Royally Tough To Kill

It happened few minutes after they left the Pearl after another duellist training with Isabela. They were chatting merrily and nobody–not even him–noticed the two damned idiots who started to follow them. They did not see them shoot the fateful arrow, until it hit Airam's arm.

He turned to get them, but then the boy staggered and started coughing so hard it bent him in half, and gasping and he knew they were in trouble. Big trouble. If he was right, Airam had one hour at most. Those idiots would have to wait.

"Go and bring Wynne! Run!" he barked at Leliana, before taking Airam in his arms and running back to the Pearl. Sanga didn't ask anything, just quickly took them to the nearest room. He gently put the boy on the bed, placing all the cushions behind his back; he did not want the boy to fall asleep.

"Is there anything–"

"Water. A lot of hot water, as fast as possible," he interrupted her.

"Z-zev? I'm… dying?" The boy's breath was shallow and erratic, his voice barely audible.

"Don't speak nonsense. I'm with you, no? I'll heal you in no time, I promise," he said, trying to sound confident. Airam looked at him, warily, but didn't say anything. He was never able to fool his little Warden.

His hands were shaking with rage and fear, as he began unpacking the ingredients from his sack. At least he had enough sense to take it with them. It was crammed with every ingredient they could find during their journey, he will be able to make the antidote. The question was if he could do it in time.

Why didn't Wynne come with them? Why did Alistair forbid them to take all the Ashes? Why did he let this happen? How could he fail the Warden so?

He quickly checked the boy, whose body was now stiff, almost paralyzed, only those big eyes moving, following his every movement. Now he was quite sure–it really was the Adder's Kiss. Cold sweat ran down his spine. How long has it been already? How much time he still had? Where could Leliana be, by now? Half of the way?

Somebody knocked on the door and the next moment two elven servants entered, carrying big pots with steaming water. They shot terrified glances at Airam, and bolted out of the room. He could hear voices muttering hastily behind the door, but he ignored them.

He started to work, cutting the herbs and roots. "I'd really appreciate if you would try to get hurt in some ordinary way in future, yes? I know you are a Grey Warden and royally tough to kill, but it would be a nice change," he chuckled, forcing himself to sound cheerful. Quickly looking at the boy, he threw the herbs into the water and pulled out a few other roots from the sack.

"Like that time, when you almost let that foul dragon to almost eat you. I mean, I understand, you are believer, but to let yourself to become a dragon dinner just because it's Andraste's reincarnation…"

"Wasn't…hungry," came the soft reply. That was just like this crazy kid, to joke even on his death bed.

No. Not death bed. I will make it. I have to. There is no other option.

"Yes, that, or perhaps you have foul taste. And that wasn't the only time, no? You seem to have a thing for being chomped by dragons. Though the second one wasn't a real dragon, so perhaps it doesn't really count. No?"

"Does... Worse, Flem..." the boy's voice trailed off, and he was immediately at his side, checking his pulse. It was getting slower. There wasn't much time left. He quickly unlaced the boy's robes and massaged his heart few times; after a moment, the boy opened his eyes again.

"You know, it is rude to fell asleep in the middle of conversation. Especially when you talk with someone as awesome as me, yes? Look at me, bello mio. Talk to me. Do not sleep. "

Airam gave him a weak smile.

Where is Leliana? Why she didn't come back yet?

No, he must stay calm. If she ran as fast as she can, she probably only reached Wynne now. And Wynne is an old lady, it will take longer till they come back. It's up to him. If the antidote is not ready… He checked the brew. Two more ingredients, and then it would need at least quarter an hour to leach out.

Please, Maker. Please, let him last. Let me save him. Don't take him from me. Not him.

"And remember when you decided to check if Grey Wardens could become werevolves?"

"That… not..."

"Not what, bello mio? Oh, I see. You mean you didn't really plan it that way, yes? But it definitely looked like it, you know. Why would anyone just run into the room full of werewolves, otherwise? No?"

There. The last two ingredients were in. There was nothing he could do now, but wait and pray. He sat next to the boy, gently holding his hand.

"Now?"

"Now? Now you were poisoned by one of the most famous poisons in the world. The Adder's Kiss, it is called. It's second only to the Crows' own special venom."

