He thought of Leliana first.
She was the natural first-choice. She was her closest friend and confidante, she was easy to talk to, and she shared his faith, if not his exact stance on it. In the end, though, he decided, she was just a little too close to the other Grey Warden for comfort, the likelihood that she would let something slip was high, and he really, really didn't want that.
He thought of Wynne, briefly, for similar reasons, and because he knew she could keep her mouth shut, but the idea of asking someone who could easily be his grandmother for advice on wooing a woman who happened to be their leader was just a little... distasteful. Not quite as distasteful as asking Morrigan, who he didn't even consider for a moment, but still...
In the end, he couldn't very well ask the Warden herself, Wynne would have been highly uncomfortable, Sten wouldn't have had the answers, Morrigan he didn't even want to give the time of day to, much less ask something so personal, and Leliana was a bit of a security risk.
It left Zevran.
And really, once he thought about it, Zevran wasn't that bad of a choice. He'd have to take his advice with a grain of salt, of course, because the man was unaccountably lewd every time he opened his mouth, but he was discrete enough to be an assassin, and he'd actually, you know, slept with a woman before. Unless he was all talk, of course, but with the way women in the settlements they passed through looked at him, he doubted it. In fact, his experience was the only thing giving Alistair pause. Would the elf laugh at him for not even knowing this?
He couldn't really afford to pause for too long, however. It was rare that their campsite was so empty, but with the women away checking on rumors of the Dalish in the area and Sten off doing... whatever it was that the qunari man did when the rest of them sat down and traded stories by the firelight, it was a rare opportunity to talk to the Antivan elf alone. He was sitting by the fire, and Alistair couldn't remember if he'd ever seen the elf actually sit on one of the logs they pulled up for seating near the fire, preferring instead to sprawl lazily out before the fire and use one of the logs as a backrest.
He also couldn't remember if he'd ever seen Zevran wearing something other than the leather armor he fought in, now that he thought about it. He supposed he must take it off at some point, it had to make sleeping difficult, but even as vigilant as Alistair was, he rarely stayed in his armor in camp, preferring simple, comfortable clothing, and just carrying his sword with him, if he was too worried about things attacking them. Then again, perhaps leather armor didn't chafe like plate did...
And here he was, thinking about stupid things when he ought to be gathering his courage and actually asking the man his questions instead of continuing to bandy them about in his head. Zevran barely looked up when he sat down at the fire, a small, friendly nod before going back to staring into it's depths, but as soon as he spoke, he had his full attention,
"Um..." oh, very articulate, perhaps he could utter some other mono-syllabic unhelpful noises while he was at it, "I was wondering if I could, ah, talk to you about something?" The smile that crossed Zevran's face was crooked and somewhat hollow, but his eyes sparkled just a little bit,
"If you are here to ask about the logistics of what I did with that Antivan noble I was talking about on the road yester--"
"Ah, no... nothing like that. Well. I mean, kind of like that I suppose but not... like *that*..." Zevran sat up a bit more, moving his elbows to the log, intrigued,
"And what is this something 'like that' you wish to know about?"
"I..." he stalled out, searching for his voice for a moment, "Oh, nevermind, it's not really important. Forget I said anything."
"Oh no," Zevran sat up even more, leaning forward a bit, "Come now, you can't tease like that. Go on, ask. You must know by now that I don't embarrass easily!"
"Yes, but *I* do," Alistair muttered under his breath, "It's just that... well, you... seem to know a lot about what women... like. And I haveagirlI'dkindofliketoimpressandIdon't knowhow." Well, there, at least he got it out. Zevran threw back his head and laughed. Alistair was about to get up and leave, disgusted with himself for even trying when he shook his head and spoke,
"Why did you not just say you've fallen for the other Grey Warden?" Alistair blushed to the roots of his hair,
"Is it really... that obvious?"
"Doomed. I'm completely doomed."
"Ah, ah, not so, my slightly inexperienced friend. For now, you have an excellent teacher," Zevran grinned, obviously enjoying this immensely already.
"Why am I suddenly afraid," but though it was a joke with a bit of truth to it, it was still a joke. Zevran laughed,
"No need to be, my friend. The art of seducing a woman is one of the finest arts there is. I promise, I will not make light of it."
"I don't want to seduce her!" Alistair protested, "I just want to... to... oh, I don't know. Make her feel special, I guess. Get her to notice me. Something."
"And then what? Go pick flowers with her? No no, you feel something more than just a cool appreciation of her beauty, or you would not be asking for advice, yes? You feel something... physical?" Zevran's voice caressed the last word a bit too... obscenely for Alistair's tastes and he frowned, crossing his arms,
"I suppose so, but I wish you wouldn't say it like that. I'm not... my intentions aren't to... she isn't..."
"You love her," Zevran said simply, "Or you think you do at least, yes?"
