A/N: With serious and heartfelt thanks to Tasmen and Malaia, my Zevsperts, Trax, my Zevspiration, and Crisium, my partner-in-angst-and-luls. 3

Being in charge does not really suit him, Teagan thinks. He feels older, so much older than before. He wonders if Eamon ever felt this old. Then he stops thinking about Eamon.

He starts every morning by heading to his brother's study – all correspondence is picked up and sorted through, a soft sigh always issued at the lack of news from the Warden and Alistair. So much hope is pinned to their success, he thinks fretfully, before heading towards Isolde's room. There they share breakfast, a hushed affair with the prone body of her husband in the corner of their eyes. He feels a little guilty, every time.

He spends the day overseeing the repairs to the village. Things are slow with the routes of trade all but stopped, but the spirits of the townsfolk remain high – something that never fails to make him smile. The Revered Mother smiles more and more these days, though he has noticed she is more subdued around him since light was shed on the situation in the castle.

Evenings are spent with Connor and Isolde. The boy is preparing to be sent to the Tower after the Incident, and his mother frets. He wonders if her hair will turn grey or white from the stress. He wonders about his own hair. He fingers the end of his braid, scanning for any grey hairs. Connor laughs at him, and he smiles thinly. The boy laughs too little these days.

Sleep comes to him slowly. In the dark of night, his worries so effectively pushed away by the light of day come back full force. What if Eamon dies? What will happen then? Each scenario plays out in his mind – Connor marked as a mage now removes him from the equation, but Isolde as the sole Arlessa is almost laughable. The woman was barely holdin herself together, never mind the village outside. Which leaves him, and that is not a situation he is comfortable with at all. The days he spends tending to Eamon's flock are showing him just how little he is suited to the task – too many lives depending on his word. Being a Bann was workable, he thinks, turning for the seventeenth time in his bed. But being an Arl?

He shuffles in Eamon's chair, rereading the letter from Rainsfere listlessly. Without looking up, he begins.

"You know, Eamon would have caught you before I did, Master Crow." He senses the movement.

"So you claim." The Antivan steps out of the shadow, a slight smile on his face. "But as I am caught, as you say, perhaps we might speak candidly." Teagan looks up briefly, before placing the letter down softly, a long sigh escaping him.

"I assume you're here to kill us all. Would you like a drink?" The man blinks, before laughing lightly.

"Ah, you misunderstand my intent. I am here on behalf of my new mistress, the Grey Warden." The man sits up attentively, his face wary. "She sends me with a note, to confirm that I am as I say." He looks amused by the very idea, but strides forward, the print of Teagan's own signet ring imprinted next to her hasty scrawl.

"I'd completely forgotten about that ring," he murmurs softly, beckoning the man to sit down as he traces the seal. "That offer of a drink is still on the table," he adds, standing up and retreating to the drinks cabinet. The assassin smiles again, relaxing just a touch in his seat.

"Wine seems so appropriate for such dignified company." Nodding, Teagan returns to the desk with a glass of brandy and a goblet of wine, placing it in front of the elf before taking his seat with little ceremony. Zevran sips, his eyebrows raised quizzically as he looks at the Bann. "Oho, I see there is something quite delicious in Ferelden."

Teagan assents with a smile. "Eamon chose the wine," he says simply, and Zevran smiles. "I don't know much at all about the stuff, but he likes his guests to be well catered for."

"So I see. Arlesans, if I'm not mistaken?"

"You are not. Our second best bottle."

Zevran smirks wryly. "I am not worthy of the best, I see. Such a tragedy."

Teagan laughs for a moment. "Oh, my apologies, Master Crow. I mean no disrespect. I am merely saving the best bottle for Eamon's recovery.. or funeral," he adds, the smile replaced by a carefully composed expression. The tiredness in his expression radiates through, and Zevran frowns lightly.

"I see." He takes another sip.

"Of course. Life does not stand still, and there are many people looking to me to be what Eamon used to be."

"But you are not your brother's equal, you feel." The silence following the assassin's words hangs in the air for a long moment. Teagan stares into his glass.

"That.. is the most true statement of this evening," he says finally, closing his eyes. "I am the second son, in name and deed. I was not.." He smiles slightly. "I was not ready to become the better man, not even for a short time. So I pray that your news is good, ser, because I am reaching the end of my patience with this situation. A fool's hope is not enough for a second-best son."

Zevran snorts derisively. "I see. We cut to the quick, then, as is the way of you Fereldens. Though I hope it is not always so, for the sake of the womenfolk." He chuckles slightly, before continuing. "When I left my fair lady mistress, we were at the last known location of Brother Genetivi. A quaint little village, though I would not recommend it as a holiday spot. Not only did we find him, we found his tantalizing theories to be quite realistic. The Ashes, if you are to believe the word of our dear Alistair, will be within our grasp by the time I have delivered this message." He smiles, though it is brief. "Is your best wine from Val Chevin?"

