Title: Necessary Words
Summary: Zevran is in love. Madly. But every advance he has made was ignored, because Dailah thought their views were incompatible. Now he has to do something he tries to never do: Talk about FEELINGS.
Disclaimer: Me no own, you no sue
AN: This is from an unfilled prompt on kinkmeme, which um, I suppose is now filled. It was written over the course of two days in a bout of insomnia that was eventually interrupted by passing out for a few hours and then finishing the last scene. Unbeta'd.
Dailah glanced up from the spidery handwritten letter with a frown. "Yes, Zev?"
The Antivan had appeared from what seemed to be thin air to lean across her desk, chin thrust forward as his eyes crossed, reading the missive upside down. "My dear Warden, I came to see what ever it could possibly be that was keeping you from our sparring."
"Halla's nuts," she cursed with a tired sigh. "That was today?"
Zevran hid the frown that wanted to break free. "Yes, that was today. And the demonstration for the new recruits is in the afternoon, and there is also the matter of seeing Ignacio about some Crow contacts." He cocked his head to the side as he smoothly slid onto the edge of the desk. "Are you unwell, my dear? You have been so... forgetful of late."
Which wasn't entirely true. Dailah had remembered to show up – and promptly, at that – to all meetings, dates and general houplah that was required of her. Unless he was attending, of course. Zevran had come to suspect that the Dalish had been avoiding him, as much as that thought pained him.
"Perhaps you should allow me to share more of your burdens," he offered, his tone remaining light, as he watched her from the corner of one eye. "You take on too much, when you have others to rely on rather than simply your impressive self."
With a cough, Dailah's dusky cheeks darkened, the beige tattoo on her forehead standing in stark relief. "No, but thank you Zevran. You do more than enough, as is."
"Ah, but I insist," plucking the letter she had been perusing earlier from her hand. "Allow me to go over these trifling missives for you, and answer those that I may, and separate out those that require your personal attention for you."
She eyed him, knowing that her friend was up to something. "But if I don't answer them... we have different ways of writing -"
He cut her off, with a dismissive snort. "I would be a poor rogue if I couldn't forge your handwriting, my dear." So saying, he drew up a chair beside her, crowding too close, and took half the pile of letters for himself. "Ah, it has been some time since I've had the pleasure of your close company, and doing a bit of fraud as well, thrown in for extra spice? Marvelous!"
Dailah felt hunted. In fact, she knew she was being hunted. Through the corridors of the palace, in the offices, library, and courtyards, Zevran would appear, no matter where she went. First had been his insistence on 'helping' her with the paperwork that came from bureaucracy – something Alistair and Eamon said were necessary evils of her station as Ferelden's Commander of the Grey.
Then yesterday, in the stables, he was there waiting, it seemed, for her, when she had decided – out of the blue she thought – to go for a ride, to escape, but there he had stood, speaking softly to the blue roan mare he preferred, already saddling it. Of course, Zevran had left Dailah no choice but to come with him, backing her into a corner as to why she would come to the stables, if not to go for a ride? Neatly, the Antivan elf had forced Dailah into acquiescence, when he threw out another question, one that seemed rhetorical, but probably wasn't.
"Ah, but since you are here, you wish to ride? Then why not join me, unless it is to avoid me for some reason?" A thin, dark golden brown brow raised quizzically.
Which had hit far too close to home.
It wasn't that she didn't like Zevran. In fact, the opposite was true. Dailah gnashed her teeth in frustration, tugging on the short red braid of hair that hung from her temple. Dailah quite liked Zevran, found him attractive, fun, sweet – and underneath it, quite serious. Keeper Marethari would describe the former Crow as 'a river with currents that ran deep'; far deeper than most would suspect. So, if pressed, the Dalish Warden would have to admit that she was half in love with her dandy friend.
However, Dailah knew, as deep as Zevran was, he was still the product of his life, of his training, of all his vast experiences, many of which were more than any single person should have to endure. They were piled high on Zevran's shoulders, shoulders that had rarely buckled under the weight. They added up to a man who was worthy of much, but that wasn't the problem: not his worth, but his inability to accept his value, which would allow him to stay with a single person without fear of them losing interest in him. That much Dailah could see, could feel, could know. She would be hurt by accepting any of his many advances, and now – now he was hunting her, and Dailah just wanted to get away, to get a breath, to gain the distance needed to continue to stave off Zevran and his... presence.
Spotting Leliana in an alcove, Dailah sped her steps up, hoping that the Orlesian could give her a hand with the situation. "Leli, I need your help with something..." her voice trailied off upon seeing who the bard was speaking with.
"Oh, Dailah, we were just talking about you." The Orlseisan clapped her hands together once, then swept her into a tight hug, placing a kiss on each of her cheeks. "You have been so busy lately, we have spent so little time together... And Zevran and I were just saying that we should devise some sort of break for you..."
She leaned back from Leliana's embrace to see Zevran smiling faintly. "I'm fine, honest, and I see you both almost every day -"
"No, no ma petite belle, the Wardens have you running ragged!" A small shake of her shoulders, was enthusiastic enough to toss Dailah's braids forward so that the bells in them chimed. "And that Eamon – you are a Warden, not an errand boy!"
"Not a boy at all, much to my delight, and the delight of all who see you, my fair Warden," Zevran quipped, leaning indolently against a stone wall, examining his neat nails.
She protested. "No, no, honestly, both of you, I can handle everything, that's -"
"Did you know that yesterday the good Arl ordered our fair Dailah to go over the supply lists for the castle? Isn't that a job for the Seneschal?" Zevran interrupted, cutting in over Dailah's protests.
"Quel l'enfer? This will not do!" Leliana cried out, her fair skin turning dark and red splotches blooming on her cheeks. "That is a servants' duty, not for the likes of the Hero of Ferelden! Archdemon pluck every hair of his gray beard!" A firm grip locked on Dailah's upper arm, hustling her back the way she had come. "We must remove you from the palace for a few days, get you free of his clutches. Does not Alistair say anything to this?" The last was directed at Zevran.
He slid into a smooth gait beside Dailah, so that she was pinned between the two rogues. "Not a word, I fear. Sometimes I wonder who sits the throne of Ferelden – good Alistair, or Eamon?"
Now Dailah found her voice. "Careful Zevran, walls have ears; that could be treason."
He laughed, indelicately. "Ah, good thing then that I have friends in high places, and am beholden to the Warden Commander, and none other, no?"
Once again the Antivan Crow had deftly caught Dailah, and she saw no recourse but to follow along or fear being revealed. Dailah had no intention of giving Zevran the satisfaction of knowing that he was getting to her. She was Dalish, and would bow to no one; that also meant she wouldn't allow herself to be broken by anyone. Allowing Zevran his head with her would only end in her pain, even though that would be far from his intention she knew. It was just that she wasn't built the same way, could not make idle romance acceptable to her sensibilities.
So she submitted to Leliana's packing of her belongings, enough for several days, and admonishments of 'no arguing', while Zevran went to gain his own pack. Apparently it 'wouldn't do' for the Hero of Ferelden, slayer of Archdemons, crowner of kings, settler of disputes, to travel alone. In a city. That she had saved. Repeatedly.
Dailah sighed and watched her red-haired friend fuss, pack, unpack, repack and unpack again, grumbling quietly that some days she just couldn't win.
Zevran guided Dailah through some of the darker alleys of Denerim. "Trust me, I know where Eamon would never think to look for you."
She made a face, sidestepping a puddle of something that smelled awful. "Yes, no one would say to themselves, 'oh, perhaps we should search for a Dalish Warden in a dirty alley, or maybe a gutter'. Really now, Zevran - oh halla piss!" She exclaimed, as she stepped into a different puddle, having only been paying attention to the first. "Nughumping, horsefeathered, vashedan!"
"Impressive! Tell that puddle where to go!" Zevran laughed heartily at her expense, his warm hand moving to cup her elbow. "To be sure, I'm impressed with such colorful language. Shall I teach you some of the choicer phrases from fair Antiva, as well?"
Making a sound of disgust, she shook her foot to the side, hoping to dislodge some of the muck from her boot. "Not. Right. Now. Ugh. Give me an honest forest! I hate cities!"
"Ah yes, full of droppings and other things as well." He nodded sagely, nimbly leading her onwards. "Mud and dirt, dead things, rot, and have I, perchance, mentioned the dirt, and lack of bathing facilities?"
Her nose wrinkled in a way that Zevran found most endearing. "I think city folk only have such things because of the concentrated filth. Has no one ever heard of sanitation?"
"Hmm, we should travel to fair Antiva City; it is far more civilized than this place, my sweet Warden. They have proper drainage and oh, the glorious bath houses, how I do miss them." Not relinquishing his hold on her elbow, now that he had gained a reason to touch his Warden; the Antivan would not give it up easily. "But our destination has baths aplenty, and many other amenities."
"And where is it, exactly, you're taking me Zevran?" crossly, hitching up her small pack on her shoulders.
The golden elf cast a sly glance her way. "You shall see, soon enough." Pointing ahead as they rounded a corner, he declared, "From the ugliest of creatures, such lovely pearls form!"
Dailah stopped, digging in her feet upon catching sight of the structure. It was several stories tall, and well-kept, despite being in one of the poorer quarters of Denerim. Gay red lanterns hung from the eaves, shining pools of sanguine reflecting around the door; that, too, was painted a glistening red. The building itself was sturdily constructed, heavy wood beams thrusting outwards at regular intervals, whitewashed plaster walls, and windows that were lined with glass, a rare commodity. A sign jutted out, almost lewdly cheerful, with a brightly painted ball in shades of white and cream.
"The Pearl?" she sputtered, her jaw dropping.
"Yes, the finest brothel in all of Ferelden," he said, tugging Dailah along. "And some of the best accommodations outside of Antiva. Here such a weary, overworked personage as yourself may while away all your troubles. For a price, of course."
"Of course," she echoed with empty heat, sounding half mad, half disbelieving and entirely too tired to come up with anything else.