"I don't... I don't know. She's not like anyone I've ever met. She's strong and brave and... and I don't know if I would have kept going without her. If I would be able to keep going without her now. She's--"
"Beautiful, isn't she. In so many ways."
"Yes," Alistair had a faraway look in his eyes as he said it, and Zevran laughed,
"Oh yes, you're quite smitten, I can see that. But you don't sound like someone who just appreciates her as an Orlesian statue or some other work of art. You would not be asking me for help unless you wanted to seduce her, in some way," Zevran held up a hand, forestalling what was about to be a particularly angry protest, "Calm yourself, my friend, I do not mean to imply that your intentions are dishonorable, merely that every act of the kind you wish to know about is a form of seduction, whether you are trying to lead her to your bed, or tent in this case, or not." Alistair blinked,
"I... don't think I understand."
"You're more thinking of telling her how you feel, or giving her appropriate little trinkets or somesuch, yes? But those kinds of things are the same sort of things as a more... intimate seduction. You find out what someone wants or likes, and you give it to them. And, in return they give you their attention and... affection. Of whatever sort, of course." Alistair frowned,
"That seems... cold."
"Not at all! You do not think it cold when, on a dance floor, your partner must step backwards when you step forwards, or vice versa. It is all merely part of the dance."
"I haven't had much opportunity to be on a dance floor," Alistair said with a small, wry smile. Zevran sighed slightly,
"Then you have missed much. But we digress. You want to impress her, yes? Then figure out what she likes-- some sort of frippery is probably best to start with, and you gift it to her, the same way she's always doing with you. I think she likes you, by the way," Zevran grinned, "though she gives all of us such nice things."
"Something she likes... and then what?"
"Well, if she is receptive to that, I suppose you could continue to gift her with things. But I think I would just kiss her." Alistair considered that for a moment,
"Just... kiss her? Just like that?" Zevran chuckled,
"Well, no, of course not just like that!" he paused, looking oddly at Alistair, "You... *have* kissed a woman before, have you not?" it sounded vaguely accusatory and Alistair reddened,
"Of course I have, I've--"
"Alistair." He deflated,
"Oh, alright, that's a lie. I haven't ever kissed someone and I'm a terrible loser and we can get on with the mocking me, now." Zevran laughed, shaking his head,
"No, no, it was not my intention to mock you. You asked me for my help, and I intend to give it. I may not be the most upstanding citizen you have ever met, but I have some sense of honor," Alistair had a moment to be properly mortified before Zevran continued, "What we did in Antigua, and I can only imagine it is not much different here, is practice."
"Practice? How?" Zevran shrugged,
"On our arms, or each other. I know that I led an... interesting life, but even the purer of the women I knew would practice chastely with their friends, so that they could properly please a husband. Why should it be different here?" his face turned sly, "Surely you can picture our dear Grey Warden practicing with Leiliana. It has crossed your mind before, has it not?" Alistair blushed to the roots of his hair,
"No! No it had not!" Zevran chuckled,
"One more thing to thank me for, then, putting it in your head," Alistair shook his head slightly in denial, but he couldn't deny it was kind of a compelling thought, in a way. But there were other things to address.
"So, putting aside the fact that I'm not really even sure I *want* to practice this, just who, exactly, do you propose I practice on. We're not exactly often people with a whole handful of leisure time someplace where I can just break some pretty girl's heart or something. Presuming that was even what I wanted to do. And it isn't." Zevran just stared at him a moment, and then stretched his back a little on the log, like a cat, giving him a long look,
"Was that invitation not obvious enough for you? Perhaps I am too well versed in the subtleties of the Antivan courts," Alistair blinked at him,
"What? *You*?" he stood and paced back and forth in a little semi-circle around the fire, "I... I can't believe you would even suggest something like that! I know that you're... you're...," he made a sort of vague gesture with his hands, "but I'm not..."
"Calm down," he didn't even know Zevran had moved until he turned at the top of one of his arches and almost ran into him, the assassin's hands held out somewhat placatingly. "I did not imply anything about you. I am trying to help you, yes? There is no one here, I am not going to make fun of you. If you really want to learn, what is the harm in being taught?"
"By the Maker, I cannot believe that I'm--" he was suddenly angry, perhaps irrationally so, and the irrationality just made him more angry. Damn him for needing to ask for the elf's help in the first place, damn his incompetence and the predicaments it got him into. Damn Zevran for the easy way he could just *suggest something like that, so casual, like there was nothing *wrong* with it. Before he could think about it, he reached out and grabbed Zevran by the head and kissed him, closed lipped and brutal, "There. Happy?" It was good, for a moment, to see Zevran shocked, and a small bit angry, and it calmed the anger inside of himself. And then Zevran smirked,
"Now, Alistair. I know you can do better than that," and then there he was, too close, arms wound around Alistair's neck and his lips pressing insistently against his. Too shocked that Zevran was *actually* doing this to do much in the way of protesting, Alistair could only watch with a certain level of detached amazement as Zevran moved even closer, body fitting against his closer than his armor did, warm and solid, and licked his way right into Alistair's mouth.
