You could be my unintended
Choice to live my life extended
You could be the one I'll always love (...)

I'll be there as soon as I can
But I'm busy mending broken
Pieces of the life I had before

Unintended, Muse

Five times Zevran was NOT punched in the face

The first time Sten died was after a fight. They all once again had to defend against bandits, a disorganised, foul-mouthed group of thugs, and the fight had been brutal. Sten had been knocked out and was coming back to his senses with some difficulty, after Tara healed him. Zevran walked up to him as he struggled to get up. He ignored the hand Sten was holding out to him and planted his foot square in the middle of the Qunari's chest, pinning him to the ground. His sword came down with a swooch, stopping within a hair's breadth of the warrior's exposed throat.

"You are dead," he said simply, and walked away.

The second time was on a hot day of travel and Sten drank deeply from his waterskin. When he lowered it down, Zevran was in front of him, an empty glass vial held in evidence in his hand, traces of a toxic-looking green liquid still visible at the bottom. He pointed at Sten's waterskin.

"You are dead," he said again, and walked away, throwing the empty vial at the giant's feet.

The third time, it was Sten who came after him. Zevran had wandered away from camp, on purpose, and was prepared. The Qunari's foot got caught in the simple yet painful trap Zevran had laid. As he struggled to get free, the assassin crept up behind him, close enough to press a blade to his throat.

"You are dead."

The fourth time was at night, as Sten was sleeping. Zevran slid inside the tent, dagger in hand. The warrior awoke almost instantly, his fist already swinging. Zevran dodged the punch with ease and, with a quick, efficient twist of the wrist, had the tip of his blade pressed against Sten's chest, over his heart.

"You are dead."

Sten fell back with a hmph.

"Do we understand each other, my friend? You are only alive because she is. You are only alive because she wills it."

"This is pointless, assassin. She bested me already. This point has already been made. She is strong. She doesn't need you to protect her."

"Let me be clear. She may not need me, but she has me. If anything happens to her, if you lay a finger on her again, you are dead. I will not do it for her, no. As you have already pointed out, she is quite capable of defending herself. I will be doing this for myself… for the pleasure it will bring me to make you suffer, to end the pathetic life you will no longer deserve if you hurt her again."

He sheathed his blade and moved backwards to exit the tent, his eyes never leaving Sten's.

"You have learned to act with purpose," Sten said when Zevran was finally standing out of the tent. "This I can respect."

"Whatever you say, dead man."

He was sitting on the cliff, his legs dangling over the edge, looking down at the village below. His eyes kept coming back to Dwyn's little house, where Tara had disappeared moments before. What could she be doing in there, by herself?

"Ah! There you are," he heard behind him, "I've been looking all over for you!"

He didn't turn as Alistair sat beside him on the cliff, his eyes still on that house. His tone, however, was light and teasing when he replied.

"Is that so? What an interesting turn of events. Have my charms finally swayed you, Alistair?"

"Uh, no. I wanted to talk to you about Tara, actually. I understand the two of you are… together."

He put so much hidden meaning in that one innocent word that Zevran couldn't help but laugh.

"Yes, yes we are… that. We have been that for a while, now. Why the sudden interest? Are you jealous, my dear Alistair? There is no need to be, you know. There is always room for one more in our nightly games, especially one as handsome and fresh as you…"

He leaned towards the warrior as he spoke, his voice getting lower until he was almost whispering suggestively in his ear. To his surprise, Alistair did not blush and stomp away mumbling half-heated curses. Instead, the warrior only chuckled softly, shaking his head.

"You know, there was a time where I would have punched you in the face for suggesting this. There was even a time where I would have punched you just… because. You know… because I could… or I hated the way you looked at her… or to let you know you had… competition... but now… I like to think that time has made me wiser, even if it took me more time than most people."

Zevran said nothing. Below them in the village Tara was finally emerging from Dwyn's house, gesturing at someone across the square to come and join her.

"What do you think she was doing with that dwarf, my friend?" Zevran asked.

"No idea. No 'funny business', though. She suggested it to him once, to convince him to fight for the village, and he turned her down."

Zevran couldn't help the impulse to tease the warrior again.

"My dear Alistair, if your business is funny, I'm sorry to say, you are doing it wrong."

"Oh, really? Are you sure? Because when she's with you, in your tent, she laughs all the time."