This was unexpected, to say the least... but, really, Dailah should have seen it coming. Zevran, of all people, would never choose something simple, like a normal person. Staying in a brothel must have been like coming home, and the warm greetings from the.. proprietress had only driven home certain facts to Dailah. Of course, someone like him would be well known, and Dailah chafed at the reminder.
At least none of the workers – as Dailah insistently referred to the courtesans in her head, she wouldn't be so rude as to call them 'whores', not even in her own mind - had given the assassin more than a single look, as though they dismissed him as soon as he was identified. Zevran spared them not even one glance. Dailah wasn't sure how she should take that bit of observation, but filed it away as probable proof that he had already sampled their wares to a point where he discounted their presence entirely as not new.
All the way to the top floor he lead her, and unlocked a door at the furthest end of the hall with a large brass key. For a second time, Dailah stopped, jaw dropping. As the door swung open on well-oiled hinges, it revealed a room that was almost lavish, but simple. Two couches sat framing a fireplace, upholstered in a soothing blue; a low table between them, made of some dark rare wood, shined to a high gloss. The floor itself was covered in thick pile rugs that muffled their footsteps; they were woven with geometric designs of yellow, black and red thread on more blue, this time a darker navy, to contrast with the cool sky blue of the couches. Everything in the room was blue or colored to contrast strongly with the theme, granting the room an airy appearance.
"Much better than the palace, no?" Warm breath flowed over the back of her neck, making Dailah jump.
She hadn't noticed Zevran come so close.
"Ah, yes, it's... rather nice," she admitted. She moved quickly, to put some distance between her and the other elf. "Where's your room?"
He waved a hand, as the other took her pack from her shoulders. "Through the door back there, but if you wish to bathe it will be that door-" pointing to the left, "over there."
Dailah only saw the two doors, the one he had said was his room, the other to the bath. Licking lips that had gone dry, Dailah tried to pluck her pack from his hands, but he evaded her neatly by passing into the next room. She was unwilling to give an inch though, so refused to ask the question of where she would be sleeping. It would only make Zevran laugh, she was sure.
With a shrug, the Dalish hunter went to the bath, and yet again had to scrape her jaw off the floor, upon seeing what was behind a door. The Pearl, and Zevran, by extension, really had to stop surprising her so much. A sloped floor held a large tub: one big enough to hold several people comfortably, and even more if they were... friendly, which, in a brothel, Dailah had to admit, was likely. It was some huge porcelain contraption that had recessed handles and a spigot that looked to be of dwarven engineering. There was a stove made of thick iron that heated the room up so that it was almost as hot as what Dailah supposed a jungle might be like. There was even a mirror; that, much like the glass in the windows, was an almost unheard-of luxury.
She frowned at the large oval; Dailah had had enough of mirrors to last a lifetime.
Warily, she approached it from the side, making sure to not catch sight of her image in it, and carefully pushed on it, testing to see if it could be moved. Putting her shoulder to it, she braced her feet, and grunted with effort as the heavy silvered glass shifted, along with its thick, bronzed base. Inch by inch, Dailah turned the mirror, pausing for breath a few times before resuming her work. The thing was easily three times Sten's weight, but it wasn't like Dailah was trying to pick the blasted thing up, only turn it away in a safe direction, like a wall.
Zevran entered when, after a time, he heard no running water, but only a few quiet grunts of effort. Alarmed, he swiftly covered the distance and threw the bathroom door open, a single dagger held out as he readied to strike. He stopped at the sight of his Warden heaving at what was probably one of the most expensive items in the Pearl.
"Has the mirror done something to offend you, my dear?" Relaxing, even as Dailah stiffened.
Dailah leaned her back on one of the mirror's supports, frowning darkly. "I don't like mirrors."
Not understanding, "And why not? You do not like to see yourself? Strange, as I quite like seeing you, as do others. Why should you not like to gaze upon yourself? Not that you strike me as vain, dearest Dailah, but a certain amount of vanity is natural for someone as lovely as you."
"I don't like mirrors. At all," she reiterated, as she moved to continue her task.
Relief washed through Dailah as Zevran pressed no further questions upon her, but instead joined her, adding his muscle to the endeavor. In quick order, they had turned the hulking mirror to a wall, and Dailah heaved a thankful sigh. Beside her, she felt Zevran staring for long moments as she hung her head, arms braced widely on the mirror's back. She could feel the questions swirling through him, but he asked none, only going to fill the tub, squeaking faucets turned and adjusted. Then, the faint clinking of glass which was a precursor to fragrant steam, filling the bathroom with scents of sandalwood, patchouli, cinnamon, cloves and roses.
Now, at least, Dailah knew why it was that Zevran always smelled like that, along with his own musk of leather, polish, poison and salt.
Cautiously, Zevran approached, laying a hand on the back of her neck, turning Dailah so he could look into her eyes. The expression there stopped him, once more, from asking what reason could cause her to hold such a... distaste for mirrors, but he surmised her reasons were good, for if they could engender that hint of fear and that depth of pain in her hazel-green eyes, then she was more than justified in her dislike.
So, instead, he offered distraction. "The bath is nearly ready; shall I call for some food?"
Dailah nodded mutely, and began to undress quickly. Zevran found himself casting his eyes away; not because he didn't wish to see his Warden bare, but because he had no desire to intrude on her inner pain without invitation.
"Can we talk later?" halting his exit.
Ducking a quick bow of assent, "Of course, my sweet Dailah; of course."
Rolling the glass of wine in his fingers, Zevran mused. Perhaps the look he had seen in Dailah's eyes was the reason she avoided him. She was most certainly attempting to do so, not that he had allowed her to do more than try. Well he knew that expression he had seen, for was it not what had looked back at him in mirrors until some point near the end of the Blight, each time he looked into one?
Someone had been taken from her, and horribly.
Dailah kept herself open and friendly with everyone, but there was an inner core that no one could touch, not even him. Zevran had done his best to show Dailah that she could open up to him, that she could allow him to touch that place she kept hidden, but she had not once taken the bait.
Amending, he sipped some of the halfway-decent Antivan red, switching to recline on the blue couch, an arm thrown over the back. Actually, Dailah had once taken his bait, he had to amend, but she had been so far in her cups that Zevran hadn't taken advantage. Instead, he had hustled her back to her rooms, carrying her on his back; her arms hung over his chest while she drunkenly slobbered on the side of his neck in sloppy kisses. He watched over her the whole night and into the midday. That was right after Alistair had been crowned, and the end of the Blight celebrated.
"So, the Blight is ended, my fair Warden," cornering Dailah on a terrace. She had been looking uncomfortable – but beautiful – in a green dress, a bottle in her hand. "How ever shall we celebrate?"
"I thought I was supposed to ravish you." Dailah swayed faintly to the distant music, flushed with drink but steady on her feet.
Zevran nodded amicably, smiling as he swept her into a lively set of steps. "Ah, yes, and here I thought you had forgotten that!"
Then she hiccuped, and giggled. "Not a chance. My room or -" another giggle, and now Zevran could smell how strongly her breath was laden with alcohol, "-yours?"
He weighed his words carefully. "And exactly how much have you had to drink?"
The answer of course was 'far too much', and Zevran had decided against doing anything with Dailah that night, which he didn't regret, exactly, no, not per se. But since awakening draped across his half-nude body the next day – she had thrown up all over his doublet and shirt, so he had had to remove them for no other nefarious reason than that - Dailah had avoided him as though he carried some plague. It had started slowly of course, being late to morning sparring sessions, and then escalated to outright avoidance, seeking to remove herself from any room he was in as fast as her two legs would carry her.
Listening to Dailah splash in the large tub, Zevran closed his eyes against the image it raised. The Night, as he had, at some point, started referring to it in his head, Zevran had to deal with a drunken, amorous Dailah who was also – bonus – quite ill, and had needed to be bathed. It had been different than the intimacy and camaraderie of stitching up wounds, bandaging and plastering broken ribs, and one that tested Zevran's resolve to what he thought was its limits. Her skin had been almost as dusky a color as his, but while he was deep bronze, his Dalish lady was almost a peach gold. Oh, how the water had framed her body– Cutting the thought off viciously, Zevran sat up with a shake of his head.
He poured another glass of wine, but only a half glass this time; he didn't wish to fall into his cups, especially not this early. Zevran cut off a slice of cheese and put it on a chunk of bread – too bad there was no olive oil, only butter which was something he had never gotten used to, so forwent altogether. Drinking on an empty stomach was unwise; even with his tolerance to intoxicating substances, the assassin wouldn't risk it. Not this night; not with Dailah alone with him.
If he were to pass the barriers that, at first, he thought were from embarrassment, but now realized were from pain, Zevran would need to keep his wits firmly about him.
When she finally clambered out of the tub, she was wrinkled as the flesh of a walnut. "Damnation," she hissed, realizing she had no clothes in the bathroom but the filthy ones from earlier. The towels, while large and fluffy wouldn't do. Wrapped firmly in one of the large white towels, she poked her head out. "Zevran? A little help here?"
She saw him leaning with his elbows on his knees, a glass held in one hand, staring off into the distance. Dailah had never seen him so distracted that he couldn't hear her, off in his own world as he was. Concerned, Dailah ignored her virtual nudity and came into the sitting area, hair dripping, and went to touch his shoulder.
"Zev?" shortening his name for the first time in ages; her fingers dug gently into the meat of a broad shoulder. "What's wrong?"
Slowly his head came up as he shook off his fog. "Hmm? Nothing, my fair Warden, nothing at all." Golden eyes blinked several times, taking in her state. "Certainly nothing that couldn't be cured by a glimpse of what is under that towel."
She flushed in embarrassment, tugging the towel tighter around her body. "My clothes are in my pack. The ones from earlier are dusty."
