And so begins another foray into Adoribull...
It had been a long, difficult journey but finally a respite was in sight, however imperfect a respite it was. Not that it was all bad. It was certainly better than what he left behind. Most days.
“Ten minutes until you’re needed on set, Monsieur Pavus.”
A young elvish woman poked her head in, her voice thickly laced with an Orlesian accent, and Dorian gave her a nod. “Yes, thank you. I’ll be along shortly.”
She left, satisfied with his response, and Dorian turned to look out the window of his trailer. An autumn chill had settled on the backlot of the Sun Gate Pictures on the outskirts of Val Royeaux, the bustle and luxury of the city center a mere twenty-minute metro ride away. He had arrived in Orlais more than six months ago but had yet to find the time to explore everything Val Royeaux had to offer as it deserved. Of course in the past six months he had also yet to find anyone who would willingly accompany him into town and there was something depressing about the thought of dining in a fine restaurant or spending too much money on luxury purchases by himself, even if he itched for it. Some actors might not want to go out in public without an entourage because they worried they might be swarmed; luckily that was one thing that Dorian didn't have to worry about.
He had been signed on with Sun Gate Pictures for their newest movie, Field of Bones, because he had made sure to be seen by and had spoken to the right people and had been in the right place at the right time. Honestly, the whole thing had felt a bit too much like a political foray for his liking but it had been necessary. Before that, in Minrathous, he had performed as a classical stage actor after finishing his schooling and finding no academic position waiting for him in the University. That had been a near seamless transition: he had studied both Arcane Magic and Theatre Arts, his two passions in life, and, when the University hadn’t wanted to hire him as a researcher or lecturer, his talent had him quickly snapped up by the Theatrum as one of their up-and-coming stars.
Dorian had adored stage acting. The drama, the sets, and pageantry, and the thrill of performing for a live audience knowing you only had one chance at perfection. He had quickly gained acclaim from some of the most respected critics in Tevinter and had become a public figure. But then pressures from his personal life had come crashing down around him within a few short years. His father had been pushing him to begin the grooming process to become a magister and follow his footsteps into politics. That meant leaving theatre behind and, worse yet, settling down into an ‘acceptable’ lifestyle by becoming the socialite he was raised to be and finding a wife. He refused to do either but hadn't realized how deep tensions truly ran between himself and his parents until his father had tried to force the changes. Dorian had fled Tevinter the next day. He would have left that night except he had needed the extra hours to frantically put his affairs in order before taking a very expensive last minute flight to Orlais where he knew there was both a thriving University and theatre scene.
Unfortunately, neither the University of Val Royeaux nor local acting companies had any desire to hire a “’Vint” when the market was already oversaturated with Orlesian talent. Therefore, when an advertisement popped up for a casting call at Sun Gate Pictures, Dorian hadn’t had the luxury of hesitating at the thought of moving from onstage acting to film. The day he showed up for his audition he had twenty crowns left to his name, barely enough for one more night in his run-down hotel. Luckily for him he had aced his audition. Field of Bones, an uninventive period piece, was looking for an actor to fill the role of the lead villain, a Tevinter magister intent on raising a demon horde. Dorian had been the only man actually from Tevinter to apply. Better yet, he was a mage and it sealed the deal when he informed them he was one of five mages in Tevinter who were officially practicing necromancy.
According to them, he would be saving them a significant amount of money in post-production by being able to raise his own dead.
Dorian held his tongue for once and didn’t mention that raising the dead had little to do with summoning demons.
So now he found himself in his third week of filming and a quick glance at the clock told him he had exactly six minutes to get to the set. He checked himself quickly in a mirror he had hung by the door for exactly such a purpose—he looked properly villainous, in part thanks to the skilled professionals in the costume and makeup departments—then strode out of his trailer with a flourish as he settled into his character. Evil magister intent on raising demon hordes and practicing blood magic with a look on his face that whispered ‘I sacrificed ten slaves before breakfast’. The script hadn’t provided much of a backstory to his character, Cassius, not that that was a surprise. ‘Cassius’ itself was not even an inventive name, translating nearly directly to ‘vain’ in Tevene, like the author had chosen a vice and flipped opened a Trade to Tevene dictionary to the appropriate page. But that was just as well; Dorian had created his own backstory and vanity was as relatable a starting point as he could have hoped for. Besides, he knew what a southern audience would want from a Tevinter. Vanity, yes, along with pride and a level of superiority that came from over a thousand years of careful breeding along with a near gleeful use of blood magic. The first few qualities were easy enough for Dorian to conjure up within himself but the last was always difficult. It took a good deal of self-control not to flinch with every line he spoke extoling the virtues of blood magic. But his character was supposed to be corrupted beyond hope and, when Dorian dug deep enough into the darkest parts of himself, that was a feeling he could conjure up as well and it made things easier in a way.
The movie was set back around 1950 TE, or in the Blessed Age by the southern Chantry calendar. The date was never explicitly stated but it was implied in the story that Orlais had control over Denerim and Tevinter was embroiled in a war with the Qunari in Seheron. The latter wasn’t necessarily a good time marker since skirmishes were still ongoing on that Maker-forsaken island. The robes he wore were a much better indication. The costume department had certainly done their homework; the hemlines of his long black robes fell perfectly with what would have been in fashion in Tevinter during the Blessed Age and as much as he loathed the way they hid his figure he would be the first to admit that they had been beautifully made. Luckily he had managed to convince them his mustache was period appropriate as well after pulling up a portrait of a distant ancestor who also had a knack for fashionable facial hair.
The skirts of his robes billowed wonderfully as he walked across the backlot to the sound stage and it helped to get him in the right frame of mind. Passers-by, members of their crew or one of the handful of other crews operating on the lot, stared as he walked by but he didn’t acknowledge them with so much as a glance. That, too, helped to get himself in character. Today they would begin filming on one of the action scenes between himself and the film’s hero, Ser Reynard, played by Gaspard de Chalons, a member of Orlesian film royalty and relative of actual Orlesian royalty. There had been rumor that a younger up-and-coming actor, Michel de Chevin had been up for the role but had failed to win it due to Gaspard’s star power. It was a shame. Dorian had seen Michel a few times and would have much preferred having the handsome young man on set. Not that Gaspard was terrible to look at but his personality spoiled it as did his atrocious smoking habit.
Dorian arrived on set with a minute to spare and a small smile worked its way onto his lips despite himself at the sight of the masterfully built set. Field of Bones might be a barely concealed piece of Orlesian propaganda dressed up as a potential blockbuster but the set design, like the costumes, was magnificent. If he didn’t know better he would have sworn he had stepped into a Blessed Age Tevinter fortress, save for the lack of a wall on one side where the film equipment had been set up.
Gaspard was already there, sitting in his chair off to the side and reviewing the script for today’s scene. There was a full suit of polished armor resting on a frame behind Gaspard and Dorian felt a small stab of jealousy at the sight of it.
“Dorian Pavus, darling.”
Dorian turned and found Madame Vivienne de Fer striding toward him in her high heels like she owned the place. Because she did. Vivienne was a producer with Sun Gate who had her manicured fingers in nearly every aspect of Field of Bones. She commanded attention as soon as she walked into a room but for the first time Dorian’s attention was drawn elsewhere. Specifically, to the hulking Qunari strolling behind her.
Dorian just barely remembered himself as Vivienne reached him and swept into a dramatic bow, using his robes to his advantage by sweeping them back with a dramatic flourish. “Madame de Fer, you look beautiful as always.” Despite himself, his eyes kept flickering up the Qunari behind her. Dorian thought he had a right to be cautious. Qunari and Tevinters had a long and bloody history and mutual distaste still burned bright between them.
The Qunari—and, Maker, was he missing an eye?—didn’t seem at all affected by it though and merely gave Dorian a slightly smug smile as Vivienne nodded then waved a hand in the Qunari’s direction. “Dorian, I wanted to personally introduce you to the newest members of our crew, given circumstances.” Dorian had never heard anyone condense a near millennia of war and hatred into such a simple word as ‘circumstances’ before but Vivienne handled it masterfully. “This is The Iron Bull,” it was a hard thing to keep in a scoff at the name, “and he and his company, the Chargers, will be coordinating all of the stunts for this production. I trust this will not cause any problems on set?”
Pressing a smooth smile onto his face he had perfected long before his acting career began, Dorian straightened and arched a brow. “Of course not, Madame. At least not on my end.”
Vivienne looked expectantly up at the Iron Bull who gave an easy shrug. His voice was as deep as Dorian expected it to be but it was surprisingly light in tone and nothing like he had ever heard any other Qunari speak. “Don’t worry, Ma’m. Me and my team just want to do our jobs, and we’ll do them well. Besides, I don’t expect that me and Mr. Pavus here will be working directly with each other too often.”
This time Dorian’s smile grew slightly smug and he lifted his chin as Vivienne spoke for him. “To the contrary, Dorian has insisted that he will perform all of his many stunts, which is why I bothered to introduce you at all.”
Something in the Iron Bull’s eyes sharpened and it only made Dorian all the smugger. He loved to defy expectations. He nodded once more to Vivienne before brushing past Bull. “Thank you, Madame de Fer, for your consideration. The Iron Bull, I suppose we will meet again shortly. But if you will both excuse me, it appears I am being summoned.”
Across the room, the director, Ponchard de Lieux, gestured for him to come over. Dorian had learned to hate the vile little man but at the moment he provided the perfect excuse for an exit. He felt the Iron Bull’s eye on him as he moved past him but the Qunari didn’t say another word and Dorian didn’t look back despite the urge to do just that.
As it turned out Ponchard had only called him over to go over every inch of the set with him and where Dorian’s marks were. As if he had forgotten since the day before. But Vivienne was on site and Ponchard wanted to appear to be busy and what better way to be busy then to condescend the ‘Vint.
Dorian grit his teeth and buried his frustrations beneath a condescension of his own. He didn’t have to put up with it long though as soon the cameras were set and the gaffers, grips, and boom operators were each in their many places. Gaspard had risen from his chair and the costume designer had helped him into his armor. Dorian stayed on set and mentally ran through his lines as he eased himself as deep into his character as he could get. The prop master ran in and given Dorian an elaborately designed but cast plastic staff. It had a glass “crystal” at its head and Dorian lit it with a green wisp of veil fire, much to the man’s apparent unease. As Gaspard walked across the room to join him, Dorian closed his eyes and collected himself then let his expression harden into that of a blood mage willing to do anything for power. It was an expression he knew how to reproduce; he had seen it before.
When his eyes opened again, he was Cassius, or as much ‘Cassius’ as he would ever be, and watched with cold eyes as Gaspard took his position a few steps away from him. He had his helmet on but the face plate flipped up. There some murmurs from around the set as the crew prepared themselves and then Ponchard called for quiet. “Roll cameras!”
“Roll A-Three, Scene Seventeen, Take One!”
The loud snap of a clapboard echoed across the sound stage. Dorian waited three beats then drew himself up. “Ser Reynard, we finally meet.” He had thickened his accent further and sneered at the man. “I had been worried that you would have gotten yourself killed before we were able to speak face to face.”
“No thanks to you,” Gaspard growled back, his body language all pride and aggression. Dorian always had to admit, he was an accomplished actor. There was the sound of the sharp slide of metal on metal and Gaspard drew a longsword from a sheath on his back. Dorian narrowed his eyes on it and tightened his grip on his staff, the veil fire flaring inside it, but he didn’t flinch, holding himself all the straighter as Gaspard leveled the tip of his sword at his throat. Out of the corner of his eyes, Dorian saw a steady cam slide around to get a different angle but kept his gaze focused on Gaspard’s face as he flipped the faceplate on his helmet down. “This madness ends now!”
“I’m afraid not. There is still too much to do.”
“Cut! Get set for the next shot.”
Dorian released a breath and felt his shoulders relax as the crew scurried forward. He made sure not to move his feet as the cameras were moved around but nearly jumped out of his skin when he turned back around to find the Iron Bull standing at his side, a scowling young man behind him dressed in an exact copy of Gaspard’s armor. Huffing out a breath, Dorian rested his hand on his breast, his other gripping his staff. “How in the Maker’s name can someone like you move so silently? Someone ought to put a bell on you.”
“Nah, I’m not into bells.” Bull grinned, though Dorian saw his eye move towards the veil fire. “Ropes and handcuffs maybe, but that’s only usually after the second date."
Did he just…? Dorian’s brows furrowed in disbelief. “I beg your pardon?”
“Too much? Sorry. Go ahead, Krem.” The man behind him pulled on a helmet and Gaspard happily stepped back to allow the young man, Krem apparently, to take his place. “Dorian Pavus, meet Cremisius Aclassi, my lead stuntman.”
Dorian’s eyes brightened and he turned to Krem with renewed interest as the crew continued to adjust the cameras and mics. “Ah, a fellow Tevinter.”
He saw Krem’s grip tighten on his sword before the man offered a single-word acknowledgment. “Altus.”
“Ah.” The interest faded from Dorian’s eyes. It was like that, then.
The Iron Bull actually laughed and clapped Krem hard on the shoulders. “Take it easy on him, Krem. He pays his bills with that face of his, you don’t want to bruise it up.”
An acidic taste flooded Dorian’s mouth and he easily swung his staff around. “I can handle myself, thank you. Now, is this to be choreographed or ad libitum?”
“That depends on how good you are,” Krem responded, his voice muffled behind his helmet.
“Normally we’d like to have a few weeks of training leading up to a fight scene, especially if we’re involving actors,” Bull explained easily, “but they just flew us in and I was told this scene would only require a few blocks and parries. Plus, didn’t expect that you’d want to be involved. But we can either call for a break to work out a short routine or you and Krem can just take a couple of swings at each other and we can see how that looks. I’d only recommend that second part if you’ve been trained, by the way. "
And by the way he was looking at Dorian, he could tell that the Iron Bull doubted that he had. “Let’s go with the second option.”
The Bull blinked in surprise but instead of arguing grinned and slapped Krem on the shoulder one more time before making his way off the set. As he went, Dorian retook his position and nodded at Krem. “Would you like the honors of the first blow?”
“If that’s what you’d like.”
The terseness of his voice built the tension between them higher but Dorian used it to his advantage. As soon as the cameras began to roll he was ready for it as Krem lunged forward. Unlike the sword the prop department provided to Gaspard, which was made of metal, Krem’s longsword was made of a sturdy plastic like Dorian’s staff. The sound of clashing metal would be added in post production.
Krem swung at him but Dorian had his staff up quick enough to block it. He heard Krem huff out a small noise of surprise before he swung again from a different angle with all the ferocity of a man who actually wanted to kill him. This one was less easy to block, the plastic blade of the sword sliding across his staff, and then Krem flicked his wrist and Dorian was forced to jump back to avoid being ‘cut’. Remembering his role, he snapped his head up and smiled darkly at Krem before going on the offensive.
Whipping around in a circle, his robes flying up around his ankles, Dorian spun his staff then swung it down in an arc, a fake blade on the base of the staff flying straight for Krem. Forced back, Krem dove to the side as Dorian swung around again in another attack. Krem managed to block this one and then threw himself forward into a lunge that Dorian just barely managed to block. He used the force of their weapons clacking together to turn and side-step away from the other, Krem’s momentum carrying him a few steps in the opposite direction.
Dorian kept his staff out in front of him as he spun once more to face Krem with a haughty expression. Time to move this scene along as scripted. “Ser Reynard, this has been an…enlightening encounter. I must be going but I already look forward to our next meeting.” With that, he jerked his staff to slam it down against the faux stone floor, knowing that a massive burst of flame would be added in later. Krem actually jerked back at the movement and Dorian couldn’t help but let out a bright laugh as he heard Ponchard call “Cut!” from across the room.
He immediately relaxed his stance and smiled slyly as Krem tugged his helmet off, a light flush still on his cheeks. “I’m sorry, did I startle you?”
Krem scowled and glanced back over his shoulder to watch as the Iron Bull began to make his way back over to them before looking back at Dorian. “Andraste’s arse, I thought you were actually going use magic on me.”
“What, with this?” Dorian raised a brow and twirled his staff once more, feeling inordinately pleased with himself as Bull joined them with a grin on his scarred face. “I think not. It would hardly stand up to channeling an element without melting or shattering.” And necromancy was certainly out of the questions inside a sound studio. Glancing at the Iron Bull, Dorian raised his chin. It was hard to look down on someone when they were at least a full head taller than you but Dorian gave it his best effort. “As an advanced warning, there will be scenes in which I have been contracted to use magic so we may need to break beforehand and work out a short routine to make sure you and your crew are comfortable.”
Krem rolled his eyes as Dorian echoed the Iron Bull’s words back at him but the Bull’s smile only widened and a new sort of interest lit his eye. “You know what, ‘Vint? You’re alright. And, hell yeah, we’ll work out a routine beforehand. And maybe another routine for when the shoot’s over too.”
Again with this nonsense? Dorian flushed but before he could think of a witty retort, Krem knocked his fist against the Iron Bull’s arm. “Knock it off, Chief…”
“Yeah, yeah.” He brushed Krem’s fist off like it was a fly without shifting his attention from Dorian. “That was pretty damn good, big guy. Where did you learn moves like that?”
“In Tevinter, Altus are trained from in early age in a variety of near-useless skills and in Circles that includes classic dueling techniques,” Dorian answered easily, comfortable again with himself now that Krem had derailed Bull’s teasing. He heard Krem huff something out under his breath but didn’t spend the energy to try to interpret it, knowing it was not likely to be complementary. “Additionally, stage acting doesn’t typically allow the luxury of switching out with a stunt double so I picked up a few techniques from that as well.”
“Hmm. Well, I’m impressed.”
Before the Bull could compliment him more, at least that’s what Dorian could only assume he was about to do, their conversation was interrupted as Ponchard appeared at Dorian’s elbow. The weasely man looked positively gleeful and all at once Dorian was all at once slightly disappointed that he and Krem had both managed themselves so well. “That was just what we needed, Dorian. I think that first take will do it. It seems you are finally beginning to earn your pay.”
He saw the Bull straightening up on his other side but Dorian ignored him for a moment in order to smile broadly at Ponchard, the expression feeling tight on his face. “So good to hear I measure up to the high quality always demanded on set. I would not want to cheat you out of a single penny of the generous amount of money I am being paid for this production.” Sincerity dripped from his words to the point where a man with a sharper mind would have found it to be an insult.
Ponchard clearly didn’t. “I am glad to hear it. Now, prepare yourself for the next scene.”
Dorian kept his smile on his face until Ponchard left at which point Dorian rolled his eyes. “That man…” Lifting his gaze he found both the Bull’s and Krem’s eyes on him and shame washed through him at the realization that they had witnessed him practically prostrating himself at Ponchard’s feet. “If you’ll excuse me, gentlemen…” He turned and neither of them tried to stop him as he walked away.
Thank you so much to everyone who reviewed for the first chapter! This has already been a really busy, stressful week for me so they meant all the more and really brightened my day. :) Also, you may have noticed that I slightly edited the tags. I was hesitant saying 'slow burn' at the start but as I wrote, they kept flirting and I didn't feel right saying 'slow burn' anymore (even if they're not getting into any trouble yet).
The rest of the day went as well as it could. Dorian had to do his next scene, a villainous speech, of course, three times before both he and Ponchard was satisfied with it. Then came a series of random shots involving both himself and Gaspard on the set, stalking about and charging about, respectively. There were a few more stunts that required the Bull but none today involving Dorian and he found himself annoyed by that for some reason.
By the time work was called for the day, it was nearly seven thirty in the evening and Dorian was exhausted from being on his feet for hours in knee-high leather boots and from dealing with too much nonsense. The prop master bustled in to collect his staff and begin the laborious task of divesting Gaspard of his armor and Dorian made his way off set with a languid stretch as the rest of the crew began to disperse. He had nearly made it to the back of the sound stage when he heard a booming voice call his name.
“Dorian! Come meet my team!”
All he wanted was to be back in his trailer and take a long soak in his ridiculously small tub with a large bottle of wine but his curiosity got the better of him. He wandered over to where the Iron Bull was standing with a small group of people. Dorian recognized Krem immediately and he offered him a polite nod before turning to the Bull. “You certainly have an eclectic crew.” And it was true. Krem, a Tevinter, and two other humans, a dwarf, and two elves, one with vallaslin tattooed on her face…He couldn’t remember the last time he had seen that much diversity in one unit before.
The Bull just laughed. “That’s one way to put it, yeah. It makes it easier to find a stand-in for any type of actor this way. Plus they’re all a bunch of talented bastards.”
“You’re the only bastard here, Chief,” Krem quipped back.
The accusation did nothing to dim Bull’s smile. “You already know Krem. The rest of my core team here are Skinner, our main fight coordinator,” he gestured towards the dark haired elf then to each individual in succession, “Stitches, our medic, Rocky, our explosives expert, Dalish, our mag-special effects expert,” Dorian raised a brow at the clearly deliberate slip of the tongue, “and Grim. He doesn’t talk much but can take a blow like a Qunari.”
Grim grunted and Dorian offered them a small but genuine smile as Bull looked over the Chargers like a proud father, his hands on his hips as he observed his brood. Feeling playful, Dorian dipped into a stage bow. “Dorian Pavus, most recently of Minrathous. It’s a pleasure. I look forward to working with you all in the near future.”
“He’s a proper Vint peacock, I’ll give him that.”
The insult snapped through the air from behind and Dorian straightened with a frown to find another elf walking up to meet them. A male elf this time, dark haired with a distinct Tevinter accent. Which, coming from an elf, might explain the way he was scowling at him. Iron Bull’s smile faltered for a moment before he was able to recover it, though this time it didn’t quite reach his eye. “Ah, and this is Gatt. An old friend of mine who has finally decided to accept my offer to join up.”
Gatt barely spared Dorian a glance and crossed his arms over his chest. “I thought we were heading out for drinks, not standing around and talking up the talent.”
None of the other Chargers seemed particularly taken with him but they all perked up at the mention of drinks. Bull hesitated for a moment then nodded, “I guess I did promise a round. Alright, let’s head out. Hey Dorian, would you like to join us?”
At the offer, Dorian’s mouth fell open in surprise but before he could say a word Gatt answered for him. “I’m sure he’s far too busy.”
So that was how it was going to be then. It shouldn’t have stung as much as it did. Drawing himself up, Dorian took some small pleasure in the fact that he was well over half a foot taller than Gatt. “As it happens, I do have a full schedule tonight.” He had a pressing appointment with a bottle of red. Waving a hand, he stepped back, “Don’t have too much fun. We’ll need you on set bright and early tomorrow morning.”
“Don’t worry,” Bull smiled, “we’ll be there.”
Dorian didn’t bother to respond, knowing they weren’t waiting for an answer. He just waved once more and then was gone, walking back to his trailer.
His night was spent doing exactly what he wanted to do: soaking in his little tub that had clearly been built only to be comfortable as a shower, water kept warm with a simple heating rune, the nearby toilet bowl lid serving as a table for a glass and a large bottle of red wine, and the script for the scenes they would be filming the next day resting on the edge of the tub with the soothing notes of a Tevinter opera playing from his laptop on the bathroom counter. It was a silly grasp at luxury, a shadow of the life he once lived, though just as hollow. And it felt more hollow today than most nights.
The next few weeks passed in a similar manner. They would film all day, the set occasionally changing around them. The Iron Bull and his Chargers would join them on days when they were needed and otherwise would be outside training for future fight scenes and taking off after late nights to spend their wages at the local bar. It seemed the Bull never missed an opportunity to fluster Dorian and he was unfairly good at it. In turn, Dorian always took up the challenge for a bit of verbal sparring. Bull was unexpectedly good at that as well. And, to be honest, it was a welcome change to have someone around who was willing to speak with him at all. The fact that Bull was also an excellent conversationalist when he wanted to be was icing on the cake.
Just like the Chargers, Dorian wasn’t needed on set for every scene being filmed; Dorian played one of the main characters of the story, but many of the scenes occurred between Reynard and the other forces of good. There was even apparently a tragic romance in the classical Orlesian style that Dorian’s Cassius would never know about. Which was a shame. Dorian was sure Cassius could have convinced Reynard’s lady love to fall for him instead if he had been given a chance. He was far more handsome and talented, though his use of blood magic and desire to watch the world burn was admittedly a turn-off.
It was on one of the nights where Dorian wasn’t needed on set but he had had a long meeting with Ponchard on the “direction the film would be taking”. They were reaching the end of the shots that they were planning to film on the soundstage and would be traveling to shoot on location in two weeks. Dorian was not excited by the prospect. They would be going to the Storm Coast which was appropriately known for its miserable weather and rocky coastline. The talk had come since once they moved production and were out of the soundstage, Dorian would be expected to make use of his magic. Despite his abilities being referred to as if they were nothing more than a cheap parlor trick, being able to use his magic was the only thing about it all that Dorian was looking forward to. The prop master had been invited into the conversation once Ponchard had said his piece and Dorian had talked her through the type of staff he would need to properly conduct elemental magic through it. His actual staff, which was kept in a trunk in his trailer and unfortunately did not fit the look of the film, was made of silverite and volcanic aurum. He hardly expected this staff would be made of the same but had requested iron and drakestone at the very least. Sun Gate could spare it for the performance it would gain them.
Dorian had finally won the debate and was making his way from the administration offices when he was accosted. “Hey Dorian!”
Spinning around, a grin lit his face as Bull waved at him with far more enthusiasm than was necessary. He easily changed course to where the Chargers were packing up from what had clearly been a vigorous training session by the sweat that was dripping down their faces. Even the Bull’s, and Dorian tried not to track the way the sweat traced the contours of the Bull’s face before rolling down his chest and back. He’d gone shirtless, again, as seemed to be his preference, and it was an increasingly difficult thing for Dorian not to stare now that he was seeing the Bull as, well, as a person and not just a Qunari, as awful as that sounded. He’d always had a weakness for muscular men and Bull put every single one of them to shame. The size of his biceps made him ache to know how big other parts of his body were.
But those were parts of himself he’d long learned to keep buried and he fixed his expression into a lazy smile. “Well, well, working late again, are we?”
The Bull grinned and rested his hands on his hips as Krem began to direct the rest of the Chargers to put away their training weapons. “Don’t often see you on this side of the studio. Causing trouble for the execs?”
Dorian scoffed back. “Trying to prevent a problem before it began actually.”
Dorian all at once became aware that the Bull was staring, likely because he was trying to resist doing the exact same thing. The reason for it became clear when the Bull tilted his head to the side. “You know, I think this is the first time I’ve seen you out of costume.”
Gatt appeared from behind Bull’s broad chest and sneered at Dorian as he dropped what looked like a mace into a cushioned case. “No surprise he’s just as flashy…”
“Flashy? Hardly…” But Dorian still glanced down at himself, suddenly self-conscious. He always tried to look his best but…he had been having trouble adjusting himself to what southern fashion considered acceptable. He’d thought he’d done fairly well this time. He was wearing gray jeans, a white button-down shirt and charcoal-colored tie under a cream vest, all topped off with his favorite brown leather jacket. Everything was, of course, the best money could buy because he liked the way high quality cloth and leather felt against his skin, and he knew that the quality showed. Maybe, now that he thought about it, it showed too much. But he had limited himself to just one ring, unlike the six or seven he would have worn in Tevinter, and had kept his makeup to a simple swipe of eyeliner and some highlights. He had styled his hair and mustache like he always did. He likely stuck out as Tevinter but there was nothing about any of it that screamed ‘homosexual’. Hopefully. Not that, not that was a problem here in Orlais. Maker, how could a simple sentence from an elf make him this uncomfortable in his own skin?
“Nah.” The Bull’s voice cut through his thoughts and brought Dorian’s focus back to the present. “You look good in light colors.” Dorian huffed out a breath but the witticism ready on his tongue was silenced by the look in the Bull’s eye. His gaze was warm and melted some of the ice away that had begun to fill Dorian’s chest. “Of course, you look good in dark colors too. And I’d bet you look best in nothing at all.”
The joke pulled Dorian fully from his mood and he laughed. “I’d have to agree with you there,” he smirked. “I’m practically a national treasure. A shame you won’t get to see me au naturel, as they say in Orlais. This is not that kind of film.”
“Doesn’t mean I won’t try,” the Bull leered back. On anyone else that expression would have been ridiculous at best, disgusting at worse, but the Bull made it look dashing. Maybe because the hungry look in his eye that had Dorian feeling weak in the knees.
Oh, no. Time to rein himself in. This, this was different then the verbal jousting they had been doing previously. That had evolved into teasing and now it was threatening to evolve again into something much more dangerous. Falling back on old defenses, Dorian tilted his head up and straightened his shoulders. “I can’t say I blame you. I am a sight to behold, after all.” Now redirection was needed. “But I won’t keep you. It seems that you have finished packing up for the day.”
Bull turned to glance behind him and Krem and Grim finished locking up the last two cases. “Hm, seems like we have.”
The Chargers began to gather around Bull and Rocky punched the Bull’s arm. “Hey, we’re going out tonight again, right? You still owe us a round. We won’t let you distract us like last time.”
“Damn, I was hoping you’d forget about that,” the Bull chuckled. Even Dorian knew that he wasn’t at all bothered by the idea. “Would you like to join us? Apparently I’m buying.”
It took Dorian a second to realize that the Bull was speaking to him. “Oh, well…” He was caught entirely off guard by that. He hadn’t been asked to accompany them to their near-ritualized visit to the bar since that first day. It hadn’t bothered him; he hadn’t expected that the invite was anything more than a pleasantry or that it would ever be repeated. “I—“ A refusal was on his lips but when he looked back up at the Bull the words left him. The Qunari looked…eager. There was no other way to describe it. “I wouldn’t want to be an imposition.”
He heard a scoff somewhere from behind Bull but the Bull’s smile widened. “Wouldn’t have offered if I thought so. Come on, it’ll be fun. We’ve got a lot of stories and it’d be nice to have a fresh ear for once.”
He was looking at Dorian like he so genuinely wanted him to accept the offer Dorian could hardly do anything but. He smiled softly back at the Bull and nodded. “Very well. If you insist.”
The Bull looked like someone had just told him he’d won the lottery and Dorian tried not to focus on the way his smile brightened his whole face. His scarred, admittedly strangely attractive face. Maker, he wanted to touch, to feel the texture of the Qunari’s silver skin and his horns. Fasta vass…
“Great! Let’s move out! Dorian, are you ready to go? Do you have a transit pass?”
“I can leave now, yes, but as for the transit pass…”
“Don’t worry,” he reached out and clapped Dorian on the shoulder, “we’ll get you set up”. Dorian would have been much more focused on the sudden physical contact if he hadn’t been busy trying to keep his feet. The blow hadn’t hurt but it had been nearly enough to send him tumbling forward. Dorian was not a small man himself and the thought that if such a small gesture could do that then what…? No, no he wouldn’t let his mind go there, there wasn’t enough time to discretely take care of any problems that might arise.
The Chargers, well, most of the Chargers, accepted him well enough into their group as they walked off through the Sun Gate Pictures lot. There was a metro stop about a block up the street from the main entrance. The Bull fell back to the back of the group to walk side by side with Dorian as the rest of the Chargers began to talk and laugh, the sound of their voices filling the quiet after-hours of the studio backlot. It was an odd thing to be included in it, even if no one was speaking to him directly. It was a bit embarrassing, really, how inordinately pleased he was to simply be included. The Bull seemed content to walk quietly beside him, only occasionally interjecting a comment in to one of the others’ conversation. Dorian was tense for the first few minutes of it but then when he realized that the Bull didn’t expect him to try and force a conversation he grew more comfortable with the silence between them.
The Bull walked Dorian through purchasing a transit pass when they reached the metro station and did it in a way that didn’t make him feel like an imbecile. Krem had even stepped in with no more than a smirk and a roll of his eyes when the machine had failed to accept his credit card to inform them both that the Tevinter bank the card was from wasn’t accepted in Orlais. Luckily Dorian had opened an account with an Orlesian bank when he had been hired by Sun Gate, at their insistence, and had a second card.
The metro ride was a new experience in of itself but Dorian thought he handled it well. He kept his sneers at the mystery stains on his seat to a minimum and kept his eyes off of the smear he didn’t want to overanalyze on the window across from him. The Chargers of course made themselves completely at home, sprawled out on the seats in their work clothes as if they owned the place. The other metro riders gave them all some strong looks, especially the Iron Bull who naturally took up almost half of an extra seat due to his breadth and the width of his horns. None of the glares seemed to bother the Bull though who was bold enough to wink at a pretty Orlesian woman who quickly blushed and turned her eyes back to the book in her hands.
It only took about ten minutes on the train to reach their stop and they all piled off, walked another two blocks, then into a sordid looking dive bar. Dorian hadn’t even known such things existed in Val Royeaux and yet here they were. The Chargers claimed a long table in the back and were clearly regulars by the smile the waitress gave them as she sashayed over to take their order. It was unworthy of him, but Dorian hated her a little bit when she winked at the Bull and he winked back. It didn’t stop him from turning on the charm and purring out his request for a glass of the house white. The Bull gave him a funny look but Dorian merely raised a brow and smiled.
The next two hours were…fun. Dorian actually had fun. The Bull had promised stories and he and the Chargers delivered, going around the table and telling stories, each more ridiculous than the last, about past jobs they had worked. In return, Dorian had shared with them about the time he and Felix had broken into his father’s liquor cabinet when Dorian was seventeen, Felix a youthful fourteen, and then thought it would be a grand idea to take the family’s horses out for a ride. Because, yes, they had had horses which were housed in a barn on their sprawling estate next to a private vineyard. Needless to say the whole adventure had ended terribly, Dorian with a face full of mud and Felix half submerged in a duck pond. It wasn’t as exciting as the Chargers’ stories but by the end of it, Dorian had them all laughing as he dramatically reenacted the look on his father’s face the next morning.
That had been a good day. And one of the last times Dorian had laughed at his father. He soon knew better.
As Bull wiped a tear from his eye, his laughter booming around the room, Dorian caught Gatt’s gaze from across the table. He had been studiously ignoring it all night but it was impossible now. Gatt was the only one not laughing, his face set in a glower over the rim of his beer mug. Once their eyes met, Gatt narrowed his further before jerking his chin toward the door. Interesting.
Taking one more sip of his wine to finish the glass, his third of the night, Dorian watched as the elf rose to his feet and made his way through the now-crowded bar. Dorian waited a long moment then excused himself as Skinner started in on a story from the Charger’s time in Antiva and slipped away from the table to follow Gatt out. He was waiting for him just a few steps from the front door and the relative quiet of the outside world was just as sobering as the chill in the air. Patience never had been Dorian’s strong suit and he crossed his arms over his chest as he looked Gatt over. “I assume there’s something you want to discuss in private?”
“I want you to stop, Basra.” Dorian narrowed his eyes in confusion and Gatt scowled again and continued. “Stop everything you’re doing. I don’t know what you’re playing at yet but I won’t let you slither your way into their good graces and manipulate them. Hissrad doesn’t need any more distractions in his life. I thought he would know better but clearly he is farther gone than I feared.”
“And who is ‘Hissrad’?”
“The Iron Bull.” Gatt’s lips drew up around the words in disgust.
As confused as he was, Dorian could understand the basis of what Gatt was telling him and he didn’t like it. “I’m not ‘manipulating’ anyone. It’s not as if I have anything to gain beyond companionship, unless you or any one of the Chargers wield some influence with the Archon that I am not aware of.” He paused for a moment, mockingly giving Gatt a moment to respond but when the elf remained silent Dorian raised a brow. “No? What a surprise.”
“You ‘Vints,” Gatt spat the word out, “are always out to gain something. All Magisters and Altus know is power and greed and the depravity that comes with it. And you can take an Altus out of Tevinter but he’ll never truly change. It’s been bred into you.”
Dorian grit his teeth but didn’t give Gatt the satisfaction of allowing him to see how his words had affected him. It was one thing to be stereotyped, Dorian had grown used to it, but hearing the true hatred and conviction in the elf’s voice gave his insults extra bite. It was clear that he had had firsthand knowledge of Magister behavior by the way he was speaking and, given who he was, it wasn’t difficult to imagine. It was difficult to stomach though. Slavery had been outlawed in Tevinter nearly one hundred and fifty years ago but just because something was illegal didn’t mean that it no longer existed. Dorian knew that too well. “What is it that you want from me then? I can’t very well change my heritage.”
“I want you to keep your words, eyes, and hands to yourself, snake, and to leave us alone.”
A mirthless laugh burst past Dorian’s lips. This was absurd. “I’m not going to stop speaking with the Chargers just because you don’t care for me.”
“If you don’t, you’ll regret it.”
Anger welled up hot in Dorian’s chest and he let his hands drop to his sides. “Are you threatening m--?”
Dorian was cut off as the door to the bar swung open and he snapped his jaw shut. He wasn’t about to let this argument be overheard by a third party. But it was a familiar face that stuck his head out. Krem looked at Dorian then turned to Gatt. “Chief is asking for you. Something about helping him tell a story about a boat?”
Gatt glared at Dorian for one long moment more before stalking back into the bar, shoving past Krem as he went. Krem tisked as he was pushed out of the way but, to Dorian’s surprise, lingered outside even after Gatt was gone. They just looked at one another, Dorian wondering how much the other had overheard. Finally, Krem broke the silence with a sigh. “Look, if he said anything…”
“It’s fine, Cremisius.”
“Yeah, see, it’s not. And the Chief would’ve come out here himself if he knew Gatt was talking shit. But he and Gatt go back, far, and sometimes it seems like Bull thinks the sun shines out of his ass. He puts blinders up that Gatt can be a dick. Especially to…”
He gestured at Dorian and who chuckled dryly and waved a hand at himself. “Tevinters? Altus? Mages? Devastatingly handsome men?”
