This is the last chapter, more of an epilogue in some ways. As always, the biggest thank-you to everyone who's been following this story. Reviews are always welcome, and Bioware owns nearly everything.

Chapter Eighteen – Rain

The arl's estate, Zevran thought, was a strange place now that the city was cleared of the darkspawn and the dead. Messengers often called for his Warden's presence at court, though Zevran was never quite sure why Darrian was so suddenly necessary. Some days even he was summoned, and he smirked when he heard himself called the Warden's companion. An improvement, he supposed idly, since most of the arl's servants simply spoke of the elf with that accent.

"Sword up," he called across the courtyard, when he saw his Warden's posture slacken. "Again."

"I'm dying," Darrian retorted between deep breaths. "Or I'm about to."

"No, you aren't. Do it again."

"Why aren't you doing it with me?"

"Because, my dear Warden, I did not come nearly as close to getting killed as you did. Nor does my footwork need such attention regardless." And because, Zevran thought, because they would be going to Amaranthine and he needed his Warden well and strong.

"That's a poor excuse, Zev."

Zevran sighed and eeled off the stone bench. He scooped up one of the practice swords and balanced the odd, light wooden weight of it. "As you would have it. Let us see how long you last before defeat, shall we?"

"Insufferable Antivan."

Darrian twisted past him, and the tip of the practice sword smacked against Zevran's shoulder.

"Nice," he said.

"You're not trying," Darrian responded.

He grinned, and when he spun again, he threw himself full-force at his Warden. The wooden blade cracked hard against Darrian's, and when his Warden swayed back a pace, Zevran swept a foot at his ankles.

Darrian staggered, hopping back until he was standing steady again. Watching him, Zevran allowed him another moment to right himself before he was moving again, driving Darrian back with each stroke of the practice sword. He dropped beneath another swing of his Warden's sword and rolled until he was behind his Warden. He latched one hand against Darrian's sleeve, clamping his Warden's arm against his side. When his Warden twisted and hissed and swore at him, he lodged one knee between both of Darrian's and murmured, "I think I win."

"Not yet," his Warden snarled, and tried to wrench free again.

"You're better than this," Zevran said, and quite deliberately, he nuzzled his face against loose black hair until he could taste the nape of his Warden's neck.

Darrian slammed an elbow into his stomach, and Zevran laughed breathlessly when he stumbled away from his Warden. "Better," he said.

"Don't you," Darrian replied, and his whole weight crashed into Zevran, shoulder-first. "Ever shut up?"

"No," Zevran told him, and nipped at the side of his neck. "Never."

Darrian laughed and whirled away from him. Zevran followed, matching him pace for pace, and when his Warden flung himself forward again, he absorbed each punishing stroke.

"Better again," he remarked, and dodged Darrian's vicious swipe in response.

The afternoon wore away while he let his Warden spin and fight and thrash his way through the sparring routine. Overhead, the clouds rippled pewter, and when the first, half-expected drops of rain slicked his hair to his temples, he paused long enough to glare up at the sky.

"It won't hurt, you know," Darrian said, and when Zevran looked at him, he saw that his Warden's eyes were laughing.

"I stand by my promise," Zevran retorted. "Some day I shall take you to Antiva and you will finally understand the difference."

Darrian's sword smacked against his again, and Zevran twisted into an elegant response. He mirrored his Warden's lithe, easy steps until the rain turned the courtyard slippery underfoot and water droplets clung to his eyelashes.

"Enough?" Darrian asked, and grinned through wet black hair.

"Enough," Zevran admitted.

Inside, they dripped their way across the guards' armoury and left the wooden swords on the sparring rack. Sidelong, Zevran eyed his Warden, and quietly noted the way the damp folds of his tunic pulled across his shoulders, the way his white fingers pushed through the soaked ebony ribbons of his hair. As silently, he clasped Darrian's wrist and led him out of the armoury. He made it halfway up the smaller set of stairs before he surrendered and shoved Darrian against the wall.

Darrian laughed, the sound of it entirely unguarded. "Here, Zev? Really?"

"Your fault," he said, and kissed the side of Darrian's neck and the beautifully soft skin just beneath his jaw. His Warden's hands swept down his back and dipped teasingly lower. "And yes, right here, unless you stop doing that."

"You started it," Darrian retorted.

He grinned in response and kissed his Warden properly, kissed him until they were both breathless and leaning into each other.

"Upstairs," Darrian mumbled against his mouth. "Now."

