Title: Shades of Grey
Story Rating: M (mature). NSFW (not safe for work) due to sexual content in chapters five, seven, and eight, and for torture in chapters eleven and twelve.
Chapter Rating: T (teen).
Chapter Content Notes: Mention of character death.
Word Count: 1794 words.
PC: Fem!Amell, deceased.
Spoilers: End-game spoilers. Set post game.
Summary: She made him swear to keep Alistair on his feet until he could stand alone. Maker help him, Zevran will honor that final promise, even if it kills him.
[[ ... Pre-Chapter ... ]]
The sunlight had been so sweet the day she had left the tower; it had kissed her face, caressed her shoulders. Duncan hadn't hurried her, but he'd smiled as she stood there, holding out her arms to let the sun touch her. The sunlight wasn't as sweet now, on the road into Denerim, but it was warm and she was grateful for it. She was glad that at least something would be with her that had seen her through the whole thing.
She could have brought Alistair, but he wouldn't have understood. He was needed; she was not. The choice was clear, but it was one that he couldn't make. It was why she hadn't allowed him to be named king. She tossed the dagger in her hand, feeling the weight of it.
No one knew. No one but Alistair, and he wasn't there to stop her. The moment stretched, and then she began to run, closing the distance. The beast couldn't escape her; it wasn't even trying to. It didn't really believe that she was ready to die, or it didn't understand the gravity of what would happen if she did kill it. There would be no transference of soul, no switching of bodies, no escape.
The dragonbone blade sank in, glowing a brilliant blue as it pierced the thick hide of the dragon. She felt the light flood through her, felt a fire unlike anything she knew burning its way through her. It was over; it was just beginning.
[[ ... Chapter 1 ... ]]
The celebrations had been the worst. Everyone was cheering and all their group could manage were pained smiles. Shale had the easiest time leaving, and Zevran couldn't help but wonder if that was part of the reason Wynne had so easily fled with her. They had escaped the most painful part of it all: being told over and over again that they were all heroes, when each of them knew the terrible truth. They were not heroes; they had all only been there to support the true hero among them.
Sten had been as impassive as ever, no expression on his face as he watched the cheering masses. Oghren had managed to drink himself into a stupor each night with all of the spirits flowing so freely in Denerim. All thoughts about those had died were flooded with liquor, as though it would solve the problem, ease the ache of so many losses. Of course, all it really did was buy time.
No one knew where Morrigan had disappeared to, but she hadn't been at the final stand with them. Someone claimed to have seen her leaving the night before, sneaking out into the darkness. Whatever she had been biding her time for had clearly come and gone, and she left the group to their own devices. No matter her claims of friendship and sister-hood. She had taken everything of hers, except for a small golden mirror, which had been placed with the Warden and her hound, sealed away with trinkets and tokens from each of them.
Leliana had been swept away by the Chantry, and before the parties had even really started, she was gone. Word trickled back that she was overseeing the development and restoration of Andraste's tomb. Haven was being rebuilt, the last remnants of their cult destroyed. Soon, the Chantry would have a powerful tool at their disposal. Provided that they could control Leliana, of course. The spirit guarding the ashes only trusted her, from what Zevran had understood of the gossip.
That left two of them. The Crow and the Templar, the Antivan and the Fereldan, the assassin and the prince. Former prince. He managed a smile at Anora, who looked distinctly uncomfortable speaking with him instead of with Alistair. However, if she wanted anything to do with the Wardens, she couldn't blatantly show her dislike of their companions, even one as ... unusual as himself. He rather enjoyed making her uncomfortable, purposely misunderstanding some of her phrases as flirts when he knew full well what she actually meant.
Days of feasts, of drink, of cheer. When he realized he couldn't do it any longer, he went to Alistair, and they both simply stared at each other. In a no nonsense tone, he said softly, "I am coming with you." Alistair had not said a word, simply stood and left the room, brushing past him. He had pointedly ignored the heat that even the casual contact had sparked. It had been too long, if something so innocent could cause a reaction in him.
