Title: Binding Souls

Rating: T

Warnings: implied sexual themes, blood

Summary: Kailain is ill. Her soul is being sucked into the Fade. The only way for her to be saved is for one of the members of her party to give up half of their soul and be bound to her forever. Which one will make the sacrifice? Zev/Mahariel

Author's Note: This is a one shot and won't be continued. Thank you for reading. I appreciate it.

Binding Souls

Her breathing was labored. She drew in harsh, rasping breaths that sounded more like moans of agony than actual breathing. A wetness gargled in her lungs with each intake of sick air. It was the only sound in the huge tent other than the bubbling of Wynne's cauldron. Alistair could barely take the sound. He wiped away the sweat on her brow as it had been repeatedly collecting all over he body for the last five days. She was soaked to the bone in that cold sweat and shivering convulsively, as if she was suffering seizures. The elf was very sick.

Wynne stirred her pot, the other hand hovering over the elf's shuddering chest while she chanted her magic words. The blue magic in her hand threw a sickening light that made Kailain's skin even more pallid looking. Another wet breath racked her, and she struggled in pulling through. Wynne's chanting increased, and the elf breathed easier, if only just.

Zevran sat outside the tent, rythmically sharpening his blade and singing in a soft, low Antivan tune. Leliana paced, snapping at Zevran's cheerful mood whenever his singing became too loud. Alistair wiped Kailain's brow again, holding her hand and caressing the top with his thumb. She shuddered and moaned, clawing with her left hand at the table.

Morrigan entered the tent, a pot of boiling water in hand. She promptly dumped it into the cauldron and shot a glance at the Warden. "'Tis not much better than the last I checked. Her fever worsens, Healer."

"I am quite aware of that, Witch, thank you. Healing is not an easy art; in fact, it is done much easier in quiet," Wynne snapped, her concentration slipping. Kailain gasped, and Wynne turned her gaze on the warden again. "I cannot leave her for more than a few seconds, else she begins to drown in her own sickness. Nothing I do seems to help. It is the best I can do to keep her heart beating."

"Then 'tis best you keep it beating, no? We move again in the morning, closer to the Dalish. The Warden once told me that her keeper knew magic. We will take her there."

Alistair stood up. "That is a good idea." He glanced at Wynne. "It's too hot in here, and I'm out of cold water. I need to go to the lake, Wynne." The healer ignored him, continuing her chanting with more vigor. She, too, was covered in a fine sheen of sweat highlighted by the dull blue fire burning beneath the cauldron.

Alistair exited the tent, pleasure flowing through his bones as the cool night air touched his sweaty skin. The tent was indeed too warm. Zevran looked up from his blade sharpening, eyeing Alistair with apparent curiosity. Alistair hadn't left the Warden's side since she'd fallen ill. "She does not improve, I see. How odd that she would be cut down not by the Archdemon, but by a sickness no one can identify."

Leliana's eyes blazed. "You do not know that, Zevran! She will live, I swear it. If we have to cut your cold heart from your chest and place it in hers, she will live!"

Zevran smirked. He moved the tip of his sharpened blade until it was hovering just over his 'cold' heart and said, "Do it, then. If it will save her, I would gladly cut out my heart."

"If you care," Leliana continued, unmoved, "then stop acting like you don't. Your poor thoughts will not improve her condition."

"And neither will your arguing," Alistair cut in. "The nights are the hardest on Wynne, and she needs silence to keep Kailain even breathing."

Leliana collapsed next to the fire, her head in her hands. "Why do you come from the tent, Alistair?" Zevran inquired, beginning to sharpen his blade again. "Did you need something?"

"Yes," replied the Grey Warden coldly. "Fresh air and more water for Kailain." Alistair left with rattling armor, off to the lake they seemed to live by. Zevran watched until he was gone and then laid his blades on the dirt, slipping inside the tent.

The heat hit him first. Humidity mixed with hot air and warmth from the fire caused a sweat to break out on his Antivan sun-kissed skin. A flowery smell floated through his nostrils. He could taste salt on his tongue.

Kailain's condition was more severe than he thought. She looked worse than when he'd seen her a week or so ago, mumbling incoherently and covered with sweat. Now, she was unconcious, clearly in pain, and paler than he thought possible for a Dalish elf. She was already fair skinned. The lack of color made her appear...dead.

