Zevran would not have recognized the warrior had it not been for two things; his laugh, which hadn't changed in the least, and the single-minded way he was devouring the cheese on the battered tin plate before him.
It was the laugh that first caught his attention; the cheese made him give the man a second longer look and finally recognize him. He was still tall, and broad-shouldered, but beyond that... beyond that, he looked very little like the innocent young warrior that Zevran had known in Ferelden half a dozen years ago. His hair, once kept cropped neatly short, was a shaggy mass, most of it caught back in a rough ponytail, a few lengthy wisps hanging down in front of his ears. His chin was covered in thick scruff, not quite a beard but more than just a single day's growth of stubble. He'd broken his nose at some time, and also collected an impressive array of scars since Zevran had last seen him, including one marring the right side of his face, the assassin saw as the man turned his head to talk to one of his companions. When he turned back, their eyes briefly met, amber-brown and dark honey-gold.
Zevran saw the moment the warrior recognized him, the way he froze for just a fraction of a second, eyes widening slightly. And then he continued his turn, as if nothing at all had happened, turning away to talk to someone else. He was missing a chunk out of the top of his left ear, Zevran saw; by the ragged curve of it, it had been bitten off.
The elf turned away then, and walked over to the bar. It took some time to attract the bartender's attention; he was in more of a hurry to serve the numerous large rough-looking human fighters lined up along the bar than one slender, well-dressed elf. Zevran was trying to find out from the man if the bar had any brandy at all, or even a palatable whiskey, when a large form slid into a small space to his left, scarred hands putting down a battered tin plate and an equally well-used tin mug on the bar. Zevran was annoyed at the way the bartender promptly ignored him to turn to the larger man, but forbore to openly express his displeasure.
"Zevran," Alistair said, smiling toothily down at him, and gave him a short nod of greeting before looking at the bartender. "The special bottle and two glasses," he told the man. The bartender's eyebrows rose, but he turned away and bustled off into a back room without a word.
"Alistair," Zevran acknowledged him then, voice low, before giving him an enquiring look. "Special bottle?"
A grin darted across the warrior's face, making him suddenly look very much like the young man Zevran remembered. "One he keeps on hand just for me. Or so he claims, though I'm sure he sells the occasional drink out of it to those with enough gold to pay for it."
Zevran arched an eyebrow, then smiled as the bartender re-emerged from the back room, carrying two blown glass goblets in one hand, and a squat dusky bottle in the other. "Ahhh... so you drink Antivan brandy now, do you?"
Alistair nodded as he accepted the bottle and glasses from the bartender, uncorking the bottle and pouring them brandy himself. "Sometimes. I remembered you talking about it and decided to give it a try, some years ago. I've since acquired a taste for it. It's something I drink on special occasions," he said, and nudged one of the two glasses towards Zevran.
"And is this a special occasion?" Zevran asked as he lifted his glass, swirled in, contemplated and sniffed the brandy, then took a single small sip, raising his eyebrows in appreciation. Not just any Antivan brandy, but a very fine vintage of such.
"I'd count it such," Alistair said, smiling briefly at Zevran before sipping from his own glass. "It's been, what... six years? Seven?"
"About that, yes," Zevran agreed, thinking back. It seemed both so long ago, and yet such a short time ago, since that last time they'd all been together, in Denerim, at the Landsmeet. He still remembered Alistair's anger, the stubborn set to his jaw and hunch to his shoulders as he'd turned away and stalked out of the chamber, when Aedan had spared Loghain. Walked out, on Aedan and his companions and the fight against the Archdemon and his life in the Grey Wardens. Anora had been all for sending soldiers after him to arrest him; it had been Aedan – and, surprisingly, Loghain – who'd told her no. "So, where did you go, after you left?" Zevran asked.