Even a short trek through Denerim, which was in the process of rebuilding, left one almost as dirty as a day of hard traveling, and if there was any choice in the matter, Dailah hated to put on dirty clothes. Shifting her weight from foot to foot, feeling vulnerable, Dailah was still unsettled from the sight of the large mirror (that had resembled the one that had taken Tamlen from her rather too closely for comfort), and the expression that she had caught on Zevran's face mere moments before. As yet, she couldn't place what it had been, but it bore thinking about.
"Ah." A world of meaning in the utterance, and none at all. "I put our packs in the back," jerking his head towards the door to his room, and reminding Dailah that she still wasn't sure where she was supposed to sleep. Gracefully, the Antivan rose, forcing Dailah to step back or risk being pressed up against him. He made a broadly sweeping gesture towards the other room. "After you, my Dalish lady,"
Sometimes it bugged her that the other elf always referred to her as 'my something-or-other' so often. When he had first started it, at some point after joining them – or being forcibly recruited, Dailah supposed was a more accurate description – she thought it nothing more than an affectation born of language style differences. However, not once had he called Alistair 'his'; perhaps 'our' in a plural sort of manner, signifying that Alistair belonged, was owned by the group itself, rather than belonging to him, personally, as a general rule. Except always, always, always Zevran referred to her as belonging to him. It went from irksome, at first, once she noticed that it was only her who was singled out so strongly – other members of their party were often a plural possessive unless Zevran was purposefully trying to be irritating – but rapidly became pleasant. Until, of course, Dailah had heard more of his life story.
Whereupon she came to the realization that she couldn't be Zevran's anything, because he would drop her like a hot coal once he had his fun, being the sort who wasn't likely to Bond or even stay long-term with one person, and that just wasn't something Dailah could do. She tried it, in a drunken fit of lost inhibitions, but Zevran hadn't taken her up on that one-time offer. The Dalish hunter had purposefully gotten as soused as she could, just to hopefully get it out of both their systems, so that maybe, just maybe, she could go on with her life and pick up any pieces she would be left in afterward.
Snapping her from her reverie, the man in question took both her hands and walked backwards. "Come; come amora, I wish to see your face when you catch sight of the rest of our lodgings. Perhaps I can see astonishment on your face for yet another time this day, that would be glorious, no?"
Of course, he was right; once he reached behind himself to open the door, and toe it wide, forcing her to take the last few steps over the threshold, Dailah's breath caught. Some mad painter had gone at the walls, coating everything in deep shades of brown, green, golden yellow, and russet, with hints of blue on the ceiling. It was like a forest, the deep pile brown rugs, this time free of obvious designs, but still woven in varying shades of brown – as if it were uneven soil - and finely detailed 'trees' in the foreground that faded into just the impression of unending forest. Clasping Zevran's hands tighter in hers, Dailah looked around in wonder, mouth making an 'O' of awe; everything fit. The two clothes chests looked like boulders, the armor stand in one corner melted into the trunk of a tree, and the bed: a round circle of aquamarine, little ripples stitched into the coverlet which was turned down revealing matching sheets.
It was as though someone had taken the image of a perfect little forest scene and given it breath and reality inside what was nothing more than a dirty shemlen city. The air, too, smelled of woods, incense burning somewhere scenting the room with more sweet sandalwood and loamy fresh patchouli. Taking a deep breath, eyes slipping closed in pleasure, Dailah decided that she couldn't be mad at Zevran for making her come to this stupid place. Later, perhaps, but not right now.
Her eyes popped back open when she felt callused fingertips on her cheek, and she smiled. "I hadn't realized how much I missed home. Thank you."
His golden eyes were dark, the pupils having blown wide. "Your thanks are unnecessary, amora." His thumb swept over her bottom lip, gaze tracking the motion. "But a kiss would be welcome as a thank you, if you are of a mind..."
Brought back to all her earlier misgivings, Dailah straightened, pulling away, even as he allowed his hand to fall. "Um.. no. I mean.. ah... just. No."
"Another time then." Dailah thought she heard the faintest hint of disappointment. "I laid something out for you behind the dressing screen." Leaving the room, he cast a pointed glance, indicating where skilled craftsmanship had rendered further painting on the screen to blend with the wall behind it so she hadn't noticed it at first look.
Dressing took little time, as Zevran had laid out a dress of all things, and Dailah had to remind herself that of course it was a dress. After all Leliana had done the packing. It was unlikely that there was anything practical in her kit; at least the dress Zevran had put out was comfortable, and while it wasn't a color she would choose – some sort of gray purple, that probably had some atrocious name like 'periwinkle' or 'heather' – it did seem to suit the color of her skin as far as Dailah could tell.
No it wasn't the dressing that took Dailah so long to go back into the sitting area, but her thoughts – ones she couldn't get away from: of Tamlen and mirrors, of Zevran, brothels, Crows and lovers who had been put down like vermin – one for no good reason, the other for many good ones. Sitting on the nearest clothes chest, Dailah stared at the door, steeling herself. In thirty years, give or take, Dailah, too, would have to be put down. Zevran didn't know this, and was supposed to never find out, as he wasn't a Warden. Here, Dailah had thought, the worst that could happen was her falling for him and having him leave.
Now she had to face the fact that that wasn't the worst fear she really had. Not by far. As a friend, Zevran would have to see her succumb to the taint slowly, for Dailah could be sure of the fact that, as a friend, he would always remain by her side. However, as a lover, the Antivan would have to bear that much more – even if their affair was short-lived and he left her bed, or she his. Beyond the door sat Zevran, and Dailah was afraid.
She wanted more, but, thinking on Rinna, on Taliesin, knew that would be just selfish cruelty that Zevran didn't deserve.
With a measure of patience that few would attribute to him, Zevran waited quietly, back pressed to the wall beside the bedroom's door. He had listened for the telltale rustling of Dailah dressing, which had been done quickly, and then his ears pricked with the further sound of her sitting or laying on the bed. He crossed his arms, pressed a bare foot to the wall, and tipped his head back to rest against it. He thought that Dailah was probably sitting rather than laying down.
Leliana had conspired, along with Wynne, of all people, to keep him apprised of Dailah's movements in the palace, and to find some opening to give him this chance. Wynne was a closet romantic, and the Orlesian bard wouldn't be much of a bard if she, too, weren't a romantic. They had both admonished him – together and separately – to not waste this chance, for it may be his last. And so Zevran waited, focusing on his breathing, the pulse that pounded in his veins forcing calm with practiced ease.
"You do realize you'll loose her if you don't tell her how you feel." Wynne had interrupted his reading, standing with her hands on her hips like she was scolding a particularly recalcitrant child.
Marking his place in the book with his thumb, glancing up. "Pardon? You are speaking to me?" he asked, mildly.
Wynne's eyes narrowed. "I wasn't aware there was anyone else that I could be speaking to, Zevran."
"And who exactly is it that I must confess my feelings to, then? How cruel you are, dearest Wynne, for I have attempted to give you my heart several times," he crooned, taking on a lovelorn tone just to get under the Circle mage's skin.
"I speak of the Warden of course," she retorted, leaving off a 'you stupid man' which Zevran mentally inserted, for he certainly was. "I've seen the way you look at her; we all have. For almost two years, we've had to bear your moon-calf eyes, your over-protectiveness, and constant removal of possible rivals. Yet, now that we are in one place, you sit there and do nothing, as if you have all the time in the world to win her affections."
Straightening, staring intently at Wynne, Zevran questioned her, voice serious as it so rarely was with any other than Dailah. "And what would you have me do, woman? She removes herself from every room I enter, doesn't show up to agreed-upon meetings, and no longer looks me in the eye when she speaks. If she has no desire for my company, I am many things, Wynne, but not the sort to force myself upon those who wish me to leave them be."
Pointing imperiously, almost as if she were casting a spell, her words froze him as surely as any magic. "Then you are a fool. There are those of us willing to help you – help you both – in this. You don't fight for this, not because she doesn't want you, but because you are afraid. You cannot lie to me; you cannot hide it: you feel unworthy and are unwilling to face the fact that you must make yourself plain to Dailah."
"I am a Crow," he said, speaking softly. "Not a hero. There are things that I am unable to do, have no experience in... If I were a stronger man, I would do as you suggest... but I am not."
Of all people, Zevran had admitted his fear and inexperience in something to Wynne. She was a far cry from the disapproving matron who had saved her most fearsome glares for him, rather than darkspawn. So even as she failed, even if only partially, to convince him as to the lack of wisdom in his current course of action, Wynne and Leliana had forced Zevran's cooperation. They sent him notes via pages and servants whenever they noticed Dailah going somewhere. Zevran, at first, had tried to resist the urge to respond to the slips of paper that said things like 'to the stables' or 'west garden', but found himself unable to do so, and within minutes of receiving these notices, Zevran would be wherever Dailah was, or arrive just before her.
It was almost like a game of cat and mouse, or one of the long, drawn-out hunts for a target. Except, rather than kill the mark, Zevran would have to do something else entirely. All the while, if it wasn't daily admonishments from Wynne about confronting Dailah and pouring out his heart – like some lovesick fool – it was Leliana coaching him about what to say, as if Zevran hadn't been whispering sweet nothings, to men and women alike, for almost twenty years.
No, the best advice had come from Oghren of all people, telling him to "...stop bein' a swishy pipe cleaner and man up, face yer dragons boy, like a man, what's the worst that can happen?". At the time, Zevran had thought that the worst would be rejection because of his background, but now, he wasn't so sure. There were worse fates than being rejected, like causing undue pain to his lady Warden. Their lives may be placid now, but wouldn't remain so for long; such was not their lot. Violent ends were what most likely waited in the wings for the likes of them, and Zevran would willingly take any blow that was meant to kill Dailah. He would not be the one to go last, but the one to go first, which meant he would leave her, and thus gift her with a larger depth of anguish than was already held in her swirling, sometimes green, sometimes brown, eyes.
