Original prompt: mouth-to-mouth
For some reason, waking to warm, soft lips against his was startling—he had expected something else, something violent, or not waking at all, but exactly why remained unclear for a moment, only that he had experienced a sensation of falling, a sudden, sharp cold, a brief moment of relief in the thought that death might be upon him--
Never one to miss an opportunity, Zevran returned the awkward kiss with his own eager motions, tongue darting up to run across surprisingly rough lips—the other mouth drew away almost immediately, and Zevran opened his eyes, making a sound of mild disappointment.
The Warden's heavily tattooed face lingered over him, dark eyes glaring out of a scowl, chestnut hair slicked to his skin—indeed, the Warden was soaked, and Zevran gave him an appraising look. Somehow, Vanastin's permanent scowl deepened, and he growled, “If you're well enough for that, you're well enough to move on.” And the Dalish elf offered him a hand up.
Alistair and Morrigan regarded Zevran with annoyance as their leader took up bow and quiver again, but Zevran only smiled in response, a flirty expression. He remembered, now, how a spike of panic at seeing the Warden driven to the ground under a werewolf's pounce, bow held under its chin by arms trembling under the exertion the only thing keeping snapping jaws and their cursed bite at bay, had driven him to foolhardy action. And once he had convinced his opponent he was the greater threat, how he'd so easily been cornered against a cliff edge, one that had collapsed beneath him, dumping him into the swift and icy river below. Thoroughly soaked, Zevran shivered against the forest's cool mist, wished for the dry heat of the Antivan interior or even the wet heat of his beloved Antiva City for at least the tenth time since coming to Ferelden—or for the warmth of the Warden's body against his.
Zevran spent a good portion of the night staring up at the slanting walls of his tent, well visible in the bright moonlight, sleep elusive. Now he understood the Warden's mouth pressed to his had been entirely utilitarian, but the offered hand up, even in the Warden's obvious annoyance an apparent disgust, on top of the daring rescue (Alistair retold the tale with unusual art, of Vanastin throwing aside his weapons and leaping into the river like an expert diver) and kiss of life, that seemed a metaphor. And in spite of his surly nature, the Warden was forever proving that he listened, that beneath his extremely prickly exterior he cared about each of them, or was at least good at playing their heartstrings like a master lutenist.
He had wanted to die, surely, but the chosen instrument of his demise staunchly refused to let it happen. After falling in battle, Vanastin was always the one to offer a hand up, first to see to his wounds. Always with that scowl, permanently etched into his sun-browned skin (still not so dark as Zevran's, these pale Fereldan Dalish) as definitively as the tattoos twining across Vanastin's cheeks and forehead, the little patch of ink on his chin. Vanastin was hardly the sort he fancied, hard and lean and small even for an elf, but for all his presence the man might as well be nine feet tall and Qunari—even powerful humans seemed to cower before Vanastin, given a moment's attention from his sharp tongue and his hard eyes. Such control Zevran found attractive, that Vanastin was an incredibly dangerous man—flirting with him seemed to Zevran rather like flirting with a thunderstorm, potentially lethal but beautiful.
When he hastily dressed and left his tent, Zevran had no idea what he intended. He only knew the Warden would be on watch, as the other elf always took middle watch unless physically incapable. Vanastin huddled by the guttering fire, blanket drawn tightly around his shoulders, bow and quiver and daggers leaning to one side and the mabari curled at his other. Stealthily as he could Zevran approached, coming around to one side, hoping to evade Vanastin's notice for a moment while getting a good look at the Warden to assess his prey.
What he saw was not the Warden. Vanastin hunched before the fire, left hand idly scratching at the sleeping mabari's head, right clutching the blanket in a white-knuckled grip at his throat, staring into the fire without his usual scowl, but what seemed almost a grimace of pain. Zevran wondered briefly if the Warden had been injured, but dismissed the thought immediately. Immeasurably proud, yes, but Vanastin wasn't foolish enough to conceal an injury. With no good explanation for that expression, Zevran turned away, because Vanastin would surely resent anyone witnessing a moment of weakness.
“Did you want something?” The gravel in Vanastin's voice, an undertone of anger, brought Zevran a sense of relief. They could pretend, perhaps, that he had seen nothing? So Zevran turned back, sat next to Vanastin, careful to avoid coming between the Warden and his weapons.
“I have a question, if I may.” Vanastin stared at him blankly, expectant, so Zevran continued. “I am curious as to why you spared me, and why you now go to such great lengths to keep me alive.”
Vanastin drew his left hand away from the mabari's head, drawing it into the confines of his makeshift cloak, and grunted, a darkly amused sound. “Would you rather I didn't?”
Sometimes. “No,” Zevran said instead, a laugh rolling beneath his words. “No, I am quite content with the situation. I simply wondered—it seems your life would be much easier without me, yes? I am, after all, an unknown quantity, a foreigner and an assassin hired to kill you at that.” Looking away, Vanastin seemed to consider the question for a long moment, and Zevran worried that he'd given Vanastin an idea, made his point too well. Eventually Vanastin nodded toward Sten's tent and said, “The Qunari. He murdered a family who gave him succor. He could crush the life out of me at any time he wished. I may be faster, but I could never match him for strength. Leliana,” nodding to where she slept in turn, “is quite clearly crazy. As Alistair put it, 'one archdemon short of a blight'. She's said some frighteningly obsessive things to me. Morrigan's lethality needs no elucidation. Wynne clearly takes issue with my morality, and seems outraged enough to act on it. Alistair could easily end us by his incompetence. Of this group, I fear you least, aside from the hound: you are the only known quantity.”