"I stand corrected," Zevran said after a while, his voice soft.

When they saw Sten approach her, both men tensed.

"What is he… by the Maker, did she find his sword? How did she…? Ha! Only her, I swear…" Alistair laughed as they watched Tara handing a sword almost bigger than she was to the Qunari warrior. She threw her head back, her red hair shining in the sunlight, and they heard the echo of her laughter, in spite of the distance.

"Tara… she's like fire, Zev," Alistair said softly as they watched the Qunari launched in what must have been his longest speech ever. "Beautiful and dangerous. She burns and shines, so brightly. Mesmerizing. I need her, I want to be near her, to be kept warm, to follow her light like a beacon… but I'm not ready to get burned. I don't want to. You, on the other hand… you look like you've already been burned, and were able to withstand it. You look fit to walk through fire and come away unscathed."

Below them, Sten was taking his leave, after receiving much awkward patting on the back. Then Tara turned around, a hand over her eyes to protect them from the sunlight, and saw them. She waved enthusiastically before taking a bow. When she straightened up, they heard her laughter again. With a chuckle, Alistair stood up and began walking away. After a few steps, Zevran heard him stop.

"If you hurt her though…" Alistair warned.

"I understand," Zevran answered, his eyes still on Tara. Then, as an afterthought, he added, softly, "I am hers."

Alistair was already gone.

"I have a question, if I may, dear Wynne."

The elder mage let out a sigh, though she obviously tried to suppress it.

"What is it, now, Zevran? I warn you, one word of my bosom and I will break your nose. I may be old, but I can still teach you a lesson or two."

"That sounds deliciously intriguing, but no. My question actually pertains to… another of you fine attributes."

He had given the matter quite a bit of thought and came to the unsavory conclusion that he had to seek counsel. This… thing… was rapidly and definitely becoming a problem. What happened that morning could not be allowed to happen again.

"You are an immensely talented healer, dear Wynne, as is our esteemed leader. I am given to understand that you taught her everything she knows."

"That would have been quite the compliment if you hadn't made it sound so inappropriately suggestive," Wynne said, her tone as scolding as ever. "What is your question, Zevran?"

"I was wondering why is it that your magic feels so… different from Tara's. Oh, yours is… quite nice, do not get me wrong, but Tara's healing feels very… hm… invigorating."

He let the innuendo roll off his tongue, knowing it for the understatement it was. No word could even come close to describe the way it made him feel.

When he was lost in battle, wounded or tired, and the sensation of her magic hit him, filled him, healing, soothing… it felt like… warmth all around him; a burst of emotions: joy, excitement, elation, like he could take on all their enemies at once and it would be easy; a jolt of arousal, sudden and intense, enough to make his skin flush and his knees weak; most of all, a deep feeling of wholeness, like his being was healing beyond his wounds, mending something inside he hadn't even known was so broken.

The feeling was incredibly powerful… and addictive. He was craving it with an intensity that was becoming frightening.

"I see," Wynne said, with a leveled look that told him his euphemism hadn't quite fooled her. "If it is so pleasant, why do you question it?"

"I can't help but notice that your own magic, while quite efficient, does not provoke the same, ah… response. I was merely curious as to what makes our beloved Warden so special."

'… and how to stop it before it consumes me whole,' he added in thoughts.

That morning, they had been ambushed by a party of road bandits. He was fighting, keeping close to Tara as was his place. He had heard her warning call just in time.

"Zevran! To the right!"

A bandit was charging him, his weapon held high. His brain took a whole second to analyse the situation. Judging by the angle, his attacker was about to sweep his blade down, in a diagonal. He knew the exact way to block the attack. He also knew that if the attack wasn't blocked by a weapon, there was a way to turn his body so that the blade would not sink into vital flesh but slice the muscle of his arm, wounding him badly, but not fatally. He knew she was right there, watching him, and that she'd heal him in an instant.

He did not block the attack.

He welcomed the excruciating pain in his arm almost joyfully, knowing what was to come next. A loud thud next to him announced the falling of the bandit, slain by her staff.