Wynne didn't register his entry, so enveloped in her chanting and stirring. He watched as she placed more rose petals in the water. Ah, so that was the smell. It was an old recipe he knew, meant to drive out evil spirits and replenish the soul. Clearly, he thought, it wasn't working. Kailain looked only moments from death.

She was so feverish when he touched her, Zevran nearly jumped back in alarm. Her flesh burned his hand like fire. Indeed she was incredibly strong willed to have lived so long. He spotted a wet rag on the raised platform she laid upon and grabbed it to run along her jaw and forehead.

"Zevran...?" she mumbled, shivering and drawing in another one of those rattling breaths that made Zevran's chest hurt. He shushed her and dipped the rag back into a bucket of room temperature water, brushing her arms and neck with it.

"Zevran," Wynne called for him, snapping him out of his enchanted state. He glanced up at her lined face. "Grab that bucket and dip it into the cauldron. It only looks boiling, it won't hurt your hands. Wipe her skin with that."

The assassin snatched the bucket, dumping the cooled water into another cauldron before sinking it into the boiling one until the bucket was full. True enough, the water did not burn his hands. It was strangely cool, almost cold, as he pressed the rag into it and began to rinse her neck and face again. She moaned and arched her back, jaw clenched. Wynne rushed over, chant changing into a rapid one that sounded like spitting fire. Kailain calmed down immediately.

Outside, Morrigan was pacing around her own fire. She plopped down beside it, taking a vial of blood and mixing it with another. Leliana did not know what she was experimenting with, but it gave her a chilled feeling in her bones. The witch was not to be trusted. Of course, Leliana believed in second chances, but Morrigan had yet to use her first one up. It was only a matter of time.

They made it through the night. The next day, they moved to a more remote spot closer to the Brecilian Forest. It was the prospect of moving Kailain, who was doing slightly better after the sun touched her, that brought about a fight. Wynne argued that they couldn't move her; she could go into shock.

"What would you propose we do?" Morrigan asked disdainfully. "How else will we get the Keeper to heal her?"

"We moved her this morning. It's too much stress on her body. Her heart struggles now to beat!"

"It's been struggling since she's fallen ill, however long ago that was! You are tired, old woman, and becoming delirious yourself!"

Alistair had tired of listening to them. Taking his own initiative, he'd lifted her into his arms, her breathing wracking him to the core, and began the short journey to the camp. When Wynne felt her patient being led away, she ran to catch up to them, yelling at Alistair all the while for taking such a stupid risk. Morrigan, to Alistair's displeasure, approved.

The keeper, Lanaya, was startled to say the least. She met them, instructing Alistair to take the fallen Dalish to a tent on the far side of camp. They had very little magic, with Zathrian dead, but she promised she would try to heal Kailain. But Wynne and Lanaya's magic was not enough. Kailain continued to burn with fever, continued to cry out at night in pain, continued that raspy breathing.

So the group set off in the morning for their camp by the lake. Kailain seemed to recover slightly, so the trek to the camp was not so threatening to her life. Still, no other improvements showed.

That night, Alistair began to notice the subtle changes in Zevran. His eyebrows were constantly drawn together. He no longer sang in his cheery tunes, no longer sharpened his blade. Leliana could not even chide him, as miserable as he was. When Alistair left the tent, Zevran would always sneak inside to get a quick look at Kailain. He wiped her sweaty flesh and kissed her forehead before taking his usual place by the fire to sit and brood.

Then, Alistair began to notice Wynne's changes. They were not so subtle. Her old bones cracked when she moved. Fatigue laced her face and eyes, thick black shadows swallowing the iris. She panted with exhaustion, her chants becoming slurred and inprecise. Sometimes, sparks would shoot from her hands or her staff, and Alistair knew she was messing up something. Kailain slipped evermore into darkness. Day by day, Alistair knew he was losing her. The rose he'd given her wilted and became weathered.

He was not the only one who noticed these changes about Wynne. Morrigan watched like a hawk. When Alistair came out of the tent, she commented on it. "The Warden's heart barely beats now. The old woman grows weaker. I see 'twill not be a matter of time before the Warden gives out, but until Wynne does."

"She is dying, then?" Zevran asked from the ground, stealthily getting to his feet.

"Yes," Morrigan said with a raised brow. "You knew that from the beginning, yet you've let yourself become attached to her. Foolish thing to do, assassin."

Leliana padded over silently, arms crossed. "But you have a plan, don't you? I can see it in your eyes."

