The women lazed about Zevran's feet and lap, clutching playfully at him with overly friendly hands and all-too-beckoning smiles. In another time and another place, their invitation would have been graciously accepted. The luscious swell of a fine breast was a one of the Maker's finest creations, and the set that heaved before him with each giggle and breath was as magnificent a pair as he had ever had the pleasure to behold.
Temptation's pull was resisted with but a single glance back down to paper dangling precariously between two of his fingers. Zevran had carried this scrap with him for some time. One bit of vellum served as a reminder of past errors in judgment, in both action and thought. His hand extended, reaching toward a candle along the table at his side. The flame flickered dangerously close to the keepsake. Just another inch and all would have been set aflame and with it the excuses he used to blanket his fear.
To burn a silly bit of parchment or not? The act itself was simple; the gesture and its implications, however, were far from plain.
Zevran appreciated the comedy of such a significant decision coming to pass in a whorehouse. Granted, it was the finest whorehouse in all of Denerim. But still, it was a whorehouse no matter how fancy the dressing. Such establishments had easily been the backdrop for some of the more memorable moments in his life – his birth, his sale to the Crows, a scandalous rendezvous or two or three or four (he simply had lost count), and now…
The journey to this started on a dusty and mostly abandoned portion of the Imperial Highway. Sources had informed him that the Wardens would travel that path. Diversions set up, help put into place, he waited until they arrived and nibbled at his bait.
The Grey Warden dies here.
The words echoed in bittersweet memory. A good death steeped in battle he had sought; release from his guilt, release from his sins, release from his life. He would die as Rinna had died, at the hands of another. But, such a reprieve did not come and instead he found himself in the service of his mark as her loyal servant. Fate truly had a wicked sense of humor.
Elishka was speaking to Alistair. Fates would be decided and goodbyes said. She claimed to have picked, to have chosen Zevran. Experience, however, had taught him to be cautious. What a person said and what they did, did not always match.
In the end, however, he had to admit that it really didn't matter what she discussed with Alistair. His mind had already been made up. It had been made up the moment he gave her the earring, the one trophy he managed to keep in recognition of all his feats as an accomplished assassin. The trinket meant more to him than he would admit at the time, but could no longer deny.
"What is that, Zevie," the woman upon his lap cooed drawing his attentions away from the wanderings of his mind and back to the rovings of her hands. Soft fingers strummed a temptress' beat along front of his pants as her other hand reached for the paper.
More surprising than the lack of physical response he felt at this woman's touch was the tone of voice he heard escape from his lips, "It's Zevran and I did not pay you to be nosy." Almost immediately upon uttering the words, his face fell into an apologetic expression. The girl was only doing her job. He had paid for her time more out of habit than need. "I...I am sorry, my pet." He brushed his fingers against her downcast chin, raising it up. "It is nothing. Something…"
Blinders were removed. The mirror's reflection shone back at him with the truth of his ailment – love. The symptoms had been there all along, he had simply chosen to ignore them as if a lack of acknowledgement might make his heart forget what it had grown to feel. Blissful ignorance did not wish to become his mistress, however.
The feelings he had been avoiding, the confessions he did not want to make, he ceased to evade. The time had come to dive in fully and let the waters consume him. His lips slid into a whisper of a smile as let a corner of the folded paper brush against the flame. He placed the document into a metal tin at his side and watched as the bright gaze of eyes that burned like justice began to dim in his mind. He would carry the smothering weight of her memory no longer.
"…to be rid of."
The corners of Zevran's mouth curled in a smile as Cullen and he walked back to the Palace. One side of his mouth wished to tilt upward at the prospect of the woman awaiting him in his room. And while a part of him still doubted that he deserved to be her choice, he sought to smother his doubt with a blast of self-validation. He was no longer the Crow that arrived in Ferelden. The Blight, freedom from direct influence of his Crow masters, and Elishka had changed him. What had felt out of his grasp and forbidden to one such as him, no longer felt so unobtainable. He always learned to take his pleasures when he could, and he intended to take her.
The other half of his mouth twisted up in grin at the fun to be had at Cullen's expense. A blush of innocence had been washed away with the bawdy hue of becoming a man. He would not have been himself if he did not toy with the deflowered Templar. A pat on his ass had been just a start to the festivities.
Hovering was in order. Zevran edged against Cullen, letting his nose brush close to the other man's shoulder eliciting a jerky jump and a hop away by Cullen. "What are you doing," Cullen exclaimed, all too eager to increase the area between them.
Zev's hand wafted the air from in front of Cullen to his nose. "Taking in the aroma of a freshly picked flower. Mmmm, my dear Cullen, I do believe I smell the cloying scent of the fragrant blossom of love upon you."
Redness washed across Cullen's embarrassed cheeks. He casted his glance to the side, quite purposefully avoiding eye contact with Zevran. "Has anyone ever told you that you are perverse?"
"Perverse? No, no." Zevran's grin broadened, " Experienced has a far better ring to it, don't you think? But if I recall, I am not the one that partook in the delicate delights offered at our prior location."
Cullen's entire face pinched sourly as hands threw out in protest. "I…you made me."
Conversation had made the return trip pass quickly. As they walked through the main gates, a chuckle formed upon Zevran's lips. The ex-Templar was far too easy and far too fun to toy with. A spin of the top, a jump of the rope, the playground of Cullen's torment was filled with playful possibilities. "Did I? I don't recall hearing you scream in protest. No no, my dear Cullen. The only sounds I heard were..."
