Title: Shades of Grey
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: None.
Word Count: 2400 words.
PC: Fem!Amell Warden, deceased.
Pairing: Zevran/Alistair.
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.
Notes: I want to thank everyone for reading and enjoying this story! I hope that the ending is suitable, as I rather like it myself. If you are looking for more Alistair/Zevran stories, please keep me in mind, as I am particularly fond of the pair and I will certainly be writing more about them in the future. I haven't yet decided if there will be a direct sequel, but there will at least be more Zev/Alistair fics from me later.

Once again, thank you so much for staying with me throughout this journey, and enjoy the ending! I think you all deserved it for sticking with me and supporting me. Special thanks go out to Tasmen and TheLiterator (of Swooping_Is_Bad), as well as taisin (of the zevran LJ community), for their assistance in the writing of this story.

As always, if you enjoyed reading this story, please remember to review (constructive criticism welcome).

[[ ... Pre-Chapter ... ]]

The tent was quiet as she eased out of it, and for a moment, she turned, looking back at the sleeping body laying so easily in the roll they normally shared. She swallowed, then let the flap fall behind her as she made her escape. She would just go, she had decided. There was no need for either of them to go with her. She would go, and Alistair would live to lead the Wardens.

Sten, Shale and her hound awaited her, the three she knew wouldn't try to stop her. Anyone else was a liability. Then that hand caught her wrist, and her eyes closed for a heartbeat before she turned to face him. Her Antivan.

"It will destroy him."

Her heart twisted painfully in her chest, and she averted her face so that he wouldn't see her tears. She had ruined everything, and now she didn't want to face up to it. Alistair should have been king; she should have been mature enough to allow that, to let him go. Anora could have been his queen, and they would have ruled Ferelden together. She had been able to see it, to grasp the image shining so clearly before her, but she had thrust it away, clinging to her lover with a grip so tight it had spelled their doom.

"I know," she whispered, her voice cracking. His hand reached and caught her chin, pulling her face up. His expression was so serious, so unlike his normal easy-going smile. She had taken that away too. Then she hesitated, a new idea coming to her so quickly that it took her breath for a moment. "Zevran... Take care of him for me."

His dark eyes widened, and she saw him flick a glance back at the tent where he slept still. She knew he was weighing the request, trying to decide if there was something there that he could use to his advantage. He would try to stop her, she realized.

"It's all I'm asking," she whispered, knowing that it was his weakness and pressing forward ruthlessly. He had taught her how to be so cruel. He had wanted her capable of defending herself, and now she was using it to keep them both safe. She saw the moment he was going to accept, and she plunged home, sealing it. "Promise me. Promise me you'll take care of him. ... Just... just until he can do it himself."

A hesitation, but she had won. She saw it.

"I promise," he finally whispered back.

[[ ... Chapter 14 ... ]]

Four days.

Even with the healer's assistance, it was four days before Alistair could see Zevran again, before the elf was well enough to leave the Chantry. Jowan and Luthanuel had brought both Zevran's and Alistair's packs, leaving them with the commander before they headed back to the Peak. Clovis rounded up another batch of recruits- twelve more, four women in this batch- and headed back himself, but only after he was quite sure that everything had been settled.

And settling things down had not been easy.

Anora had Loren arrested, then put to death for his crimes that had all come spilling out into the light the moment he was out of his estate. He had been selling elves to the Tevinter; apparently, he had been the one to advise Loghain on how to go about it, even going so far as to introduce Loghain to his own Tevinter contacts, who had been quite happy to get access to the Alienage during the Blight. There were whispers of other things found in the estate, beings twisted by magic, apostates found screaming in cages too small for them to stand in. Always spoke of in whispers, in hushed voices that wouldn't carry down the street.

The letter had come two days ago, and Alistair had read it over and over; he could quote it, if pressed. It had detailed exactly what had been done to Zevran, it had offered an apology, as though that would ever be enough; it had offered a single piece of welcome news: that Zevran was going to be reported as a Warden, which would make him an exceptionally undesirable mark. Something else had been enclosed in it, a small glass griffon that Alistair had immediately taken a liking to, despite where it had clearly come from.