They had headed toward the city, a bag packed each of their things- mostly clothes- and been stopped by the guards. Anora had wished to see them before they left. Frustrated beyond belief at the sheer number of hoops they had to go through, they had allowed themselves to be escorted back. Anora had met with them, offered them her support, her pledge of loyalty for their service to her throne. She had been looking at Alistair as she spoke, clearly meaning for this to be the olive branch between them. It had been impolitic, but Zevran had been forced to step in when Alistair made it clear he wasn't speaking with Anora.
He had accepted her help gracefully in the Warden's stead, pushing it further by asking exactly what she intended to commit to their cause. It seemed that no one remembered that Zevran was not, actually, a Warden. He was the one speaking; he was their face for now. The true Warden stood behind him impassively, not arguing, not contradicting him. In the end, they managed to get twenty-five men, and servants to help carry enough supplies for them all. The servants were to be sent back whenever they got to where they were going. Zevran thought this more than fair.
By the time that they were on horseback- another gift, all a lovely matching grey except for Alistair's, a spirited black stallion- and leaving Denerim, it was easier to breathe. The winds blew through long blond hair, causing it to strike his face, stinging as he twisted in the saddle to look back at the men behind them. He blew out a deep breath, a frown touching his face as he nudged his horse into catching up with Alistair. He still had not spoken since the memorial.
He didn't need to say anything to the Antivan though. Zevran already knew where he would go: she had told him. Soldier's Peak was operational, able to support the number of men they were bringing back, and Wardens from Orlais were going to be meeting them there now that Loghain was not blocking their access to Ferelden. It was as she had imagined, as she had whispered in the dead of night when she couldn't sleep.
He had never told her how much it broke his heart to lay beside her, to see her so animated and lively when she spoke about the future. Somehow, she made the idea of staying with the Wardens alluring, tempting. Her eyes had sparkled, no matter how trite that sounded. She lived for the future, for their future. For her, her assassin, and-
He looked under his lashes at the third member of that dream. Her lover. Alistair.
The ride to Soldier's Peak was a long one, and Zevran didn't need to be reminded that it had been a long time since he'd been atop a horse. By the time they got there, he'd be lucky to be able to walk, let alone try to clean Alistair up and get him on his feet again. Why had he allowed her to sway him? Had it been the tears in her eyes? The soft quaver in her voice? He couldn't remember, but it was done. He had promised. No one, not even Alistair himself, would make a liar out of him.
"Perhaps, Alistair," he called out, knowing that the two of them were far enough ahead that none of the youths with them could over hear, "we should plan on breaking this ride up? Some of the recruits-"
"Coddle them if you like; I don't care." Alistair's first words since the memorial were low and gruff, the voice speaking them alien to the Antivan's ears. It was painful, and all at once Zevran was shocked at the surge of anger he had toward the other man. Did the former prince think that he was the only one who lost anything? Did he imagine that no one else had sacrificed anything for the woman who had left them both?
His jaw clenched, and he was careful not to let himself reveal the depths of this new anger. Sparks had always flown between the two of them, but there had been no true hatred; only lack of trust. Now, the elf was wondering if perhaps there was more on Alistair's end than he had originally imagined. Was this truly a fool's errand? Had her death destroyed all of the Alistair that they had known?
Hours stretched, and Zevran waited patiently. Just as he was about to give up, he saw it: a flicker on that impassive face. One of the men behind them had been leading the others in some sort of bawdy song, and neither Alistair nor Zevran had the heart to destroy what good cheer they had. It would be taken away soon enough, as every one of them were pledged to the Wardens. The flicker had been a smile at the rightness of it all.
He belonged here, leading these men on their matching grey horses; he belonged in a leadership position. The one he'd been born for had been taken away, given up by him in order to be with a woman who-
No, that was unfair. Neither of them had possessed any idea of the sacrifice necessary to end the Blight. Neither of the Wardens had known that only one would walk away from the fight. Only one could go ... home. Soldiers' Peak. The new base for the Wardens of Ferelden.
The air was getting cold again; winter would be hard. Harder because of the Blight, because of the loss over the land. He wouldn't be able to leave before winter, so he would have to spend it with these men. Dark eyes looked back at the figure in armor, his brother in arms. Fereldans were a strong people. They had to be in order to live here. They would survive, and they would recover, of this he was certain.
He continued to study the one Fereldan in particular that he was to look after. He only cared about this one, about getting Alistair through this grief that seemed to wrack every memory that fluttered over that face.