"Zevran!" she yelled, her voice full of anguish. "Oh, Maker, damn it Zev, I tried to warn you…" She fell to her knees by his side, her hands pressing firmly into the wound to stem the flow of blood, drawing a howl of pain from his lips. "Wynne! Zev… Zev's hurt, bad, and I can't… I don't have anything left, Wynne, please, come quick…"

When at long last, healing magic filled him, he felt his wound closed… and felt nothing else. Wynne… Wynne was healing him. With the emptiness and the disappointment came the full realisation of what he had just done, hitting him like a blow.

"Listen to me, Zevran," Wynne was saying, snapping him out of his memories. "I can answer your question, but this is some… profound truth I am about to tell you. I want none of your lecherous comments or witty comebacks. Is that acceptable to you?"

He nodded, and she sighed, "All right, then. As you know, one does not become a mage. It is something we are born into. Magic is inside us, an inseparable part of us. It's also deeply linked to our emotions, which is why most of us discover our… gifts in heavily stressful or deeply emotional situations, when our magic manifests itself usually without our knowledge, or consent."

"As time goes by, and with the appropriate training, a mage can learn to gain absolute control of his magic, to use it as a tool, or a weapon. However, young mages, ones that are still growing into their powers… their magic is still very much entwined with their emotions."

"Tara was already quite the sensation at the Tower. Even Irving knew she was to become a very powerful mage. She is still young, however, very passionate, and quite stubborn, although Irving would always correct me by saying she was strong-willed. Until she learns to separate her emotions from her magic, it's this passion, this will of iron, which infuses her spells. This is most certainly what you feel, Zevran. It is my understanding that the two of you have become… close."

He nodded again. He was not about to ruin his chances to learn more of this by taking this blatant opportunity for some lewd comments.

"She desires you," she said, crossing her arms, her disapproving scowl making her feelings on the matter perfectly clear. "If you can feel it through her magic, it must be quite strong, indeed."

"But what if…" he began before stopping abruptly. He breathed deeply, and forced himself to continue. He had to know. "What if it is… more than that?"

"More?" Wynne asked, her arms uncrossing slowly. "What do you mean by 'more'?"

"I… I don't know how to say. When she heals me, it is…I feel… more."

Wynne's expression softened.

"The answer still lies within her emotions… or in your own need, Zevran. Maybe your need to heal is greater than you realise."

Ach. Here he thought he was getting closer to an answer. He should have known she'd come back to the charge with all these lectures about his past and his conscience.

"Ah, this is the part where I finally discover some hidden truth about myself, yes? Do I finally get to cry on your bosom?"

Her fists clenched at her sides, then unclenched as she let out another sigh.

"Yes, well… you just… think on it a bit. There is… something I must do."

"What did you say to Wynne?" Tara asked when he joined her in their tent that evening. "Last week she gave me that whole stupid speech about how I should break things up with you and today, she tells me that she was wrong and that we should keep seeing each other! What gives?"

"I… I honestly don't know," Zevran said. "I actually thought she was still cross with me."

"Well, you obviously said something," Tara said, nestling her head against his shoulder.

"Yes. Obviously."

His reflections kept him awake well into the night.

Standing on the table, on increasingly unsteady feet, her arms spread wide, a tankard in each hand, Tara was trying to keep up with the minstrels, although she clearly didn't know the song at all. She was bellowing the words a second too late, repeating after the singer and horribly off-key, when she wasn't trying to sing while drinking. When the song ended she roared in approval, clanging her tankards together.

"Bravo! Bravo! More! Again!" she yelled. "I can pay! I have money!" She tried to go into her coin purse without letting go of the tankards, which really was quite the show in itself and had the rather limited crowd at the inn roar in laughter. She finally gave up, laughing. "Sweetie! Can you please give the musicians shiny coins? I want music!"

As Alistair rose to his feet, making his wobbly way to the minstrels, Tara dropped from the table and somehow into Zevran's lap, disheveled and laughing. He should have known she would be a happy drunk, he supposed.

"Sexy! This is amazing stuff! Where has this stuff been all my life?" she yelled, wrapping her arms around his neck so that he ended up with a tankard against each ear. "Oh! Sorry! Here," she said, putting her drinks down on the table before her arms found their way back around him again.

"Not that I'm not enjoying this very much, my delicious Warden, but you might want to pace yourself. The walk back to the castle will be a difficult one, not to mention the arrival at the castle itself. Tsk, what will Arl Eamon think?"