Now, he was sitting on the same damnable bench he had been sitting on for the majority of the past four days. He was turning that little piece of glass over and over in his hands, watching as it caught light, reflected it back into his eyes, and then shimmered and lost it because he kept moving it. Each tiny facet soaked up the light greedily, drinking their fill and overflowing with the excess, casting small purple and blue spots of color onto the cold stone floor of the Chantry. None of the sisters or brothers stopped to speak to him by this point; instead, they only flashed their smiles and left him to his contemplation, to the prayers he had stopped speaking aloud three days ago.

"You're a fool."

The voice made him stop, and he looked up, all at once horrified and overjoyed. Zevran looked decent, dressed in his own clothing, his hair neatly tied back from his face, the red-rimming around his eyes faded and gone. All that was left were a few bruises that Alistair could see, trailing from around his throat and down to disappear under the white fabric of his shirt. Knowing that they were there, Alistair had to forcibly resist the urge to push the other man back against the wall, to tear open that shirt so that he could see, so that he could make sure that Zevran was okay, that he was in one piece.

But that wouldn't be appropriate, and considering the cold look in the elf's face, Alistair was pretty sure that it wouldn't go over well. He forced his fingers to continue tracing over the little griffon, no matter how much they ached to be tracing the narrow lines of his lover's face instead.

"You've said that before," he replied, standing slowly. A moment passed between them, and then Zevran was the one who stepped forward, stiffly- his back must have still been aching. He took the little figurine from Alistair's hand, looking at it with a very small smile. It was a start.

"And you always prove me right." The figurine glinted in the sunlight, and then it disappeared into a pocket, though not as smoothly as it might have before the trip to Denerim. "Where have you been staying?"

Alistair drew a breath and then confessed quietly, "Down the hall." He didn't miss the sharp look that Zevran sent him, the disbelief in that elven face. He didn't meet those dark eyes, didn't want to see the doubt that Zevran held so close to himself. "I wanted to be here when they let you go." It was the truth, but he knew from the way that Zevran snorted just slightly that the elf didn't believe him. That he considered it a weak excuse.

Alistair didn't care.

"Are you ready to go home?" He asked the question tentatively, uncertain of the reaction he would get. He knew what he wanted the answer to be, but he also knew this mood that Zevran was clearly in. The elf had been close to death for two weeks. One didn't simply slip back into normal life so quickly after that.

Zevran didn't answer out loud, but he motioned for Alistair to head down the hall, and he looked away when the Warden attempted to meet his eyes, to see what he was thinking. Unable to see anyway around it, Alistair led the way, holding open the door when they reached the small room he'd been staying in. His bag was open, most of his things spilling out of it onto the floor, while Zevran's sat close to it, only having been opened long enough to pull out the clothing that the elf wore. Alistair had given it to one of the sisters, in order for Zevran to have something of his own to put on when he was released.

Now, Zevran knelt down, swept up Alistair's things in a smooth motion and then shouldered his own pouch. Alistair didn't miss the wince as the weight of it settled onto his back, the fleeting moment of remembered pain. The former prince picked up his own pack and then handed Zevran a cloak for him to wear on the road. It was one of Alistair's, since Zevran's hadn't been recovered. There was no mistaking the momentary panic on the elf's face, and Alistair swallowed back his retort, his disbelief that Zevran would read so much into such a small thing. It was a cloak, not a contract.

"There's a cold wind today. Summer is a few weeks away yet," he offered quietly, coaxing the elf into taking the cloak, into ignoring the griffon emblazoned across the back of it. He knew he was pushing too hard, too fast, but he couldn't help it. He wanted everyone who saw Zevran to know what they were getting into the moment that they touched him, that they even considered harming him. He would be seeing shadowy figures in the crowds for some years to come, he was certain.

A moment, and then Zevran took the cloak, letting it fall over him in voluminous folds. It was too big, and Alistair busied himself with his swordbelt, needing something to focus on. It was all too fresh, the blinding panic, the rage at knowing that someone had dared to take Zevran right out of Warden company-

"Where did everyone go?"