Krem huffed out a laugh of his own. “All but the last one, though I doubt it helps.”
Shaking his head, Dorian glanced back at the door to the bar, thinking of what waited for him inside. A warm room with tolerable wine and better conversation. And one set of eyes giving him death glares from across the table. He wondered if the Bull would actually care if he told him what Gatt had said to him. But how much would it hurt if the Bull then took Gatt’s side? It wasn’t worth the risk. They had only just met and, by Krem’s own words, the Bull and Gatt had a long history. “I appreciate your concern but I think that it would simply be best if I left.”
Krem looked surprisingly uncertain. Dorian had expected he would have delighted at the opportunity to get rid of him. “You sure?”
“Quite sure. Please give Bull my best.”
“You want me to go back with you? Or I can get Bull to—“
“Thank you, but I am capable of finding my way back by myself.” The sun had long since set and Dorian wasn’t entirely comfortable with the thought of walking through an unfamiliar, seedy part of the city at night by himself but he had what remained of his pride to consider. “I’ve unlocked the mysteries of the metro and if someone tries anything, I’ll simply light them on fire.” He snapped his fingers and a small flame flickered to life on his fingertips which he quickly snuffed out again, not wanting to attract the wrong sort of attention.
Krem’s eyes had immediately focused on the fire and he only met Dorian’s gaze again once it was out. “You’re scary sometimes, you know that?”
Dorian tilted his head as the corner of his lips quirked up. Most people only said that after they learned about the necromancy. “You don’t know the half of it.”
He managed to get himself all the way back to his trailer without incident, though he was tense the entire way, his eyes flickering to every noise he heard and every face he passed to gauge whether or not he would have to light something on fire after all. Luckily he didn’t and was able to pass out in his bed after a quick shower.
Over the next few days, Dorian tried not to let Gatt’s words change his behavior but he tended to overthink things in general. He knew he wasn’t trying to manipulate Bull or the Chargers into anything but he couldn’t help but wonder if any of them actually wanted him around at all or if none of them did and Gatt was the only one uncouth enough to say it to his face. The other actors certainly didn’t want him around, not that they attempted to include him in the first place; he didn’t know why the crew would want him around either. There was a divide between the actors and the rest of the crew at Sun Gate, after all, one only Dorian had ever crossed as far as he could tell. And the Chargers didn’t seem interested in inviting any of the other actors to do the same.
His uncertainty had him pulling away from not only the Chargers but everyone else as well. He would sleep as late as his schedule allowed, spend a few hours exercising, get in costume, film, then retire to his trailer to read through his lines for the next day, drink, and exchange emails with the two friends he knew he had. This became his routine and it worked for him. And he ignored the way his stomach seemed to twist up on itself every time the Chargers were called to the set to work through one stunt or another. He kept things cordial and so did they, acting if nothing was amiss. Because it wasn’t. Everything was fine.
Everything was fine.
After one particularly long day of filming, Dorian released a long breath as they ended their final scene for the day and closed his eyes against the glare of the lights. They had had to refilm a few of the scenes after some producer—perhaps Vivienne, no one had said—wanted to make some ‘small’ changes and the only thing that was more frustrating than having to do so was Gaspard’s complaining about it. Dorian didn’t like it either but he knew how these things worked.
Hearing movement around him, Dorian opened his eyes again and saw the crew moving about to clean up the set. The Bull and Skinner were off to the side, having guided Gaspard and an extra through a short sword fight sequence about half an hour ago. When he caught his gaze, Bull offered Dorian a friendly smile and Dorian automatically returned it before remembering himself. He was able to redirect his attention when an aide came up to take his prop staff and he extinguished the veil fire he had ignited in the glass prism at the top with a wave of his hands before passing the staff to him.
He had walked as far as the other side of the sound stage when he heard the whispers, Orlesian accents thick. “What in the Void do you think he does to get the staff to glow like that?”
“Maker only knows what sort of magic ‘Vints use. They still do sacrifices there for blood magic, who knows what sort of curses he’s conjured up?”
“I don’t know what they were thinking, letting someone like him on set, much less in Orlais. It’s bad enough with the Qunari. That ‘Vint is going to show his true colors and someone is going to get hurt.”
Dorian stiffened and his steps slowed. He hadn’t expected...Tilting his chin up, he looked around to see if anyone else had overheard but his hopes were dashed as his eyes caught on none other than Bull’s again. Of course. Of course Bull had been the closest to them and by the look on his face he had heard enough, if not the entire thing. Damn.
There was only one thing he knew to do: pretend like nothing had happened.
He went through his usual routine and visited the costume department just long enough for them to divest him of Cassius’s robes before making his way to his trailer where he went straight into the shower. It took a while to scrub out all of the product in his hair and the makeup off of his face but the whole thing was down to muscle memory by now. Reaching up to touch the shower head, he activated another heating rune and sighed happily as the near-scalding water began to beat down against his skin. If only he could wash everything away as easily as his hair gel and eyeliner…But there was no use in wallowing in self-pity. Well, maybe he could allow himself a short wallow.
About fifteen minutes later he dragged himself from beneath the magically-heated spray. He scrubbed himself dry with his towel then changed into the sort of clothes he wore when he had no plans in being out in society again for the day: an oversized white cashmere sweater, a pair of worn, dark-wash skinny jeans, and black socks to try to fight off the chill now that he was out of the steam-filled bathroom. He combed his hair then ran his fingers through it to fluff it back up so that it would dry properly. As he pulled yet another bottle of wine from a cabinet he wondered briefly if perhaps he had a drinking problem before deciding that tonight wasn’t the right night to start questioning such things. Maybe tomorrow. Or never.
He picked up an empty glass and the script and then it was a short walk over to the armchair he had set up beside a table and an uncomfortable looking bench seat that had come with the trailer. And then he reached over to the window ledge and grabbed his reading glasses where he left them the night before with a huff. Too many late nights reading in dark rooms had undone some of the perfection his parents had bred him for.
Curling himself up into the chair, Dorian flipped the script open in his lap and paged through it until he reached Scene 16 which they were set to start filming tomorrow. He read the lines once then again, mouthing the words this time, testing the weight of them on his tongue and trying to decide what face would be best. It wouldn’t truly come together until he knew how Gaspard would read his part; the subtleties of the tonal changes and facial expressions that would truly bring the lines to life would have to be improvised on camera. It would certainly be easier if Gaspard deigned to honor Dorian with his presence after hours so they could go through their lines together but Dorian wasn’t going to force the man.
He was three pages in and halfway through his first glass of wine when there was a knock on the door of his trailer. He jumped in his seat then looked sharply up over the rim of his glasses. “Yes? Come in.” He didn’t often get visitors after filming was over for the night. In fact, he never got visitors.
A strange sort of pleasure filled him as the door opened and the Iron Bull leaned inside, cautious of the width of his horns. That pleasure flared warm in his chest as Bull’s eye skimmed around the room then met his, though Dorian hid it behind an imperiously raised brow and a small smile. “The Iron Bull. To what do I owe the pleasure?”
Bull took the greeting as an invitation and stepped the rest of the way into the trailer, closing the door behind him. “Just wanted to check in with you after the…chat we overheard earlier.” He had adopted an easy stance, though he kept glancing up at the trailer’s drop ceiling which his horns were dangerously close to grazing with every shift of his head. It hadn’t exactly been built with Qunari in mind.
The small smile melted off of Dorian’s face and he huffed out a breath, lifting his script up to cover half of his face in a silly attempt to try and put a shield up between himself and Bull’s words. “It is hardly the first time I’ve heard such things. I’m no shrinking violet, I can handle a few rough words cast my way.”
Bull shrugged his shoulders. “I know you can. Doesn’t mean you can’t be bugged by it.”
Dorian smacked the script down on the table and leveled Bull with a steady glare. “What would you like to hear, Bull? That my feelings were hurt? Oh, woe is me, someone doesn’t like me?” The volume of his voice began to climb as he spoke but he was unable to stop it, his accent growing sharper. “Perhaps I should throw a fit, stomp my foot and cry like a proper diva? I assure you I have quite a lot of practice at paying no mind to people who don’t prefer my company. My ego will survive this most recent barrage just as well as it has each time leading up to this. It takes more than a few mindless words tossed my direction by near strangers to ‘bug’ me.”
Bull stayed quiet throughout his whole speech and waited until Dorian finished his tirade before a smile crept onto his face. How dare he smirk at him like that? Had he completely misread the man? Dorian sat back in his chair, affronted, but before he could bite out another monologue Bull crossed his arms over his chest. “Feel better with that off your chest?”
What? Dorian’s mouth snapped shut and he drew up on himself as his gaze flickered across Bull’s face, looking for any sign that Bull was mocking him. He found none. Realization washed over him and Dorian released a long breath as he felt his expression relaxed back into a wry smile. Well then…He hadn’t expected Bull to be able to play him quite so well. “As it turns out, yes, I suppose I do a bit.”
“Everyone deserves a chance to vent.”
Dorian’s eyes settled back on his discarded script and he fell silent. It was such a little thing…Bull had come here to, what, check on him? And then had allowed Dorian to be upset even when he hadn’t wanted to admit that he was. Even after he had all but given Bull the cold shoulder for the past few days.
Maybe he would have cared about what Gatt had said to him after all.
He realized that he had been quiet for too long when Bull turned as if to leave. Swallowing, he shifted in his chair, his movement making the other pause. As he spoke, he tried to keep his tone light but there was still a tension in his shoulders that he couldn’t shake off as he tried not to sound too desperate. “I don’t suppose I could convince you to stay for a while? It would be…helpful to have someone to run lines with.” And it would mean more to him to have that than Bull likely realized.
“Sure, big guy.”
Dorian’s head snapped up and he blinked at Bull in surprise, having fully expected him to make some excuse. He quickly hid his shock behind a casual drawl. “I don’t mean to keep you. If you have other duties to attend to…”
Bull shook his head as his voice trailed off. “Nope. Clocked out an hour ago and I’m pretty sure I’d give the accountants an aneurysm if I put in any more overtime.”
That earned him an eye roll but Dorian finally relaxed. “Very well, if you’re able to stay, come in and sit instead of hovering at my door.”
Obeying with a smile, Bull stepped further into the trailer and sat down on the bench seat Dorian lazily waved a hand at. He took a quick glance at the page the script was open to and his grin widened. “I guess I’m reading Reynard’s lines, right?”
“Of course.” Dorian shifted the script so they could both read it, feeling lighter than he had in days. “Enjoy playing the hero for a night. Maker knows neither of us often get the chance…”
They spent the next few hours together and, once again, Bull proved himself to be remarkably entertaining. At the same time, Dorian found himself being able to be, well, himself. He unleashed his acerbic wit several times in between lines and earned a laugh from Bull when others would have taken offense. In turn, Bull made lewd jokes back that had Dorian flustered but flirting back. Throughout the night, he only thought once about the fact that he had reading glasses on and was sans makeup, hair gel, and his normal attire. That itself was a small miracle, that he was so at ease with showing his clean face to Bull. Makeup could be used like armor in Tevinter or like masks in old Orlesian culture and he was rarely willing to be seen in public without it. But Bull was somehow different, like Felix and Mae; he felt little pressure to be anything other than what he was. Dorian smiled softly as he realized how comfortable he was around the other. He had gotten himself into some trouble with this one…
Thank you to everyone who reviewed the last chapter! You're all more awesome than words can properly express. And I apologize for the slight delay in updates; I went out of state for a week and didn't have my laptop with me. But I'm back and back in action!
Bull finally excused himself around midnight and the days that followed were much more pleasant. He and Bull would each make a point to stop and chat with the other when they were able and the Chargers all seemed to be growing used to him hanging around. Most of them, anyway. Gatt was cold as ice on his better days and on his worse days he tried to glare holes in the back of Dorian’s head. At least he didn’t ever have to directly work with the elf so he didn’t have to worry about him trying to spear him with a plastic sword.
Before any of them were able to get too comfortable with the new arrangement they all had to pack their things up. Production was moving to film on location to the Storm Coast. Dorian lost track of all of the Chargers, including the Iron Bull, at that point and focused solely on making sure that all of his meager possessions were getting properly packed and shipped out. His trailer would be moved to the new location, one of the purposes of having a mobile dwelling, he supposed. But that didn’t mean he trusted that everything would stay intact unless he bundled it all in cardboard and bubble wrap. All this had to be done in a matter of days and the rest of the crew was frantically scurrying about packing up the props, costumes, and equipment.
It was barely controlled chaos, the entire thing, and Dorian mostly did his part by staying out of the way. The next day he was packing up an overnight bag and a long, slim case for his personal staff and was driven to the airport where he was joined by Gaspard and the lead actress Dorian had only seen on set in passing, Calienne de Ghislain, a lovely young lady who was apparently related in some way to Vivienne de Fer. Dorian was in no way uncouth enough to suggest that she had been awarded the role out of nepotism and instead continually reminded himself to stay on the woman’s good side as they were escorted through an expedited security line and to a private plane. The three of them made a pretty picture as they settled into their seats but Dorian couldn’t help his mind drifting and wondering how the Chargers were faring.
They flew from Val Royeaux to Highever in Ferelden from where they would drive west out to the Storm Coast. The view from the plane window as they descended through a thick cloud bank revealed a green landscape drenched in a dreary gray drizzle that didn’t bode terribly well for their upcoming drive. As soon as they stepped off the plane, Dorian’s nose wrinkled up in disgust as he was hit with a sour smell that could only be described as wet dog. Ferelden met with every expectation he had of the country.
Sun Gate luckily had everything prepared and all three of them stayed in a hotel in Highever for the night before being whisked off mid-morning the next day in a small luxury bus that Dorian would have been less pleased with had he not discovered that it had come with a fully-stocked bar. He graciously prepared himself, Gaspard, and Calienne a drink and then spent the rest of the ride trying to get just the right amount of inebriated: enough to blur the trip but not enough to make an ass of himself. He was fairly sure he succeeded.
When they reached the film location it became clear why they had been held at a hotel the previous night; their trailers had been driven in ahead of them and set up beside a small growing expanse of other trailers and tents as the rest of the crew arrived and began to settle in. Dorian was too happy to see his make-shift home to mull too much over what some poor crew member must have been through in order to haul it out to the coast ahead of their arrival. Better yet, when he stepped inside, he found that although some of the furniture that wasn’t attached to the floor had slid around the rest of his things were still safely packed in their boxes, even though they too had slid to the other end of the trailer. After spending most of his day trapped in a small space with two Orlesians who only seemed to converse with him for lack of anything more entertaining to do, he was relieved to spend the rest of the night by himself unpacking his things and setting everything right again.
He woke the next morning to the sound of pounding rain. Groaning, Dorian rolled around in his sheets for a few minutes, trying to block out the near-deafening noise so he could get a few more hours of sleep, but it was to no avail. A glance at his alarm clock showed that it was nine in the morning and he grudgingly hauled himself out of bed. They wouldn’t actually begin filming until the day after when the full crew had assembled so Dorian would be left to his own devices. His usual routine would have been to exercise for an hour or two in the morning but the rain and lack of a nearby indoor gym made that idea less appealing. Running in the freezing rain sounded like a fine way to catch pneumonia or slip on a wet rock and break a bone, neither of which he was willing to risk right before several weeks of scheduled filming. The thought of just remain in his trailer reading and browsing the internet all day flitted through his mind but he dismissed it; he had to at least make a show of being social. Besides, he was curious as to whether or not certain members of the crew had made it.
So he went through his standard morning ritual: brushing his teeth, cleaning and moisturizing his face, applying a light foundation, powder, and eyeliner, then carefully combing and styling his hair and mustache. He had the whole process down to a science, every movement artful but efficient. With the weather as it was, Dorian opted for a sensible pair of dark jeans, a navy V-neck, long sleeved shirt, a fashionable but functional water resistant light grey jacket, and a pair of black boots. He had hoped that the rain would die down in the interim but no luck. It was still drumming against the metal roof of the trailer and didn’t seem about to stop any time soon. Dorian heaved a sigh and grabbed an umbrella he had stashed away for just such an occasion before resolutely pulling the hood of his jacket up and stepping outside.
He was entirely unprepared for the gust of wind that slammed into him as soon as he took his first step from his trailerr. Rain was pelting down and he popped the umbrella up, then cursed when he realized that it was only doing half its job since the rain was practically falling sideways thanks to the wind. Despite the fact that it was now nearly ten in the morning there were only a few people scuttling about between the tents and other trailers. Dorian managed to catch one of them, a poor soul who was balancing an umbrella and a tray of coffee cups, and when he asked where the stunt crew had set up the man jabbed his finger north toward the edge of camp where a large tent was set up.
As he walked on, the sound of waves breaking against the shore made itself known over the noise of the rain and it was only then that Dorian realized just how close they truly were to the coastline of the Waking Sea. It was still out of view but he would bet money that it was just beyond the hills that lined the north side of camp past the last line of tents. He had half a notion to go and take a look but they were instantly extinguished as the wind whipped through in a sudden burst and snapped his umbrella back. The damned thing turned inside out, one of the thin metal ribs snapping right in half in the process, and Dorian swore aloud as he was immediately drenched. By now he was closer to the tent the Chargers were in than his trailer so he made a run for it, pushing past the fabric door like there was a pack of wild mabari on his heels.
Krem started then burst out laughing when he caught sight of him, something that did nothing to lighten his mood. Sniffling, Dorian attempted a glare but Krem just waved him further into their tent with another snicker. “They have this invention now called an umbrella.”
Dorian threw the poor excuse for one in his hand down onto the tarps that lined the floor of the tent. “The wind broke it.”
“You look like a cat that fell into a bathtub.”
His brow twitched and he growled, “Do kindly fuck off, Cremisius.”
“Oh, watch out, the claws are coming out.”
“I am not in a good mood.”
Krem shook his head but his chuckles subsided even if his grin didn’t. “Clearly. You here for the Chief?”
Hm. He was hoping he wouldn’t be so transparent but there was no real point in playing coy. Dorian got on well enough with most of the other Chargers these days but he never sought them out without reason. “Is he here?” He looked around the space for the first time and realized that Krem was the only one there, though the majority of the tent was partitioned off from the make-shift foyer he had entered in to. The fact that no one else had come running didn’t bode well but there was also a loud, steady noise coming from the back of the tent that may have drowned out their words.
“Yeah.” Dorian sagged slightly, glad to hear it. He didn’t want to run back out into the rain but wouldn’t have wanted to hang around and bother Krem if he had been the only one here. “He’s using the fan to try and get shit dry. Hold on.” Krem held up a hand and wandered around the canvas they had strung up to serve as a wall between the front and back sections of the tent. “Chief! Hey, Chief, your Altus is here!”
Dorian flushed as he heard Bull answer back, yelling over whatever industrial-strength fans they had running. “What?”
“Your Altus is--! Turn down the fan!” The loud hum faded to a quiet whir and Krem spoke again as Dorian shifted awkwardly on the other side of the partition. Since when had anyone referred to him as Bull’s Altus, even as a joke? “I said your Altus is here to see you!”
“Oh!” He heard Bull chuckle. “Bring him back.”
Krem popped his head out and waved for Dorian to come over. He did so and walked around the partition to find Bull standing beside a large square fan that was nearly half as tall as he was in a space much larger than the one he had just left. Miscellaneous practice weapons and equipment were spread out on more tarps in front of the fan. He didn’t have long to study everything though because as soon as Bull’s eyes landed on Dorian he began to laugh.
Dorian rolled his eyes but smiled despite himself since the laugh didn’t last long. “Yes, yes, I know. I look ridiculous.”
“Nah,” Bull shook his head. “You just look like you got caught in bad weather. Come here.” He redirected the fan so that it was turned away from the equipment and onto a line of empty chairs that had been set up, probably for the rest of the Chargers by the number of them. Then he walked around and helped Dorian peel off his supposedly water resistant coat and then with a surprising amount of care draped it over the back of one of the chairs. Afterward he guided Dorian to another pair of chairs beside the first and sat down beside him.
Dorian huffed a breath and pushed his fingers back through his damp hair, adding a bit of heat to his fingers to try and help the strands dry faster. The humidity was making his hair curl at the ends and even after it dried it would be a lost cause until he got some gel back into it. “Ugh, I hate this Maker-forsaken coastline.”
Bull hummed then glanced over at Krem who had remained standing. “Krem, go get yourself something warm to drink and then find a warm place to drink it in.”
A sly grin spread across Krem’s face but he nodded and gave a messy little salute. “You got it.”
They watched him leave, grabbing what looked like a poncho of some sort on his way out, before Bull turned back to face Dorian. “Do they have a plan yet for how they’re going to film in this weather?”
Ponchard had spoken with them about it a little before they’d left Val Royeaux. “Apparently they’re not. We are going to wait for pauses in the rain and then recreate the effect at a more tolerable level with machines.” The idea had sounded almost reasonable back at the soundstage but now that Dorian had first-hand experience with the Storm Coast it seemed ridiculous.
Bull seemed to agree. “Because things aren’t wet enough?”
“All I know is that the makeup artists had best have water-proof eyeliner in bulk otherwise this is never going to work.” He’d need to constantly re-apply with the rain and even water-proof could only withstand so much weathering.
“Speaking of eyeliner,” Bull smiled fondly and slipped a handkerchief from his back pocket then handed it to Dorian who got the hint. He was sure that he had black marks streaming down his face. Accepting the handkerchief with a quiet word of thanks, he scrubbed the makeup he had just applied off of his face, taking special care around his eyes where he knew it must be at its worst. He scowled down at the black liner and brown foundation stains on the formerly white square of cloth and stuffed it into his own pocket. “I’ll clean this and return it.” Before Bull could refuse his offer, Dorian tilted his chin up so Bull could better see his face. “Did I miss anything?” The last thing he wanted was to run around with a black streak on his cheek all day and he trusted Bull to tell him the truth.
There was an almost imperceptible change in Bull’s expression that Dorian couldn’t quite place and he tilted his head. “No, you got it all. You look good.”
“I always look good.” The response was automatic and Dorian followed it with a smirk. “Even when I look like a ‘wet cat,’ as Krem says.”
Bull laughed again, though the sound was softer this time. “Coming from Krem, that’s a compliment.”
The strange thing was that Dorian believed him. He hummed in agreement then tilted his head after a comfortable pause. “I have been meaning to ask you a question; feel free, by the way, to tell me that it is none of my business. Since I suppose it isn’t. But is your name ‘the Iron Bull’ or is it ‘Hissrad’?”
Bull started and Dorian realized it may have been the first time he’d ever seen the Qunari caught off guard. “How did yo—? Gatt.”
It wasn’t a question. Bull knew. But Dorian still nodded in confirmation. He hesitated though as he watched a shadow settle over Bull’s face. He certainly hadn’t meant to cause such a thing when he’d asked his question. Without thinking, he reached a hand out and laid it over Bull’s much larger one. “I apologize. I shouldn’t have pried. It’s a fault of mine.”
Bull seemed confused at the touch but then the shadows seemed to clear from his expression and he turned his hand over so that Dorian’s hand was resting against the calloused palm of his hand. “I can’t blame you for that; curious is a good look on you too.”
Dorian’s mustache twitched as he smiled and the sight brought a smile back to Bull’s own face, though it was short-lived. Then he sighed, “’Hissrad’ is the name that I was given and ‘the Iron Bull’ is the name I gave myself.”
Sensing that Bull had silently given him leave to continue, Dorian intertwined their fingers before speaking. Bull seemed to appreciate the contact and here, alone in the Charger’s tent with only the sound of the rain and quieted hum of the fan to keep them company, Dorian was selfishly willing to indulge him. “I’ve heard that, under the Qun, you aren’t given a name but instead are addressed by the name of your role. Is that what you mean?” In Tevinter they were all taught the basics of the Qun as children during their studies. Know thy enemy, as they say. And he may have done some additional research in his spare time after he had met Bull, but it was always difficult to suss out the truths from the lies on the internet. Though the same could occasionally be said for Tevinter lesson plans.
“Yeah, basically.” Dorian’s lips parted but before he could get a word out, Bull met his gaze again. “Before you ask, ‘Hissrad’ means ‘keeper of illusions’. Or ‘liar’.”
Dorian felt his expression freeze on his face. Liar. Bull must have noticed because he squeezed Dorian’s hand. “I was a member of the Ben-Hassrath, working in Seheron as a spy.” Dorian’s fingers stiffened in Bull’s grip. A Ben-Hassrath spy in Seheron. A short, choked laugh escaped him. Bull was everything Tevinter propaganda warned against, the epitome of the evil the Qun had to offer. Void take him, he had sensed that the Bull had a past—his easy confidence in high-risk situations on set revealed as much—but this was far beyond what he had dreamed of. The Bull continued, albeit reluctantly as his sharp eye stayed locked on Dorian. “Gatt served with me, under the Qun. He’s the only one that knows me by that name this side of the Ventosus Straights. I’ve told him that it’s ‘the Iron Bull’ now but,” Bull shook his head, “he keeps hoping that I’ll ‘see the light’ and return to the Qun.”
“You mean you left it?”
“Yeah.” His gaze grew distant and Dorian wished that he could see what the Bull was seeing in his mind’s eye. “I’d been having…doubts. With everything that we all saw on Seheron…The casualties and atrocities, on both sides, were too much. I was re-educated once but even that only lasted so long. One day orders came down to do something that I just couldn’t stomach. They asked me and my kith to—well, let’s just say innocent civilians, women and children, would’ve been caught up in the bloodshed. They told me to report back to the re-educators and I agreed. One last lie.” He smirked and looked down at their hands, his expression drier than the Hissing Wastes. “Instead of getting on a ship back to Par Vollen I got on a boat to Kont-arr in Rivain, gave myself a new name, and never looked back.”
Bull had deserted. “So now…?”
“Now I’m The Iron Bull, Tal-Vashoth, leader of the Chargers, exactly as you see me.”
It felt like he’d been allowed in to a secret part of Bull that he didn’t often let people see, even if that wasn’t actually true. He had no idea how many people knew about his past; he could only assume that the Chargers all did. But this was the first time Dorian had seen him open, vulnerable, and yet the strength of his conviction was written all over his face. It was…Dorian had always thought Bull was attractive and strong and clever, all those things, but he still wasn’t prepared for the rush of fond admiration that swept through him now. “I see a lot more now than I did half an hour ago.”
Bull met his gaze again and Dorian was equally unprepared for the weight of it. As if he truly cared what Dorian’s opinion of him was. “Still like what you see?”
So, they were apparently no longer dancing around what he was quickly coming to realize might truly be a mutual attraction beneath all the teasing. He swore his heart skipped a beat at the thought and he smiled. “More now than ever. Besides,” Dorian’s soft smile grew a little more wicked, “what young Tevinter doesn’t secretly dream of being ravished by a fearsome Qunari warrior?” He was more than happy to move things along.
A low chuckle rumbled up from Bull and a grin slid onto his face. “Is that a thing?”
He had leaned in just a hint and Dorian purposefully did the same, his expression confident and tone light even as his nerves fluttered about in his chest. This was dangerous, uncharted territory they were walking in to. The flirting came naturally but he knew that this was leading into something more. “If you know which trashy paperback romance novels to read. Admittedly it’s always a young woman who is kidnapped by raucous Qunari ravagers but, what can I say? I’ve always had an active imagination.”
“And is that what you want?” Bull’s voice had deepened and his rich bass made Dorian’s gaze darken as they continued to inch toward one another. “To be ravished?”
Dorian’s own voice was no more than a low rasp as he spoke, unable to muster anything more. “…It’s admittedly moving higher and higher up on my list of desires.”
They were close enough now that he could feel Bull’s chuckle as much as he could hear it, his lips mere inches from Bull’s.
The call came from the front section of the tent and Dorian nearly fell out of his chair as he flung himself back from Bull who let out a frustrated growl. “Damn it, Krem!”
As Dorian stumbled to his feet, Krem pushed past the divider, his eyes up at the top of the tent, “You two better have your pants on.”
Dorian paled, unable to look at Bull again, and he heard Bull heaved a sigh. “And there better be an emergency. What is it?”
Krem finally dared a glance and grinned at both of their ruffled states. “The set designer is asking for you. He wanted to map out tomorrow’s shot on the coast and needs to know how much room we’ll need for that skirmish we’re setting up.”
“And it couldn’t wait?”
Collecting himself, Dorian straightened out an invisible wrinkle in his jacket and ignored the way his hands were shaking slightly. That had been close, he’d almost been caught. If anyone had seen—If anyone had seen…Dorian felt his heartbeat slow back to its normal pace and his fear turned to embarrassment. This wasn’t Tevinter. If they had gone further and Krem had caught them kissing or, or even more, nothing more would have happened other then perhaps some rude jokes. He swallowed and felt himself flush up to his ears. Maker, one would think he was some inexperienced child.
There was some movement to his right but he was too mortified to see what Bull was up to until he felt a broad hand run across his arm. He looked up to find that the Bull had pulled on a jacket and had a soft smile on his face. “Hey…you alright?”
“I, it wasn’t you. I…I apologize. Despite my reaction I enjoyed our, conversation.” Void take him, he couldn’t even speak in proper sentences.
To his surprise, Bull didn’t pull away. Instead, his grip tightened on Dorian’s arm, giving it a light squeeze. “Don’t worry about it.” And the way he said that made it sound like he meant it. “If you ever want to finish our ‘conversation’, just let me know. My door’s always open.”
Well then. Dorian managed a smirk. “You mean the door to your tent?”
“Right,” Bull gave a soft laugh. “Depending on how much conversation you want to have, maybe we should have it in your trailer.”
Dorian glanced out of the corner of his eyes to see if Krem was listening in and, yes, he certainly was, but there was no negative reaction. No, of course not. Of all people, Krem might understand best what Dorian was struggling with. Dorian could only imagine what he had gone through in Tevinter himself given how things were. Swallowing, Dorian met Bull’s gaze again and, oh, there was that heated look again. “I’d like that…Later. For now, it seems you’re needed.”
“I look forward to it.” He brushed one large hand, the one with two tips of his fingers missing, down Dorian’s arm and he shivered at the touch. Bull pressed his lips together, seemed about to speak, then apparently thought better of it. His hand dropped away and he nodded over Dorian’s shoulder to Krem. “Come on, Kreme de la Kreme, the sooner we get this done the sooner we can get Ponchard off our asses.”
“And you can get on someone else’s, right, I get it.”
Dorian blushed bright red again but relaxed as Bull released a loud laugh.
This would take some getting used to.
Thank you so much to everyone who reviewed for the last chapter!!
Unfortunately, “later” turned out to be much later than Dorian had intended. They seemed to be working on entirely separate schedules. Bull was busier than ever; now that they were off of the production lot they were doing larger-scale and more dramatic stunt work. Things were no different for Dorian who was called out on the set for eight to twelve hours a day, all of their shots delayed nearly by the hour due to intermittent storms blowing through. It left him drained and by the end of the day he had little energy for anything other than changing out of his damp costume and wrapping himself up in his sheets, his mood usually darker than the storm clouds.
They were five days into filming though when he woke up with a different attitude. He had been waiting for this for months: he was finally going to be filmed using his magic today. They had a scene set to film of Cassius stopping a small army of Ser Reynard’s compatriots—making it all the more meaningful when Reynard eventually bested Cassius, of course—and they wanted it to be flashy and dramatic. Dorian in turn had promised them fire and he was eager to deliver. Necromancy might be his true passion but he hadn’t started his studies that way. Mages tended to have an affinity for a certain element and Dorian’s had been fire. To no one’s surprise, he had excelled in his studies as a youth and in the Circle. Later in his studies he had delved into the more arcane arts but by that time he had become as proficient in pyromancy as any of his tutors or mentors and had been and was ready for a new challenge.
And this would be a different kind of challenge altogether.
Once he was changed into his costume and had his makeup and hair done, he made his way out to an ATV and a crewmember drove him out to the beach where they were filming. The skies were grey but temporarily dry and he hoped that they would stay that way for at least a few hours. Rain and pyromancy didn’t mix well. A crowd of extras was already on site by the time he arrived, all in costume in their replica suits of armor. Seeing a small army milling about on the ancient coastline had Dorian’s breath catching in his throat; it was almost as if he had been transported back in time. Then he noticed most of them were holding Styrofoam coffee cups and the effect was ruined.
He was dropped off mere feet away from his mark and nearly all eyes were on him. Thankfully he was provided with a cup of coffee as well as the rest of the crew began to assemble, Dorian’s face brightening as he spotted Skinner and Dalish appear, undoubtedly representing the Chargers while the rest of the team was bogged down with other duties. He was by no means shy but it was always nice to have a few friendly faces about when most of the others were already eying him with barely disguised repulsion.
Seeing that the men and women manning the cameras and the sound equipment were beginning to set up for the shoot, Dorian cleared his throat. “I see we have a few new faces, from those I can see beneath those helmets, so allow me to welcome you to the set.” He doubted that anyone else really had. “But I won’t waste anyone’s time. First things first: who here is a mage?” It would be best if there were at least a few mages who had experience with casting among the crowd; they would be far more calm throughout the process.
No one raised their hand. Not even Dalish who was currently trying, and failing, to look inconspicuous behind Skinner. Southerners…Ridiculous. Resisting the urge to roll his eyes, Dorian settled on a put-upon sigh. “Who here has seen magic used in person? Raise your hand. Ah, good!” The majority of the crowd had raised their hand and Dorian thanked the Maker for small favors. He supposed it was impressive that so many of them had, being that most of the extras were Fereldan who were especially notorious for their distrust for magic. “Your basic lesson is this then: the most important thing you can do on your end of things to stay safe is not to panic. I am entirely in control of my magic and as long as you stay where you are supposed to be you will be perfectly safe.” No one looked terribly convinced and he frowned as he saw a few share uncertain looks between each other. This was not going well so far. “We will be filming the scene throughout the morning but I will likely not actually be using my magic until after lunch,” assuming the weather stayed half-way decent. “If you have any questions regarding anything that will happen later today, please come speak with me. I will be more than happy to explain all the fine details to you.” In fact, it would be more akin to a community service.
No one spoke with him. They filmed for three hours with a half-hour break to let a raincloud pass by in between and not one person approached him. They did shoot him dark looks though when they thought he couldn’t see, which Dorian pointedly ignored, and became increasingly more restless as the day wore on. When they broke for lunch, he slogged his way back to the main camp, soothing himself that any extra mud on his boots and the hems of his robes would only add to the film’s historic authenticity. He was looking for some decent food but he had an ulterior motive as well.
After finding a sandwich, Dorian located the other half of the Chargers, Skinner and Dalish having remained on the beach. Grim, Rocky, Stitches, and Bull were lounging on a few crates stacked up against their company’s tent going through what appeared to be a small pile of medieval-style weaponry. It was quite a sight and all four of them looked almost unsettlingly comfortable as they examined the practice blades. Grim was the first to look up at he approached, the man giving him a silent nod before returning to his work. Bull was next and he smiled as his eye met Dorian’s, though there was something…not quite right about it. “How’d it go?”
Dorian sighed and waved the half of the sandwich he had left in the air. “To be honest, I am worried they may all panic.”
Bull hummed thoughtfully as he ran his thumb over the edge of a battle axe. “I’ll get the Chargers suited up and in the frontlines to keep things calm. Ponchard shouldn’t have a problem with it since everyone’s supposed to be in full armor for the shot. They’ll blend right in. Well, we’ll see about Rocky,” he smirked. “I don’t know how many dwarves there are supposed to be in their Blessed Age Orlesian army. We can get Skinner, Dalish, and Gatt in some wedge heels or something and they’ll be fine.”
Relief flooded through Dorian, though he didn’t quite allow himself to trust that it would happen just yet. Instead, he turned to Grim, Stitches, and Rocky. “None of you would have a problem with that?” After the reception he had just rerceived from the extras, he couldn’t be sure.
There was a pause before Rocky waved a dismissive hand. “Nah, we’ve done much stupider stuff. We know how to keep our cool.”
He seemed truly at ease, surprisingly as did Stitches and Grim. In fact, the only one that did seem tense was Bull. Not in the same way the extras had been but, nonetheless…Dorian turned back to Bull and tilted his head. “You do know I will have full control over my magic, don’t you?”
Bull heaved a breath and purposefully relaxed his stance before nodding. “I trust you, and so do the Chargers. I just…haven’t had the best experiences with magic in the past.”
Oh. He hadn’t even considered…Out of everyone else who was there, Bull likely had a true reason to distrust him after what he must have seen and been put through in Seheron. Tevinter still proudly trained an elite corps of battle mages who were equally proud of their high kill rates. And yet Bull said that he trusted him without an ounce of hesitation. “Don’t worry,” Dorian’s expression softened and he offered Bull a little smile, “I know what I’m doing, and I won’t let any harm to come to any of them during the shoot.”
“I know.” Bull managed a smile back. “Do you need any help from me? They might let Rocky slide but there’s no way they’ll let a Qunari be in the shot.”
Dorian crossed his arms and thought for a moment. Bull was right; he would stick out far too much to be allowed to play an extra, even if a miracle happened and they managed to find a suit of armor that fit him. “It would be a comfort to have you behind the cameras, at the very least. Everyone might be more relaxed if they see you there.” Which was ironic when Bull’s presence typically caused nearly as much discomfort on set as his own. But the Qun’s distrust of unregulated magic was legendary. Surely if everyone saw a Qunari standing nearby, ready to jump in if the Tevinter mage got a little too loose his pyromancy, they would be more comfortable, even if reality was far different than they perceived it.
“Then I’ll be there.”
