Disclaimer: Me no own, you no sue
Summary: He was the one left to pick up the pieces. As usual.
AN: Y'know I think it's kinda sad that often we turn to Zev as the fall back guy. Doesn't anyone see the irony of the supposedly faithless, unreliable, sleezy man-ho as being the one who always does what it takes to make things work? That in the end he's the most reliable? Morrigan leaves ya if you're a male Warden, or have the unlock romance mod. Alistair dies or dumps you, unless he's hardened, ya'll do the ritual, and you're a human noble. Or you can be his bit o'ass on the side. How humiliating. As for Leliana um, no offense, but I didn't care for that romance much. So, Zev winds up as the fall back guy so often. A lot of me thinks he's willing to be that, because any scrap of good in his life is infinitely precious. No matter if he would wish it all to himself, would wish that he wasn't the back up plan. But he takes what he can get, and is grateful. This, makes me sad. And makes me wanna give him a big plate of cookies, and warm milk with honey before snuggling him up with a fuzzy blankie.
And it also made me feel guilty for using him as the rebound guy the one time that I did.
Amku has been kind enough to beta this, she is awesome and is kind enough to point out areas for improvement while actually telling me why they need to be improved. See, that is cool – and yes I sound so young saying that but whatever.
Translation for the handful of Spanish/Antivan words at the bottom. As usual in the order they are used.
The dirty tasks always fell to him. Or maybe it was more likely that he took them upon himself before anyone else could. She had told him that they didn't need someone to shine their armor, but in the mornings, Lyna always found hers sparkling clean and free of the filth of walked miles, fought battles and fatigue. In towns, Zevran would stand close to her, watching, always watching their surroundings. Once she had turned around to see him carefully posed with as much intimidation as he could muster, merely looking at one of the nobles who had been approaching. It was his version of fending off unwanted attentions.
And it was terribly effective.
In battle Zevran would appear, trailing shadows as he sought to relieve the brunt of battle from her shoulders. Never mind that he had no shield, he would go toe to toe with foes that outweighed him by double or more, unflinching. Only a laugh would escape, jubilant as he dodged and wove side to side. Her personal protection seemed to be his goal.
All of it for a set of gloves, boots, and kindness.
So Lyna made Alistair king, knowing that she would lose him in doing so. He would have to keep up appearances, and Lyna wouldn't be anyone's fluff on the side. Sweet, gentle, bashful Alistair – who had given her his virginity. The kind man who had been so uncertain and looked to her as though she were beautiful, as if she hadn't been brutalized by the Alienage, hadn't been beaten down. He was the one she had opened up to, the one she had consciously allowed to see her weak. Alistair had come to her, and more the fool was she for thinking that he wouldn't shame her for what they had shared. And he was the one who abandoned her even as she spared Loghain, saving Alistair and herself under the guise of granting mercy to a foe.
It was Alistair who publicly humiliated her. It was he who proved that no one was as good as they seemed.
The garden was green and gray all at once. Lyna wished the skies were overcast, but they were not. A verdant expanse of grass cushioned each step, but her vision was dark. Who was she to have thought that someone, bastard or no, could give her a little respect? No amount of earnest words, fumbling touches and kisses could make up for the fact that the regard that Alistair had held her in was tossed away as easily as the contents of the morning's chamber pot.
She would not cry. She would not scream. She would not attack.
She would never break again.
At least the others had been wise enough to leave her alone. It was more courtesy than Alistair had granted her in the last. Tinkling water echoed in the rounded stone fountain, the spray little more than a fine mist in the air. It was a thing of delicate beauty, so expensive, sitting in the Arl's backyard, and she, the dirty, Alienage knife-ear would sully it by sharing space with it. Just as her presence as the King's adviser would, and just as giving her any token consideration would.
