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sun, salt, silence

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When he wakes, the sun is streaming through the hole in his roof, warming his skin.

It must be late, but he doesn't feel worried about having missed anything by sleeping in. If there was anything important, they'd have sent someone to wake him.

A knock at the door. An unfamiliar messenger. He worries over the unknown face for a moment before suddenly realising it's one of Leliana's men after all. Going Tal-Vashoth has thrown off his recognition, perhaps. “A visitor, ser.”

There's no chance he wouldn't recognise that face. Vasaad, his braids askew, the sun on his smile. He looks exactly as Bull remembers him. “You're dead.”

“Yeah, yeah, my soul is dust, and all that.” Vasaad says. “So are you, for that matter, but do either of us care for the definitions of the Qun, now?”

“I saw you die.” There is a scar, now he looks, where he remembers blood, but-- no, he saw it. The eyes, open, blank, not bright and laughing like they are now. The body, limp, still.

Vasaad frowns. “The re-educators did a right job on your head, Hissrad. Sorry, The Iron Bull now, isn't it?”

He saw-- but he hadn't seen a burial. Hadn't mourned. Hadn't had the chance. Just given himself over to be remade. “I saw you--”

Vasaad reaches up and lays a warm hand on his cheek. “They must have worried you'd follow me, if you knew I'd gone Tal-Vashoth. Guess you did, in the end. A pity, really. We should have gone together.”

The sun is so warm on his skin. It makes it hard to think. But he is sure. He is sure. “You died.”

“And you wanted so badly to follow me, but the Qun wouldn't let you, would they? Well, they cannot stop us now.” Vasaad says. His smile is sharp, so sharp. His scar bleeds, endlessly. “Did I not promise I'd follow you anywhere, Kadan? But you would not take that promise from me. They bound you far too tightly then, but now-- what holds you back now?”

Suddenly, he feels trapped. Vasaad will not stop smiling at him. He looks around as if a suitable exit would appear, but there's only the hole in the roof, the bed, the curtains--

The curtains.

Dorian.

“The mage?” Vasaad sneers. “Oh, you are reckless these days. Bet that's fun. Fucking him must be nearly as good as fighting a dragon.”

“It's not that.” Well, he's not entirely wrong, but the thing with Dorian is-- well, it's a thing.

“He won't stay.” Vasaad taunts. “The only thing he'll let you tie him to is your bed, The Iron Bull. He'll burn your heart to ash and walk away. I'll stay. I'll always be with you. Here,” he lays a hand over Bull's heart, “and here,” the hand trails up to gently tap his forehead, “and all you have to do is admit you want it. Just me, and you. No Qun, nothing to hold us back.”

He steps forward, and lets Vasaad into the circle of his arms. His skin, sun-warm. Taste of sea-spray on his skin when Bull places his lips to his forehead. These are the things he thinks of when he thinks of Vasaad: sun, salt, silence. “You're right. I did want to follow you.”

He can feel Vasaad's smile, sharp and victorious against his shoulder. “Of course I'm right.”

The Iron Bull tightens his grip, and remembers Dorian's stories of his harrowing. If it gets in my head, how do I cut it out? With a knife, would seem the obvious way, and it's easy to remember the feel of the belt-knife that was a gift from Skinner some years back, the way it fits in his hand. “That was then.”

Vasaad, or whatever it is, tries to take another shape midway through its throat being cut, something uglier and more true, but it doesn't have the time. Warm sunlight is replaced in an instant with drizzle, cold wind, particularly sharp rock poking into his back and Dorian's staff, jammed right into his neck. “Uh.” His head hurts. Really hurts.

“Well, thank the Maker for that.” Dorian says, peering down at him, and pulls the staff back, offering his hand in return. “You would have made a particularly gruesome abomination.” Behind Dorian, Sera puts back her arrows and Cadash her knives, both with obvious relief.

“You'd have taken my head off before it came to that.” The Iron Bull says, warm with the knowledge. It makes bearing what just nearly happened a little easier, although he suspects sleep is not going to come easy tonight. He swears he can feel the touch of it on his skin, up his spine. A dead man's smile stretched over a demon's skin.

“It was Desire, wasn't it?” Dorian says, as he looks Bull over. “It skimmed me before deciding to go for you instead. See anything interesting?”

The absolute last thing he wants to do is dissect this. “A demon.” he says flatly, but he suspects that won't be enough to make Dorian shut up about the matter. “You and ropes also came up in the discussion.”

Dorian smirks. “A man of simple pleasures, aren't you. I promise you, the real thing is much better.”

“Less flirting, more making sure that anything that might be a demon around here is well and truly dead, if you please.” Cadash says, having about the same (that is, sensible) opinion of demons and magic as Bull does. “I'm going to close that fucking rift so hard--”

“That probably would help.” Dorian agrees. “Or at least, it can't hurt. How about it, The Iron Bull. Feeling up to hitting your problems until they go away?”

Please.”

Sera and Cadash go ahead; Dorian lingers behind, alongside him. “And later, ropes. Unless there's something else you're minded to ask for?”

Yeah, that might be just the thing to put his head back on straight. “I'm sure I can think of a few things.”

“You do that.” Dorian purrs. “Think about what it is you truly want from me, The Iron Bull. I find myself inclined to indulge you.”

He can only nod, dumbly. Licks his lips, tastes the salt-water from Vasaad's skin. The sun is warm on Dorian's smile.