Linger

Rating: T, sexual innuendo, slight violence.

Pairing: Zev/Amell fluff

Summary: You would learn from him how to mask what you felt, and to keep on smiling. But one close brush with death, and you crumble.

Companion/contrast piece to Tremble

A/N: For Lit. Who wanted Zevran whump.

--

It was in the Wilds when you stumbled across the ogres. Exhausted from the aftermath of an encounter with a Revenant, you were unprepared for the roar and the sudden barrage of rocks around you. It was chaos and noise, as one of the boulders struck your shoulder, sent your body towards the unforgiving ground. There was a moment of stunned breathlessness, before your hand found grip again around the staff, and you willed yourself to pull together the broken parts of your body and fight.

The elder mage was there, summoning lightning and casting glyphs. There was the Fade creeping around you, smoky tendrils at you feet, that irresistible call. Easy to let go, easy to allow them to take you. This battle you fought each and every time, the tattered Veil blown back, the chilled caress of a demon's touch. You felt the exhaustion pressing against your bones. You held all of them up, told them to flank or to charge, sent them circling or to counter, but who was there to hold you?

And it was then that your focus slipped, the fire cupped in hand charred only trees and brush, harmless against their foe. The ogre screamed triumphant, grasped the assassin by his waist, and raised him towards the sky.

--

He had fallen there at their feet. The force of Leliana's arrow had struck him in the shoulder, the wound seeping blood. The inclination of his head said deference, but the raise of his chin spoke of defiance. It was supposed to be an ambush, but the attempt was clumsy and obvious, with their strength overcoming surprise.

There was something in the assassin's face. Unafraid and challenging, offered only honeyed words and smiles through the pain. It was something that you would learn from him. How to mask what you felt, and continue smiling.

--

The ogre tossed his body into the air. He seemed so fragile, flying. You fumbled, the last drop of mana draining, and it was Alistair who knocked him out of the monster's grasp. The elf's body followed a graceful arc and landed in heap against some stones. You could not help the gasp as you rushed towards him, even as the ogre's great body teetered to the side and fell to the earth with a great crash behind you.

He was unconscious, blood woven into his tangled hair. You quickly assessed him, hands moving over his body, drew a harsh breath at the damage found there. There was darkness that was seeping into his armor, his knee that was bent at an awkward angle. But you were not a healer, and you could not help him, and you hurt with it, the knowledge that for all of your magics you were useless against such a simple thing.

It was Leliana that led you away from him as Wynne took him into her care.

--

You allowed him to join you in your tent that one night. Lulled into security by the peaceful fire, by the easy promise of warm flesh against yours. You meant to be playful, in response to his teasing, when you shared a bottle of a rare found vintage in a chest somewhere. The alcohol had gone singing down your throat, made sounds strangely muffled, heat curling your toes, his eyes startling bright in the darkness.

The universe tipped a little, when he kissed you.

You could not remember laughing so much. He made you feel beautiful, as he appreciated each curve, murmured lavish compliments into your ear. There were trysts in the tower, but nothing like this, and it was impossible to remember the clumsy gropings of the young mages when his touch was expert and his tongue even more so.

--

You paced and paced, footprints leaving scuff marks in the dirt, scuff marks grew to tracks. Your dog whined at your side, begging for a pat or a scratch behind the ears.

Wynne had told you that she mended what she could. The broken leg, several shifted ribs, and more bruises, cuts along his back. The mage was worried, shaking her head. "I do appreciate your efforts in attempting to find my old apprentice," she told you. "But with the army to assemble at Redcliffe…"

He was half sitting up when you were allowed to enter. When you saw him, bandaged and broken and pale, the tears came. You had many curses for yourself during those long hours of waiting, that it was your fault that you slipped, if your aim was a bit truer, if you did not hesitate.

You had asked for his affection, once, and he declined the offer. That little flare of hope inside of you, the little growing spark, had been snuffed just as quickly as it grew. But you burned for him, for those small, meaningless things: the way he looked when you handed him a pair of supple Dalish gloves, how he grinned when you brought him that pair of Antivan doeskin boots. What hesitant surprise he had in his voice when you gave him gifts, and what joy it brought you. You learned to smile and to grin and to smile even when it hurt you, when he shared your bed and warmed your body, licked all sorts of patterns down your stomach, tattooed the feel of his fingers clutching your skin. When you had to pretend that he was a simple tryst, that he didn't wring out your heart each time you let him groan his release against your neck.

--

"These tears, dear warden," he said. "Unexpected. You honor me."

He coughed then, a sound that shook his entire body, but he could still smile, which angered and concerned you both. You wondered if he would ever reveal what he truly felt, if he would be honest with you just once, with all of those words that you wanted to say to him, instead of only those jesting words, his flippant tone.

Concern won out over the anger. You knelt down beside him, unable to keep the distance between you as he reached up, fingers wiping away those stray tears. Memories overwhelmed you, the heavy burden of the months upon months when you were rushed from the only home you knew, the tower that both trapped and protected. When he gifted you in return after the events with Taliesin, when you were afraid he would turn, doubts upon doubts building in your mind. Your relief when he did not.

His touch lingered at the earring that you wore. He turned you away, once, from his bed, left you shaking and wanting and wondering. Left you raging with frustration, but knew you would return, because you dangled yourself over such a precipice, that to live with or without him was unbearable suffering.

This was the first time he has touched you since then.

--

"I am not worthy of your tears," he sighed. Your hand tightened on the corner of your robe, twisted.

"Don't." You managed one word. He searched your face, questioning. You drew back like a child, even as you fought with your desire to sob in relief that he was alive.

"I have been…different, haven't I?" He ventured hesitantly. You attempted some careless remark, to try to show that he hasn't affected you as much, but your own words failed you with a stutter.

He shifted a little and grimaced, and you pretended you did not notice even if the thought of him hurt pained you.

"All I know is how to kill," he said. "I have been told time and time again not to expect more, to take what little I can."

"I only know the illusion of love and then how to train my heart so that I would feel nothing for a kill, but you…You make me sentimental, make me weak, all those things they warned me against."

He drew you down next to him, and you did not fight. You felt dizzy from expectation, from these things your assassin confessed, what you dared not question and confirm for fear that this moment would escape you.

"You make me a failure, in all things that I strive for. You saved me and you bound me to you." He chuckled then, the sound familiar to you, like the caressing touch of soft fur. It was both mocking and honest, all at once.

"I am yours," he said against your hair. "I have told you time and time again…if you would have me." It was a request, a confirmation, and you turned to him.

"Is this another one of your promises?" Your lips meeting his in a kiss that still made the world spin, even after all this time.

"Yes, beloved. This is my oath."

And you grinned against his lips, in spite the Blight, the taint, and what awaited you. He was the one who held you up while darkspawn fell all around you, and he was the reason for your smiles.