"Teagan had to return to Rainesfere. I'm to send word of your recovery before we leave Denerim." A sharp tug, and then he threaded the leather band through the buckle. "Clovis took a batch of recruits back with Jowan and Luth for another Joining. If they make it, he'll be taking Julien and leaving us before we return. When we get back, it will be only Fereldans there." He couldn't hide the note of pride at the thought, at knowing that they might have an order of their own people once again. He knew that all the Wardens were outside of their own country, that they ceased to be Fereldan the moment they joined, and yet... one couldn't hide their blood. Yes, he was a Warden, but he was a Fereldan in his heart.

He lifted his head as he tugged on his cloak, and at Zevran's expression, he realized his mistake. His Antivan was looking away, a sad smile visible despite the angle. Alistair couldn't help it, couldn't stop his hand from reaching out, from cupping that bruised face and forcing him to look up. "Zevran," he said softly, searching momentarily for the right words. He needed this to be right. "You are one of us. You always will be. The moment you took that oath to her-"

"You know she released me from that oath long before we ever reached Redcliffe." Dark eyes cut over toward him, and Alistair smiled faintly, lifting a shoulder in a slight shrug. His hand fell away, and he was pleased when Zevran continued to look at him, not letting his face turn away again.

"Doesn't surprise me," he finally said, returning the gaze easily enough. "She was Fereldan, through and through. An oath given at swordpoint is no oath at all."

"I will never understand you Fereldans. You are the only people in the world who think such things."

"It's true though. There's nothing strange at all about it. An oath of loyalty given at swordpoint is only good as long as the sword is there." He hesitated for a moment, trying to judge Zevran's mood, trying to figure out exactly how to word it for the other man. "Just like being a Warden. It's only offered to those deserving, not just to those about to die. If we did only pick those about to die, then we would have ranks full of deserters the moment something better came along."

Zevran reached up and lightly rubbed the material of Alistair's cloak between his fingers. He was pointedly looking down at it, instead of at the blond he was standing with. "I am no Warden, Alistair," he said quietly. There was no laughter in his voice, no smile on his lips. Slowly, it dawned on the Warden exactly what Zevran was saying, and then Alistair's hands were on him, the former prince trying to shake sense into his lover.

Alistair's mouth went dry. "You are a Warden in every way except that you have not been Joined. Is that what you want? To go through a Joining?" He couldn't prevent the fear in his voice as he looked at the elf, trying to figure out the answer before it came. He didn't want to lose Zevran, and that was a very real possibility if he went through it.

"No." Dark eyes finally lifted up to look at him. But the mask was up, and the Warden couldn't read what he needed to out of them. It made him want to shake the other man all over again, injured as he had so recently been or not. "I don't want to trade the Crows for the Wardens. I am ... enjoying being my own man," the elf finally added, looking away again. "And odd as it might be, I like where I am. I like being able to choose. Besides," and there it was, that smile, "it's not like you'll ever learn to be on your own. You'll always need me to watch out for you."

Alistair pulled him close, crushing him with a bear hug. His relief was evident in his face, and he didn't want Zevran to see how much that meant to him. He wasn't sure he would be able to withstand the teasing that would inevitably stem from it. "We are happy to have you," he said softly, his eyes closing. His mouth was scarcely an inch from the top of the elf's head; he was breathing in deeply Zevran's scent, ignoring the underlying Chantry herbs.

"And here I am," Zevran murmured, his arms raising to lightly return the hug, "happy to be had."

"I tried to downplay it, with a bet about us
you said that you'd take it
as long as I could, I could not erase it.

You could taste heaven, perfectly
feel out the summer breeze
didn't know when we'd be back
and I, I don't- didn't- think
we'd end up like, like this."

-"Sorta Fairytale," by Tori Amos.

Disclaimer: I own neither Dragon Age: Origins, nor "Sorta Fairytale," by Tori Amos. I make no money from these writings.