Original prompt: May I please have some Zevran/M!Dalish? H/C about the whole Taliesen-Rinna mess, pre- or post-Taliesen encounter, something dealing with Zevran's deathseeking tendencies?
Those left behind stayed out of his way when Zevran returned to Eamon's estate. For a while he drifted aimless through the halls, angry and anxious, unable to settle the matter in his heart. He knew who would win, and it frightened him. The longer he spent with Vanastin, the more he understood that circumstances had twisted the man into someone the Crows would be proud to call their own. Zevran still couldn't tell if Vanastin's bouts of kindness and apparent special treatment of Zevran were manipulations or genuine. Either case worried him. Was it worse to be used by a cruel man or to have him truly fond of you? Sometimes, it was Taliesen all over again.
Vanastin would never have slit Rinna's throat.
At length he changed into plainclothes, too jittery for the confines of hard leather, and settled in the library. It seemed the least likely place for any of the others, since the girls were with Vanastin, and Zevran could hardly imagine any of the others taking a sudden interest in the Arl's library. He wanted desperately to be elsewhere, relieving his frustrations, but getting into trouble before the Landsmeet would surely earn Vanastin's ire, and be a generally bad idea.
He could still run. He could do it right now, in fact. With few material possessions of any value, he could easily pick up and leave in a matter of perhaps an hour. He would be free of Taliesen, free of the Crows for a while, free of Vanastin. It would be only himself and his despair, the ghost of Rinna. He could seek death again with no reservations.
With a groan Zevran settled his head into his hands, grinding the heels of his palms against his closed eyes. That man made him want to live, for those glimpses of the person who came before the Warden, the Dalish hunter who'd died from the taint with his lover, so Vanastin claimed. Such melodramatic declarations made Zevran laugh, but he understood that darkness too well. He himself had wanted death, still craved the release of nothingness like one might the soft caresses and sweet murmurs of a lover, if only to end this confusion. But where Zevran sought oblivion to silence his ghosts, Vanastin rolled like a fire across the Blighted countryside, dispensing violence even in his peacemaking, harsh with allies and vehement with enemies.
Zevran sat up abruptly, staring into the middle-distance as the light of day waned. A servant brought in a lit lantern, sat it silently on the table before him, and left unobtrusively. So now Zevran focused on the flaming wick. That was exactly it. The Warden was like a wildfire raging across Ferelden, burning everything in his path as fuel to stop the Blight. His desire to stop the Blight was the only thing Zevran knew to be genuine, and it had taken some time to reason out, but now his time spent with the Warden all seemed to fit together as lost scraps of a painting rent asunder.
Firstly, never again. The Warden wanted no one else to suffer what he and his lover had suffered. Secondly, there will be nothing left. A wildfire consumes itself once all fuel is gone, after all, dies out in pathetic fashion, suffocating under its own nature. Vanastin had twisted himself into this thing on purpose, made himself a weapon, made himself a martyr no one would miss. Ending the Blight could destroy him and no one would care but a misfit handful of near-strangers, as no one could ever love the truth of Vanastin as a hero.
They sought the same thing, if by different ends. Zevran had meant to go out in a blaze of glory, and Vanastin meant to choke on his own hate.
It made the minutes and hours to Vanastin's return even more nerve wracking. Zevran had to tell him now, had to let Vanastin know that he was not alone in this.
He heard Wynne's voice from the entry hall, then Vanastin's low rumble in response. They stopped while Morrigan and Leliana moved on, and the conversation didn't end in an argument, for once. Zevran could scarcely imagine what the two might not tear at each other's throats over, never mind come to terms on, and could only assume it meant Vanastin was in a good mood.
Surely he knew what Taliesen meant to Zevran. Had he taken pleasure in tearing apart Zevran's former lover? On eradicating that last real tie to the Crows so he could claim Zevran for his own? Zevran could almost imagine Vanastin reveling in the blood, something he'd only seen amongst the most depraved of Crows. His rational mind, the part that wasn't currently occupied with trying to come up with reasons to push Vanastin away and be disgusted by their growing emotions for each other, disagreed. Vanastin understood, better than anyone, what it was to lose a lover to fear and carelessness. No, he would surely have treated Taliesen with more respect than the Crow deserved.
