cullen smirked. “There are easier ways.”
“Well that my dear Commander would depend upon the trash,” Dorian countered. Kaffas, was it possible to feel lighter just from freeing oneself from an obligation?
“Dorian, aren’t you freezing?” Dorian frowned as he turned his attention to Evie, finding a matching expression on her face.
Thinking about her question he realized he wasn’t. In fact, if anything he was too warm. He should have selected a lighter robe. “Actually Evie, I’m rather…”
Kaffas. What was that scent? Musk and mud and some sort of pine. Altogether nothing that would normal appeal to him but somehow it was…intriguing. Dorian found himself taking an instinctive step closer to the pair only to come to an abrupt stop at the uncomfortable sensation of, oh sweet Andraste, it could only be slick. There were some things you didn’t need to experience more than once in a lifetime to always recognize…and judging by the look of confusion on Cullen’s face he wasn’t the only one aware of the situation. Fasta vass.
Dorian breathed a sigh of relief when instead of looking towards him Cullen turned his attention the other way, looking toward the courtyards before opening his mouth slightly, obviously scenting deeply.
Apparently deciding her beloved was behaving even odder than Dorian, Evie’s attention turned toward Cullen also, her voice soft and concerned, “Cullen?”
Cullen tugged Evie closer, pulling her back to his chest and wrapping both arms around her before placing a soft kiss to the top of her head. “Sorry love, it’s just…well, it seems one of the Omegas may be going into heat but the scent…I thought I knew all of the Omegas in Skyhold. Perhaps one of the new recruits…”
Evie spun, tugging Cullen with her in her hurry to pin a stare on Dorian, a stare that said she knew exactly what he’d done and he found himself flailing even though he stood on solid ground. “Now Evie…”
“Dorian…” Evie’s expression grew softer, more confused. She more than anyone else in Skyhold knew how much maintaining his Beta status, or illusion thereof, meant to him. To find out that he had given it up. He could see the moment she realized what he had been doing up here in the first place, and what that Cullen’s comments meant about the accompanying suppressant. “Why…and how long?”
“Evelyn…” Cullen started, breaking off as his gaze flitted from his lover, who had pulled away from him to place herself firmly between the two men, and Dorian. Cullen might be many things, but slow witted certainly wasn’t one of them, especially now that he was free from the lyrium’s thrall.
Dorian wasn’t quite certain why he’d ever found Cullen to be comforting as the Alpha drew himself up to his full height, closing the distance between himself and Evie in only two short step before blatantly scenting Dorian. It was then the Alpha’s look got confused. Obviously he could smell the slick, but there was no way, even without Dorian having applied his lotion this evening that he would be scenting like an Omega yet. There was nothing remotely comforting about the Alpha when Cullen finally spoke, every word filled with the push of an Alpha who would brook no lies. “Is there something the pair of you want to tell me?”
If Dorian had been oblivious to anyone watching his trek to the battlements he was hyper-vigilant on the way back. Of course that was due in part to the addition of both the Inquisitor and her Commander to his little party which made it almost impossible to pass unnoticed. Thankfully, with the setting of the sun the chantry gardens tended to empty quickly, so that by the time they had reached Dorian’s bedroom the only people they had passed were two chantry sisters and one of Cullen’s guards. None of the three made any attempt at conversation other than the proper ‘Ser’ the guard had squeaked out as they had stormed past.
Now, back in what was typically his haven Dorian was feeling distinctly uncomfortable as Cullen paced the small room, his eyes darting occasionally from where Evie was settled into Dorian’s one comfortable chair and where Dorian sat perched on the edge of his bed. As much as Dorian tried to tell himself there was nothing to fear, this was, after all, Cullen he was talking about, nothing about the Alpha was backing up that statement. Instead Cullen’s hand ran nervously around the back of his neck, the fur laying across the Alpha’s shoulders ruffled as if even it knew that he was frustrated. Even Cullen’s scent had changed, still pine and earth but now with a hint of something bitter, like pitch that sputtered and popped when the wood it rested in was burned. But it was Cullen’s tone that bothered Dorian the most, all Alpha fury and demand, something Dorian had never heard from the Commander before. “Alright, we’re in private. Now which one of you wants to explain just what in Andraste’s name is going on?”
“Cullen,” Evie started before Dorian could even consider opening his mouth, the one word carried both plea and demand, which had the result of bringing Cullen’s pacing to a stop. “Might I suggest you sit down and listen before you send Dorian into a full panic attack?”
“What?” The word was more growled than spoken, but when Cullen’s eyes met Dorian’s they softened and the Commander sagged against the corner of Dorian’s desk, his hand again returning to the back of his neck. “Maker, I’m sorry Dorian. I just…I didn’t expect…that is…”
Ah, there was the Commander Dorian knew. He couldn’t help but smile and apparently Evie felt the same way because she rose and moved to take her lover’s hand and tug him back to the chair she’d been occupying, settling him down into it first before draping herself over his lap and giving Dorian an encouraging nod.
As he began explaining the situation to the Commander Dorian had to swallow back a smile several times as Cullen would attempt to resume his pacing automatically, obviously bothered by Dorian’s tale, only to find himself possessed of a very determined Beta who refused to move from his lap. Dorian couldn’t help but wonder if he and Bull would ever reach that level of understanding, to instinctively know what each other’s reaction to a situation was going to be. Surprisingly, he found that a large part of him longed for just that.
“And you knew of this Evie?” Cullen asked when Dorian finished speaking.
“Yes, since Dorian and I had the run in with his father.”
“And you didn’t think it was something I should have been appraised of?” The growl was back in Cullen’s voice.
Dorian didn’t need to be able to see Evie’s whole face to know the glare she pinned Cullen with. Her entire body rang ‘Inquisitor’ even before she spoke, her words cold as ice. “No Commander, I did not. Frankly, it has no bearing on Dorian’s place with the Inquisition and therefore was of no importance to you.”
“And as one of the two Alphas who is in permanent residence in Skyhold, did it not occur to you that it might be information I needed?”
“Dorian has already told you he has been on suppressants since he became an Omega, there was no need for you to know,” Evie growled, softening her dressing down with a hand raised to Cullen’s cheek. “Set aside your pride love, no one kept this from you to hurt you. It wasn’t my story to tell.”
