Prayer for the Traveler

Chapter 19: I Love the Way You Lie

June 8, 2010

Zevran halted his movement towards his companions and disappeared into the darkness near Erin. She was fidgeting with the strange tent supports and making no progress in erecting the structure. The shadows of his past whispered. "Protect yourself… leave these people". The faint sob of a small elven boy crept through his thoughts and he heard a familiar voice pleading with him. "Leave and be spared the pain of watching another woman you care for die, or leave you to wander this new path alone."

It would be an uncomplicated thing to slip away in the middle of the night. He would have no trouble navigating the caves of the mountain pass and could simply join the many Fereldens boarding ships for other ports, attempting to escape the Blight. He hung his head. "I cannot do that. I will not betray the man who spared my life." No, Zevran Arainai was no coward, and he had made an oath to Aiden in return for his life. He had his honor, at least.

He felt the walls around his heart strengthening, preparing him for the loss of her. He had been foolish to let her in, knowing full well she could not be his for long. He wasn't sure when she had become more to him than a simple bedmate, but he couldn't ignore the pain that welled inside him as he watched his lover's face contort with restrained emotion.

He decided it was for the best that they say their goodbyes now. There would be no final night of passion between them. He would erect her tent and sleep in his own. They would face this fight together, but as comrades in arms, nothing more. He allowed the stone to close him off entirely, slipped out of the shadows and sauntered over to the foreign woman and elder mage.

XXX

Erin struggled to control herself as she fumbled with her tent poles. She wasn't ready to leave her companions and wanted to stay with them until the Blight was ended. She would miss them all terribly and just wanted a little more time with her wonderful Antivan elf. She didn't want to leave this place and never know what happened to them. She would spend her days wondering if they had succeeded; if they all lived and how, ultimately, each of them died.

She felt a hand on her shoulder and turned, startled, to see Wynne's concerned eyes. "Ah, Wynne. I'll be fine. I just… I thought I would be with you all until the very end and now…" She tried to turn away from the elder mage but Wynne moved in front of her and grasped both of her shoulders, forcing her to face her.

"Erin, please, come with me and let us see if we can't talk this thing through. You need to resolve your internal conflict and make peace with your destiny before you meet this enemy tomorrow." She looked kindly upon the smaller woman, waiting for an answer.

Zevran reached for the tent poles Erin was holding and laid a hand on her forearm as she relinquished them. "I will see to your accommodations for the evening, Erin. Please, go and speak with our fair healer. It is as she says. You cannot meet this foe if your mind is not focused." He tried his best to ignore the electricity that passed between them as he touched her.

Erin was stunned by the lack of affection in the assassin's tone, and his use of her formal name. She saw a distinct difference in his eyes as she handed him the poles. He was shutting himself off from her and she sensed his need for distance. Internally, she screamed at the pain of losing him, but she knew why he was doing it. He had tried to maintain a façade of confidence and cool detachment during their affair, but was slowly letting her in as they spent more and more time together.

The conflicted woman did her best to hide what he had unknowingly revealed to her as she turned away from the elf. She wondered what would happen between them if she did not, in fact, leave after this fight ended. Would they spend the rest of their time as nothing more than fellow soldiers? Was it selfish to want more even if it meant his pain would be that much worse when she did finally leave?

Their eventual separation would injure her tremendously, regardless of how they spent their remaining days and she would rather they shared that time as lovers. However, if it were too heavy a load for Zevran to carry, she would not burden him with her affections in the future. But that was an argument for another day, and one that may never come to pass.

Erin reluctantly allowed Wynne to lead her to an alcove in the mountainside that provided a natural barrier to the harsh weather of the area. "I'm not sure what there is to say Wynne. There is nothing that can be said to ease the pain I will feel when I leave you all behind. I will mourn Zevran as if he had died when I return home, I will mourn all of you. I know what I'm up against."

