Zevran knew something was wrong the moment his goddess emerged from her tent; she was enveloped almost entirely in her blanket, lovely face grimmer than he'd seen it in weeks, and her posture was hunched, as though standing straight pained her too much.
"Stop packing up!" she ordered Alistair, whose tent was half-broken down. "Unless you wish to have no place to sleep tonight? We're not moving anywhere today."
"I, ah- very well," Alistair stuttered, clearly surprised by the venom in his friend's voice. "Why are we staying here?"
"Does it matter? Someone else let Morrigan know, I don't feel like talking to Her Bitchiness today." With that, the diminutive elven Warden disappeared back into solitude, and the party looked at each other, Zevran with his eyebrows raised, Alistair looking hurt and confused, and Leliana almost . . . amused. Wynne seemed almost as if she had been expecting it; her belongings were still inside her tent, and she returned to her business without missing a beat.
"I will talk to Morrigan," Zevran volunteered, turning to Alistair. "I think you have encountered enough, ah, 'bitchiness' for the day, no?" Alistair gave him a look that, were they nearly any other two people, might have been gratitude.
"I guess I'll . . . set up again," the human mumbled. "What crawled up her and died today?"
Zevran had to agree; while Kallian was not ordinarily the most sweet-tempered of women, and lacked patience, she was rarely unnecessarily harsh. It gave him something to consider on the path to Morrigan's secluded shelter. Had something happened? But he'd been with her only the night before last, and her body had been - and Zevran smiled slyly at the memory of lips and hips and hands in his hair, accompanied by her quiet, passionate sighs - had been quite relaxed and sensitive; she was not overly stressed right now. That would come soon enough; the merchant who trailed them, Feddic, had warned them that he'd heard rumours that Orzammar was having difficulties. But that was a concern for another week, for they still had far to travel before they reached the mountains. So why the sudden change?
He realized he was in front of Morrigan's 'tent', if one could call her shelter that. It wasn't even a lean-to, just a small cloth pavilion, open on all sides. The witch was reclining under it, looking for all the world as if she, too, had no plans to move today. "What is it, Zevran?" she snapped at him.
"I had thought to bring you word that we are remaining camped here today, so that you would not be unnecessarily disturbed," Zevran said smoothly with as charming a grin as he could muster. "Though it seems my thoughtfulness was unnecessary."
"I was not disturbed until you came along," she retorted scornfully. "Though I suppose I should thank you for your consideration. Now be off; I was in thought, and you interrupted me."
Zevran grinned at her. "You flatter me, that I need do nothing but speak to drive thought from your mind. I was not aware your passion-" He stepped to the side as a flicker of lightning scorched where he had stood a moment before. "Ah, the sparks between us are so strong. Perhaps it would be wise to let them subside before we consummate our desire, no? Enjoy your rest, lovely woman."
"The only consummation I desire is one where I finally get to scorch you where you stand," Morrigan rolled over, presenting him with her back; he knew better than to think she was ignoring him, however. "Begone, elf."
Another odd thing, then; Morrigan and Wynne both unprepared for departure, as if expecting Kallian to declare the day one of rest. Zevran mused on this as he returned to the burned down campfire. Alistair had stoked the coals while he was gone and added some small pieces, to keep it burning, and now busied himself caring for his armor. Kallian was still in her tent; he paused by the flap, then steeled himself and ducked inside. If something was wrong, then perhaps his goddess needed him, or at least could use his services. And he'd suffered plenty worse than a mere tongue-lashing before, should he be wrong.
He found her on her bedroll, curled up protectively around her stomach. There was a tang in the air, a scent Zevran knew very well; blood, coppery and bitter. "Mi amora," he began, "are you well? I confess, you have me concerned." She didn't answer, just made a small displeased noise and curled up tighter. "Perhaps you are wounded? I'm sure that Wynne would be happy to give you healing. . ."
"Wynne can't help me," Kallian grated, interrupting him. "Get lost, Zevran. I don't want to look at you. You're male, and right now, I hate men."
Zevran bit back a retort, folding his arms; snapping back would help nothing right now. But finally, the pieces were falling into place: the women of the group's easy acceptance and understanding; her pain; the smell; and her current loathing of the very parts that she frequently told him she found delightful, in more ways than simply with words. "Ah, dear Warden, it's your time, isn't it? Poor girl. Very well, no Wynne, then. But would you allow me to help you?"
She twisted on her bedroll to glare at him. "Maker's balls, what would you know about it?! I'm really not in the mood for your kind of help, Zevran." She truly was lovely, and anger made her eyes more alive, he noted absently as he spread his hands guilelessly.
"I was raised surrounded by women," he reminded her gently. "I've seen this before many a time, and know a few tricks to ease the pain. I promise, nothing like you think. Lend me your trust, my sweet?" Her glare told him she was unconvinced, and so he knelt by her side and reached out to brush hair back from her face. "Have I yet steered you wrong?"
"No," she admitted grudgingly. ". . . except for the part about your ability to pick locks."
She would never let him forget that exaggeration, would she? "Thankfully," he said with a small, reassuring smile, "my skill with the locked muscles in a pain-stricken body is much greater." Her only response was a snort, but she uncurled a fraction, one hand rising to touch his, and Zevran knew that he had convinced her.
"The blanket is a good step," he said quietly, "but you need more heat. I'll return in a few minutes, and then I can begin." He lifted her hand, brushed his lips across her knuckles, and stood.