Zevran swayed away from the wall, tugging his Warden roughly after him. Together they stumbled up the stairs and down the last stretch of the corridor, and Zevran wrestled with the key while his Warden pressed taunting kisses against his throat. By the time the door was kicked shut behind them, Darrian's fingers were pulling at his belt and then the laces beneath and he found himself pushed into the chair.

Darrian kissed him again, and he tasted salt and rainwater inside his Warden's mouth. He reached for his Warden, for the rucked folds of his tunic, and Darrian slapped his hands away.

"No," Darrian said. "Stay there."

"Oh? Whatever is it you have in mind, my Warden?"

"Be quiet and maybe you'll find out."

He watched while Darrian peeled off his rain-splotched clothes. Darrian turned, and Zevran saw the scarred half-circle on his shoulder, livid and still raised. Too quickly, he blinked, and turned his attention to unbuckling his own boots.

"Stay there," Darrian told him, when he straightened up to roll his breeches down.

He did, and when Darrian slicked his own fingers with the scented oil, and slowly worked himself open, Zevran swallowed. He did not quite trust his own voice, so he watched until his lap was full of his Warden, Darrian's hands braced against his thighs, and Darrian's back sliding against his chest. Slowly – too slowly, Zevran thought – his Warden rose and fell against him. He let his hands wander across Darrian's chest until he found the thump of his Warden's heartbeat.

He closed his eyes and leaned his forehead against his Warden's shoulder. Darrian's wet hair was sliding against his face, and Darrian's languid, rolling rhythm was too teasingly unhurried.

"Bed," Zevran murmured, and bit the side of his Warden's neck. "Now, or I'll carry you there."

Darrian laughed again, and Zevran wondered if perhaps this was what his Warden had been like, in the Alienage, in years when he had been younger, in the years before Ostagar.

"Impatient," Darrian said, and eased himself away.

Zevran caught him around the waist, and pulled him close enough for a demanding kiss that was all teeth and desperation. He pushed and Darrian grabbed his arms and pulled and somehow they toppled onto the bed together. His shoulders hit the sheets first and Darrian's weight pinned him. There was a frantic, shuddering moment while they twisted against each other until he was buried in his Warden again. He rolled them both over so he could drive himself deeper. Beneath him, Darrian bucked, his hand sliding down his own belly to wrap around himself and stroke. The sight of it, of his Warden arching gloriously up into his own pleasure, the sight of it undid him, and he emptied himself into the clenching heat of Darrian's body.

Darrian gasped out Zevran's name, and his clipped Fereldan voice ruined the lilt of it. Shakily, Zevran curled his hand around Darrian's fingers, and another stroke sent his Warden over the edge.

Entirely uncaring, Zevran let himself collapse across Darrian's chest, his head lolling beneath his Warden's chin.

"Zev," Darrian said, and pushed at the top of his head. "Too heavy."

"Don't care," he said, and yawned. "Not going anywhere."

Softly, Darrian laughed. "No?"

"No," he echoed. "You caught me and now you're stuck with me, I'm afraid."

Dawn mantled the royal palace with grey mist the day of the Warden's leaving, and the sun stayed veiled. In his rooms he stuffed the last of his belongings into his pack, and when Zevran eyed it askance, he sighed and tried to rearrange some of it.

Leliana brought breakfast, and a soft kiss for Darrian, and a winning smile for his assassin lover. When she left, she left them a pack of beautifully illuminated cards, a declaration to send them letters and a demand that both of them do the same in return. Oghren came next, squinting into the wan dawn, and he slapped Darrian's shoulder hard enough that he staggered.

"You're alright," the dwarf said, and did it again, slightly softer.

"About Fort Drakon," Darrian responded. "Thank you."

"Yes, well," Oghren said, and scrubbed at his hair with one hand. "Could've left you there, but your pretty boy over there would've moped himself to death."

"Charming, as ever," Zevran muttered.

"As always, elf."

Wynne came next, and she looked at Darrian thoughtfully.

He shifted, and asked, "What is it?"

"You," she said, and smiled. "You look like the same boy I saw at Ostagar, and yet you do not."

He smiled. "That's deliberately cryptic, you know."

"I know." Her eyes softened, and she said, "I've decided to stay at court."

"You have plans to woo your way through slavering ranks of deserving young men, then?" Zevran asked, and smirked.

"Very amusing," Wynne told him. "Alistair has asked if I will, and I have said yes."

Something strange and warm and very like relief curled through Darrian's belly. "Good," he said. "I think…yes, that's good. He won't…he shouldn't be on his own."

Later, after the sunlight brightened through the lancet windows, Wynne gave her farewells. Very gently, she touched Darrian's shoulder, and his face. She passed a book to Zevran, and when he grinned wickedly, she ignored him and pulled him into a rough hug.