Morrigan addressed Alistair, "When the old woman collapses, come get me immediately. Your speed with determine if the Dalish elf lives or dies." With that, she was gone in a sweep of black robes and fluttering feathers.

"Can we trust her?" Leliana asked.

"Mages are not to be trusted," Sten offered from afar. It was the first thing he had said to them. He only spoke to the Warden, usually.

"Trust or no trust," Alistair said to them all, "Morrigan has a plan to save Kailain. The person who offered Sten a second chance before getting his sword back, who saved Leliana from Marjolaine, and spared Zevran even after he tried to kill her. If there's a chance she doesn't have to leave us, that we don't have to lose her quite so soon, I think we should take it." He reentered Kailain's tent to keep an eye on Wynne.

It was not long before Wynne collapsed. Zevran had just entered the tent, the first time he and Alistair had been in there together. Wynne stumbled on her words and lost her footing. The light in her hand sputtered and died out. Kailain immediately began convulsing and her breathing turned much worse. Zevran caught Wynne before she hit the ground and yelled for Alistair to fetch Morrigan.

Morrigan was a the entrance to the tent flap in a split second, conjuring a ball of black, licking shadows into her hand and placing them over the Warden's heart, drawing another, less sickly breath from her.

"Get out! Both of you!" she hissed at Zevran and Alistair. Alistair carried Wynne to her tent and then sat by the fire, by Zevran.

Zevran toyed with his blade, a nervous attitude he had. He'd never seen the rogue's blades so sharp and clean. Maybe Kailain should get sick more often, Alistair thought, if it gets him to sharpen every blade in camp.

It was hours and hours of endless waiting before Morrigan exited the tent, wiping blood that was not her off her hands. She tossed a bloody rag into the fire where it exploded in a flash of green light. She held her hands up and gestured for Zevran and Alistair to come to her.

In a huddle by the tent flap, the three of them spoke. Morrigan explained the situation. "I was able to save her in time. Her heart beats, though with the aid of my magic, and will stop should I perish or otherwise end my influence. The old woman is not as versed in the old magic as I am. In the dark arts, if you would prefer," she said at the questioning look in Alistair's eyes. "I know what ails the Warden is no ordinary illness. 'Tis a curse, an ancient one that very very few know. A soul-eating curse that has no name.

"Her soul is being devoured by a blackness from the Fade itself. It keeps her unconcious so the demons of the fade can eat at her soul until the curse gone. Makes her delirious with fever and puts a horrible stress on the body. 'Tis a miracle that she has survived so long. This curse can only be cured by one thing and one thing only. I have already killed it off, with blood magic. Wynne would never have been able to cure it, for she walks a higher road than I.

"Now, 'tis only a problem with what was lost. I cannot replenish what was taken, no one can. For if something is lost, it cannot be replaced with nothing. I must have a soul to replace a soul. She has lost approximately half, enough to keep her alive but still unconcious. So, I need someone who is willing to share theirs. You both are fond of her, I know. It requires only one, however, and so you must choose. The one who does this will become bonded to her. She will share her life with him because they cannot be too far away from one another. If they are, the bond begins to fracture and it causes them pain. When one dies, the other will. This is life-changing decision, but we are short on time. So choose."

Alistair looked bewildered at the thing suddenly ask of him, but Zevran stepped forward without hesitation and said, "I will do it."

"No," Alistair said, "I will. She knows me better. Besides, is it really such a good idea for us to bond the assassin who tried to kill her to her for life?"

Zevran turned a lazy gaze on the grey warden, his smile as sharp as a razor, "Oh? Do you really think you would make a better candidate? The king's bastard is going to take care of a Dalish elf the rest of his life? I can't see it."

Morrigan held up a hand. "Zevran is right. Your path is unknown Alistair. Duty would part you and Warden. Regardless of whether or not the assassin aids us, Zevran's path is set. Even, if by some miracle, we are able to kill this archdemon, Zevran will have no place to go. If his place is by our Warden's side, then it gives him purpose."

"So we're going to let him take care of her because it gives him something to do?" Alistair sputtered, outraged.

"I have made my choice. The elf will save the Warden," Morrigan declared. She gestured for Zevran to follow her in the tent. Alistair watched with fury building behind his shaking fists.

Much later, the agony of watching his rival become bonded to the woman he'd begun to fall in love with lessened momentarily. Why? Well, because when Alistair stopped staring at the tent flap and trotted back to his place by the fire, kicking dirt and stone, he heard something. Something that brought a malicious smile to his face.