"Oh, no. Oh, no, no, no. Oh, nonononono we are not going back! We stay here forever! Bella!" she called out, scrambling to her feet, "Bella, we want some rooms! I can pay, look, I have shiny coins, this many!" She shoved her hand into her coin purse, getting out a very respectable handful of gold pieces that must have represented all of their combined fortune. On his feet in an instant, Zevran gently took the pieces from her hands.

"Maybe I should be in charge of the finances for tonight, no?"

"Yes!" she exclaimed, giving him all the money she was carrying, "Yes, what a fantastic idea! I, I think you should, I think you should hang on to the money, because I, because I…" she paused, looking him in the eye, and she seemed incredibly sober for a split second, "I trust you."

She whirled, then, lost her footing and caught herself with a "whoop!"

"Everyone! Zevran is buying us rooms, so if you want to…" she chortled uncontrollably through her words, "if you want to sleep with someone else… hum… I mean if you want to pair up, or if you want a room to yourself, you deal with him!" She leaned against him, a familiar glint in her eyes.

"I wanna sleep with you," she told him in a fake, conspiratorial loud whisper, poking him repeatedly in the chest with her finger.

"I think I can arrange that, my Warden," he said, smiling.

"Good, that's good because, because I love… love sleeping with you. Hey, music!" she exclaimed when the minstrels finally resume playing, "I love this song!"

"Do you even know this song?" Leliana asked, amused.

"No, but it's good, I love it!"

She was back on the table in the blink of an eye, draining one of her tankards and urging the crowd to sing along. Zevran felt Bella's hand on his shoulder.

"You know her money's no good here," she said.

"Yes, and as you can see, she is very grateful for the free drinks," Zevran said amiably, gently pinching her chin between two fingers. "But, Bella mia, you still have a business to run, and rooms are not cheap, yes? We would gladly pay for rooms."

"Well, if you insist…"

"Of course, I still intend to barter mercilessly for them," he added, winking slyly at her.

She laughed, patted him on the shoulder, "Let me know how many you need. I think we'll come to an understanding."

He nodded then sat down at another table, watching Tara twirl dangerously. He wasn't surprised to see that Morrigan was the first one to join him.

"I want a room to myself," she told him. "I believe 'tis better for everyone that way."

Zevran took in the slight red tint of her cheeks, the subtle way her usually rigid posture was somewhat mollified, and grinned at her.

"Are you perhaps enjoying a little free beverage yourself, Morrigan? I would not have thought it possible for you to indulge in such a fashion."

"Perhaps I had a drink or two, yes. 'Tis not a crime, and also no business of yours. I want a room to myself, now. Are we done?"

"Oh, but this is too interesting by far! One or two, you say? Look at these rosy cheeks you have now! How many drinks would it take to make your head spin, hm? How many to see a smile on those lips?" He leaned closer to her, slid a finger under her chin to tilt her head up, "How many to steal a kiss from them without getting hit by those lovely tiny fists of yours?"

Her eyes narrowed with anger, her hands clenching into fists on the table. As she looked at him, though, her expression changed slowly. Her eyebrows rose, then a knowing smile stretched her lips. Before long, she was laughing softly.

Morrigan was a happy drunk, too. He would never have guessed that one.

"You wouldn't touch me now, even if I were to allow it, Zevran. Do not lie to yourself so."

Zevran looked away. Tara had finally come down from the table and was clutching at Shale's arm with both hands, yelling, "Hey Shale! Have I ever told you about that time when I was a golem, too? It was awesome! I threw boulders at massive doors and stuff! How come you never do that?"

"You fool," Morrigan said softly, "I thought you, of all people, understood the folly of such things…"

"You have a room to yourself, Morrigan. Try to enjoy it as much as you can. You may go now."

"What? No kiss?"

"I got a smile," he said, taking her hand in his and kissing it lightly. "That is enough for one night."

Hands wrapped around his tankard, shoulders slouched slightly, eyes half-closed in the hazy expression of the pleasantly drunk, Zevran was surreptitiously studying his surroundings. He knew where everyone was positioned in the common room, he could hear snatches of the conversations going on around him and he had a good view of both the entrance door and the one leading to the rooms. He was carefully cumulating information, waiting for something important, or potentially dangerous, to emerge. This exercise in awareness had a calming effect on him; he felt reassured, more in control. This helped to fight the incessant worry that wanted to cloud his mind.