Bull nodded and that was that. Dorian stayed with the Chargers long enough for him to finish his sandwich and for them to gather up their supplies and then they were all hiking back to the coast en mass. They ran into Krem and Gatt on the way, which Dorian was only half appreciative of, and Bull roped them in too. When they arrived, Bull quickly took the lead with the Chargers and had them all suit up in the armor, except for Rocky. As he had guessed, the assistant director—the man momentarily in charge—wasn’t thrilled with a dwarf being in his army but he seemed happy enough to allow the rest of the Chargers in. Skinner, Dalish, and Gatt were allowed a pass because in the armor and some wedged boots they all looked like slim men from a distance. Maker forbid elves be seen as elves in the ancient Orlesian army either.
While the Chargers and extras assembled with the Chargers dutifully lining up in the front, Dorian met with the prop master who gave him a real staff made, as he had insisted, with iron and drakestone. The metal and minerals sang as he released a pulse of magic through them and he grinned. Oh, yes, despite all the dark looks this was going to be fun.
His mark was on top of a natural outcrop of rock on the beach and he clamored up onto it a little less gracefully than he would’ve liked in his robes. But he did feel a bit majestic once he was standing up on the rock looking out over the crowd, staff in hand. The cameras weren’t yet rolling so he smiled down at them. He could see Bull out of the corner of his eyes and it made it easier. “You have all done well but we have reached that time of the day I’m sure a good number of you were looking forward to the least. You may have also noticed that there are several new additions on set.” He waved his free hand down at the line the Chargers had formed. “These are the Chargers, a professional stunt crew contracted with Sun Gate Pictures for this production and they have graciously offered their services for this scene. The Chargers will hold their position, you will remain behind the Chargers and play the part of a routed army, and we can move on. To cover the questions that no one has cared to ask: yes, there will be flames; yes, they will be large; yes, they will be hot; no, you will not be harmed. Have I missed anything?” He waited less than a minute then nodded when all he received was silence. “That’s what I thought. Let’s not drag this out then.”
As the assistant director got the cameras and audio equipment into position, Dorian crouched down to speak with Krem who had placed himself front and center probably about twenty feet in front of him and left the faceplate of his helmet up. “I will be using two different spells: Wall of Fire and Immolate. The first is exactly as it sounds, a wall of fire, and the second will be a fairly large explosion of flame which I will likely use multiple times during the shot. I cannot stress enough the need for you to either hold still or, if you must move, fall back in an orderly fashion.”
Krem grinned. “Don’t worry, Pavus. This isn’t the first time we’ve faced down an explosion. You focus on looking good for the camera and we’ll keep ourselves alive. It’s our specialty.”
“With your attitudes, I think it would be a necessary trait.”
Krem’s grin spread and reached up to lower his faceplate with a dull clack.
Straightening back up, Dorian smoothed down his robes and looked over at the assistant director, waiting for his signal to begin. It took longer this time, as they had more cameras set up to capture as many angles as possible. They wanted to do this in one take, or as few takes as possible. None of them were apparently interested in having prolonged magical acts performed.
Finally, the signal he had been waiting on came and Dorian began to focus himself. He was Cassius: evil Tevinter magister ready to unleash demon fire upon the holy army sent by Reynard to try and vanquish him. A fool’s errand. The assistant director waved his hand. “Quiet on set! Roll cameras! And, action!”
Dorian heard the clapboard sounding off to the side but his gaze didn’t waver, his face having hardened into a cold stare. In turn, the Chargers and extras both performed admirably, tightening their ranks and raising their shields as Dorian cast both hands up into the air, staff clutched tight in one. “Halt! You dare to threaten me? There will be no army in all of Thedas powerful enough to best me once my plans have been fulfilled and I shall not allow you to cause me to stumble from my path of godhood! Your dear Ser Reynard, under who’s orders you so blindly followed here, has ordered you to your deaths. Once I send you to him, enjoy your time by the Maker’s side while you can for soon his throne will be mine!”
And that was his cue. He sucked in a breath to focus himself in a different way then swung his staff around with practiced ease and let his mana flow through him and then through his staff, feeling the sparks flare in his veins then burst to life at the head of the staff. He heard murmurs strike up among the extras but didn’t let it distract him as he swung the staff around once more and cast the Wall of Fire. Immediately a roar filled the air as a line of fire drew out between himself and the Chargers and nearly simultaneously burst up nearly fifteen feet high. Dorian grit his teeth and swung his staff up and the wall flared up to nearly thirty feet. Exhilaration that bordered on ecstasy flooded through him at the feel of his magic and it was a hard thing to contain a laugh. But he maintained his scowl as heat beat down on his face.
He was careful to keep the flame from spreading towards the actors, no mean feat as he made the fire flare up once more, before spinning around and casting a quick series of Immolate spells even as he maintained the Wall of Fire. He aimed his Immolate spells up over the wall so that they burst in the air above the crowd: harmless but he knew they would have a strong visual impact. Embers rained down on them and he inwardly winced as he watched through the flames as several of the extras began to turn and run. The Chargers held firm though, as did the majority of the others, though some of them had their shield aloft, perhaps to guard against the embers—most of which died away before they reached them—or against the heat.
Sweat began to bead up on his forehead, less from the heat and more from the exertion of maintaining the wall at such an intensity. The seconds passed like minutes but he focused himself on the joy of casting rather than the strain with a mental reminder that this might be the last time in a very long time that he would be able to put on such a show. That gave him a second wind and he swung himself and his staff back around in a familiar dance and launched another barrage of Immolate. They burst in the air like fireworks, each one sending a flare of heat and light and it was magnificent.
“Alright! We got the shot! Cut!”
The words were barely audible over the sound of the flame but Dorian had been listening for it or some other such command for a literal cease fire. He spun back around and, with a flourish, ended all of the spells and snuffed the towering flames out with a wave of his hand as if he was putting out a candle. The extras instantly began to disperse and it was only as he felt the hum of magic dulling in his limbs that Dorian realized that his hands were shaking. He might’ve pushed himself slightly harder than he should’ve.
But it had been entirely worth it.
But now the last thing he wanted was to pass out so Dorian gingerly lowered himself down to sit on the rock. The Chargers had all removed their helmets and sweat was dripping down their faces as well. Gatt wouldn’t even look at him but Dalish was grinning widely and Krem looked him over once before walking up to him, stepping cautiously over the scorched line in the rocky soil left behind from the Wall of Fire. “I’ll admit, that was impressive. You doing okay?”
“Fine.” And Dorian was proud that his voice didn’t waver as he spoke and he was able to fake nonchalance. “I just need to catch my breath.”
Krem smirked. “I think you took more than your own breath away.” He glanced purposefully to the side and Dorian followed his gaze to where Bull…had been previously standing. He was gone now but it made Dorian smile a little to think that the Bull had been effected by his display. After their earlier conversation, he had been worried that he would’ve started second-guessing their…friendship. Though it did beg the question of why he had disappeared. “Anyway, I have to take the Chargers out. We weren’t technically scheduled to be here so we’ve got to get moving. But,” Krem threw a glance over his shoulder at the actors, “you let me know if anyone gives you trouble after we go, alright?”
“Why, Cremisius, I didn’t know you cared.”
Krem rolled his eyes. “What can I say? You’re starting to grow on me. Sort of like a mold.”
Huffing out a laugh, Dorian set his staff down on the rock beside him. “Enraptured by my brilliance, are you? I can’t say I’m surprised; it is a natural response after all. But go on then, go about your business and pretend to stab people or whatever else it is you’re needed for. For the moment I should think that everyone else is too cowed by my awe-inspiring talent to take any action against me.” Though the frightened or dark looks in some of their eyes suggested otherwise.
“Right.” Krem shook his head then waved a hand at Dorian. “See you later then.”
Dorian waved back and watched Krem corral the Chargers and shoo them off of the set. He waited until they had all disappeared from sight before allowing himself to actually feel his exhaustion. It hit him all at once and his shoulders sagged from the weight of it. To cast a series of such intense spells within such a short interval had drained him nearly dry. His limbs felt as if they were made of lead, and Dorian knew he had to do something about it before the last bits of his adrenaline wore off and his body gave out.
Raising his hands into the air in a long stretch, Dorian left his staff on the rock for the prop master to collect before cautiously sliding his way down the front of the outcrop. He legs felt a bit like jelly but they held his weight. After waiting just a moment to make sure they’d stay that way, Dorian nodded to himself and began to head toward the footpath that led back to camp. Unfortunately, he was only able to take a few steps before the assistant director was on him.
“Where are you going? We’ll be set to film again in forty minutes.”
Dorian closed his eyes then forced a smile onto his face before turning around to nod at the assistant director. “I apologize but I must get something from my trailer.” He was absolutely exhausted and he knew it was because his mana reserves were nearing empty. He needed at least one vial of lyrium or else he was libel to pass out before the cameras finished rolling. Lyrium was carefully regulated across Thedas and one needed a prescription to obtain it from a pharmacist or alchemist, which luckily was fairly easy to acquire if you were a mage even in southern Thedas. Dorian really should have been provided some by Sun Gate but that would have required them to file a permit so he had agreed under contract that he would provide his own supply. Which he kept in a small, locked box in his trailer. Hence the need to return to his trailer.
“Fine, but be quick about it!”
Dorian didn’t have it in him to come up with a clever enough response so he simply waved a dismissive hand and resumed walking. A surreptitious look around was enough to show that Bull had indeed disappeared, which was a shame because Dorian was hoping to bribe him into carrying him back.
Halfway back to their camp he was able to hitch a ride with a crew member who was toting around audio equipment on an ATV which was a lucky break because Dorian wasn’t so sure he could’ve made it there without stopping for a rest otherwise. A rest that likely would’ve turned in to a three-hour nap which would have been good for no one.
It was relief when he finally reached his trailer and he stumbled up the steps inside then over to the closet where he had his personal staff stored. The box he kept his lyrium vials in was on a small shelf at the top of the closet. Then he had to dig out the key for it from its secret hiding place in his laptop case. By the time he got the blasted box open his hands were shaking badly and it took him three tries to undo the small cap. But finally he had it and he immediately tipped the vial back against his lips and swallowed the blue liquid like a shot of liquor. Its strange ozone flavor coated his tongue and, nearly as soon as it reached it, Dorian felt his energy returning to him. Releasing a long sigh, Dorian leaned his head back and let the sensation roll through him, feeling rejuvenated.
His bed still looked inviting but now at least he could last the rest of the afternoon.
After putting everything away, Dorian spent a minute freshening himself up in the mirror then made his way out. He barely had time to get the door closed behind him though before he heard footsteps approaching and turned to find Bull walking towards him. A small smile slipped onto Dorian’s lips simply at the sight of him though he wasn’t quite sure how to react. Bull was wearing a carefully neutral expression and he couldn’t help but wonder if Krem was right, that the Iron Bull had appreciated his performance, or if his own doubts would prove true and the Bull was coming to end things between them before they could even begin.
“Bull, a pleasure as always. I was wondering where you had slipped off to. I wish I could stay and chat for a while, but I’m afraid I only have a few minutes before I need to go.” Bull continued to draw closer as Dorian spoke and Dorian bit his lip as a strange look sparked through Bull’s eye that he couldn’t interpret. “Is everything alright?”
Bull’s voice was gruffer than Dorian had ever heard it. “Can we go inside?”
“What for?” He’d clearly just stepped out after all and Dorian thought that Bull would be happier outside rather than having to be mindful of where his horns were in reference to the ceiling.
“I think you’ll want this to happen inside.”
Dorian’s eyes flashed back up to Bull’s. So…he was either going to be beaten or something much more pleasurable was about to happen.
Just then he was suddenly able to place that spark in Bull’s eyes. It was desire.
Swallowing, Dorian jerked his head down in a nod then reached back to unlock his trailer. Thankfully he was able to do it through muscle memory alone so he didn’t have to take his eyes off of Bull because it felt as if it would have been physically painful at that point. Bull seemed to feel the same if the intensity of his gaze was anything to go by.
As soon as they were both through the door, Bull slammed it closed. The sound made Dorian jump—he hadn’t even noticed Bull making a move towards it—but before he could get a word out Bull was on him, one large hand cupping the back of his neck, his other squeezing down on his waist, and his lips crashing down against Dorian’s.
The kiss was electric and drew out a low, embarrassing whine from Dorian before he closed his eyes. Maker, it had been far too long. Finally, finally. His lips parted as he hurried to deepen their kiss as his hands slid up Bull’s chest then around his neck, reveling in the way he had to stretch his arms up to do so. Bull obliged his silent request and Dorian shuddered as their tongues met, his fingers tightening against the muscle of Bull’s back.
Too soon they were separating and Dorian nipped lightly at Bull’s bottom lip then tried to chase his lips up as he pulled back just far enough to speak. “You were fucking gorgeous out there.”
Maker, the sound of his roughened voice alone was like an aphrodisiac. Dorian released a breathless laugh. “And here I was worried that you wouldn’t want a thing to do with me afterwards.”
“I’ve never seen anyone cast like that before, even other ‘Vints. Shit,” Bull shifted his hand that held onto Dorian’s neck and rested it instead against his cheek, his broad thumb brushing against Dorian’s lips, “you were like a force of nature. My own ataashi.”
Dorian grinned and kissed the calloused pad of Bull’s thumb. “I don’t know what that means but I love the way you say it.”
Bull grinned back. “You’ll like it even better when I say it like this.” He leaned in to replace his thumb with his lips but instead of lingering he kissed his way down Dorian’s chin, along his jaw, and then down his neck. Dorian gasped and tilted his head back, baring his throat to Bull, and he felt him smile against his skin before rumbling out a deep, “Ah-taaaa-shi.”
“Oh,” Dorian breathed, “I do like that better…!” He could feel his pulse pounding, his blood warming in his veins almost as if he was about to cast again as arousal curled in his gut. He swallowed again and Bull moved his lips back up to Dorian’s, the two sharing another deep kiss before Dorian pulled back, curiosity getting the better of him. “What does it mean?”
Bull shifted and tilted his head as if he were studying Dorian. “It means…a couple of things, but ‘dragon’ is one of them.”
Dorian’s smile widened. For some reason that felt like an incredible compliment. “It’s the flames that did it for you then, hmm? So if I were to do something like this?” With a mischievous quirk of his lips, Dorian pulled back a little more then let his renewed mana course through him and up his throat. When he parted his lips again a small stream of fire burst out and Bull jerked back in shock. His expression quickly changed though and before Dorian could even reach up to make sure he hadn’t singed his mustache Bull surged forward and captured Dorian’s lips in a nearly vicious open-mouth kiss. Dorian tried to give as good as he got, his arms flying back around Bull’s neck to keep himself upright, but the differences in their respective strengths had never been so clear. Dorian loved everything about it and hummed appreciatively as Bull walked him back to press him against the wall of the trailer while never breaking their kiss.
It had been so long since he had wanted someone this much. After so much teasing and flirting they were finally acting on it and it had been everything he had hoped for. It was better than what he had hoped for. And now he burned for more. Dorian tugged Bull more firmly against him, anxious to feel his weight pressing him against the wall and--
“Ser Pavus?” Dorian jerked back at the sound of a new voice hard enough that he slammed the back of his head against the wall. Dorian swore and Bull winced sympathetically and moved a hand up to cradle his head as the voice continued from outside the trailer. “You’re needed back on set in fifteen minutes.”
Dorian growled in frustration then snapped back loud enough for them to hear. “Yes, yes, I’m coming!”
A low chuckle hit his ear and Bull pressed a kiss against his cheek, which was not helping at all. “You’re coming already? But we were just getting started.”
“I need to g—oh.” His mind caught up with him and Dorian knocked his shoulder against Bull’s arm as he felt a blush heat his face. “No! And I’d best not ‘come’ in that way in these robes. I don’t have time to change.”
“Are you sure?” Bull murmured back. “I can get you there real quick.”
Dorian hissed out a quiet warning as Bull moved his thigh to press between Dorian’s and against his arousal that had been slowly rising to attention. “Bull--!”
Damn whatever aide was outside. Raising his voice, Dorian called back to him. “I’ll be right out!” Bull groaned against him and Dorian stood on his tip-toes to sneak one more kiss against Bull’s lips before gently pushing him back. Bull obliged by taking a step back but before he could get too far, Dorian ran a hand down Bull’s rugged jawline, his voice now lowered to a near whisper. “We’ll finish this tonight.”
Bull shook his head with a frown. “Not tonight. I’ll be working all night mapping out a fight scene with the team.”
Dorian swore again. “Festis bei umo canavarum…Soon then.” He would accept nothing less. Now that he had a taste, Dorian wouldn’t be satisfied until he had the entirety of him.
“Soon,” Bull confirmed. He gave Dorian one more heated look before nodding his head toward the door. “Go ahead. I’ll let myself out in a few minutes and lock up.”
Dorian’s gaze softened. He had been working out how he could ask Bull to do just that without risking hurting his feeling but the Bull hadn’t made him even try. “Thank you.”
As always, much love to all those who reviewed for the last chapter! This chapter is, uh, maybe part of what some of you were waiting for? I hope you enjoy. XD
Dorian was driven back to the film location and he spent the entire trip trying to bring his mind back from the feeling of Bull pressed up against him. It was one of the worst distractions he’d ever experienced. But he was a professional and took that seriously. By the time they were back on the rocky coastline he had been able to remember which scenes they were set to be filming next so he counted that as a success.
They began filming minutes after he had arrived and continued on until near sundown. Dorian didn’t mind, knowing that there was nothing waiting for him that night, but they were finally forced to stop by the changing light and by the clouds once more growing dark overhead. However, this time around not even the rain was enough to dampen Dorian’s spirits. He was in a good mood and that mood lasted him long after he had changed and gotten back to his trailer. It felt a little bittersweet when he settled into his bed alone. The sheets felt cold but he amused himself as he drifted off to sleep with imagining how he and Bull might fit together on the mattress.
The next morning, he woke early and went on a short run after realizing that there was only a light drizzle outside. It felt good to indulge in old habits and if he happened to pass by the Chargers’ tent twice, well, no one said a thing. Unfortunately, not even the Chargers as there was no sign of movement from inside; they either were still sleeping or, more likely, were already up and about their business.
So he continued on with his routine. After looping back to his trailer, he showered then made his way to the tent the costume and make-up department had set up to get himself ready for the day. They had some basic scenes to film and some shots to take of him gazing dramatically out across the sea, and then this afternoon they would be rehearsing the scene where he would finally get to use his necromancy. It wouldn’t be anything nearly as dramatic as the pyromancy had been but he was still looking forward to it. Well, he was partly looking forward to it. After the reaction he had garnered from the extras he was beginning to have his doubts in regards to how this next magical performance might be received. In fact, he was beginning to have enough doubts that he knew he would have to have a conversation with Ponchard about it, something that he typically tried to avoid like the blight.
Dorian found his opportunity after a break was called for lunch and said break was extended due to rain. Then it was a matter of tracking Ponchard down in the trailer the director had shipped in for his own use. Luckily, or perhaps unluckily—Dorian wasn’t sure yet—the man was inside and answered the door at Dorian’s knock.
“Pavus,” Ponchard frowned. Dorian raised a brow in a silent request to come in, his new umbrella only doing so much to keep him dry in the downpour that had temporarily stopped production. The other appeared to mull it over for a moment but then, apparently unable to find a decent enough excuse to keep Dorian out, motioned for him to come inside. “I assume there is something you wish to discuss?”
Dorian stepped inside and shook off his umbrella before closing the door to keep any excess water out. He noticed that Ponchard didn’t seem interested in inviting him any further into the trailer than the first few feet. A quick glance over the shorter man’s shoulder showed a table covered in paper that looked suspiciously like the script covered in scribbles and notes. A laptop was open on the chair nearby and Dorian could see the screen paused on what looked to be some raw footage of Gaspard from a scene Dorian hadn’t been part of. At least Ponchard was working then. “As it happens, there is. I’m concerned about how your extras will take to necromancy given their hesitation with a bit of fire.”
“Ah, yes,” he nodded knowingly. “I have decided to cut that scene.”
That brought Dorian up short, his shock overwhelming his previous annoyance. “Wh—excuse me? You’re cutting it? I was under the impression that was part of the reason you accepted me for this role.”
It was hard to try to decipher what he was feeling. A certain weight had been lifted off of his shoulders now that he suddenly no longer had to worry over the reaction of the other actors. But at the same time…he had been looking forward to being able to perform his necromancy on film. He didn’t often get the chance; he hadn’t had the opportunity to practice it since he had moved to the south due to all of the stigma against it. But he had studied hard to become as proficient as he was and he was proud of his skills. He’d earned half of his doctorate for it, for Maker’s sake.
It was one of the very few parts of himself that his parents had ever been proud of too. And that…somehow still meant more than it should, considering everything that had happened between them.
“After the last scene I had several others approach me saying they felt unsafe around you.”
Ponchard’s words startled him back to the present and Dorian’s brow furrowed. “Unsafe?”
“Threatened, were their words.”
“Is that so?” It felt like someone had slapped him. He had been getting glared and cursed at and had been nothing but a professional and entirely aware of everyone’s safety and yet more than one person had still felt the need to speak with Ponchard about it. Drawing himself up, Dorian squared his shoulders as he let his indignation show clearly on his face. “If anyone ought to be coming to you about feeling ‘unsafe’ on set it’s me.” He’d certainly received enough dark looks during that particular shoot alone. Enough that Krem had been concerned for his wellbeing and that was as fine a litmus test as any.
Ponchard waved a flippant hand. “Don’t be ridiculous. Now,” and that was apparently the end of that conversation, “we have rewritten the scene where you were to raise the undead army into you raising up more demons.”
Dorian pursed his lips together, his hands clenching into fists, and then forced himself to relax with one long exhale. There was no point in arguing this. Ponchard wouldn’t change his mind and he wasn’t worth wasting air over. So he pushed his lips up into a smile, strained though it was. It was one of the hardest things he had ever had to act out. “Of course. You can never have too many demons. I think that by the time this film is over, Reynard will have slain every demon in the Fade.”
“We will add the demons after with CGI.” Dorian just barely kept from rolling his eyes. Did Ponchard think that he assumed they would be raising real demons? Because of course they would simply replace real, beautiful, complex magic with CGI. “If we’re cutting the undead scene we’re going to have to get Cassius up from the beach to the cliff to face off again with Reynard so we rewrote the scene so that you will rise up the face of the cliff on a wave of demons.”
Dorian waited a moment, hoping that Ponchard had misspoken and that he would correct himself but, no. Any respect he had for the screenwriters flew out the window. “Sounds lovely. How will we be filming my ascension? Will I simply stand with my arms outstretched in front of a green screen?”
“No, there is a better way. I will speak to the Chargers about creating a sort of…crane to lift you at least halfway up the cliff. I can see it all in my mind’s eye. It will make for a marvelous shot from so many angles and the demons will be easy enough to add during post.”
That just sounded… “I look forward to hearing what the Iron Bull has to say. But, if you don’t mind, I’ll take my leave now. Places to go, things to do, you understand.”
Ponchard dismissed him and Dorian exited the trailer as quickly as he could while still maintaining his dignity. His next stop was to the costume tent after a glance at the sky informed him that they would likely not be filming for the rest of the day and he was ready to be out of his robes. It took some time; everyone, including Dorian, was in no rush now that the rest of the day was lost to the weather. Once he was cleaned up and changed back into his personal attire, Dorian wandered his way over to the make-shift cafeteria that had been set up to eat an early dinner, both because he had no desire to try and cook for himself and also to try and clear his mind. His thoughts kept swirling around the rewrite and the longer he sat with it the more he hated it. But he wasn’t being paid to offer production advice; he was being paid to act out whatever drivel they asked him to. Perhaps he might still bring some art to the performance despite the awful script. He would certainly try.
As it turned out, going to the cafeteria did help somewhat. No one seemed eager to interact with him but simply being in the presence of others helped distract him from his wounded pride. Just a little.
He was nearly finished with his meal when the harried-looking script supervisor hunted him down to give him a copy of what Dorian could only assume was the newest edition of the script. The manuscript was just as professionally bound as the original had been and the stack of them the man had been burdened with told Dorian that he had likely been to Highever to get them printed. Which, taking travel time into account, meant that his necromancy scene had likely been cut and rewritten mere hours after they had filmed his pyromancy scene. The realization left him oddly hollow inside.
After finishing up with his dinner, Dorian carried his dirty plates to the bussing station, script tucked under his arm as he ignored all the looks that somehow seemed to intensify as he cleaned up after himself. Despite the stares, he was reluctant to step back into the rain but the lure of the solitude of his own space was far too strong to ignore anymore. And as he made his way across the camp back to his trailer he was even more pleased that he had made the choice he did, and disappointed that he hadn’t made it earlier.
Bull was leaning back against the side of his trailer beneath the narrow overhang of the roof to keep out of the rain, his arms crossed causally over his broad chest in a way that seemed to accentuate his pectorals and the muscles in his forearms. He seemed to know it too by the way he grinned at Dorian, though the expression didn’t quite reach his eye. “Long day?”
Dorian heaved a breath. He was sure the answer to that question showed all over his face despite his best effort. “Has our illustrious director spoken with you yet about the scene change?”
Bull’s smile melted away and he nodded. “Yeah.”
“Then you and I have had the same length of a day. Would you like to come in for a drink?”
Dorian gave a nod of his own and made short work of unlocking the trailer and letting them both inside. The trailer was dark and a little cold but he motioned for Bull to go into the small kitchen as he made his way through the main room and turned on lamps. His nerves buzzed at the thought of what happened last time they were both in his trailer but he was still in a bit of a foul mood and even Bull seemed agitated. Once the room was decently lit, Dorian shrugged off his jacket and crossed the back over to the kitchenette. “I’m afraid I only have wine to offer for drinks.”
“That’s fine. I can be fancy every now and then.”
That brought a small smile to Dorian’s lips, fleeting though it was. Pulling open a cabinet above his sink, he eyed his small collection of bottles before selecting one he had been saving for some unnamable event. Actually inviting Bull over for the first time, no matter the circumstances, was as good an excuse to break into his Vint-9 as any. Bull raised brow and smiled again as Dorian teasingly presented him with the bottle, label up, then handed him a bottle opener. As Bull effortlessly popped the cork out, Dorian fished two glasses from a shelf then poured them each a healthy glass. The whole affair was done in silence but instead of feeling the need to fill the quiet with chatter, Dorian found himself relaxing. It was strangely, casually intimate.
But after they both had a sip, Dorian leaned back against the counter and lifted his chin so that he was looking up at Bull. “Did Ponchard ask you to build whatever sort of apparatus he’s envisioning to lift me up the cliff?”
“Yeah,” Bull snorted. He paused for a moment then took a longer drink of the wine than the vintage was owed but Dorian didn’t say anything against it. Once he set his glass back down, Bull scowled. “I don’t like the way he talks to you. Talks about you.”
Out of everything, that had hardly been the first thing Dorian had expected Bull to protest against. There was a low growl in Bull’s voice as he spoke and it made Dorian wonder how much the Bull knew about just how he was treated by not only the majority of the crew but by many of the studio executives as well. He tried to keep from complaining to others about it himself, not wanting to bring attention to it and risk escalation or being fired, but Bull likely overheard some of it, such as the whispers they’d both caught back on the production lot. “Neither do I but I’m afraid that’s just his winning personality. Unfortunately, I haven’t recently had the luxury of being choosy with my employers...”
“You’re better than any of those Orlesian assholes out there.”
Dorian couldn’t help but laugh at that and a smile curled across his lips. “Why, Bull, you’re starting to sound positively Tevinter.”
Bull huffed a laugh back and smirked. “Low blow. I meant you’re a better actor, but in your case you can probably take it however you want and I’d still be right.”
“I think you may be biased,” Dorian accused teasingly.
“Maybe a little.”
Dorian’s gaze swept down Bull’s body then back up to his face and Dorian’s smile spread. His bad mood was beginning to settle, though he knew that there were a few things left to discuss before he began to delve into different topics. Spying the script he had abandoned on the table when he had first walked in, Dorian pushed off of the counter and made his way to it, glass of wine still in hand. He felt Bull’s eyes on him and made no effort to disguise the disgust on his face as he used his free hand to flip the manuscript open to the offending pages. Ridiculous. Absolutely ridiculous.
He glanced up at Bull, “What did you think of his crane concept?”
“It’s stupid and unnecessary. But I couldn’t convince him it was a bad idea. I spoke with the team before coming to find you though and we’re already working on a way to make it as safe as possible for you. You’ll be in good hands.”
Dorian’s gaze softened. “I wouldn’t trust anyone else with this. Though…” a sly smile slipped onto his lips, “I may need a demonstration of just how good your hands are before I entirely believe it.” He had gotten his answers and was ready to transition the evening into something more pleasurable.
Bull seemed to instantly understand his intent as a wicked grin spread across the Qunari’s face in return. “A demonstration, huh? I might be able to come up with something…”
He met his gaze and drained the rest of his wine glass before setting it down and moving back to the front door. Dorian took a healthy sip of his own wine as he heard the click of the lock and then gulped down what little remained in the glass as Bull turned around and nearly stalked back over to him with a hungry look in his eye.
Bull stopped in front of him when he was less than a foot away and Dorian had to remind himself to breathe. Somehow the space between them seemed more sensual than if they had been pressed together; there might as well have been sparks literally flying between them as they stared at each other, both assessing, both undressing the other in their minds. When Bull finally spoke, he kept his voice low but it still seemed to fill the whole trailer. “How do you like it, Dorian?”
He swallowed hard. He wasn’t used to verbalizing this sort of thing. It usually just…happened. “I…I can play either role but I’ll admit that most days I prefer to bottom.”
Bull smiled, the expression somehow both soothing and mischievous at the same time. “Not what I meant, but it was going to be my follow-up so it’s good to know. I meant do you like it soft and gentle or something a little…rougher?”
Dorian’s breath caught in his throat as Bully stepped forward, closing the space between them and loomed over him, aware all over again of the sheer breadth and bulk of the Qunari. When he breathed in again it was to take in Bull’s heady, masculine scent and a shudder ran down his spine.
“Hmm, I think I have my answer…” Dorian’s eyes flashed up to Bull’s, looking for any sign of scorn or ridicule for his reaction but found none. That caught him so off guard that he very nearly missed Bull’s next question. “Do you have a safe word?”
Snapping himself back into the present, Dorian frowned incredulously up at Bull. “A what?” He knew what a safe word was but he hardly thought—
Bull interrupted his silent confusion. There was a small, concerned pinch in Bull’s brow now but Dorian couldn’t think of what might have put it there. “I think I have my answer there too. Your word is ‘katoh’. Say it for me.”
“This is ridiculous...”
Bull’s words came out as a sharp command and Dorian’s knees almost buckled beneath him. “Katoh.”
“Good.” Bull’s voice had softened again and he reached up to rest a hand against Dorian’s shoulder, giving it a gentle squeeze. “You say that and I’ll stop, no matter what, no questions asked, no hurt feelings. Understand?”
“Understood…You seem well-practiced at all this.” As if he had a little speech already prepared.
“You’re not the first person who’s wanted to ‘ride the Bull’.”
“Maker—ah!” Dorian’s exasperation was cut off with a gasp as Bull pushed him against the wall of his trailer and pinned both of his hands up above his head with only one of his own. His heartrate sped up as he tugged on his arms and found that he couldn’t even move them an inch. A slow grin spread across Bull’s lips and he looked down at Dorian with a predatory gleam in his eye that caused lust to burn hot in Dorian’s chest. A low moan escaped him and he arched his back to press up against Bull with a sinuous roll of his body. But his moan hitched up to another gasp as without warning he was shoved back against the wall, Bull using his free hand to press down on Dorian’s hip to keep him from moving.
Dorian’s eyes flew up in shock and Bull continued to smile down at him. “I’m going to make this good for you, Dorian. I’m going to give you what you need. And right now I think what you need is to be able to relax and let. Me. Ravish. You.”
Dorian was unable to look away or do anything much at all except manage a small, shaky nod and a whisper. “Yes. Please.”
The next few moments were a blur of activity and emotion. Bull hauled him up off of the wall and they began to tug and pull at each other’s clothing while they fumbled their way to the back room of the trailer where Dorian’s bed was. Dorian had no time to be shy about it after all of their flirting and Bull hardly seemed the type to care either way about propriety as their jackets fell away. It was far from perfect—the buttons on Dorian’s shirt were fussy and he tripped trying to get out of his skinny jeans and Bull banged his horns on the doorframe leading into the bedroom—but the imperfections somehow made it that much better because this was real, not some scripted scene.
By the time the back of Dorian’s knees hit the edge of his mattress they were both stripped down to their underwear with Bull just having thrown his shirt to the floor. Bull glanced over Dorian’s shoulder at the bed and then leaned down and picked Dorian up off the ground by his waist. He shouted in surprise as his feet left the floor but before he could anything more than admire the way Bull’s arms flexed he was thrown down into the center of the bed. After blinking up at the ceiling, Dorian laughed at the blatant show of strength and sat up to meet Bull’s lips as he crawled onto the bed after him.
Bull was quite possibly the most interesting person Dorian had ever laid eyes on. He wasn’t the most handsome man Dorian had ever fallen into bed with but it was the first time that Dorian wanted to explore every inch of his partner’s skin. He wanted to touch and taste every scar that littered the expanse of silver, wanted to kiss every small bruise and burn that he had glimpsed, wanted to hear the stories behind his missing fingers and eye.
They spent a few minutes simply trading kisses that started gentle but quickly grew rough and passionate. It was a battle for dominance and Dorian put up a decent fight but in the end he ceded victory to Bull and allowed himself to be pushed back against the mattress. A short moment passed as Dorian caught his breath and Bull sat back to study him. The moment stretched on and a flush spread across Dorian’s cheeks. “I know I’m quite the sight but, if you’re done staring at me, could we move this along to the main event?” His arousal was already clearly visible through the thin fabric of his underwear and, as much as he appreciated being admired, he was anxious to see it taken care of.
Bull wasn’t swayed and continued his thoughtful observation for a few long seconds more before nodding as if to himself. “Hmm…I didn’t come prepared. I won’t make that mistake twice but for now I’ll just have to improvise.”
“What are you going on about and why aren’t you at the very least kissing me?”
“Is a virtue I have yet to master. Bull!” Dorian huffed out an irritated noise and reached his arms out to grab Bull by the horns in a very literal demonstration of a metaphor. “Come o—! What are you doing?”
Bull grinned as he dodged Dorian’s grasp then rolled off of him to reach down to where they had abandoned the last of their clothing and grabbed his shirt. Dorian simply watched, nonplussed, as Bull moved back into the center of the bed, but then he was grabbing both of Dorian’s hands in one of his own and looped his enormous shirt around his wrists before knotting the fabric around his cheap headboard. Dorian’s mouth fell open as he looked up at Bull’s handiwork then back at Bull. He gave a tug and when he found the makeshift binding hold fast he was caught entirely off guard as a fissure of arousal ran through him. “Fasta Vass…” he hissed as he tugged on the cotton fabric again.
A low chuckle rolled through Bull and he ran his fingers across Dorian’s cheek. “Seems like you like it.”
Dorian felt a blush flood across his face. Oh yes, he liked it. A new depravity he could add to his list of desires. Though, despite the teasing, Bull didn’t make it seem like his liking it was a bad thing. Which was…not what he expected. “You, you’re very good with knots.”
“You should see me what I can do with some rope.” Bull winked and Dorian scoffed before throwing a leg around Bull’s waist and using it to urge him closer. It had the side benefit of allowing his arousal to rub up against Bull’s stomach as their lips reconnected.
Rutting against Bull was more stimulation than then had received from another for months and it felt amazing. But it was nothing compared to the sensation of Bull slipping a hand between them and cupping Dorian’s arousal before squeezing. Dorian swallowed down a cry but couldn’t stop his hips form rocking up against his hand and had to bite his lip to keep himself quiet as Bull released him only to slip his fingers beneath the elastic hem of his underwear and begin to stroke him.
Rolling his head to the side, Dorian buried his face against his own arm. Maker, he wasn’t going to last long like this. It had been far too long. He heard Bull huff a breath against his cheek then chuckle. Then he was moving again and Dorian grit his teeth as Bull slowly peeled his underwear off and down his legs, his skin feeling heated and hyper-sensitive just from their foreplay.
He groaned as the skin-to-skin contact vanished and, when he felt Bull shifting around above him, Dorian risked a glance. Bull was naked as the day he was born and looking quite smug about it. And he had every reason to. Dorian couldn’t help it as his gaze raked down Bull’s body to the last part of him he had yet to see and—Dorian’s mouth fell open, though he quickly snapped it shut when he realized it. “I see you’re very proportional.”
Bull chuckled again and when he leaned back in, Dorian lunged forward as far as his binding allowed to capture his lips in another hungry kiss. Bull was huge, the biggest Dorian had seen, though he’d never fucked a Qunari before, and he wanted it in him as soon as physically possible. “Think you can handle me?”
“Oh yes,” Dorian purred back between kisses. It was a challenge he was looking forward to.
This time a growl rumbled past Bull’s lips as he dove back down. One of his hands moved up to intertwine his fingers with Dorian’s, his other hand sliding down Dorian’s body until he was once again gripping Dorian’s erection, his pace lazy and hold too light as he began to stroke him again. But he knew exactly how infuriating it was, Dorian knew he did as he struggled to thrust his hips up to hurry him along. Just as a threat to scorch Bull’s horns was ready to slip off his tongue, Bull leaned his head up to bite lightly at Dorian’s jaw. “You got some lube? I can fish a condom out of my pants but, like I said, I came unprepared. Not that I’m complaining.”
Dorian flushed red but jerked his head over and nodded towards his nightstand. “There’s a bottle in the top drawer.” He might not have had a partner in a while but a man had needs, after all. Which was probably the same reason Bull carried around a condom of all things in his pants even when he apparently wasn’t counting on sex.