Yes, the Antivan asssassin screamed.

Morrigan watched with delight as Zevran twisted and writhed on the floor. Her hand held a part of his soul, a greenish wisp that she commanded into the pot. Hesitating to add a petal of Alistair's rose, she cut her palm and let the blood drain into the cauldron. It exploded into a powerful red light that enveloped the inside of the tent. Zevran's soul, tainted crimson with her blood magic, drifted to the dying elf on the concrete slab. Morrigan pried open the girl's mouth, and the wisp descended. As Kailain swallowed, a bright redness enveloped her body, too. She stopped breathing immediately in those shallow gasps. Morrigan felt a wholeness settle about the Warden. Completeness. The ritual was done.

Zevran got shakily to his feet and stumbled over to the Warden. "Aye aye aye, that was much more painful than I thought it would be."

"What?" said Morrigan. "You expected it to be kittens and rainbows, did you? This is blood magic. Sacrifice is necessary for power."

"Remind me to never get on your bad side, my lovely witch."

"'Tis far too late for that," she mumbled.

Zevran, feeling helplessly drained, sat by the Warden's side. The effects of Morrigan's magic were apparent. She had more color in her face. The smell of death no longer permeated the air. Those great, rattling breaths were gone, only the softness of her exhales reached his ears. She smelled greatly of the various salts and flowers used in the medicine of the mages. He touched her hand and felt warmth and life flowing through it. She was saved, it seemed.

Looking at her sweet face, Zevran felt a tenderness he'd never felt before. He finally had a home, and it was with a gorgeous woman. Life was tricky, wasn't it? Of course, he expected spending the rest of his life with her would be no easy accomplishment. Perhaps, if he played his cards right, he could become her lover. Maybe her husband. Standing beside her, watching as Kailain loved another and had another's child sent a sharp pain throug his heart. He sighed and rested his head against her bony knuckles.

He had his work cut out for him. Kailain still thought him a murderer, though she trusted him with her life. They'd talked quite a bit, but she ignored his flirtations and attempts at bedding her. Since they would be so close, maybe he could net the free spirited elf. He'd heard stories of the Dalish, and his mother was one after all. They were a free people. Kailain would not take kindly to being shackled to a city elf, and an assassin to boot. The assassin that had tried to kill her.

Outside, Leliana clapped and laughed as Morrigan told her the good news. Alistair sighed in relief, and the dog barked. He was the first to come in and sit by Zevran, giving the elf a slobbering kiss on his painted cheek. He ruffled its fur. "You will be staying by her side forever, won't you?" he asked the Mabari.

The dog gave a sharp bark that made Kailain twitch in her sleep. "You and I both my canine friend. You and I both."

Over the next few days, everyone waited with held breath to see when their Warden would awaken. Zevran seldom left her side, claiming that it gave him headaches. This was, in fact, true despite what Alistair believed. Morrigan confirmed this but seeing as how Alistair had never liked her to begin with, it didn't matter.

They camped just outside of Orzammar, in the mountains for the dwarves were the next group they needed to get the support of. When Wynne woke up, she was livid. Using blood magic! The very thought sent her into a fit of yelling and chiding and lectures that had even Alistair annoyed. But when Morrigan showed her the breathing elf on the cement block, Wynne could not protest much. The blood magic had done more for Kailain than her mundane healing powers had.

On the fifth day, Kailain opened her eyes. She felt as though burning coals were sitting on her eyelids and her throat was so dry, she could only croak for water. Zevran got her water immediately and called for Wynne. The entire camp jumped from their warm, soft tents to see that the Warden had been revived.

Kailain coughed and sputtered, drinking the water avidly until her belly bulged with it. Every bone in her body hurt. She could barely move. Fatigue made her voice slurred. She only stayed awake for twenty minutes or so before drifiting back into a fitful sleep that put everyone back on edge. Still, a small amount of relief settled over the snowy campsite. Kailain was alive and no longer suffering to such a degree. Only time would make her better.

Eight days after the ritual was over, Kailain was ready to stand. Zevran allowed her to lean on his shoulder, taking great comfort in the normal temperature of her body. He helped her out to the campfire and Leliana clapped with joy. It was a small step but a step none-the-less. Kailain stayed awake for a good portion of the night, leaning against Zevran's comforting chest as Leliana told her stories while washing her arms and legs with a small rag. Zevran's voice became a bit of a lullaby to her, listening to it revenate from his chest through her body. A soft rumble. A shaking chuckle. They made her smile and put her at ease. When she at last dosed off, it was the Antivan elf who carried her back to the tent and watched her all night.

