Author's note: This chapter just popped into my head more than a week ago so it's a little different, but then again so is Ilina. I was under the effects of large doses of wine, but when I reread it sober, it still felt right. Unfortunately, it's unbeta'd because mine hasn't been able to get back to me. Forgive my grammar and syntax errors!
Bann Yummy-I'd-Like-One-Please is talking, but Ilina just stares at his awesomeness and blinks a few times. Apparently he asked a question, so she nods - because she'd very much like to respond with "yes" to just about everything he says.
Arl Scowly-Face is also talking, but Ilina does not want to listen to what he is saying. She mentally puts him in the same room as Ser Doom and shuts the door.
She nods again at Bann Melty-Smile.
None of these people have names. They are already dead to her and she cannot list their names along side of her family. They do not fit with Alistair, Leiliana, Sten, Wynne and Hilde.
Not that Bann Awesome-Hair-Melty-Smile-Give-Me-One-Please couldn't fit in just perfectly to her family - he could, it was just too late.
She nods again.
I probably just agreed to sacrifice my virginity to save Ferelden. Oops. Giggle.
Nothing says ominous better than Ser I-Always-Have-Terrible-News staring at the fire bathed in red and orange flickers of light. Ilina thinks there might as well be a sign outside the door that says "Here Be Doom – Big Surprise Right?" Despite the lack of sign, she knows that doom awaits – and doesn't it always, really? She steps through the threshold and faces it in the only way she knows how – hiding behind Alistair.
Ser-Doom, as Ilina has taken to calling Riordan, announces quietly, and bravely, that one of them has to die for the Archdemon to die. Ilina – never really all that brave – does not volunteer. She makes another tick on the "Ilina's Grey Warden Failings" list. Ser Doom-And-Gloom can just have that honor, thank you so very much. But Ser Doom-and-Gloom-We're-All-Gonna-Die -- as he's been newly dubbed – is not finished with his lovely news. Apparently, if he dies one of them must kill the demon – because only a Grey Warden can do that (after which, incidentally – ha ha – they become squishy grey matter on the ground). Of course. And she just knows Alistair better not even think about sacrificing himself because after all his "king this" and "king that" he'll be on that throne if she has to make Zevran carry him there!
So now, she's probably going to die – and Ilina isn't thinking "Oh woe is me" she thinks "Zevran can't say no to a dying woman." And she's just on her way to weep into Zev's arms –pondering how to accidently fall out of her clothes - when Madam Flashes-Her-Breasts-Around announces she has "important news".
Madam No-You-Cannot-Borrow-My-Robes waggles her hips around the room, giving point by point about something - which Ilina is not listening to because she's too busying trying to find the man that's obviously here for all that hip-swinging action. So she leans over and looks under the bed - and she's searching very carefully - and, unfortunately, that's the moment she chooses to hear Morrigan's words. Not die?
Ilina sits up a little too fast and ends up falling off the bed in a dead faint. Madam My-Breasts-Are-Bigger-Than-Yours-Haha stands there tapping her foot and looking down her nose - and Ilina looks up and wonders if she can use magic to make the nasty witch's eyes cross like that permanently.
Alistair is pacing back and forth.
Ilina is watching with just her eyes.
Hilde sits next to her, watching the pacing with her whole head.
Ilina begins to count the number of times Alistair stops and says, "Harpy"
She's at fourteen.
Alistair looks at her with the most terrified expression, and Ilina has no idea what to say because she is usually hiding behind him. And it feels almost like it was in the beginning when he looked to her for every decision and she wanted to stomp and cry and hide under Hilde until someone made the bad men go away.
"Her breasts are nice," Ilina offered helpfully.
Ilina wonders whether to count when Hilde uses the word.
Alistair sweeps his hand through his hair and closes his eyes. "One of us dies, or demon god baby enters the word. Lovely choices, Mouse."
Ilina doesn't point out that Madam Lies-Her-Pants-Off said the baby would be normal. "Probably Riordan," she responds. She didn't add that Ser-Doom-Gloom-Certain-Death-Incoming seems to want the duty.
"Well it could be worse." She tries once more to be helpful. When Alistair looks at her with a raised brow she says, "I'm just saying." And she's not sure if death is actually worse.
If she casts a wider view over the situation, it might seem cruel to ask Alistair to do You-Know-What with Madam-Kill-You-While-You-Sleep at the same time she tries and get Zevran into bed. She, however, does not feel very much guilt these days. The man has avoided sleeping with her for days.