Cullen’s expression softened, though his eyes clearly said the pair would be discussing the situation in greater detail later. Dorian wasn’t certain if he was more dismayed by the idea of the pair discussing him ad nauseam or that he wouldn’t be there to hear it. Evie was quite spectacular when she put on her Inquisitor mantle.
Before Dorian could look away he found himself pinned again by Cullen’s eyes. “So, how long exactly since you stopped the suppressants?”
Cullen rolled his eyes and shook his head slightly. “I don’t suppose there’s any chance of me convincing you to go back on them.”
“Cullen!” Evie cried, her hand slapping against his armored chest.
“Maker, don’t go hurting yourself,” Cullen chuckled as she glared at him. “I’m just saying, a first heat and one after so many years on suppressants, I don’t envy you Dorian.”
The sympathy he read in not only Cullen’s tone but also his expression had a small pit of doubt forming in Dorian’s stomach. Not that he would change his decision, but perhaps a bit more research would have been advisable. “What do you suggest Commander?”
“That would depend entirely on how you’re currently feeling. Do you have any symptoms beyond suddenly deciding Skyhold isn’t the coldest place in Thedas?”
“My sense of smell seems to have gotten more acute, and then there was…well, earlier.”
“Ah, yes,” Cullen agreed quickly, his slight blush telling Dorian the Alpha was also thinking about Dorian producing slick. “You can look forward to that increasing. It shouldn’t be noticeable to anyone but the Alphas and as I plan to tell them…”
“No, absolutely not!” Dorian snarled, sliding halfway down the bed toward the pair before he caught himself.
“Dorian, this isn’t a game,” Cullen growled back, not fully dislodging Evie from his lap but certainly sitting straighter and prepared to do so at any moment.
“No, only my life, and I won’t have it bandied about...”
“Dorian,” Evie’s voice cut in as Dorian’s own broke, her tone gentle. “It’s not as if it’s going to be a secret much longer.”
Kaffas. Dorian’s shoulders sagged. Of course it wasn’t. And if he thought about it rationally he supposed it only made sense that the other Alphas be informed. With a sigh he conceded. “Fine, you’re right of course. I’m sorry, a lifetime of secrets doesn’t make exposing them easy.”
“Understandable,” Cullen nodded. “Now, as I was saying, I will tell the others as little as possible. It wouldn’t surprise me to find that Leliana is already aware of the situation, but she’ll need to know about the incipient heat cycle. Solas and Bull…”
“Not Bull,” Dorian countered with a shake of his head.
“I’m not being difficult. It’s just that although Bull and I have discussed the theory behind this he isn’t aware that I have gone off the suppressants. I’m afraid that if you tell him he’ll insist I start again.”
Evie snorted. “I wasn’t aware anyone could insist you do anything.”
“Oh do shut up,” Dorian muttered, the hint of a smile erasing the sting of his words. “I won’t have him lose this chance to find his center.”
Cullen scowled. “A mating shouldn’t be about one person’s needs Dorian…”
“You should know me better than that, Commander,” Dorian chuckled. “Do you really believe I’d voluntarily give up everything I’ve worked my entire life becoming if it wasn’t something that I wanted also? I just know that Bull has certain…concerns that I believe are better addressed in the moment. Some things just can’t be planned out on your war table.”
Cullen’s gaze was piercing but Dorian refused to look away and in the end the Alpha nodded his head just slightly. “Very well. I will refrain from mentioning anything to Bull.”
“But you should know Dorian, Alphas don’t like things sprung on them. And Bull, well let’s just say that as far as I know Bull has never taken a partner to help with his rut. If the pair of you decide to mate, there is a large chance that could be triggered by your own heat. I would not see you hurt.”
Dorian snorted dismissively. “Please Commander, what do you take me for? I am not some blushing virgin about to be conquered by the Qunari menace. I assure you Bull would never do anything to harm me.”
Cullen did stand then, rising with Evie and depositing her lightly on her own two feet before turning his attention back to Dorian. “Very well. If you cannot be dissuaded, know that we will be looking out for you. For now, you should feel free to continue as normal, though I might suggest staying away from the tavern if you truly mean for Bull to remain unaware of your decision. When your time comes, you’ll know it and so will we. Don’t bother trying to leave the room, one of us will make certain you have food and water enough and even if Bull doesn’t come you will be cared for.”
Dorian was certainly going to have to speak with the chambermaid about her inadequate dusting because certainly that was the only possible explanation for the tears he felt building. He stood and quickly walked to the door, using the moment to clear his throat before even attempting to speak. “Thank you both. I appreciate both your discretion and your concern.”
He found himself with an armful of Inquisitor almost before he finished speaking, her lips pressing a soft kiss to his cheek that had him blushing even as she leaned up to whisper, “I’m here if you need me.”
As Evie pulled away Cullen took her place, not hugging him but firmly wrapping both his hands around Dorian’s shoulders and squeezing. “You have but to ask.”
Kaffas, the dust was certainly getting worse. Shutting the door quickly behind them Dorian leaned against it, breathing out a sigh and blinking back tears. Just because he was shit at letting people into his life didn’t mean he wasn’t aware of the place they occupied in it. And those two, well, if either of them asked him to walk barefoot through open fire he would do so without hesitation.
As he headed toward his bed Dorian couldn’t help but think that there was one more in the keep he could say the same thing for. That he would go a step further and say he would die for. Now he could only hope Bull found him worth living for.
Chapter 16: Of Doubt and Irrational Alphas
Bull looked up at the keep from his spot in the training ring, waiting while Krem changed out their shields for a heavy wooden maul and axe so they could move on to a more punishing workout than just bashing shields together could provide. They had been back in Skyhold for almost a week at this point and Bull had yet to set foot in the keep, just as he had noticed Dorian hadn’t bothered to step foot out of it. Not that he was complaining, he had certainly told the stubborn ‘Vint often enough that there was no future for them.
It’s just that the whole ‘stubborn’ part of that implied that Dorian wouldn’t just give up and leave and somewhere along the line Bull had actually started thinking that maybe Dorian would be able to help him after all. As embarrassing as it was to admit, Bull attributed the fact that he hadn’t torn down half of Skyhold already to the small jar of lotion he had pilfered from Dorian before they broke camp the last morning. He had justified the action by telling himself it was almost empty anyway, surely Dorian had more waiting back in Skyhold. Since the mage hadn’t yet come to tell him any different he must have been right.