Twelve days and Kailain could stand by herself. There was still weakness in her stance. She could lift her bow but for very short periods of time. Zevran had stayed by her side for so long, it seemed, that he became rather confused when she stopped him just before entering the woods with a fragile hand on his chest.

"Zevran, I thank you for your aid, but you simply cannot come with me to bathe," she said firmly, a blush painting her neck.

He smiled, touching a strand of her hair. "But what if you fall? Who will be there to catch you in all your naked glory? Morrigan said that we are to stay together."

A corner of her mouth tugged upwards. "Yes, but I'm sure that companionship ends here. You may wait here, if you wish, but I will be fine on my own," she mumbled embarassed. It was that embarassment, and not her weakness, that made her trip and stumble. Zevran was there to catch her, pulling her flush against his chest and grinning a triumphant 'I told you so' smile. She sputtered and tried to turn away. "T-that was not in anyway associated with my sickness. You-you make me nervous. Now go away."

Zevran gathered her clothes and soaps from the ground and offered her a gentlemanly hand. "I will guide you just to make sure you get there in one piece."

She hesitated. "I don't trust you. You won't leave; I know it."

He chuckled and the sound sent a shiver down her spine. Predatory lust played in his eyes beneath a thin veil of amusement, "My dear, I would never be so ungentlemanly as to watch you bathe if you do not want me there. Now come, I will return to camp and you may verify with Wynne that I did if it would please you."

Despite all her better judgement, Kailain set a trembling hand into his much larger one and allowed him to lead her to the lake. The moon was hung high in the sky, reflected in the placid black surface. Naked trees around told her off the season, and the water was ice cold to the touch. She shivered at the thought of dipping even a toe into it, let alone her whole body. Zevran seemed reluctant to leave her in such frozen waters. The cold could weaken her even more, leaving her vulnerable to animal attack.

Kailain sighed. "If it is really that important, you may stay. Just...don't watch me, please." Ignoring Zevran's cheeky grin, she gathered her clothes and disappeared into the trees. Zevran lay back on the frosty bank and stared into the sky.

Behind a tree, she undressed quickly feeling the wind kiss her naked flesh. The snow was cold beneath her feet, almost deathly freezing. She began to think that maybe bathing in the Frostback Mountains wasn't such a good idea. But it had been weeks since she'd last taken a real bath in a lake. Of course, she had been bathed by her female companions while unable to do it by herself, but Kailain was aching to feel really clean again. She stepped from behind the tree and did not look in Zevran's direction. He really did make her nervous.

From the corner of his eye, Zevran saw a pale, naked woman creep nervously towards the lake but shut his eyes and focused on the sound of her footsteps instead. He was a man of his word.

Kailain stuck a toe in the water and immediately wished she hadn't done so. It was ice cold. She sucked in a breath. She would have to jump. Backing up on the bank, she felt her weak body tremble already. The cold would nearly choke her. She ran.

Upon hitting the water, her body became paralyzed. A thousand tiny needles embedded themselves in her flesh. She shrieked beneath the water and swam immediately upwards. The once chilly air was now the warmest thing in the world. She paddled to the bank and began scrubbing her body with soap.

When her bath was done, she sank on the shore and shivered. "Zevran," she called and he was there in a heartbeat. To his credit, he did not look once at her naked body but at her face. "My towel is behind the tree. I...am very tired." Her fingers dug into the rock and snow, trembling. Zevran got her towel and hoisted her into his arms.

"You see?" he teased on their way back. "It is not such a bad thing to have a warm, handsome elf by your side when bathing, now is it?"

She had to agree.

Kailain grew stronger with each passing day. Her daggers moved faster and faster, beginning to once again rival Zevran. Her breathing was soft, movements quick, mind sharp. Kailain was growing back into her old self. The atrophied muscles in her calves and arms bulked up so that she was sleek and fast and just as good as before. A Grey Warden once again. That was when Alistair began visiting her again. It was unexpected when he asked Zevran to leave for a moment for the two of them to talk. Zevran was hesitant to do so, the headaches were his cause but also because he feared leaving the two of them alone. What if the old flame was rekindled? What would the Antivan elf do? But Kailain asked him kindly to leave for a few moments, and he could not refuse.

