"I fear who I am becoming,
I feel that I am losing the struggle within.
I can no longer restrain it,
My strength, it is fading
I have to give in", It's the fear – Within Temptation
Zevran saw her sitting at the edge of their camp, observing her pensively. The stench from the darkspawn was still high in the air, as they collected the corpses to burn. She was hugging one of the dead. This was no darkspawn, rather something in between. She did not let go. The templar had been at her side, trying to comfort her with little success.
He found it odd that such a normally fierce woman would appear on the verge of collapse over the death of a single monster. But perhaps even more perplexing was that he actually cared about her anguish. It made him uncomfortable. Only Nera and Leliana seemed to care to speak to him since he joined the group. Nera never fully trusted him, but he had not expected her to.
She asked about his life as an assassin. He teased with promise of gruesome exploits and thought better of it. Beginning with one his first missions, he watched her reactions as he unfolded his story. Carefully, he chose his most amusing tales. Ones he felt were of interest. Confounded, why was he so willing to share with this women? Was he taunting her? Seeing how much of his life she could cope with? Save for his last mission. This was his own demon and not willing to divulge.
Quizzically, she plied with him with questions through out his story telling. There was no malice in her stare. He could sense incredulity on her face. However, she did not seem judgmental. His keen senses told him this women was searching. For what? He did not know for sure.
He took small steps, advancing in Nera's direction. Leliana was at her side, and he got bewildered looks from the oaf templar. He could hear her soft sobbing and his gaze interlocked with Leliana's. She gave him a strange nod and walked away with Alistair.
Light footed as always, he cautiously approached Nera, Leliana knelt beside her. He noted the bewilderment in the would be templar's eyes. With absolute grace, Leliana turned her head, gave Zevran a gentle nod while leading Alistair away back towards camp.
He walked to the other side and sat down, and looked at her tear-stained face.
"Who was that," he asked softly.
She glanced up, "Please Zev, just go." Her voice stern, harsh and she looked down at the body once again, hiding from his stare.
He did as she wished and walked to his tent. From there he just observed along with the rest, how she sat there for hours, not moving. Why did he chose to care? He didn't want to think about that. That would only lead to difficulties about why he remained by her side.
He still planned to finish his mission. Even with her kindness, he tried not to allow himself to feel anything. The object of his contract had not changed. She was still a Grey Warden and therefore, she should die. But on numerous occasions he had had his chance and never took it. He blamed inconveniences – not the right time or place. Something was different, though. He never cared about such trivialities before.
This woman was dangerous on many levels for him, and he did not like the effect she had on him. He ran out of excuses to why he hadn't killed her, and he did not want to face the reality that he might have found someone that cared for him, and that in fact he might return those feelings. He had only had one friend in his life if Taliesen was to be counted. And Rinna? She was…
Thoughts were interrupted.
"He was my childhood sweetheart." He blinked and found her sitting next to him on the log. A quick glance around revealed they were the only ones up. It was a perfect opportunity, a perfect chance. He could get away before anyone would notice. He would just need to find the time when she have lowered her guard towards him.
"Childhood sweetheart," he asked, without looking at her. He did not want to see her crestfallen face looking at him. If he did, he would not be able to go through with what he had to do.
"Yes." She sighed, and let out a soft chuckle, "His name was Tamlen. And we belonged in the same clan. We used to be together all the time, hunting, and one day – the day my normal life was over, we had gone to explore a cave. We were both eager and childish, and there was a mirror..." She stopped, her breathing ragged. He knew this must be a sensitive subject to discuss.
"It all went by so fast, and I could not stop him. I got knocked unconscious, and the next thing I knew I was back at camp, and he was missing." Zevran stared at the fire, trying not feel compassion.
"I went back for him, but we could not find him, I didn't want to give up, but the shemlen made me. I was dying at the point, and if I was to linger, I would not survive." He felt her small fingers tugging at his clutched fist. He did not pull away, but neither did he look at her. She was so cold.
His heart pounded faster when she continued and her voice was stern – no emotion present, but he knew, because he acted the same way.
"I was so selfish. I cared for my life, and my Keeper sent me away, and I obliged without looking more for him. I went with our worst enemy, a human, instead looking for him, my friend and love." Her hand pulled away. He could not ignore it and turned to glance at her profile. Gentle features were framed by her red copper hair that hung in soft curls along the sides of her face. Tear glazed eyes stared defiantly at the soft grass.
He wanted to touch her, to warm her, but he held back.
"Have you lost anyone close to you Zev," she softly asked.
His mind and body reacted. A sense of urgency coursed through his veins. He knew he needed to get away from her before something happened he might regret.
"I'm an assassin, my dear. The only people I have been around were whores and the Crows. Where could I ever find someone that could affect me?"
"Then why did you wish to die," she queried, as if seeing through his ruse.
He frowned but was not given time to respond before she continued,
"You told me you wanted to die, the day I first met you. Why did you? I did not think much of it then, but from your stories, you haven't given a reason why you did since you..." She didn't finish her sentence. Suddenly, she stood up, a gift he was thankful for. Questions were being asked he did not wish to answer.
She started away from the log. "I need to bury him, like our people do. Will you help me?"
"Of course." And in silence, they dug a hole under the purest tree they could find. Once buried, she pulled out a seed from her backpack and planted it over Tamlen's resting place.
He looked over at her, the mask she plastered over her face, no muscle moving, eyes staring in the black horizon. It causes more unpleasant feelings seeing that he could not read from her expression. He is supposed to be a master of this.
"I release you from your oath. Go back to Antiva."
It was sudden, his release, and not at all what he had expected. But freedom did not excite him as much as he supposed it should. Perhaps he had never thought himself truly bound, a prisoner to this warden's whims.