Bull wasn’t certain what he’d do when the lotion ran out. Not that he was using it, florals weren’t really his thing. But just the smell when he opened the jar was enough to remind him of Dorian, taking away the roughest edges of his anger and soothing his overworked mind. Eventually however, he knew that the lotion would dry out and then he wasn’t certain what he would do. If he would be able to swallow his pride and ask the mage for more. Or you could stop being stubborn and just tell him you were wrong his mind helpfully provided, drawling a low growl from him.
“Everything ok, Chief?” Krem’s words were as bright as ever, but Bull notice his footsteps had hitched the moment Bull’s growl started. Shit, now he was even starting to scare his team.
“Yeah, fine. Let’s do this.”
“Aye, Chief,” Krem shouted, handing Bull his weapon before taking a few steps back.
Their first few bashes were tentative, just a matter of both of them making certain of the reach and weight of the training weapons. Even if they did this so often that both weapons bore grooves from their fingers, it was still good practice to make certain of what you were fighting with before going all out. The next few hits were planned harder, this time testing the integrity of the weapons, neither one of them particularly wanted to end up in the healer’s tent when a chunk of wood the size of a nug snapped off and slammed into their skull.
Only when both men nodded subtly at each other did the fight began in earnest. Low growls and grunts the only sound as they circled, looking for an opening that would allow the press of an attack. The sound of the two weapons slamming together was every bit as solid as any axe taken to a tree, each impact hard enough to have palms threatening to turn numb as fingers fought to retain control of the grip.
It might not be true battle, but for Bull it was almost as good. His mind following years of training to narrow until the only thing that existed was the human standing before him and the maul that threatened to slip past his defenses and bust his ribcage wide open. His ear twitched, the only exception he allowed to his singular focus, and that only because it would be potentially deadly to ignore the possibility of another joining the attack.
So focused was he on his opponent that Bull caught the slight flex of the man’s main hand, something that meant his grip was less than secure on his maul and Bull immediately pressed his advantage with slash that came from over his right shoulder, the blade of his axe slamming into the top edge of the maul and pulling it off balance before twisting his axe to bring it down over his opposite shoulder and knock the weapon completely away from his opponent. Pressing closer, a horizontal swing brought the weapon up against Krem’s stomach, the attack checked at the last moment so he barely tapped the man in what would have been an eviscerating move otherwise.
“Damn it.” Krem grumbled, drawing a laugh out of Bull as the man went after his weapon, which had been thrown clear of the training ring. Shit. Bull hadn’t intended the maul to fly that far, someone could have been injured.
“Next time deal with the pain Krem puff, flexing your hand just means you aren’t holding the grip tight enough.”
“Yeah, well, not everyone has hands like tree trunks Chief.”
“Guess it’s a good thing you don’t have to face many Qunari then isn’t it?” Bull chuckled, listening to Krem mutter something under his breath as he stepped back into the ring.
Bull had just hefted his axe back onto his shoulder, he and Krem again beginning to circle one another when Bull found his focus disrupted by the most intriguing scent he’d ever smelled. Omega, without a doubt. But not any of the Omegas he knew. No, this one smelled like home. All cinnamon and clove and…damn, saffron. He hadn’t smelled saffron since he left Par Vollen. It was too wet in Seheron for the rare spice to grow and the Southerners tended to shy away from strong spices.
He broke the pattern he and Krem normally settled on, swinging the axe down to lay it along the training ring fence as he searched for the source of the smell, part of him wondering if somehow a few Vashoth refugees had arrived without him noticing.
“I’m fine Krem, we’re done for the day. Go see what trouble Rocky’s getting into.”
“You sure Chief?”
“About Rocky? Shit yes,” Bull muttered, distractedly as he scented the area, realizing the smell was fading now and the only person he’d seen walk past was Solas, heading in Ser Morris’ direction.
“What?” Bull growled. Damn it, didn’t Krem know he was losing the scent. Sighing he turned back toward his second, feeling a moment’s guilt at the concern he saw written on Krem’s face. “Krem, I’m fine, really. Just Alpha shit. Go, find the team and you guys can put drinks on my tab tonight.”
“Yes Chief!” Krem smirked and Bull groaned for a moment at the thought of the damage a night’s drinking for the boys could do to his gold reserve. Still, if it meant finding out who that Omega was it would be worth it, he decided as he set off at a slow lope after Solas.
The closer he got to the reclusive elf the stronger the scent became, convincing Bull that the Alpha must indeed know who it belonged to. Which really made no sense because the elf truly was a recluse, typically the only people he came into contact on a regular basis were the mages in the library and the Boss. Maybe the Omega was one of the nobles Josephine constantly had touring the keep? With the scent growing stronger, his mind kept trying to insist that he was missing something, something important, but before he could decide what it was he caught up to the elf only a few steps before Ser Morris’ door. “Solas!”
The elf paused, hesitating for just a moment before turning to face Bull. “Ah, The Iron Bull. Is there something I can assist you with?”
“No, not really. It’s just unusual to see you out and about, I thought perhaps Josie had invaded your space with another one of her tours.”
What looked like the beginning of a smirk twitched at the corner of Sola’s lips, telling Bull instantly that the other Alpha knew exactly why Bull had stopped him. “No, no tours lately. It was just Dorian and I for most of the day.”
Now why had Solas felt the need to state it that way? Dorian and Solas. Dorian and…cinnamon and black lotus. Black lotus covering cinnamon…Bull was on the other Alpha before his brain had even finished putting the realization together, his forearm pinning Solas to the wall of the keep as Bull snarled at him. “What have you done?”
Solas pinned Bull with a stare a cold as ice, for all the world making it seem as if he were the one doing the attacking rather than being the one hanging a good six inches off the ground. Bringing his arm up Solas took in a deep breath of the Omega scent that clung to his robes but made no effort to have Bull release him before admitting, “I can see why you would assume that, it is a rather enticing scent is it not?”
“No games Solas,” Bull growled, his fingers itching to snap the elf’s neck for daring to touch what was Bull’s. Fuck if he had…
“I have no desire to claim your Omega,” Sola countered, the arm that had been resting against Bull’s forearm twisting and allowing the elf to wrap his thin fingers around Bull’s wrist, his nails sinking almost painfully into the tender skin and threatening to tear open a vein. Bull’s eye widened as everything about the elf changed, his mind acknowledging ‘predator’ in a way that would challenge even an Alpha’s control. “Now, I suggest you release me. I grow tired of your display.”
