Original prompt: Zevran is the only companion who seems to realize just how stressful the Warden's position is. I'd like Zevran providing support to stressed out Warden.
Zevran noticed it first on their way back to Orzammar: Vanastin snapped needlessly at Leliana for some comment on the beauty of a lyrium formation. “The sooner you're done gawking, the sooner we can leave this Creators-forsaken hole.” She shut her mouth but scowled at him from behind, and Alistair tried to imitate Vanastin's “angry face” to break the tension. Zevran agreed with them, initially: Vanastin was being foolish and cruel. But he did it more frequently, and even to Zevran. So he began to watch the Warden carefully, looking for signs of some irritant.
He didn't catch it until they were back in Orzammar, Vanastin distant and distracted while speaking to Morrigan, perhaps the only member of the group aside from Zevran that he truly respected. His eyes seemed unfocused, as if unable to maintain attention, and she eventually sneered, “Are you listening at all?”
Vanastin only made a quiet sound of dissatisfaction and turned from her, stalking off, leaving Morrigan standing with her arms akimbo, scowling at his retreating back. She turned to Zevran, asked, “Why do we follow this fool?”
“It is certainly not his pleasant disposition,” Zevran said, and he turned to follow Vanastin.
Zevran caught another clue on their way into the council chambers, as Vanastin hung back from the group while they waited for entrance, leaning his head against a door frame and sighing quietly, eyes closed. No one else seemed to notice, and he looked away before Vanastin caught him staring. They handed over the crown and made Bhelen king with little incident, as Vanastin let Oghren do most of the talking for him.
They were graciously granted quarters in the palace to recover from their excursion into the Deep Roads, and Zevran got his third clue there, walking with Vanastin down the hall to their rooms. He bade the Warden goodnight, and only got an unintelligible murmur from the Warden, who continued down to his own room just around the corner.
Zevran was down to just the leather breeks he wore under this particular set of armor when he heard it, a sound of impact and a rumble of vehement elvish muffled by the stone. He weighed his concern for the Warden against his desire to avoid the Warden's displeasure, and in this case his concern won, driving Zevran out and to the Warden's door, where he knocked.
Expecting nothing more than a tongue lashing from an angry Warden, Zevran hardly schooled his alarm when Vanastin answered the door in relative silence, no more than a glower, half out of his armor and bleeding from a shallow cut on his temple, the area around which was quickly bruising. “Did you need something?” He seemed to be putting most of his weight on where he held the door.
“May I come in?” Immediately, Zevran started trying to fit the clues together, these little snatches of stressors, and none of the conclusions seemed to fit Vanastin's personality.
The Warden made something like a choking noise, an unusual sound of surprise, dismay. “Not tonight, Zevran. Please.”
Holding up a hand, Zevran said, “I only want to speak. It will take no more than a moment of your time.”
Vanastin nodded, opened the door further, and Zevran stepped in, crossing the spacious room to the bed, barely sized for the larger races, and sat on the edge as if he had equal rights to the space. Vanastin lingered at the door as he closed it, eying the distance in long, measuring glances, something akin to fear in his dark eyes.
“Firstly,” Zevran began, “are you well? I heard....” And he gestured, hoping to indicate the small but fierce looking wound.
“I fell,” Vanastin said, words quick, regaining a little of his snappish temper of the past few days. “Damn room wouldn't stay still long enough for me to get out of this... stuff.”
“I see.” Zevran tried to keep his voice calm, tried to imply no emotion at all, in fact, wanted to avoid Vanastin's ire. “May I assist, then?”
Vanastin thought about it for a moment, long enough that Zevran feared the Warden had forgotten his presence or decided to ignore it, but eventually nodded. Zevran took this as leave to return to him at the door and guide him to the bed, placing a steadying hand on Vanastin's shoulder. All usual grace seemed to have fled the Warden for clumsy motions, disoriented, overcompensating for a lack of balance, almost like a man drugged. Zevran saw no other signs of poison, and so assumed he was simply dizzy for some mundane reason. Vanastin ended up standing next to the bed, clutching one side for balance as Zevran's hands danced lightly from buckle to tie and shucked the armor off him. When he indicated that he needed Vanastin to step in order to remove part of the armor, Vanastin lurched dangerously, and Zevran steadied him as he put more weight down on his arms on the bed. Paler now, eyes closed, Vanastin swallowed heavily, looking for all the world like a man about to be sick.
Zevran got him down to his small clothes quickly and sat Vanastin down. While Zevran rifled through Vanastin's pack searching for supplies to clean and wrap the wound, Vanastin drew his legs up onto the bed and curled around himself, setting his elbows on his knees and grinding the heels of his palms into his eyes. His color had yet to return by the time Zevran sat down again, and he was all but shaking.