When Vanastin left the entry hall Zevran had to strain to hear his footsteps, silent as an owl's wing. He remained where he was for a few moments to collect his thoughts. As such, Vanastin found him, the Dalish Warden cracking a door open and peering in, obviously looking for him. “Here I am, my dear Warden.” He had no quips for this. Vanastin stepped in, closing the door behind him, and Zevran smiled softly. They thought too similarly, for Vanastin's first action had been to change into the plainclothes Leliana had insisted he buy instead of going about in armor and padding constantly in the city, plain green tunic and brown trousers in linen, muted forest colors that stood out among the City Elves almost as starkly as his heavy tattoos. Crossing to him, the other elf ignored any chairs at the table where Zevran sat and instead leaned against the table's edge. Zevran wanted to tease him about an aversion to furniture, about his savage nature, but simply couldn't bring himself to.
“Are you alright?” startled him, the last thing he expected to hear in that gravelly voice being the first. “He was important to you, wasn't he?”
“Taliesen is dead, then.” Zevran wasn't sure what to feel. The man had been his only true ally for so long, but his eager disposal of Rinna still ached.
“You should've stayed,” Vanastin said.
Forcing a grim smile, Zevran explained. “Believe it or not, despite my feelings about the Crows in general I had no argument with Taliesen in specific. He was a good friend whose only fault lie in his priorities. I had no wish to fight him, and truly I would have preferred he not come after us at all. But what is done is done.”
Vanastin let him ramble, leaning back against the table's edge a little further, gripping the side as if to still his hands. “To deliver the final blow,” Vanastin eventually said. “That should've been your right, not mine. He was more than a friend, wasn't he?”
“There is no need to relive the past,” Zevran said. “That is all behind me now.” Whether I want it to be or not. Would Taliesen have been the same person free of the Crows? Did he somehow not deserve the same chance Zevran had been given?
Vanastin almost said something, lips parting to speak, and then thought better of it, hands reflexively tightening in their grip on the table. He looked away, down and to one side, and Zevran studied him for a moment, as he often did in silence. This man is more dangerous than Taliesen could ever have aspired to be. After an uncomfortably long moment of this Vanastin made a swift motion, drew the little sickle-bladed dagger from wherever he kept it, and offered it hilt first. “I took his heart's blood with this. It was quick, I'm sure he didn't suffer. You should have it.”
Zevran stared at the blade, clean and glinting in the lamp's faint light, tried to imagine the blood. He tore his eyes away from it, the image of Vanastin slitting a helpless Taliesen's throat overlaying the image of Taliesen doing the same to a tearful, terrified and heartbroken Rinna. Zevran had been the true betrayer, to both of them, and surely he would do the same to Vanastin some day. “That was given to you when you took on your vallaslin, yes? I could not possibly accept such a weighty gift.”
“You know I hate knife work,” Vanastin said, a little more of the usual agitation slipping into his voice. “I hunt so little now I hardly need it as a tool. And I want no trophies. This should have been your kill, and I would relinquish it to you if you'll let me.”
“Washing your hands of it?” Zevran asked. “Guilt does not suit you, my Grey Warden.”
A thin trickle of blood slid down the knife when Vanastin's hand tightened over the blade, and the lines around his eyes tightened. His entire posture shifted, muscles tight and coiled, as if a cat about to pounce. “Tamlen gave me this,” Vanastin said, voice dark and toneless. “It has taken two precious lives in the past year. They are bound to it, in a way, by the mercy it exacted. Do you understand?”
He did, and it was just as terrible. “I say to you again, I cannot accept such a weighty gift.”
“Please,” Vanastin said. “I'll beg if I must.”
“We can't have the mighty Grey Warden so debased, can we? I will accept it, then.” And Zevran took the knife from him, inspecting the blade and its rivulet of blood. It was not nearly so curved as it seemed in Vanastin's quick hands, nor as delicate, but it was clearly meant for hunting, for slitting throats and gutting. It seemed appropriate, somehow. And it would be appropriate to die on the same blade Taliesen had, wouldn't it? One from the Warden's own hand, even, neatly completing Rinna's posthumous revenge.