Still, he waited, knowing that he couldn't move from his current course of action. He would face down his 'dragon', and, from there, leave the decision in Dailah's capable hands. She was wiser, by far, than any of their group, even being so young, and Zevran found it easier, more natural, to defer to her authority than anyone else's. Frankly, and the thought brought a mirthless smile to his face, Dailah could have crowned herself Queen of Ferelden and been well justified. She would be a better person to shoulder that much authority than any other. Perhaps if she had become the sole monarch in some alternate world, Dailah would end all troubles and travails for everyone, heralding in an era of peace, happiness and harmony.
Snorting at the strange turn of his thoughts, Zevran shifted, and resumed his silent waiting.
Finally coming to a decision, Dailah firmed her resolve, passing nervous hands over dress and still damp hair. Maybe she should brush it first? No. Shaking her head firmly, not wishing to put it off any longer, Dailah squared her shoulders and opened the door. As she was about to scan the sitting room, a hand snaked out and took hers, surprising her, as she had expected Zevran to have made himself comfortable, rather than stand near the door.
Watching as her eyes widened, Zevran forestalled any words that could come from her bow-shaped lips, laying a finger over them. "We must speak, amora. I have things I must say, before I lose my nerve."
Rapidly, she blinked, but allowed him to tug her close so he could wrap an arm around her shoulders, tucking his chin over her head. "Alright."
"I could whisper sweet nothings in your ear," he said, squeezing Dailah lightly. "But they would be nothing more than what is usually said, and have little meaning. I could touch you and caress you, speaking with my body and hands, but you would not hear the meaning in such gestures, not from me. You would think that it was just a dance that I have danced many times, with many partners, and that it would not mean as much to me as it would to you."
Dailah shivered in his arms, staring as the apple in his throat bobbed up and down, his pulse twitching in his neck. "What are you saying, exactly?"
She wasn't sure he noticed it, but he began to sway slowly to some unheard beat, voice soft. "I am yours, as I have said often enough, but even then, dear Dailah, have you heard me?" Zevran rubbed his cheek on the crown of her head, and she smelled faint, sweet, fermented grape on his breath. "I offer you whatever you would have of me, and ask: would you take me as I am? A night, a day, a year, a lifetime, all the years I have left to me belong to you. I can make myself no more clear than this. Would you grant me that chance, a chance to do so? To forge some sort of... future together?"
"No matter what comes?" She was shaking like a leaf in a strong wind, and he sought to soothe his Dalish lady, stroking long hands up and down the line of her spine.
He nodded. "Just so: no matter what comes, though circumstance and battle may take me from you. Would you risk it?"
Dailah heaved a sigh, and Zevran felt her hesitation even as she forged ahead. "I never did tell you how I joined the Wardens."
It seemed to have little to do with his questions, but Zevran knew Dailah wasn't one for useless questions and idle statements. Her joining to the Wardens would have some bearing on her rejection or acceptance of his proposal, and maybe it would explain questions that had remained unanswered all this time.
"No, you have not," he affirmed.
Dailah leaned into his chest fully, unable to look at his face, burying her nose in the open collar of his shirt. "My lethallin, Tamlen, and I were patrolling our clan's borders, when we happened upon some shem. They bore a tale of a cave, filled with treasure and artifacts of elven nature, and of a demon inside it. Tamlen and I went to that cave; more of a barrow than a cave, really. Inside it were undead things, traps, and in the back... a mirror. It was huge, I had never seen such a thing before. Tamlen he -" Her voice hitched on the memory, and she squeezed her eyes shut tightly. "-he went to it, claiming to see things, and then he touched it, and the world broke apart."
Zevran said nothing, only holding her even closer, so much so that Dailah found it hard to breathe, but that may just have been the emotion brought by the memory, rather than his strong arms. Gathering strength from the embrace, she continued. "The next thing I remember is the Keeper telling me that Tamlen was missing, that I was ill from something and that it was only her magic and the timely rescue of a shemlen named Duncan that had saved me. So, I went in search of Tamlen, not willing to leave him behind. Back to the cave, and through darkspawn, what I thought were frightful things, that I had never seen before, far more frightening than the undead that had infested the barrow earlier. And near the room with the mirror, I found Duncan. He told me that there was no saving Tamlen, that he was truly lost forever, and that I was dying of something he called the Taint."
Dailah had to stop, and Zevran remained wordless, hoping to impart some strength to her, rocking side to side, hands traveling up and down her back, and then her shoulders and the back of her head. Knowing what he did of Dalish custom, he assumed that Tamlen was someone that Dailah had planned on Bonding to. A fellow hunter would be suited to a woman like Dailah, one steeped in tradition and racial pride. And To lose him to something like a mirror, of all things... Now one question was answered, and others, partially, even as her explanation raised more.
When Dailah had yet to continue, he prompted, "This 'Taint' of which you speak, it is the same one born of darkspawn blood, yes?"
She nodded infinitesimally, the skin of his neck suspiciously moist. "Yes. When Tamlen and I went through, in the same room as the mirror there was this... thing. We've come across one or two during the Blight, it was a bereskarn. We didn't know to be careful of the blood that flew from our blades as we fought it; some must have gotten into our mouths, or in an open cut. I don't know how, exactly, we were infected. You passed through the Blight and fought so many darkspawn, you should have been exposed, but you and the others haven't contracted the disease. But Tamlen and I, we did get it." Well Zevran remembered Dailah's orders to never touch the blood, to get it from skin as fast as possible, and to never swallow a single drop. "Duncan said that to cure myself from the taint I would have to join the Wardens, and so I did, but there were... consequences."
"Of what sort?" As she seemed to need further prompting, Zevran gave it. Dailah had to get this off her chest, all of it, or it would haunt her forever, and he wouldn't waste this opportunity to at least give her some solace, even if she decided it was best that they never move beyond companions. He could give her this, and wouldn't shirk his duty if it would lighten her burden. "It appears to me as if there is more than simply having a special dispensation to command troops and levy armies at will, and a ridiculously awesome title."
A watery laugh broke free, and Dailah burrowed closer, wrapping her arms around Zevran's waist. "No, even as useful as that is. When it works, that is." In reply, Zevran only gave a snort, while she went on. "The Dalish, our lifespans have been lengthening; did you know that?"
"No," he said, shaking his head. "I did not. I don't make it a habit of asking random people their ages. It tends to irritate the women, and the men just go blank."
"My Keeper, she was almost eighty, and looks younger than Wynne," she said, leaning back in his arms to gauge his reaction. "She will live for another forty, fifty years if the gods are kind. Many of us make it to ninety summers before we are no longer hale enough to pull our weight and go to our final sleep. How old would you say I am, Zevran?"
More questions; they seemed to be disjointed, having little to do with anything, but he answered readily. "Twenty, perhaps twenty-one, or even nineteen, but if what you say is true, you could easily be older than my thirty odd years," he said, hoping to bring a smile to her lips.
"Twenty-seven summers I number, the same as Alistair, and I should have had as many as sixty or more to look forward to," face becoming even sadder. "But the cure that Duncan offered was no cure at all Zevran, only a delaying tactic to stave off the worst for awhile. I am still tainted. Still infected with the darkspawn plague, and the Joining I went through... I have possibly thirty years now. Thirty, when I should have double that number."
Ever pragmatic, Zevran shrugged a shoulder. "Thirty is better than the none that you would have had if you hadn't gone through it, is it not?" Inside he shook, though, now knowing there was a chance that he would outlive Dailah. Another loved one lost, leaving him behind. Silently, Zevran vowed that this would not be so; he would go when Dailah went, one way or another.
"Perhaps, but a shortened lifespan isn't all that I face." She moved her hands frame his cheeks, the calluses from sword handles and bowstring worn smooth with use. I have a lack of fertility as well, and when it is time, when the Taint takes me, I must be put down or become a broodmother. Do you understand?" Her gaze bored into his. "I will die before you; I will be unable to give you the life you so deserve, one filled with laughing children, old age and grandchildren sitting on your knee begging stories. That is what I have to offer, even as I want more from you, when I have little to give in return. I want a future yes, and I do care for you, but I must be honest. You deserve no less."
His brows drawing down, along with the corners of his mouth, into a dark frown. "You speak of what I deserve, not of what I want or need. If we may have no children of our bodies, then if it is your wish, there are plenty who need homes and love. What I want and need, amora, is you. No more, no less. Is this not enough? When it is your time, then I shall follow you as I always have, to the Black City and back. I'll not let you suffer, but do not expect me to last beyond you. I cannot do that."
Dailah bowed her head, ashamed, for she wanted desperately to accept. "I never want to cause you pain. You've carried enough for several lifetimes."
"And having you avoid me so causes no pain?" An edge crept into his voice that cut Dailah to the quick. "I have been holding myself out to you, offering my life to you for so long now, Dailah. Denying me saves me no pain, only brings more. Does it not hurt you as well?"
She winced. "It does."
"Then why do it?" His voice became harsh and hoarse, the tone taking on a deeper edge of pain. "You at first seemed to soften towards me, and then suddenly nothing. Is it because of what I told you? Of the things I have done? Did it make me unsuitable? I don't care about the consequences of your Joining, beyond how they hurt you inside. Thirty years is a lifetime for many. A lack of children – it is also something many suffer through. I can think of nothing else, then, that would hold you back." Something wet slipped over her knuckles and the back of her hands where they still cupped the Antivan's face. "You say I am deserving of many great things, yet the only thing that would make my life complete is what you deny me. Even as it wounds me, it wounds you. Why else then?"
Realizing that Zevran had tears slipping from eyes that were wide and agonized, while the rest of his face was expressionless, Dailah felt as though all breath had been knocked from her.
Picking her words with care, she said, "You told me many things Zevran." Working saliva into her parched mouth, wishing for a stiff drink, she continued. "Many things I don't understand. You know of the Dalish, of how we keep ourselves from... romantic assignations, and how we only fight when necessary, taking no joy in the stealing of life. For all that my people claim to be wild and free, we aren't. We're bound and set in our ways, while you are truly a wild thing. You take joy in life where you may find it. You give thanks for each thing that you gain, and carry on through the bad times, looking to your future. Someone like me... couldn't hold your interest for long. I can't..." here Dailah stumbled. "I can't keep up with you, and I'm frightened."