Wynne took Erin's hands in her own and gently rubbed the back of one with her thumb. "I understand, but there is also the matter of…" The elder mage blinked back tears of her own and took in a deep breath to strengthen her resolve before continuing. "There is the matter of what we should do if you are not successful. Are you truly ready to face the consequences should you fail to defeat this demon?"

Erin lowered her head, shaking it as her shoulders trembled under the pressure of restraining her aching heart. "Tonight, I will meditate and prepare my mind and soul for what I face tomorrow. I will say my goodbyes to everyone in the morning. I will also prepare a will, of sorts, in case I fall, so you know how to…" She shuddered briefly, but found the determination to look the elder mage evenly in the eyes. "So you know how to dispose of my body and equipment.

Erin let her eyes fall to the ground once more as she gathered her thoughts. "Please… take care of Zevran. He will be more damaged than he lets on when I leave. It will create a void and he will self-destruct if the rest of you don't rally around him and let him know he still has a place in this world. Make sure he is surrounded with supportive people who will allow him to choose his own destiny. Remind him that he is better than those who bought and sold him and that he is not what they tried to make him."

Wynne gently cupped Erin's cheek. "I give you my word, Erin, he will know he is cared for and needed. I have seen the change in him and I know how protective he is of us all in battle. His actions speak much louder than his words. It may have taken me a while to see it for myself, but I know why you care for him so."

Erin forced a smile from her pained expression. "He has a good soul Wynne, but he is also closing off his heart tonight. Do not let him spend too long behind the wall he is erecting. But thank you. I can't tell you how much your words comfort me."

"Erin, do you feel at peace with your life? Are you happy with what you have accomplished? Is there anything else I can do to help you prepare?"

"My meditations will help tremendously and it is through them that I make peace with God and reconcile my life. It will be a late night for me, but I will let Aiden know I must be allowed to sleep in. I will be ready when the time comes to march on the fortress, and I have no intention of failing. We will have to have a camp meeting in the morning so I can prepare everyone for what will happen when we face the lieutenant."

Erin felt a snowflake land on her nose and smiled at the simple happiness such a small thing could stir in her. She allowed her gaze to wander over the trees to the three-quarter moon overhead, then down to the bustling camp and her companions. "I am infinitely thankful for the honor of knowing you all. Being part of such a lively and talented group is an experience that will stay with me all of my days. We have laughed and bled together, shared meals and good wine. These are happy memories."

She returned her eyes to the mage in front of her. "Thank you Wynne. Speaking with you has been very helpful."

The two women embraced before returning to the others.

XXX

Their companions had finished setting up all of the tents and were building a bonfire. Leliana and Alistair were making dinner from the dried rations they had been saving. Thank God Leliana was supervising the young man; he could kill the entire party with his cooking if left to his own devices.

Erin didn't see Zevran and was making her way to her tent to search for him when Levi approached her. He looked like a man going to confession. "Erin, I don't know how to thank you for doing this. I overheard what you said to the others. Please believe me when I say I had no idea this would happen when I asked for your help."

"Levi, you couldn't have known what we would face. If you had not found us, things would be far worse later on. It is out of our hands now, and perhaps, always was. I believe you were sent to bring us here so this enemy could be faced before the Wardens attack the Archdemon. Please, do not blame yourself for something you had no control over." She grasped his hands reassuringly before slipping inside her tent.

Zevran stood when she entered the tent and made no effort to approach her. His facial features were completely indifferent as he watched her move closer to him. She knew in her heart that he was about to break the organ in two. She steeled herself for both their sakes. "Zevran, I know what you intend to say and I understand why you feel you must do this."

The assassin lowered his head before regarding her with a knowing leer as he snickered at her. "Ah, so you have used your abilities to read my intentions then? Am I to be denied any privacy?" His voice was unwavering and there was an accusatory bite to his words.

Erin was ashamed that she had breached his trust in such a manner, but she would have done it again to know what was in his heart. "Yes… I did, Zev. In my defense, it was nearly impossible to ignore the feeling of you shutting yourself off from me." Her tone was equally abrasive and she immediately began back-peddling to reset the conversation to a more amiable atmosphere.