Bull did just that, almost before he realized what he was doing, his body feeling set like stone as he watched the elf calmly right his robes and smooth out several wrinkles before looking up to address Bull again. “Thank you. Now, just because I have no interest in your Omega doesn’t mean others won’t. I’d suggest you hurry along.”
Just the thought of someone else being the one to take care of Dorian’s needs was enough to spur Bull into action. With a low growl he dismissed Solas without a backward glance and stormed toward the keep. “Fuck Dorian, what have you done?”
Stomping up the stairs Bull told himself he should have known better when Dorian failed to show up in the tavern. Veshedan, Dorian had agreed to research the link between Alphas and Omegas further the moment they reached Skyhold why had Bull been so willing to believe that the mage was avoiding him? Because you’re an idiot. Really, it was the only answer. Because while he’d been willing to believe the worst of Dorian, the Omega…his Omega, had been experiencing everything that came with being an Omega for the first time.
Racing up the stairs through Madame’s quarters he was thankful the powerful mage wasn’t in residence at the moment so he didn’t have to feel guilty about the fact he would slow down for no one. Well, no one that is until he exited onto the narrow walkway that serviced the rooms that overlooked the courtyard and he could swear Dorian’s scent had filled the entire courtyard. It hit him like a physical blow and desire began to curl deep in his belly even as a low growl started in Bull’s chest at the thought of others scenting what was his. It was bad enough that the other Alpha’s would know what his mage needed, but fuck, with Dorian’s scent hanging this heavy in the air even the Betas would be aware of his need.
Glaring into the courtyard as he stormed towards Dorian’s room Bull stumbled to a stop. It was still early afternoon and from what he could see the entire courtyard was empty. Looking up he found even the battlement at the far end of the courtyard was clear of guards, the closest ones clinging to the edge of the mage tower as though even they knew. “Cullen,” Bull growled. Of course the Alpha knew what was going on, it would have been impossible for Dorian to have continued moving about the keep the way that Solas had implied without the Commander being aware.
Before he could decide just how furious to be at the Alphas who had dared to keep this information from him he got to within ten feet of Dorian’s door just in time to see Leliana slip out the door, closing it firmly behind her before leaning against it with a soft sigh. At the sound of his approach Leliana looked up at him, her eyes cautious as she moved onto the balls of her feet. “Bull.”
“So I’m the only one who didn’t know,” Bull growled, only barely preventing the words from coming out on a roar. Dorian was his Omega and every other Alpha in the keep knew he was coming into heat before he did. It was unacceptable.
“The choice was Dorian’s Bull,” Leliana admitted, still keeping a close eye on him though her expression was showing signs of sadness. “He feared you would try to stop him.”
“Of course I would have tried to stop him!” There was no avoiding the roar this time.
Running a tired hand down his face Bull took a deep breath and told himself to calm down. An almost impossible task considering he could practically taste Dorian at this point, his scent clinging so tightly to Leliana that he didn’t know whether to kill her for daring to have seen Dorian or thank her for obviously caring for him.
Leliana’s lips curled in a slight grin. “He is a most difficult man to stop once he decides on a course of action.”
Fuck, if that wasn’t the truth. “I don’t want to hurt him Leliana.”
“Then don’t leave him waiting,” she answered with a shrug as if that explained everything.
But then really, at this point, didn’t it? Would Bull rather they had explored other options first, ones that did not potentially end with him losing his mind and hurting or killing Dorian in the middle of his rut? Yes. Did any of that matter now that the one person in all of Thedas he actually wanted to mate had gone to such trouble to make that possible? Absolutely not.
Feeling like his mind was clear for the first time in ages Bull couldn’t hold back his deep laugh. Leave it to him to pick the most stubborn man in the known world as his. The only Omega he’d ever met who thought he was a Beta. And fuck, but he wouldn’t have it any other way. “If you’ll excuse me Leliana, I believe I have an Omega to claim.”
The spymaster stepped out of his way only to rest her hand lightly on his chest when he would have opened the door. “We’ll keep the courtyard closed for the next few days, I believe there was some problem with falling masonry.”
Bull couldn’t help the surprise that crossed his face, and didn’t bother to hide the gratitude that followed it. “Thank you…all.”
Leliana nodded her head regally. “Be gentle with him Bull. It is all new and overwhelming to him even though he thought he knew what to expect. It doesn’t help that he fears you won’t come for him.”
Bull snorted. Only his ‘Vint would come this far only to doubt him in the end. With a final nod to the spymaster Bull reached for the door. “Then I better not keep him waiting any longer.”
“Maker’s blessings, to both of you,” Leliana whispered, leaning up to place a kiss on Bull’s cheek before releasing him and then the only thing in Bull’s thoughts was Dorian.
Chapter 17: Needs and Wants
Dorian had resumed his pacing the moment Leliana left. The pacing wasn’t so much the problem, though he was beginning to run a hole through one of his favorite rugs, the problem was feeling like his skin was going to crawl off his body any moment and he wasn’t sure how to resolve it. Part of him said a cool bath would soothe him and cool his fevered flesh, but the rest of him just wanted to burrow into the silk sheets and hide until all this went away.
Because it had to go away, didn’t it? Fasta vass, what had he done? It had been bad enough over the last couple of days as his scent maskers had faded leaving nobles and servers both staring at him as though he’d suddenly grown a second head. Maker, he’d never noticed before how much attention being an Omega brought with it, and for once in his life he wasn’t sure he appreciate it.
He supposed he should have known better this morning. When he’d woken covered in sweat and slick and his nose filled with the stale scent of blood still clinging to the robes he hadn’t found time to have laundered since his return from the Hissing Wastes. Now, pacing and trying to ignore the way even the rough texture of the carpet beneath his bare feet was sending confusing signals to his brain, he could see where actually attempting to leave his room had been a bad idea.
In his own defense, even though the memory was faded by almost half his lifetime, Dorian didn’t remember the one heat he’d been through being quite this intense. Even so, he’d be forever grateful to Solas for finally putting an end to his attempt to be productive after only a few short hours in the library. Dorian could barely remember what he had been trying to research, most of his attention had been on the fact that his chair was suddenly uncomfortable and the mages were determined to scream louder than Leliana’s damned birds today. Not to mention he’d misplaced the text he was fairly certain he needed. He barely remembered snapping at Helisma, but it had been the last straw before Solas stormed up the stairs and demanded he retire to his room until he was ‘feeling more himself’.