Alistair sat awkwardly on the pillow in her tent. Though she had been allowed to stay in her own tent, very few were the nights when she had no company. No one to watch her sleep. No one to see if her breathing still held. Zevran was the most common volunteer, but he did no more than sleep by her side. Kailain had yet to even kiss him, though the thought had crossed her mind. She had gotten so used to Zevran's heated skin and quick tongue and liquid gold eyes that Alistair seemed too pale, too large, and far too slow witted to exist. Yet, he had his charms, and Kailain was happy to see him. She smiled.

"You haven't spoken to me much since I came back from the dead," she said kindly. "I have missed our talks."

He toyed with a loose thread on his shirt. "I kept thinking it was a dream. Like it wasn't real. You being alive when it was so certain you were going to die."

"I have Morrigan to thank. And Zevran. It was quite a sacrifice to make," she said fondly.

I would have made it, too, said his eyes. "How have you been?" was what came out instead.

"Slowly healing. I have been thinking we should head to Orzammar soon. Just to see what the situation is. Wynne says it's not such a good idea," she frowned. Her hand slid over the hilt of a blade. Her bow was lying between them. That blade was not her own. It was a Crow's blade. Zevran's. Alistair clenched his teeth.

"You and Zevran are quite close," he said.

Kailain sighed. "Yes, I thought this might be it, Alistair. You and I...were rather close, weren't we?" Her eyes drifted over to her pack. The rose sat inside, forever frozen in a block of ice Morrigan had conjured.

"Look, maybe it's none of my business, but Zevran's dangerous. He's not a good match for you," Alistair explained, embarassment straining his voice.

Kailain glanced at him. "And you are? Zevran is bound to me, Alistair. You and I have shared much, but there is little possiblity of a relationship. It just cannot be with Zevran sitting between us at every interval. He makes no claim upon me. I do not even show an interest, yet he stays by my side. It was never meant to be for us."

"Oh?" replied Alistair angrily. "Then why did you even let me kiss you, then?"

"Because I cared about you," she said softly.

"If you care about me," he pleaded, "then we can still make this work."

"My heart lies elsewhere, now. Things have changed."

"Zevran has changed things, that slimy little bastard."

Kailain stood, anger now seeping in her voice. "Even if Zevran were not where he is, what future do you see? I see a desolate one, where if we manage to survive that you will be forced to choose between being king and being with me. I know you, Alistair. You are a good man, and will choose your kingdom over me no matter how much you care. Because it would be worth more than what you want. Because you are not that selfish. Well, I am! I want to get married and have children and be able to relax every now and then. I don't want to be the king's dirty little secret just because I am an elf!"

"You would rather be with Zevran, then?" yelled Alistair as he stood, too. He was too tall for the tent and nearly hit his head.

"I would rather be free!" she shouted back. She whirled and grabbed her pack, storming out of the tent. Alistair caught her arm.

"I'm sorry, Kailain. Please, let's just talk about this," he begged.

"Damn you, Alistair. Leave me alone! Just...just leave me alone," she said wearily, prying his fingers from her arm and jogging into the woods. Her feet left prints in the snow and had he desired to follow her, it might have been possible. Yet, it was not. She was a Dalish elf, and if she decided to leave the camp and sneak off into the wild, no one but a trained tracker could find her.

Kailain jerked the frozen rose from the back and began smashing it upon the ground. Ice flew in all directions. Mud stained the perfect glass effect. She smashed it and smashed it until at last the rose was visible and hurled it at a tree. The rose shattered into shards of glass that flew across the clearing. When her anger was spent, a wave of fatigue fell over her and she sat down on a frozen log. Water seeped through her clothes, armor forgotten in a fit of rage. She felt oddly vulnerable.

Zevran stepped from the shadows.

"The shattering rose was a nice effect. I loved the scream of rage, as well. Very attractive," he teased sitting beside her on the log. Kailain sighed.

"I'm sorry for bringing you into that. He doesn't know what he's talking about," she said softly, staring at the lake, frozen now.

"Ah, but you did, didn't you? Marriage and children? That's a lot of work for me. I suppose I'll have to build you house from the ground up, too, eh?" he joked. She chuckled nervously.

"Sorry. I suppose I was being a little silly, huh? Imagine what the other little housewives would say! 'She landed herself a Crow husband!' I'm sure Taleisan and the others would get quite a laugh out of that."