Alistair grimaced, knocked back the brandy in his glass, and poured himself a second one. "Here and there. Caught the first ship out of Denerim that I could find a spot on. Ended up in Ostwick at first. Drifted around the Free Marches for a while, doing odd jobs when I could get them. Mainly drinking. Drank myself damn near into oblivion," he said, studying his glass, then looked up and grinned at Zevran. "Almost lost my life in Antiva thanks to that – only missed getting a dagger in the ribs because he used a move you'd taught me the counter for, back when. Anyway, I drifted to Kirkwall after that, eventually pulled myself back together and sobered up, came here to Ansburg, joined a mercenary company. Been fighting in odd corners of Thedas ever since." He paused in his litany, took a large sip of his brandy, and looked curiously at Zevran. "You?"
Zevran shrugged, sipped his own drink. "Aedan released me from my vows to him after the Archdemon fell. I remained with him a while longer, but there was little room in his life for me after he wed Anora and became King. So I left. I spent some time moving around, mainly avoiding the Crows, then spent a few years in Antiva chasing them. Now it is me that they avoid," he said smugly, smiling pleasantly at the other man.
Alistair snorted, then smiled. "You haven't changed," he said, running his eyes over Zevran. "Not to look at, anyway."
Zevran shrugged again. "A few more wrinkles, another scar here or there... little matters. You, on the other hand... you appear to have changed much," he said, and ran an approving eye over the tall warrior.
Alistair smiled crookedly. "I'm no longer the innocent pup I was in Ferelden, that's for sure," he said, and knocked back his drink, then refilled it and topped up Zevran's. "I've grown up a lot since then. Learned a few things. Learned a lot of things," he amended, as he put the bottle back down on the bar with a loud thump. Then turned, and looked speculatively at the elf. "Remember how you used to tease me all the time? To make me blush?"
Zevran grinned, widely. "Yes. And stammer. The blush was charming, and the stammering made it particularly amusing."
Alistair snorted, then set his glass down on the bar, and moved closer to Zevran, looking down at the elf. "I don't stammer any more," he said, voice low and almost threatening. "Nor do I blush." He leaned down, slowly, his expression challenging.
Zevran could easily have avoided him, if he so wished, but... he had little interest in doing so. As he'd once told Aedan, he was attracted to dangerous things. And whatever changes Alistair had gone through in the intervening years, he was certainly dangerous now, no longer the soft-hearted and innocent young man he'd once been. So he merely tilted his head back, waiting, watchful, as the taller man bent down toward him.
Lips touched his, warm and dry, and not in the least tentative. He smiled slightly, and tilted his head just slightly to one side, closing his eyes and opening his mouth just a little, inviting entry. The warrior took advantage of it without hesitation. He tasted of brandy and beer and the sharp cheese he'd been eating when Zevran had first seen him, smelled of sweat and armour polish and male musk. Alistair moved a little closer, bringing his body into contact with Zevran's, one wide hand rising to press against the small of the elf's back, pulling him close, his second rising to knot into the long hair at the back of Zevran's head, controlling the kiss
Zevran made an approving sound after a moment, raising one leg to press his thigh against the other man's groin – a well-armoured groin, preventing any real contact, but he knew that Alistair would at least be aware of the contact, the pressure, the implied desire. He let one of his own hands move, reaching up to rest against the stubbled cheek, pressing gently against it before he slid it back to intertwine fingers with long blonde hair, his other hand still holding his glass of brandy safely off to one side.
No, Alistair was certainly no longer the innocent he'd once been, he thought through the haze of rising lust as the man ended the kiss with a gentle bite to Zevran's lower lip, pulling on and worrying it slightly before releasing it, then turned the elf's head to nuzzle at his ear. Zevran shivered as Alistair's teeth closed briefly on his lobe, before the man slowly licked his way along the edge of his ear, from base to tip, once, twice. His own hand had shifted to the back of Alistair's neck now, fingertips pressing against the knobs of bone and the hard lines of muscles coming together there, silently urging him to continue what he had begun.
Lips moved to press a kiss to the soft skin just in front of his ear. "I have a room. Join me?" Alistair asked, voice a low whisper of barely-aspirated sound, a growl, a purr, right in his ear, heard by no one but him.
Zevran shivered again, then nodded, once. "Of course," he said, calmly, belying his racing heartbeat as Alistair eased back again, releasing him. He raised his glass to take another small sip from it, and took a deep breath. He met the warrior's eyes. "Of course," he repeated, and smiled, accepting the invitation there.