"You have my oath; I expect no more than you can give me." His features took on a confused cast beneath the pain. "You think I would forsake you simply from... what? Lust? Boredom? You are not me, and I am not you Dailah. My eyes may travel, it is instinct – and it is not as if you've never noticed others – but I will not stray from you. And I ask you again: is this not enough?"
Maddeningly Dailah seemed to ignore the rest of what he said, only pouncing on: "Oath? But I released you of that ages ago."
He grabbed her wrists and tugged her hands from his face. "Not that one."
"There was only the one, you know it went like, 'I am your man, without reservation, until such a time as you deem fit to release me'; all rather formal and honorable," rattling off the words as if she had gone over them over and over again.
Maker knew that he had.
"No, not that one," he repeated, hoping to drive his point home. "I told you that I was yours in all ways, and swore on it."
Dailah's nose wrinkled up, face scrunching as she tried to recall when he had said such a thing. "And what in the name of the gods made you do that?"
"You asked me if I would leave you, asked if you would lose me since you had released me from your service." Realizing that Dailah must have been too drunk to remember the reverently spoken words when he had bathed her, as she looked up at him with so much vulnerability, he sighed. "I had thought you remembered it, but obviously you were too far gone."
"Well, I release you from that oath too – I won't force you to do anything Zevran," she averred, rotating her wrists as though she wished to free them.
Zevran only firmed his hold. "That you cannot do amora, I purposefully left no out clause for myself."
"You're mad!" she cried, shaking her head over and over. "You're a wild thing Zevran; you're supposed to be free, not bound to some... some... backwoods Dalish Warden who doesn't know any of the things that the people downstairs do, or isn't beautiful the way Morrigan is, isn't smart the way Wynne is, or, or... I'm tainted in more ways than one. You won't be free with me, and I want you to be free Zevran, I always wanted you to be free."
"And am I not free, then? I feel free," spreading his arms wide. "I see no shackles upon me. There is no collar on my neck. You hold no whip to punish me if I step out of line, and you will not kill me for failing in my responsibilities." Hoping to lighten things up with something he knew Dailah would find shocking, Zevran pasted on a dirty grin. "But I wouldn't mind a little whipping and shackles every now and then. Either on you or me, the choice is yours, amora."
Pressing her face into a palm, she moaned, "Oh gods, really?" He watched as she set her jaw, and looked him right in the eye. "So, you want this, no matter what? You truly desire to have this with me?"
"Yes amora," he replied, nodding. "I should think it was obvious. I am an assassin, a master of subtlety and avoid brute force tactics as much as possible, but will use them when necessary. What further words do I need say to you, to prove myself? For I am tired of excuses. You have offered up the bad things, dark warnings, and fears; I have countered them. What necessary words must I utter? What further song and dance must I follow to make you believe me?"
Worrying at her bottom lip, Dailah resembled the young, inexperienced woman she truly was. "None."
"And would you have me, then?" He slid forward so he could press her close once more.
A small, shy smile graced her lips. "I am yours."
She had thought Zevran would pounce on her like a wolf on a halla's back, once they had mutually convinced each other of the viability of a relationship. He hadn't, surprising her – yet again, which was becoming a rather disturbing habit – by tugging her to the couches and urging her to recline against him as he fed her finger foods. At first it was awkward, laying propped up on his chest between his legs, as he would reach out one handed to nab some morsel or other and press it to her lips. Then it became soothing, as under her head she could feel the thwump-thwump of his heart in his chest, and the rise and fall of his breathing shifting her up and down slowly, while his free hand massaged the tense muscles of her stomach with languid purposelessness.
Drowsy, Dailah played with the fingers that moved over her abdomen, alternately tracing knuckles and wrist to pluck at digits. If this was what the next few decades held for her, Dailah mused that she could certainly live with it. She felt relaxed for the first time in ages, no longer running away from Zevran and the determined Antivan's advances, and now there was also no Blight to worry about, at least, for another hundred years, not that she would live long enough to see it, nor had she any wish to. So, in some ways she was free at last, and in this moment Dailah allowed herself to revel in it.
"A sovereign for your thoughts, amora," he murmured, the words accompanied by his fingers dragging through her unbrushed hair, then tracing the tip of a pointed ear.
For no logical reason, Dailah mumbled, "Why didn't you jump on me when I offered it?"
Behind her Zevran stilled, then chuckled. "I prefer if the woman is conscious, my dear, and aware of what is going on. How else am I to ensure her time spent with me is memorable?"
Squirming, accidentally jabbing Zevran in the stomach as she rolled over inelegantly – lounging on someone and maneuvering was actually more difficult than Dailah thought it would be – she caused him to raise a brow. "I'd think any time with you would be memorable."
She settled into a position that allowed her to look into his eyes, chin propped on his sternum. "Tell me, how much do you remember of that evening, hmm?"
Dailah had to think about it a few moments, obviously, which Zevran had expected. "I remember kissing your neck as you carried me upstairs. And..." her brows scrunched tight over her nose, "And um... your hands on my skin. And in my hair."
"Ah, and do you remember what I was doing?" Seeing that she did not, he continued, "You had enough to drink that you could possibly have given our friend Oghren a challenge, and were sick with it. For a time, I was worried, and even made you drink charcoal in the hope it would absorb whatever was left in your stomach."
A flush broke out over her face. "Sick...?"
Nodding, he tucked a few strands of loose hair behind her ears. "Quite."
"How sick?" Her eyes narrowed, almost as if she didn't believe him.
"Very, and quite colorfully. As well as messy." Zevran dug his thumbs into the sides of her neck, seeking the tension that lived there. "Everywhere, all over your bed, yourself, your dress, and my doublet and shirt." Reiterating, so she couldn't refute his claims, "Everywhere. Quite an impressive display, but you never were one to do things in half measures." Her eyelids drooped and she sighed, the magic of his hands doing their job. "And I had to bathe you, but I somehow managed to be a gentleman and not take advantage of the nude forest nymph that you became in the bath."
She grunted in that way Dailah did when she was being too polite to scoff outright. "Somehow I think the vomit that must have been in my hair and all over my face may have had something to do with it."
"No, that was removed quickly enough amora," he replied, tapping the tip of her nose. "But you did seem to decide it would be a splendid thing to roll around in the tub splashing all over and giggling. You glowed querida, and covered in glistening water." He sucked in a sharp breath, closing his eyes, remembering every detail.
"Trust me, I was sorely tempted, in spite of your need of my self control, and as I continued to struggle for calm, you, mi amora, you looked at me and asked me if I would abandon you since I was free – of my oath, of the Crows and of the responsibility of the Blight." He tutted, grabbing her chin between thumb and forefinger, forcing his lady to meet his stern gaze. "I would promise you the world if I could gain it without having to leave your side. And so I pledged myself to you once more, as I had been looking for a chance to do so for some time, and to find the nerve as well. And what do you do querida? Hmm? You forget that moment. To be sure, I thought you most cruel, or that I must truly be unworthy, when you constantly sought to distance yourself from me. What was I to do then, but accept that I was too far beneath you?" Zevran saw the hint of self flagellation growing in Dailah's expression and cut it off, softening his chiding with a kiss to her inked brow. "Which is why amora, I do not take advantage of women in their cups, who may be unable to recall important details later on."
Guilty as charged, Dailah scooted up higher on his chest so they were nose to nose. "I'm sorry. I... asked Oghren how I could gain strength to do something difficult, and he gave me a bottle of his whiskey and said -" She dropped her voice as far as she could push it, roughening it around the edges. "-'liquid courage'll get ya through the day girlie'. And so I drank it. The whole bottle, I'd just finished it... I think when you showed up. Things got a little fuzzy around then."
Laughter bubbled up, Zevran's arms coming around to hold her in place even as his shaking jostled her around. "I imagine so amora! Fuzzy indeed."
Dailah waited for his mirth to settle before finally asking, "So riddle me this: how was it you were able to know everywhere I went, sometimes before even I was sure of my destination? If, as you say, you felt like you should allow me to push you away... how is it, no, why is it that you kept following me?"
"Romantics for powerful friends makes for compelling arguments," he said. He stretched out beneath her, back arching, and made Dailah suddenly very aware of his body. "I could say I was bullied into it, but I take responsibility for my inability to ignore notes sent to me that told me where you, my beautiful lady hawk, would be. I am a weak, weak man – just do not tell anyone, it would ruin my reputation, no?"
"Leliana was in on it? On this?" She propped herself up on her elbows, glancing significantly at their surroundings, not very surprised.
"Yes, as well as Wynne; in fact, it was she who suggested I take you somewhere comfortable and somewhat remote from the palace, alone, while Leliana looked for reasons for me to do so." The leg that wasn't pressed to the back of the couch slipped to the floor, making room for Dailah so that she was resting fully between his muscular thighs. "I could think of no other place than the Pearl, as I've used it as refuge often enough for myself when court life overwhelmed me."
Dailah shifted around, discomfited by the reminder that Zevran must have been a frequent visitor. "Oh."
He read a wealth of meaning into her quiet utterance, and moved to reassure her. "I sampled only the wares of bed, bath and privacy, querida. I am a starving man who wishes a meal, not the mere scent of one. They could fill no needs that I have, that wouldn't easily come for free by my Maker-given hands, especially after seeing you in a bath and pledging myself to you once more."
She eased visibly, but it was subtle, for he knew she wasn't the sort to judge his needs, but Dailah was quite inexperienced and unsure of her own appeal. Zevran idly wondered when the last time she had actually looked at herself was, for while she wasn't some court-bred beauty, Dailah was as lovely as a well made blade, forged by a master craftsman. However, it was obvious that she had discounted his compliments and those of others as mere lip service, paid for no reason other than wanting something of her.
"A meal?" she asked, frowning in puzzlement. "But... I'm... I'm not like Lanaya, or... or even Leliana, let alone Morrigan."
"Hmm... This is true; you are not like any other but yourself. I would have you no other way."