The elf glared at her and made a motion to leave the tent when she gently grabbed his forearm. "God, I'm sorry Zev. I didn't mean that. Yes, I betrayed your trust when I saw you closing off from me. I apologize, but I think we're both doing what we can to shield ourselves from the inevitability of my leaving. We cannot leave it like this. I don't think I'm strong enough to watch you leave me in anger."

Her will faltered for a moment as her breath hitched and caught on the pain and fear she swallowed. "You'd think, at my age, I would be better at this, wouldn't you? Damn my pride and Irish temper. I've always been quick to turn against someone I have wronged. A significant, personality flaw, I know…" Her statement trailed off into something unintelligible as she continued to berate herself.

Zevran stilled and took a deep breath. How many times had he done the very same thing, and wasn't he, in effect, doing it now to protect himself? The assassin allowed his demeanor to soften, ever so slightly, and lifted her chin until her eyes met his. For a brief moment, as her pained expression came into view, he thought to continue admonishing her for sensing his feelings and then leave. Let them fall away from each other in anger and resentment, but her eyes tore a small hole in the wall around his heart and he couldn't do it.

He smiled at her. "We are so similar, my Traveler. You must promise me to never try to read me again. Can you promise that?" The Crow studied her features and searched for any sign that she was lying when she responded.

"Sometimes, it's really hard to shut myself off from what others emote, but I promise, I will always strive to do so with you. It takes practice and more skill than simply feeling what everyone radiates, but I can shut it off."

He was satisfied that she spoke the truth, although certain she wouldn't be successful at not reading his intentions in the future, however long that may be. "I am sorry, but that is not sufficient."

"So you plan to end any intimacy between us, Zev? I won't pressure you into anything that makes you uncomfortable…" She stopped talking when she saw that the slight glint in his eyes had gone black. She knew his answer before he spoke it.

"I am sorry, but yes, I must end this. As much as I have enjoyed your… company, I see no point in avoiding our eventual separation. Furthermore, I am not willing to share a bed with someone who can so easily bypass all of my training and know things I do not wish to be known."

He dropped his hand from her chin and took several steps towards the opening of her tent. "We have had our fun, but this is for the best, my Traveler. Sleep well." He bowed and left.

Her heart shattered as he left, then turned as cold as a steel blade left in the snow. After all they had been through, how could he abandon her on the eve of her possible death? "Fuck him if he wants to be a coward. Damnable elf is always using his training to read me. How the hell is that different from what I do?"

She seethed as she searched her pack for her PDA and speakers. If he wanted to retreat within himself, so would she. It was high time she started treating this mission like those of the past. Get this thing done and go home. No more bonding with others and certainly no more sexual encounters. "At least Duncan was a man about this sort of thing." She realized she had said that last bit out loud, but didn't care anymore.

She decided to build a bonfire, well away from the others, where the cliff walls provided a natural amphitheater for her music, and dance and practice with her weapons until she fell in exhaustion. If this was indeed her last evening alive, she would spend it immersed in the music of her world. Getting lost in the meditations and forms of the masters would be a welcome distraction from all those bothersome emotions.

She stripped down to her leather breeches and donned a heavier, cotton blouse before putting her fur and leather winter boots on. Grabbing her Katana and Kyoketsu-shoge, she wrapped her cloak around herself and left the tent.

Zevran, hidden within the shadows of the surrounding trees, followed the petite woman as she strode purposely away from the others.

She found a perfect clearing to set-up her makeshift training arena and began gathering wood for a bonfire. Morrigan approached her and she barely acknowledged the mage as she stacked the wood.

The witch wasn't used to feeling sympathy for others, but she respected Erin more than anyone she had met before. She didn't know exactly what a friend was, but felt Erin was the closest thing she may ever come to having one. "May I assist you, my friend?"

Erin stopped and regarded the other woman with nothing more than a glance over her shoulder. "If you wish, certainly."