“Good.” Bull pulled the hand he had had on Dorian’s cock up and used it to grip Dorian’s chin and pull him into a fierce kiss. Dorian moaned at the loss of his touch but before he could work out a way to get it back Bull was climbing off of the bed with more grace than a Qunari his size had any right to own. “Sit tight, Dorian.”
“Sit tight? Sit tight he says…” Dorian grumbled as he watched Bull pull out the lube and toss the bottle onto the bed then leave the room, presumably to find his pants. He strained against the knots tying him to the headboard but they held firm as ever. He could always just set the cotton shirt on fire but, well, he knew that wasn’t what he wanted. He wanted this. Even being left hard and aching, as torturous as it was, made tension coil tight in his gut and he already knew release would be all the sweeter for it. That is, if he ever found it. He clenched his teeth and tugged on Bull’s shirt again before shouting out into the main room of his trailer. “How difficult is it to find your hideous pants?”
Bull reappeared in the doorframe soon after, one brow raised and a grin on his face as he held a foil condom packet up. “Not that hard. Maybe I just like to watch you squirm.”
“Bull…” Dorian growled in frustration and petulantly flopped back onto the bed.
“Hm? Not enjoying it?” Bull’s tone said that he could see right through Dorian’s bluster. “We can play it differently then…” A strange mix of trepidation and anticipation filled Dorian’s chest as Bull strolled up to the end of the bed, looking far more casual than anyone ought to fully nude and mostly erect. “How about this? You tell me what you want and we’ll do it.”
A fierce blush spread returned to Dorian’s cheeks. What he wanted was…more than he could vocalize. Or, rather, he didn’t know how to put it into words. No one had ever asked him what he wanted before. Well, no one who had asked in earnest. No one spoke about it beforehand in Tevinter, they just did it. “I don’t know why I have to say anything. You were doing a fine job until now,” Dorian snapped back. He was embarrassed and angry that he was embarrassed. He was no blushing virgin; why was he acting like one?
Bull wasn’t put off by his sudden foul mood. “I don’t know, I think I’m still doing alright.” His gaze moved purposefully over Dorian’s body and Dorian swore when he spotted that his arousal was very interested in what was happening and entirely belying his words.
Dorian scowled up at him then squirmed on the mattress, his blush never leaving his face.
The silence stretched between them and Bull was the one to break it. “Then don’t say anything,” Bull sat down on the edge of the bed, close enough for Dorian to feel his heat but not close enough to touch, “and we don’t have to do anything.” His expression was neutral and open but there was a playful glint in his eye that had Dorian groaning.
Rolling his head back over, he pushed his face against his rumpled sheets. “Bull…why can’t you just…? Fuck me.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t catch that.” As Bull spoke back, he leaned in and brushed his fingers across Dorian’s hip.
That touch nearly broke Dorian. His brain at least seemed to fracture and his head whipped back around and he nearly shouted. “Fuck me! Bull, please! Fuck me!”
“Shit, yeah.” Bull was on him in a second, seemingly everywhere at once. Dorian immediately kissed him, his legs wrapping back around Bull’s waist and urging him closer as well as he could. One of Bull’s hands was gripping tight on his shoulder, his large thumb pressing down against his collarbone, and his other hand disappeared between them. It was only when he felt a slicked finger running up his ass cheek when he realized that the bottle of lube had vanished from the bed beside him. Bull chuckled as Dorian’s breath caught and moved his hand up to give Dorian a few lazy tugs before his hand slipped lower. “Keep talking, I want to hear you. I want everyone to hear you.”
“Nngh…” He had to be quiet. Dorian tossed his head back as he felt a finger tease at him before slowly pressing inside, “no, I, ah!” Anticipation flooded through him at the slight stretch form just one of Bull’s fingers as he worked him open.
“You know your safe word.” Oh, yes, he did have a word, didn’t he? Katoh, that was it. Katoh. He could stop this if he wanted, before things got too far out of hand…“I don’t hear you using it. Now tell me how good it feels.”
Bull curled his finger and broke down the last barrier Dorian had standing and he cried out, arching up against Bull as pleasure coursed through him. “Incredible! It feels incredible! Yes, just like that!” He had never allowed himself to do this, to be loud. It was raining hard outside which would dampen the sound but just the thought that someone walking by close enough might overhear made him shiver and gasp as Bull added another finger. Bull must have felt it because he groaned and leaned in to bury his head against the crook of Dorian’s neck, making Dorian cry out again as he bit down on Dorian’s shoulder before soothing the mark with a swipe of his tongue and a kiss.
He had never had anyone so carefully prepare him before and by the time Bull finally pressed into him, Dorian was already a shaking, gasping mess, desperate for release. He practically sobbed as Bull thrust in and had to suffer through it as Bull set the pace. He started slow, so painfully slow, but even Bull had a breaking point it seemed. Soon the speed and power of his thrusts changed and within minutes Bull had thrown a hand up to grip at the headboard behind Dorian to keep Dorian’s head from slamming against it as he fucked him hard and fast.
“Look at you. Damn, you’re beautiful. You’ve always been beautiful.”
Bull’s voice, a growling rasp in his ear, was simply too much and Dorian’s climax crested before Bull had even finished speaking. “Ah! Kaffas, Bull!”
“That’s it. Let it out!”
Dorian shuddered through his orgasm and Bull continued to chase his own but it only took a few more thrusts before he was coming too with a guttural sound that had Dorian’s toes curling in pleasure, even if he was not physically in a place to do anything about it at the moment. They stayed like that for a moment, pressed together and breathing against each other’s skin. Then Bull shifted and Dorian’s face drew up in a wince as the movement caused Bull to slip out of him. He received a soft kiss in apology before Bull reached up to undo the knot he had tied in his shirt. A second later Dorian’s hands were free but he didn’t go far; he simply relaxed as Bull gently massaged his wrists before pressing another kiss to his lips. “Be right back. Gonna get something to clean you up with.”
“Thank you…” Dorian’s voice was barely above a whisper but Bull had heard him all the same and nodded. Dorian closed his eyes and brought his arms back down to rest on his chest as Bull slipped off of the bed and listened to him pad out of the bedroom. He lost track of him after that, too distracted by the lovely ache thrumming through his entire body and the memory of his orgasm still sparking just beneath his skin, very nearly literally; he could feel magic humming through him, linked intrinsically as it was to his mental state which was more at ease than he could remember it being in his adult life.
He may have drifted off because the next thing he knew the mattress was dipping beside him as Bull sat. He had a damp washcloth that must have come from his bathroom in his hands and took his time gently wiping any lingering evidence of their fucking away. Dorian lazily shifted about and rolled over when Bull prodded at his side but otherwise let him do all of the work. And he felt…good. Safe. It was a strange word but it was true; he felt safe and cared for and it was entirely alien but entirely welcome.
Once he deemed Dorian clean enough, Bull disappeared again but returned shortly after and slid back beneath the sheets beside him. Dorian hummed happily as he felt a strong arm wrap around him then pull him in so that he was bundled up against the Bull’s side with his head resting on Bull’s broad shoulder. “Mmn…” Dorian nuzzled against his skin and greedily breathed his scent. “You make an excellent pillow…” A bit firm but the warmth made up for it.
“Good.” He felt Bull’s arm shift and then his large fingers were carding through his hair which usually Dorian hated but it felt different with Bull. Everything felt different with Bull. “Is it alright if I stay?”
Dorian paused in his efforts to burrow farther against Bull. It was certainly not his habit to linger with his partners longer than it took for them to clean themselves up and redress. But he certainly had no plans to move within the next hour or so and he would have felt like an ass to send Bull out into the rain after such an exquisite performance. And that was an easier excuse to make than admit even to himself that he might want the Bull there. “Do whatever you want…”
Bull’s grip tightened on him for a moment before he too relaxed. “Then I think I’ll stay…Sleep, Dorian. You’ve earned it.”
Waking up the next morning was far less awkward than Dorian had thought it would be.
The sound of his alarm going off made him automatically flail towards his nightstand but instead of landing on the wood tabletop it landed on a solid plane of warm skin. He felt as much as he heard Bull chuckle then reach over to turn Dorian’s alarm off for him. Dorian peeked an eye open at the sound and glared sleepily at Bull. “You sound far too awake…”
Bull shrugged then wrapped one strong arm around Dorian who hummed as Bull slowly ran his broad hand up from the base of his spine to the back of his neck. “I’m used to early hours. I’ve been awake for a bit.”
“And doing what?” Dorian arched a brow as Bull continued to pet him. “Watching me sleep?”
He grinned back, no shame at all at having been caught. “I didn’t want to wake you up by getting out of bed. Besides, there was a lot to look at; you look different when you sleep.”
“Is that so?” He imagined that he looked more ruffled. Mussed, perhaps. Just by the way it felt against his upper lip, Dorian knew his mustache was a mess and his hair was likely in a similar state. Maker, he hoped he hadn’t drooled or snored. It had been so long since he’d had to worry about such things.
“Mm-hm. You’re relaxed. Not on your guard. I get the feeling you don’t let a lot of people see that side of you.”
“You’d be correct in that assumption.”
A long moment stretched between them as stared at each other and a flurry of emotions whipped through Dorian’s chest. There were so many layers to all of this. He didn’t let lovers stay, or didn’t stay with lovers. He didn’t open up to them. He never let them see him vulnerable. He’d been hurt too many times, some of the pain bad enough to leave scars, though most of them weren’t physical. Could Bull sense that? Did he know what it meant for Dorian to do this, all of this, with him?
Maybe. Maybe not. But Dorian did, and that’s what mattered most.
Realizing he had been quiet for too long, Dorian curled his lips up into a smile and pressed a kiss against Bull’s chest. “Don’t go telling anyone that I have a soft side, now. I wouldn’t want to tarnish my reputation around here.”
“Damn,” Bull groused, though the effect was ruined by his smirk. “I guess I’ll just have to be happy knowing I fucked the hottest actor Sun Gate’s got.”
A delighted laugh burst past Dorian’s lips, always one for flattery. “Yes, well, I can’t argue with that. Though…I would appreciate it if you kept that news to yourself as well. I’m not…,” Dorian cleared his throat, “I’d rather my private life stayed private.”
“You got it. This stays between us until you say differently.”
That was it? No protests, no sly indication that he would be asking Dorian for money to keep his mouth shut? Not that Dorian expected that exactly, not from Bull, but that easy, immediate acceptance was more than he could have hoped for. “Then, thank you.”
Bull was watching him carefully now. Dorian had known him long enough to sense it even though Bull’s expression had barely changed and his voice was still light but there was something about the way his eye seemed to catalog every move he made. “You seem surprised.”
“I, yes. That went much better than I’ve experienced in the past.”
“Then you’ve had some shitty partners. Look, Dorian,” Dorian tensed, rarely having heard anything good following those two words but Bull just shifted beneath him and moved one hand to run down his side almost soothingly, “I like you. And I really liked us fucking. But, more than that, I respect you and if you say you’re not ready to tell everyone about the amazing sex we had, I’ll respect that too.”
It was suddenly difficult to speak. “You say it like it’s such a simple thing.”
“That’s because it is.”
It was never that simple. And yet, with a single statement, Bull dashed that truth into pieces. It was that simple, wasn’t it? Or, it could be. It never had been, but it could be. Bull liked him well enough, respected him enough, not to use this against him.
It was all somewhat overwhelming.
Dorian swallowed, his eyes darting down to where his hand was pressed against Bull’s scarred chest. “And if I wanted a repeat of said amazing sex at some point in the future…?”
“My ‘open door’ policy stands. You can come knocking whenever you want and no one has to know until you say so.”
At the response, Dorian dared a glance up and found Bull looking right back at him with a small smile on his face. “In that case you may find yourself with a frequent visitor.”
“I look forward to it,” Bull laughed quietly.
They didn’t linger much longer in bed after that; neither of their schedules allowed for it. Dorian forced himself from the comfort of Bull’s warmth and the sheets to make them some coffee, pulling on his robe before walking into his small kitchen. The robe was less for modesty’s sake and more to keep them both from getting too distracted again and he was grateful when Bull followed suit and redressed himself before joining Dorian in the main room. If Bull had come in naked Dorian may have very well dropped to his knees and that wouldn’t have done either of them any favors when they were both already on the verge of running late.
Pulling one of his few mugs from the cabinet, Dorian poured Bull a full cup of coffee and pushed it into his hands. “You’d best go. You can bring the mug back later.”
Bull grinned but accepted the mug. “Already giving me an excuse to come back, huh?”
“Hardly!” Dorian faked a wounded look. “As if you needed any other reason besides me.”
Bull laughed and shook his head before ducking in and kissing him. “You’re right.” Before Dorian could properly recover, Bull ruined the moment by giving Dorian’s ass a light smack.
Pursing his lips, mostly in an attempt not to laugh himself, Dorian slapped Bull’s arm in retaliation. “Out of my trailer, you brute!”
“Sure thing, big guy.” Still grinning, he raised his coffee mug in silent thanks as he turned and sauntered towards the door. “See you on set.”
Dorian scoffed but followed Bull to the door, closing it behind him after he’d left.
It felt odd to return to his normal routine after that. Almost as if last night and that morning had been nothing but a dream. But the way his sheets were rumpled and the pleasant ache in his body was proof enough. The ache was especially difficult to ignore and as he cleaned up and dressed it was a constant reminder of what had gone from a fairly depressing day to one of the best he’d had in recent memory. While in the bathroom styling his hair he caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror and was shocked to see a rather ridiculous little smile on his lips.
That wouldn’t do.
He looked far too…no, he wouldn’t use the word ‘love struck’. That was far too serious a word. He looked distracted. Happily distracted.
That wouldn’t do at all.
It took him nearly a full minute of staring at himself in the mirror to train his expression back into something more neutral and himself.
Despite his efforts to calm himself there was a certain spring in his step as he left his trailer and made his way to the costume tent. Well, less of a spring and more of a light limp, but it had a bounce to it. The worst of the rain had passed the night before and there was only a light mist in the air which by now was no enough to stop them from filming. The makeup artists and costume supervisor seemed happy to see it, probably particularly after the foul mood he had been in the last time he had paid them a visit, and they chatted amicably while they got him ready.
They were supposed to have filmed his necromancy scene today but with the rewrite their schedule had been adjusted. To give the Chargers time to build a rig to hoist Dorian up the side of a cliff, the rewritten scene had been pushed back two days. The tight time frame let Dorian know that he and Bull weren’t likely to be able to steal too many private moments between then and now but he could be patient. He would have to be. And it would be easier since they would still be seeing each other on a daily basis.
Today they would be filming a scene between Cassius and Reynard so Dorian was driven up to one of the cliffs with Gaspard. The other actor was somewhat disgruntled over the rearranging of the scenes as well, which made Dorian feel a bit better about himself. It was nice to have someone to bitch with and Gaspard proved himself to be an unexpected ally, even if Dorian still kept the fact that most of his true complaints stemmed from the fact that he would no longer be able to perform his necromancy to himself.
The first scene they filmed was equivalent to approximately ten minutes of dialogue but it took most of the morning. Gaspard actually asked Dorian to run through their lines with him before they began to film and then it still took them about an hour to do the first run through. Although the dialogue would be reduced down to ten minutes, it still took that long to film all the individual segments that would make it up. And then they did a second take which was for the best because Dorian and Gaspard only managed to get a decent chemistry going between them within the last five minutes or so of the first take.
Dorian perked up afterwards though when he heard that they would be skipping ahead to a fight scene between himself and Gaspard. Because that meant that—ah ha! Sure enough, just when the crew began to reset for the next scene, Bull and Skinner appeared with the prop master. Dorian was fairly sure that Bull himself wasn’t slated to make an appearance but he wasn’t about to complain. He didn’t know what he was expecting but Bull just gave him a little wink before getting down to business. His professionalism was admirable and Dorian followed suit, though he did intentionally misstep during a practice run of their fight just so Bull could correct him. He laid one large hand on Dorian’s arm and one hand on his shoulder to adjust his stance and show him how to swing his staff then gave Dorian a smirk that told him he knew exactly what Dorian was up to before withdrawing.
Typically, Gaspard used a stunt double but this session was quick enough that he seemed to just want to get through it himself. It was a new experience for Dorian and he was pleasantly surprised to find that Gaspard was a decently skilled fighter when he cared to be. They went through a few takes of their fight as well with Bull and Skinner both helping to make them look like natural warriors. By the time everyone involved was satisfied, Dorian and Gaspard both were sweating despite the perpetual chill in the air and Dorian, for one, was starving.
They broke for a late lunch and Dorian readily accepted the boxed lunch provided to all of the crew members and retired under a tent with Gaspard to enjoy it. Bull was unfortunately elsewhere, probably still working, but Dorian wasn’t about to hunt him down. That would surely scream of a level of desperation that Dorian wasn’t willing to display. So he stayed and managed to continue to have an amiable conversation with Gaspard. The man’s eyes held a spark after their sparring and not for the first time he was reminded of why Gaspard was such a popular actor in Orlais.
“I forget how bracing it can be to do one’s own stunts. I thought you were insane to agree to it, Pavus, but I see the appeal. Still, I can hardly risk injuring myself; my agent would throw a fit even now if he knew what I was up to. Doesn’t yours protest?”
Dorian tilted his head. “They likely would, if I had one.” Gaspard grunted a small noise that may have been astonishment, perhaps derision, and Dorian continued as if it had been the former option. “I heard about the casting call on an online forum and managed to convince Sun Gate to see me sans agent or any agency connection based on my previous work.”
“Hmph. I’ll send you my agent’s information. If I put in a good word he may be convinced to take you on, though it would be highly irregular.”
Would it be irregular because of his lack of experience in film or his nationality? Dorian wondered silently but said instead, “I would be obliged if you would.” Maybe then he would have prospects of work after Field of Bones finished filming. At the moment, he was trying not to think too much about what all might happen after production ended. He would need to eventually, of course, once said end was in sight, but he didn’t want to re-experience the struggles of job hunting quite so soon. And he certainly didn’t want to dwell on it now. “Do you think you’ll be participating in any more stunt work for Field of Bones?”
Gaspard smirked. “I was considering one more. One of the most important scenes of the film, I think: where Reynard slays Cassius in the final battle. When I read through the script it indicated that it would be done with Reynard’s helmet on but I think it would be far more dramatic if it came off.” The assumption being that, for the most part, whenever Reynard’s helmet went on, Gaspard was typically replaced by a double and the man himself was able to relax back in his trailer.
“In that case, I look forward to sneering up at you as I am in my death throes.”
Dorian glanced up from his lunch at Gaspard and they exchanged a knowing smile. He had no false expectations that they would be best of friends after this or that Gaspard would even treat him any differently than he had up til now but it was appreciated none the less. It was nice to be able to look at your co-stars and feel some sort of connection with them. Especially if the connection bore fruit. He no longer had the luxury of burning bridges and Gaspard could be a powerful ally in Dorian’s efforts to stay employed.
They finished up with their then lunch filmed for another hour or so. Bull was still absent but Dorian overhead that he and Skinner were returning shortly and he forced himself not to look too excited about it. He was distracted from waiting for Bull though when a raincloud rolled in like clockwork and put a pause on production. He and Gaspard retreated beneath a tent several members of the crew had quickly erected and Dorian sat himself in a chair on the far side of the tent as the other man took advantage of the delay to take a smoke break.
Dorian was flipping through the script when he heard footsteps approaching. His face brightened, hoping that it was Bull or at least Skinner, but when he looked up he found an aide nervously looking back at him. The aide cleared her throat as their eyes met. “Excuse me, Ser Pavus? There’s someone here who would like to meet you.”
“Meet me?” Dorian’s brow arched in surprise but before he could ask any additional questions a new face strolled in beneath the tent. He was a dwarf with auburn hair mostly pulled back into a pony tail and a mostly-buttoned shirt, the top few buttons popped to reveal an impressive amount of chest hair. He looked entirely at home on set and Dorian wondered if he should know the other man. He was usually very good with faces though, a necessity when your family moved through the upper echelons of Tevinter society, and he couldn’t place the dwarf’s. But he had some level of civility and was a bit flattered that someone was interested in making his acquaintance rather than Gaspard’s. It didn’t happen often.
Rising gracefully to his feet, he gave the dwarf a playful bow. “Dorian Pavus. I hear you are asking for me.”
The dwarf chuckled and stuck out his hand which Dorian was happy enough to shake. Such a southern gesture. “I sure was. Name’s Varric Tethras, pleasure to meet you.” His gaze was assessing and Dorian couldn’t help but wonder what the other was seeing. His accent was easily identifiable: Free Marches if Dorian had ever heard one. “I caught wind that Sun Gate was filming and I decided to do some reconnaissance. Oh, wait, I’m getting ahead of myself…”
Varric reached into his pocket then pulled out a business card which he happily handed to Dorian. Varric Tethras, Screenwriter, Inquisition Studios. Dorian’s eyes flashed back up to Varric’s with renewed interest. Inquisition Studios was an up-and-coming production studio that had just established their headquarters in the city of Skyhold, a city-state smartly located between Orlais and Ferelden. They had some very good names working with them, some of the best in the industry, and while Dorian hadn’t recognized Varric’s face, he certainly recognized the name. He had written several blockbuster films, some of which were adaptions of his best-selling novels, and was a respected film critic in his spare time. None of his works were particularly artistically revolutionary but he had earned his success.
He must have seen a spark of recognition in Dorian’s eyes because Varric’s crooked smile grew. “I was passing through on a visit back to Kirkwall when I heard a rumor you guys were out here. Honestly, I was going to pass it by but then I heard they got a Magister casting flames so big you could see them from the Twins of Kirkwall—only a slight exaggeration, I’m told.”
“Only a slight exaggeration,” Dorian confirmed happily, pride coursing through him as his smile grew smug. Others might not have been excited that word of their magic-use had spread so far, worried over possible negative repercussions, but he was thrilled. “The exaggeration being that I am a Magister. That would be my father; I’m an Altus. An unfortunately common misconception.”
“Humble as well as talented, huh?” Varric chuckled, “I have a friend who would love to hate you.”
“Hate him? I’d like to see someone try.”
Dorian startled then looked over to see that Bull had found his way into the tent, a grin on his face as he strolled up to them and rested a hand on Dorian’s shoulder. Dorian flushed in response but tried to hide it behind a laugh, casting Bull a fond look before shrugging off his touch. He hoped he didn’t take offense but he wasn’t quite comfortable with…that yet, especially with a stranger in front of them and Gaspard and the crew behind them. When Bull only smiled back, Dorian waved a hand between Varric and Bull. “Varric Tethras, may I introduce you to the Iron Bull. Bull, Varric Tethras of Inquisition Studios.”
Bull tilted his head towards the dwarf in an easy greeting. “We’ve actually met before, though you weren’t with Inquisition back then. I won’t blame you for not remembering, it was a few years ago.”
To Dorian’s surprise, Varric nodded. “The Chargers, right? It might’ve been a while ago but you’re a difficult guy to forget, and so is the rest of your crew. It’s good to see you keeping busy. Not that I was too worried about it, you seemed to have a good head on your shoulders.”
“I like to think so,” Bull grinned. “Are you staying long? If I remember right, you’re the kind of man who’d appreciate this bar me and my team found in town. I’ll buy you a drink and we can trade gossip. It’s a good place to swap stories and I’m sure we could convince Dorian to tag along after we wrap for the day.”
Dorian scoffed but the sound came out more fond than anything else. “I suppose I could make the time.” Bull wasn’t fooled. The chance to gossip with Varric Tethras of all people? Bull knew as well as Dorian did that he wouldn’t miss it for the world.
“I’d love to but unfortunately I have a ferry to catch back in Highever and have to get back on the road soon.” Varric seemed genuinely tempted to stay though which lessened the disappointment somewhat. “I have just enough time to do a lap around your set here to see what sort of trouble I can stir up before I leave. But I’ll take a raincheck and hold you to that drink,” he grinned.
A shame. He seemed a decent sort, though Dorian could already spot the roguish glint in his eyes. Which made him just that much more interesting. “In that case, let me just say that it has been a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Ser Tethras, and I hope that we are able to meet again.”
“Call me Varric. And I’m sure we will.” Dorian moved to hand Varric his business card back but Varric held up his hand. “Keep it. The more people you know in this business, the better.”
Dorian couldn’t help it; a small flash of hope fluttered in his chest. Someone in ‘the industry’ had, for the first time, willingly sought him out. And Varric had let him keep his card. There was a bit of light at the end of the tunnel after all. “Thank you. I couldn’t agree more.”
As always, thank you so much to everyone who is leaving comments! I love you all! T^T Also, if you're so inclined, come bug me on Tumblr (@loquitorlatinae). I've asked a story-related question I'd love your opinion on.
The day to film the script re-write dawned and Dorian was put out to look out the window that morning and find a distinct lack of rainfall. Of course this would be the one day that the weather would be decent. He knew it was for the best since if they were to do this at all it would be better to do it in optimal weather conditions, but a petty part of him had hoped that filming would be delayed for another day or two.
Instead of petty he was forced to be civil thanks to a lack of nothing substantial to complain about.
Bull hadn’t been able to join him the night before but he knew that this time Bull and the rest of the Chargers were waiting for him on set and today he wouldn’t have to share the camera with Gaspard. That was the silver lining, he supposed.
Dorian drew himself up as he arrived on site, a slight swagger in his step as he again enjoyed the sensation of Cassius’s robes billowing behind him. This wasn’t the scene he wanted to film but he could still try to make it as magnificent as it could be with the restraints placed on him by Ponchard and the screenwriters. The crew had set up for the shoot on the top of the same cliff they had filmed on yesterday except for much closer to the edge. And there was Bull, standing with his hands on his hips facing the edge of the cliff and the water beyond and eyeing what did indeed look very much like a large crane. Despite the early hour, he had apparently already found an excuse to take his shirt off and Dorian hardly noticed his hideous, baggy cargo pants thanks to the distraction.
Humming, Dorian clasped his hands behind his back and sauntered over to stand beside him. Bull grinned down at him and Dorian’s lips curled up into a smile in response. “That’s quite a piece of equipment. How long did it take you to build?”
Bull scratched his chin thoughtfully, his good eye moving along the lines of the crane as Grim and Rocky began to loop a long length of thick, synthetic rope through what looked like a pulley that was attached to the arm of the crane. “On and off, it took us about two days to round up all the parts and another two days to put it all together. Rocky and Gatt did most of the work though, so I can’t take too much credit.”
“That’s right!” Rocky grinned from the crane, having overheard their conversation. The dwarf ducked under the crane to stand on where the crane was bolted to a heavy-looking base. “While you and Skinner were playing with knives, we were getting the real work done.”
Bull chuckled but Dorian answered for him, one hand pressed against his chest in mock offense. “Pardon, but working with actors is more than enough trouble for any professional and Bull and Skinner have had more than their fair share of that over the last few days. I should know, I’ve taken most of their time and demand nothing less than their full attention.”
Dorian head a snort and turned to find Krem, Skinner, and Dalish walking up behind him, Krem with a smirk on his face. “None of us want to hear about the ‘work’ you and Bull do, Pavus.”
That brought a blush to Dorian’s cheeks that only grew worse as Skinner shook her head, “At least leave me out of it.”
They knew? Panic struck through Dorian like a bolt of lightning: hot, bright, and sharp, then gone in an instant. Did they know, or were they just guessing? Or simply teasing? He couldn’t be sure without asking, and if he asked that would be an obvious admission of guilt. Or, not guilt, per say. Guilt would imply that he had done something wrong. And he was reminded again, as Bull gave him a sympathetic smile, that there was nothing inherently wrong with this.
The Chargers were observant and they may have noticed a change in Bull’s usual schedule. They clearly sensed something was afoot and maybe…maybe that was alright. As long as none of them ran to the gossip rags with the information, but he doubted any of them would be that cruel to Bull.
Instead of responding, Dorian settled on tilting his chin up with a little defiant smirk and allowed Bull’s answering laugh to wash over him. It was rejuvenating as a vial of lyrium.
They separated for the next half hour, Dorian leaving the Chargers to finish getting everything set while Dorian consulted with the camera operators about how the shot would actually take place. There were additional cameras set up around the base of the cliff from the front and the sides as well to get wide variety of angles shot at once. But all together it was fairly simple as far as Dorian’s role was concerned. He would just have to do his part as the Chargers lifted him up the cliff and not flap about like a baby bird. The audio crew hooked him up with a small microphone so he could say his lines as well. They already assumed that there would be too much wind for the sound clip to actually make it into the film but Dorian could do a voice over for the part later.
Once he was wired and deemed ready to go, he was ushered back over to the Chargers who had just finished setting up. Dorian tisked as Bull and Grim helped him into a harness, secretly glad that Grim was there to assist so that his mind stayed out of the gutter when Bull crouched down in front of him to fasten a set of straps around his upper thighs over the leggings he had worn beneath his robes. Trying to distract himself from the size and warmth of the other’s hands on his leg, Dorian spared another glance at the crane and the rope now expertly strung through it. “Are you certain that these ropes will hold?” It seemed a necessary question. He was to be dangled over the edge of a cliff by them after all.
Grim grunted out an affirmative sound as he held Dorian’s robes out of the way while Bull tightened a strap on his back and Bull nodded in confirmation as he finished up. “I’ve checked them myself, big guy. Don’t worry; if they can hold my weight, you’ve got nothing to worry about. And I know my rope.” Straightening up, he clapped Dorian on the shoulder and winked. Dorian rolled his eyes, intimately understanding Bull’s innuendo, but before he could respond Bull’s expression sobered and his gaze grew serious, searching. “But, listen, if you get too uncomfortable, you say the word and we’ll bring you up. A shot’s not worth your safety.”
Dorian shook his head, his hands moving to tug on the strap now fastened around his waist. “No, I can do this. I’ve fought off demons in the Fade, fled my homeland, survived Mother’s dinner parties; this can’t possibly be worse.”
That seemed to reassure Bull and he laughed quietly. “Those must’ve be some dinner parties to be included on that list.”
“You have no idea.”
“Then this should be a walk in the park. You’ll nail this.”
His reassurance was welcome and Dorian managed a smile even as his nerves began to build. “Naturally.” The closer it got to the actual stunt the more real it became and the more he felt like asking Bull if he couldn’t rouse up a stunt double from somewhere. But he wouldn’t ask, because he could do this. He just had to stop thinking about it so much.
He held still as Bull strung the rope through a metal loop at his waist then attached additional safety lines from the back of the harness. Once he was satisfied that everything was attached properly, he stepped back. “Alright, let’s test it.” He looked back over his shoulder and waved a hand. “Krem, up about a foot.”
Dorian blinked and his eyes darted up to the base of the crane where the control panel was. “Wait, Krem is controlling the—? Whoa!” He barely had a chance to glimpse Krem’s grin before he was airborne, the rope lifting him up from his center until his feet were off of the ground. “Well, that is, odd.”
Bull closed the space between them again, one hand moving to steady the main rope, and Dorian was delighted to find that they were now of equal heights. He smirked at Bull, wishing he could try kissing him like this but knowing it was hardly the time or place. Bull smirked back, seemingly knowing exactly where his mind had gone. “How’s it feel?”
Dorian cleared his throat and straightened his face. “A bit chaffing.”
“I’ll help fix you up tonight.” He rumbled quietly and Dorian felt a small shiver of excitement run through him before Bull raised his voice again to a normal level. “But how’s the balance? Does it feel sturdy?”
Dorian reached up to grip the rope below Bull’s hand and used it to swing himself a little, satisfied when everything felt solid. “The balance is as good as it can be.” He took a breath then met Bull’s eyes again. “I can’t be sure, but I think this would be fun if it wasn’t so intimidating.”
“That’s life in a nutshell. Krem, back down!”
Stretching his toes to meet the ground as he was lowered back down to it, Dorian held still again while Bull double-checked the harness and rope before walking over to wave at the film crew on the ground at the base of the cliff. Once one of them waved back, Bull turned back to the crew standing with them on the side of the cliff. “I think we’re good to go.” Dorian nodded in agreement and as the cameras adjusted Bull patted his arm, squeezing lightly before letting him go. “You ready?”
Dorian nodded again and sighed. “As I’ll ever be.”
“I’d wish you luck but I don’t think you’ll even need it.”
“Good.” Dorian’s mustache twitched as the corner of his lips quirked up. “I come from the theatre after all; wishing me ‘good luck’ could have been disastrous.”
“Then break a leg.”
The space felt emptier than it should have as Bull stepped back to stand behind Krem and the crane, leaving Dorian standing by himself on the edge of the cliff. They turned his on mic and conducted a sound check so they wouldn’t have to mess with everything when he was halfway down the cliff. Then Krem slowly lifted him back off of the ground and swung the arm of the crane around. Dorian’s heart rate picked back up as the ground disappeared beneath him as he was carried over the edge of the cliff. Swallowing, Dorian forced himself to relax and gave a little wave to the Chargers as he was lowered down.
When he was able to quell his nerves, he had to admit that it was a fascinating experience to be suspended in midair. Even as a mage it wasn’t anything he had ever done before. The harness felt snug and solid around him and, despite his words before, he had full faith in Krem’s abilities controlling the crane from above. As Bull had said, he was in good hands.
He glanced down as he heard murmuring from the portion of the crew below and immediately regretted it. He had no fear of heights but the cliff was very tall. No, it was best not to look down. Once he reached mid-way down the cliff he came to a stop and heard Ponchard’s voice from down below, amplified by a megaphone. “Alright, everyone, quiet on set! Roll cameras! Action!”
Knowing that the microphone attached to his robes would capture his words and the cameras below and above would capture his movements and expression, Dorian released a long breath to settle himself. He ignored the fact that he hanging and focused instead on what Cassius was supposed to be doing: rising up the cliff face on, Maker, a wave of demons. He released the rope and stretched his arms out to the sides as if he were guiding beasts, like puppet master with marionette strings in his hands, and lifted his chin up, eyes glaring with hate. Hate. It wasn’t a natural emotion for him but Dorian could summon enough darkness within himself to fake it.
“Reynard!” He snarled up at the emptiness above him. “You think you can stop me? You truly think you can stop a god?” By this point in the plot, Cassius had begun his descent into madness and Dorian intended to portray it with all the grandeur and pride that a Blessed Age Tevinter Magister would possess. As he spoke, the crane began to lift him back up the cliff in a graceful gliding motion and Dorian relaxed into it. “You cannot stop me, you worthless Chevalier! I and my legion shall sweep across all of Southern Thedas and burn it to ash so that a new world may be reborn, shaped by my hand! I shall take the Maker’s throne and--!” Dorian’s voice hitched in his throat as he heard the sound of a low, metallic groan above him. Dorian immediately snapped back to himself and his voice lightened though it did not drop in volume. “What was that?”
“Cut!” Ponchard pulled the megaphone back out. He sounded annoyed but Dorian barely registered it, his attention on the arm of the crane he could see stretching out over the edge of the cliff far above him. “We’ve gone off script. Pavus, did you forget your line?”
At the disruption, Bull had leaned out over the edge. Seeing him, Dorian cupped his hand around his mouth and shouted up. “Is it supposed to be making that noise?”
“Hold!” The rope immediately stopped and Dorian reached up to grip it again. “Let me check it.”
It was probably nothing, Dorian told himself. He was just being paranoid. But he’d have to thank Bull for humoring him all the same, especially when Ponchard was so clearly displeased with the break and he wasn’t doing himself any favors. Dorian watched as Bull’s horns disappeared as the man undoubtedly moved over to the crane to look things over.
A second later there was another plaintive, metallic groan and Dorian gripped the rope tighter. “Fasta Vass! Bull, I have changed my mind, I would like to be pulled back up now!”
Before Bull could respond there was a terrifying screech followed shortly by a loud crack. In the same instant, Dorian saw the arm of the crane drop and lurch to the side and suddenly the rope was swinging straight towards the face of the cliff with him still strapped to it.
“Kaffas!” He raised a hand and just barely managed to throw up a barrier, the magic heavy and unwieldy without his staff but functional, and he slammed into the stiff pillow of magic instead of the jagged rock face. The impact was hard enough that he bounced off of it, knocking the air from his lungs, before hitting against it again and cracking the haphazardly-formed barrier.
But it had done its job; there was no doubt in his mind that if he hadn’t been able to put the barrier up that he would have broken at least one bone or bashed his head against the rocks. As it was, his ears were ringing from the impact against the barrier and from fear but he still managed to hear Bull over the noise. “Shit! Krem, radio the crew to make sure that safety cushion is in place, now!”
“Chief, it would be too long a fall for—”
“Just do it!”
Dorian shook his head to try and clear it then looked up desperately at the rope where it seemed to be hanging by a thread from the crane that was leaning far too much over the edge of the cliff. His fear intensified at the sight into a white hot thing burning in his chest until he could hardly breathe. Bull looked impossibly far away, only the top of his head and his horns visible over the edge as he reappeared and gazed down at him. A glance down showed that the ground seemed even further away than that, the crew scuttling around beneath him as small as ants. He only had to be a few hundred feet up. Maker, a few hundred feet. Yes, that would be enough to kill him. No barrier would save him from that if the rope broke.
“You’ll be fine, Dorian. Stay calm, and don’t move. I’m coming down to you.”
Dorian couldn’t manage a response, gripping onto the still-swinging rope hard enough that his knuckles turned white. Don’t move. Don’t move; yes, he could not move. He was scared to even breathe. It seemed like any subtle motion would cause the rope to snap or spin out of whatever was left of the crane and send him falling to his death.
But just the sight of Bull anchored him and kept him from spiraling into a panic. Panic, panic would definitely not help him now. Instead he sucked in a deep breath and kept his attention on Bull. He watched as he disappeared for another short moment that seemed hours long but likely took mere seconds. There a sharp ping of what sounded like a hammer on metal and then Bull was going over the cliff. Dorian’s heart just about stopped until he realized that Bull had a similar harness as his own around his waist connected to a rope attached to somewhere on top of the cliff.