"Are you completely fed up with goodbyes yet?" Alistair asked from where he stood at the threshold, turning slightly so Wynne could slip past him. The dog stood beside him, his head leaning into Alistair's hip.

"Utterly," Darrian said.

"Well, we could just do the big celebratory official public one instead, if you want."

"What? I thought we didn't have to do that."

Alistair grinned. "We don't."

"You're awful. My heart nearly stopped when you said that."

"I know. You're all ready?"

"Yes," Darrian said, and ached.

"Yes, I," Alistair said, and coughed. His fingertips rubbed over the dog's head. "I think you should have him."

"Zevran? I do. Nearly every day, in fact."

"The dog, you dreadful elf."

"Oh." Darrian jerked his gaze up, and into Alistair's open, slightly worried face. "Oh. I…really? I mean, he can stay here if he wants. It's up to him, isn't it?"

"Well, yes, but you were the one who went tramping all over the Korcari Wilds looking for those flowers for the kennelmaster."

"What? I did not."

"You did," Alistair said, and grinned slowly. "What was it you said at the time? We need to keep looking. Come on, Alistair, you saw that poor creature, we have to keep looking. He looked terrible, Alistair, you saw him, didn't you?"

"I don't sound like that. At all."

"Of course you don't." Alistair's fingers dug behind the dog's ears. "So, I just thought, if he wants to go with you, then he should go with you."

Darrian swallowed. "Thank you."

"Yes, well. You can tell me all about how many darkspawn he tries to eat sometime."

"Alistair?" Before he could say anything too ridiculous, Darrian leaned up, wrapping one arm partway around Alistair's back and pressing his face into Alistair's shoulder.

"I know," the man said, when Darrian stepped away. "You're going to miss my dazzling company. Your life will be so uneventful from now on."

"Of course it will. Keep that up and I'll hug you again."

Alistair laughed. "You do know it's probably treason to lay hands on your king without permission?"

"Will you be telling that to all the ravishingly beautiful noblewomen who will no doubt be following you around?" Zevran asked.

"Maybe," Alistair answered. His smile faded, and he looked at Darrian again. "Sure you're ready?"

"I think so."

"Well then," Alistair said quietly. "Let's get you out of here and on your way before we lose the morning."

Under needling drizzle, Zevran sat on the low stone wall and waited. On both sides, the small Alienage houses leaned against each other, windows dark and most of them still empty. Against his shoulders, the oddly unfamiliar weight of his pack pressed awkwardly. The dog sat on his right side, its huge head lolling against his leg, and he did not quite have the nerve to shove it away.

"Hey," Shianni said, from somewhere behind him. "Are you drenched yet?"

"Not yet."

"Give it a while." She sank onto the wall beside him and sat with her knees drawn up. Her head turned, and she looked at him through piercingly bright eyes. "Did you say something to him?"

"No. Why?"

"He's still in there. Still talking to Cyrion and Soris."

"That is good, yes?" Zevran guessed.

"Yes. It's just not like him."

"People change," Zevran said, softly.

"I suppose. That dog is huge."

"I know."

"Its head is nearly longer than your forearm."

"I know," Zevran said again. "He's terrifying."

"What's his name?"


"No, what's his name?"

"That is his name," Zevran said, and found himself absurdly amused when she scowled. "Your cousin acquired him after the battle at Ostagar, I'm told. He assumed that the dog must have already had a name, but he had no idea of how to discover this name. So, instead of insulting the dog by giving it a new and possibly unsuitable name, he and his fellow Warden decided that it would just be the dog."

Shianni snorted. "I wish I'd never asked."

"You know, it's funny how often people say that to me."

The rain pattered against Zevran's head and his gloves when he turned his hands palm-up. He felt unmoored, floating somehow, when he thought of how he would be going with his Warden. Out of the city and into the wilds and he would be there all the way to Amaranthine and elsewhere, he supposed.

He thought of the Crows, and the thought flooded his mind with simmering, ugly anger.

There would be more of them, because there always were, and he wondered how many he would have to fight off, how many might try to kill him.

Kill him and his Warden.

No, he thought.

They would die, all of them and any of them who came for his Warden.

The Crows were part of a past that was not truly dead, and he knew it. He knew that it was as true and as indelible as the swirls of ink that marked his skin, and he wondered how long it would be until they discovered him.

The past was a strange creature, he thought. His Warden's was one of cold grey streets and the bright curling branches of the vhenadahl and Ostagar and a decision made in the shadows of Redcliffe Castle.