Another awkward moment of melancholy silence passed, Vanastin clenching his right hand into a tight fist around the thin cut in his palm, neither of them looking at each other. Zevran had started out thinking he'd seek an understanding with Vanastin, but this....
“I suppose it would be possible for me to leave, now, if I wished,” Zevran finally said, the words welling up almost of their own volition. “ The Crows will assume that I am dead with Taliesen. So long as I do not make my presence known, they will not seek me out.”
“Where would you go?” Toneless as before, but the Warden's voice sounded more hollow now.
Shrugging, Zevran looked up at him, said, “I do not know. I have never had this much freedom before. I confess, I do not have the slightest idea where to start.”
“Would you stay?” Vanastin's voice grew quiet, and he dared no more than a glance, almost as if afraid.
The sentiment amused Zevran, brought a little life back into his tone, a smile tugging at his lips. “Until the Archdemon is defeated? I suppose saving the world is a noble enough cause.” Vanastin nodded, swallowed harshly—he was normally so guarded in everything but anger. And Zevran was beginning to understand Vanastin a little better—finer details in the portrait. He will understand.
So it all came spilling out: Rinna and her death, the Crows' careless dismissal, taking the contract as suicide. Vanastin met his eyes, and listened intently, blankly, no judgment there. Zevran perhaps expected a sneer at his weakness, at his naivete in assuming either of them meant anything to the Crows, but he got no such reaction. He was practically shaking with relief over having the story out and tense anticipation of Vanastin's response by the time he said, “And then... this happened. And here I am.”
The usual intensity returned to Vanastin's dark eyes while listening, the surety to his posture and his voice when he asked, “Do you still want to die?”
Shocked, Zevran sat up a little more properly. He hadn't thought about it very hard, not since the initial decision to take the contract, seeing his path to certain oblivion in a pair of stray Grey Wardens. He was equally shocked by the answer he found, how quickly he came up with it. “No. What I want is to begin again.”
“I wanted to die,” Vanastin began, “rather than leave my clan behind, rather than leaving Tamlen to his fate. I was too heartbroken to do anything but follow Duncan, though, as he was the only person to offer me any direction. I thought that I would surely find death as a Warden. I was elated when I found out that the Joining itself can kill. I prayed to the Creators for oblivion when I took my Joining. When I woke in the Wilds after Ostagar, I hated Flemeth, hated our betrayers, hated everyone--they had robbed me of my quickest route to destruction. There is no honor in falling on your sword, so I needed to fall in battle, or by some other means, but I knew that Alistair stood no chance alone between the Blight and human wars. And no one else should have to endure this. I meant to rage across Ferelden and destroy the Archdemon as quickly as possible, so I could seek my release sooner rather than later.” He took a deep breath, deliberate, clearly meant to be calming, and pushed away from the table to stand properly. “Then you happened.” Vanastin paused, as if looking for a response, but not long enough for Zevran to form one. “You give me hope that life might still have some worth after defeating the Archdemon. You make me want to live, and you make me regret what I've become. You deserve more than I can offer, now.”
All that intensity remained, but only a thin sliver of the hardness. Vanastin had relaxed while speaking, slouching ever so slightly, canting his hips just a little as he shifted more weight onto one leg. His voice remained dark, but a little of the gravel left it, all rage fled. This was not the Warden, but the hunter Vanastin kept so deeply buried, the man Zevran wanted to know, seen only in beautiful but fleeting glimpses, like an animal through the bars of a cage. An invitation, an open hand offered—Zevran could return with like. “Whatever I was looking for when I left Antiva, I think I have found it.”
“You helped me, after Tamlen. Kept my mind off it. Let me do the same for you.”
Chuckling, Zevran responded, “If you are proposing what I think you are, how could I ever say no?”