He held deathly still as Bull repelled down to him, just daring to look up to watch him skillfully maneuver himself down the cliff face with the efficient motions of someone who’d had some practice at it. Dorian closed his eyes as a few loose cobbles fell away from the cliff as Bull worked his way down and tumbled passed him. When he opened them again Bull was there.
There was a tightness in his face that Dorian hadn’t seen before but Bull managed a smile for him. “Hey, Dorian. You doing alright?”
“Oh, yes, just hanging around.” He was thankful he didn’t sound half as scared as he was.
“You’re fucking amazing. Swing yourself over to me.”
“You told me not to move,” Dorian accused. The three feet or so separating them seemed an incredible distance.
“Yeah, now I’m telling you to move. Trust me. I’m not going to let you fall.”
Dorian swallowed but nodded. He did trust Bull. And the way the other was looking at him had Dorian believing every word he said. Logically he knew there would be little Bull could do, even as close as he was, if something went wrong without chancing falling himself but it was nice to have faith in the idea that he would manage it all the same. It was more than nice; it was necessary.
It took a moment for him to gather his courage but Bull allowed him his time, doing nothing to rush him even though Dorian knew each second he lingered put him more at risk. “Alright,” he finally spoke. “let’s just get this over with then.” The thought of using Mind Blast to propel himself forward crossed his mind but he quickly dismissed it; the force of it might drag the crane over the edge and down on top of the both of them. The old fashioned way would have to do.
Lifting his feet to brace them against the cliff face as Bull was doing, Dorian used them to push himself off at an angle. He swung out towards Bull but not quite far enough. He huffed out a breath, reminding himself to breathe at the same time, then tried again. Building on his momentum, Dorian pushed out again and just as he heard an ominous creak from the crane a strong hand wrapped around his arm.
Dorian all but crawled into Bull’s arms as the other pulled him as close as he was able, throwing his arms around Bull’s broad shoulders and clinging on for dear life. In turn, Bull kept one hand on his own rope but moved his other to wrap tightly around Dorian’s waist. “You’re safe now. I’ve got you.”
“Thank the Maker,” Dorian sighed against his neck. His relief lasted all but one second as he felt Bull move again and looked up to watch him pull a large pocket knife out and then cut through the ropes attached to Dorian. “Wait! What are you doing?!”
Bull growled as he closed the pocket knife and tucked it back into his pants. “If that thing falls, I’m not letting you go with it. Here,” reaching between them, he used an industrial-looking carabiner to attach a new length of rope to Dorian’s harness then leaned back to loop it around his own rope. “Can you climb up on your own?”
“Yes.” He certainly could if he had to.
“Then go for it, big guy. I’m right behind you.”
Looking up at the cliff, Dorian grudgingly released his grip on Bull and grabbed the newly attached rope instead. His fingers flexed on the synthetic fiber and, well, “H-how do I…?”
“Set whatever pace you need. You need to step on me, you step on me. If you slip, I’ll catch you. We’ll get you through this.”
Dorian nodded and began to climb. He did indeed have to step on Bull at the start, carefully placing his foot on Bull’s thigh and then his shoulder as he hauled himself up, but Bull held as steady as bedrock as Dorian moved. As he began to pull himself up he felt Bull following close enough behind that Dorian could fool himself that he could feel his body heat as the wind whipped around them.
He lost track of time as he climbed, instead focusing on putting one hand above the other as he walked up the cliff face with boots certainly not made for the task.
“You two doing okay?”
Dorian looked up to see Krem leaning over the edge. Before he could muster a response, Bull was calling back from beneath him. “I want Stitches up top when we get there!”
The reasons for why Stitches might be necessary filled Dorian’s mind as he continued step by step, hand over hand. Sweat was beading up on his brow and under the layers of dark fabric from nerves alone and he could only pray that his palms stayed dry enough to grip the rope. It was a surprise then when his hands weren’t the first thing to give way.
The air rushed from Dorian’s lungs as his foot slipped on the rock in front of him but before he could even think to be alarmed he felt Bull’s hand come up to rest against the back of his thigh, holding enough of his weight for him to be able to regain his footing a moment later. Gripping the rope a bit tighter with a murmur of thanks, he grit his teeth and focused on pulling himself up the rest of the way up.
Dorian prided himself on keeping in shape but even so it was a difficult climb, made all the difficult by the tension that had every muscle in his body drawn tight as a bowstring. His arms were screaming by the time he had made it halfway there and just when he was about to break and beg Bull for some help a hand reached down to grip his.
He had reached the top.
All at once he was aware of the chaos above him and looked up into Krem’s eyes as he grabbed on tight to Dorian. Grim was beside Krem a second later and wrapped his hand around Dorian’s wrist and together they helped haul him up over the edge of the cliff and back onto solid ground. Dorian practically collapsed onto it, sinking to his hands and knees and Stitches replaced Krem and Grim beside him as other crew members ran about around them. Stitches was speaking to him, Dorian realized a beat too late, only noticing when he reached down to check his pulse. “—feeling? Are you with me? Dorian?”
“Pardon?” Dorian managed to rasp.
“I asked how you’re feeling. But, here. Sit, relax and catch your breath.” He reached into a bag and drew out a blanket which he draped over Dorian’s shoulders.
Dorian did as was asked of him and just sat in the dirt as Stitches quickly checked him over; he felt capable of doing little else at the moment. “Alright,” Stitches finally sat back on his heels, “thanks to your quick thinking you’re not injured but you’re exhibiting some symptoms of shock, understandable given what happened. The symptoms—the shaking, maybe some numbness or tension?— should dissipate within half an hour to an hour; just take it easy and try to keep yourself warm and relaxed. Let me know if you start to feel worse instead of better over the next fifteen minutes but in the meantime I’m going to check on Bull and make sure he’s alright too.”
Stitches words snapped Dorian back to the present and he jerked his head to the side to look back at the edge of the cliff. “Bull--!”
“Easy.” Stitches rested a hand on his shoulder but the sight of Bull clamoring to safety did more to calm him than the other’s touch. “Bull looks alright but I’ll make sure.”
Dorian made no complaint as Stitches pulled away, happy to have the man’s attention turn to Bull, especially now that he himself had been given a clean enough bill of health. Before he could adjust to being alone again though Rocky was in front of him with a folding chair and Dalish with a cup of hot tea. Dorian had no idea where she had found the tea but accepted it gratefully and allowed her and Rocky to help him up into the chair. From his perch he was able to watch as Skinner, Gatt, Krem, and Grim swarmed around Bull as Stitches examined him but he was standing within moments and brushing himself off. From where he was sitting, Dorian wasn’t able to hear what they were saying as they murmured to each other but Bull seemed to be reassuring them. His expression was stern but calm and Dorian used it to center himself. He was alright. They both were.
Still, the knowledge of how dangerous the situation had been was a difficult thing not to dwell on and Dorian closed his eyes against the thought. As the adrenaline began to fade, exhaustion took its place in his limbs, his hands shaking enough that he nearly spilled his tea. It felt like he could sleep for days. He hadn’t felt this way since…well, since the day he left Tevinter. Then he had experienced a full on breakdown on the plane to Orlais after existing for hours in a state of near horror. This, at least, was not that bad. And since he had survived that, he knew he would get through this as well. Just…not immediately.
He didn’t have so much pride that he was above resting for a few minutes.
Once the mortal danger had passed the crew slowly calmed as well but it was obvious that filming was done for the day. Clean up began and Dorian watched from his chair as the cameras were shut off and the audio equipment was packed away. On another day he might have offered to help but right now…right now he was very alright with staying where he was and sipping his tea. The tremoring in his hands had subsided which made getting his cup to his lips much easier but actually standing up still seemed like too much.
The Chargers lingered longer than the majority of the crew. Dalish, Stitches, Grim, and Gatt were the first of them to leave, trekking back some of the extra equipment they had brought in to help clear the scene, while Bull, Rocky, Krem, and Skinner secured the crane. First they had to get a chain around it to make sure that the thing didn’t finally tumble over the edge and then they hauled it back into its proper, upright position. The metal groaned plaintively but they managed it and, once the crane was back where it was supposed to be, the four of them lashed it down tight. Then, after making sure that everything was safe, the rest of the Chargers began to drift away until only Krem and Bull and a scattering of other crew members were left.
Bull and Krem lingered by the broken crane, examining every inch of it, and Dorian watched from afar. Then Krem glanced back at him before slapping Bull on the shoulder and stepping away. He walked passed Dorian as he went and Dorian was certain he would say something but all he did was give him a look and pat his arm before continuing on his way.
Somehow the gesture was more meaningful than any words might have been.
Dorian waited for another moment before mustering the will to rise from his seat, keeping Stitches’ blanket wrapped tightly around his shoulders as he did so. It was difficult to get his feet moving back toward the edge of the cliff but seeing Bull crouched down by the crane, shoulders curved in and head bowed, was enough to draw him in. He slowly walked over then knelt down beside him and it was then that he saw what Bull did. All of the bolts that had been holding the crane down to its base had come undone save one and the reason was clear; they were far too short to have kept together once any real strain was placed upon them. The fact that the last remaining bolt had held was a minor miracle. “Vishante kaffas…It was one bolt away from tumbling over the edge.” With him attached to it.
“Vashedan…” Bull’s voice was rough, belying his stoic frown. “Dorian, I am so sorry. There’s no excuse for this.”
“Well,” Dorian shrugged as his voice trailed off for a moment. He suddenly hated that downcast expression on Bull’s face. Feeling out of sorts, Dorian tilted his head to try and better meet Bull’s eye while he did the only thing he knew to do: make light of things that were truly serious. “You were right about one thing: the rope held.”
Bull wasn’t in the mood, Dorian’s flippant comment rolling off of him like water off a duck’s back. “I should have checked the rest of it too. I used to check everything, twice, but this time I let…”
This time it was Bull who trailed off and was suddenly so still that Dorian became worried for him. ”...Bull?”
He reached out from beneath his blanket and the feeling of his hand on Bull’s shoulder seemed to shake him from the melancholy he had fallen into. “I need to talk with someone. You should go get some rest, Dorian.”
Silently Dorian agreed but he still hesitated. The idea of heading to bed was a welcome one but, “I…to be embarrassingly honest, I was hoping you might join me tonight?” He didn’t feel like himself yet and Bull steadied him like no other.
The request finally brought Bull’s eye up to meet his. “Nothing would keep me away.” His brow furrowed as he truly took in Dorian’s appearance. “Can you make it back to your trailer alright on your own?”
Usually such a question would’ve been insulting but it seemed a valid one now. “I, yes. Are you alright?”
Bull’s eye flashed back to his then he released a quiet, mirthless laugh. “Yeah. Just have a few things to work out. I’ll see you soon.”
It didn’t feel quite right, leaving Bull to his own devices when he was in the mood he was in, but Dorian did so, trusting that Bull knew what it was that he needed in that moment and that they would meet again later that night.
He managed to find a ride down the hill and back into camp and was glad for it when he was dropped off and found himself tired simply from walking across the camp to the costume and makeup tent. When he arrived, it was clear that news of what had happened had spread because everyone treated him as if he was made of glass. Dorian partially appreciated it and partially loathed it. He might be shaken but he was not so fragile. If it had lasted a second more than it had he likely would have snapped but luckily for all involved, himself included, their hands were irritatingly feather-light but swift and they had him divested of his robes and his makeup wiped off before his fractured sense of control gave way. He kept Stitches’ blanket with him though. He had to return it, after all. Which didn’t explain why he wrapped it back around his shoulders after he had pulled on his own clothes but no one asked him any questions as he shuffled back out into camp and toward his trailer.
Dorian couldn’t remember ever being quite so relieved to climb up into his little trailer when he finally reached it. Once he stepped inside, he left the door unlocked against his instincts. But Bull had said that he would come and Dorian had no desire to rouse himself from his bed when he finally arrived. After folding the blanket up and setting it by the door, he wasted little time in stripping himself down to his underwear and climbed right between the sheets of said bed. He grabbed one of his two pillows and pulled it close to his chest as he burrowed against the other. He had barely gotten himself settled on his side before he drifted off to sleep, his arms wrapped around his second pillow, his last cognizant thought before he slipped off to the Fade spent on wishing it was warmer, larger, and more muscular than it was.
It was difficult to gauge how much time passed but the next thing he was aware of was that darkness had fallen and there was a shuffling sound outside his trailer. Dorian frowned sleepily but then heard a knock on the front door from the other room and sat up in bed, his sheets pooling around his waist. He heard the door knob rattle and leaned forward as he heard the door swing open, flames ready to burst in to life on his fingertips. “Bull?”
“Yeah.” Bull’s voice answered back from the other room. He sounded as tired as Dorian still felt. The trailer creaked as Bull stepped inside it and Dorian heard the front door close.
Dorian relaxed back down against the mattress and had the good graces to return the second pillow to its proper position beside his own as Bull stepped into the bedroom, ducking so that his horns could make it through the narrow doorway. Dorian’s brow furrowed in concern as he took in the sight of the other. There was nothing about him that he could pinpoint but something about him seemed…defeated. “Are you alright?”
Bull sighed but nodded. “Getting there. Scoot over.” Dorian hummed and rolled over to make room for Bull in the bed. The bed dipped as Bull sat down on the edge of it and unlaced his boots and tugged them off before working his belt and pants off.
Once he was ready, Bull settled back in bed and Dorian immediately rolled back over and curled up on top of him, cuddling up against his unnatural warmth. “Is it alright if I just want to do this tonight…?” He didn’t know what Bull was expecting but he didn’t feel up to anything too strenuous, despite how tempting Bull naturally made the idea.
“Yeah, big guy.” Bull reached up and wrapped a strong arm around Dorian’s waist, his large hand settling on Dorian’s hip and holding him in place. “Just this is perfect tonight…”
It didn’t take Dorian long to drift back off once he relaxed into Bull’s embrace, the remaining tension from the day seeping from him as he closed his eyes and his world narrowed to Bull’s scent and the feeling of his touch.
The next time Dorian woke the sun was again shining through the blinds. He had apparently rolled around a bit in his sleep but one thing was clearly missing. Namely one overly-large bed partner. Grumbling, Dorian furrowed his brows and wiped a hand across his face before pressing it against the other side of the mattress. The sheets were still slightly warm; Bull hadn’t been gone long then. The thought improved his mood and gave him enough energy to roll out of bed. He cursed as the chill hit him and rushed over to his little closet to dig out his robe. And some socks. Because he knew Bull wouldn’t begrudge him some poor style choices for the sake of comfort.
He took a moment to comb his fingers through his hair and smooth down his mustache before walking out of the back bedroom. It wasn’t difficult to find Bull; he was standing with his back to Dorian at the counter and nearly took up the entire kitchen. Dorian hummed, unable to see what Bull was up to with his bulk blocking whatever activity he was occupied with, and took a seat in his chair by his little table. “You managed to wake before me again, I see.”
Bull didn’t startle—Dorian suspected he knew he was there all along—and smiled back at him over his shoulder, though there was a tension in his brow that wasn’t typically there. “It’s not that hard to do. You were supposed to stay in bed, by the way.”
Dorian lazily lifted a brow and leaned into the cushioned back of his armchair. “I can always go back and pretend to be asleep if you prefer.”
“Nah. You look pretty comfortable there anyway.” He moved to the side and Dorian noticed that Bull had started up his coffee machine, the warm smell of coffee grounds beginning to fill the air. “Coffee?”
“Please.” Dorian shook his head as he tucked his hands into the hem of his bathrobe. It was still much too cold for so early in the morning but he loathed the idea of getting fully dressed. Especially when Bull was still happily wandering about in his boxers. “You’re making me feel like a poor host.”
“Why? You’re letting me take over your little kitchenette here.”
“And having you make me coffee.”
Bull smiled again and turned to lean back against the counter as the coffee began to filter into the pot, a small curl of steam rising from the machine. “You’re letting me make you coffee. And I get to look at you while I do it, so that’s a pretty good deal in my eyes.”
“Eye.” The correction slipped off his tongue before he could even think to stop it but once he realized what he’d said, Dorian barked out an embarrassed laugh. “I’m sorry, I couldn’t help myself.”
Bull’s smile had only widened and some of the tension had waned. The great buffoon looked like he was almost proud of all things. “No, it’s fine. I think I just fell for you a little more.”
Dorian’s lips quirked up in an almost shy grin and he nestled further back into his chair to watched Bull work. The quiet lingered between them as their coffee finished brewing and Bull poured a mug for each of them. “Sugar? Cream?”
“Usually no, but I’ll take a bit of both today.”
Bull nodded and put a dash of sugar and a splash of milk into Dorian’s mug before dumping a laughable amount of each into his own. Dorian lifted a brow as Bull picked both mugs up and made his way over to the table and Bull only shrugged, ashamed of nothing, as he sat himself down on the bench seat across the table form Dorian. Reaching forward, Dorian picked up the mug and pulled it to his chest, letting it heat him from the outside in, while Bull took a slow sip of his own. He let him finish before gently nudging his leg beneath the table with his own. “…Where did you go last night?”
A shadowy look passed over Bull’s face before he shook it away. “I solved our safety problem.”
“What do you mean?” Surely he hadn’t been out so late fixing the crane? Dorian was fairly certain that after what had happened they wouldn’t want to risk the stunt again either way.
“I fired Gatt.”
Oh. Dorian’s brows rose, “Then you mean…?” The safety problem had been Gatt. Which meant that he…Yes, it made sense. He had been one of the main builders of the crane, hadn’t he? It would have been an easy thing for him to purposefully use the wrong bolts. It hadn’t been a bad plan overall; once the bolts had been secured, no one would have known that anything was amiss looking at the finished project and the change wouldn’t make itself known until the arm of the crane was fully extended with a weight upon it. It was a fairly clever trap, especially because Dorian hadn’t expected a thing beforehand, his trust in the Chargers as great as it was.
Dorian huffed out a breath as Bull’s gaze lowered down to his mug where his three good fingers were gripping the ceramic nearly hard enough to turn his knuckles white before he seemed to steel himself and looked up to meet Dorian’s eyes again. “Dorian…I know I said this before but I want you to know that I meant it. There was no excuse for what happened yesterday and I apologize for it. You trusted us to keep you safe and we didn’t deliver.”
“Bull…” It was a near painful thing to see Bull looking so guilty. Dorian set his mug down and reached out across the table instead to cover Bull’s hands around his mug with his own. “I don’t blame you or the Chargers for what happened. Well, now that it’s been confirmed, I do blame Gatt but I can’t say I’m surprised.”
Bull’s entire countenance changed. Not dramatically, but Dorian felt his fingers stiffen beneath his own and he went deathly still again. “What do you mean?”
Shrugging, Dorian pulled his hands away and gave a dismissive wave. “He made some threats in the past, both veiled and direct.”
“And why didn’t you tell me?”
His sudden calm was beginning to unsettle Dorian but he didn’t let it show and lifted a brow instead. “Bull, I’m Tevinter. More than, I’m a Magister’s son. I’ve been the recipient of death threats since I was five years old and I know how to handle myself. And I knew you two are friends.”
Bull growled, growled, and Dorian might have been frightened if it had come from anyone else. “Yeah, I think it’s safe to say that friendship is over.”
“Certainly not on my account.”
“You think I would want to be friends with someone who makes death threats against an innocent man and actually tries to follow through with them? He could’ve killed you, Dorian.”
When he put it like that… “Point taken. Though I wouldn’t exactly say I’m innocent.”
That brought a smile back to Bull’s lips, as small as it was. “Didn’t mean that kind of innocent…” He looked back down at his coffee mug for another long moment and Dorian gave him his time to think but was grateful when he finally heard Bull chuff out a small laugh. “You were amazing out there, by the way. Did I tell you that yet?”
Dorian rolled his eyes. The best he could say about his behavior was that he at least hadn’t burst into tears. “My flailing was rather majestic, I suppose.”
“I’m serious. I’ve seen grown men and women who have been trained in combat break down when put in less danger than you were put in and you kept it together. It was damn impressive. Even I was shaken up.”
Smiling despite himself at the compliment, Dorian shook his head. “Make no mistake, I was absolutely terrified. But it helped knowing you were there. Just seeing you, it…” his brows drew together as he searched for the best words and was unable to find them, “it was enough to help me keep my head.”
“Shit…Come here.” Bull set his own coffee down and Dorian was on his feet before he realized it. He pulled him into his arms and Dorian closed his eyes and pressed his cheek against Bull’s chest as Bull held him tightly against him. He didn’t know who was comforting who; maybe it didn’t matter. What he did know was that he never wanted to let Bull go. Amatus, his mind whispered. But, no, it was far too early for that, what they had was still far too tenuous and fresh. But once the thought had entered his head it was a hard thing to shake it away even if it was nearly as terrifying as his near tumble off the cliff. His amatus.
I got so much awesome feedback for the last chapter! Thank you so much to everyone who took the time to leave a comment. I appreciate it more than you know. And to my fellow Americans, Happy 4th of July!
An executive decision came in from Sun Gate Pictures that Dorian’s accession scene would be re-filmed in front of a green screen. It was a surprise to no one but a relief for Dorian who, for once, was looking forward to acting in a green box. Bull seemed happier too and appeared to take particular relish in deconstructing the crane.
Ponchard never brought up the incident except to inform Dorian about the change to the green screen but Dorian was far too familiar with the man to be insulted by his lack of concern. Gaspard had the decency to make a note of it, though in passing when they happened to cross paths in camp the next day.
Gaspard had raised a brow to assess him then give a nod after having apparently deemed him to be in acceptable form. “I heard you had a bit of trouble during filming yesterday.”
Huffing out a breath, Dorian nodded in confirmation. That was one way to put it. “You could say that.”
“It’s good to see you in one piece. Judging by their previous performance, I would have expected more from the Chargers’ equipment though.”
It was a hard thing not to bristle at the comment, as if his own pride had been damaged by the remark. “I don’t think it’s right to blame the company. Apparently it was due to the neglect of a single one of their employees and the Bull fired him as soon as he realized it.”
Gaspard frowned at the information then grunted, “Good, then, I suppose. Though a harsher punishment might have been better for that sort of negligence.”
Privately, Dorian agreed. But he was also conscious of the well-being of Bull and the rest of the Chargers. Criminal negligence or intent would be difficult to prove in court without indicting some or all of the rest of the Chargers along with Gatt. The worst part was he was sure Bull would support him should he wish to press charges against him all the same; when they had parted ways that morning he had still been wearing his guilt like a shroud and Dorian feared that Bull would welcome any fine or loss of business as proper penance. Dorian was also content enough with the outcome. Gatt was no longer in his life, nor was he in Bull’s. As far as he was concerned, he had won whatever battle Gatt was so eager to see waged between them. “I’m satisfied with the result.”
Gaspard didn’t seem convinced but had only nodded and then continued on his way.
The next week and a half passed in a much less noteworthy fashion. Which was not necessarily a bad thing. Some level of normalcy was appreciated. Dorian was kept busy, as was Bull, but they frequently worked together on set. They were making use of every hour they were able to film on the Storm Coast and they had a good number of battles and skirmishes to shoot and re-shoot during which the Chargers were an integral part of the crew. Dorian was kept on his toes which he enjoyed far more than being bored. He liked the challenges that came with it and he enjoyed his time with the Chargers.
The nights were even better.
They weren’t able to steal away every night but more often than not Bull would join him in his trailer after they were both finished with work. During some of their rendezvous, Dorian and Bull would simply talk or Bull would help Dorian run lines before they both collapsed together in Dorian’s bed. Most of the time though things were more heated between them and Dorian barely let Bull close the door behind him before pouncing and stealing his breath away with kisses. It was new, it was exciting, and each night with Bull seemed better than the last. The Qunari was a remarkably giving lover and near inexhaustible, though Dorian always tried to test that. It wasn’t as if their sex was always perfect or flawless, but it was always enjoyable and the feelings he was developing for Bull enhanced the pleasure of each kiss and caress.
He was in love. There it was. The terrible truth of it. He was in love with Bull.
It was frightening and ridiculous but Dorian could hardly deny it any longer, although he would never admit it out loud. The more time he spent in the other’s company the deeper he slid down the slippery slope of affection and no amount of self-rebuking or self-doubt could slow his descent. He was entirely certain it would end in nothing but hurt and heartbreak—how could it be any different? He had been through this before with several men in Tevinter. The most recent and most serious had been one of his fellow stage actors in Minrathous, Rilienus. He was a wonderfully talented and handsome man and Dorian had fallen for him the instant his eyes had landed on him. They teased around their attraction for a while—a bit like he and Bull had done, really, except with more subtlety and side-glances—and then had fallen in bed together after a hugely successful opening night of their play. It had been fiery and passionate, everything a Tevinter tryst should be, until one day Dorian had found Rilienus with his tongue down the throat of his understudy. Exclusivity had never been part of their unspoken arrangement, it seemed. Dorian had learned that day that he tended to take relationships much more seriously than his partners did.
And of course he was too afraid to simply ask Bull what his thoughts were on the matter. The affection certainly seemed two-sided, which gave Dorian hope, but Bull also had an openness and easiness with sex that spoke of many previous forays and didn’t seem one to develop the same sort of attachment issues Dorian did. But at least for the moment Bull seemed content with having only Dorian as a partner—there was not enough time in the day for him to be sneaking off with someone else as well—so Dorian counted his blessing and tried to steel himself for the day it ended.
This particular night found them lounging in bed, Bull borrowing Dorian’s laptop with it in his lap and one arm draped over the headboard and around Dorian’s shoulders and Dorian with his reading glasses on, going over the script. The scene the next day was an important one and he wanted to have every word memorized. The scenes for Field of Bones were not, as a rule, filmed in order. More often than not, the cinematic timeline was last thing considered when Ponchard and his assistants drew up the schedule for filming. Instead it was based on such things as the set, location, required actors, etc. And yet, somehow, the last full scene Dorian was set to perform was his death scene.
Reaching the end of his lines, Dorian flipped several pages to the start again before leaning back with a sigh. He could feel the strain on his eyes and he knew he had to take a break otherwise they’d end up bloodshot the next morning. “Are you scheduled to be with Gaspard and myself tomorrow?”
“No.” Bull’s fingers brushed lightly against Dorian’s arm, “I’ll be working with some of the extras for a wide-shot Ponchard wants of his army skirmishing with your demons. Dalish and Skinner are with you tomorrow.”
Dorian hummed. “That’s a pity. You won’t get to see me die.”
He felt Bull tense beside him, just for a second, but by the time he glanced up the other’s lips were curved up in a dry smile. “I guess I’ll have to wait to see it in the theaters with the rest of Thedas.”
“You won’t know what you’re missing until then. It will be glorious, I assure you.”
Bull’s smile grew. “I wouldn’t expect anything less of you. I expect you to go down fighting.”
Dorian quirked a brow. “Oh, of course. Covered in dirt and gore and blood, fighting to my last breath.” The script had him engage Reynard in a long battle scene prior to his death but Dorian was going to make sure that Cassius went out with as much pride as he would show throughout the rest of the movie. It was his namesake, after all; Dorian would make sure he earned it.
That drew a chuckle out of Bull. “Now you’re just trying to turn me on.”
Dorian threw his head back in a laugh. “You would be the one person aroused by Cassius’ death.”
“I doubt I’ll be the only one,” Bull winked. Dorian was fairly certain he would be. “But Dalish and Skinner will take care of you while you’re filming. We have collapsible swords made for this sort of thing, so don’t let Skinner try to tell you any different.”
“Noted. Now, are we going to follow through with your ‘turned on’ comment or not?”
“Maybe I was just complimenting you.”
“Which is all well and good but—” Dorian reached a hand up to the screen of his laptop then glanced up at Bull, “are you done?” At Bull’s nod, Dorian snapped his laptop shut and set it onto the nightstand before taking its place, swinging one leg over Bull’s waist so that he was perched in his lap. “But it seems like there might be more proactive ways to compliment me. I am going to die tomorrow, after all.”
“Then we better make your last night alive a good one.”
Leaning in, Dorian grinned and rested his forehead against Bull’s. “Precisely.”
Bull grinned back and rested his hands on Dorian’s knees before sliding them up his legs until he reached Dorian’s hips. He squeezed down, his thumbs rubbing small circles against Dorian’s stomach. Both of them had gone to bed in nothing but their underwear now that Dorian had started depending on Bull’s body heat to keep him warm throughout the night so there was no fabric in between Dorian’s skin and Bull’s touch. Dorian leaned into the touch, his nose bumping against Bull’s as he shifted closer and his smile softened at the contact before he tilted his head and caught Bull’s lips in his own.
He heard Bull draw a breath in through his nose as he reached up and cupped Bull’s cheek, humming happily as he felt Bull’s grip tighten further. Chuckling, Dorian nipped at a scar on Bull’s lip and moved his hand up to grip at his horn. By now, he knew that Bull didn’t mind and it did make a wonderful handhold. He used the leverage to roll his hips, rutting lazily against Bull’s thighs. “…I believe I’d like to ‘ride the Bull’ tonight.” He’d been getting much better about asking for what he wanted in bed thanks to Bull and this particularly had become a very pleasurable sort of joke between them. But today he meant it.
“Oh yeah?” Bull tilted his head up to kiss Dorian again, “I think we can make that happen.”
“You think so?” Dorian teased back. “Let me see if I can’t get you in a more confident state of mind then, hm?”
Wiggling his hips to get Bull to loosen his grip, Dorian slunk down Bull’s body, dragging his hands down as he went and following his touch with his lips. He had had a chance to explore Bull’s body to his heart’s content but he still hadn’t had his fill and took his time as he trailed kisses down Bull’s chest and stomach. This was a slower pace than they usually set but, after a long day of filming, Dorian was feeling lazy and enjoying himself and by the look on Bull’s face he didn’t mind either.
Once he reached it, Dorian kissed his way down Bull’s length through his underwear, delighting in each increasingly labored breath he drew form Bull. When he reached the base, he nuzzled against Bull before repeating his pattern and retracing his path with his tongue, the fabric rough with a subtle taste of Bull.
He heard Bull rumble appreciatively and felt him stretch out his legs beneath him. A moment later, Bull reached over and blindly dug around in the drawer of Dorian’s nightstand before pulling out a condom packet and Dorian’s bottle of lube. Dorian smiled at the well-practiced motion; after a few nights, Bull had left a stash of overnight supplies, including a large amount of condoms, in Dorian’s trailer. He could see the transition from ‘his’ trailer to ‘their’ trailer taking place before his eyes and whenever he caught a glimpse of one of Bull’s possessions he felt a warmth in his chest.
Bull followed suit with the pace Dorian had set and prepared him slowly. He took his time and Dorian let himself relax into it, an easy thing when he was already so at ease. It was nice; there was no pressure to perform, no urgency. Leaning forward, he rested his forehead against Bull’s and let his eyes close so he could focus instead on the sensation of Bull slowly working him open.
When Bull pressed into him it still managed to take his breath away and Dorian waited until he had gotten it back before straightening himself in Bull’s lap so he could ride him properly, gripping Bull’s shoulders for support. Bull allowed him to take control and Dorian brought them both close to their climax, though Dorian only reached his when Bull took him in hand and began to stroke him in time with the roll of his hips. He swore and a shiver of pleasure ran down his back as he came after only a few tugs. His rhythm stuttered and with a soft curse of his own, Bull moved his hands to Dorian’s hips and brought him down on his cock two, three more times before coming as well.
Dorian leaned forward to rest against Bull’s chest, turning his head so that his face was pressed up to Bull’s neck as his breath settled. A moment later, Bull grunted and pressed a kiss to Dorian’s temple before gently easing him off of him. “I’m going to toss the condom and grab a washcloth.”
“Mn, no, wait…” Dorian sleepily roused himself and pressed a hand against Bull’s chest, keeping him against the headboard. “You always end up with the job. This time, allow me.”
Bull grinned and smiled as Dorian swung his leg over so that he was no longer straddling Bull’s lap. “You don’t have to. Maybe I like taking care of you.”
“Well, maybe I like taking care of you too,” Dorian teased back. Standing made him acutely aware of the pleasant ache that echoed in his ass, thighs, and back but he stretched it out before making his way to his tiny bathroom. He wet down a washcloth in the sink and wrung it out before wiping himself off. Pulling a face as he drew the cloth across his sensitive ass, Dorian made short work of getting himself clean then rinsed the cloth off and walked back into the bedroom. Bull was right where he left him and Dorian took a moment to take in the sight of the Qunari lounging in his bed before snatching up a small trash can. He offered it to Bull who deposited his used condom in it then Dorian sat on the edge of the mattress with the cloth. Keeping his touch gentle, Dorian cleaned Bull off then hurried back to the bathroom to deposit the washcloth in the sink before crawling back into bed.
Dorian let his eyes close and pressed a lazy kiss to Bull’s chest as he settled against him. Beneath him, Bull shifted a bit before bringing and arm to curl around him. “Hey…”
Bull’s voice was quiet but easily audible in the aftermath of their lovemaking. “Hmm?”
“If they’re filming your last scene, does that means you’ll be shipping out?”
Dorian’s eyes opened back up and his gaze flickered up to Bull’s face. He looked relaxed and his expression was soft but there was a subtle pinch in his brow again. “…Not immediately. But, yes. Once Ponchard is sure that he had no further use of me then I’m sure he’ll send me back off to Val Royeaux.”
Some of the ease melted away from Bull’s expression and his concern became more obvious. “Damn…”
Dorian’s own brows drew together and he propped himself up on his elbows, resting against Bull’s chest knowing that he could easily take his weight. “The rest of you probably won’t be staying too much longer than that, though. And afterwards, will you also be moving back to Val Royeaux?”
Bull relaxed again and nodded. “Yeah. Sun Gate has another film they want us on for a few weeks back at the studio.”
“Good.” They would at least be in the same city again then. Though it did bring up some questions about what Bull’s expectations would be at that point for their…relationship? Yes, even if it wasn’t an official “relationship” there was something between them.
Either way, he seemed satisfied with the conversation and Dorian lay back down before drifting off to sleep.
The next morning they separated after a cup of coffee, Bull to join up with Krem, Grim, Stitches, and Rocky on the coast to teach a small army of extras how to battle a CGI demon army and Dorian to the costume tent and they to join Gaspard up on one of the cliffs with Skinner and Dalish to film his death. He wanted to arrive early, just to get a sense of how the day was going to go, and was pleasantly surprised to find that Skinner and Dalish had beaten him there.
He greeted them both with a smile and walked over to watch as they adjusted the position of a thick green foam mat. “Good morning.” Dalish echoed back the greeting and Dorian watched them work for a moment more before speaking again. “How has everyone been faring now that you are short one pair of hands?” He knew that each of the Chargers was kept busy nearly throughout the day every time they filmed and he wondered if the others’ workloads had increased when Bull fired Gatt.
Skinner released a derisive snort and straightened, apparently pleased enough with the placement of the mat. “They were not much of a pair of hands, so everything is going fine.”
“I would’ve thought that the rest of you would have been a bit more bothered that Bull had fired one of your own.”
“Why?” Skinner finally turned to look at him, one eyebrow arched. “We might not like you as much as Bull does—”
“I don’t think that would be possible!” Dalish interrupted.
“—But that does not mean we want you hurt. Gatt could have killed you and he could have brought the Chargers down with you.”
Dalish nodded, her brows knit together. “Metaphorically in regards to our reputation, not physically. Though he should’ve known Bull would go over the cliff after you.”
Skinner huffed out a breath and shook her head. “He got off too easy. Bull should have gone through with his threat.”
That caught Dorian’s attention and it was his turn to raise a brow in question. “Threat? Who did Bull threaten?” Despite Bull’s intimidating presence, he could hardly imagine him actually threatening anyone
“Gatt.” Dalish answered back. “I’ve never seen Bull so angry. When he came into our tent, Krem and Grim actually had to restrain him from—well, I don’t know what Bull was thinking of doing, if he was thinking anything at all when he charged in—but after he had calmed enough to speak he told Gatt that he would, and I quote, ‘break his fucking neck’ if he went near you again.”
A dark smile lit Skinner’s face at the memory. “He was like an angry druffalo. A blind rage. I wish Krem and Grim had not been so light on their feet; I would to have liked to have seen what he would have done to him.”
“He didn’t tell me anything about that.” Dorian’s voice had lost some of its strength. He was still mentally lost in the image of Bull enraged beyond the capacity of speech. In a way, in was a flattering thought that he had been become so upset on Dorian’s behalf but it was a frightening image all the same.
“Of course not,” Skinner snapped back.
Dalish tilted her head thoughtfully. “He was fairly embarrassed after it was over. I don’t think he likes it when he loses his temper. He’s so hard to actually rile up that it rarely happens. But he apologized to the rest of us and then left, we assume to see you,” she nodded towards Dorian.
“Your assumptions were correct. What happened to Gatt?”
Skinner shrugged. “Don’t know, don’t care. He left with his things, muttering the whole way. I doubt he is still in the country. He hated it here almost as much as he hated Orlais.”
Now that was good news. “As long as he doesn’t come after me again.”
“No, I think he has given up on converting Bull back to the Qun or whatever shit he came for so he shouldn’t have anything more to do with you. And he should know better than to press his luck with Bull; if any of us catch wind that he’s lurking about, he’ll not find a warm welcome waiting for him.”
Skinner’s voice had lowered to a growl and Dorian grinned despite the fact that she was rather intimidating. “You make it sound like the Chargers are a gang more than a stunt crew.”
She gave him a stern look and Dorian forced the smile off of his face in an attempt to look properly serious. “We’re trained fighting professionals. Just because we specialize in faking violence doesn’t mean we don’t know how to actually inflict it.”
“I’ll keep that in mind if I ever run into trouble.”