She scooted back to sit up, which Zevran allowed, remaining stretched out before her. "I don't think I'll live up to your expectations, Zev."
"I have no expectations but for you to be yourself querida, none at all," he said, mirroring her actions. "Allow me to show you?" he asked, reaching for her waist. Seeing her hesitancy, he rushed to reassure her. "Unless you wish to wait to find a Keeper, to make a formal Bonding between us?"
Dailah was floored by the offer, and further confused. "You don't want me now?"
Zevran made a face, almost as though having bitten into something sour. "Not want you now? I want you always mi amora, mi bonita querida. I have waited long, but I can wait some time more, if you wish it. Believe me, if you will allow me to show you how much I want you now, to devour you whole at this time, or any other, I will do so, and gladly." Scoffing in a grumbling mutter, sounding almost like a crotchety old man, he muttered, "Not want you now, bah. I should take some swabs to your ears to clean out whatever is blocking my words from your mind."
Blushing, "We don't have to wait. I've waited too long, and so have you."
She thought Zevran was about to explode when the words registered stopping him mid-grumble. "Truly you are a difficult woman to – wait. Pardon? Come again? Did you say..."
"I know the mechanics Zev, I'm not stupid. I've seen the halla do it, and it does look a little awkward, but if everyone else thinks it's so much fun, and -" she giggled as she continued, "-and since we've both waited so long to stop miscommunicating..."
"You've seen the halla 'do it'?" he exclaimed, throwing his hands in the air. "You and I will not 'do it', we will make love, we will make the earth shatter around us, we will make each other quake with completion, we will -"
Dailah could take it no longer, giggling and choking on it, at the astonished and somewhat outraged face Zevran was making, and grabbed him by the shirt hauling him in for a kiss. She wasn't exactly sure of what she was doing; other than the one bumbling kiss Alistair had foisted on her during the Blight – which had made Dailah want to sink into a hole in the ground for she hadn't understood that what Alistair had been wanting from her wasn't brotherly love, but of a more man-woman sort – Dailah had never really done anything of the kind before. Zevran sputtered for a moment before taking control, angling her head to the side which granted better access and... Oh. Melting, Dailah sighed through her nose as his hands tangled in her hair; Zevran's mouth opened and his tongue slithered around the inside of her lips before teasingly burrowing in to touch hers. And, oh, Dailah had never felt something like that. It was a bit like dying, or so Dailah thought.
Just when Dailah believed she could feel no better, Zevran was pressing her back, back and back to lay against the couch; their positions switched and he settled between her legs. His hips fit neatly against her thighs, and at some point he must have freed a hand, for he was adjusting the skirt of her dress so he could lay more comfortably on her, and Dailah felt something hard through the cloth of her dress and his trews. Whimpering into his mouth, she arched, trying to get closer to him, to pull him as near as she could have her assassin. She was flying, this was a far cry from the release she granted herself most mornings to wake up.
She was writhing under him; legs freed somewhat from her skirt, they twisted and twined up and down the backs of his, wrapping a moment around his hips and then lower in a long, sinuous caress. Zevran moaned breaking away from her lips, gasping for air before diving into the column of her neck, nipping and sucking at the flesh there, rocking his hips gently against her wildly bucking ones. In his ear, Dailah was keening, and Zevran was startled by how quickly she peaked. He hadn't even really started yet.
Bracing his hands on the armrest, pressing the bulk of his weight on knees, hips and hands, Zevran pulled away enough to catch sight of her face. "Ah, querida, you are breathtaking when you fall apart."
Color was painted all over cheeks and neck, a few darker spots near her jugular from his mouth's attentions; Dailah: the very essence of a sweet, wild thing. "Gods, Zevran... That was... um."
"Marvelous," he supplied. He leaned down to suck on her bottom lip, tonguing it, before pulling away once more. "There is something to be said for remaining so untouched that the smallest of new things could bring you such joy. I am glad to be the one here, experiencing this alongside you."
Uncertainty began to show in her countenance once more, as she wriggled beneath him in a most fetching way. "I'm not... exactly without some... knowledge. Of myself that is, not.. not with someone else."
"Ah good, you are unafraid of your body, splendid," he murmured, nuzzling his face against hers. "There is little worse than being ashamed of one's body, my sweet Dailah, and you should never deny your needs over something so stupid as image issues, for you, querida, are lovely in all ways, and should know your body. I wish you to show me some time, if you are of a mind. For now, I would like to learn you, myself."
"Can I, may I um... learn you too?" Shy hands pressed on his pectorals, rubbing over them through the linen of his shirt.
Fervently, he replied, "You certainly may!" He rolled free and bounced to stand, holding a hand out to Dailah. "Shall we move our explorations to a venue better suited to it?"
Taking his hand, Dailah was hauled up smoothly. "Can I have a drink first?" she asked, glancing at the carafe of wine and Zevran's earlier abandoned half full glass.
"As you wish." He grabbed the glass, and tossed the contents into the fireplace, making it sputter momentarily before pouring a fresh glass and handing it to her.
Dailah's hands trembled, and she pushed nervousness aside, gulping down her drink in two large swallows. Catching Zevran's small frown out of the corner of her eye, Dailah set the glass back on the table and bulled ahead. The drink was only to brace her nerves, she had barely tasted it, but maybe the Antivan thought she may be seeking to drown her anxiety as she had before. Reassuring him the only way she knew how, Dailah took his hand in hers and strode to the bedroom, rather than allowing him to lead. Of course, soon enough, she would be following him but she could at least prove her willingness in this small way.
Gaining the bedroom, Dailah had to pause, and so suddenly that Zevran bumped into her back. Nimble hands went around her waist, steadying her; Dailah felt Zevran's breath in her hair and she heard his deep inhale when he pressed his face into the red mass. At her back, Zevran was like a wall of pure heat that was almost scorching, and she found herself leaning back into him.
Lips ghosted on a spot behind her ear. "And what would you like to try first, lovely Dailah, now that we are here? Hmm?"
"I don't know," she admitted, haltingly. "I'm... afraid. I just... I don't know anything, Zevran. Not really."
"I know." His voice was soft, hypnotically soothing. "But I'll go no further than you desire, querida. I am yours."
She Turned her head, hoping to see his expression. "Could you... show me?"
"I can show you anything you like amora." He leaned forward, pressing his nose into her cheek. "What would you like me to show you?"
It was maddening; Zevran knew she didn't know anything. Nothing beyond her hands, the kisses on the couch, and his weight bearing down on her the one time. But still, he was asking her what she wanted. Well – she didn't know!
"Anything, anything at all, everything," she breathed, her fingers clenching around his wrists. "Just... show me something."
As fast as that, Zevran stepped away and around her. "Would you like to start here?" He asked, plucking at the hem of his shirt, showing a flash of toned stomach. "Or here?" He traced the collar of her dress.
He knew this was difficult for Dailah, but Zevran wanted to take this slow, and at her pace, not his. His body was crying out for him to hike her skirt and take her swiftly, but Zevran was not interested in that. No, what Zevran desired most was Dailah finding her own way, and in guiding her along until she knew exactly what she wished of him. Zevran was a patient man when he needed to be, and while he had known Dailah was inexperienced, he thought perhaps, maybe, just maybe, he wouldn't be her true 'first'. That maybe someone, somewhere had already made some headway with her, so she wasn't completely ignorant of what she wanted. It complicated matters somewhat, for she had no idea at all where to start, and it was frustrating for him, not just Dailah.
She Fidgeted with the material of her dress, staring at the vicinity of his feet. "I... ah.. I guess -"
"Me first then, as I have had the pleasure of seeing you bare, but you have not had the same of me." he offered, taking his cue. Zevran dragged his shirt over his head slowly, so as to draw her gaze back to him. If they had undressed her first, Dailah would be made too vulnerable too quickly. Tossing the shirt aside, he purposefully fumbled with the knots on his trews, "Brasca, how is it they always get so tangled?" At Dailah's muffled laugh, Zevran glanced up. "Ah, since your fingers are more skilled with undoing that which is locked away, a helping hand would be nice, querida."
She wasn't sure if he was doing it on purpose, but Dailah set to the knots of his trews. "If you really could pick locks, you wouldn't be in this predicament."
"You wound me," he said, pressing a palm to his chest. "We didn't need armies to slay the Archdemon, merely your sharp tongue could have done so with no help at all from the rest of us mere mortals."
Rolling her eyes at him, Dailah got the laces undone in short order; this was a task she could focus on. "Maybe we should tell the archivists at Weisshaupt, for future generations, then. No need for swords, only caustic tongues. Do you think they would teach classes on it?"
Dailah paused as his trews slipped lower on his narrow hips, revealing a trail of dark gold, verging on brown, hair that disappeared into his pants. With only a little push, the material would slide the rest of the way down and Dailah would be faced with a very naked Antivan Crow. Warm palms lay on the rounds of her shoulders, causing Dailah's head to jerk upwards, and Zevran was looking at her. He was so near, so close, that her head swam, and the tantalizing hairs that brushed the backs of her fingers where they had hooked into his waistband made Dailah even dizzier. One small step, and the weight of cloth took Dailah's choice away, the material falling to pool at his feet to be kicked free.
"Look at me Dailah," he commanded, his voice husky. His hands glided up along her neck, holding her head. "Look at me querida, touch me wherever you will. I am here for you, amora, I am not going anywhere. Take your time, but just..." His lips pressed over her cheeks and jaw. "Just touch me. Por favor, mi amora, spare me the pain of doing without your touch. Please."
With an entreaty like that, Dailah could no nothing else but touch Zevran.
Licking her lips, she settled on the somewhat neutral ground of his shoulders. She had seen them before, had sewn several of the wounds closed that left behind scars there. Focusing her eyes there, Dailah watched as if her hands were not her own, tracing white lines, and the winding black ink of tattoos. They were thick, far thicker than her own vallasin, and black as ebony, while hers were a muted tan. They crisscrossed this way and that, over the expanse of bronze, black and white, Dailah was mesmerized. How something that she had seen before could seem so new, she hadn't a clue.