Vanastin grabbed up two of the unoccupied chairs and wedged them at the library's doors, to prevent any unwanted intrusion, and as he stalked back Zevran began to stand. With a hand against his chest Vanastin stilled him. “Stay.” Zevran sat back down, and Vanastin crawled up into the chair with him, straddling his lap, leaned forward to kiss up one side of his jaw to the base of his ear, tugged on the earring briefly before continuing. On the other side of Zevran's head Vanastin made that strange, affectionate gesture, running his fingers up the bottom of the ear there and then into Zevran's hair, touch almost delicate... it still made Zevran shudder, and not at the dichotomy this time, the threat of violence in the Warden's every gesture, which had fled for tenderness and desire.
Zevran tried echoing the gesture, and got a low sound of approval out of Vanastin, but Zevran continued the motion, removed the tie that held back Vanastin's chestnut hair. He'd seen it loose before, usually wet, but never had the opportunity to run his fingers through it. It was not fine and silky, or even especially well cared for, but it was soft and smelled of misty woods in spring, promises of growth in the soil, appropriate metaphors for the Vanastin Zevran saw now.
Vanastin started working his way down with lips and hands, searching under Zevran's collar for any flesh he could easily reach, and Zevran allowed himself a little sigh of contentment. Such sweetness was strange and novel, and by Vanastin's wandering hands and lips on his way down (he edged Zevran's shirt up far enough that Zevran decided to simply be done with the thing) the Warden made his desire clear. Zevran knew the art well, and though he took great pleasure in working it he was so rarely subject—Vanastin had unlaced his trousers, set about easing them down, and found a sensitive place in the hollow of his hip that made Zevran gasp—subject to it, and Vanastin made him feel almost worshiped.
With the Warden, he wasn't wanted for his flesh or his skill with a blade, but for his company. That realization was more heartening than any kind words, somehow just as arousing as Vanastin's ministrations. He felt wanted, of consequence, for the first time since Rinna's apparent betrayal, with only the slightest fear that more of Vanastin's cruelty awaited him for falling so easily. So in addition to the eager tension between his legs there was a growing warmth in his belly, a fullness in his chest, strange emotions that simultaneously made him want to run and to embrace the man now kneeling in front of him.
Vanastin ran his lips up the side of Zevran's length, taking just the head into his mouth at the end, working his tongue against that particular spot on the underside—but it was brief, Vanastin quickly abandoning that work to tease further. By the time he returned to it Zevran was ready to tangle a hand in Vanastin's hair and none-too-subtly nudge him that direction, painfully hard and approaching frustration. The warmth of Vanastin's mouth engulfing him again produced another sigh, this one of relief, and he could see the smile in Vanastin's dark eyes as the other elf glanced up at him. After tracing all the lines and folds of Zevran's hardness with his tongue, slowly as if memorizing the feel and shape of it in his mouth, Vanastin set a pace of long, slow strokes, the seal of his lips perfect. Repetitive motion shook his loose hair forward, and after so much time pulled harshly back it framed his face quite perfectly. This was the lover Zevran was looking for, intense as the Warden but passionate and graceful, conscious of his appeal but unaware of its true extent. Zevran reached down to brush Vanastin's hair back so he could watch it fall forward again, and Vanastin gave a low hum of approval, the resonance of which pulled a sound of pleasure unbidden from Zevran's own throat. Vanastin was still smiling with his eyes, clearly amused.
When Zevran drew too close Vanastin closed the fingers of one hand tight around the base of his length, but Zevran could tell by now it would be too soon for his liking, so he knotted his hands in Vanastin's hair again and tugged gently, urging him off and up. The seal of his lips had been so tight that Vanastin slid off with a popping sound, making just the faintest scrape of his teeth against the head, and he looked up at Zevran from this kneeling position, hair mussed, face and lips flushed from the effort, eyes still burning in intensity. Zevran urged him up again with a tug, and Vanastin stood, leaning forward, settling his hands on Zevran's shoulders, to kiss him. It was soft at first, little more than a slide of their lips together, but when Zevran started working at the lacing of Vanastin's trousers Vanastin took initiative, begging for entrance by sliding his tongue along Zevran's lips, and when Zevran allowed it he reveled in the fact that he could still taste himself on Vanastin's tongue, and he wondered again at that strange tactile memorization Vanastin seemed so interested in, testing the shape of things with his tongue. The thought of Vanastin pleasuring himself to a memory of Zevran in his mouth, recalling the taste and the roll of soft skin across his lips, the weight occupying his tongue, was almost too much. Zevran's haste to divest Vanastin of his trousers increased, and once he had Vanastin free of them and all beneath he tugged the Warden into his lap, straddling him again. In the hasty motion their teeth clacked together softly, and Vanastin drew away for an instant to laugh, hands moving to splay against Zevran's shoulder blades, slouching to reach a more equal height in their position.