Ah, there was the professional indifference she had been raised to admire. She set about gathering wood and placing it on the growing pyre. Once it was of sufficient size, they stacked more wood nearby and Morrigan lit it ablaze with a simple fire spell. "He is a fool, Erin, and you are better off without him if he is not strong enough to put aside his petty concerns when you need him most. Men are weak and self-centered things. He has simply shown he is no better than the rest of them."

Erin was angry at her forwardness, yet thankful for her words just the same. "I guess. Doesn't matter now, does it? I've been foolish and have forgotten my training and purpose. It won't happen again. Everyone, you included, is expendable if they are not needed for my mission. I've spent too much time here and wish to be home."

"A very sensible attitude, my friend. I shall leave you to it then." Morrigan left before she could show any amount of disappointment in the change in Erin's demeanor. While she agreed with the foreigner, part of her had grown attached to the other woman and she missed the camaraderie of their previous exchanges.

Zevran sighed and felt a tinge of regret, but forced it back behind the wall. Their affair had been dangerous to them both and she had just validated his decision to end all ties to the other rogue. They were precise weapons, he and The Traveler, and they had allowed themselves to dull and rust with the moisture of sentiment and intimacy.

She obviously wanted to train and prepare in privacy, but if she didn't know he was there, he felt there was no harm in his watching. He was unable to sleep after he left her tent and there was nothing else to entertain him while he drank his wine. The assassin hoped a couple of mugs would put his mind at ease and allow him to get some rest before the sun rose.

Erin loaded her player application with several of her favorite dance and rap tunes, carefully arranged to increase in intensity as her training progressed. She laughed as Lollipop by Lil' Wayne came on. "If this doesn't fuck with their heads, I don't know what will." She began slowly moving to the beat, hips swaying left to right, arms out to the side, shoulders undulating to the faster beat.

He was so startled when her music began bouncing off the cliff walls that he almost dropped from his perch among the trees. "What on Earth is making those sounds and what style of singing is that?" Her movements were strange, to say the least. He listened to the words and his mouth went agape. "Is he talking about what I think he's taking about?"

As she loosened up and muscle memory returned, her hands flew above her head and she quickened the pace of her hips as she bent her knees and lowered herself. Then her hands were on her hips and she worked her torso, popping her chest front-to-back and side-to-side with perfect muscle control. Finally, every inch of her was engaged in a study of precise movements, driven by all of the overlapping beats of the song.

Zevran had never seen anyone move like she was. While it was certainly foreign, he appreciated the level of control it would take to dance in such a manner. The air went silent and she kicked out her legs and wiggled her arms. "Just loosening up, are we? Ah, this should be good." He poured another measure of wine and settled in for the show. A woman was singing this time.

Nine… four… eight… one… beeday

"Beeday? What is a 'beeday'? And don't these people know how to count?" The Antivan was sitting forward now, gripping his wine as he became glued to the scene playing out by the raging bonfire.

Get Me Bodied by Beyonce came on and Erin's hips shook quickly in an improvised, Hawaiian 'Ami ku'upau after the song's intro. Her dancing was much more tribal and rhythmic this time, borrowing heavily from the many lessons her dear friend, Naomi, had given her over their thirty-plus years of friendship. She loved combining traditional, Hawaiian moves with those of hip-hop.

"Mierda…" Zevran sighed as he watched his former lover's movements. It was becoming difficult not to drop from the tree and take her, there by the fire, regardless of the consequences. He tossed back the rest of the wine in his mug and swallowed hard while he poured more, entranced by her hips.

Several more songs played, much like the first two, with increasingly intricate beats. She paused the playback and strapped her Katana to her waist. She pressed the play button and struck a traditional, Iaido form as Eyes Like Yours by Shakira began playing. As the smooth, Persian introduction played, she unsheathed her sword, made a strong cutting motion, and ceremoniously sheathed it again.

She repeated the form as she moved around the fire, as if it were encircled by her enemies and she was cutting them down, one-by-one. She twirled and moved her legs in time with the music as she circled, again and again. The dexterous woman back-flipped and tumbled around her imaginary foes, the movement of the sword in and out of the sheath coming faster and faster until it was almost indistinguishable.