This, of course, didn't stop Lyna from flopping down in the grass, leaning against the wall of the fountain and trailing fingers through the rippling water. Perverse pleasure was all that Lyna had to stave off the empty pain compounded by Alistair's public denouncing of their relationship – on the basis that she wasn't noble, couldn't give him a child, and was worst of all, an elf. She could not forget the way he had yelled at her for Lohgain, the vile things he said. Those were words and actions that Lyna thought Alistair would never be capable of. She had believed, however foolishly, his promise to never hurt her.
"Now would be a prime time for you to finish the job Zevran," Lyna didn't look up, but knew who it was.
Saying nothing Zevran only shifted, examining the battlements that closed in the Arl's estate. Lyna knew that the assassin wouldn't attempt to kill her, he hadn't even tried let alone threatened to since shortly after the first botched ambush. It was as though he were unable to do so. She stared at him, as he so often stared at her, and wondered, 'Would his touch be skilled, raw, or soothing?' The thought was a distraction and desperately needed.
Hoping her voice wasn't too raw, "What, no quips for my entertainment?"
"No, my dear Warden." The assassin glanced at her, and Lyna felt like she had been sucker punched. "Any that I may say would only be taken as an offer of pity and would only anger you." He was all sunlight and shadow as he shrugged a shoulder. "And I would not be the one you were truly angry with, correct?"
Zevran was right; Lyna knew it. Those strange pearls of perceptiveness that showed themselves would shock most. He was supposed to be nothing more than a scoundrel, something easy, pretty and dangerous – forgettable if one survived the encounter. Reality was a different thing entirely, and the expression she had caught in his glance made her wonder which of them was the greater danger to the other.
Rising, pushing herself from the carved basin of the fountain she pressed him, "You would do it if I asked you to, wouldn't you?"
"Do what, my dear Warden?" he asked, politely pretending to not know, to be unaware that he had revealed himself. But he knew that she knew – all convoluted and twisted up. "Make you angry? Kill you? Dance the Remigold in some fine dress of silk and frills?"
Lyna had to admit, Zevran was masterful, and somehow... gloriously pitiful. He would take any scrap she gave him and hold it close, cherishing it. Here was a person who had been wronged far more by life than she, and the former slave got up each day to face it, either because he knew no better or because he was too stubborn to stop. Angry now with him more than Alistair – but really horrifically angry at herself – Lyna stepped closer, pushing. She was pushing at his own wound. The wound that had allowed him to sit by and watch as she sought happiness and respect from a man who the assassin had probably always known would break her, because he would give her any chance at joy that he could.
She saw it in his eyes and in how he followed. She saw it in the vials of poison skillfully made, waiting and refilled each day in her packs. She saw it in the gleam of metal scoured free of rust so her blades would always cut deep and slide back out with minimal fuss. It was in how he had followed her out here, and made himself known when she needed something to focus on other than her own humiliation. And here it was with him standing still, looking down at her, how he didn't stare at her breasts or her lips as so many would – but only in the eye.
"You would take me as I am, wouldn't you?" she asked, saying the one thing that she probably shouldn't have, or maybe should have long ago.
Slowly he blinked, the eerie cat-gold eyes shuttered for a moment, head cocked to the side. "I could, but that would only make you feel worse to use me in that manner for you would feel as though I were a poor replacement. So I will not, dear Warden."
Even now he refused to hurt her, to give her ammunition. He would never allow himself to be the instrument of her pain.
No matter that she had ordered him to stay at the gates, that stubborn man had followed. A whirling dervish of blades, blood flying from the metal and there he was. Like a firebomb, Zevran exploded into one of the knots of darkspawn, what she could see of his face was a mask of serenity. In battle, the weapon that he had been forged into excelled, disregarding the fact that an assassin was not meant to be a front line fighter.
Then again, she shouldn't be either. Both of them were too light to withstand solid hits, both of them unable to wear heavier armor without extreme penalties. And yet both elves would stare down their blades at oncoming foes who wore plate or were corded in thick muscle and shells and dodge just before it was too late. Lyna took a moment to wonder if she wore the same expression as Zevran as they danced side by side. She could only hope so.