Nudging Vanastin's head up by grabbing his chin, Zevran set about cleaning the wound, and asked chattily, “Do you have any idea why this happened? The room lying to you in so dastardly a fashion about its orientation, I mean.”
Vanastin glanced at him, jerkily, then away. “I don't understand these shemlen and durgen'len politics. If something must be done, you do it. Personal concerns don't enter into a life and death situation. There is no 'I' when the whole clan is suffering. It should be the same everywhere. This threatening and pleading, these sly word games... they are like laying traps for coy prey. I was never any good with traps.” And his deep voice sounded hollow, ashamed to confess, “The nightmares have been worse underground.”
“Ah.” Zevran began smearing on a little dab of poultice, and the symptoms made sense now. “When was the last time you slept properly?”
“The night before we entered Orzammar.”
It was hard to tell with no night or day, but that was not quite two weeks in Zevran's estimation. “Have you slept at all?”
“I can't recall,” Vanastin said matter-of-factually, almost as if challenging Zevran. “I don't sleep much on the surface, either, but there's no air in this place unless I fight for it, and what if the ceiling falls in? I don't want to die in my sleep. But the dreams, they're vivid down here.... I've seen them in waking hours, too.”
“I have noticed no change in Alistair's behavior,” Zevran said. “Have you asked him why, perhaps, they would effect you more?”
“I already know,” Vanastin snapped. “I almost became one of them—a sharlock, like Tamlen.” He grimaced at the name, but continued. “Or nearly died from the taint—the latter is more likely, from the sickness. I expect the taint is a little more advanced in me.”
“Just how often do you sleep on the surface?”
“When I'm exhausted.”
“And before you became a Grey Warden?”
Scowling, Vanastin growled, “Are you my mother, now? I was regarded by my clan as a hard worker—if one could wake me to begin with.”
Zevran shook his head, smiling faintly, as he finished laying on the bandage. “May I try something to help you rest?”
“No. Leave me be.”
So Zevran gave him no choice, pushing Vanastin down onto the bed before flipping him onto his stomach and pinning him there, kneeling, straddling the backs of his thighs. Vanastin swore, tried to throw him off, but Zevran was stronger even on Vanastin's best day. He leaned in, let his lips brush the tip of Vanastin's ear as he whispered, “You are going to let me help, or I will tell Wynne, and I will personally hold you down while she drugs you.” That stilled the struggling elf, who gave a final curse and fell silent.
Lamenting his lack of proper oils, Zevran started by working his thumbs in little circles across Vanastin's shoulders, testing the stress there. Vanastin's entire body seemed a coil of tension, a spring wound tight, a mass of knots and too-taut muscle. Each knot made Vanastin twitch, tensing for a moment when touched, and when he prodded a particular knot toward the center of Vanastin's back the man beneath him made a pathetic, mewling noise of pain, half-sobbed, “What are you--”
“Shush,” Zevran commanded. “You will understand if you keep that sharp tongue still for a few moments.”
When he started to work in earnest, carefully working down the back of Vanastin's neck and to his shoulders in slow, methodical strokes, Vanastin's little cries and gasps of pain quickly fell to silence. Once Zevran reached his right shoulder Vanastin gave his first gasp of pleasure as Zevran's hands stroked and kneaded the muscle into some semblance of order. It would take several sessions over at least a week to right Vanastin's tension, but this first attempt would have a dramatic enough effect. Soon enough Zevran had the smaller man writhing beneath him, tension melting away under the former Crow's skilled hands, Vanastin moaning like an overly dramatic whore. Hearing such lascivious sounds out of a man who was all but silent during sex hardened Zevran quickly, and he could only imagine it was having a similar effect on Vanastin.
But those open-mouthed sounds of pleasure faded quickly enough to soft murmurs, and by the time Zevran was done Vanastin was asleep beneath him. It was no great loss, Zevran decided, if he had to pleasure himself while the Warden got his first real rest in two weeks, but when Zevran dismounted and his weight left the bed, a slender hand wrapped around his wrist, quick as a snake's strike. He turned to find Vanastin staring up, dark eyes hardly visible through the faintest slits.
“Lethallin. Ma serrennas.” Then he tugged, made a pouting frown when Zevran didn't sit back down immediately. “Stay. You chase the dreams away.”
Confused and pleased, Zevran sat back down, and Vanastin rolled onto his side, curling up and falling asleep immediately. Zevran wondered if he would remember those words in the morning, or anything that had passed between them. And then he decided it didn't matter.
Another glimpse of the Dalish hunter, the man Vanastin had been before becoming the Warden, was well worth any impending anger.