“We look like idiots,” Vanastin said, “sitting in this chair with our pants around our ankles.”
Zevran just tugged Vanastin's shirt off and kissed him again, relishing the feel of Vanastin's smile against him, and thrust softly up, drawing Vanastin's attention to the fact that their lengths where no more than a finger's width apart in this position. In response Vanastin trailed one hand down across Zevran's chest to grip them together best as he could, but Vanastin was proportionately smaller in all regards, so Zevran trailed his opposite hand down to join, such that between the two of them their hands formed a sort of “o” into which they could both thrust with no worry of slipping apart.
As he set a middling pace Zevran abandoned Vanastin's mouth, tracings his lips over the tattoo on Vanastin's chin and down his throat, which Vanastin eagerly tiled his head back to expose. The flesh here was soft and sensitive, particularly down near the hollow of Vanastin's throat, which Zevran kissed and sucked and licked at. Vanastin tilted his head back further as if trying to expose more flesh, and Zevran had to circle the Warden's waist with his free arm to keep him from tipping back. Zevran decided to abandon this particular spot, as the effect seemed more than they could handle in this position, hunching down to take a nipple into his mouth, teasing it to hardness with his tongue before biting softly. When Vanastin responded with a sound something like a whimper, Zevran bit a little harder, tugging with his teeth this time in a carefully measured amount of pressure. Breaking the rhythm of their thrusts, Vanastin ground against him jerkily for an instant, but recovered himself and realized his precarious balance. Vanastin's grip on Zevran's shoulder tightened, and he drew himself up, bowing his chin almost to his chest to watch Zevran kiss his way over to the over nipple, stopping to trace with his tongue the arrow slit scars that marred his breast.
“Creators,” Vanastin breathed. “You're amazing.”
Zevran only smiled in response and continued his ministrations, eventually drifting back up to nibble and suck along Vanastin's collarbone, looking for sensitive places yet undiscovered. The hard sex they often shared could hardly be called lovemaking, and so despite having been together for months now their bodies were still relatively new to each other. Vanastin still remained strangely silent, as he had whenever they went beyond the simple sating of lust, but his physical reactions spoke loudly as the most licentious moan. The spectacle of the Warden writhing against him, at the mercy of Zevran's tongue, spurred Zevran on, and so he came an instant after Vanastin, the smaller elf jerking and arching against him, spilling himself between them with a soft but guttural cry.
When they were both spent Vanastin curled around him, kissing and nibbling at Zevran's neck and ear. Zevran repeated that gesture again, the affectionate one Vanastin made on occasion, and whispered, “Let me make love to you as if I were your Tamlen.”
“No,” Vanastin said solidly, and pushed away. Zevran found none of the anger or sorrow he expected in those intense, dark eyes, but something just as frightening. “You deserve more than that. We will make love to each other as befits us, as befits you, not as surrogates for ghosts.”
Zevran leaned to the side and snatched his shirt up from the floor, used it to clean them up as best he could, Vanastin chuckling at the effort and the unusual implement. No one would think much of Zevran walking the halls half-disrobed and disheveled in the middle of the night, especially not with Vanastin in tow. So they made themselves presentable enough to make it to the bedroom without attracting more than snickers and sneers.
And as Vanastin walked beside him Zevran decided that, yes, there really was something to stick around for, to live for. Perhaps they could begin again after the Archdemon, somewhere new, strangers to all but each other, including to themselves.