It was only in flashes, her body leading and following in one continuous flow, that Lyna could not be completely certain of Zevran. She could not be certain if he had been wounded or healed, as the moment something landed a hit it would disappear. Or at least it should. Wynne was hanging back, and, sparing her a glance, Lyna saw that, yes, the mage was indeed still throwing healing magic around like mana was water. This was their combined swan song and it no longer mattered.
Pausing, the current batch of darkspawn eliminated, "I told you to stay at the gates, Zevran."
Lohgain and Wynne shared a look, not saying anything but turning their backs to give the two elves some semblance of privacy. Zevran didn't respond, other than to wipe the sticky blood from his weapons before sheathing them. And then irritatingly he went about searching corpses as if this were any normal battle, plucking poultices and coins alike free of rent armor. Lyna had specifically brought just herself, Lohgain and Wynne as they were the three who could die, who had nothing left to live for but honor.
"Go back to the gates Zevran," gesturing sharply, "the path should be clear. You'll be safer there."
"Tchk, and let you have all the fun?" for the first time in days he threw a grin her way. "Did I not say I would storm the gates of the Black City by your side, dear Warden?"
Reaching out to snag his forearm, giving it a shake, "This is no game, Zevran! We're likely to die here. This isn't a joking matter. Just. Go."
"Ah, and here I thought that this was merely a walk through a park," he exclaimed with feigned surprise, looking around as if he were seeing it for the first time. "My, my, the scenery is so lovely, all covered in the black goo that is darkspawn blood. Maybe that should have been my first hint that this was no pastoral vista."
Gritting her teeth, Lyna leaned in, hissing, "This is a suicide mission, Zevran. You'll die here and waste your freedom. Is that what you want?"
Wynne was dying, she had drawn on her Spirit too often in their travels, and had insisted she would be able to last to the battle and give them a chance at winning and was ready to perish for such a cause. Lohgain was a Warden and could kill the Archdemon, just as Lyna would be able to. They were the minimum necessary for this, and the three with the least to lose. And still Zevran was there, gazing down at her as if willing her to understand something. But she didn't, couldn't. Wouldn't.
"Freedom is the ability to choose what I do with my life, yes? Then I choose to follow you to this, to see it through, no matter the outcome." With his lips turned up as if he were smiling, teeth bared, he was more fearsome in that moment than Lyna had ever seen him. "And so here I am, following you of my own free will, and no one will prevent me from doing so. My first action as a free man, my dear Warden, is to find that overgrown lizard, and do as I have always done for you."
There was no dissuading him from the action. He was implacable and any attempts would be rebuffed by whatever means necessary. And also, Lyna couldn't bring herself to even make more than a halfhearted attempt. His presence was comforting, something to keep her steady with it's familiarity.
The Archdemon was thrashing, screaming, and Lyna couldn't see Wynne anymore. At some point she had lost sight of Lohgain, and there was no guessing where Zevran was. It was like the waves of darkspawn wouldn't end and for every chance she had at striking the Archdemon, she had to fell ten darkspawn. But it didn't matter because the Archdemon was thrashing and it was dying and she wasn't close enough, not nearly close enough to land the final blow.
Struggling, tripping, trying to find that hidden wellspring of strength that Zevran always appeared to be able to tap into, she gasped and panted as she lost all sense of grace. No longer was she able to cut through the darkspawn like a scythe, but had settled into an economical butchers' hack and stab that was ugly but served as a way to get the darkspawn out of her way.
Her vision was blurry, and truly the only thing she could focus on was the Archdemon anyway, so the gloved hands that hooked into the back of her armor were a shock. She flailed madly, but the figure standing behind her hung on without mercy and she was so tired she couldn't think straight. She couldn't think to reverse her grip on her blades and stab backwards.