They were here for Leliana and Alistair, who apparently both had some kind of unfinished business to take care of in Denerim. Everyone else had been given some money and the afternoon off. They all were to regroup at the Gnawed Noble tavern at the end of the day to decide what was to come next.

Zevran had wandered for a while in the marketplace, ending up perusing through a jeweller's wares, looking at shiny baubles. What was he looking for, exactly? A gift? He kept imagining how Tara would look wearing one of these expensive but uninspired creations.

As he raised a jeweled bracelet, holding it to the light, he had spotted the Crow's contact, master Ignacio, across the market place. His blood had frozen in his veins, his hand stilled in the air. The Crows could not know he was here. They could certainly not know he was here with her. He had beaten it back to the indoors safety of the Gnawed Noble, hoping against all logic that Tara was already done with her tasks and safely getting drunk in the tavern. No such luck, he had discovered soon enough, so he sat and waited, watched and listened.

Tara had been overwhelmed with the wonders of a big city when they had entered Denerim. She could not hide it well, not from him, anyway. This could lead to a lack of cautiousness on her part, especially since Zevran was not with her to be her eyes and ears in these unfamiliar surroundings. His hands tightened around the tankard. Where was she?

The door opened. His eyes darted to the newcomers before briefly closing with relief.

"We're here!" Tara announced, waving at the scattered members of her entourage. Alistair and Leliana were following her, dragging their feet, their faces a picture of desperation and sadness. Tara laid a hand on their shoulders and they smiled feebly at her before taking a seat in an unoccupied booth in silence, staring down at their own hands.

Tara slid in the seat in front of him, eyeing him with mischief.

"Sexy, are you getting drunk? Am I missing you getting drunk?"

"Of course not, my beautiful Warden," he said with a smile, pushing the tankard across the table towards her. "This is for you."

She pushed the drink away and he could swear he saw her turn slightly green merely at the smell.

"Ugh. I thought we were done with you trying to kill me, Sexy. 'Never again' means never again, you know."

"That has not been my experience in this particular scenario."

"Well, I guess that'll just be another way for me to impress you," she said distractedly, her brow creased with worry. He caught her glancing back to the booth where Alistair and Leliana were sitting. They hadn't moved an inch, although Leliana had begun crying silently.

"I take it things have not gone well?" he asked softly.

"Understatement is too soft a word in this case," she mumbled, rubbing her eyes with the heels of her hands. "Damn it, Tara, keep it together…" she told herself, reaching absent-mindedly for the tankard. She drank deeply before slamming it down with a grimace of disgust. "Ugh! What am I doing? What did you let me do? Take that away from me!"

He moved the tankard away as she wiped her mouth, a pensive expression on her face.

"I think… I think maybe it's time for some troops motivation! How much money do we have? Can we stay here for the night?" she asked him as she started digging into her pack.

"Yes." Somehow, after that last time in Redcliffe, the responsibility of handling the finances had remained his.

"Good. I'll take Sten and Shale and go get our stuff. Can you please take care of the rooms? Individual rooms for Alistair and Leliana if they ask for it, I think they could use some time to themselves. I'll be back shortly."

She rose, gesturing to Sten and Shale who fell in line behind her as she exited the tavern. Zevran walked to the bar to take care of the rooms, lost in his own thoughts. He knew what she meant when she said she wanted to motivate the troops. Somewhere in this impossibly gigantic pack of hers, she had stashed away some thoughtful gifts for each and every one of them.

Everyone except him.

After that first time with the gold bar, he hadn't gotten a single gift himself. He had to watch as she sporadically went around camp giving things to everyone, hear their exclamations of joy, and then act casual as she came back to sit by him with a wide grin and empty hands. He could admit that he had reacted badly that first time, but how was he supposed to know? Who goes around giving free gold to their would-be assassin without asking anything in return?

Crazy mage Wardens, apparently.

Well, he understood it now. Message received. He… he wanted… she could give him… He chuckled derisively to himself. She had gotten to him, the little minx.

If he was honest, he was mostly curious to see what kind of gifts she would get for him. The gifts she gave the others were always so thoughtful, appropriate, perfect for them. He wondered what she could have in mind for him. Maybe she hadn't given him anything yet because she hadn't found anything for him. Finding appropriate gifts was harder than it seemed, as he had found out that afternoon.