"Oh Zevran, you're beautiful," she whispered, blinking away what felt suspiciously like tears. "How can something so beautiful have sprung up from where you did? How -" she choked, and leaned forward to press a kiss to the center of his chest, over his heart. "How could anyone ever hurt you?"
That gesture almost unmanned him, and Zevran had to turn his face away, unable to take the depth of feeling it engendered. "Such is life, querida; people get hurt, whether they have earned it or not. But come, please, this is a happy thing." Unsure, suddenly, he asked, "Is it not?"
"Yes," Dailah nodded. She stood on her toes so she could kiss his chin. "Yes it is. I am happy to be blessed with you as my friend, as my confidant, and... and.. and my lover."
Comforted, Zevran released the breath he wasn't aware he had been holding. "And I, you. Vir Tanadhal, things come in threes, do they not?"
Dailah smiled up at him, clearly pleased that he wasn't entirely ignorant of their shared heritage. "And so they do."
With that she went back to mapping his upper chest, and Zevran let loose a sigh, happy that she was touching him, finally. Her fingers were gentle, and her gaze avidly lit up with each shiver that traveled over his skin in response to her caresses. With near-aggravating slowness, Dailah swept lower and lower, so much so that Zevran had to bite his inner cheek to halt a hiss when the tip of one finger tickled near his belly button.
"Please, querida," he gritted, struggling. Zevran leaned his forehead to her shoulder. "Please, I've no wish to rush you, but may we... lay down?"
Distracted from her exploration, with a drugged quality to her voice, she murmured, "Lay... down? Yes... yes, lay down. Please." She nudged him softly. "Please I want to... I want.. I want to touch you all over."
That was all the encouragement Zevran needed to take the two swift strides to the bed, but he did hiss – he couldn't hold it in – when Dailah caught him about the waist, halting further motions, so that she could lick at the length of his spine. The move was so unexpected and sensual that he had to catch himself against the edge of the bed, only to have more wet swipes of tongue. He twisted around enough to see what, exactly, his Dalish was doing, over his shoulder; Dailah was laving over scars, the sort gained from whips and canes, mumbling something quietly in Elvish into the skin, all of which was torture of a different sort, one that no Crow training could have prepared him for.
Rolling over onto his back was his only route for of escape, and he scooted farther up the bed, watching as Dailah followed right after. She had rucked up her dress to mid-thigh, freeing her to move with greater ease in her pursuit. Zevran hoped that there wouldn't be much more of scar licking and kissing with prayers whispered over them, for he didn't think he could withstand it. Not right now; possibly never. So much tenderness in such concentrated doses would leave Zevran crying and whimpering for reprieve; for a whole life without tenderness, it was too much, all at once.
Dailah finally became aware of Zevran's gasps, the vibrating tension in his muscles as she straddled his waist, so focused on his old scars – the very same he had once told her to disregard, as he did, as if they would simply disappear by willing them to – that she stopped. It had been like a madness that overtook her, she had been powerless to stop the urge. His fists were clenched and knotted into the sheets, and Dailah slumped to the side, slithering free. She had only meant to worship and ease every little bit that had added up into the man beside her, not to torture him.
She hid her face in the side of his shoulder. "Zevran?"
"Si, amora?" he asked, panting, regaining his wind.
"What should we do next?" she asked, begging him to lead now.
He rolled to his side, propping himself up on an elbow, and Dailah made herself match his gaze. "You are finished?" he asked, sounding surprised. "But you have not touched me everywhere, as you wished."
Worrying at her bottom lip, she confessed, "It looked like I was hurting you. I don't want to do anything that hurts you. Not at all."
"Ah, querida." He laid his head on her breast, ear to her heart. "You didn't hurt me, mi amora, it was simply... more intense, your touch like that upon me, than I had expected." An arm wormed under her back, the other draped along her side. "You have a startling tendency to touch me in ways that I do not expect, and I am simply unused to it. I suppose that, in some ways, this puts us on an even footing? I shall be touching you in ways you were unaware of, and you do the same to me. Poetic, no?"
"Baby steps, then," she said, staying firm. Dailah had seen the anguish, the fight inside Zevran, when she actually looked at what her handiwork had wrought. She would be tender with him too, and take things slow for him, just as he was for her. An even footing, as he said. She wriggled so she could hike the hem of her skirt up over her hips, wanting the offending material gone as fast as possible. "I want to be naked to you, too. I want you to see me, I want you to show me how you see me."
With heavy scrutiny, Zevran stared, and Dailah tried to show him that she was ready for whatever he wanted.
He must have been satisfied with what he saw, but still gave her one last out. "You are sure, then? Dailah, I... must warn you. Once I have you, I cannot let you go; not now. If you bear any doubt then please, tell me now, and I shall back off until you are certain. You have claimed too much of me to be apart from you, if we do this." Dailah was sure she saw fear deep in his eyes, no matter that he tried to mask it. "You infest my blood, my bone, my mind, my soul, if I have one, with your kisses, words and touch. I am laid low at your feet querida, and it is frightening."
Sitting up, a move that forced Zevran away, which brought down the heavy mask she thought they were long past his wearing, Dailah rose up to kneel. In a swift movement, her dress was gone, and a twist of her arms untied her breast binding, then a shimmy of hips, and she was naked as the day she came into the world.
"I want to say you're being silly Zevran Arainai," she said, thrusting her hands into his hair. "But I know you're serious. We're both scared, for the same and different reasons. But I am yours. I trust you, and you trust me. You are mine, we are each others', aren't we? Doesn't that mean we belong to one another?"
"Si amora, just so." A fair share of uncertainty was still held in the cat-gold eyes. "Forgive this poor man his insecurities. I only... after how your lips felt upon me, I appear to be as shaken as a maiden on her wedding night."
Unsure of how exactly it came to be that she, the inexperienced one, was comforting the well-traveled one, Dailah lay back down, pulling him to rest partially atop her. "I'll be gentle, I promise."
The looked-for smile came suddenly. "That may be entirely what is so intimidating querida. But I believe that you stole what was supposed to be my line."
"Well, lock-picking and pickpocketing aren't skills you took the time to work on, so it's no wonder I plucked it from you so deftly." She peppered kisses over his fine features, the way he had done to her earlier.
"Ah, so, so cruel." The reverberation of Zevran's deep voice, so close to her, sent answering shivers over Dailah's body.
Dailah couldn't take much more, and whispered in one well formed ear, "Please Zevran. Join me, make us one. I'm not uncertain of who you are to me, of how I want this thing between us, no matter what comes."
"First times can be tricky amora, let me -" In spite of the halfhearted protest, Dailah could feel the frayed ends of the golden assassin's control slip closer to snapping.
"Zevran -" She took his hand, feeling bold because Zevran needed her to be, Dailah bade him to touch her folds. "I am as ready as I need. Join with me. Bond with me, here; I need no Keeper to know I'm yours, and you mine."
Long fingers stroked the dewy seam of her flesh. "You give me too many gifts Dailah, it drives me to distraction, so I fear that if I don't bring you another release now, you will gain none until after I have reached mine."
"I don't care Zevran; please, Zev?" He felt her legs move, parting, the motion causing his casual probing of her sex to sink into the folds, still slick from the earlier orgasm on the couch.
Tracing along one delicate petal still with nothing but a digit, Zevran rose up so he could draw Dailah into another kiss, not answering with words. Once he had her attention focused solely on his tongue in her mouth and the twining war there, he pressed his index finger into her slowly, testing to see if there was a maidenhead that must be breached. There was none, only tight rippling muscles that clenched down on the intrusion, and Dailah's bucking, pushing the touch deeper. It appeared he would still have his way then, because Zevran kept Dailah's mouth too busy to beg him to take her as he prepared her with firm caresses to inner walls with first one, then two of the lean digits, while his thumb searched upwards until it felt the bundle of nerves nestled there, adding that pleasure to Dailah's experience.
Wandering hands ran over his shoulders to his back, and Zevran hummed in approval, enjoying both the groans rumbling in her throat and the grasping massage on the bunched muscles in his back. Dailah's knees came up, granting him deeper access to her femininity, begging wordlessly for greater speed to his ministrations, which Zevran obliged. Carefully scissoring his fingers open and closed with each thrust, Zevran didn't have to wait long before Dailah arched her hips from the bed's surface, thighs locking around his forearm, holding his hand in place, wailing into his mouth.
Knowing that he had her as prepared as either of their wills could take, Zevran maneuvered so he could kneel between her knees, placing a kiss on each trembling thigh, then each hip, to the thatch of hair over her sex. Holding her gaze the whole time, Zevran lay a line of kisses that took him to his destination of her mouth, once more. Dailah was holding out her hands for him during his trek until she could trace his cheekbones with thumbs, her own hands then going down to meet his member. The air caught in his throat when she grasped him, positioning his thickness at her entrance.
Dailah whimpered as she was gradually stretched to fullness, and she saw the utter concentration on Zevran's face, upper teeth sunk deeply into his bottom lip. A drop of sweat beaded at his temple and slipped down the length of his jaw, that distracted the Warden, calling for her to lean up and lick it away; the salt tickled her tongue. Zevran's arms shook where they were planted beside her shoulders, the toned skin of his hips pressed against her inner thighs, disjointed details filling her senses. It was overwhelming when coupled with the almost-burning that was only vaguely uncomfortable, originating in her sex.
When his manhood was as deep as it could get, seated at the mouth of her womb, Zevran paused, taking deep lungfuls of air, clearly steeling himself. Dailah didn't want his self control, only wanted his wildness meeting her in this. Leaning up to wrap her arms around his shoulders, her legs around his slim but muscular hips, Dailah pulled him tight to her, breathing in his exhales, sharing her air with him so that they were joined there, too. His weight bore down on Dailah, his heartfelt groan thrummed through his entire body and into hers, which Dailah echoed when he gave up the fight and moved.