Further and further she was hauled from the Archdemon, and then thrown without ceremony down beside a ballistae. She then realized what had been dragging her. Zevran, wobbling with one arm clutched around his middle, limped to the oversized crossbow, turning it on the knot of darkspawn that was pinning Lohgain in place.
"I have to get to the Archdemon!" shouting, gesturing with a dagger, it was glued to her fist with blood and other unmentionables. "Only a Warden can kill it Zevran!" begging him to understand, if he could even hear her over the cacophony.
Zevran ignored her, continuing to fire and then reload the hulking weapon. Pushing herself up from the broken stone of the battlement, Lyna made to wade back into the fray. Suddenly, the ballistae swung, clipping her so she fell back down. Zevran kept her where she was, and then turned the weapon again, aiming and clearing a path for Lohgain. The huge shemlen warrior saw that he had a shot, and, somehow in that massive armor, he moved into a lope. Steadily he picked up speed, tossing his shield aside, but then Lyna's view was skewed, and Zevran was grabbing her again, dragging her. She got her legs under her and helped as she could.
And then the world exploded. Lohgain must have landed the blow. It was over.
Scrape, thump, grunt...
Scrape, thump, pause, grunt.
Against shattered limestone flooring, Lyna's vision was filled with nothing but blood covered stone. There was something pulling at her arm, yanking it in a broken rhythm, and her shoulder socket was a riot of agony from the motion. It was no worse than the rest of her. Weakly, whole body feeling as if every drop of life had been squeezed from her, Lyna fought to raise her head. The sole of a boot, the back of a calf and ankle, all of which was caked into something almost unrecognizable. A chunk of dried mud – which wasn't really mud, but a mixture of sweat, death and blood – flaked off, revealing scorched designs in black on deep chocolate brown.
The elf fell forward, catching himself one handed, and Lyna thumped against the rubble for a moment. And then with a grunt he rose, dragging her another few lurching steps. An eternity passed and Zevran collapsed beside her, and Lyna waited for him to say something as he stared down at her, and then gave himself a shake, seeming to collect scattered wits.
"Wynne." He pointed to a body nearby. "Let us see if that magical bosom still rises."
"Zev," she croaked, stopping him from leaving her for even those few seconds.
Leaning down and bracing both hands on either side of the smaller elf, he brought his ear closer to her lips. "Si, mi amora, what is it?"
"You." Her throat so dry. Lyna had to swallow several times to work enough saliva to speak. "You are. So. Weird."
That must have struck him wrong, or he was still in shock, for he started to laugh. It was a choking sound, not the usual smooth heat that issued. Hovering still, and wetness hit her cheeks, a fat drop warm and soothing fell into one of her eyes. Stinging, but it washed some of the burn away. Laughter to hide the tears, so typically Zevran.
With a jerk he removed his helmet, throwing it aside, not far – he clearly had little strength left. Sweat knotted golden hair stuck at strange angles from his head, and a weary pass of gauntleted fingers through it only made it worse. He said no more but crawled towards their healer. What he hoped to find there, Lyna didn't know. Maybe there were a few poultices around, Wynne was always prepared, keeping so many components and pre-made items. Just In Case.
Drifting, staring at the blood red sky, orange trails and purple shadows for clouds, Lyna clung to consciousness. Why? Everything hurt so bad, she was shattered in so many pieces, and not just physically. Maybe it was because Zevran seemed to need her to hang on, why else would he have dragged her so far?
"Drink," appearing at her side once more. "Wynne is coming around, I forced the last of her lyrium down her throat, she will be able to help soon." Fingers pried her mouth open, holding a flask to her lips, "Drink."
In the background Lyna could hear Wynne moving and groaning weakly, "Oh, dear. Horsefeathers!"
"My darling, Wynne," he croaked. His voice was all wrong, not flirty, but tired, and verging on frightened. "I have something to ask of you."