He was finishing his distribution of room keys when she got back, Sten and Shale in tow, charged like pack mules with everyone's bags. Some of their companions then headed straight for their rooms, Alistair and Leliana first among them, while some lingered in the common room, a drink or a plate in front of them. Tara began her tour, sitting with each one of them, talking, laughing, giving gifts, and left each of them in higher spirit than before. She disappeared in the rooms section for a long time, while Zevran nursed his half-drank tankard, trying not to feel glum.

She came back, empty-handed and smiling, and sat in front of him again.

"I found our room!" she said, handing him back the key. "Our stuff is already there. So, what do we do now? Are you, perhaps… tired? Should we retire to our luxurious accommodations?" Her tone had gone low and sultry, her smile seductive, but he couldn't even smile back.

"You were gone a long time." He was aware of how petulant his voice sounded but couldn't seem to help it. "This is a big city, Tara. You do not know of the dangers that can lurk in these dark alleys, or even in broad daylight. It was not prudent, to wander alone for such a long period of time."

"Huh… wow, okay, grumpy much? First, I was not alone: I had Leliana and Alistair with me. Second, I did not wander: I helped them take care of some important, personal matters. Third, what's with the mama bear attitude? Did you…" Her voice trailed as she looked at him; then her eyebrows rose as a knowing smile slowly stretched her lips, "Oh, were you worried, Sexy?"

"There are things… people here, dangerous people," he insisted. "Did you know there was a price on your head? There are posters all over town, promising a reward for any information on Grey Wardens. You need to be more careful. You have… a mission, and responsibilities, and people that count on you."

She was listening to him, unperturbed, with the same knowing smile on her lips, and it was only riling him up. After a while, she reached across the table, putting a hand over his wrist.

"You're too tense, Sexy. You forget I know how to deal with dangerous people. I think there's something else going on here, wouldn't you say?"

He looked back at her with uncertainty.

"Fine," he huffed. "What is going on, then?"

"I think your spirits need lifting. What would you say if I told you I have a surprise for you? Yes, I think you're ready now. I can see it in the way your eyes just went wide as saucers!"

She patted his hand three times, gently, "Tell you what. I'm gonna go in our room. You stay here and finish your drink, slowly. When you're done, come and join me. Alright?" She winked at him, rising to her feet, and slowly made her way towards the rooms section.

He watched her go without moving an inch, his mind racing: trying to guess what she had for him, trying not to guess so as not to get his hopes up. His eyes dropped to the tankard and he forced himself not to swig it down, taking a small sip, then another, and another. When the blighted thing was finally empty, he stood up, waved nonchalantly at the remaining companions, and walked to his room, his pace only slightly quicker than normal.

"Surprise!" Her voice welcomed him when he swung the door open.

She was sitting on the edge of the bed, one leg crossed seductively over the other, her hair falling around her face in soft waves, dressed in the sexiest, most frivolous attire he had ever seen on her: knee-high leather boots, shining in the soft firelight, a very well-fitted black and green corset that pushed her breasts up quite nicely, with a short black skirt barely covering her to mid-thigh. She was leaning back, with her hands behind her, smiling teasingly at him.

"Get in, get in!" she said, laughing. "Close the door behind you! Oh, and take off your boots… yes, and your gloves… well, your whole armour, really."

Shaking his head in disbelief, a half-smile already forming on his lips, he stripped down to his underwear, piling the armour neatly by the door. When he stood up again, she beckoned him closer.

"Well? Do you like it? Come on, come closer! Open your gift!"

Laughing, he took a step closer. That was when the smell hit him.


He stopped in his tracks and inhaled deeply. Her smile grew larger as she watched him. She wiggled her feet in his direction and the intoxicating smell grew stronger.

"What? Did you not understand I was talking about these?" she asked, shaking her booted feet.

He closed the distance between them and fell to his knees in front of her, his hands sliding up her calf, holding her leg up to his nose. He inhaled deeply again.

"Mmm… ah, that smell! This is Antivan leather, isn't it? I'd know that anywhere."

She nodded, smiling, her feet coming to rest against his chest. She leaned a bit towards him, looking him in the eyes. She remembered. She remembered him talking about these boots he had wanted to buy, back in Antiva city.