Zevran had forgotten his wine altogether. She mesmerized him. They had sparred and he had watched her go through her forms before, but she had never shown this level of fluidity and passion. Combined with the music of her world and the grace of her body as she moved in time with it, her skill was intoxicating enough that he didn't miss the alcohol.

Now thoroughly warmed up, she unsheathed the weapon. Using a two-handed grip, she held the hilt to her right side with the blade pointing up along her body, and awaited the next song. The Latin beat of Shakira's Te Aviso, Te Anuncio pounded off the rock around her as she began the Kenjutsu. The modern take on the traditional Tango was perfect for this particular exercise.

She circled the fire as she did through the last song, but her Katana was never sheathed. It twirled around her as she ducked, parried, feinted, flipped and somersaulted around her invisible targets. Every movement timed perfectly to either the rhythm of the singer's vibrato or the various, musical instruments. She was blade dancing.

Zevran was being pulled to the woman he knew so intimately. He had descended the tree and crept closer to the fire, yet remained far enough away that the shadows still encased his form. A battle of wills was being waged within him. The man she had awoken in him during their time together beat his fists against the stone around his heart. Meanwhile, the battered elven slave attempted to shore up the walls.

She was panting and sweaty when the song stopped. She unbuttoned her blouse from the hem and tied it in a knot, just below her chest, exposing the taught muscles of her abdomen, her navel and the tops of her hips. She carefully removed her Katana and took up the Kyoketsu-shoge. She placed the loop over her left hand and loosely gathered the chain, placing the excess in that hand as well. She allowed four feet of chain to hang slack between her outstretched hands and another three feet to hang from her right hand to the weapon.

She bowed her head for a moment as the song began, sneering in amusement. "I Love the Way You Lie… oh, Eminem, you are preaching to the choir." She smoothly swung the weapon and sang along with the intro.

Just gonna stand there and watch me burn
But that's alright, because I like the way it hurts
Just gonna stand there and hear me cry
But that's alright, because I love the way you lie
I love the way you lie

Zevran gripped the side of a tree until his knuckles turned white and his fingertips began to bleed. The sound of her singing in earnest such sad, poignant words made him ache with need for her. When the man in the song started talking, the words he spoke felt as if they were wrenched from his own mind.

I can't tell you what it really is
I can only tell you what it feels like
And right now there's a steel knife
In my windpipe
I can't breathe
But I still fight
While I can fight
As long as the wrong feels right

Erin cried as she spun and released her weapon. Why was she letting the song play? Why not simply press fast forward? Why had she selected it to begin with? The release of the pain, fear and anger felt too good, however, and she threw herself into the exercise.

You ever love somebody so much
You can barely breathe
When you're with them
You meet
And neither one of you
Even know what hit 'em

Powerfully, she flicked the weapon away from her with every pronounced syllable of the artist's words. When the chorus sounded, she twirled, arms out at her side, head back, singing. When the man sang again, she returned to the deadly dance. The chorus began as she ended a spinning flip, landing on her feet. She spread her arms as her body rocked to the music and sang with absolute conviction.

The assassin moved closer. The foreign man spoke once more.

Baby please come back
It wasn't you
Baby it was me
Maybe our relationship
Isn't as crazy as it seems
Maybe that's what happens
When a tornado meets a volcano
All I know is
I love you too much
To walk away though

The man behind the wall broke through and Zevran began walking towards the fire. The slave cried as the stone crumbled around him.

When the chorus sounded for the final time, Erin sunk to her knees in the trampled, muddy snow around the fire. Zevran ran to her and spoke in his native tongue. "I am sorry, my heart, my lover. Please, do not cry." He grabbed her face and forced her to look into his reddening eyes. "Please, forgive me for saying such things to you. You are my light. I shall never hurt you again, for as long as your presence is allowed to me." He gripped her tightly to his chest and they held each other by the fire.