"Oh, you're wounded! Come here, dear. I don't have much left but I'll see what I can do for you, Zevran -"
He cut her off, head shaking. He was holding Lyna in his lap, hunched over her. "Not me."
Somehow he had maneuvered Lyna so she couldn't see Wynne, all she could see was him. Leather armor cracked, singed and in some places shorn away. Wanting to see the mage, wanting to move, to get away from the embrace – Lyna wanted to stay where she was, desperately, but had to get away from it. Letting Zevran hold her would hurt him in the end. So Wynne, Lyna tried to focus on Wynne.
And could not.
All she could see was how gray the bronze of his skin was. The dirt caked on him. And the tremble at the corners of his full lips. How much blood had he lost? If his armor was any indicator – far too much.
"Zevran, you need healing too, I can.. split up what I have, I'll call on my Spirit." Hesitation. Worry. Fatigue
Wynne was offering up the last remnants of her life. And now that the fight was over, Lyna felt it would be wrong to ask for it.
"Give it all to her." His voice held a desperate edge, like glass shards hidden in silk bedding. His Antivan accent lent the only semblance of calm. "I have one more potion left, it will be enough for me."
Lyna shook her head, or tried to, tried to say something. Anything. Especially when the scent of lavender and ozone filled the air, overpowering the perfume of battle carnage. The Spirit was being drawn from Wynne, and a soft chanting called out for strength in words that Lyna couldn't understand on the conscious level, but they soothed.
"I am ready," Wynne intoned, her presence closer. "There isn't enough to fully heal her, not nearly enough."
Zevran was curt. "Give her enough strength to hang on. Do what you must, my dearest Wynne."
Cooling, warming, soft strength flowed into Lyna. Similar to blood magic in that the cost, oh the cost, was of someone's life essence. But it filled, and mended and eased the pain. And awakened new ones. Suddenly Lyna was aware of her legs, she could feel them – and hadn't been aware that earlier she hadn't been able to. As suddenly as the relief-pain wash had started, it stopped. A thud, one of those familiar sounds one never forgets from hearing a body drop in battle. Wynne was gone.
"Gracias Wynne, muchas gracias," he mumbled like a prayer, Zevran curled over Lyna, and she could smell the salt of him even through the blood. "Gracias por este regalo."
Unable to say anything in the face of Zevran's relief, Lyna lay there. She was not strong enough to do anything else, despite what Wynne had done. But she wouldn't waste it either, she would hang on. Lyna had to. Not for herself, but for Zevran who she hadn't wanted to see her fall, fearing it would break him. He had so little to hang onto, she had known this for a long time.
Gloves, boots and a bit of kindness. Clutching at the pieces that she dropped when they were too much for her to carry anymore. So Lyna couldn't do that, it would be selfish. But taking from him would be even more selfish, which is why she hadn't done so. He knew that was how she felt, so he didn't offer either. Because all he had to hang onto – were pieces of her.
Summoning some vestige of strength, Lyna reached up, touching his cheek. "You always pick up the pieces."
Topaz yellow, bright and shinier than any ore, his eyes lidded as he leaned into the touch, whispering, "I always will, mi amora."
Gracias, Wynne, muchas gracias - thank you Wynne, many thanks. (Aprox)
Gracias por este regalo – thank you for your gift/thank you for this gift
Still working on A Murder of Crows, but this story sorta popped into my head and I wrote it down as fast as I could. I'm debating a companion piece from Zevran's POV about the exact reasons of why he would settle for anything Lyna would give him.
Criticisms, praise or flames – feel free to send'em my way. Reviews are a writer's paycheck. And to take a line from someone's request for reviews: I'd rather a review than a favorite. Or if you favorite, I'd love to know why so I can keep up my self esteem when it comes to wordsmithing. Of course all the nice hits etc are absolutely encouraging, but reviews do make my day! Love ya'll!