Zevran leaned back. "Oh, Taleisan would laugh at anything at my expense. But I think the others would simply be jealous that I had a Grey Warden wife. A beautiful one at that," he smiled seriously, glancing at her.

"You always tell me I'm beautiful," she said, feeling a little flush. "I'm going to get cocky if you keep it up."

"I don't intend to stop, so please. Arrogance would suit you," he whispered, turning towards her. All of a sudden, the trees seemed to stop swaying. Nothing was cold anymore. The heat from his body shielded her from everything.

"We speak of marriage," she smiled silkily, "when we haven't even kissed yet."

"'Yet' was exactly what I was thinking. Though, of course I am not supposed to have my way with you until the night of the wedding," he murmured ever closer.

"So let's keep it sweet today and passionate for another day, yes?" she whispered.

"As my lady commands," he smiled. Zevran trailed a hand down her neck, pulling her closer. Her lips were pale blue, the color of her eyes, and he felt a sudden tugging towards her. No one had ever affected him in such a way. No one ever would again. She whispered his name just before their lips met, and her entire body became alight with fire.

Alistair was in agony.

It wasn't just that Kailain would barely talk to him besides the basic orders and shouts in combat, but the fact that she would talk to Zevran. Constantly. The two were always holed up in some corner of camp, chatting away. Oh, and then there were the gropes, the seductive glances, the giggles, the whispering. Giggles and whispering were strictly Kailain. Zevran was playing seduction and groping hard, though. And it was driving Alistair mad.

He was very happy when Kailain left Zevran's company one night to announce that she felt well enough to head into Orzammar. However, any thought he had that she might actually leave Zevran behind was quickly banished. He didn't even wait for her to pick him, just stood up, slipped his daggers upon his back, and stood by her side. Then, Kailain had the nerve to pick Alistair to go with them as well. She hadn't looked at him, but Zevran had. He'd shot Alistair a razor sharp grin that Kailain didn't see. She was to busy inviting Morrigan to join them as well.

If Alistair had thought he was in agony before, he had been wrong.

His two favorite people were at his side, along with an unrequited love who wouldn't speak to him.

Oh, the Maker was cruel.

So very cruel.

No one seemed to know how to end the stalemate but Kailain. Zevran watched with admiration as she charmed her way into the castle of the last Aeducan. Watched as she accepted his various missions for her. Watched as she promised an old widow to find her son, to speak for a man she had never met to spread the Maker's word (a god she didn't even believe in), as she hunted down a dwarf who would dare steal from the Memories, as she paid a dwarf to grab one of those pink bunny things for Leliana, as she got an angry father to accept a daughter and grandson back into his arms, as she was declared the Proving Champion. His admiration for her grew as she began the long descent into the pits of the Deep Roads, having left the Oghren behind.

Covered in blood, long ago abandoning her bow in favor of his daggers, she trudged on, breath coming in short gasps. The trip into the Deep Roads was far more demanding than any of them had thought. She was slowed, but still pressed on through the army of Darkspawn spume. Their blood showered over her face. She would never be clean again, he kept thinking.

At last they found another dwarf. Her name was Hespith and she was quite clearly mad. Kailain listened to her mutterings with the patient of a Saint, asked about her morbid song, tried to find Branka's whereabouts. Hespith ran off into the bloodied roads, yet her voice still echoed as if she were standing right there.

Then there was Broodmother.

"Watch out!" Zevran shouted at her, throwing his weight against her body so she was not in reach of the chubby fingers of the Broodmother. Morrigan froze the monster with Cone of Cold, throwing another bolt of lightning just after. She screamed for the two of them to take care of various Shrieks swarming her. Zevran was lost in Kailain's eyes. She was so tired, he could see. Her entire body was trembling with the effort of staying awake. But they had to press on, and she asked him to move.

To his utter surprise, it was Kailain who charged at Broodmother and landed a Crow dagger deep inside it's roaring skull. She fell to the ground in a heap of pained gasps and blood, but she was alive. On her back, he watched her chest heave and ran to her side. Morrigan put a hand over the elf's heart.

"Breathe slowly, breathe through the pain," the witched said.

Alistair could only watch.

Kailain's breathing slowed eventually. She no longer gasped and seemed to calm herself, eventually sitting up and finally standing. After the terrifying fight, each member of the party seemed to need a moment. Alistair and Kailain especially. That could be me, she kept thinking while staring at the still twitching corpse of Larin. That would be her eventually. When the taint decided to take her life.