Erin pressed her hands to his chest, sitting back so she could look at him. Their shared language spilled out of her; the words coming out quickly and stinted. "I am so scared, my master, my soul. I don't want to leave. I'm not ready. I don't want to walk my world wondering if you were happy in your life. When you died. How you died. The thought of it scares the hell out of me. I don't want to hurt you Zev, you mean more to me than I wanted you to. More than I ever expected to find here. Anywhere. I am so sorry I will have to…"

He wrapped his left arm around her lower back and clutched her to his chest once more. Smoothing her tangled hair with his right hand, he pressed his lips to her fevered forehead and rocked her gently. "Shhhh, my dear, shhhh. Do not apologize for caring for me. I am sorry I acted so childishly." He felt her shiver and gently kissed her again before collecting her things. Once she had them all firmly in hand, he scooped her up in his arms and took her to her tent.

He laid Erin down on her bedroll. "Get warm, mi querida. I will return shortly." He slipped out of the tent and asked Aiden to make sure the other bonfire was taken care of before retrieving his belongings. He returned to her after a few moments, burdened by the contents of his tent. He motioned for her to stand and placed her cloak around her shoulders before making their shared bed.

She was still shivering as he stood and walked to her. Zevran encircled his lover with his arms, pulling her to his chest. He stroked her long hair as she buried her face in the crook between his neck and shoulder. "Ah, mi querida, mi amante, we will face this destiny together. If it is the will of the gods that you should leave my side tomorrow, then we shall make this night a memorable one, no?

He lifted her chin and kissed her tenderly, memorizing the feel of her lips against his. He took his time tasting her mouth, committing all of her flavors to memory. "We will eat before retiring. You will need your strength for what I have planned for you." He offered her his trademark leer, trying to lift the somber mood she was in.

She smiled back and examined the shelter Zevran had erected by himself. It was the first time he had done so and all appeared to be correct. "You did an excellent job with the tent. You didn't have any leftover parts, right?" She winked at him slyly, but her eyes betrayed the sadness she still harbored just beneath her skin.

"You wound me, mi premiar. It is not as if I had not helped you before. It is not so difficult a thing to erect." The last word dripped with sexual overtones. "I will be back with dinner."

XXX

Aiden laid his hand on the assassin's shoulder as he placed various meats, greens and root vegetables on a large platter. "Zev, if you ever need to talk, just get things off your chest, I'm here for you. I know how hard this is for me to digest and I have never known the pleasure of lying with the woman. It must be excruciating for you."

Zevran recalled the muscular warrior's flirtations from a few days ago. Maybe the Warden was hinting at a deeper desire in his words and they were not just teasing comments. "I appreciate your offer Warden. It is… difficult, yes. But I am under no illusions and have always known she would not be mine for long.

He laughed while shaking his head. "In truth, I was quite surprised that she opened up to me at all. She is a very… surprising woman, to say the least. I will certainly miss her companionship, and her blades. It is my sincere wish that she remain with us until this Blight is defeated. Her many talents have come in handy, no?"

Aiden sighed and looked up to the moon. "She has been indispensible and a true friend. I am having a very hard time imagining our group without her presence. She has been with me since this journey began. Her leaving will create a void I'm not sure anyone will be able to fill."

The young Warden refocused his attention on the elf beside him. "But we will continue without her and finish this thing. We have to and she wouldn't want us to mourn her."

He set Zevran's plate down on a nearby boulder and took the elf by the shoulders. "You know that you are just as much a part of this team as anyone else, Zev. I need you by my side as much as I need the others. Please, don't take on any burden alone that the rest of us can help you carry."

Zevran bowed his head and smiled. The Warden spoke from his heart and it eased some of his pain to hear him say the words. He knew he had a friend in this young man and he would need that camaraderie when Erin left his world. "I… thank you, Warden. That means… more to me than I can adequately say."

He paused a moment before fixing Aiden with an uncharacteristically serious gaze. "Aiden, if you would like to join us this evening, I will be more than happy to approach Erin on your behalf. I… wouldn't want to be the cause of any unfulfilled desires that may be lurking in that devious mind of yours."