"But… I… won't… die yet?"

"And who do you think I am, hm? Some pitiful druggist from some mouldy dump in Denerim? I told you you'll be fine, no?" He gently kissed his hair again.

Maker, please, don't let that be a lie. You still need him, too, no? To stop the Blight. Don't take him from me. Don't take him from me.

"Promise me you'll try to stick to normal injuries from now on, like an ordinary elf mage, will you?"

"… arch… dem… on," Airam tried to chuckle, but was too weak even for that.

"Why do I even bother saving you, when you're already planning another death attempt? You know, just because the Archdemon is a dragon, you really don't have to let it eat you. There will be none left for me, if you keep doing that."

It should be ready by now. He got up to check the brew. The colour and smell seemed all right. Taking a small sip, he decided that it had to be strong enough. Pouring some in the glass, he brought it to the boy.

"Here, bello mio. Drink." Slowly, he forced Airam to drink all of it, and then quickly refilled the glass again.

"Zev… I… love…"

"The potion? I will be making it for you every morning for breakfast. Just drink it all."

And then the third glass, and the fourth. He could see that the boy could not take any more. But it was all right; Airam drank almost all of it, there was only little left. It should be enough. If it wasn't too late already. Where was that old hag? It couldn't take that long.

"Rest now. When you get up again, you'll be fine."

Airam did not have strength to reply any more, just gave him a very weak smile, before closing his eyes and falling asleep almost immediately, which showed how difficult it was for him to stay awake. Anyone else probably wouldn't be able to do it. But his little Warden was not anyone.

Maker, please. I've done what I could. Now it's up to you. If Leliana's right that you're not a heartless bastard like the Chantry says, that you still care about us, now would be the time to prove it.

There was nothing more he could do, so he returned to the boy's side again. "I love you too, you crazy kid," he whispered, when he was sure he cannot be heard.

Then he heard steps, people running and shouting, and few moments later, Leliana barged in, with Wynne in tow, both breathless and dishevelled. Alistair peeked inside, but did not enter.

"How is he?"

He quickly got up. "Adder's Kiss. I just gave him an antidote few moments ago. He's sleeping now, but…"

"Don't worry, child. I can keep him alive long enough till the antidote starts working. He won't die. You did great job. Go get some rest, now. Alistair, you and the rest wait outside, please."

Maker, please, let it be true. Please let it be true.

He did not rest; he did not move from Airam's side, no matter how much Wynne tried to convince him, refusing the dinner Sanga prepared for all of them, snapping at Alistair, when he offered to take over for a moment instead. How pathetic would that be, if he couldn't look after his boy for a few hours?

And the smile that Airam gave him, when he finally opened his eyes, made it worth it. "Zev." The voice was still weak, and it would take a day or two till he would be perfectly fine again, but he was alive.

But before he could reply, Wynne was there. "How do you feel, Warden? You really scared us this time."

"Why? Zev… was… with me," came the quiet reply.

"That he indeed was. It's only thanks to him, you're still alive."

"He promised… I'll be fine… so no need… to worry. Zev never… breaks a promise."

His breath hitched when he heard those words. Of course he knew that Airam trusted him, but it still always surprised him to see just how much. When it was his fault that he was hurt – as an assassin, he should have been much more cautious. But instead of blaming him, the crazy kid in fact praised him.

"I'm your man, always happy to serve, my dear. So what would you like to do now? Should I try to find out if there is some new challenge in Denerim? Such as vampires, for example. Or are you content to wait till the Archdemon is ready to play?"

"Vampires… will do… if there's… nothing better…" those big eyes flashed with provocation.

"As you wish, then. I shall go hunting immediately," he chuckled, before finally getting up.

"You don't think… he's really… those two… it would be just… like him… silly assassin," he heard, just as he was closing the door behind him.

"Don't be ridiculous, child. He just went to let the others know you're fine, and to eat something."

Zevran grinned. His little Warden knew him best, after all. It was not possible to fool him. Taking the arrow that hit his boy out of his pocket, he looked at Rask, sitting in front of the room, with an expectant look at his face. The mabari knew it as well.

"Yes, boy. The hunt just begun. And when we find those idiots who hurt him, they'll wish they were undead."