"You want them?" she asked, her voice already a little hoarse with desire as his hands kept wandering over her legs, caressing the leather. "You'll have to get them off me."

"Now how can I resist such an offer?"

"You can't. That's the whole point, Sexy."

He deftly untied the straps of the boots, sliding them down her legs slowly, one leg at a time, his lips following the leather, kissing every inch of newly exposed flesh, down to the soles of her feet. She hummed in appreciation, leaning back again, her eyes closed. He sat on the ground when they were off and tried them on.

"And they fit, as well! Marvellous!" He took his time tying them up, adjusting them tightly. They were truly beautiful, and would protect him well. Remarkable craftsmanship… and they smelled like home.

He got back to his knees, between her legs, and leaned into her, his hands resting on her thighs.

"I don't know how you found them," he said, his lips trailing along the neckline of her corset, "but thank you."

Her head fell back as she bared her neck to him.

"Well, well. Haven't we come a long way?" she said softly. "Don't you… hmm… don't you want to keep undressing me?"

"Desperately," he murmured, his lips now kissing the soft skin of her neck.

He felt her hands against his chest as she gently pushed him away.

"Well, then," she said, tapping her fingers against his skin. "Get to work, Sexy."

She was wearing gloves. Good leather gloves, although not of Antivan leather. The markings, though… they seemed familiar.

"Are these for me too?" he asked, confused. "You're giving me gloves? What for?"

"Ouch, and we take a step back," she said with a mocked grimace, putting her gloved hands in his. "Look closer."

He raised her hand higher, his finger following the intricate patterns embroidered in the leather. They were beautiful, he could almost recognize them…

She was looking at him intently, a small, sad smile on her lips.

"They're Dalish," she said softly. "Just like your mother's."

"I…" He laced his fingers with hers, studying the gloves more closely. "Maker's breath, you're right! It is like my mother's!" He gently peeled them off her hands, holding them with precaution, feeling the texture between his fingers, trying to recall the memory of these other gloves he had lost so long ago. "The leather was less thick, and it had more embroidery, but these are very close…" He tried them on, swallowing a sudden lump in his throat, "… and quite handsome."

His mother's gloves… well, not quite, but still, how did she find this? How did she remember this? "Thank you," he said softly.

"You're welcome, although… I did not think this thing through," she said with a little pout. "The more I give, the more clothes you put on."

He laughed. He couldn't help it. She brought her hands behind her back, smiling again.

"I have something else. Are you ready?"

"Another? You are spoiling me rotten, my Warden."

"Well, you've been very patient. It had to be worth the wait! Come on, now, close your eyes and extend your hands."

"I seem to recall myself being put in this exact position before," he said as he complied. "If I remember correctly, you were quite displeased with the result."

"Well, as I always say, everyone… everyone deserves a second chance." He could not see her face, but it seemed to him her voice was uncharacteristically serious. He could not hear the laughter in her voice the way he usually did. As he opened his mouth to reply, something heavy fell in his hands. Not a bar of any kind, he thought, feeling the object carefully.

"Open!" Tara exclaimed, the joy back in her voice.

He was holding a bottle filled with a liquid of a rich, warm amber colour. He turned it in his hands to read the label and his heart skipped a beat.

"This... this is wonderful, very rare," he said carefully. "How…"

"Bodhan," she said simply, smiling. "Do you like it? I had never heard of it, but Bodhan said it's very good."

"Bodhan is quite right. This… this is incredibly generous. Thank you." He would not ask about the price. He would not say that it was too much, that she shouldn't have spent that much on him. That was not what one did when one was given such a gift.

"He also said that it could be tricky to open," she said, taking the bottle from him. "He said to twist the cork like that, and then give it a good… oh!"

The cork gave out abruptly as she pulled with force. He caught her clenched fist inches from his nose.

"Sorry! Maker, I almost hit you!"

"Yes, well, this is worth a little trouble," he said, taking the bottle. The strong, fruity smell hit him and he inhaled deeply, smiling. "Divine."

"Really?" She reached for the bottle, wrapping her hand around his, and brought it to her face. Her nose scrunched comically. "Smells like alcohol."