Cullen turned quickly and stood directly in front of Zevran. A hand shot out. "Just stop right there. I don't need to know what you heard."
"Tsk..tsk. There is no shame in having indulged in such sweet nectar. I must say that you do have quite the glow about you." Just ahead and over the line of Cullen's shoulder, he saw her advancing – Elishka. She neared the pair, her face set with purpose. "Everyone will notice you are a changed man."
Completely clueless to the mage's approach, Cullen squeaked in query, "They'll be able to tell? They'll know what I…did?"
Game, set, match. The timing could not have been more perfect. Cullen's last questions were easily overheard by Elishka as she arrived at the duo. Her brow quirked curiously as her hands perched upon her hips. "And just what did you do Cullen?"
Hands were wrung together in a nervous squeeze. Cullen's feet shuffled back and forth. A man of little words, his impassioned defense consisted solely of, "I..."
Zevran could have let Cullen try to dig himself out the hole he so unintentionally dove into. Pity, or even a small sliver of camaraderie born between the pair during their trip to the brothel brought him to saunter forth as the man's savior. "He was hungry and I took him to taste the offerings of one of Denerim's finer establishments."
Gullible was not a word that could be used to describe Elishka. Suspicion colored her guise as she stared at Zevran. Would she believe him or not? "Uh huh," was all the acknowledgement he received before she turned brunt of her gaze upon Cullen, "What did you eat then?"
Speech continued to evade Cullen. "Uhhhhh…"
Zevran continued to take up the verbal slack for his newest friend, but it did not stop him from having a little fun during his charitable rescue. "Our friend is at a loss for words, I am afraid. The dish was a bit overwhelming for him. He had a confectionary delight unlike any other he has had in his life. Never has his lips touched such a fine treat. It was a first for our dear friend."
Hands moved from her hips, arms rising to cross over her chest. "I see." Elishka continued to peer at Cullen. "Well, maybe you can go back there again, now that you'll be staying in Denerim."
A sense of foreboding pinched in sting. Staying in Denerim? Had things not gone as he expected? With a tempered tone he asked, "We are staying?"
Elishka shook her head. "We are not, but Cullen is. He's going to represent the Wardens at Court as much as we need representation."
And the feeling subsided, washed away in a relief. "So we are leaving?"
To his side she moved, an arm wrapping about one of his. A knowing smile creased her lips, "Mmmhmmmm but for now we are going to our room where you can tell me more about just what you had at the brothel."
There was purpose behind the drag of her hands and the press of her lips against his. Clothing was shorn away. His shirt tossed aside just shy of the door. His boots made it only slightly further, kicked away with the quick shimmy of his feet. Pants were urged down and stepped out of just shy of the bed. He fell backward, pulling Elishka along with him.
He edged behind Elishka, his chest to her back. His mouth lingered at the dip of her neck, a trail of kisses rising to just shy of her ear. Pushed by need, he pressed into her slowly. "Your talk with Alistair was good," he asked.
"Good," she gasped, her back arching to enable her to push further into Zevran. One leg lifted and hooked along his upper one. "We've come to an agreement."
A slow and steady course was set. "And what agreement was that?" No guesses. No assumptions.
Breathing became more rapid. "What is in the past is in the past. Our futures are not together." Her hand searched out of one of his. "And Zev?"
"Shut up." She guided his hand between her legs. No more talking.
For the second time in the day he had been told to shut up. And unlike the last, this time he felt compelled to comply. No more words were needed. He had heard what he needed to hear, what he had wanted to hear. There was no Alistair between them. There was no Rinna. She was his and he was hers. Both of their connections to the past had been severed. All that remained was an entanglement of limbs, heated kisses and knowing touches.
The rhythm built at a steady pace until everything crashed down in a shudder, first Elishka then Zevran a few moments later.
A turn of the body and Elishka moved to face Zevran once again. Fingers brushed errant strands of hair behind the high peak of Zevran's ear. Silence broken, she whispered a confession, "I love you. In case you didn't know." Three simple words he did not know he longed to hear until they touched his ears. The last time those words had been uttered to him, a woman laid at his feet, begging for her life. At the time, hatred of her apparent betrayal and hatred of himself for having been so weak ate at his core. With the aid of the small flame from a candle, he sought to burn away those negative feelings.
Rather than frown and let the memory of the past to suffocate him, he allowed it to be in the past and looked to the future. They would not be the cheeriest of pairings. It simply was not in either of their natures – she entirely too sarcastic and he entirely too arrogant and cocksure. He dove headfirst into the prospect of happiness tempered in seas of grey. His mouth pressed against hers in a soft kiss curved into a smile. He murmured, "I know."
AN: And with that, we come to the end of my first mega piece of fanfic ever. Thank you so much for all the reviews, the favs, alerts and PMs. They are very much appreciated, helped to encourage me to continue and very much made me feel like Sally Field at times.
I want to specifically make a call out to Sagacious Rage, Midnight Strike, NotLaura, Crisium, Malaia, Lothering Rose, Trax and the other folks of IRC and the swooping comm for all your support. The betas, the advice, the shoulders to whine upon were hugely huge help. I could not have finished this without y'all.
Stay tuned for a sequel. The story of this ragtag bunch of misfits is far from complete...