"Aie, mi princesa salvaje," mumbling into her ear, the Antivan words unfamiliar, but beautiful, when twisted with his roughened voice.
Dailah couldn't answer, only quaked from the circling, grinding and flexing hips that withdrew only far enough to crash back against her. Head tossing side to side, Dailah struggled to mimic the motion and broken rhythm Zevran set, bodies becoming slick with effort. Lips and teeth went from soft nibbles to the occasional outright bite as they both lost themselves in the other. Her breasts were crushed against his chest, and it was a fight to breathe, for Dailah thought she was coming undone from within; as soon as she could focus on one small thing, it slithered from her grasp like a river eel. Awash with what was like an endless completion, Dailah knew nothing beyond the world of Zevran inside and over and twined with her, like ivy on a trunk of a tree.
Unbeknownst to the Warden, she was crying out in a rising, falling moan, broken words in Elvish, Ferleden and Common. Zevran couldn't pay enough attention to translate most of the words, only the tone and expression on Dailah's face, which drove Zevran to the brink, and carried him over it in a hoarse shout. Onwards he pressed, unable to stop, shuddering, claiming her mouth to muffle her escalating cries. An eternity later, or maybe only a moment, they both froze; as her nails gouged the meat of his lower back, hazel-green eyes flying wide, pupils swallowing the iris then pinpointing, the spasming muscles of her core grabbed Zevran and hauled him along with her for a second time.
Collapsing as his arms gave out, unable to shift to even prevent from crushing Dailah, Zevran moaned, tucking his face into the side of her neck. "Amora, aie, the things, the things you do to me."
Dailah whimpered in agreement, hugging him limply. "Uhhuh."
That brought a chuckle from him, and spurred him to find the energy to roll free. "Speechless?"
"Hmmhmm," she hummed, her head bobbing drunkenly. "Sl-sleepy," she slurred, as she snuggled close, limbs twitching in aftershock.
"Then sleep, querida," he murmured, caressing her tattooed forehead. "And I believe I shall join you in the Fade, for I too am done in."
Awakening swiftly, as was his usual instinct, born of training, Zevran feigned sleep a moment longer, registering that someone was beside him. It took only a fraction of a second to come to the conclusion that he was safe, if not alone, tangled as the sleep-heavy limbs were with his own. Opening his eyes he saw Dailah curled into a ball, one leg wedged firmly between his, fist tucked under a chin, the other arm hooked around his shoulders, pinned in place by one of his own arms. Her mouth was pursed, face scrunched in sleep, but otherwise unguarded. Taking in the image and rare treat of such intimacy, of having Dailah burrowed in his arms, Zevran relaxed into it.
By increments, Dailah awoke, lips pursing and unpursing, nose wiggling side to side before a huge yawn and a feline stretch moved through her limbs. A tiny, guttural, rolling noise came from her throat as her eyes blinked away the sleep, with more stretching and rolling, that was almost a purr. Smiling Zevran watched the rest of Dailah's little ritual, having never seen it in person, but on the 'lazy' days they took during the Blight he had heard those grunts, growls and purrs when she woke at her leisure.
"You are like a gatita, with all this rolling about." He searched for the word in Ferelden, a language he wasn't as familiar with as his native Antivan or the Common tongue, but had learned it through the best means possible: immersion. Most of their little troop had been native-born to the language, so they had all switched to it rather than Common for the most part. "A... small cat. A baby one. What is the word I need, amora?" He rubbed at the soft flesh that overlaid the muscle of her stomach.
Much as if she were a cat.
"Kitten," she murmured, pressing up into his hand. Dailah rolled onto her stomach and knees, giving one last, long stretch that took her from her belly to her knees and back, spine cracking as it lengthened making her moan in relief. The hand on her took a meandering path, and Dailah found another little growl coming up. "You're petting me, Zev."
"So I am," he said, and she didn't have to glance at him to know he was smiling. "But you are much like a gatita – I don't like the Ferelden equivalent, sounds far too unflattering – with all this writhing around and these sounds you make."
Finding herself pouting, Dailah flopped back on the bed, burying her face in a pillow that she had to drag from where it had been shoved aside earlier. "Do not."
"Do too." Copying her tone, Zevran moved to enfold her in his arms once more, sliding a leg over hers. "It is most becoming. I had always wondered what those noises were, and how I may work more of them from you when we traveled hither and yon."
"I am too fearsome to be a kitten Zev," she asserted, snuggling into him and tracing a tendon that flexed in his forearm while he continued to pet her, so he knew she was only teasing. "I'm a Gray Warden, and I kill stuff dead. Kittens are cute and fluffy and pounce on strings."
Zevran pressed his mouth to her shoulder to muffle his chuckle. "Yes, you are most fearsome, gatita."
She growled, much as he intended, pinning him with a stare. "So not a cute fluffy thing."
"That pounces on strings, yes, I heard you the first time, gatita." He didn't bother to hide the grin that stretched his mouth wide. "But what of this hair?" he taunted, twirling a strand of sleep fluffed hair around a finger, "And these faces you make? Hmm?"
Dailah rolled her eyes enough to outdo Morrigan. "So not a kitten. Besides, have you looked at your hair? All you need is some dirt smudges and leaves, and you'll look like a wild forest spirit."
"We were not speaking of me," he retorted, almost prim, but he did move to pat his hair, checking it and found it snarled within an inch of its life.
Changing the subject entirely, she asked, "So, um, what now?"
"What now? Hmm, I was thinking of asking you the same, I must confess." The uncertainty that had wracked him earlier roared back to life.
Foolish man that he was, Zevran had believed that Dailah would desire more of him. More lovemaking, more words and vows, more shows of his devotion, but perhaps, now she had had him, she got what she wanted, uncharitable as that seemed, for hadn't she said she belonged to him? Zevran quickly brought his mask in place, waiting for rejection that would shatter him in spite of her professions of love. He paused, and realized suddenly that, no, Dailah hadn't once said it. Neither had he in a language she spoke, but Zevran thought she knew.
There was a weird quality to Zevran's voice, and she thought for a moment he may be regretting what they had done, and it was like there was a sudden yawning chasm between them, where moments before there had been none. Hurt beyond words, Dailah sought comfort from him anyway.
"Please, ma emma lath; I don't know what we're supposed to do next," she whispered, pushing her face into the center of his chest.
When the question, and the Elvish contained therein, registered, Zevran felt completely stupid. "'Ma emma lath', I know one word of that, 'lath', it is... love, is it not?" swallowing the lump in his throat.
"Ma'arlath, I love you; yes, ma emma lath, you are my you are my love." She nodded, and he saw large eyes peeking up at him from the vicinity of his chest. "That's... that's what you wanted me to admit right? What... what you said, asking for a Bond for -"
Cutting her off forcefully, Zevran kissed her as he had never kissed another. Or, so he hoped. Not with skill, not with ardor or lust, but pouring every ounce of desperation into it, every drop of feeling.
Ending it as suddenly as he started it, he rested their foreheads together. "Good. I was... worried for a moment." Seeing her confusion that verged on offended, he hastened to add, "I am... my experiences, querida, remember I am... mostly unfamiliar with this. Better to expect pain than happiness, for both are fleeting in the Maker's eyes, and only one makes you strong enough to withstand the worst life throws at you. Or, so I was taught; so I believed, for many years."
"And now," she said, the tension building, "Now, what do you believe?"
Stumbling over his words, Zevran let it all out in a rush. "I believe that I am lucky, that I am blessed, that love – your love, is good and makes me strong, that we may not always be happy every moment, but those times make us tough enough to take the bad ones, and that I am an idiot for having doubts even for one second. You are a woman of your word, querida, and say that you are mine, as I am yours." Disengaging from Dailah's embrace, shushing her with a motion, Zevran went to his pack, digging in it until he found what he was looking for. Turning with the small gift clenched in his fist, Zevran scrambled artlessly back to Dailah, pulling her to sit up facing him. "Amora, I... I have the earring still, if you would have it."
"The one you tried to pay me with?" Dailah looked torn between confusion, hurt and some emotion Zevran could put no name to. "The one from the Rivaini merchant?"
"It has been the one thing I've kept through the years," he said, hoping she would understand what he was saying this time about the piece of jewelry, and also praying that he wouldn't muck it up this time, not the way he had the last. "My only other personal possession was my mother's gloves."
Dailah took the hand that held the earring between hers. "You had to keep this hidden, didn't you? Just like the gloves."
He nodded, simply saying, "Yes."
"They gave you all sorts of things, weapons, lodging -"
"Whores, armor, extravagant clothes and jewels even, yes. Some small coin to spend, but mostly only things we could use in barter. We were slaves, my dear. Caged in pretty places, taught to hold no thoughts in our heads beyond the moment and the next mission. No ambition but to succeed in our duties, to gain coin and glory to the Guild."
Dailah stared down at his hand, scarred as the rest of him, and at the small earring that was nestled in his palm. "Nothing sentimental. Nothing that was yours." She didn't quite dare to touch it. "And you want to give it to me? Zevran, I.. I can't take something that's meant so much -"
"I wish you to have it, as... as a token of my affections." With a little flip and flick of fingers he was holding it out to her. "Please, take it, it is important to me, yes, but not as much as you are. Nothing is, and anything else that bears the same or similar value to it came from your hands and would make little sense to give to you."
Dailah scooted so her back was to him, and leaned against his chest, tilting her head to the side. "Then I accept."
With steady fingers, Zevran grasped her ear, examining it for a place with no vessels. Finding a good spot halfway up the shell of her ear, Zevran swiftly pressed the sharpened end of the earring into the cartilage. Dailah's hands clenched over his knees but other than that gave no sign of discomfort. Licking away the trickle of blood Zevran held his Dalish close, finally having everything he needed and wanted right there, along with a vow to put no other before him.
"It is done amora," he murmured, nuzzling at her temple.
Dailah sighed, turning her head enough to return the gesture. "Someday you're really going to have to teach me Antivan."
"But not today," he said, agreeing. "Today I'm going to thoroughly explore you, and you shall return the favor."