"Oh, but this is so much more. One taste of this and you will truly never want to drink anything else." She produced a glass from behind her back and he poured a careful measure of liquor into it, taking it from her to raise it to his nose, inhaling the fruity smell again. "This is meant to be savoured," he said, taking a small sip, letting the liquid roll in his mouth, savouring all the subtle flavours dancing on his tongue. "Truly, my Warden, you have to taste this."

"Very well, then," she said, and then her mouth was on his, a slow, sensual kiss. She was savouring him the same way he had been savouring the brandy, her tongue dipping lightly into his mouth, barely caressing his own tongue before their lips parted briefly, only to reconnect once more, delicately, again and again. She hummed contentedly when she finally pulled back.

"You're right," she murmured. "It's delicious."

Without saying a word, holding her gaze, he stood and sat by her on the bed, then raised the glass to his lips, taking a small amount of the liquor into his mouth. She smiled at him mischievously as she rose to her feet to face him, then pressed herself against him, climbing in his lap, straddling his thighs. Her mouth was on his again, more passionate, more demanding, and as she took the glass and bottle from him his arms wrapped around her. The kiss grew more heated, his hands roaming all over her body, resting on her thighs, sliding higher, until they met… resistance.

"What's this?" he asked, feeling the cold metal under the short black skirt. With a smile, she leaned to the side, carefully putting the bottle and glass down on the ground.

"A chastity belt," she answered, like it was obvious.

With a growl, he grabbed her by the waist, spinning them so that she was lying on her back. She fell against the pillows, laughing, as he crawled up above her, getting a good look at the contraption.

"Where is the key?" he asked, his voice dangerously low. It only made her laugh harder.

"Aw, you don't need a key, do you, Sexy?" She reached into her cleavage, producing a small silver key. Before he could reach for it, she brought her hand to her mouth, holding the key between her teeth. She smiled around the small piece of metal, then caught it with her tongue, and he could see she had tucked it inside her right cheek.

"This can only end in two ways," she said. "You open the belt, either with your dazzling lock picking skills or by successfully retrieving the key from me, and we proceed to have a wonderful night together… or I open the belt myself, and then wonderful night, of course, but tomorrow, I'm sticking the belt on you… and I keep the key." She raised her hands above her head, grabbing the headboard, and the smile she gave him was nothing short of wicked. "What's it gonna be, Sexy?"

He rose to his feet, pulled the gloves from his hands and laid them aside, then slowly undid his boots. When those were off too, he slid off his underwear, then crawled back into bed, over her willingly exposed body, until his face was leveled with hers.

"Option number three," he murmured. "I am going to make you give me the key of your own free will."

Her smile grew larger, radiant. "Oh, I can't wait to see you try."

Maybe it was because of the gloves, he thought, as his lips trailed over her skin; because they had brought back memories of his mother, the oldest memories he had. Or maybe it was because of the boots, he wondered, as her arms wrapped around him, holding him in a loose embrace, her head rolling left and right on the pillow, her lips murmuring incomprehensible pleas; because he could still smell the leather and it reminded him of his small apartment in the leather-making district, the first place that was truly his. Or maybe it was the brandy, he mused as she finally started begging under his ministrations, the key appearing between her lips as an offering; because he could still taste the liquor in his mouth, on her lips, and it tasted like Antiva, like sunshine and passion fruit.

Maybe it was all of it. Maybe it was because all these gifts she gave him reminded him of where he was from. Maybe that was the reason why, that night, in this anonymous tavern room, with her arms around him as they finally were joined, it all begun to feel like home to him.

AN: Hello readers! This story is definitely not dead, yay!

See, dear challenger? No punching Zevran in this story, no, ma'am! :) Just... emotionnal punching, maybe? Punched by luuuuuuuuuve... no, that is wrong.

I'm currently working on the next few chapters of this story, and they deal with the events set after marching on Denerim for the Landsmeet (like the Encounter with Taliesen, the Liberation of Anora and so on.) These chapters are the beginning of the end for this story, althought there are still many chapters to come. I wanted to ask my readers if I had missed anything. Were you looking forward to a certain part of the game I neglected? Were you wondering about the Adventures of Tara and Zevran in Orzammar, or the Brecilian forest, or anywhere else we visit in game before Denerim/The Landsmeet? You can let me know, and I'll add a small, snippets-filled chapter with glimpses of their lives at that time! Maybe even a party banter chapter, if your ideas please my muse!