With a low cry Dorian dropped onto the edge of the bed. Kaffas, but that was the problem wasn’t it? This was his new normal. He could probably get used to the staring and the whispering, after all, how long could his being an Omega actually hold anyone’s interest? But the rest, the way his brain refused to work and his body didn’t seem to be his own anymore, the overwhelming smells and tastes and sounds, how could anyone willingly subject themselves to it? And looming over it all, this need he couldn’t explain. Not just for sex although, yes, that need was liking a living thing inside him right now. But worst of all was this pit in the bottom of his stomach, the one that was crying out for something else, something he didn’t understand and couldn’t identify yet felt like he would go mad without.
Dropping his head Dorian swallowed back a sob, wiping furiously at the tears that had started to fall unchecked down his cheeks.
“Not exactly what I had in mind when I said we should ‘look into solutions’.”
Dorian’s head snapped up so fast he heard his neck crack, relief flooding his body as he found Bull leaning one shoulder against his door, pointedly staring at Dorian as he slid the bolt home. Kaffas. Leliana had told him to bolt the door. But if he had bolted the door then Bull wouldn’t be standing here now, in his room, with that look on his face that said he was somewhere between amused and annoyed with Dorian. Fuck, not annoyed, please not annoyed. “Bull…”
Dorian wasn’t certain what he’d been intending to say. Bull I’m sorry. Bull forgive me. Bull come fuck me through the mattress right now. All off it driven from his mind as Bull’s scent finally reached him…the normally rich smell of loam and citrus and vanilla overlaid today by sweat and salt and musk. Some distant part of Dorian’s brain acknowledged the sweat and that Bull must have come straight from training but those words were of no importance to him as his body cried out that this, this was what he needed.
Whimpering as he felt his body slick all Dorian could think was that if Bull was annoyed he might leave. Bull couldn’t leave. He needed him. Needed him more than he needed his next breath. Forcing his mind to form words, Dorian cried, “Amatus, please…”
“Veshedan,” Bull cursed, his eye going wide with understanding. He closed the distance between them and swept Dorian up into his arms before settling himself back down on the bed, his back against the headboard and Dorian cradled in his lap. One large silver hand ran soothingly up and down Dorian’s spine as Bull held him tightly. “Kost, Tal-Asala. Kost. I know, it can be overwhelming. Peace Dorian.”
Dorian sniffled, his whole body shivering as he sighed against Bull’s skin. Bull hadn’t left, he wasn’t leaving. The realization had his body relaxing against Bull’s, Dorian nuzzling against Bull’s throat. With the Alpha’s scent wrapping around him, the need to taste his Alpha was overwhelming and his tongue darted out to lick at the skin where Bull’s pulse pounded. A pair of groans filled the air, the fact Bull liked it too was enough to spur Dorian on to lick and nip his way up Bull’s throat, moaning in displeasure as the Alpha’s hands wrapped around his shoulders and pushed him away.
“Dorian, we need to talk.” Bull’s voice was full gravel and sin and all Dorian could think was that talking was overrated. What he needed to do was finish tasting his way across Bull’s body.
“Talk later, much later,” Dorian muttered, deciding that if his tongue couldn’t have Bull’s skin then fingers would have to do as he shifted his hands to smooth up Bull’s chest and across his shoulders. Mmmmm, his Alpha was like river rock, solid but smooth and so fucking cool…
“Fuck Dorian…” Bull growled, his hands slipping from Dorian’s shoulders down to encircle Dorian’s wrists. “We need to…”
“Please, Alpha,” Dorian whimpered, reduced to grinding himself against Bull as it was the only point of contact remaining. Fuck, didn’t Bull understand? Dorian felt like he was going to shatter into a million pieces and only Bull could hold him together, could put him back together…
Dorian wasn’t aware he had started to cry again until Bull reached up to wipe away a tear, the Alpha’s eye dark with need and understanding as he whispered, “Taashath, Tal-Asala. It’s alright, I’ve got you.”
And then Bull’s lips where on his, his mouth opening on a low moan to let Bull’s tongue in and fuck had Bull always tasted this good? Bitter orange and honey and Dorian was fairly certain he could lose himself forever in just the kiss. In the way Bull’s teeth nipped at his lips, the way their tongue’s curled together then split apart so that they could draw in much needed air before finding each other again.
Bull growled, the sound deep and possessive as he flipped Dorian over, stretching the Omega out on the bed and covering him with his own body, releasing Dorian’s hands as he burrowed his face into the mage’s throat and nipped and sucked a bruise right over the spot where a mating mark would go before reclaiming Dorian’s lips with a throaty moan.
And then Bull’s hands were on his skin…when had Bull unbuckled his…oh, looking down Dorian realized the warrior hadn’t unbuckled anything, just grasped the cloth in both hands and tore it down the center. He supposed he should be angry, but with Bull’s claws drawing trails down his chest what did cloth matter? With those huge hands sweeping their way up his body, leaving the skin they touched cool like he’d been touched by silk. Dorian cried out when the back of Bull’s fingers brushed across his nipple, once, twice, then closed around it and pinched, making Dorian arch off the bed. “Bull…”
“I’ve got you,” the Alpha murmured against his lips, dunking his head to follow the same path his fingers had traced across Dorian’s collarbone down the center of his chest to lick and nip at the opposite nipple, again driving the mage up off the bed.
Needing more, Dorian wrapped his fingers around Bull’s horns, shoving the Alpha’s head downward to where skilled silver fingers were already tugging at the laces of his leathers. Dorian moaned as the laces pulled free and Bull’s breath hit his sensitive cock, already wet with need even before Bull leaned down to lick across the head. Slamming his head back against the pillow Dorian groaned, “Fuck…Bull, please.”
“You taste so good, I could eat you alive,” Bull growled, tapping at Dorian’s hips to get the mage to lift up long enough that he could strip his leathers from him before returning his attention to Dorian’s aching cock and licking a stripe all the way up it.
Dorian was beyond thought, a steady stream of Tevene now falling from his lips as Bull’s wasted no time teasing, his mouth closing around the head of Dorian’s cock and sliding down slowly until he had taken Dorian down to the root. Dorian’s fingers flexed against Bull’s horns, digging into the sensitive skin at the base as Bull began to move his head up and down. His tongue tracing patterns on the underside of Dorian’s cock as he went, low moans coming not only from Dorian but also from the huge Alpha.