Zevran is standing by the fire and he does not look ominous at all; he looks heartbreaking. And Ilina's heart is breaking. Depending on Alistair, she will probably die when they reach Denerim. Hopefully, she'll die with a smile.
She stands there, memorizes every inch of him and closes her eyes, the image locked away forever – a treasured keepsake. She opens her eyes again and he is looking at her, head tilted towards the fire. She wonders what he is trying to figure out.
"Hello." Her voice is soft, waiting.
She looks at her foot and draws little circles in the stone with the toe, clasping her hands behind her back. "Lovely weather we're having." She looks up. Is he smiling?
She moves into the room a touch, her foot gets caught in the carpet and, because her hands are behind her back, they are not quick enough to stop her fall. She lands on her nose with a big crack. Ow Ow Ow!
Zevran is cursing and carrying her to the bed, but she is already healed. He sighs. "Two broken noses in a week. Probably not notable except..."
She nods, tears in her eyes. Except I did it to myself and Alistair, she finishes silently. She wipes her nose smearing blood across her cheek. When he tries to wipe her cheek she pulls back, a little angry.
"It's because I'm like this, isn't it?" She sniffles, feeling more tears. Number five hundred sixty three on Ilina's Grey Warden Failings: crying.
Zev brushes her hand away from her face and rips some yellow fabric from the bottom of her robe. He uses it to wipe her face.
"This one is my favorite!" She cries harder. "You could have used that." She points at the linen shirt he wears. Her cries reduce to hiccupping sobs, her face a blotchy patchwork of red. The slow drip from her nose was being wiped away by her sleeve and crusting on her cheek next to the blood. "Why don't you want to have sex with me?" She wails again.
Zev smiles and tries to hide it under a hand, but she sees. It starts the sobbing all over again.
He moves to a water basin and takes off his shirt.
Her crying stops.
The hiccups start.
Zevran Aranai is caught between laughter and sorrow. He turns to the cause of his turmoil with a soaked shirt and closes his eyes, tucking this memory into a treasured keepsake box of other images.
She is staring at him – his wide-eyed doe. Her favorite robe is faded yellow from so many washes over the last year, and it is so prim and proper it reaches right to her neck and down to her feet (it's secretly his favorite too). Her hair is so many shades of mess and color that he can't tell the difference between tendrils and fabric. Her face is a quilt of mottled pink rashes and her eyes are nearly scarlet. A hiccup wracks her body, her shoulders rise with it.
Maker help him, he wanted to kiss her.
Her eyes are on his chest and she licks her lips. His smile is rueful as he moves to her and lifts her chin up to clean her face, she rises to her knees. "I'm sorry, little mage. I've been…a fool…" His breath is slow, but his heart pumps like a hunted rabbit. "…love is not something easy for an assassin." He pauses and looks into her eyes. "And I do love you."
She nods and hiccups.
"I have said I love you, Ilina."
"Uh huh." She presses her lips inside her mouth, waiting for him. He's so stunned he doesn't even tell her that her face is clean, simply stares.
"I…but you do not sound surprised." His hands fall to his sides and he looks at her in question.
"Oh" She sits back on her heels."Well goodness, you'd almost have to, wouldn't you?" Her head tilts. "I mean, I wondered for a while, but really no one suffers that much indignity for just sex. And you pretty much take your life in your hands doing that with me." She sighs heavily.
He takes his life…
He does kiss her then; grabbing her arms and capturing her lips with demanding passion.
She is trying to talk as he trails kisses down her neck. His lips locate the small jump of her pulse just below the ear.
"Can I... oh"
His hands move to her hips, pulling them against his. He loves her even more that her body nestles so perfectly with his. Her head falls back as he moves down her neck.
"Have the…" Her fingers reach up and clasp his shoulders. "…earring now?"
He smiles against her skin, nips it between his teeth once before cupping her face between his palms and nods. As he's removing the earring from his ear, she holds out her palm looking expectant. He closes it around the jewel.
"This is like…a proposal right?" She replaces the tiny, dangling hoop and stares up at him.
He can't find a breath or even words when she looks up at him again with raised eyebrows. "If…you wish it so."
"Too bloody damn right!" She nods and brings his shirt up, beginning to blow her nose. He winces - so attuned to her foibles that he expects a trumpet sound to emerge at any moment. Zev finds himself astonished that it's just a normal sound. Then she hands him the shirt.
It's that moment that he realizes he's betrothed. He blinks a few seconds trying to absorb this information when he sees her robe fly over his head. Consider it absorbed.