“Stand up!” Iron Bull, the cursedly loud qunari had been flirting with her since they had gotten back from Adamant, had shouted at her, as she stood to leave for her rroom.
Tessa Hawke cursed, a vicious, vile string of expletives that had the crowd around them falling quiet. People catcalled and laughed around them, as his voice had carried through the entire room. Maker, Tessa was sure they heard him in bloody Orlais.
Bull was noisy and bold and full of an energy that Tessa could only envy. Apparently, the qunari recovered quickly from their unforeseen foray into the darkness and despair of the Fade. While she still felt every bruise, every bump, every heartbeat that she got and Stroud didn't. Unable to go down that path, she focused on the smirking qunari and clung gratefully to the pulsing anger that pushed the guilt and self-hatred away, even for just the moment.
How she had found herself squished between Bull and Varric drinking well into the night despite her resolution to fall straight into bed the moment they reached Skyhold, she couldn’t say. They were all crowded around the largest table in the tavern. She and Varric, Bull and the Inquisitor and all of the Inquisitor’s companions and advisors of the Inquisition. They had even dragged Cullen and Leliana out, though their heads were bent suspiciously close and from Cullen’s hand movements, Tessa knew they were talking strategy. Still, the commander had an ale in his hand and the spymaster was sipping from a glass full of wine.
Dorian was trading increasingly vile insults with Sera, sending Blackwall roaring with laughter at some of their more creative insults. Cassandra was arguing with Varric, a shockingly mild and playful argument over something that happened in his book that she didn’t agree with. Lady Vivienne was conversing quietly with Josephine at the end of the table, both women elegant and regal in the midst of all the chaos.
Bull and Micah Trevelyan, the Inquisition’s quiet, unfailingly kind Inquisitor had been sharing something that The Iron Bull had procured from Seherron and from the way Micah was coughing and gagging, Tessa could only assume it was some qunari concoction that was part poison, part fire. Micah was handsome, in unassuming, subtle way. His hair was a thick golden wave that fell down to his shoulders. He had eyes that were a shade of blue that Tessa had never seen, and eyelashes that were obscenely long for a man.
Though, if Tessa were being honest with herself, something she tried to do most of the time, she had not one inclination towards the handsome Inquisitor. He had faded to the background the moment she had seen Bull. She been drawn to the large qunari from the first moment she met him. To his humor and his terrible innuendos and that eye that saw too much. He was different that anyone she had ever met and she didn’t quite know what to do about it.
It wasn’t just the notion of sex with him. It was the comfort she felt pressed up against him. His warmth and laughter and honesty that wrapped around her and made her feel safe. It made her feel wanted. It made her burn and Maker damn it, Tessa needed to get out of here. She needed to think.
Standing up, she prepared to bid goodnight to the drunken group, already grinning at Varric who had a drunk, snoring Seeker using his shoulder as a pillow when Bull had looked at her, his eyes – eye? – directly at her height and saw the mischievous glint in the strangely light colored depths and then his mouth had moved and Maker, Tessa was so angry she could strike him. Insult burst bright and simmered low in her belly. He was making fun of her.
It shouldn’t bother her. He joked around with everyone. The level of insult depended on who exactly he was talking to and as a qunari spy – ex-qunari spy, he used his powers of observation to pinpoint the weakest part of her armor and Maker, did he drive the blade in deep.
Tessa was short.
Not gracefully short, lithe and elegant like the Inquisition’s diplomat, Josephine. Nor was she sturdy and solid and strong like Varric. No, Tessa was just short and she bloody hated it. Having spent most of her life defending herself against jokes and people underestimating her due to her size has made her rather touchy about her height and most comments and snide remarks were met with swift and unmerciful justice.
So yes, she was a bit touchy about her height.
Tessa griped the table so hard her knuckles turned white. The tavern was still silent, those out of earshot sensing some sort of trouble. All eyes focused on her and Bull, Tessa ignored them and just stared down at Bull. She wouldn’t hit him, because that’s what he expected. Eye light with challenge Bull cocked his head as if to say ‘Well, what do you got?’.
She couldn’t hit him, nor could she insult him. He’d just laugh at her and she’d have to kill him. It’d be messy and the Inquisitor probably wouldn’t take too kindly to that. Painfully aware of her growing silence and the full attention she had at the table and rapidly quieting tavern, she filtered through her options. Stabbing him – no. Insulting him – no.
He was a man of action, not words.
“Well?” He prodded, clasping his hands around his mug of Maker-knows-what. Their table was riveted, eyes moving back and forth between them.
Tessa looks down at the mug, filled almost to the brim with a clear liquid that could be water, but was most likely eternal damnation by way of alcohol poisoning. Tessa smirksed and waited until Bull met her gaze head on before reaching down and pulling his drink from him.
Without breaking eye contact, she winked and then downed the entire mug in one breath.
The pain was instantaneous and spread like wildfire. It was a victorious burn, a liquid roll of molten righteousness that made her eyes water and her soul curl up and pray for damnation or mercy. Fighting against the pain and the need to cough, the kneejerk reaction to stop, she drank every last drop of the poison.
Even Bull was shocked into silence. Varric whispered something, but Tessa couldn’t really hear anything besides the screaming in her head. Bull was still staring at her, though the playfulness was gone as was the challenging light in his eye. In its place was a kind of heat that made her toes curl in her boots and the pain lessen into something almost tangible.
Not the time, she told herself. Not the place.
Tessa, swallowing back the vile drink and whatever else was in her stomach, smiled at Bull and set his empty mug down. Hoping he didn’t see her eyes watering against the pain, she licked her lips, patted him on the cheek and sauntered out of the tavern.
“Oh, and Bull,” she said, stopping by the door and looked at Bull over her shoulder. “I’ll stand up when you get a stronger drink.”
The last thing she heard as the door shut behind her was Bull’s booming laughter.
Tessa smirked and turned towards the bushes that sat next to the tavern and proceeded to lose the entire contents of her stomach.