Skinner cracked a smile herself at that. “You speak as if you are any less dangerous than us. Don’t forget, we’ve seen you cast; you would hardly need our help in a fight.”
“You have me there. I am quite proficient, and you didn’t even get to see the majesty of my necromancy.”
At the reminder, Skinner’s face drew up like she had just bit into a lemon. “Oh, yes. I forgot you were one of those.”
It was Dalish’s turn to smile and she grinned up at Dorian. “You’ll have to find an excuse to show us one day. I would love to see it; I haven’t had the chance before.”
A laugh escaped Dorian at her excitement. “I should hope not. That would likely mean there’s an unlisted necromancer running about and that would hardly help to improve our reputation.” While it was a respected line of study in Tevinter, Circles still required that any practicing necromancers add their names to a list to ensure that anyone who was actively practicing had proper training. After all, it wasn’t something some young mage should be dabbling in on the side. Raising the dead could get quite messy if it was done improperly, for both the dead and the mage doing the casting.
Apparently done with listening to talk of necromancy, Skinner poked him in the side until he moved down to the other end of the mat they had set up. “Enough. We should get to work, not chat.”
Dorian winced as she prodded at him with one sharp finger. “We could chat about something else if you’d like instead.”
“No. We will work now.” She motioned towards the set and Dorian followed her gaze. “Here is what will happen: you shoot a fireball at Reynard, Reynard will stab you,” Dorian jumped as Skinner suddenly pulled a blade out of some mysterious hiding spot and thrust it at his chest then rolled his eyes when the blade collapsed into its hilt as it made contact with his skin. Ridiculous stuntwomen. Skinner smirked but continued, “You will fall back on the mat, Reynard kills you.”
Raising a brow, Dorian gently pushed Skinner’s hand and the blade away, watching as it sprung back to its original length. “Will I be using pyromancy or will the fire be simulated when I cast?”
Dalish perked up. “I’ll be managing that. Because you would be casting at Gaspard, they don’t want you to use magic. Rocky and I set up a small pyrotechnic system that will make small bursts of fire on the set.”
Even she seemed a bit disappointed about it but Dorian saw the logic in using special effects this one time. Perhaps if they could’ve used a stunt double such as Dalish herself Dorian would have felt comfortable magically sparring with her but he didn’t want to risk it with Gaspard. He was sure of his own abilities but less sure if Gaspard would keep himself safe in the midst of everything and the last thing he needed was to be seen scorching one of Orlais’ favorite sons.
Skinner nodded her approval, her sharp, assessing gaze never having left Dorian’s face. “We should do a run before Gaspard arrives.”
“Agreed.” It would be better to have his routine established before the rest of the crew showed up.
She led him not to where his mark was where he would be positioned at the start of the shot but instead several paces back, presumably to where he would be standing when Gaspard attacked him. She poked him again, this time in the chest. “Keep your muscles loose, no tension. He will hit you and you let the impact knock you straight back.”
Dorian glanced back and saw that the mat they’d laid out was about a foot behind him on the ground. “Onto the mat,” he clarified.
“Yes. Try it.”
Try it? He raised a brow but did so, glancing back one more time then bent his knees and reluctantly tipped himself back until he fell. A half-memory of free-falling off of a cliff flashed through his mind and the air rushed from his lungs as he landed on the thick foam. He’d just managed to suck in a fresh breath when he heard Skinner tisk. “No, wrong. You are lowering yourself down and will hurt yourself. Let yourself fall, the mat will cushion you.”
Dorian huffed out another breath but clamored back to his feet, grateful that his feet were studier than he felt inside. “It goes against my better instincts.” It was remarkably difficult to simply let yourself free fall backwards. Particularly given his most recent exploits in stunt work.
“So must many things yet you manage them all the same.”
She had him there. “Fair point.”
“Good. One more time, except now I will push you like Gaspard will. Remember, let me push you and let yourself fall.”
Skinner waited until he was back on his feet and had straightened himself before they exchanged a nod. Then she reached out and gave him a firm shove in the center of his chest. Trying to do exactly as she said, Dorian relaxed himself and let her push him back. He tipped his heels back and allowed himself to fall and before he knew it was on his back staring up at the sky. Dorian blinked up at Skinner and raised a brow again. “Better?”
He imagined that was a compliment coming from her. She helped him back up to his feet and they practiced it one more time before Gaspard and the remainder of the crew arrived. Gaspard of course looked resplendent in his full suit of armor, shined to the point where Dorian could see himself reflected back in the man’s chest plate. As the cameras set, Dorian and Gaspard were maneuvered onto their marks and both were given their prop weapons. Dorian swung his plastic staff around and smiled as Gaspard examined his equally plastic sword that would be substituted for a collapsible blade in a short while. “Don’t worry about being too gentle when you kill me. I’ve now been properly trained and it needs to look like you actually want to see me dead.”
Gaspard smirked back. “This isn’t the first movie I’ve slain a villain in. You just look properly fearful and this should go very well.”
“Fearful? My Cassius?” Dorian pressed a hand against his chest in fake shock as he continued to tease, “You have been paying attention during filming, haven’t you? Cassius fears death as little as a normal man would fear a baby nug. His acceptance of his own mortality is shaky at best.”
Gaspard huffed out a laugh. “There’s truth in that, I suppose.”
They started off with some warm ups, Dalish and Skinner walking them through their first fight sequence. It was more complicated than many had been—appropriately so, since it would be the climax of the movie—and it took them several rehearsals until everyone was satisfied with the results. Ponchard was on hand to offer his expertise but luckily he actually seemed somewhat invested in making the scene as perfect as it could be, meaning that he had less time to harass Dorian.
Cassius and Reynard were supposed to be facing off in the midst of a larger battle that would be raging around them, though it would be filmed separately and then the two shots combined later. Dirt and blood would be flying everywhere and Dorian stretched out his free hand as he stalked towards Gaspard for them to animate blood streaming toward him later. Cassius was a blood mage first and foremost, after all, and all the death around him would be a near-endless power supply. Which of course only made Reynard’s inevitable victory that much more dramatic.
They sparred for nearly an hour with Gaspard landing occasional “blows” on Dorian and Dorian “casting” against him in return. During several well-orchestrated sequences, a wave of his staff brought forth a burst of fire from Dalish and Rocky’s pyrotechnic set-up and Gaspard would dodge it or dramatically leap through the flames, sword raised and bursting with Andrastian iconography.
It was during one of these zealous charges that Gaspard brought his plastic sword down on Dorian’s staff and, as scripted, broke the staff in half. It had been switched out with his regular prop staff just before and had a manufactured break point so that it snapped cleanly in two. Dorian stumbled back, stared at the broken remnants of his staff, then threw them away in disgust before snarling at Gaspard, “You miserable cur! Do you think you this will stop me? I have become a god! What hope has a mortal man against a power such as mine?” As he spoke, he raised his hands, both now outstretched before him.
“Evil such as you will always fall before righteous men. All I can do is pray that the Maker deems me worthy on this day.”
Dorian released a dark laugh. “You look around at the carnage about you and still you think your God is with you? How many of your men have lost their lives at my hand? With each of their deaths my strength only grows.”
“And it is in their memory that I will do what I must to make sure you never harm another soul. Your tyranny ends now!”
And here came the tricky part that may actually leave him a bit sore if he did it incorrectly. There was a quick prop exchange and Dorian made sure he was correctly positioned in front of the mat as the cameras were adjusted. Then, a beat after the clapboard sounded, Gaspard charged straight at him with an angry roar, sword drawn and pointed at the center of Dorian’s chest. Dorian kept himself loose as Skinner had instructed but when Gaspard made contact it felt like being hit by a freight train.
The prop blade hit him and instantly collapsed into its hilt and Dorian let the impact throw him back down onto the mat, just as he had practiced. Gaspard followed him down to crouch above him, his grip tight on the sword hilt, and a second after Dorian’s back had hit the mat he heard Ponchard call out a sharp “Cut!”. Makeup artists rushed in and Dorian stayed where he was on the mat but tilted his head back with a wry grin as they applied several ounces of fake blood around his mouth and nose and a copious amount all over the front of his robes around where the sword looked to be running him through. So deeply in fact that the blade would be imbedded into the ground beneath him were it real. Barbaric.
Gaspard grinned down at Dorian, each of them trying not to move too much in anticipation of the next shot. “How did that go?”
“Well, I think,” Dorian answered, then grimaced as a bit of the fake blood dripped into his mouth. He’d been assured beforehand that it was safe for consumption in case just this very thing happened but it certainly didn’t taste good. But at least it didn’t actually taste like blood; that would have been worse. “I should only have a bruise for a few days.” He was joking though he wasn’t sure if it wouldn’t turn out to be true. Gaspard hit a lot harder than Skinner had. She must have been pulling her punches, so to speak.
“Good. Maybe we’ll get through this in just one take. Do you think we’ll get so lucky?”
“I don’t see why not, as skilled as we both are.”
Whatever Gaspard was going to say in return was drowned out by Ponchard. “Clear the set!” One of the makeup artists put the final touches on the scene by covering Gaspard’s armor in a light spray of the fake blood then scurried off. Dorian watched out of the corner of his eye as a few of the cameras drew in close and reset his expression into Cassius’ pained rage as Gaspard settled back into Reynard above him.
“Quiet on set! Roll cameras. Action!”
They both waited a moment before Gaspard growled down at him, his expression fierce. “Void take you!”
Dorian snarled up at Gaspard, spitting blood as he spoke. “I will not be going alone!” He clawed at the blade of the sword, his palms getting covered in fake blood as he acted as if he was not trying to pull out the sword but instead trying to reach Reynard.
“Yes. You will.” With that, Gaspard gave his sword a sharp twist, the end of the fake blade catching on his robes and causing some of the fake blood to drip down his sides. Dorian hissed out a curse and let his arms fall limp at his side. “The Maker you have strove to dethrone will weigh judgement upon you. May he show you the mercy you would have denied the world.”
Dorian let his head fall back, his teeth grit together and face tight with pain as he stared up at the sprinklers overhead, the ones they used on set to simulate the all-too prevalent rain of the Storm Coast. They were turned on and said fake rain began to fall down on both of them. The droplets started small but quickly grew in number and size and Dorian struggled not to wipe at his face. He had to remember he was dying; a dying man wouldn’t bother wiping rain from his face. So he let it pelt down on him, the water mixing with the blood and running off down his cheeks in small rivulets. In his periphery he saw the cameras moving around them and zoom in as Gaspard twisted the sword again in a rather gruesome finishing move. At that, Dorian knew Cassius’ time was up. So he stared up at the sky as if he could see the Black City itself before, with one last choke, he let his gaze go out of focus and died.
Dorian wasn’t the only member of the crew who was scheduled to fly back to Val Royeaux. So were nearly all of the other major actors, including Gaspard and Calienne, and about a third of the crew who would no longer be necessary out on location or who were now required back at Sun Gate's studio. Due to their imminent departure it was suggested that a wrap party be held, despite the fact that filming wasn’t truly over, and the idea took off. Dorian could certainly never fault Orlesians for their readiness and ability to host parties.
He had spent the morning after they had filmed his final scene shadowing the Chargers and then had broken away to work on packing up his belongings in his trailer. When Dorian had realized how many hours had slipped away he had switched tasks and changed into one of his nicer outfits: a three-piece light grey suit paired with a deep red shirt and white tie. It was perhaps a little formal and, after mentally debating back and forth over it as he styled his hair and mustache and applied liner around his eyes, he settled on a compromise and pulled off his suit jacket and rolled the sleeves of his shirt up to the elbow. On his way out the door, he snatched up three of his gold rings and a thick gold bracelet. It was a different kind of showy than what was usually worn by Orlesians but by now they were all very aware of the fact that he was Tevinter. Besides, he wanted to look decent tonight. He knew that he and Bull had to have a certain conversation and he wanted to feel confident going into it because he didn’t know how long he would be able to maintain that confidence last once they began to talk.
The main camp had been transformed into a rather festive place, the large tent typically used as their makeshift cafeteria repurposed to host their party. It had rained earlier that day but the skies had partially cleared by the time the sun set and both moons were visible as were a scattering of stars. Someone had thrown some fairy lights up around the main opening to the tent and hung more lights and paper lanterns up from the tent’s ceiling. There was music playing at a tolerable level and the smell of food, wine, and beer filled the air inside. In sum, it was lovely and lavish in a shabby-chic sort of way that had probably been chosen from necessity given their location. The majority of the cast and crew appeared to be present, clustered in small groups around chairs and tables that had been set out and around two long buffet tables that had been set up in the center of the room.
By the time Dorian arrived, the party was already well underway. He received a few nods from some members of the crew and simply nodded in return. Everyone had been invited and he knew that the Chargers were intending on making an appearance. It wouldn’t kill him to socialize with others but he wanted to have fun tonight and forcing pleasant conversation didn’t sound terribly appealing. He was distracted from his mission, however, when a voice a few paces away caught his attention.
“Dorian, darling, there you are.”
Turning on his heel, Dorian’s face brightened as he recognized Vivienne cutting her way through the crowd which parted around her. She looked stunning in a white dress that appeared as if it had been made just for her. And it probably had been. “Madame de Fer.” She offered him a hand and he grinned then bowed his head to kiss it, noting that she had also worn jewelry, though her ring and bracelet were silver and studded with diamonds. Nothing overly ostentatious though; everything had just the right amount of shine for the event. “Don’t tell me that they flew you in just for this little soirée?”
She smiled at him as he straightened. “I insisted upon it. This is the last time the cast will be gathered together en masse and it is only right that I am here to congratulate all of you on a job well done.”
“You’re too kind.” And he wasn’t simply saying that. He knew her role at Sun Gate; she had no obligation to make the journey out to the Storm Coast but must have understood the importance of being seen all the same. She was delightfully shrewd about such things.
Her smile tilted up in amusement, her eyes sparking knowingly, before she continued, “I’ve heard you will shortly be returning to Val Royeaux.”
“Ah, yes. I believe my flight is scheduled tomorrow night out of Highever.”
“I am happy to hear it. I do expect you to call on me from time to time. You can be delightful company when the mood suits you.”
Dorian’s own smile quirked up into a grin. Fair enough. “I’ll take that as high praise coming from you, Vivienne. And I would be happy to pay you a visit when we both are able to spare the time. There is no one in all of Orlais with a finer selection of tea who can also hold their own in conversation as well as you.”
“Naturally. Just do wear a different ensemble when you visit, my dear. This color hardly suits you.”
Dorian glanced down at his dove grey suit then back up at Vivienne, a laugh in his voice as he adjusted his tie. “I hate to disagree, but I think it does; it brings out the color of my eyes. And it is all the rage this season in Tevinter.” Vivienne was one of Orlais’ fashion icons. He never would have thought he’d be debating color palates with her one day and smiling about it.
Vivienne hardly looked troubled by Dorian’s response; if anything, she seemed amused by it. “Yes, but Tevinter has always been a season behind in trend.” They both turned when someone called Vivienne’s name out in greeting from a small cluster of crew a few feet away and Vivienne’s smile settled into a more neutral expression. “I look forward to your visit, Dorian.”
He tilted his head in acknowledgment and watched as she strode away in her stiletto heels.
He would miss her.
Once Vivienne’s attention was elsewhere, Dorian returned to his task of finding the Chargers. It took him a few more minutes of winding his way through the tent but he finally spotted them. He had started to question if they were really there at all—they were fairly difficult to miss in general, especially with Bull standing about half a foot above everyone else—but they had tucked themselves away in a corner, their chatter drowned out until he drew close. They all had drinks in their hands and were crowded around a table far too small for all of the appetizer plates they had skillfully stacked up on top of each other. It was odd to see them out of their work clothes and into something resembling casual formalwear but Dorian appreciated that they had all made an attempt.
Bull had his back to him but Krem saw him coming and shuffled to the side to allow Dorian to squeeze in between them. Dorian did so with a nod of thanks to Krem and let his fingers trail teasingly down the sleeve of Bull’s button-up shirt, the fabric stretched tight over Bull’s frame. “I see you’ve dressed up for the occasion.”
“Of course I did!” Bull winked down at him, “An open bar and free food? We’ve got to look our best so we get invited to the next one.” As always, Bull didn’t seem surprised by his sudden appearance and let his gaze subtly sweep up Dorian’s body. Dorian smiled a bit at the attention, knowing that he looked good.
“Well, you seem to be conducting yourselves decently. Although,” he lifted a questioning brow and purposefully let his gaze linger on the stack of plates on the table in front of them, “you may want to clean some of those off before they all fall and break. That would be a lot of ceramic to replace.”
Rocky grinned, “That’s half the fun! We’re trying to see how high we can get it, then Grim’s gonna pull the tablecloth out from underneath it all.”
Grim grunted and Dorian winced. “Please tell me you’re joking?” When he got nothing but shrugs, he leaned his head back and sighed. “What am I to do with the lot of you?”
“What, you think he can’t do it?” Bull grinned and he crossed his arms over his chest, his shirt straining at the seams. “I’ll bet you five silvers that he can whip the table cloth out without knocking off a single plate.”
Dorian rolled his eyes. Five silvers was not a large sum of money but it seemed almost a crime to take that bet. On the other hand, Bull’s confidence was suspicious and made him wonder how many times that they’d done this sort of thing. “Fine. I accept your wager.”
The Chargers gave a little cheer and Stitches patted Grim’s shoulder. “You’d better get it right this time.”
Grim only grunted again as Dorian shook his head at the words ‘this time’. He stepped back and glanced around to make sure that no one else suspected anything as Grim stretched out his fingers. No one paid them any mind and Dorian turned back to see Grim grip the hem of the tablecloth and then, with a silent flourish, gave it a sharp tug. Dorian flinched, ready for the crash of porcelain on the floor as all of the plates jumped and rattled but not a single one fell. The Chargers broke out in applause and while Grim took a bow, Dorian huffed out an incredulous noise. “You rigged it.”
Grim offered him the tablecloth and Dorian snatched it up, inspecting both sides of it and then the table top before realizing that there was nothing there to find. “Very well then,” he sniffed as he straightened, “Bull, it seems I owe you some money. I don’t have my wallet on me but I’m very good at repaying my gambling debts. It’s a matter of principle.”
Bull grinned and rested a hand on Dorian’s shoulder. “I’m not too worried; I know you’re good for it.”
Unable to help himself, Dorian smiled back and leaned into his touch before reminding himself that they were very much in the public view. Now that the excitement was over and the dishes remained intact, Dorian figured that it would be as good a time as any to move ahead with his plans for the night. Otherwise he would just start to start to get jittery or start drinking and neither option was particularly desirable.
Dorian waited until everyone had settled again before nudging Bull’s hip with his own. “…I was hoping I might be able to steal a moment alone with you?”
“Sure, big guy.” Bull gently pressing a hand against his back, touching just long enough to turn Dorian toward a side-entrance into the tent. He used his free hand to point a finger at the Chargers, his voice jokingly stern. “Behave. I don’t want to hear you causing trouble while I’m gone.”
Skinner and Rocky made kissing noises as they both began to move off and Krem smirked at them over his shoulder. “Same to you.”
Blushing, Dorian shook his head and led the way as he and Bull slipped out of the tent. That particular exit wasn’t often used, the air cold and quiet outside, and Dorian automatically moved a bit closer to Bull to soak in some of his warmth. Bull’s smile softened and he guided them both over to a shadowed wall of the tent a dozen or so steps away to lend them a bit of privacy. Dorian murmured his thanks then fell awkwardly silent but Bull allowed him the time to collect his thoughts.
This was harder to start than he had thought it would be.
“Bull…I would like to talk about…whatever this is.” Dorian waved a hand between them then hesitated again, unsure of how to continue, and understanding washed over Bull’s face.
His body language changed, his smile growing more relaxed but somehow…less than it was. “Hey, you don’t need to explain it to me. What we had was fun but you’re not going to break my heart by ending it. You got to ride the Bull and I had a great time letting you. But we’re two different types of people going in different directions.”
Dorian felt his chest tighten before he forced his nervousness out in a sharp laugh. “That’s not what I was going to say at all.”
The change in Bull’s expression was subtle but Dorian was watching him closely enough to spot the furrow in his brow. “Are you sure? I’m usually pretty good at figuring things out. Former Ben-Hassrath, remember?” Bull was teasing but Dorian could tell it was hiding his renewed confusion.
For some reason seeing him thrown off as well grounded Dorian enough to conjure up a bit of confidence again. He folded his arms over his chest and leaned back against the metal frame of the tent. “I’ll admit, you’re unusually astute in many ways but it seems I still have a trick or two you haven’t seen yet.”
“And what’s that?”
Dorian drew in a breath and his gaze dropped to his hands where he fiddled with one of his rings. It was now or never, as they said, and he was already far to invested to retreat now. Venhedis. “I…was hoping that you might be willing to continue this…arrangement, between us. When we’re able to, of course. I assume your work with Sun Gate will still predominately be conducted from the production lot and I am looking at an apartment in the city center so it would only be a short metro ride away when we’re both available. And that’s not to say that you can’t spend the night with others if that’s what you want, I’m not trying to tie you down—”
Bull interrupted Dorian’s rambling, “That’s a shame. You know how I feel about tying people down.”
Scowling, Dorian glared at his ring. He wished he was better at this. Words typically came so easily to him that he hated when they caught in his throat due to…anticipation? Fear? Both, and neither. Perhaps something in between. “I’m being serious. You realize this isn’t easy for me. This isn’t something I ever imagined myself suggesting to anyone.” He never would have imagined he would be bold enough to ask another man to commit to an extended relationship. It just didn’t happen in Tevinter and he hadn’t thought it would ever happen outside of Tevinter either.
“So am I.” Dorian swallowed and then there was a hand on his cheek and Bull gently tilted his chin up so that they were finally making eye contact again. What he saw shocked him. He had been expecting annoyance or confusion at best, unable to hope for more, but was instead there was a fond look in Bull’s eye that caused hope to flare up in his chest. “I honestly have no idea what I’m doing here either. One-night stands I’m good at but I haven’t done the relationship thing before. But if you’re willing to try I think we should give it a shot.”
Needing something to steady himself with, Dorian reached up and wrapped his fingers around Bull’s wrist, keeping his hand pressed against his face. “And…the monogamous aspect of it? Again, it’s nothing I expect but it would be good to know where you stand on the issue so I know if I have the right to be jealous when I see gorgeous people flirting with you.”
Bull chuckled. “I think that should be my line. And if you want monogamy, we can do that too.”
“You’d truly be willing to agree to that?” Dorian had meant it to be taken as a teasing question but it came out far too uncertain. He knew something of Bull’s past now, and of his ‘open door’ policy that was hardly exclusive to Dorian himself.
That little crease came back between Bull’s brows before he shook it away, one broad thumb brushing against Dorian’s cheekbone. “You’re worth it.”
Much to his shame, Dorian blushed at that then scoffed, “Stop it…” He didn’t know what Bull was thinking, if he was simply trying to flatter him again but…
Bull broke through his self-doubt, his other hand coming up so that he was cradling Dorian’s face, “It’s true.” His hold was gentle but there was a force behind his words and he made sure that Dorian met his gaze. “You’re worth so fucking much Dorian. The things you do and say—I can tell you haven’t been treated right in the past but I’m going to do everything I can to give you everything you need. And everything you deserve.”
It was suddenly a bit hard to breathe. Dorian squeezed his eyes shut for a moment then blinked them open once he was certain that no tears were welling up and smiled up at Bull. “Well then…just for the record, you are as well. Worth it, I mean. And I’d like to try to do the same for you.”
Bull huffed out a breath but smiled. Dorian pressed himself up on his tip-toes and Bull met him halfway in a kiss. It was soft, almost sweet, and when they finally separated, Dorian pressed a kiss to the inside of Bull’s wrist before easing his hands off of his face. “Let me see your cell phone.”
Pulling it from his back pocket, Bull handed his phone to Dorian. Seeing that it was locked Dorian raised a brow and passed it back to Bull whose lip quirked up in a grin before he obediently tapped in his passcode and then gave it back to Dorian. He made short work of opening up Bull’s contacts and adding himself; he’d had the shocking revelation earlier that day that they didn’t actually have each other’s phone numbers. They had simply seen each other so often and had been so busy when they hadn’t been in contact that it hadn’t mattered. It was all wonderfully old fashioned in a way but now that they were both committing to make this something more it would be entirely insufficient.
Pulling the camera application up on the phone, Dorian winced as he caught sight of himself on the screen and swung around, trying to find the best angle. “Ugh. This lighting is atrocious…” There was nothing for it. It was too dark to be anything but amateur. He made an incredulous face and snapped the photo anyway.
“I’m sure it’s fine.” Bull made a half-hearted attempt to try and swipe the phone from him but Dorian smoothly ducked under his arm as he added the photo to his contact information then texted himself.
“It will do.” His own phone chirped in his pocket and only then did he hand Bull’s phone back to him. “There we are. That’s my private number. I expect your email address at a later date but for now this will suffice.”
Bull looked down at his phone then grinned as he shook it head and slipped it back into his pocket. Reaching out, he wrapped his arms around Dorian’s waist and leaned down to press their foreheads together. “…How’d I get so lucky, huh?”
Dorian searched Bull’s visible eye, cataloging each and every emotion he saw, worried that by tomorrow Bull would change his mind and decide that this wasn’t what he wanted. That he wasn’t worth the trouble. That entering into a relationship right before they were scheduled to split apart wasn’t going to work. But there was no hint of doubt in Bull’s gaze and everything Dorian did see only made him want to cling tighter while letting him know that it would be alright to let go. Just for a little while. “Maybe you’re not the lucky one.”
“Or maybe we both are.”
Dorian laughed lightly before tilting his chin up and pressing one more kiss to Bull’s lips before reluctantly stepping back out of his hold. “I suppose I can agree to that compromise. But we should head back inside…I wouldn’t want anyone to miss us. And after that stunt, I’m not sure the Chargers should be left unattended.”
Bull scrunched up his nose before waving a hand. “Ah, they’ll be fine.” Almost on cue there was a crashing sound from inside the tent and Dorian pursed his lips to try to stifle a smile as Bull’s gaze shifted over to the tent. “Or maybe we can go back in and make sure everything’s alright.”
As it turned out, one of the waiters had accidentally dropped a tray full of champagne flutes but it was probably a good thing they snuck back in anyway. Other members of the crew filtered by and spoke with them, including Gaspard who actually took a moment to speak with Dorian for before moving on. For the most part though, Dorian spent the night with the Chargers and with Bull and it was a bit of a bittersweet moment, serving as both a reminder of the friends he’d managed to make and of the friends he would shortly be parted with. Bull included. Bull most of all.
He and Bull retired late that night—or, rather, into the next morning—to Dorian’s trailer, maneuvering around boxes half-packed full of Dorian’s belongings as they stripped themselves of their clothing and fell into bed. Before they both fell asleep Dorian made Bull promise to wake him before he left the next morning. The Chargers had work to do—just because Dorian’s job on set was over didn’t mean that theirs was. Bull easily agreed then bundled Dorian up against him who was lulled to sleep by his warmth.
Bull kept his promise and the next thing Dorian knew was that he was being woken up by the feeling of lips pressing against his temple. He opened his eyes to find Bull fully dressed and standing by the side of the bed. He made to get up but Bull shook his head and told him to stay his bed and enjoy sleeping in. Dorian grudgingly did just that; he stayed awake long enough to watch Bull finish getting himself ready and walk out the door and then had rolled over and fallen back asleep.
He slept for another three hours before he woke for a second time and actually felt ready to face the day. After pulling himself from his bed, he took his time going through his morning routine, dressed, then returned to packing up the rest of his belongings into boxes. Luckily he had done most of the work the day before so there wasn’t much left for him to do.
His trailer would be left behind for the crew to move out later; now that he was done filming, it was no longer his. The only thing he actually owned beside his personal effects was the armchair he’d purchased and he made sure it was properly handled as it and his boxes were carried out into an awaiting truck.
With the Chargers out and about, Dorian didn’t think that he would be saying any good-byes on his way out and so it was a very pleasant surprise when Bull caught up with him just as he was gathering up the last of his things in his emptied trailer. He’d been packing his staff away in its carrying case when there was a knock on the trailer door and looked up to find Bull’s bulk filling the entryway. A smile broke across his face and he turned to fully face him. “Well this is a lovely surprise. Shouldn’t you be working?”
Bull shrugged and sauntered inside, closing the door behind him. “I had to come back to camp to find a spare prop shield.”
“Hmm…” Dorian made a show of peering around his empty trailer. “I’m afraid I don’t see any shields.”
“No? Damn. Well, since I’m already here…” Dorian’s smile spread as Bull reached him and pulled him into a kiss. Just as he had the first time, he relished the way he had to stretch to properly meet Bull’s embrace. “Have a safe trip. I’ll see you back in Val Royeaux.”
“Let me know the moment you’re in the city.” Dorian lingered with his arms around Bull’s shoulders for an extra second before he reluctantly pulled away. “I think I’m going to miss you.”
Bull’s lips tilted up. “That’s what sappy late night phone calls are for.”
“Please. I’m never ‘sappy’ and if you ever get such a call from me you can assume that I’m very, very drunk.” And lonely. Drunk and lonely. Actually, knowing his habits, there was a very good chance Bull would get one or two such calls…
Bull laughed. “Good to know.”
Dorian tilted his head, a fond smile on his face as he took a moment to simply look at Bull. To remember the color of his eye, the shape of his face, the curve of each healed scar on his skin. He could probably simply gaze upon him for hours but he knew he didn’t have the time. The bus that would take himself, Gaspard, and Calienne back into Highever was leaving soon. Yes, they would wait for him, but it seemed a bad impression to make upon his co-stars on their last day together.
But, as Bull said, they would have plenty of time when they were both back in Val Royeaux.
“Do have fun with the rest of the movie.”
“Won’t be half as fun without you here but we’ll all make due.”
Dorian liked to think that the smile they shared then was one of understanding but he couldn’t quite decipher Bull’s emotions in the midst of his own storming about in his head. He finished packing his staff away then pulled its case over his shoulder. Then he snuck one more quick kiss in before he and Bull both made their way out of the trailer.
After that, Dorian joined Gaspard and Calienne and, as planned, they were loaded up onto their small luxury bus. The entire ride back to Highever Dorian had his phone out and resting in his hand. He didn’t expect Bull to call so soon—he didn’t even truly want that—but he wanted to be ready, just in case he did. But Bull didn’t. His phone remained silent as they drove back into civilization. By the time they had boarded their plane the whole thing felt a bit like a dream and Dorian had to occasionally glance over at Gaspard to remind himself that their time on the Storm Coast had been reality and not some confused night spent in the Fade.
The urge to call Bull or just send some disgustingly cute text grew stronger but it seemed too desperate, even to him. It had only been a few hours since they had been together, he could certainly hold out for longer than that. Scowling down at his phone, Dorian turned it on but instead of opening his messaging app instead pulled open his email in an attempt to distract himself.
Over the past week Dorian had been scouring the internet for a place to live once he returned to Val Royeaux. Sun Gate was no longer obligated to provide him with accommodations, though if they had been of a decent sort they could have managed it. But he wasn’t about to go begging around for a place to live. Especially when he had planned ahead and prepared for just such a situation. Dorian was able to find an apartment complex that was offering month-by-month leases in roughly the part of town he was hoping to live in so he had snapped it up. He had received an email from his new landlord not two days ago saying that his unit was ready, which was a relief. Especially since it was supposed to be fully furnished which was necessary unless Dorian wanted to live his entire life out of his armchair.
Their flight back to Orlais was uneventful and when they landed there was another bus waiting to take them to Sun Gate Pictures where they were dragged through some measure of pomp and circumstance before being handed a check and sent on their way. Dorian walked to the metro station the Chargers had shown him and took the inbound train toward the center of Val Royeaux. Reading directions off of his phone, he got off at a station two away from the Summer Bazaar and wandered his way through the streets until he found his new home. It looked…Dorian sighed. It would do.
Even though it came fully furnished, it still felt empty when he stepped inside his apartment. He had arranged for Sun Gate to deliver his meager possessions the next day, but he wasn’t even sure if that was the main cause behind it.
By the time the sun set he was in an embarrassing emotional state though he was doing his very best to pretend that everything was fine.
It felt as if he was back to square one, when he had first flown into Orlais. He was contracted with Sun Gate to make appearances or participate in any promotions they wished to conduct for Field of Bones but that would hardly sustain him. Yes, he had a place to live now and some amount of money in the bank but he had no prospects. It seemed as if he had come full circle.
Amatus. He had finally found his amatus, someone who he had had true feelings for and who seemed to reciprocate them. And he had left them. He hoped that he and Bull worked out. But he could hardly keep a relationship together when he was with a man; what had made him think he had a chance to manage it long-distance? But maybe this was for the best. Maybe this way he wouldn’t be there to be a constant presence in Bull’s life and he would only think of all of Dorian’s positive qualities, allowing the less flattering ones fade from his memory. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, after all. Or maybe Bull would just forget his attraction to him altogether. Maybe…Kaffas. Maybe it would be best to stop thinking about it.
Forcing himself to do something else, Dorian turned his attention to feeding himself. On his way to his apartment he had wandered by a convenience store and had picked up a frozen dinner which he popped in the microwave. Eventually he would have to pick up some groceries. Assuming that he was going to begin cooking which would be a brand new adventure. He found some silverware in a drawer and ate his sad little meal leaning over the edge of his balcony that was barely large enough for him to stand out on. At least the night was pleasant enough, the air warm and dry compared to what he had grown accustom to at the Storm Coast.
Having food in him, as sub par as it was, helped and after running through his nightly routine he decided that he was in a decent enough place to finally allow himself to give in. Settling himself on his new bed, Dorian pulled out his phone and dialed Bull’s number. He held his breath as the phone rang once, then twice.
Just as his self-doubt was about to kick in there was a soft click and Bull’s voice rumbled out through the speaker. “Hey, Dorian. How’s it going?”
“Hello.” Some of the tension left in his body immediately melted away and Dorian stretched out on the mattress. “Things are going well enough…I’ve moved in to my new apartment. It isn’t terrible, all in all. One-bed, one-bath, a too small kitchen that I’ll never use but complain relentlessly about nonetheless, and an even smaller balcony overlooking a courtyard.”
“You in a good neighborhood?”
Dorian rolled his eyes but there was a smile on his face from the concern in Bull’s voice. “Yes, mother. I am in a…decent neighborhood.” It wasn’t the best but it could certainly be worse. “It’s approximately ten minutes on foot to the Summer Bazaar and a twenty-minute metro ride to Sun Gate. I discovered a small cluster of restaurants down the street so I shouldn’t starve any time soon.” They had been by the convenience store but he hadn’t felt like eating out alone that night.
A moment of silence passed between them but it was comfortable. It was nice enough, just knowing that Bull was on the other end of the line. After a few seconds more Dorian sighed and cast his gaze to the empty space beside him. “…It’s…strange, the idea of going to bed alone. You’ve ruined me a bit.” He used to have no reservations whatsoever about going to bed alone. In fact, he had preferred it. Before, sex was all well in good but actually sleeping in the same bed with someone else had simply seemed an inconvenience at best.
He heard Bull chuckle. “I would say I’m sorry for it but it’d be a lie.”
Dorian smiled against his phone then blinked as his eyes caught on the digital alarm clock sitting on the nightstand and was struck with a realization. “I’m sorry, we’re in different time zones now, aren’t we?” It was at least an hour later where Bull was.
“Yeah, but it’s alright. I’m having trouble sleeping anyway.” He heard a rustle of fabric and a soft shuffling noise as if Bull was moving about. “I’ve gotten used to having a ‘Vint heat-sucker in my bed and Krem won’t cuddle with me.”
His voice had turned teasing and a voice called out in the background. “I get enough of you during the day.”
Dorian’s guilt waned as he heard Krem speak up. At least more than one of them was awake. “We’ll both just have to adjust, I suppose. But I’ll let you go so you can struggle to get some sleep. It’s late there and I’m sure you have a busy day tomorrow.” Dorian’s voice had softened as he spoke but he couldn’t help it. If Bull worried for him, he had a right to worry for Bull too.
“Alright. I’ll talk to you soon.”
Thank you so much to everyone who continues to review! Each and every one makes me so happy! And I apologize that this chapter took a bit longer to get out. As I was writing in, this chapter just sort of grew longer and longer and I actually ended up cutting it in half and turning it into two once it began to get ridiculous. Thanks for your patience!
Despite a bit of a rocky start, Dorian managed to create a routine for himself within a few days of moving in to his apartment. He would wake up as early as he could muster the energy to roll from his bed, go out on a morning run, and stop by a coffee shop two blocks from his apartment on his way back for breakfast. Then he would spend the rest of the late morning and early afternoon either conversing with the staff at Sun Gate by phone or in person or desperately searching the internet for new work in Val Royeaux. He had contacted Gaspard’s agent to see if he would be willing to take him on as a client but hadn’t heard anything back from him yet. That didn’t give him much hope.
In the early evening, he would go out on a walk to the library, the nearby university campus, the cinema, or simply to explore the city. If he was feeling particularly scholarly, he delved back into the academic journals he had written for during his time at the University of Minrathous to see if there had been any interesting research conducted in the fields of necromancy or chronomancy. It was never as productive as the beginning of his day but it kept him from losing his mind and from falling into a creative slump. It also allowed him some measure of social interaction during his day which otherwise would have been woefully absent. He spoke with Bull nearly every night on the phone but never for long enough. Otherwise, all he had were emails he received from Felix and Mae. And of course his occasional visits with Vivienne which tended to serve as the highlight of his week.