Chuckling, because the depths of Vanastin's paranoia frightened him a little and he had to conceal it somehow, Zevran said, “And here I'd hoped it was simply my dashing good looks and exotic charms.”
This, too, made Vanastin pause, gazing into the dying flames. “You're not too useless,” surprised Zevran more because he hadn't expected a response. “Though you could learn to pick a lock, that would help immensely. Not that I can't do it myself. And you say something entertaining every once in a while.”
“Ah, I would never have known it from how often you laugh, Warden. How am I to continue winning your approval if you give me no signs?”
All the little night sounds crept in around them as Vanastin seemingly ignored the comment, and Zevran grew uncomfortable with the silence, then relaxed into it. This wasn't entirely unlike Vanastin, to ignore a question he had no interest in answering, behaving as if the words had fallen on deaf ears. So when he stood, Zevran looked up at him in surprise, quirking an eyebrow, and grew even more concerned when the other elf retreated to his tent. Vanastin emerged a moment later, and from a glimpse of bare skin as the blanket shifted Zevran realized he was nude underneath—it made sense, since his armor was still drying and the Dalish was something of an ascetic—and before sitting down next to Zevran threw something into the Antivan's lap. “Here.”
Zevran picked up the gloves and, as a knee-jerk reaction, said, “Gloves? You're giving me gloves?” confusion and mild derision evident in his voice.
Vanastin growled in response before saying, “If you don't want them, I'm sure someone else could use them. I'd look a little more carefully before turning them down.”
But Zevran was already running his fingers over the fine embroidery, a smile teasing at the corners of his lips. “They're like my mother's. I didn't expect you to listen. Surely,” he looked up, still smiling, “you expect something in return?”
Stubbornly refusing to make eye contact, Vanastin said, “I didn't know my family, either. I may have grown up among the Dalish, but none of them claim me as brother or son or anything of the sort. Not any more, at least. Just like you can never go home to the Dalish, neither can I. You're very much a known quantity, Zevran.”
Vanastin stiffened at the kiss, little more than a soft brush of Zevran's lips against his, but startling all the same, surely. Zevran really had no other way to express his gratitude, and it allowed him to indulge his growing attraction. It seemed like an appropriate moment, this admission of shared wounds, and Zevran worried very little over Vanastin rejecting him, confident he could play the situation off as a joke. He didn't expect Vanastin to dig a hand into his hair as Zevran drew away, dragging him back into a hard, bruising kiss, tongue searching his out. Zevran quickly overcame his shock and responded in kind, battling Vanastin for control in this, refusing to submit. As they fought Zevran brought a hand up to run his thumb along the underside of Vanastin's ear, following that line down along his throat to trace his collarbone in a light touch. The hand that had been clutching the blanket shut was the one now knotted in his hair, and so Zevran took advantage of this unimpeded access, hand drifting lower still and tracing the lines of Vanastin's chest, pausing to tease a nipple to hardness. Already trembling under the assault, Vanastin moaned into his mouth, the hand tangled in Zevran's hair spasming as he relented the contest, letting Zevran take control. Opening his eyes and glancing to one side, Zevran saw Vanastin's off-hand stilled halfway to returning these caresses, now twitching forgotten in place. He broke off the kiss, which left Vanastin gasping for air, and disentangled the hand from his hair, pushed Vanastin down onto his back, splayed on the blanket by the fire.
Zevran continued down by tracing the suggestive lines of Vanastin's abdomen, breaking off to follow the v of muscle down toward Vanastin's growing hardness.... But he hesitated, drew away, teasing the other elf. It earned a growled, “Zevran,” threats of violence in Vanastin's gravelly voice, the sound of which sent a jolt of fire down Zevran's spine to the heat stirring in his own loins. Keen to see the Warden's face rapt in ecstasy, to hear him growl that name without the threat of violence but in release, Zevran palmed Vanastin's erection and set to work, establishing a variable pace, quickening to match Vanastin's thrusts but drawing back when he seemed too near. He leaned in to catch Vanastin's mouth in a kiss again, the other elf drawing his hands up and across Zevran's shoulders to keep him close, fingertips digging in hard enough to surely leave bruises. By such reactions, Zevran wagered it had been far too long since the Warden knew another's touch, and took pleasure in obliging.
Vanastin's body tensed under him, and Vanastin spilled himself across Zevran's hand and his own taut stomach with no more sound than a quiet gasp. Zevran drew back from the desperate kiss to find Vanastin's eyes closed, face uncharacterisitcally peaceful. Something in the expression was faintly touching, and Zevran took pride in his own success at smoothing the lines of perpetual anger from the Warden's face. He looked young like this, unspoiled by hardship.
When Vanastin opened his eyes he offered a faint smile, catching Zevran's gaze with his own. “You see what I mean about not being too useless?”