Fandom: Dragon Age: Origins
Rating: Very mild T
Characters: Zevran/Alim Surana
Spoilers: Through the return to Redcliffe after the Landsmeet. Secret Companion outcome.
Notes: This story has been nagging at me since I took Alim Surana to Redcliffe last week, so I figured I'd better set it down. A less polished version went up on Tumblr earlier today; I recommend reading this one instead. The emotional fallout of the Dark Ritual seems to be one of those things I can't stop poking at; like my "All That Remains" fics, this may be one of those bits of canon I revisit with each new situation.
Zevran hadn't realized just how much he'd been anticipating the opening of the door to his bedchamber in Redcliffe Castle until he heard it: the distant sound of the latch, a few quiet footsteps, and then the door was closed and locked, the deadbolt falling home with a soft click. He sat up, roused from his drowsy state by the noise, and rubbed the sleep from his eyes. It was, as he had hoped, his lover, his commander, his Warden: Alim.
Alim set the candle he carried on the dresser and shrugged off his mage robes before hanging them in the wardrobe. He stood there for what seemed a long time, staring into the darkness, his hand still toying with the hem of the robe sleeve. He was frowning, his brow deeply furrowed: both telltale signs that he had been forced into another decision he did not want to make, required yet again to choose between two equally unpalatable options. When he showed no sign of moving, Zevran cleared his throat, and Alim started, turning to look at Zevran with what seemed to be a quick flash of guilt in his pale blue eyes. "Where have you been?" Zevran asked.
Alim shrugged, then turned his gaze to the floor. "Warden business," he said, shortly. "I don't wish to discuss it.".
"Fair enough." Zevran threw back the covers in a gesture of welcome; Alim blew out the candle and accepted the invitation, climbing into the bed and pulling the blankets up to his bare chest. His head fell back into the pillows, and he sighed. Zevran sat up and pushed the hair back from his brow, kissing his forehead, then trailing his mouth down his nose and finally pressing it against his soft lips, bringing his hand around the back of his neck to pull him close. Alim kissed him back half-heartedly, then broke away.
"I'm sorry, I'm not--" His eyelids flickered downward, and then he rolled over, away, turned his face toward the wall. "Let's just sleep tonight. All right?"
Surprised, Zevran let his hand fall away. "I-- all right. Whatever you wish." He stared at the back of his lover's head, wondering at this odd behavior. Normally, Alim was a lusty bed partner, inviting Zevran into his tent almost every night, and even to steal a moment during the day. He had expected they would take advantage of their first comfortable surroundings in weeks, so he found this rebuff not only disappointing, but strange. Whatever could be wrong?
Alim must have heard the concern in Zevran's voice, because he let out another sigh before turning back to face Zevran with a weary smile, lifting a smooth hand to cup his cheek, stroke his jaw with the pad of his thumb. "Ah, Zev. I don't mean to-- It's nothing to do with you. I'm just... tired. I want it to be over."
Zevran leaned in, gazed into Alim's eyes, and even in the dimness of the dying firelight, he could see the world-weariness there; and behind that, a bleak expression, one familiar to him because he had seen it in the mirror far too many times: the mark of a death wish. It shocked him, to see it here, in the face of this leader, this elf, this one who had brought a whole world together, and who had brought Zevran himself back to life. No. The word rose from his soul, a whisper of denial, of fear. He could not lose his Alim. Not now, not after... everything.
"You are not thinking of throwing yourself too whole-heartedly into this coming battle, I hope," he said, forcing a light-hearted chuckle as he caught Alim's fingers in his own, brought them to his lips for a quick nibble. "I know the Warden motto speaks of sacrifice, but there ought to be some limit."
Alim laughed in response, a harsh and bitter sound, his eyes hardening, his hand gripping Zevran's even more tightly. "Oh, I took care of that one. No need to worry on that account." He fell silent for a moment, then shook his head, and his next words were softer. "I'm sorry, love. I shouldn't be so dramatic. But it's been a hard few weeks, ever since..."
His voice trailed off into silence, but Zevran knew how that sentence would have ended: since Denerim. That visit had cost Alim dearly -- the stay in prison and his desperate escape; discovering the slavers in the Alienage; the contentious negotiation with Anora and her subsequent betrayal; the duel with Loghain, and the wrenching decision of whether to recruit him; Alistair's choice to walk away, which Zevran thought had hurt Alim more than he was willing to admit. And now it seemed that even more had been added to Alim's burden, but this was not a weight that could be shared. Not for the first time, Zevran cursed the Grey Wardens and all their secrets. But he said none of this aloud; instead, he kissed Alim's brow again and pulled him near, cradling him close to his chest. In response, Alim curled into him, nestling against his shoulder.
"Promise me," Alim whispered, his breath warm on Zevran's neck, his voice fierce with love and longing. "Promise you'll stay until the end."
"I promise," he murmured, stroking Alim's hair, winding his fingers into the bright red strands. "To the end, whatever that may be. Now get some rest, hmm?"
Alim mumbled something might have been "I'll try"; Zevran ran his hand slowly up and down Alim's bare back until his breathing had slowed into the gentle rhythms of sleep. And Zevran lay still, listened to the sound, felt the strong beating of Alim's heart, and wondered how many nights they might have left.
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