“Please…I need…please…need…please…please…” Bull seemed to understand even if Dorian didn’t, the Alpha shifting slightly so he could get one hand beneath Dorian, fingers soon covered in Dorian’s own slick before sliding his hand lower, fingers teasing at Dorian’s tight hole, pressing gently with one finger as he hummed against Dorian’s cock. A deep groan was torn from the Omega’s throat as his hands left Bull’s horns to tighten in the sheets, tearing at the fabric as his hips arched off the bed, his orgasm rocketing through his body as Bull swallowed everything he had to give, Dorian blacked out.
Dorian woke to find himself draped over Bull’s chest, his head lying near the hollow of Bull’s throat. Too lazy to lift his head Dorian twisted it just enough to press a kiss against Bull’s skin, his fingers beginning to trace small circles on the Alpha’s shoulder.
“Back with me then?” Bull chuckled, and Dorian felt him press a kiss to the top of his head. “How you feeling?”
Dorian was surprised to find that the answer was not bad. He could still feel the hunger deep inside, like going too long between meals but not yet painfully hungry. And his skin no longer felt like it was trying to fly off his body, though his muscles were sore from the earlier stress. “Not bad. I’m sorry I passed out on you, especially before…”
“No worries, it happens,” Bull shrugged, tipping Dorian’s head up so he could steal a soft kiss. “What do you say to a bath? We should talk before the heat takes over again.”
“Mmmm, a bath would be good,” Dorian admitted, realizing he was still covered in a combination of Bull’s sweat and his own slick.
Letting Bull shift him so that he could stand Dorian watched the Alpha cross to the tub and start the water filling, Dorian reaching out to activate the heating glyphs as soon as water started pooling. When Bull’s hands went to his belt Dorian found himself out of bed, slapping the Alpha’s hands away as he muttered, “Let me.”
Bull’s eye darkened with pleasure as he did as Dorian asked, a low growl echoing through the room as Dorian knelt by Bull’s feet and began to loosen his boot. “You don’t have to do that Dorian.”
Setting the boot to the side Dorian reached for the second one before looking up, whatever expression he had on his face must have pleased Bull because the large Alpha actually purred even before Dorian admitted with a shrug, “I want to.”
The room fell silent as Dorian concentrated on his task, removing the second boot, both socks and Bull’s brace with remembered ease before rising gracefully to his feet to pull off the Alpha’s belt and loosen his pants so he could step out of them. Dorian’s hands shifted across Bull’s hips, fingers reaching for the Alpha’s hard cock as soon as the fabric covering it had slipped away but Bull grabbed his wrists and growled, “Not yet, we really need to talk first.”
With a little growl of his own Dorian acquiesced, letting his hands slide up Bull’s chest instead to unbuckle his shoulder harness before stepping in close and rising up on his toes to place a kiss to Bull’s lips. “I was afraid you weren’t going to come,” Dorian admitted when he dropped back down, letting out a gasp as he found himself tugged back up flush against Bull.
Bull regarded him intently, his one grey eye as serious as his expression, the Alpha slowly shook his head. “Not being here for you was never an option Dorian, I just wish you had been honest with me earlier.”
Dorian whimpered softly, shame at disappointing his Alpha making his chest feel like he had a druffalo sitting on it. “I’m sorry Bull, I needed to do this. For you…”
Dropping his head so that their foreheads could touch Bull made that little purring noise again, soothing Dorian’s raw nerves. “Calm yourself Tal-Asala. I didn’t say I was mad I just said I wish I had known. Come, get in the bath before it cools.”
Dorian snickered, waving his hand toward the glyph that was set into the smooth stone side of the tub as he stepped into the steaming water. “Dwarven runes, water never gets cold.”
“And I thought just having a private bath was spoiled,” Bull chuckled as he slid in behind Dorian, releasing a soft groan of his own as he settled into the water and pulled Dorian back to lean against him.
Dorian shifted as Bull settled in, the dwarven tub long enough even for the huge Qunari to stretch out his legs in. “Don’t see you complaining now.”
“At least now the mystery of why I never saw you in the public baths is solved,” Bull chuckled, nipping at Dorian’s ear before reaching for the soap.
“Ah, yes, that,” Dorian stuttered, breaking off into a low moan as Bull’s large hands spread soap lather over his chest, his skin tingling everywhere the Alpha touched. What had he been saying? Oh… “Scent maskers…didn’t trust public baths. Reason I never stayed with you…all night.”
Bull’s hands stilled and Dorian felt the Alpha’s muscles tense against him for a moment before Bull’s hands resumed their trail up to Dorian’s shoulders, strong fingers massaging muscles slicked with soap. “I always assumed you left because you didn’t want anything more.”
Bull’s words were calm but Dorian heard the hint of hurt in his voice and again found himself choking back a whimper at the thought of disappointing his Alpha. Kaffas, he couldn’t help wondering if his new sensitivity to Bull’s moods was because of the suppressants fading or because he had finally accepted Bull was his. Either way he found it impossible to not try and fix things. “I didn’t dare hope for more Bull, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t want to.”
Again the Alpha’s hands stilled for a second before he found himself wrapped tightly in Bull’s arms, the warrior’s head tipped down so his words were but a whisper against Dorian’s ear, as if he was barely able to dare give them voice. “Does that mean you want this mating then? That it’s not just something you’re doing for my sake.”
It was Dorian’s turn to tense at everything he heard beneath Bull’s words. Uncertainty tinged with hope and maybe a little fear. All things he was unused to hearing from the confident Alpha. “Amatus,” Dorian whispered, moving now to turn and face Bull, kneeling between the warrior’s legs as he reached for one of Bull’s hands. “I should be asking you that question. I did all of this without speaking to you for fear you’d try and stop me but I don’t want you to feel that you have to accept me. There are other Omegas…”
Dorian broke off at the low threatening growl that escaped from Bull. “There are no other Omegas for me Dorian,” Bull snarled, scowling as if the thought alone was abhorrent. “But I’m still worried about my rut, I don’t want to hurt you…”
Dorian’s sharp bark of laughter echoed through the room. “Did you forget me throwing you across the courtyard? You’re not going to hurt me Bull.”