"I-I believe so," answers the man, thrown by this sudden question.

"Mm, thought so. The vineyards there are in soil that is a little too clay-like for my tastes. Most connoisseurs appreciate its harsher tones. I, however, find them bitter in the aftertaste." He leans back, his tone light as he eyes the man carefully. "Your second best is perfect, however. Just that tiny bit mellower, and all the more.. full-bodied from the less extreme weather." There is a sharpness to his eyes, Teagan spies as he sips at his brandy.

"I'm afraid I know little of what you just summed up, but I am glad you favour the wine."

"Mm, the wine." He smirks slightly. "Tell me, Bann Teagan, are you always this tense around attractive men?"

"Not usually, but these are extraordinary circumstances. I'm not quite myself, it seems. Are you usually this blunt?"

Zevran grins. "Oh, always."

The night wears on, and Teagan's tongue loosens slightly. He describes the events that had led the Warden to her current path, a story that Zevran appears to take great interest in. He responds in kind with a tale of their adventures – the confrontation of Genetivi's 'assistant' and the Warden's smile in the face of his blades. The discussion ends up on the chaise-lounge and Murdock is mentioned with half-smiles and regret.

"He sounds like a man of principle," the assassin says simply, and Teagan laughs. He can still remember the man's breath on the back of his neck. He wonders exactly what principles Murdock had.

Zevran inquires after the blood mage locked in the cells, and the man looks away for a moment. Jowan.. the tear-stained kiss between him and the boy that already seemed like a lifetime ago is the last thing he thinks of before the brandy glass falls to the floor and lips meet lips.

He is nothing like Murdock or Jowan, and that is a blessing. His skilled tongue creates waves that shudder through the man's body, hands flicking buttons undone without a single one flying off. They part, his breathing heavier than he would like, and the elf is still grinning.

"Should we relocate?" he offers. Teagan simply nods, dragging him by the sleeve through the castle before pushing him through a door, eyes dark as he closes it behind them. Clothes soon litter the room and his hand splays across the assassin's chest, lips hot on his neck as the lithe elf makes short work of the laces on his trousers.

There is a moment of confusion as Zevran presses a small vial of oil into his hand. He blinks, staring at it for a moment, before looking up quizzically.

"I don't.. I don't follow."

Zevran looks at him, a look of surprise on his face. "You.. do not lead this dance?" At the blush and the slight shake of the head, he plucks the vial from the man's fingers, surprise lingering for just a moment before he pushes Teagan to the bed, the oil already slick on his fingers before the man can protest. He wants to apologise for his ignorance, but the name of Murdock would be on his lips again in that same sentence and he cannot bear the sound of it, not here in his bed with this man that is not him.

Still, he opens his mouth to say something, anything – and then Zevran pushes forward, entering him slowly, and all that escapes is a soft gasp, head falling back against the mattress. He starts up a slow rhythm, and it is nothing like he has experienced. Tender fingers grasp the back of his knees, pulling them up before one hand lingers at his thigh, the touch almost electric from its lightness.

"Please." The word escapes unbidden, rasped out between pants, and Zevran makes no confirmation that he has heard it. Teagan clutches at rapidly-sodden sheets as the familiar sensation coils in the pit of his stomach. He is used to this, the build-up, but the moment the Antivan's free hand finds him and starts teasing his shaft, he growls in surprise at the consideration. Murdock was never so kind, he thinks for a fleeting moment, before the world turns white and his release rips through his body in a loud cry.

The sunlight hits him in the face, warming his bones as he awakens. Stretching, he winces slightly as his arm hits the wall and glances around. The Crow is nowhere to be seen, and he is not in the least bit surprised as he swings out of the bed and picks up his clothes. He remembers a vague offer of lodging, but as he pulls on a fresh shirt he also recalls a soft laugh. Not a man to hang around when the adventure of the Warden was calling, and Teagan finds he cannot exactly blame him for that.

Suddenly there is a hammering at his door. Isolde shouts through.

"The Warden, Teagan! She is 'ere!"

They greet the party, and he allows a small nod to the assassin by way of thanks for his news – nothing more. They know the rules of such moments. The Warden holds out the Ashes to him, and he feels nothing but relief. The lack of religious gravitas at the object tugs at his mind for a moment, before he dismisses the notion and shows the Warden and her mage friend to Eamon's room.

Behind him, he can hear the chuckle of the Antivan and a brief comment to Alistair about the accommodation being second to none. He smiles, just for a moment.