Aiden laughed, "No Zev, while that is indeed tempting, I do not wish to complicate things between Erin and myself. I also don't think Leliana would be very happy with me if I bedded Erin while she and I are becoming… close."

Zevran chuckled back at the warrior, "Hmmm, no doubt that would complicate matters between you and the lovely bard. As you wish, my Warden. She and I will be up rather late. I think it is a good idea that she be allowed to sleep in tomorrow."

"Of course, I will allow her to set the pace until this is done. I must admit, I am in no hurry to engage this particular enemy. I would suggest we put this off another day to allow her more time to prepare, but something tells me this needs to be finished as soon as possible. We may all be worried over nothing, but there is no sense postponing the inevitable."

He cupped the elf's cheek, "I mean it. Zev. I am here for you, whenever you need me. Never doubt that."

Zevran shuffled his feet slightly, not sure how to respond to such an offer. "I… we do not have friends in the Crows and I honestly never thought I would find such a thing. Erin has taught me the meaning of the word and I would gladly call you 'friend', my Warden."

Aiden wrapped his arms around the smaller man in a friendly, bear hug.

The assassin was shocked by the sudden, intimate gesture and stood frozen for a moment before his arms tentatively returned the embrace.

Leliana approached the entwined men and smiled, "Awwww, that is so adorable. It is breathtaking to see men embrace each other freely." She clasped her hands together in front of her and tilted her head as she smiled warmly at them.

The two men dropped their arms and coughed into their hands while trying to find anything but Leliana to look at. They decided on their shoes as they shuffled uncomfortably in the bard's appreciative gaze.

"Yes, well, glad we worked that out Zev. I… uh… food, yes, food. Very hungry. See you later then."

"Ah… yes, Erin is expecting me back. I'll just… be going now. Good evening Warden." He turned and bowed to the redhead without his usual grace. "Leliana."

Zevran hurried back to Erin's tent and slipped inside. While he had been with many men in his past, this was far different than the lusty embraces involved in those trysts. He had never been hugged by a man in friendship before and he wasn't sure how to process this new form of intimacy. It felt oddly comforting though.

XXX

Zevran presented the platter of food to Erin with an exaggerated bow. She giggled at him as he set it on their bedroll and joined her; pulling the blankets over their laps for warmth. They sat and ate dinner while her music played. She explained the various musical styles as the songs changed.

Zevran liked it all, even though he couldn't understand most of the lyrics. He liked the beat of what she called 'hip hop' and the lyrical style of 'Rap". The Spanish guitar and Cuban music reminded him of his beloved Antiva. She had an appreciation for a large range of styles and her world was rich with different types of music.

"Erin, Aiden mentioned we could postpone this one more day to allow you more time to… prepare. Do you want me to tell him you need another day?" He tried to hide the pleading in his eyes as he awaited her response.

Erin's eyes fell to her hands in her lap. She wanted another day, and another, and another, but that would only drag out the pain of what may happen. "As much as I want to put this off, Zev, I can't. The demon may already know I'm here and we don't want to give it any more time to prepare than necessary."

She made sense; there was no need to let the demon gain power while they drew out their destiny. "Hmm, I believe we should waste no more time with talk then, mi premiar." He wrapped his right hand gently around her neck and pulled her to him for a kiss.

He removed her cloak and she shivered violently before cursing the temperature. "Oh Lord have mercy, it's cold!" She quickly slid back under the blankets and pulled them up to her chin.

"Ah, I think I can help with that. Having you covered so, will simply not do for what I have planned. I will be right back." Zevran left the tent and went through their spare gear for a metal shield. He found several rocks of equal size and placed them in a circle close to their bed. He went to the campfire and filled the shield with as many hot coals and small rocks as it would safely carry. Once inside the tent again, he placed the shield on the rocks. "That should add some warmth, mi amante, and not pose a threat in the process."