“But if I did…”
“Alpha,” Dorian’s purred, noting the shiver that coursed through Bull at just the one word. He liked the thought of just his voice reducing the commanding Alpha to jelly. With a soft smile Dorian leaned up and wrapped his hand around Bull’s neck, tugging until their foreheads touched, “you would never harm me. I trust you.”
“Dorian…”Bull growled as his own hand wrapped around Dorian’s waist and tugged him firmly against his body, Dorian’s legs spreading to straddle Bull’s waist as Bull drew his head down for a kiss that was the opposite of everything they had ever shared. Soft, gentle, a bare meeting of lips, a coaxing for Dorian to open and let Bull in, to let him taste him and learn everything there was to know. With a sigh Dorian accepted, letting Bull lead as the Alpha’s hands ran up and down his spine leaving trails of fire and need in their wake.
Bull scattered kisses across Dorian’s jaw, nuzzling against the mage’s cheek before nipping at his ear and whispering, “My Omega.”
My Omega. The words went through Dorian like flames through gattlok, burning away any sense of calm and leaving him aching for Bull’s touch, needing to feel his Alpha moving with him…in him. “Bull…”
It should be illegal the way Bull’s low chuckle echoed through Dorian, touching every inch of him as surely as a caress. “Interlude over huh?”
Dorian’s only response was to bite, hard, at the hollow of Bull’s throat, the Alpha moaning in response as his claws raked down Dorian’s back, making the mage arch hard into his lover before he pulled away far enough to see the bruise begin to form on his lover’s skin. A low growl of satisfaction rolled through Dorian as he watched the skin darken for a moment before pressing a soft kiss to the same skin, moving his attention on up Bull’s neck as he ground his hips into the Alpha’s hardening cock.
Not as good as hearing ‘Omega’, but Dorian liked the hitch at the end, the one that came when he latched his teeth onto the lobe of Bull’s ear. How could he have forgotten how sensitive Bull’s ears were? Determined to make up for his forgetfulness Dorian ran his tongue up the edge of Bull’s ear, nipping lightly at the tip before blowing softly into it, feeling the shudder that ran through the Alpha’s whole body.
This time it was Bull who was thrusting up against Dorian, one huge hand anchoring Dorian’s hips while the other slipped lower to...kaffas. Dorian moaned loudly against Bull’s skin as one of the Alpha’s long fingers slipped inside him. Frozen with his head resting on Bull’s shoulder Dorian was lost in the feel of Bull’s finger sliding in and out of him, the single digit soon joined by a second that had Dorian biting into Bull’s shoulder to stop his whimper from finding voice.
Again Bull’s low chuckle rang through Dorian. “That’s it Dorian, let me hear you. Let me hear my Omega.”
Fuck. There he went with that word again, and Dorian found his head falling back on a low moan as he straightened and dropped his hips, trying to get more of Bull inside him. “Please…” Dorian cried, his fingers digging into Bull’s chest as he felt a third finger join the first two. “Yes…”
Bull’s low growl wrapped around Dorian’s moan as the Alpha shifted so he could nip at Dorian’s neck, trailing stinging kisses across his collarbone and over the mage’s shoulder as he worked his lover open enough to take him.
Dorian ground against Bull’s fingers, shuddering when the long digits brushed across the sensitive bundle of nerves deep within, his own cock hard and aching and still it wasn’t enough. “Please…Alpha…”
“I’ve got you,” Bull growled against Dorian’s ear, and a moment later he was lifted from the water, Bull rising with him like he weighed nothing as he stepped from the water and carried Dorian to the bed. “Knees, now.”
Dorian complied almost before the words were out, kneeling in the middle of the bed before dropping his head all the way down to the mattress, Bull’s growl of approval as he presented himself making slick drip down Dorian’s thigh.
Never one to waste Bull reached out and gathered some of the accumulated slick and Dorian tilted his head so he could watch the Alpha stroke himself as he gazed down at Dorian with a feral grin. “So fucking beautiful, all spread out and waiting for me.”
There was no stopping the whimper this time as Dorian’s eyes snapped shut, Bull’s words swelling his chest with pride for the few seconds before the Alpha’s hand curled around his hip and he felt Bull’s cock nudge at his entrance. Dorian’s moan lasted as long as it took Bull to slide, almost painfully slow, into him until he could feel the slight flair where Bull’s knot started.
When Bull started to slide back out Dorian groaned, trying to shift back to keep that perfect fullness in him only to have Bull smack him hard on the ass. The resulting spasm from Dorian drew a deep moan from his Alpha as Bull slammed back into him, harder this time. The message was clear, Bull would be leading this show, and with a low groan Dorian settled back down, relaxing against his lover as he dropped his head again to the mattress.
“So good for me,” Bull purred as he bent to place a kiss between Dorian’s shoulders, one of his arms dropping down beside Dorian’s head so he could cover the Omega with his body as his other hand held steady at Dorian’s hip. The long, slow slide of Bull’s cock in and out of Dorian gave way to faster, harder thrusts, drawing a string of Tevene from Dorian as he felt Bull’s knot slam against his hole every time the Alpha thrust into him.
Dorian’s own cock was weeping, a string of pre-cum pooling on the sheets below him as he struggled to remain still, to let Bull take him the way he wanted to, the way Dorian wanted to be taken. Lost in the haze of sensation Dorian almost missed the words Bull was growling into his ear. “Need…Dorian, sure this is what you want?”
Dorian’s eyes fluttered open, his mind registering the words but refusing to form a response. Instead, finding Bull’s arm right next to him he licked a trail from Bull’s elbow down to his wrist, feeling Bull’s pulse beneath his tongue before biting hard at the soft skin.
Bull’s response was instantaneous, his hips snapping forward and driving his knot half way into Dorian before pulling back and thrusting again, a low moan echoing through the room as his knot slid in all the way. Dorian cried out as he came without a touch, the sense of fullness, of rightness, enough to thrust him over the edge.
As Dorian’s orgasm rippled against Bull’s cock the Alpha increased his speed, short hard jabs that keep his knot in place as it expanded. Bull dropped his head and bit hard at the curve of Dorian’s throat; thick, rich blood coating his tongue as he spilled himself deep inside his mate. His Omega.
Dorian felt Bull’s smile as the Alpha laved the skin he’d just broken, the hand on Dorian’s hip sliding up to wrap around his waist as Bull took them both over onto their sides, Dorian spooned tightly against him.