The witch had months, many months before the child would grow, weeks even before the child would quicken inside her. Almost idly Zevran wondered what the child might look like, whether it would keep the witch's wolfish yellow eyes or his Warden's. Black hair and pale skin and the child would be beautiful, and he swallowed at the odd, aching emptiness that settled in him.

"Hey," Shianni said again, and nudged him. "Your face is all strange. You're alright?"

"Of course," he said, and summoned a smile for her. "Memories. Old decisions."

"Bad decisions?"

"No," he said, and exhaled slowly. "Just decisions." He tipped his head back until the rain tapped gently against his half-closed eyelids. "Now, my dear," he said, and blinked the droplets away. "Tell me something about your cousin."

"Oh?" She grinned. "And what do you want to know?"

"Oh, anything even mildly embarrassing will do as a start."

The road wound south through rolling hills and into windswept flatlands, and under the cover of deep night, sometimes the darkspawn attacked. Small groups, and they often fled beneath the blaze of flaming torches or Zevran's arrows or the dog's bared teeth. Others rushed them at dawn, in the strange greyness just before sunrise. But always, they were in small numbers, and they fell easily, toppling beneath vicious swings of Darrian's sword and collapsing under the livid arcs of Zevran's blades. Darrian still felt them, felt the seething brush of their awareness against his, and more than once, it woke him from dreamless sleep and he shouted out a warning to the assassin.

The weather worsened as they worked their way south through snaking valleys and down slopes uneven with gravel and water-slick boulders. The dog often loped on ahead of them, Darrian calling out for him to take care of himself, and Zevran grimacing whenever the dog returned enthusiastically caked in mud. Most nights, Darrian huddled against the assassin while the wind plucked at the tent ropes and the rain swept in battering squalls against the canvas walls.

"Tell me," Zevran said, one night when the howling wind kept them both awake past midnight. He reached out and claimed the brandy bottle from Darrian's hand. "Tell me again, my dear Warden. Why did I agree to this?"

"Because you would be bored without me?"

"Boredom might be a nice change."

"Because I put up with you?"

"A fair point."

"And," Darrian said, and purloined the bottle back from him. "And because I know just how to make you scream my name."

"Indeed?" Zevran said, and his eyes glittered evilly.

A heartbeat later, Darrian was on his back while the brandy sloshed alarmingly and Zevran's weight settled across his hips.

"So," Zevran said, and nipped at the pointed tip of Darrian's ear. "Care to prove yourself right?"

Afterwards, they lay twined around each other amid the tangle of blankets, his head against Zevran's shoulder and Zevran's fingers playing across the cold glass pendent. Half beneath him, the assassin smelled of heat and passion and the soap he had stolen from Darrian some days earlier. The lantern burned down, and he listened to the familiar sounds of the dog as he padded past the tent flaps again.

Zevran shifted, lifting the brandy bottle to his lips again. "I find that I have a question."


Zevran's fingers hooked under the fine silver chain, pressed beneath the pendent. Darrian felt the hesitation in him, in the way his shoulders stiffened slightly, in the way the silence stretched between them. So he turned his face until his cheek slid along Zevran's, and murmured, "If you share the last of the brandy, I'll listen to anything you say."

"Bribery, is it? As you will, then. I simply…the Crows."

"I know," Darrian said, and he reached for the bottle. The brandy flooded his mouth, sharp enough to make him shudder. "If you're about to try and scare me with some tale of how they never give up looking, don't bother."

Zevran chuckled. "No? Not even if I made the tale terribly lurid?"

"Not even then." He turned his head again so that he was leaning into the crook of Zevran's bare shoulder. "If the Crows come for you, then they come for me, and I am not going to let them have either of us."

He barely heard Zevran's slow, almost inaudible sigh. The assassin's fingers slipped over his collarbone, and he said, "My Warden, I was thinking entirely the same thing. Of course, I was also thinking other things. Mainly about locked doors and silk sheets and expensive wine and whether this Vigil's Keep of yours will have them. And if it does not, then I know what I shall be spending your coin on."

Darrian laughed. "Zev?"


"Stop talking and go to sleep."

"You're so unforgiving, my Warden," Zevran said, and his smiling mouth found Darrian's in a slow, teasing kiss.

"I know," he said. "Come here."

The assassin moved, rolling so that he was half on top of Darrian, the ends of his hair brushing across Darrian's throat. Outside, the rain slapped against the wind-rippled walls of the tent. Darrian closed his eyes and Zevran's arms met across his back, and in the warm darkness they lay together and waited for the morning.