"I made a promise to see this to the end, did I not?" He cocked his eyebrow.
She shook her head. "I'm not holding you against your will any longer. Do whatever you want to."
He could not help it but took a step forward to her.
"If that was true, believe me I could have escaped long ago. And while I might invite the opportunity to be treated like a real prisoner in chains, should you so desire such things, I haven't seen myself as held captive against my will."
"Well, I don't want to lose someone else that I care about," she near yelled at him. No sooner had the words escaped her lips had she placed her hand over her mouth as if to silence the words retroactively. But it was too late, he had heard. It was impossible not to with the yelling and all.
She cared about him? He knew she respected his fighting technique. He knew she liked hearing about his tales. He was quite good at keeping her entertained. But anything beyond that was frightening to consider.
He could see her cheeks redden as she turned on heel to walk off. Again he was given no time to respond. He was conflicted. A part of him wanted to leave but a bigger, and more vocal part did not. It was so confusing.
He sprinted after her, grabbed her hand. The force of his embrace caused her to bump right into his leather armor, her small hands place upon his chest. That made him chuckle, she was always so balanced.
They looked at each other, and Zevran had no idea what to do and found himself at an unusual disadvantage. He did not know what to say, what to feel, or what to touch. True, he wanted her like he did with any beautiful woman, but she had denied it up to this point. He wanted to touch her body, make her forget what had transpired, even for just a moment. And he too wanted to forget the ghosts of his past if for but only a few moments.
Self-control was momentarily lost. "You care for me?" he asked, followed by a curse under his breath.
You are a fool.
Why did he wish to know? The answer could only bring misery to them both.
She looked up and their gazes interlocked. Everything stood still as he waited for a response. Hours seemed to pass within seconds until she finally dropped her head in nod.
Zevran was trained to find the weakness in others. She had no need to tell him. He took joy in her omission, as cruel as it may have seemed.
"My dear warden, What happens next is entirely up to you."
Take pleasures where you find them, Zevran Arainai.
He traced his fingers along her jaw line down to her lips causing her to shiver.
Another look at her face, another decision was made.
"You ask if I have lost someone. In truth? Si..., this would be so. This is a tale that only involved parties are privy to." Her eyes filled with curiosity.
He took a deep breath, and took his eyes off her, "In Antiva, the last mission before I was brought here did not end well."
"I bid to be given a mark for a wealthy merchant. I was cocky and arrogant and wanted to boast about my virtue, that virtue being of course to kill. Talisien joined my team, and as did a elven lass called Rinna." His finger gently slid to her pulsating neck. Her cerulean eyes intensely watching him to continue.
"She was a marvel. Tough, smooth. She was everything I thought I desired and she touched something within me."
"You fell in love." She stated softly.
His lips twitched at the announcement escaping her mouth, and without responding to it, his finger never ceasing touching her exposed skin.
"Talisien got word that Rinna had accepted a bribe from this merchant and had betrayed us. So at the confrontation, she pleaded for her life on her very knees, her eyes filled with tears, telling us, me, that she never betrayed us." His hand pulled away from her.
"I spat on her for betraying me, for betraying the Crows. I watched how Talisien slit her throat off, and watched her life leaving her eyes, the pool of blood basking underneath my feet."
"Upon finishing the mission, we found out that in fact she had not betrayed the Crows. Talisien made me swear to say that she died during our assignment. I wanted to tell our mistake but it did not matter. They knew. The master that disliked me so told me so right in my face. That my time would come, and like her, no one would care." His eyes closed, he saw the memory of the fat master laughing in his face.
"Why did he say that?" She interrupted his inner musing.
He shifted his position a bit, knowing that he revealed to much, he knew why, and now it was to late to stop himself. He continued with the same tone,
"To show me I was nothing, that she was nothing." After a long silence, he made his decision. He could not kill her, he would not told this story if she meant nothing to him and he cursed himself. He was a fool.
"Do you still wish to die, Zev?" She asked, closing the distance between them.
"No. I found something more exciting then death crossing your path." He said with a hint of amusement. She understood though, he could see it in her features.
She bit her lower lip, her eyes swiftly going over the camp, him, the burned corpses, and her old friend's grave.
"At least you know what happened to him. That should give some comfort, no?"
A weak smile was shown, "I suppose that is true."
They walked back to camp, and by the fire, it was time to say goodnight.
Once again, she tugged her hand into his larger one.
"Thank you." She whispered.
"What is it I am to be thanked for my dear warden?"
"For listening and understanding."
"This is good, no? I am useful in many things I assure you. Ti's true, assassination is my most impressive of skills, that and love making of course." A sly grin followed by a lewd wink.
"I get it Zev." She shook her head, "Its been a long night. Too much, to soon."
"Should you not sleep then?" He would not inquire something this night, she would probably slap him if he did.
"I can't. Not when he's lying just some meters away." She said, looking over the earth tomb.
"A walk?" She stood silent, as if considering it.
"Yes, I would like that. Walk with me?" She asked, with trepidation. Did she still fear he would do something against her will?
He quirked his lips,
"Do you trust me?" He needed to know. A foolish thing to ask for, but in this moment he was feeling anything but foolish.
Again, the long silence, he saw her taking a deep breath and she walked up to him, just some inches away, she gave him her dagger. He knew what that meant, if he now truly wanted he could kill her, and she knew that to, the little minx. His inner turmoil was broken when she uttered the words;
"I trust you."
He turned his eyes and looked at her. It could be seen that she did, her voice and body did not tremble. She did not flinch. He touched the steel material of the dagger, and with a quick glance at her, he gave it back to her. And that was that.
He could not kill her. Yet again his own feelings took over the brain. He sighed, and for the second time he obliged to them.
AN: Wanted to thank a beta and Liso66 for overlooking my story and beta read it. Thank you.