Erin could feel the heat from the coals and allowed Zevran to pull her up to undress. He removed her shirt and cupped her breasts as he bent his head to suckle them. She whimpered as his tongue teased her and his hand slipped under her pants and panties. He licked a path from her breasts, up her neck and took her mouth hungrily as he sank a finger inside her. He hissed at how wet she had already become.

He dropped to his knees and slowly unzipped her pants, glancing up to catch her gaze as she watched him. The garment fell to the floor and he ran his hands up her calves and thighs before letting them settle on her posterior. He slid her panties down slowly while his tongue tasted her and he nipped at her bud playfully. She moaned. He growled.

He stood and began removing his armor, openly appraising every inch of her naked form while he did so. He shivered slightly at the memory of almost denying himself this vision not a couple of hours earlier.

"You are still cold Zev?"

"Awwww, no, mi premiar, it is your incredible sexiness that has caused me to tremble, I assure you." He hoped she bought it.

She giggled and lowered her head while delicately dragging a toe in circles.

"You are quite fetching when you do that 'shy' thing, mi querida." Good, she was unaware.

She kneeled before him as he removed the last of his armor and began helping him with his boots. His eyes were hungry, knowing full well what she had in store for him once the menial task was completed. With their gaze locked on one another, she watched him as she licked his length. She began stroking him and sucking the sensitive head of his erection, whirling her tongue around him before taking him fully in her mouth.

"Mierda, you are so very good with your mouth, mi premiar." He stroked her hair and watched attentively as she pleasured him.

When he began to swell, he grabbed his shaft and slid himself out of her mouth.

She smiled up at him and grasped his tight glutes firmly. "No, mi amo, please. I wish to taste you."

He moaned as he obediently slid himself back inside her, lightly guiding the pace as he neared his peak. She sucked him harder and deeper, coaxing him to fill her mouth with his flavor. He relinquished all control as his head tilted back, just holding her enough to maintain his balance as his climax hit him. He returned his gaze to their joining as he spilled into her, watching her swallow everything he had to give her.

She helped him to his knees as they both slipped under the blankets. He tasted every inch of his Traveler's neck, shoulders, breasts, and stomach before ducking under the blankets. He wasted no time lapping up the moisture created while she had pleasured him. She churned as he tasted her. When his tongue began dancing over her center, she clutched at the furs of their bedding.

He held her thighs as she quivered under his ministrations. When she peaked, he held her hips firmly to the bedding so she could not break his contact. He was hard again and painfully in need of her. Before she stopped trembling altogether, he launched into her.

Erin was getting dizzy from the pleasure of him filling her with such need. Their lust fueled their lovemaking and made it desperate and hungry. He guided her to all fours, and with his hands on her hips, took her again and again. He slid a hand to her axis once more and let his fingers bring her to a shuddering, whimpering climax as he claimed her.

When he finally released inside her, they were both shaking and barely able to move their limbs. He stayed hunched over her for a while, kissing the back of her neck, before he slid out of her and lay down. She was unable to move and lay flat on her belly. He pulled the blankets over them both while they recovered.

Zevran peppered her with kisses and adjusted the blankets as she turned to nestle her back into his chest. Cold air shot between them when she moved, washing over their sweat covered skin. "Brasca! It is cold here. No more movements, mi querida, lest more of that Maker forsaken air sneak in." He kissed the nape of her neck and pulled her closer to him as sleep took him.

Erin lay awake, committing everything about her Antivan elf to memory: every smell, the warmth of his skin, the calluses on his hands and the rhythm of his heart beat. She studied the way his chest rose and fell behind her and the feel of his breath on her neck. It was quite a while before she allowed herself to sleep again.

~TBC~

A/N: Sorry for the very long delay, but with the holiday and me getting the stomach flu, I had little time to write. This chapter has also seen a serious reworking from what I originally sent to my Betas. I know this is a huge chapter, but there was no sane way to break it into two.

Thank you for all of the comments,reviews, faves and alerts. Hearing what really resonates with each of you helps me craft a better story.

As always, a special thanks to my Betas, Biff and Zevgirl.