rating: M

pairings: Zevran / Gen Fem PC

words: 1,557

feedback & crit: Always welcome, am constantly looking for advice on how to improve.

a/n: Written for that LJ meme. Something short and (hopefully) sweet.

She stands at the edge of the known world; vividly, she recalls telling Morrigan: if I die, it will be with honor. In the end, her bravado had been fool's words, like fool's gold - false, glittering with a promise destined to remain unfulfilled. What a child she'd been, in those days; she smiles to think of it, and that smile transforms her stern face into something wistful, soft, almost girlish again.

She exhales, and her thoughts drift away with the icy northern wind, over the crumbling ramparts and down into the stark, barren valley of Weisshaupt, over the swelling mountain peaks and back, to home. Ferelden. She misses it like a mother mourns a long-dead child; in her mind, she sees the Ferelden of twenty-five years past: a dream country of rain, fog and misty, watery memories.

And - oh. What memories. It's rare that she thinks about those days; looking back, it's like a story in a book she's read: a second-hand tale of fantastic deeds, star-crossed lovers and queens gloriously crowned. Ah, star-crossed lovers. She laughs at that, a throaty laugh that echoes around her, bitter-sounding in the darkness.

Beneath her furs, his hand curls against her skin. She smiles and reaches back. His hands are rough, scarred, callused, but they are warm and comforting here in the cold.

"Winter is coming," he says. He's never lost his accent; it hangs in the air between them and whispers of heat, blood and sand. Antiva. He's never been back, but he carries it with him always, that glittering gem of Thedas, wherever he goes.

"Winter never leaves the Anderfels," she counters, easily. She sinks back into his arms, and he gathers her close, resting his chin on her shoulder. The view from Weisshaupt Fortress is magnificent. She can see everything from every direction: a thousand miles to the west, east, north and south.

She's leaving it soon - the austere mountains, the snow-covered valleys, the stone fortress that has housed and sheltered her for over twenty years. She is not leaving by choice, but the nightmares, the whispers, have come upon her and she wishes to be buried in Ferelden. She'd left that country long ago, when it had become intolerable, full of dead things, but now she is a languishing exile; she wants to go home.

"I'll miss it this year, winter," she says, offhand, and her words nearly carry away into the wind. But he hears her, and she knows it because his hands tighten around her waist and his fingers dig into her hips, painfully.

"We'll both miss it." His breath is hot in her ear, pulsing with life, warming her skin. Her lifeblood and that's what he's always been to her, even from the beginning, even when she hadn't yet realized it. He is the blood that pumps through her heart, that forces it to beat, that wills it to live.

She turns her face back towards him, and brushes her mouth against his. He moans, softly; yes, he says against her, we'll both miss it. His hand creeps beneath her furs again, and through the velvet and silk of her dress, she feels his hand resting on her breast, possessively.

She opens her eyes wide, tilting her head back to look at the bowl-shaped sky, the eternal black rippled through with pinpricks of light. She makes a needy sound of distress in the back of her throat, a small sigh that catches and lingers on the air.

"Let's go back," she says, and he laughs against her neck, cupping her chin with his hand.

"Minx," he whispers, roughly, and like fumbling children, they descend down the steps, away from the ramparts, in from the cold. It's late, and the only company that they encounter are hallway guards that obligingly look away and the flickering torches on the stone walls.

They share a room on the southwest corner of the fortress, a beautiful room, that is warm and quiet because it's tucked away from the buffeting winds that shear through the valley. It's a room perfectly suited to the heroine of Ferelden, a sign of honor and respect among the Grey Wardens, that she should be given such a fine room, in the headquarters of her Order.

But neither of them care for that, now. He closes the door, somehow, without taking his hands off her. When they are alone, he rips the furs from her; she tears at his clothes like a wild thing, fumbling with buttons and hooks. She's naked before he is, and he pushes her down, on the fur rug beside the fire. She falls back on the soft wool, thinking - how many times have we done this...? And it never becomes tiresome. They know each other's bodies like sailors know their sea charts: backwards and forwards, intimately and perfectly. All of his scars she knows by sight and touch; her hands have learned his body by rote - every crease, muscle, wrinkle, everything, she knows it all.

The firelight throws flickering shadows across his face, illuminating him one moment and then casting him into darkness the next. He parts her legs, slowly, and she looks down to see her body golden-red, outlined by the soft firelight. She feels a slight, familiar twinge of self-consciousness, because she isn't young anymore or as firm as she'd been as a girl. But his eyes put her fears to rest: they are fire, desire, want, need. She is wet, ready; there is no foreplay tonight, and neither of them desire it. He thrusts into her quickly, and then he lets himself linger inside of her, a delicious contrast - then, then... She wraps her legs around his waist. Bliss, perfection, everything I ever wanted, are the thoughts in her mind, a litany that repeats itself over and over again.

After they're finished, they lie in damp, sweat-soaked sheets together. Her body tucks into his, naturally, as if the Maker has made her for that sole purpose. His hand strokes her hair; his fingers pull through the individual strands, absently.

"I want you to go." She turns restlessly in his arms. "Leave me to Ferelden, but can go anywhere, do anything..."

His breathing quickens; she hears it. It isn't like him to betray any outward agitation and, curious, she turns toward him.

His fingernails are digging into her shoulder, bruising her. His eyes are slits, opaque and shuttered. His jaw is set into a hard, thin line. He opens his mouth once, then closes it. In the background, the fire spits, snaps and hisses.

"You are mistaken, I think," and his voice is deceptively soft. "If you believe that, after everything, this is how it ends."

She's heard that tone a thousand times, if she's heard it once; it's the voice that he uses just before the daggers come out, before people start bleeding. It lures the prey into a false sense of safety; he'd told her that years ago, but it won't work on her, she can't let it, not tonight.

She touches his face, trailing her finger down the harsh line of his cheekbone. "I think you know what I'm offering you. Release. Freedom."

Her other hand makes an elegant looping gesture in the air, as if to punctuate her point. Her life is a series of regrets, one after the other; he's never been free of that, he should be now. "What I should have offered you in the beginning, at the start."

"Never," he interrupts her, "cast me off like a stray dog? Never." His voice is brisk, vehement, not to be denied. He takes her by the jaw, forcing him to look at her. It's rare for him to vulnerable, but he is tonight: it's late, he's tired, she can see straight through his eyes, down into the heart of him. He's worried, upset; she knows that he doesn't want to let her go - she's all that he has, everything, the only thing.


"Don't." He puts his hand over her mouth. His skin feels hot, feverish. He pulls her close to him and kisses the nape of her neck. He is shaking, she realizes, she's hurt him. She realizes something else too, with his arms around her and his mouth murmuring threats and violent endearments into her hair: they are entwined, fused, a single organism - one soul, one consciousness, all parts essential for continued function, cut out the brain and the heart would wither and die too. She has no right to ask him to stay behind: neither of them can bear the parting now, she knows, they would be useless without each other, like organs deprived of a body in which to shelter them.

They lapse into silence. Neither speaks; they don't have to. She stays in his arms; she lets him stroke, touch and cosset her. After, later, she tells him that she loves him, not with words but with her body, rising up on top of him, staring into his eyes, feeling the weight of their years together; not a regret that, not at all.

The fire dies, after some hours, and when the room falls into blackness, a midnight gloom, he speaks.

"At dawn, then."

She nods, her ears rubbing against his rib cage. From the start, she knew this was coming, the end: and, yet...

"Yes," she replies, "we'll leave at dawn."