He was lucky enough that today was one such day and around two in the afternoon he made his way to her luxury townhome in the Summer Bazaar. Her home reflected her personality: lovely, grand, but not overstated. All of the decor was appropriately luxurious and the floor-to-ceiling windows looked out over the Miroir de la Mère and the city beyond. Dorian likely would have been intimidated if he hadn’t grown up in an even more ostentatious environment.
Vivienne did him the honor of meeting him herself at the front door and escorted him into the lounge where a tray of tea and a small selection of finger foods was already waiting for them thanks to her housekeeper. He draped himself over a chair as she settled herself on a settee across from him and smiled as she poured a cup of tea out for each of them. “I hope that all has been well since we last met.”
“Well enough.” Vivienne set Dorian’s tea cup and saucer on the table in front of him before gracefully sitting back with her own. He felt the slightest pull at the Fade as she brought a frost to her fingertips and let it cool the porcelain of her cup; it had been a pleasant surprise when he had learned that Vivienne was a proficient mage in her own right. Unlike many in the South, she had no fear of her abilities though she did seem wary of others who were less trained than herself. She showed no such wariness around him. “However, you seem somewhat out of sorts.”
She was as observant as ever and it was true. It had been nearly two weeks since he had left the Storm Coast and Dorian was beginning to feel…Listless was a good word for it. Smiling again, he shook his head and leaned forward to pick up his cup and saucer. “I suppose I’m just a bit worn out. Pay me no mind, I’ll have myself sorted as soon as finish my first cup of tea.”
Vivienne raised a brow. “I should hope so. Otherwise we may have to switch to a stronger drink.”
“Ooh, well now you’re tempting me to stay in a foul mood.”
“Don’t be so uncouth, my dear. If you want access to my wine selection, I’ll invite you to my next dinner party.”
“I see,” Dorian arched his brow in return, “you were simply teasing me.”
“I never tease.” Vivienne said so with an absolutely straight face but Dorian heard an underlying warmth belying her words.
Humming, Dorian took a sip of his tea in favor of calling her out on it. Instead he began to work out how to best ply her for information about when the Chargers might be coming back to Val Royeaux. It would be so much easier if he could just come out with the question directly but he wasn’t quite prepared to have his relationship in the open yet. He didn’t know Vivienne all that well. Besides, a bit of subterfuge was entertaining and he was out of practice. Taking a second sip of his tea, Dorian sat back in his chair. “How is everyone fairing with Field of Bones?”
Vivienne pursed her lips. “As well as can be expected. The filming was somewhat delayed by a storm that passed through and lasted several days but post production has already begun on many of your scenes. I have not seen any but have been assured that everything is being properly handled.”
“Is there any word on when the rest of the crew will finish filming?” Perhaps a little less subtle than proper but there could be innocent enough reasons for asking.
“Not for at least another week and a half, perhaps longer if they get another storm. Why do you ask?”
“I’m simply curious.”
“Hmm…” It was impossible to tell by looking at her if she had figured out his true motives but, if she had, she carefully disguised any reaction to it. “Well, in the meantime you’ll have work of your own to distract you.”
Vivienne might not have shown a reaction but Dorian certainly did at that. He perked up in his chair, now at full attention. “How’s that?”
Her lips curled up into a small smile. She knew she had him. “We scheduled you for a publicity photo shoot with Célèbre magazine in three days. We’ll have a car pick you up but they will provide the rest on site.”
And just like that, he had work again. Albeit not much work, but a few paid hours would do his bank account some good. And it would do his spirit some good as well; he could already feel it rising. He had never participated in a formal photo shoot before but he imagined it would be manageable enough. “Wonderful. Will anyone else be at the shoot?”
“Gaspard will be in later that day. They may ask you to stay late if they decide they want any photos of the two of you together but Gaspard has already expressed his interest in doing separate sessions.”
Dorian’s smile grew dry. “How surprising…” It wasn’t as if he had thought he and Gaspard had developed a true friendship on location but it burned a bit to be reminded that they hadn’t.
“Don’t look so irritated, Dorian, it does nothing for your face. It wasn’t so much you as it is his displeasure of sharing the spotlight with anyone. We had to negotiate even to have him work with Calienne.”
“Thank you for saying so.” Drawing in a deep breath, Dorian pressed a smile back on his face. He was still getting work, and having work would be a welcome change. “Cheers, then, to what will be surely be an interesting fresh experience for me.”
Vivienne’s small smile returned and humored him by raising her tea cup as he did the same with his own.
They took their time finishing off the remainder of the pot of tea and by the time Dorian left for his own apartment he felt reinvigorated. His good mood lasted into the night and for the first time in a long while he was smiling before he even finished dialing Bull’s phone number for their near-nightly call. It was nice to have some news for him for a change and Bull was appropriately happy for him. He was less happy though when Dorian shared Vivienne’s predictions that the Chargers would likely be kept out on the Storm Coast for at least another week and a half though he didn’t sound surprised.
That night, Dorian fell asleep with his phone on the pillow beside him, something he would never admit out loud to Bull but suspected he somehow knew all the same.
He purposefully kept himself busy over the next few days until finally the sun dawned on the day he was scheduled to be photographed by Célèbre. He spent far too long on his hair and makeup and clothing before realizing that they would likely just redo it all anyway when he arrived at the studio. He swore at himself in the mirror and scowled back at his own reflection; he had woken up two hours early for this. He might as well have slept in. But at least he would make a good first impression this way. Unless it screamed ‘uninitiated novice’. Should he just wipe all the makeup off and arrive fresh-faced? Or would that somehow be insulting to the photographers?
Before he could make decision either way, his phone buzzed on the bathroom counter beside him signaling that his car had arrived. Cursing again, Dorian left everything as it was, snatched up his wallet and keys, then darted out the door. Hurrying down the steps, Dorian spotted a sleek, black car waiting for him at the curb but when he pulled the door open he blinked in surprise when he found a familiar face waiting for him inside.
Vivienne elegantly lifted her brows and patted the space beside her in the back seat. “Do get in, darling, or we will be late.” The driver glanced back at him from the front and noticing that they had an audience snapped him out of his stupor.
Sliding into the leather seat, Dorian closed the car door behind him and buckled himself in. “I had no idea I’d have the pleasure of your company today.”
“It would have been an oversight to send you without any sort of staff, given that you have no agent or manager of your own.”
“I hadn’t meant to be an imposition upon you—”
“My dear, if I hadn’t wished to be here, I would have sent someone else.” Any additional protests Dorian had died on his lips. “Now,” she slipped a slim tablet from a case at her side, turned it on, and handed it to him, “we will be meeting with Fleur and Colombe this morning, two of the three creative talents behind Célèbre. They are well integrated in the court of Orlais and it could be very fortuitous if they take a liking to you.”
“Then I shall do my very best to be likable.” The Orlesian royal court was in this day and age little more than a customary relic designed to produce a figurehead for their Parliament. But members of the court still held some political sway and even more cultural influence. Like the Imperium’s Senate, rumors and scandal abounded and courtiers often found their faces or names on the front pages of newspapers and magazines across Orlais. Magazines even such as Célèbre, at times.
They arrived fifteen minutes early for their appointment but weren’t kept waiting. Dorian was whisked away to wardrobe and makeup minutes after they walked into the Célèbre studio building while Vivienne was led away to the photo set. They did have him change but Dorian was pleasantly surprised when the makeup artist only added a few extra touches to his makeup and hair before deeming him photo ready. It was a nice little boost to his ego.
He was then escorted to a large, bright room that had clearly been set up for their use at one end. Waiting for him were a handful of staffers, Vivienne, and two women he assumed were Fleur and Colombe. They were standing close together bent over the screens of one of their cameras but looked up as he approached. While they clearly weren’t related, they still somehow had an uncanny resemblance to each other; their clothing was nearly identical and their long hair was pulled back into the same messy bun style. One of them waved him forward, her voice heavily Orlesian-accented Trade. “Dorian Pavus, it is a pleasure to meet you. My name is Colombe and this is my dear friend Fleur; welcome to our studio.”
“The pleasure is mine.” Dorian leaned in to kiss her cheeks in greeting, as was fashionable in Orlais, then did the same with Fleur before stepping back to take in the scene.
Seeing his eyes drift to it, Colombe waved at their small set. There was a large swatch of white fabric draped against a wall and then a few feet away they had set up a makeshift room that almost appeared to be a fully furnished luxury hotel room that had been cut in half to allow the viewer to peer inside. “We have a white screen up and then we put together a bedroom scene.”
Dorian stifled a laugh. He would have asked just what sort of photos they were planning to take in the bedroom but the furniture was far too high of quality to be used for anything too obscene. “So I see.”
“Do you have a preference for where we begin?”
Dorian smiled back at Colombe as Fleur fiddled with the camera lens. “I am putty in your hands, my dear. Mold me as you wish.”
She seemed pleased enough with his response and there was a gleam in her eyes as she looked him over. “Then let us take warm up shots in front of the screen.”
It was an easy enough thing to agree to and Dorian moved to stand in front of the white fabric. Fleur, as it turned out, was the main photographer and put him through his paces, both she and Colombe asking him to turn this way and that and wear such and such an expression. She snapped him smiling, glaring, pensive, and even laughing when Vivienne managed to startle him with a wonderfully dry remark about the way his shirt seemed designed to keep riding up to expose his abdomen whenever he stretched his arms up over his head.
Dorian was stiff at first, hyper-focused on delivering the requested pose, but then he was able to relax into it and the whole affair become infinitely more enjoyable. He realized that was what Fleur had been waiting for when, after a few more shots, she asked if they could move over to the bedroom set.
There was another wardrobe change: a button-down shirt with the sleeves rolled up to the elbows and the top two buttons undone with the shirt open just so, black dress pants, and black socks but no shoes. Then she asked him to choose a prop from the room and Dorian browsed a bit before picking a book from a slim bookcase and then she told him to sit down on the chair with the book and to read it. Which, if she was aiming for authenticity, was going to prove to be a problem. “Unfortunately I’ll need my reading glasses unless you want me to be squinting in your picture.”
“Ooh, that’s it! Colombe!” Fleur flapped a hand at Colombe but she was already halfway across the room to where they had a small rack of clothing and accessories waiting for apparently just such an occasion.
Dorian was quickly supplied with a pair of high fashion reading glasses with nearly the correct prescription. He dutifully slipped them on then sat back in his chair as he would in his own home with the book open and propped up in his lap. It was then that he realized that the book he had selected at random was about ancient Dwarven rune carving; well, it would be interesting enough for a few minutes.
Fleur adjusted him until she was satisfied and took a multitude of shots before instructing him to try and lie down in the armchair. He did so with a grin, leaning back against one of the arms of the chair and kicking his legs up over the other one, the book still held in his hands, and again she adjusted him before unleashing a flurry of clicks from the camera shutter. When she surfaced again from behind her camera, she looked thoughtful. “Alright, let us use another prop. You are the villain, yes? Maybe something a little…darker.”
Tilting his head back, Dorian surveyed the set once again with an appraising eye. There, on the top of the bookcase. A skull. Plastic, he could tell from where he was sitting by the way it felt to him, but it would do. “The skull, if you please.” They may have cut his necromancy from the film but a skull would be a fine image to promote Field of Bones.
Dorian had thought that Fleur was excited before but that was nothing compared to how her eyes lit up as soon as he repositioned himself on the chair, held the skull aloft, and stared straight into its empty plastic sockets. He heard her titter to Colombe in Orlesian and the next twenty minutes or so was a whirlwind of activity.
After she had exhausted the amount of angles and subtle changes in his pose, Fleur stepped back from her camera, a pensive finger pressed to her lips. “Just for fun, let us move to the bed. We arranged it for Gaspard and Calienne later but you are just too precious to not take advantage.”
Dorian grinned and uncurled himself from the chair. “I am, aren’t I? Should I take the skull with me?”
“Non, I would like just you and the sheets.”
“That works for me.” He had no issues with being the center of attention.
They went through yet another costume change, switching him into a dark red silk shirt, removing his glasses, and applying a new, thicker layer of eyeliner before ruffling up his hair, then Fleur spent a good few minutes setting up the shot once he was back on the set. “We already have Gaspard and Calienne’s poses planned and I want yours to be entirely different in mood. Lay down on the bed with your feet towards the headboard.” Dorian did as instructed and continued to do so as she then told him to muss up the sheets. “You are the villain in this love story; you have wrecked their bed and stand in contrast to their fairy-tale love. I want you dangerous and sensual. Smoldering, yes?”
“Wonderful,” Dorian purred back. He was more than happy to oblige and relaxed enough to conjure the expression she asked for. It did give him a bit of trouble at first but then he imagined that Bull was standing behind the camera lens and it made it infinitely easier.
The photo shoot ended soon after that. Colombe and Fleur had to reset and prepare for Gaspard’s arrival but promised to send Dorian a link to the photos once they uploaded them. Knowing a bit of that end of the business, Dorian wasn’t expecting to see the photos for at least a week or two. They would have to be uploaded, sorted, edited, etc. and that all required the time of two ladies with very busy schedules.
Dorian was therefore happily surprised five days later when a link appeared in his email inbox to half a dozen photos with a promise of more to come later. He had seen hundreds of photos of his own face and yet these nearly took Dorian’s breath away. The quality of the image was incredible and the lighting, the contrast, the colors, the poses—everything was perfect. Or as nearly perfect as was humanly possible. He looked fantastic and he’d never seen a still image capture his expressions as well as those six photographs had.
Biting his lip, Dorian stared at the photos for a moment more before a grin lit his face and he pulled his phone out. He pulled the link up and saved two of the photos before switching to his text messenger app and tapped on Bull’s thread.
“Something to remind you of me until we next meet.” He attached the first picture, one of him lounging in the chair looking at the skull, and sent it to Bull.
It was the middle of the day and Bull really should have been working but it only took two minutes for his phone to chime.
Dorian grinned again at his response and sat back in his chair. “One more” He attached the second picture he’d saved, one of him sprawled upside-down on the bed with a wicked little smirk on his face. It exuded sex and danger and was Dorian’s personal favorite thus far.
Bull’s response came even faster this time.
A delighted laugh burst from Dorian’s throat, nearing glowing from Bull’s reaction, as simple as it was. His smile melted away when his phone chimed a minute later except this time the text was from an unknown number.
“U couldn’t wait til after work? U broke Bull, he wont put his phone down.”
Dorian’s unspoken question was answered a second later as Bull texted him again. “That’s Krem. Ignore him, send more. <33”
Ah. Barely containing another smile, Dorian texted Krem back after adding him as a contact. “I offer no apologies.” And he couldn’t even find it in himself to be bothered that Krem had gotten his number. It was probably better that way for all involved.
Switching back to his conversation with Bull, Dorian signed off with a promise. “More to come in a few days.”
Dorian ended up forwarding the link to all of the photos to Bull after making him promise that no one but the Chargers would see them before Célèbre released them. He could get himself into some trouble by passing them around prior to their official release but surely he was allowed to share them with close friends. Hm. Close friends. Since when he started thinking of the Chargers as such?
He pondered it from time to time as the next week crawled by.
Eight days later, the edition of Célèbre with the promotion for Field of Bones had been released. It included twelve photographs, five of which were of Dorian, meaning that he had gotten more solo photos in than either Gaspard or Calienne. Not that it was a competition. But if it had been, he would have won. And just like the first photographs he had seen, all of these were gorgeous and made him look terribly mysterious and attractive. Though some of that simply came naturally. That night, he and Bull were on the phone for their regular call when Dorian received more good news from the man himself. “Things are finally wrapping up out here. We got a string of good weather so we were able to finish up our last scene and, if all goes to plan, we’re flying back in tomorrow night. We managed to get the lease back on our old apartments so I’ll be heading back with the team first to get everything set up.”
Dorian had sat up in his bed before Bull was halfway through, his heart hammering excitedly in his chest. Bull was coming back. They could see each other again. Reining himself in, Dorian drew in a breath. “Would it…?” His words stuck in his throat and he cleared it before making another attempt. “After you’re settled, it’d be lovely to see you again.” There. Welcoming but not too desperate. Better than ‘would it be possible for you to come over tomorrow night?’.
“Text me your address. I’ll let you know when I can drop by; hopefully within the next few days.”
A few days. Dorian could hold himself together for a few more days. “I look forward to it.”
He promptly did as Bull asked and texted him his address then forced himself to bed. But then he only tossed and turned, anticipation and anxiety both welling up inside of him. Bull was coming back to him. It had been nearly a month though. What if things had changed between them? What if Bull had changed his mind? What if seeing Dorian like this, outside of his actors’ trailer and the pageantry of it all, shattered the image of him that Bull had of him?
Groaning into the pillow, Dorian rolled onto his side and viciously tugged the sheets tighter around him. He would see his amatus soon. He would be happy about it if it killed him.
He managed to fall asleep after about an hour once his mind calmed down enough to allow it.
He woke up late the next morning thanks to the trouble he had sleeping. It left him feeling even more out of sorts and he puttered about his apartment before finally rousing himself enough to take a jog around the neighborhood. As he ran he wondered if Bull and the Chargers had packed yet. If they were already heading for the airport. With the time difference, it would already be mid-afternoon there. It was possible.
Realizing that he had distracted himself to the point where he had run four blocks further than he had intended, Dorian laughed at himself. If Bull thought about him half as much as Dorian did him then they were both in some trouble.
Instead of stopping at a café for breakfast, Dorian ended his run at a nearby Antivan restaurant for a takeout lunch. He took the food back to his apartment, still not comfortable with the idea of actually sitting inside a restaurant by himself despite having been by himself for so many days now.
He had just finished eating when his phone rang. He nearly choked on his last bite as he dove for it, then swore as he knocked it off the table. He activated a quick Haste spell and as the world slowed around him he snatched his phone out of the air before it could hit the hardwood floor. Righting the world by terminating the spell, Dorian answered the call with a shake of his head. “Have you made it to the airport yet?”
“I’m sorry, Dorian, were you expecting someone else?”
Dorian paled as Vivienne’s voice and not Bull’s came from the speakers. He had slowed down time and he still hadn’t managed to check the caller ID. “I, I, ah, my mistake. Is there something you called to discuss?” Not the smoothest recovery ever but it was the best he could hope for at the moment.
“I’ll keep this brief since it seems you’re waiting for another call.” He swore he could hear the smile in her voice. “Your photos in Célèbre have garnered enough attention that you’ve sparked the public’s curiosity. Orlesian Entertainment is scheduled to host a segment on Field of Bones and I would like you to do an interview with them.”
“Tomorrow, if you’re available.”
Tomorrow? Well, it wasn’t as if he had anything else scheduled and it would help distract him from running to Bull, knowing he was back in Val Royeaux. “Yes, that shouldn’t be a problem. Thank you, Vivienne.”
“I’ll send you all of the necessary information via email. Dress yourself well; remember, you will be representing Sun Gate Pictures.”
“You speak as if I ever leave my home in any state short of perfection.”
“Excellent. Perfection is what I expect.”
“That must be why we get on so well.”
“I suppose so.” She was certainly smiling now. “I won’t be able to join you this time but I know you’ll conduct yourself properly.”
“As well as I ever do.”
They said their goodbyes and she hung up. Dorian stared for a long moment at the “Call Ended” screen before switching off his phone. An interview then. That should be interesting. Orlesian Entertainment was a very popular television program and knowing his face would be broadcasted into so many homes across the country was as thrilling as it was intimidating. The intimidation came from knowing that he would not be in control of the interview, nor would he have any say on how it was edited before it debuted, so he knew he would have to choose his words carefully as he spoke to ensure that nothing could be twisted against him.
Not wanting a repeat of his mad scramble that he had been through the morning of his photoshoot, Dorian spent the next hour selecting his outfit for the next day. It would save him the time in the morning, time which he could spend instead on his hair and makeup so he wouldn’t be rushed again. He settled on a button-down shirt, a tie, a pair of skinny dark-wash jeans, and his favorite leather jacket. A small smile slipped onto his face when the leather passed his nose and he got a subtle whiff of musty ocean water. The scent had embedded itself into his jacket during his time on the Storm Coast and brought back strings of memories.
Maker, but he was lonely…
And here is the "second half" of that previous chapter. Whew! I'm glad that I cut it in half now; it would've been a monster!
Dorian whiled away the rest of the day doing some menial research on current events in Orlais, just in case anything was brought up during his interview with Orlesian Entertainment. He didn’t think it would but one could never be too prepared, especially when one was the son of a well-known politician. Though here in Orlais that would likely carry much less weight than it had back home. In Tevinter, everyone had expected him to have an opinion on everything the Magisterium did. To be fair, he had paid far more attention then and often did have an opinion. He had let himself slip a bit since moving south.
He deemed himself done when a headache began to pound between his eyes; there was only so much any one person could be expected to read about government, economics, and scandal in one sitting. But, according to the news sites he had read through, he had hit all of the important talking points that had arisen over the past month and felt much more informed so it was well worth it. After shutting off his laptop, Dorian retired to his couch but not before stopping in the kitchen first to grab a wine glass and a bottle he had left on the counter. The sun had long since set and he had several excuses to drink: to celebrate both his upcoming interview and Bull’s eminent arrival back in his time zone.
Just as he had wrestled the cork out of the bottle, his phone chimed in his pocket. When Dorian pulled it out, he couldn’t help but smile. It seemed that thinking of him had summoned the man’s attention.
“Just landed at Val Royeaux Intl” Bull had texted.
“Good.” Dorian texted back. He felt a dull pang in his chest. Bull was back in the same country as him again. Not only that, the same city. So close and yet so far. “I’ve opened a fresh bottle of wine in your honor. You can help me finish it off in a day or two but tonight it’s just me, the wine, and my couch and I intend to make a serious dent in the bottle.”
“I could use some of that about now.”
“Incentive to visit me then.”
“Like I need any besides you <3”
The text responses stopped and Dorian was left wondering if he had said the wrong thing. He frowned and nestled himself back into the couch. There were so many unspoken rules to maintaining a relationship that he just didn’t know yet. Bull professed that he was new to it as well but surely he had more of a normal experience with lovers than Dorian had. Dorian’s affairs had all been tangled with the societal rules of the Tevinter upper-class, which was an entirely different game. But there was nothing to do for it now. And, really, had he expected Bull to exchange texts with him all night? He had said he had work to do setting himself and the Chargers up in their apartments. Groaning, Dorian shook the thoughts away and proceeded to do precisely as promised: attempt to drink as much of the wine as he could.
Too soon Dorian was pouring his third glass and frowned at the bottle that was now much more than half empty. He’d been a little over-generous with his pours. He’d have to open a second bottle then when Bull came to visit. But that was alright. What Bull didn’t know wouldn’t hurt him. He could slow down a bit but it wasn’t as if he had to worry about driving anywhere; he was already home. And he was celebrating, after all.
He had almost gotten through that glass when a knock at his front door startled him so badly he nearly spilt what was wine was left all over his shirt. “Kaffas!”
His tipsy thoughts quickly jumped from one to another as he floundered to his feet. Who in their right mind would come knocking at this time of night? Could it be…? But, no. Bull had only just arrived. Surely he couldn’t have made it to his apartment, unpacked, made sure the Chargers were settled, then over to Dorian’s in such a short amount of time. It wasn’t physically possible; even not-quite drunk Dorian knew that. A neighbor then? Surely not. They avoided each other like the blight in proper Orlesian fashion.
Setting his glass down on his side table, Dorian slunk over to the door and let a tiny flame flare to life in his palm. Any potential home invaders would have a surprise coming their way. Now expecting the worst, he was stunned silent when he finally unlocked the door and pulled it open to find none other than Bull himself smiling down at him. “Hey, Dorian.”
“B—How...?” Dorian narrowed his eyes and leaned against the doorframe, snuffing out the flame in his hand as he did so. “How did you get here so quickly?” He hadn’t had nearly enough wine yet for the world to stop making logical sense.
Bull shrugged, the strap of a small bag he was carrying shifting on his shoulder at the movement. “Only takes about twenty minutes to get to here from the airport if you catch a cab.”
“Hmm…” Dorian pursed his lips before tilting his head to the side. “What about heading to your apartment to set it up first?” He was sure that’s what Bull had said he needed to do.
“Got out of it for good behavior.”
“…I drank most of the wine.”
“I can tell, and I forgive you.” He lifted a brow. “Gonna let me in?”
“Oh, I suppose.”
Dorian stepped back and Bull stepped inside, his arm brushing against Dorian’s chest as he moved by and Dorian shivered just at the light touch. Bull looked exactly the same. Smelled the same. Dorian closed and locked the door behind him then turned to find Bull not looking around the new space but instead watching him. The sight of his warm gaze was enough to break him and, without a thought to playing coy, Dorian threw himself at Bull.
Bull caught him easily, his large arms immediately moving to wrap around him and Dorian hummed happily as he pulled the other down for a kiss. “I missed you.”
“Missed you too.” Bull’s voice was a low rumble against his lips and an embarrassing whine slipped from Dorian’s throat.
Cutting the whine off with a low curse, he reached up to grab Bull’s horns and pulled him into another kiss. It was a little bit mind-boggling, to be holding Bull here, in his new apartment. It felt as if he had fallen asleep on the couch while drinking and this was all some wine-induced dream but, no, he was awake and this truly was Bull’s rough, warm skin under his hands. And he needed to touch more of it. Of all the times for Bull to choose to wear a jacket…
Dorian growled lightly and tucked himself closer to Bull. “I need you to do two things for me.”
That earned him a chuckle, “Oh yeah? Just two things?”
“Yes, just two things. For now.” Dorian stepped away from Bull but slid his hand down his arm until he clasped their hands together and intertwined their fingers. Guiding Bull further into the apartment with a gentle tug, Dorian grinned back at him as they reached the couch. “First, I want you to help me finish this bottle of wine. And then I want you to fuck me.”
A wicked grin spread across Bull’s face. “Where’s the bottle?”
Dorian used his free hand to pluck it off of the table and handed it to him and Bull wasted no time in tipping it back and chugging the rest of the rather expensive vintage in one go. “Hey-what?” Dorian laughed, “Bull! I said help me finish it, not down it!”
Clearing his throat as he tossed the empty bottle onto the couch, Bull shrugged his bag off of his shoulder to join it. “The way I figure, you said we’d split the bottle on the phone. I was just taking my half.” Dorian scoffed but wasn’t able to refute the logic. “Now, that first part’s taken care of. What do you say we move on to the second?”
It took a moment for Dorian to realize exactly what Bull meant by that but then grinned as he remembered what he had asked for. The grin flew away though as then Bull’s hands were on his waist and he was suddenly being hoisted into the air. His cry of shock was abruptly cut off by the air rushing from his lungs as Bull slung him over his shoulder and he suddenly found himself staring at Bull’s ass and the floor below. He hadn’t been manhandled like this since—no, he was quite sure he’d never been manhandled like this. He kicked lightly, and futilely, at the air and slapped Bull’s back. “Venhedis! Put me down, you brute!”
Bull’s voice was calm but Dorian could hear the laughter in his words. “I will, once I find your bed.”
“I don’t even—” He pushed against the hard muscle of Bull’s back to try to get some leverage and peer around him at his upside-down apartment. ”Oh, for Maker’s sake. Left, the door on your left!”
Hoisting him up a little higher, Bull followed his direction and in several dozen large strides crossed the room and used his free hand to push open the door to the bedroom. Thankfully Dorian had bothered to clean up after himself this morning. Well, the bed was made. There were several items of clothing strewn about but they didn’t seem to bother Bull who moved straight towards the bed.
Despite his earlier complaints, Dorian laughed as he was not thrown but gently lifted back up and then set on top of the duvet, Bull following close behind. He lay himself over Dorian and for a moment they simply smiled at each other. Then Bull nodded at his nightstand. “What’ve you got? Do you have any toys?”
Dorian flushed and his eyes followed Bull’s and skipped over to the top drawer of his nightstand. “No. Yes. I may have some but that’s not…” Growling at his own inability to speak, Dorian reached up to wrap his arms around Bull’s neck. ”I just want you tonight.”
Bull’s gaze was soft as it turned back on him. “You’ve got me.”
Blush deepening, Dorian tilted his chin up and his nose brushed against Bull’s as he pulled him down for a kiss. “Well then…Do what you will with me.”
A warm smile spread across Bull’s lips and after they parted he slowly began to strip Dorian of his clothes. He was more efficient with his own but Dorian couldn’t be bothered by the lack of proper strip show, happier to get his hands on his skin faster. Once every last scrap of fabric had been removed, Bull rejoined Dorian on the bed and seemed just as eager to touch as Dorian was. He smoothed his hands down Dorian’s side and Dorian arched up into his hands. One of those hands slid around his waist and then Bull was gently, silently urging Dorian to roll over. He did so instantly and Bull moved back so that he could settle his hands and knees beneath him.
Dorian could feel warmth emitting out from Bull across the entire length of his spine to the back of his neck and he shivered as Bull released a warm breath against his shoulder. “Tell me what you want.”
His words came out less of a request and almost more a murmured plea. What did he want? He wanted everything Bull had to give, all at once. He released a low groan as Bull bit lightly at his neck and it was then that he knew his answer. “H-hold me down!”
Bull’s response was near instantaneous. “Watch word?”
“Katoh! Now please! Please.” Bull rested a steady hand on Dorian’s shoulder then pressed down hard enough to shove him against the mattress. It hadn’t been that long but Dorian had forgotten just how much strength Bull wielded as he moved above him. He had Dorian completely at his mercy in a second and it was thrilling in a way that it wouldn’t be with anyone besides Bull; he might be physically in control but Dorian knew he would cede that control in an instant if Dorian but said the word.
Humming his approval as Dorian easily folded beneath him, Bull bit lightly again at the nape of his neck. “Hands pressed against the headboard. Keep them there.” This time his words came out as a command and a shudder of pleasure ran through Dorian as he quickly complied, slapping his palms up against the wood headboard with another quiet groan. “Good. You’re so good for me, Dorian.”
Dorian tended to be a creature of habit and so Bull knew exactly where to search for the lube and condom in his nightstand. He kept one hand on Dorian’s hip as he began to prep him, beginning slowly with a single, though admittedly large, finger. Dorian bit his lip at the first gentle push into him then remembered who he was with and released a long whine into the mattress. He could make all the noise he wanted with Bull. In fact, he was about to start making far more noise than usual if things didn’t speed along. “Hurry up!”
Bull chuffed at him as he eased a second finger in. “Easy. It’s been a while, I don’t want to rush it.”
“Yes, it has been a while, that’s why I need you now!”
“Settle.” Dorian started at the command then swore as the movement made Bull’s fingers push farther in. Letting out a tisk, Bull slipped his fingers out to add more lube. “I’ll take care of you. Relax for me.” Dorian was about to protest again when Bull crooked his fingers and oh, that was not playing fair. He keened and Bull chuckled as Dorian slumped forward. “There we go.”
It didn’t take long after that for Bull to deem Dorian ready and when Bull pressed into him it felt like coming home. He released a long breath that cut up into a soft gasp as Bull eased back out then pushed back in and began to set a rhythm. He started slow then began to increase his speed and even with Bull’s hand pressing down against his shoulder, his long fingers stretching out to brush against the back of his neck, it was somehow sweet. The muscles in Dorian’s arms strained as he pressed his palms harder against the headboard to give him the leverage to push back against Bull. As he began to roll his hips back, Bull used his free hand to give Dorian’s ass a rebuking spank then chuckled as it only made him let out another pleasured gasp. “You’re needy tonight.”
“I wonder whose fault that is!” Dorian rasped back, his words partially muffled by the bedsheets pressing against his cheek.
He felt Bull grin against his back before putting more strength into his motions and a shiver rushed up Dorian’s spine as he got the angle just right. “Ah! Yesssss. Bull, there, just like that. Fasta Vass, harder!”
Bull obliged and soon Dorian was lost to the sensation of Bull in him, above him, enveloping him in every sense of the word, and it was the most wonderful feeling he had had since…since they had last been together. Neither of them lasted as long as they had in the past but Dorian hardly cared and, judging by the sounds he made as he came, neither did Bull.
They collapsed together on the bed, Dorian panting against the sheets and Bull against Dorian’s shoulder, and stayed like that for a long moment. Then Bull shifted and Dorian knew by the habits they’d established together that he was about to move to get a cloth to clean them both up. Seeing as it was his apartment and it was Bull’s first time there, he felt as if he should be the one to get up but, “I would offer but standing feels like it would be too much right now…”
Bull pressed a kiss against the heated skin on his shoulder blade. “Rest. I’ll be right back.”
He untangled their limbs then pushed himself up as Dorian grabbed for one of his pillows and nestled against it. Bull strode out of the room and Dorian listened as he walked through the rest of the apartment. He heard Bull open a few drawers in his bathroom before finding a spare washcloth and wetting it down. Then, to his confusion, he heard Bull walk further into the apartment and heard him rustling around it the kitchen. Furrowing his brows, Dorian rolled over as Bull came back in. He did indeed have a washcloth in one hand but in the other he had a drinking glass which he set on the nightstand beside Dorian. “Water? Might make tomorrow easier.”
Dorian eyed the water then stretched out as Bull began to wipe him clean. “Please. Three glasses of wine hardly does anything to me anymore. I need to finish a whole bottle before I start worrying about hangovers…”
“Do you have work tomorrow?”
It would usually have been a fair question and Dorian was glad that today he had a positive answer for Bull. “As a matter of fact, I do.”
“Then you might not want to risk it.”
“Hmm…” As Bull finished cleaning them both, Dorian rolled over and picked up the glass. ”I want you to know that I was perfectly capable of caring for myself while you were gone, by the way. You just happened to come on an off night.”
“I believe you; haven’t seen any sign of damage yet. Though you do look like you might’ve lost a few pounds.”
Dorian smiled up at Bull as he sipped at the water. “Five at most. I’ve been exercising more now that it’s not raining every day.”
“Or are you forgetting meals?” Bull suggested with a smirk.
“…Perhaps a bit of both,” Dorian conceded.
Bull shook his head but he still had a small smile on his face as he stood up one more time to drop the soiled washcloth in the bathroom and then crawled back into bed with Dorian who eagerly curled back up against him, having finished off the rest of the water. Bull in turn wrapped his arm around Dorian and urged him to use his shoulder as a pillow. He sighed as he relaxed beneath him and Dorian felt as much as he heard Bull rumble out, “I like this bed. It’s bigger than your last one.”
That wasn’t saying much. The bed he’d had in his trailer had hardly fit him and Bull both side by side. “It could be bigger…” But he didn’t have the money yet to replace both the bedframe, the mattress, and all of the linens.
“We’d still end up like this anyway.” Bull nudged Dorian and he grinned, knowing Bull was probably right. They’d likely just end up cuddling against each other in the center of the bed either way.
They settled against each other and fell quiet. Usually Dorian easily fell asleep after a good round of sex, especially after he’d also had a few glasses of wine beforehand, but tonight sleep escaped him. Bull must have been able to tell because about ten minutes later he gave him another nudge. “What’s wrong? I don’t think you drank that much that fast tonight just for me.”
There was no point in pretending he wasn’t awake. Sighing, Dorian flung an arm across Bull’s stomach. “Nothing particularly…I have an interview with Orlesian Entertainment tomorrow and, I’ll admit, my nerves are getting the better of me…”
“You’ve done interviews before, right?”
Dorian nodded. “Of course. Dozens by now I should think, between my father’s political career, my studies, and my work at the Theatrum. But never in front of a camera with such a potentially critical audience. I’m a Tevinter playing a villain in an Orlesian film; they may be predisposed to think the worst of me.”
“Like you said, Dorian, you’re playing a villain, you aren’t actually one. Anyone who thinks so after spending more than five minutes with you is either crazy or trying to hate you.”
“Yes, that’s the sort of thing I’m worried about…”
He closed his eyes and let hummed lightly as Bull dragged his large fingers through his hair. “You’ll be great. You’ll have them charmed before they know what hit them.”
“Hmm…I appreciate your faith in me.”
He fell silent but Bull was perceptive as ever. It took him all of five minutes before he spoke up again. “Hey…Was there something else?”
“I don’t want to burden you with my complaints when you’ve only just arrived.”
He felt Bull shrug beneath him. “I don’t mind. I feel like I fell behind, you’re just catching me up.”
“I…” Dorian sighed and closed his eyes. “Filming has ended, as you know, officially now, on Field of Bones and while I’m obligated to continue with any official advertisements or promotions Sun Gate decides to create for it, that work will be sporadic at best. I still haven’t found another job. There’s some hope of finding more once Field of Bones is released and the public becomes more familiar with me—assuming my acting is well received—but it won’t premiere in theaters for another six months. That is a long time to live off of savings…” Though at least he had saved.
Bull’s fingers kept running through his hair and Dorian wondered when it had become so soothing. “Something will come up. You’re too good to not land a role”
A small snort escaped Dorian and he smirked. “I thought so too when I first moved to Orlais and I nearly went hungry.” Very literally too. Right before Sun Gate signed him on for the role of Cassius he had started to have to choose whether he wanted food for the day or a roof over his head for the night.
“Hey, worse comes to worst, that’s not going to happen this time around. You know people now.”
Dorian opened his eyes again and looked up at Bull. “I’ll not impose myself on you.”
Bull was smiling at him. “It will be fine; you can couch surf with all the Chargers. Krem can take you for a week, then Stiches, and Dalish, and Rocky…”
“—Couch surf?” Dorian repeated incredulously. “I think not. I’m too tall for most couches and where would all my things go? I’ll not live out of a suitcase.”
“Are you sure? I’d be a great life experience. Something you can tell everyone about a few years from now when you’re rich and famous.”
“Well, I do like the sound of that.” Being rich would be nice.
“But, seriously,” some of the levity left Bull’s voice and he gave Dorian’s hair a soft tug, “if you ever need a place to stay, you’re welcome at the apartment Krem and I are sharing. It’s a bit of a shithole, but the company’s good and rent would be cheap.”