“Mine,” Bull rumbled in his ear, the Alpha sounding as pleasantly sated as Dorian felt. “My mate…my Omega.”
Again Dorian shuddered at the word and he wondered if he’d ever get used to hearing it. He tested the words in his mind before pulling Bull’s hand up so he could place a kiss against the scarred knuckles. “My Alpha.”
Dorian felt as much as heard Bull’s purr, both the sound and the feel pleasant and soothing as he relaxed against his mate. Fuck. His mate. Shifting slightly Dorian felt the tug of Bull’s knot, the sensation surprisingly less odd and more comforting, like even now they were still joined as one. Shifting the hand still tangled with Bull’s Dorian brushed his fingertips against the bite he knew would fade into his mating mark.
“Does it hurt Tal-Asala?” Bull rumbled against his skin, the Qunari shifting so he could place a soft kiss over the bruised skin.
“Only in the best ways,” Dorian assured him with yawn.
“Rest Dorian,” Bull chuckled softly, a suggestion Dorian was only too happy to follow.
Chapter 18: Perceptions vs Reality
I just wanted to take a minute and thank each and every one of you that has taken the time to give kudos or comments or even just stuck with me and read this piece.
And for those of you who are sorry to see this piece end...you might note I've changed this to a series because I feel like there is more to explore in this verse, so you'll have a chance to see the boys back in action very soon. :)
Thank you again for all the support!! And now...on with the fluff!
Bull hadn’t slept. He knew he probably should have. It didn’t take an Alpha’s sense of smell to know that Dorian’s heat was still raging and any rest his mate got would be short before need again overtook him. But those two little words were the problem. Or rather the solution. Either way, they were the reason he wasn’t sleeping.
Because who could choose sleep over running lazy tracks down his mate’s arm. His mate that he had never in his life dreamed of having. His mate who submitted so sweetly and begged so prettily but who had the power within him to knock Bull on his ass if he needed it and a sharp enough tongue to put even the strongest Alpha in his place.
Bull acknowledged the goofy grin on his face, somewhat relieved that Dorian was still sleeping so he had this chance to admit to himself just how wrong he’d been. Because if he’d had his way he’d be pacing the floor of his cold bedroom, alone instead of laying here, sated, snuggled up to his Omega. Bull chuckled. His. As if the bond went one way. Lifting the hand that had been resting over Dorian’s on his chest Bull looked at the mark his Omega had left, and realized he was just as much Dorian’s as the mage was his.
Smiling, Bull wondered if Dorian was even aware that in the end it had been him that started the mating process. Not that Bull hadn’t been on the edge of starting the bond himself, but he had hesitated, fear of harming Dorian making him pause at the last moment. And then Dorian’s teeth that had pierced Bull’s skin, sending a powerful wave of need racing through Bull that he had had no hope of resisting. He wasn’t sure he’d ever seen an Alpha with a mating mark on his wrist before…but then what about he and Dorian’s relationship was traditional?
Feeling Dorian stir against him, the sweet scent of slick combining with Dorian’s true Omega spice flooding Bull’s senses and letting him know his mate would be needing him again soon. Looking down he found a pair of dove grey eyes blinking up at him sleepily, Dorian’s normally tidy hair a disheveled mess and his mustache drooping on one side. It was a sweet enough sight to have Bull purring again softly, even before Dorian pressed a kiss to his chest.
“Meant to ask earlier,” Dorian whispered, his voice still thick with sleep. “What does that word, Talsa mean?”
“Tal-Asala,” Bull corrected, drawing out the ‘s’ the way it was supposed to sound. “And it means ‘true soul’.”
Dorian scowled at him, and Bull saw the fight he had to believe Bull’s words reflected in his eyes. Raising Dorian’s hand up so he could press a kiss to the center of his palm Bull let his own walls down so that Dorian could read the truth in his own expression. “I could call you Kadan because you are my heart, but Kadan can be used for other relationships, for friends and brothers in arms, but I have only one soul. Before I met you it was battered and I was in danger of losing it and you not only gave it back to me you fought me the entire way to do so. Which makes it yours to hold.”
Dorian broke eye contact, sniffling softly and shifting to free a hand to swipe across his face. “You’re lucky I’m already wrecked Carissime or I’d never forgive you.”
“Awwww, come on, you know that isn’t true,” Bull chided, tucking his hand under Dorian’s chin and raising the mage’s face to look at him again. “You’d forgive me for anything.”
Dorian leaned into the palm that cupped his cheek. “Yes, well, I suppose you’re right. I did just give up my entire life to become your Omega after all.”
Bull frowned. He had expected Dorian to threaten his horns or tell him wasn’t that pretty, not go all serious on him. “What are you talking about Dorian?”
Dorian shifted, pressing a kiss to Bull’s palm before moving so that he could sit up and look Bull in the eye, his hip still pressed securely to Bull’s. “I didn’t mean it in a bad way. I understood what I was giving up before I stopped the suppressants,” Dorian assured him, raising one of Bull’s hands to brush a kiss across his knuckles before dropping it back into his lap. “It’s a price I’m happy to pay and I can still be off help here, doing research.”
“Dorian don’t take this wrong, but what the fuck are you talking about?”
His Omega frowned so deeply Bull was certain he’d have permanent wrinkles, and if Bull hadn’t been so confused, the way Dorian kept opening and closing his mouth might have been amusing. “I…that is…I just assumed,” Dorian finally started, dropping his head so that he was staring at their joined hands in his lap rather than at Bull. “I assumed you wouldn’t want your Omega in danger.”
Bull couldn’t help the sharp bark of laughter that echoed through the room despite the fact it made Dorian’s scowl deepen. Tugging at the ‘Vint Bull ignored the way Dorian pulled against him, not stopping until his mate ended up sprawled over his chest. “If research is what you want to do then knock yourself out Kadan, but personally I’d miss watching you in battle. The way you taunt your enemies into a dance that you always win, the power I feel skip across my skin when you cast a spell, not to mention there is no one I trust more at my back.”
At some point during his diatribe Dorian had stopped struggling and the look on his mate’s face now took the air from Bull’s lungs. Fuck, he’d only told Dorian the truth but the mage was looking at him as if he’d handed him the moon all wrapped up with a pretty bow. “Bull…I just…I never expected…”
Bull laughed again, hugging his Omega tightly to him. “What about us has ever been expected Tal-Asala. We’ll make our own rules.”