"You're just running away because you can't actually do anything, admit it," she grumbled, but there was no real venom in it; a good start. Zevran ducked out of the tent without answering and went to his own, rummaging for the leather bottle he kept for his muscles when they became sore, and filled it with water. When he stepped out, Alistair was there.
"You're braver than I am," the human said. "I saw you go in there to talk to her. What's wrong with her, anyways? She never just . . . bites heads off like that."
Zevran arched his eyebrows at the man. "I believe her problem is something she wouldn't appreciate me sharing," he said with a faint smirk, moving to the fire. The rocks around it were hot, and he carefully scooped them into the bottle with a broad stick until the water was just shy of uncomfortably warm.
"What do you mean? We don't have personal problems around here," Alistair grumbled. "Not if she has her say, anyways. Everything is her problem too, even if we don't want it to be."
"Ah, Alistair, you are not a woman, and you do not know women. I'd advise not getting close to her until she's recovered, unless you wish to find yourself emasculated." Zevran found the former Templar's innocence almost charming, but he knew his lovely Warden would only find it maddening, as she was now. "Leave her to me, and I will have her feeling herself soon enough."
"What does my being a man have to do with the price of lyrium in Orzammar? You're a man too, in case you hadn't noticed."
"You know, that's the second time in the last few minutes someone has pointed that out to me," Zevran murmured. "It's fortunate, since I believe I had almost forgotten. Our dear leader simply doesn't wish to deal with men who cannot understand her pain. Now, if you'll excuse me, she's expecting me to return to her side."
He turned away, but not before he saw comprehension flash on Alistair's face, along with an equal amount of disgust and embarrassment - no doubt the result of his sheltered Chantry upbringing. Zevran would never understand why priests and their ilk considered the body unholy and disgusting; after all, the Maker gave it them, didn't he? "Why did you tell me that much?! I didn't need to know- oh, Maker, I don't want to think about that."
"And so, you simply prove my point," Zevran shot over his shoulder, then ducked into Kallian's tent again.
"Did you have to tell him?" she complained first thing, and he almost laughed as he returned to her side.
"He will put it out of his mind quickly enough. Here, this should begin to help almost immediately. I keep this for when I have stiff muscles; it works wonders, truly." Zevran tucked the hot water bottle under the blanket, against her stomach, and kissed her ear. "You are beautiful, you know that?"
She groaned and curled around the source of warmth. "You must be joking. I'm a hideous mess."
"A lovely mess," Zevran corrected, and lay down next to her, curling around behind her to provide his body heat. He propped his head up on one hand and wrapped the other over her tense body. "It makes you no less beautiful or desirable, you know."
"I doubt Alistair would agree," she growled, but did not try to push him away, and he kissed her ear again.
"Alistair is a fool," Zevran said deprecatingly. "And you know it. Your time simply means that you are a woman, and I assure you, I find every part of your womanhood most attractive. If you would allow me, I would demonstrate - but not unless you feel up to it."
This, too, he knew would help; for some reason, many women seemed to feel themselves uglier when their time was upon them. Well, to him, it was simply another ill that she needed to be healed of, and the way to that was to reassure her she was still desirable, that he still wanted her and found her delightful. No hard task, for it was true. And indeed, Kallian's head turned so she could see his face, a rueful smile on her lips. "You truly are useful, aren't you? Thank you, Zevran. The warmth does feel good. But not that, not yet."
He leaned down to kiss her gently, stroking her side gently with his free hand. "I have other things to help you, as well," he said against her lips. "I lack the herbal remedies the women used, alas, but once you have warmed up a bit more, I can massage the cramps away. Would you like that?"
She'd tasted his skill at massage before, and the thought made her eyes slide shut in anticipation of his soothing touch. "Please," she answered, nestling back against him. "Are you certain you are not like Leliana, Maker-sent?"
He laughed, trailed his fingers up to her hair. "Quite certain, dear Warden. The Maker and I have little to do with each other. I suppose I do try to stay on his good side, but otherwise . . . no. We certainly don't speak to each other. The only vision I have seen was a waking one - you standing above me, lit with righteous anger and no small amount of bloodlust. Though that certainly was a vision that changed my life, and not in the way I expected it would." His fingers traced gentle patterns against her scalp, feeling her ebbing tension with hands and body.
Kallian sighed, leaning her head into his touch. "I think that must have been the best decision I've made yet," she mumbled.
"I would not disagree," Zevran said with a touch of amusement, "But it is possible that I may be slightly biased."
"So could I," she said, and they lay in silence for a time until finally she was almost entirely uncurled, the magic of the hot water well worked on her sore body. He took that as an invitation, and with another light kiss to her lips, trailed his hand back down her body, cupping her stomach protectively.
"How do you feel?" he asked, rubbing light circles against her skin.
"Like I might not die today after all," she sighed. "And I almost look forward to it as well."
Zevran had to smile. "You won't be dying any time soon. That is what I am here for, remember? To shield you from whatever harm might come your way."
"I doubt this is some plot of the Crows," Kallian said dryly. "Unless they are far more subtle than I suspected."
He laughed at that and sat up, freeing his other hand to join the first, stroking her abused muscles with soothing care. She made a discontented noise, missing his warmth at her back, but that soon turned to pleased groans as his skillful fingers worked miracles, working the remaining knots free. The sounds she made stirred Zevran's desire, and he began to hope that she might be ready for something more intimate soon, but - he realized after a few minutes that the pain must have kept her up that night, for her eyes drifted closed and the look of peace on her face was that of one who slept with little care. He shrugged his mild disappointment aside easily and moved the cooling water bottle aside before laying down beside her again. Perhaps once she had had her rest; for now, he was content in a job well done.