Dorian smiled back at him. “I’ll keep it in mind. Thank you. And if I become rich and famous, you and Krem and all the rest of the Chargers are welcome to come live in my mansion.”
“Don’t joke, it might actually happen.”
“Who says I’m joking? I’d need someone around to bask in my brilliance. Otherwise, what’s the point?”
Bull snorted out a laugh but only tugged Dorian closer and he melted into the embrace. He closed his eyes again and slept better that night than he had in nearly a month.
They both woke to the sound of Dorian’s alarm and Dorian was fairly smug about the fact that Bull hadn’t risen before him as always had on the Storm Coast. Not too smug though because he knew it meant that Bull had been more tired than he had let on the night before and had still let Dorian steal him away from the Chargers and order him about in bed.
Luckily Dorian had half a loaf of bread so he was able to make them toast and tea for breakfast. And if the toast was a bit overdone Bull didn’t mention it; instead, he looked inordinately pleased when Dorian set the food out on the table. Unfortunately, Dorian wasn’t able to linger as long as he’d like. Too soon he had to leave the table to get himself ready for the day. Bull stayed as long as it took Dorian to finish up and then left the apartment with him with a promise to return as soon as he could.
A car came to pick Dorian up, just as before, only this time Vivienne wasn’t waiting inside for him. He chatted with the driver as he chauffeured him into the nicer half of the business district, roughly in the same direction as the Sun Gate Pictures lot, and to a luxury high-rise office complex nestled in a city block of similar buildings.
He was dropped off right in front and Dorian strolled up to the television studio. There was a Qunari security guard standing outside of the entrance. Once upon a time Dorian may have been intimidated but now he just gave the woman a pleasant smile and strolled by. Oh, she still looked strong enough to tear him in half with her bare hands but after meeting Bull most of the fear a lifetime of Tevinter propaganda had instilled in him had dissipated. He had changed, he realized, and for the better.
What a novel concept.
There was a receptionist in the front lobby of the building. Dorian told her his name and after clicking a few times on her computer, she handed him a guest pass and told him to take the elevator up to floor three and then take a left where she claimed the door to the Orlesian Entertainment would be clearly marked. “Clearly marked” was perhaps a stretch but Dorian managed to find his way there all the same. A production assistant was waiting inside and he was led into a waiting room where there was a small assortment of drinks and snacks set out on a table across from a series of armchairs. He had the room to himself so he took his time making up cup of coffee, more so that he had something to do rather than any real need for more caffeine.
He had only been there for about ten minutes when the door to the film set slammed open and none other than Ponchard de Lieux walked out, his face set into scowl. Ignoring his primal urge to sneer, Dorian instead offered the director a tight smile. “Good morning, Ponchard. So nice to see you again.” If “nice” meant mentally suffering a sensation like nails on a chalkboard.
Having his name hissed out like a curse wasn’t terribly fun but it was a bit amusing to see Ponchard so irate, even if the logical cause was a bit worrying. “How did your interview go?”
He scoffed as the door swung shut behind him. “They are a pack of hyenas, but they always have been.”
“It went that well, hm?” Or perhaps was it just Ponchard the interviewer reacted poorly to? If so, Dorian could hardly fault them for that; it just meant they had some common sense.
“I said what I had to.” He turned an assessing eye on Dorian which Dorian responded to by raising a condescending brow. “You watch yourself while you speak to them. And remember not to give away the plot of the entire movie.”
It grated on each of Dorian’s nerves to have to converse with the weasely man but he took solace in the knowledge that this would likely be one of the last times he would ever have to do so. If he could help it, he would never again in his life work for Ponchard. His abhorrent attitude aside, he wasn’t even that proficient of a director; it was the rest of the crew that carried him and if Field of Bones had any success the praise should go to them, not Ponchard. Unfortunately, that wasn’t always how the industry tended to work but, once they were no longer paying him, Dorian would not be shy about letting anyone who was interested know just what he thought about the man. “Not to worry, I don’t think my interview is even scheduled to last long enough to allow that.”
“Well then—good. See that it doesn’t.” As Ponchard turned to leave, Dorian made a rude gesture at his back. Juvenile but oh so refreshing.
He had just enough time to finish his coffee before he was called in to the interview room. It was a small, intimate setting, just two chairs placed in front of a large poster advertising Field of Bones. It was a picture of what was obviously meant to be Reynard’s back, standing in full armor on one of the cliffs of the Storm Coast with the waves crashing beneath him and a fiery red cloud on the horizon. Dorian supposed the cloud was supposed to represent him and his demon horde. There were lights set up facing both chairs and a row of cameras and sound equipment opposite of the poster so that the poster would form the background of the shot. Behind the cameras there was a large window into what looked like a control room that was already filled with people wearing headsets, matching most of the half a dozen staff members standing behind the cameras in the room Dorian was in.
A slim young man stepped over to him, interrupting his study of the room. He was dressed in a stylish and well-tailored suit, moderately long blond hair pulled back in a fashionable ponytail. At one time Dorian might have found him attractive but there was a certain air about him that rubbed Dorian the wrong away. But at least he was civil. He reached forward to clasp Dorian’s hand before motioning for him to take a seat in the chair closest to the poster backdrop. “I do not think we have met yet. My name is Gascard DuPuis.”
“Yes, I believe I’ve seen you on TV once or twice.” That was a lie. Dorian didn’t own a television at the moment—cable was too expensive—but he had looked DuPuis up after Vivienne had sent him all the details she had about the interview. He was a regular face at Orlesian Entertainment and seemed to be liked well enough by the viewers.
DuPuis gave him a wry smile and they both took their seats. “This should be fairly straightforward, Dorian. I’ll ask you a few questions and just answer them candidly. We’re not live so if you misspeak we can always do another take.”
“That sounds simple enough.” Dorian blinked but smiled as another production assistant came up to adjust the way his leather jacket fell on him. “I can’t promise that I will be the perfect interviewee but I can promise that I will be better than your last.” And that was all he was going to say about that.
DuPuis laughed, a short, almost surprised sound, and Dorian took that as a good sign.
It took a lot less time for the production staff to be ready to begin filming than it had the movie crew, though that only made sense given the smaller scale of the final product. The overhead lights in the studio were dimmed slightly, the large lights in front of them were turned on, the cameras began rolling, and then Dorian saw a woman holding a clipboard point at DuPuis.
It was his cue to begin and DuPuis sat up a bit straighter and smiled at Dorian. “Monsieur Pavus, thank you so much for coming in today.”
Nerves fluttered up in Dorian’s stomach but he tramped them down and smoothly smiled back. “Thank you for the invitation. It’s wonderful to be here.”
DuPuis leaned forward in his seat just a touch to show interest. The man was an actor in his own right. “We wanted to speak with you about your upcoming film, Field of Bones. You play the villain, yes?”
“Yes,” Dorian nodded. “His name is Cassius and he’s a Tevinter Magister.”
“Was it an easy role for you, considering that your own father is a Magister in Tevinter?”
They had done a bit of homework. Dorian felt a chill settle in his chest but managed a soft laugh. “Ah, no, I’m afraid that didn’t make it any easier. Thankfully, the nature of a Magister’s position and behavior has changed over the last five hundred years or so; the sort of Magister I depict in this film is very different to the rather mundane modern reality.” Not that there couldn’t be danger and conspiracies among Magisters today but he certainly wasn’t going to air any dirty laundry on national Orlesian television. DuPuis made a thoughtful humming noise and Dorian continued, wanting to put as many words between himself and that question as he could. “Cassius is a classic sort of villain though, so I had plenty of inspiration to draw from.”
“Did you enjoy playing the villain? You seem well suited for it.”
He couldn’t be sure if that was a dig at his nationality or appearance but carried on as if it were neither. Orlesians tended be subtle with their insults but quick to become angry in their own defense if you called them on it. “It allows for a certain measure of drama, which I enjoy.”
DuPuis seemed happy enough with his answer. “I have heard rumor that you are a mage and actually cast spells during filming. Can you tell us a little about that?”
“Well, I’m afraid I can’t reveal too many details—that would spoil the movie, you see—but, yes, both are true. The film will feature a somewhat unique blend of CGI effects and real magic which I believe lends a certain level of authenticity, as do the beautiful costumes and the scenery where we filmed of course.” He had to remind himself that he was here to essentially sell the film to the audience, not stand on any soapboxes. Sun Gate Pictures was, after all, still currently paying his bills and he wanted to avoid depending on Bull’s generosity if he could help it.
Nodding along, DuPuis leaned back in his chair again. “You’ve come to us from Tevinter. Is this your first trip south?”
“Yes, as it happens. I hadn’t previously had the opportunity,” or desire, “to visit Orlais or Ferelden and filming this movie has allowed me to see both.”
“How do you like it?”
And now was the time to be diplomatic. “Both were enlightening experiences. Val Royeaux is, of course, a gem and I have made some good memories and friends here.” That, at least, was partial truth. He had met Bull and the Chargers here, and Vivienne. He would always have a fondness for the city for those reasons if nothing else.
They wrapped up the interview shortly after and Dorian wasn’t surprised. He was certain that they would be interviewing more than himself and Ponchard for their piece on Field of Bones and they had to squeeze all of that into an hour-long episode when it debuted on television.
Dorian was ushered out of the room and made his own way through the waiting room. He’d just stepped out into the hall when he happened to glace around and saw a familiar face stepping out a few doors down. Familiar yet disorienting. Straightening up, Dorian tilted his head and smiled as Varric Tethras walked up to him with a broad smile on his own face. “Funny running into you here.”
Why was Varric here? Not that he was unhappy to see him, quite the opposite really, but why would he be visiting with Orlesian Entertainment? Dorian reached out to shake the hand Varric offered him. “Yes, it is an odd coincidence.” To put it mildly. “What brings you to Val Royeaux?”
Varric shrugged. “Oh, just running some errands for Inquisition. Making some deals, shaking some hands, that sort of thing. I happened to overhear part of your interview, by the way. You sounded good.”
Interesting. It could be his nurtured suspicion but if he didn’t know better he would think that Varric must have ‘overheard’ on purpose. “Thank you. I think it went well.”
Varric nodded then wagged a finger at him. “Actually, there’s something I’ve been meaning to talk with you about and it’d be great to do it in person. I have a meeting in a half an hour, but what do you say to lunch tomorrow? If you’re not free then we could pick another date. My schedule is pretty open after this.”
He just happened to run into Dorian when he wanted to speak with him? And a man as busy as he was just happened to have a few days free to make an appointment at Dorian’s leisure? Dorian recognized a con when he saw one but as strange as this one was it seemed to be working in his favor so he wouldn’t call it out. “Lunch tomorrow would be lovely.”
“Great.” Varric looked genuinely pleased. “Meet me at Le Masque du Lion Café in the Summer Bazar. Sound alright?”
More than alright. Le Masque du Lion was one of the oldest and most respected eateries in Val Royeaux. Dorian nodded his head as if it was an everyday suggestion. “Of course. Say eleven o’ clock?”
“Perfect. In the meantime, keep up the good work.” Varric winked at him and then bustled down the hall to disappear into yet another door, leaving Dorian wondering just what he was getting himself into.
Dorian fiddled restlessly with the hem of his sleeve as he made his way across the Summer Bazar. According to his watch, which was always correct to the second, it was fifteen minutes until eleven o’clock, his arranged meeting time with Varric Tethras. He had dressed down a bit from his interview the day before and had settled on a teal, long-sleeve button-up shirt and dark-wash slim-fit jeans and topped it off with his watch on one wrist, a gold bracelet on the other, and one gold ring. Nice but not too nice, casual yet not sloppy. He had put almost as much time into planning the outfit as he had the one the day before. Perhaps it was because he didn’t quite know what to expect from Varric and he didn’t know what would be expected of himself in turn.
As Dorian rounded the fountain in the center of the main plaza he caught sight of Varric leaning against a wall near the entrance of the restaurant, a satchel on his shoulder and his phone in his hands. He seemed to be texting someone but as soon as he spotted Dorian he typed out a quick response and slipped his phone into his bag. “Dorian, thanks for making the time for this.”
“It is no trouble at all; in fact, it’s a pleasure.” And what a change to the usual reception he received; as if his time were a valuable thing.
“Glad to hear it,” Varric grinned then motioned for Dorian to follow him into Le Masque du Lion. “C’mon, we’re both a little early but we’ll see if they can seat us.”
Dorian obligingly followed after the dwarf who didn’t hesitate a second as he pushed the doors to the restaurant open and strolled in like it was his neighborhood diner and not a critically-acclaimed eatery. The host eyed them as they made their way inside but Dorian followed Varric’s example and held himself as if he knew precisely what he was doing. Varric bustled up to the host stand, the poor man just barely able to see over the top of the podium. “We’re here for lunch.” A simple but bold statement as there were nearly fifteen people clustered in the restaurant’s foyer waiting for a table.
The host looked down his narrow nose at Varric. “I’m afraid we are booked up for the day. Do you have a reservation?” The tone of his voice implied he very much doubted it.
“Yup,” Varric answered back easily. “It should be under Tethras for two.”
He flipped open his book and Dorian watched as his eyes skimmed down the page then widen as they apparently found the name. A blush spread across his pale face and Dorian smiled as the flustered Orlesian man pulled out two menus. “I see you have a reservation for eleven but we can seat you immediately. Right this way, sers.”
They were led to a lovely little table in the main dining room near a window that was open to the patio, allowing the pleasantly warm air outside to breeze in. The host waited until they were both seated and Varric had set his bag down beside him before presenting them each with a menu and bustling off. Once the host was out of earshot, Dorian leaned forward with a grin. “How did you get a table here within a day?” The one time Dorian had inquired, thinking it would be a nice place to meet Vivienne, he was told that all available reservations had been booked out four months in advance. And, since Dorian had suggested the time of their meeting, Varric had been given less than twenty-four hours to arrange it.
Varric waved a dismissive hand. “I’ve got a friend who did the owner a favor once so I made a quick call and they managed to squeeze us in.”
“You seem to be friends with interesting people.”
Varric laughed. “That’s a nice way to put it. And order whatever you want,” he tapped the menu. “I’ll be expensing this whole trip so it’s Inquisition’s silvers.”
Dorian grinned again but kept himself in check when he actually ordered, choosing a moderately priced grilled fish. This was a familiar sort of game for him and came naturally after a childhood of having these sorts of lessons drilled into his head; he ought not insult Varric by ordering the cheapest thing on the menu but he shouldn’t take advantage either by ordering the most expensive.
Once they had put in their orders and received their drinks, Varric lifted his brows and leaned over in his chair to dig into his satchel. “Might as well get down to business, I guess, since I’m sure you’ve figured out by now that this isn’t entirely a social visit.”
“I had my suspicions.”
Varric smiled at the response and dug around in his bag for a moment longer before pulling out a large object then dropped a bound manuscript on the table in between them, facing Dorian. "So, Sparkler, I have a proposition for you."
Dorian blinked at the manuscript in surprise before gingerly picking it up and squinting at the words printed in the center of the cover page. Draft: In Hushed Whispers. "What is this?"
"It's my newest script and I'm hoping you'd be interested in joining up. Now, it'll be produced by Inquisition Studios but a little bird told me your contract with Sun Gate is up for renewal in about a month and I figured you might be looking for a change in pace."
So many things were just said that Dorian momentarily had trouble focusing on which should be addressed first. "Inquisition Studios would be interested in signing me on?"
"I'd say they were excited about it."
Dorian’s mouth opened then closed again after a moment of being unable to speak. His heartrate picked up. Inquisition Studios wanted him. They wanted him. Finally, he swallowed and his words returned to him. "What is the script about?"
Varric leaned back in his chair. "I thought I'd stretch myself a bit into a new genre and was inspired to finish it up by your magazine spread in Célèbre. It's a supernatural thriller with a little romance and drama on the side."
Dorian flipped the script open but without his reading glasses the small print was a strain on his eyes. "Let me guess: a period piece?" It would make sense given that Varric had seen him in costume as Cassius on set.
"No, actually. Set in modern times. Mostly in an old estate down in the Emerald Graves. I already have the location scouted out."
"Ah. No doubt you need an evil Tevinter magister then to raise an army of undead or demons for your hero to vanquish." It was an easy enough typecast. And he was open enough with his abilities that Varric could have easily found out his specialization as a necromancer.
"Nope. This is a classic ghost story, no Tevinter magister needed."
Dorian’s eyes bounced up to Varric’s and he offered him a confused smile. "Then what role could you possibly need me to fill?"
"Well,” Varric seemed to have been waiting for that question and straightened back up, “I was hoping you'd want to be the lead supporting actor. Love interest of the hero and only somewhat reluctant hero himself."
"Beg pardon?" Surely, surely he had misheard—
"He's a mage and scholar of arcane magic who fled Tevinter after being pushed out of his university and threatened for his progressivist leanings. The hero, who I've already roped Evelyn Trevelyan into playing, searches him out to help her deal with a ghost problem at an abandoned estate where her father disappeared, since not many mages here in southern Thedas know a thing about necromancy and old magic. There's intrigue and danger and the two end up falling in love despite societal pressures working against them as they make their way through mortal dangers. It has a happy ending, of course; the characters will deserve one after the whole thing is over."
Venhedis. It sounded like the role had been written for him. Well, there were certain discrepancies but the whole thing sounded…too good to be true.
Varric had written him a hero’s role.
Feeling himself getting far too emotional for what was appropriate for a public setting, Dorian carefully set the script back down in the center of the table. "Varric, I..."
Varric, looking very pleased with himself, held up a hand. "You don't need to give me your answer now, Sparkler. Keep the script, read through it, talk with your agent or whoever else, and I'll call you in a week to get your answer."
He must have known that Dorian didn’t have an agent—otherwise he would have contacted them first—but he appreciated that Varric had allowed him the dignity of the lie.
Their food arrived fairly quickly given how busy the restaurant was and they proceeded to have a very nice lunch. The script wasn’t brought up again but it was impossible to forget and kept its place of honor on the table between them throughout the meal. Varric was an unsurprisingly entertaining raconteur and seemed to have a never-ending number of stories to draw from. Dorian shared some about his time with the Theatrum but for one of the few times in his life he found himself preferring to allow someone else take control over the conversation.
They ended lunch with Dorian writing down his number for Varric and then taking custody of the script before they parted ways. The whole walk home he was hyper-aware of the manuscript tucked under his arm and found himself giving all passers-by a wide berth. As soon as he reached his apartment he cleared a space at his desk and set it down then sat down at his computer. He spent the afternoon researching Varric Tethras and the Inquisition Studios company and what they’d both produced in the past. He already knew to a certain degree but with everything he uncovered he became a bit more excited. Varric and Inquisition Studios, they had both independently done good work and were only showing signs of improvement in their more recent scripts and movies. Inquisition was nowhere near as established as Sun Gate Pictures was but Dorian found himself wondering if that wasn’t in fact an advantage for people like him. Inquisition was obviously willing to take risks, like hiring an as-of-yet-unknown-in-the-South Tevinter actor for what appeared to be a major motion picture.
When Dorian next tore his eyes from his screen he realized that it was growing dark. He also realized that he desperately wanted to tell someone about his day.
Dorian grabbed his phone up and dialed Bull’s number without another thought. Bull was quick to pick up, his voice a bit muffled, “How’s everything going, big guy?” Despite the hour, he was likely still at work judging by the noise Dorian could hear in the background: the bustle of a busy production lot.
“Is this a good time?”
“Sure, good as any. Hold on.”
Dorian waited and listened to the sound of chattering, unintelligible voices in the background as Bull walked through a crowd. The voices slowly grew quieter until they faded away entirely and then after a soft shuffling sound Bull was back on the line. “Sorry about that. I could barely hear you over all the noise.”
Dorian smiled. He had no doubt that Bull could hear him perfectly but he was always doing things for Dorian’s comfort and knew that Dorian preferred that their conversations were held in private. But he didn’t call Bull on it; he never did and in turn Bull never made it an issue. “It’s no trouble.” He stretched out in his chair. Simply hearing Bull’s voice was soothing, though it wasn’t nearly enough today to quell his excitement. Though the sound of his voice also brought about a new, unexpected edge of anxiety. Oh. He hadn’t thought about—Dorian swallowed. He hadn’t thought about what this might mean for them. “Do you have the time to pay me a visit tonight? There is something I’d like to discuss in person.”
“Not necessarily,” Dorian purposefully kept his tone light, “but it could be if I wanted it to be. Of course, the visit need not be all business.”
“Hard to turn down an invitation like that. I won’t be able to make it out to you until around ten tonight with the way things are going.”
A glance at the clock showed that it was almost seven now. “I don’t want to keep you out too late.”
“If it’s not too late for you, it’s fine with me. Though, with the timing, I might have to spend the night.”
Dorian’s smile returned. “Perish the thought.”
He could hear the answering smirk he knew Bull was wearing in his voice. “Do you need me to bring anything with me when I come?”
“Just yourself. Have you eaten tonight?”
Bull let out a thoughtful hum and Dorian imagined him scratching at his chin. “Stitches brought me a sandwich about two hours ago.”
Dorian raised a brow and glanced across his apartment at his kitchen. Bull would be hungry then, no matter how he might protest, and Dorian knew he’d travel directly over without stopping for food fist. Luckily, “I have some spicy noodles from a shop down the street leftover from dinner yesterday. It was nearly more spice than I could handle so I know you’ll like it. I can heat those up for you when you get here.”
“Damn, those sound delicious. You’re buttering me up for something.”
“Maybe. I’ll see you tonight.”
With three hours to waste, Dorian had to find a way to distract himself. In Hushed Whispers called to him from his desk but he resisted the temptation; he wanted to talk to Bull before he went any further with it. Instead, he gathered up some more academic journals he had previously printed out at the Val Royeaux Library and set himself up on the couch to browse through them. Dorian turned on some music, again, Tevinter opera, and sprawled out on the couch with his papers.
Both the music and the act of reading were well-practiced devices Dorian used to unwind and it did the trick. To an extent. He considered it a success that he didn’t leap right up off of the couch the moment he heard a knock and then at the sound of the front door swinging open a second later.
He did allow himself to sit up enough to peer over the top of the couch to make sure that it was indeed Bull walking into his apartment and, yes, yes it was.
“You shouldn’t leave your door unlocked. You’re becoming a pretty popular guy, some crazy fan might take advantage.”
Dorian leaned his head back over the top of the couch and smiled upside-down at him as Bull walked inside and shut and locked the door behind him. “It’s a very good thing that I only leave it unlocked when I’m expecting enticingly intimidating company then, isn’t it?”
He rose to his feet as Bull walked over to the couch and wrapped his arms around Bull’s waist. He smelled a bit like dried sweat, like he often had right after he had come in from working all day on the Storm Coast. Smiling again, Dorian pressed up and kissed him. “Thank you for making the trip. I know it was an inconvenience, especially since you were just here two nights ago.”
Humming, knowing Bull probably meant that, Dorian pulled away then glanced down and realized that he had papers scattered about on the couch and the side table. “Excuse the mess…let me just…” Dorian’s voice trailed off as he spun around to gather up all of the paper and stack it up.
He heard Bull chuckle behind him. “You’re starting to settle in.”
“I’m not settling in, I’m spreading out,” Dorian easily corrected.
“How can you find anything?”
It wasn’t that bad. “I remember where I put things. It’s organized.” Bull hummed noncommittedly and Dorian huffed. “Organized chaos at the very least.”
“Alright, fair enough.”
After Dorian deemed the sitting area acceptably clean, Dorian turned back to Bull and the sight of him sparked a memory. Dorian snapped his fingers. “Ah! I almost forgot. You must be hungry.”
“Well I wasn’t gonna press but you did promise me noodles,” Bull teased.
Smirking, Dorian waved a hand and sauntered into the kitchen. “I don’t make promises I don’t intend to keep.”
“Can I help?”
“Sit,” He commanded in response and pointed at the couch. “You’ve had a long day. And it’s not as if I’m doing anything complicated.”
Bull laughed again but took a seat on Dorian’s couch as Dorian pulled a take-out container of noodles out of the fridge. He scooped them all onto a plate before placing it in the microwave. He didn’t have long to wait and they chatted across the room as the food reheated. When the microwave beeped, Dorian pulled the plate out, grabbed a fork and napkin, and brought it over to Bull. “There you are.” He took a seat on the couch beside Bull, sitting sideways so he was looking at the other with one leg drawn up. “It’s the first dish I’ve had in the South that I would dare to call ‘spicy’.”
Bull raised a brow but dug in after a silently urging from Dorian. He waited until he had finished his first bite before prodding Bull’s leg with his socked foot. “So, what’s the verdict? You won’t hurt my feelings if you don’t like them; I didn’t make them, after all.” Bull had a remarkably well-developed poker face and it was impossible to tell.
Bull hummed and took another large bite, not actually answering until he had finished that as well. “They’re good!” He grinned. Gathering together another small pile of noodles on his fork, Bull held it out to Dorian. “Want some?”
“I ate at a reasonable hour.” He’d taken the time to prepare himself a small plate of cheese and fruit during his researching. It hadn’t been a hearty dinner but he’d eaten quite a bit at lunch and hadn’t been that hungry.
Bull raised a brow. “You sure?”
He was teasing now, Dorian knew it. Rolling his eyes, Dorian leaned forward. “Very well, you’ve convinced me.”
He reached forward and gently wrapped a hand around Bull’s wrist to steady it before opening his mouth and, with a sly glance up at Bull, closed his lips around the fork and pulled back. It was a bit silly, really, attempting to make eating take-out noodles seductive, but he was alright being a bit silly with Bull. The spicy sauce, which seemed to have only intensified since he had last tried it, burned lightly at his tongue and lips but as he finished with his bite and Bull grunted then leaned in for a kiss he didn’t hesitate for a second in responding.
Neither pulled away and the plate was quickly abandoned on the side table as Dorian wasted no time in climbing into Bull’s lap. After being so long without, it still felt as if he hadn’t had his fill of Bull yet. Just when he was about to start rutting against Bull’s stomach like a horny adolescent, he felt Bull rest a hand on his hip then leaned back until he broke their kiss. His voice was rough when he spoke and Dorian licked his lips at the sound of it. “Wait, first, what did you want to talk about?”
“It’s hardly worth the interruption,” Dorian whispered teasingly against Bull’s cheek before kissing his way up to nip playfully at Bull’s ear.
He grunted but held strong against Dorian’s temptations and eased him back until they were separated again. Dorian pouted but when Bull only raised a brow he heaved a sigh. “Very well, if we must be mature about this…”
Dorian slid off of Bull’s lap and sprawled back onto the couch beside him. His stomach was instantly in knots again but he was determined not to show it. “I met with Varric Tethras earlier today after I happened to run into him at the television station yesterday. He’s written a new screenplay and he asked if I would be interested in taking on one of the lead roles. The role in question, it sounds as if he nearly wrote it for me. But it would mean joining with Inquisition Studios in Skyhold.”
As he had been speaking, Bull had picked up his plate again but his eye never left Dorian’s face. He definitely had his full attention. “What did you tell him?”
Dorian shrugged. “I didn’t tell him anything. Not yet. He’s given me a week to consider. I haven’t even had a chance to read the script yet.”
“It would be a big decision.”
“I know,” Dorian swallowed. “There are many things that would change if I accepted. Some for the better but others…well, one in particular…I don’t know if I could accept…”
“Dorian…” Bull set his plate down for a second time, his brow furrowed. “You can’t let this,” he pointed between them, “stop you from doing what you need to do for you. You’re on the cusp of something big, and we both know it. Don’t throw that away.”
“I know! I know but I…” he closed his eyes, “there are so many factors to consider.” And a life without Bull seemed abhorrent. They had only known each other for a few months but Dorian had never had a relationship this easy, comfortable, and meaningful before. The idea of giving it up at the first presented opportunity made him feel sick. Especially since he had just gotten Bull back. But, at the same time, this was the sort of opportunity he had always dreamed of having. He could get out of Orlais, have a fresh start in Skyhold, and work with people who already seemed to value his talent. They were offering him the chance of success on a silver platter. And a dream role.
He didn’t realize he was getting lost in his own head until he felt a touch against his shoulder. He started in surprise and Bull squeezed down gently before smoothing his hand down Dorian’s arm. There was still concern in his eye but his lips quirked up in a grin. “Easy, Dorian. You have a week to think things over and I’m just a phone call away if you ever want someone to talk to or even just to use as a sounding board.” Dorian drew in a long breath of air through his nose and slowly released it before nodding. Bull nodded back and his grin widened as he ran his hand down to Dorian’s and intertwined their fingers. “In the meantime, how about I give you something else to think about for the rest of the night?”
Relief blossomed in Dorian’s chest. “Please do.” Nothing drove Dorian’s too-busy thoughts away like Bull.
Bull lived up to his words. He barely had time to finish his food before he and Dorian were pushing and shoving each other into Dorian’s bedroom. Bull drove him to incoherency and Dorian reveled in every second of it.
Six days and five nights later he appreciated that night all the more; Bull’s busy schedule hadn’t allowed him to visit since but Dorian could still feel the comfort that was given. He had spent the interim between their time together and the present trying to sort out his future. And now he found himself staring at his own reflection in the mirror, his thoughts still conflicted and his emotions a tangled mess in his chest.
His father had once told him that one couldn’t have everything they wanted in life; compromises were necessary. Which was how Dorian had been looking at all this until now: that there were two paths before him and he could only choose to walk one.
But there was no path. Uncharted territory lay before him and there was no reason walking in one direction didn’t mean that he couldn’t be moving toward multiple destinations at the same time. He had two goals: continue his career and stay with Bull. There was no reason why he couldn’t have both except for his own lack of imagination.
Struck with inspiration, Dorian picked up his phone and dialed then paced impatiently until he heard a soft click on the other end of the line. “Bull? Can you come over tonight?” His words came too quickly. He felt like a raw bundle of nerves and barely contained in his own skin. This had to work.
For all of Dorian’s excitement that Bull was sure to have picked up on, he kept his own voice level. “Sure. I cleared my schedule tonight so I should be able to get there around five.”
Dorian’s brows knit together. “Did you have other plans?”
“Nah. It’s just been six days since you last called me over and I figured since you had a week to think things over you might want to talk again tonight.”
“You…” Dorian released a breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding, “are unsettlingly perceptive at times.”
“Want me to pick up food on the way?”
“Thank you, that would be lovely. I’m afraid I don’t have much to offer here.”
“You usually don’t around this day of the week since you do your shopping on the weekend.”
He heard the smile in Bull’s voice and it managed to bring a smile to his own face. “Now you’re just showing off.”
“Only a little. See you soon.”
Minutes before five o’clock there was a knock on Dorian’s door and he nearly tripped over his own feet to answer it. He let Bull in with a kiss and happily accepted the bags of Nevarran take-out that he’d picked up on his way over. It was a difficult thing not to jitter about while they ate but Dorian did his best to maintain some semblance of calm. He didn’t want to make this more than it was. Or, rather, he didn’t want Bull to know quite how much of himself he’d already invested into all of this.
When they were finally finished eating, Dorian led Bull from his table to his couch and they settled against each other. Varric’s script was sitting very conspicuously on the table in front of them and both of their eyes fell to it immediately. Up until then, Bull had been very polite about not asking Dorian what decision he had made but he seemed to know that he was ready to talk about it now. Except Dorian didn’t know where to start. So Bull had the graciousness to do it for him. "So, what'd you think?"
"The script?” Dorian raised a brow, faking nonchalance as he smoothed a hand over his mustache. “It's typical Tethras rubbish…Absolutely beautiful rubbish." And it really was. It was obviously still a draft but still read like a best-seller novel: a riveting blend of the paranormal and thriller genres with comedic and romantic moments distributed throughout to make it a genuinely enjoyable story. It was by no means fine art, but if Inquisition Studios did even half a decent job in making the movie it was sure to be a hit.
"Does that mean you're signing on?"
"Yes, I think it does."
There was a shift in Bull; if Dorian hadn’t known him as long as he had and as intimately as he had, he wouldn’t have noticed. It was difficult to explain just what it was: a slight straightening of his shoulders, the tilt of his smile, a small tightness around his eye. It was something he was trying very hard not to show. "I hear Skyhold is nice this time of year. Colder though, you'll need a new set of winter coats."
Dorian’s heartrate picked up again and his gaze flickered away from Bull. He wouldn’t be able to keep up a causal front if he watched him now. "Why, when I'll have your unnaturally warm bulk to stand beside?"
Bull chuckled. "As much as I'd love it, I don't have the time to be your personal space heater. The Chargers have to earn a living."
"And they can't earn a living in Skyhold?"
There was a pregnant pause that hung heavy in the air probably for less than a second but to Dorian it seemed to last minutes.
"You want us to come with you?"
Dorian answered Bull’s question with another question. “You would trust another crew to manage my stunts?” His voice lifted in mock affront but his words started tumbling faster from his lips. “Do you know how many acrobatics this script calls for? Granted, not as many as Field of Bones, but I think I get thrown out a second story window at one point. Inquisition Studios has personally requested me for the film; I can’t imagine they would complain if I in turn requested to work with a specific stunt crew.”
He had felt Bull tense up a bit beside him but he released a soft hum. “You make a good point. I’ll talk to the team.”
“You’d be willing then? To come with me?” He finally dared to glance over at Bull and found him watching him.
“It’s not just me that I have to consider in that sort of decision. I’d go in a heartbeat but I wouldn’t drag my team along for the ride. But I think everyone’s getting tired of Orlais anyway.”
He hadn’t considered the opinions of the rest of the Chargers. Would they be willing to leave their current work behind on what was basically Dorian’s whim? Reaching out, Dorian wrapped his hand around Bull’s. “Ask them when you see them next, and tell me what they say immediately.” He didn’t have long now to make his decision.
Luckily, he didn’t have to wait long either.
Bull had spent the night but left Dorian’s apartment early the next morning to catch one of the first trains back to the studio lot. Dorian woke when Bull roused himself from bed but for once was unable to get back to sleep afterwards despite the early hour. He lazed around for about forty-five minutes attempting just that but when he realized that it was futile he reluctantly rolled out of bed and made himself some coffee. It had just finished brewing when Dorian’s cell phone rang.
He snatched it up from where it lay on the counter beside him. “Bull?”
“Hey, Dorian. If the offer still stands, we’re in.”
Dorian released a breathy laugh and gripped the counter, coffee entirely forgotten. “You have no idea what a relief it is to hear you say those words.”
“I think I do, kadan.”
Dorian’s heart caught in his throat. He didn’t know the word but it’s intention was clear enough. Another shaky laugh escaped him as he scrambled for a pad of paper and a pen then scribbled it down to search once he got off the line. “I’ll call Varric immediately to let him know.”
“You think you’ll have any problems tacking us on to your contract?”
“I am an excellent negotiator. And in this case I’m also extremely well motivated. Let me handle everything, amatus.”
It felt so incredible and right to say that word out loud, as if a weight had been lifted from his shoulders. They quickly said their goodbyes—Bull had to work and Dorian had another call to make—but he felt as if he were floating.
The Chargers had agreed to come with him to Skyhold.
Bull was coming with him to Skyhold.
And “kadan”. What did it mean? Grabbing his phone, Dorian rushed across the room to his desk and woke his computer up. He pulled open his preferred translation website, typed in “kadan,” and…
Where the heart lies.
Dorian didn’t cry but only just.
He starred at it for a long moment before remembering his coffee. Right, coffee. Yes, he would need that. He shuffled back into the kitchen to finish preparing himself a cup before he sat back down at his desk. He made himself take the time to finish every last drop of coffee. and at a reasonable pace, so he could settle himself and his thoughts. Then, once his mug was empty and his nerves were still, he pulled out his phone again and dialed the number that Varric had listed on his business card.
He picked up on the second ring. “Hello, Varric Tethras.”
“Hello, Varric, this is Dorian Pavus.”
“Hey, it’s good to hear from you; I was going to give you a call later today. Have you had the chance to think our offer over?”
“Yes. I’d like to accept.”
“Great! I’ll get your flight sorted out and--”
Dorian sucked in a breath and interrupted. “But I have some demands.”
He heard Varric laugh on the other end of the line. “Why am I surprised? Alright, let’s hear them. Wait, let me grab a pen…” He heard some shuffling and Dorian interrupted him before he searched too hard.
Dorian exhaled and cleaned back in his seat. “That won’t be necessary. They’re fairly straightforward. I will need seven extra tickets with my flight.”
“I’m bringing along my own crew members. The Chargers, they manage and perform stunts and—“
This time it was Varric who interrupted him. “Oh, Tiny?” Dorian frowned and mouthed ‘Tiny’ against the phone. “Sure, bring him and his crew along. Josephine’s been working on a way to steal the Chargers from Sun Gate for months! Besides, I figured he’d be tagging along eventually if you agreed.”
“Come on, I saw you two together on set, and I saw the way you were looking at each other when you don’t think the other one was watching. Where do you think I got the inspiration for the romance in Hushed? You’re not the first odd couple I’ve seen so I had it figured out pretty quick.” Dorian sputtered out something that was supposed to be a protest and Varric chuckled. “Don’t worry about a thing, we’ll take care of all the details; I’ll email you once we get them all hammered out on our end. Just tell everyone to pack up their stuff, cancel their leases, whatever they need to do. Lace Harding, one of our staff members, will be out there in three weeks to collect you.”
“But, I...Yes, alright then. I’ll let them know.”
“Good. And Sparkler? Welcome to Inquisition Studios.”
It finally happened; the end has come. I've hoped you've enjoyed the ride and like the ending well enough! Because I'm me, I've of course already started thinking of a continuation. It might not happen, depending on how this one does, but if I don't formally make another installment of the story on AO3 I'll probably at least be posting scenes I've maybe already drafted out on my Tumblr page (@loquitorlatinae). :)