Zevran used some water from his canteen to wipe at her face. The blood was so deep in her flesh, that he had to wipe several times in one spot to remove even a fraction of it. She touched his tan hand and shook her head. "It's futile," she laughed softly, sadly.

"I cannot even see your pretty face underneath all of this muck! A tragedy if ever one was seen," he tisked, brushing her lips with the wet cloth.

"How is it that I am completely covered in blood, yet you aren't?" she asked curiously.

"Practice. One cannot walk away from an assassination casually and without being caught when one is covered with blood, now can one?" he smirked.

"No," she smiled, "I guess you couldn't."

He lifted up a strand of her soaked hair. "We were speaking of a hypothetic situation, my dear. And I'm afraid you are correct. This is truly futile."

She ran a hand through the morbid mess. "I must look absolutely awful," she mused.

"Macabre and vengeful, but never awful. You make a most beautiful Darkspawn," he whispered in her ear.

She turned and kissed him then, refusing to even think that Alistair was nearby. It was, however, a very bad idea and she quicky ended it. The taste of blood put him off, it seemed, and she laughed at the look on his face.

She spat red on the ground, and he put an arm around her shoulders. "Perhaps we could save that for later. At least until a bath. Or during the bath. Really, it doesn't matter, as long as there is water involved." He spat as well, though away from her and with a bit less red.

"Not a pleasant taste?"

"You, my dear, are always pleasant. I would rather not have to swallow blood in order to taste you, though," he quipped, standing quickly as he watched Morrigan do so. She had been cleaning her staff for what seemed forever, and bandaging Alistair's wounds. Perhaps Kailain should have brought Wynne instead. She was much more patient with Alistair. Zevran held out a hand to help Kailain to her feet. "Feeling better?"

She grabbed her side. "I may have to tape my ribs back at camp. Two of them were broken during that fall. But I think I can make it to Branka," she nodded.

Branka was a arrogant little dwarf that angered Morrigan to no end. Her self-important stance brought fury that rivaled Flemeth's. Branka thought she was better than them. When Kailain pulled free her bow and pointed it right at the snotty little dwarf, Morrigan thought that maybe there was hope after all.

They made it quickly through the gauntlet. Really, it was not so hard. Amazing that so many had died when four people could make it through just fine. Perhaps they were all overthinking it?

"This thing is evil. It sacrifices lives," Kailain said, holding the hammer. "It must be destroyed."

It was all over with the strike of a hammer.

The Anvil was gone.

Branka was dead.

An Aeducan was King.

Zevran had helped her tape her ribs. Thankfully, it wasn't as awkward as she would have thought. Zevran offered a lot of embarassing compliments but kept the perversity to a minimum. That was, until she kissed him. Then, all bets were off.

It started with tender touches and caresses. His fingers down her spine as he made another round. Then, his hand ghosted down to caress her thighs, and trailed up to her face, kissing those lips until she was panting with need. Undressing her with hesitance, as if afraid she would refuse at any time, he took her slowly and enjoyed it. There was something different about being with her, about waiting until it was the right time. She was a virgin, he could tell. Growing up in a Dalish environment, where everyone was considered family and the Keeper knew everything, he supposed it would be a miracle if she was not. He made sure her first time was special and held her until the sun came up, smelling the sweet spice of her soaps and the natural perfume of her skin. Kailain really was the most beautiful woman he had ever met.

Zevran offered her an earring.

It was a golden thing with a tiny jewel set upon the top. She held it in her hand as if it would shatter into a million pieces. Then, Zevran turned her around and clipped it into her ear. When she invited him into her tent, he could not do it. Could not ruin the precious thoughts he was having with such a common thing as sex to him. For her, it might have completed the moment, and he hated to see the rejection in her eyes, but he couldn't do it. Couldn't ruin it with something so mundane for him. Even if she thought of sex in a different way.

Later, he admitted he loved her.

"I do not know. How would you know such a thing?" he had asked awkwardly. It was clear that this was not something he had ever felt before. Maybe with Rinna, but other than that...

"I am no wiser than you in that area, Zev," she answered.

"All I need to know is if there might be some kind of future for us."

"I don't know," she had replied, "but I know how I feel about you."

They had kissed.

Then made love.

Their souls had mated.

Kailain knew she loved him, then.

And Zevran felt the same way.