The sudden, almost electrifying sensation of tongue against tongue made him pull back with a gasp, gripping Zevran by the upper arms and pushing him away, if only minutely, gasping like a fish. Zevran just smiled, patiently, but also a bit smugly,
"Not bad, but I feel like I did most of the work on that one. Here, wrap your arms more around me, one in the small of my back, like so," he moved a mostly still spluttering Alistair to the correct position, just like teaching someone the poses needed for a dance, "Now, this time, you're going to tip me backwards a very small bit. Just lean forward a bit into me," his matter of fact tone made it hard to form a coherent protest as he just forged ahead whether Alistair wanted to or not. It made it easier to just go along with, though Zevran still had to urge him again,
"Come on, come on, you're not going to learn anything at this rate," before he actually leaned in and kissed him again. He tried to keep the kiss chaste, the way he'd actually imagined kissing his Grey Warden, when he allowed himself to think of such things at all. The barest brush of lips, soft and romantic, the way they were always described in stories. And yes, it was strange and uncomfortable to kiss Zevran like that, of all people, but it was much less uncomfortable than the way Zevran had...
Of course, as soon as he thought that, Zevran had to run the tip of his tongue against his lower lip, before drawing it into his own mouth for a moment. This time, he was prepared for the sudden, rough swipe of his tongue against his own and didn't leap away, though it did take him a moment before he could move his own, hesitatingly, back against Zevran's. The moan Zevran made at that, though, and the way he suddenly twisted slightly in his arms, was entirely unexpected.
As was the sudden, hot, bolt of realization that he wanted to hear him make a noise like that again.
It was almost too easy to draw it out-- he just did what he asked him to do, tipped him back ever so slightly and kissed back. His own tongue felt clumsy against Zevran's but it didn't seem to matter to him at all when he followed his tongue back into his mouth in a cautious exploration.
Alistair was the one who deepened the kiss, blindly, just trying to see if he could reach even more of the inside of Zevran's mouth, tilting his head to the side to fix some angle issues with their noses even as Zevran was doing the same. The spark of pleasure that flared up had less to do with what they were doing and more to do with that feeling of someone moving in perfect harmony with you, as often happened in his Templar training exercises. And of doing something *right*
And then it had *everything* to do with what they were doing, when the third moan was almost desperate, and Zevran twisted slightly in his arms again. He moaned right back into Zevran's mouth, ragged, and had to break for air as everything lined up abruptly right and he found himself pressed, hard, against... against...
"Maker's breath!" he pulled away, suddenly, and fought with the urge to hold Zevran forcibly at arm's length. "What... you... that... You can't just..." would it be rude to scrub at his mouth when Zevran was just trying to help? "I'm not..."
"I don't know what things are like in your country but people... *men* don't just--"
"You might not have remembered this but I was brought up by the *Church* and--"
"And your Grey Warden wasn't."
"What does that have to do with ANYTHING at all?"
"She's some kind of noble, isn't she? You don't think she's been sitting around, not learning anything about the world for all those years, growing up. I hear nobles do a fair amount of dallying in your country. Or else you wouldn't be here, yes?" Alistair gaped at him, "So, then, this is the part where either you let go of me and I go back to my to my tent and we never speak of this again, or," he smirked, his tone easy and light, "you take me back to *your* tent, and I teach you how to make sure that when you DO get her there, it is a night she *never* forgets."
Alistair stared at him in the firelight, mouth open.
- - -
Really, Zevran thought, no good deed ever seemed to go unpunished. Three nights. Three nights now, he'd had to listen to the two Grey Wardens. He supposed he could have pitched his tent further away, but he considered it something of his punishment. He couldn't complain too hard, after all, it was obvious they were enjoying themselves.
Very, very obvious.
And he couldn't really begrudge them their happiness, either. Considering any moment any one of them could fall in some horrible battle or another, it was fitting that they should seek out comfort where they could find it. And it had been his advice and, he'd like to think, his "training" that had led to Alistair having the guts to do anything about it at all.
And yet, still...
He sighed and pulled his blankets further around him. Ferelden wasn't like home. The people here seemed colder, too, and they rarely stopped in any towns. Somehow, when all of them were alone in their tents, it hadn't particularly bothered him one way or the other. After all, while many of his sexual experiences had been endearing, there'd also been more than enough that had merely been part of a job, or the training for it, and he was perfectly fine to leave that behind for awhile. But with the evidence of exactly what he *wasn't* going to be doing anytime soon going on scant yards from his bed, well, it made it a bit hard not to think about. It didn't help that the Grey Warden was so kind, and generous and admirable and had the body of a goddess. And Alistair...
Alistair had been... unexpected. Sweet, in his own way, and not unhandsome. Clumsy, yes-- it had been a bit difficult to fight the next day as though nothing had happened-- but there was something actually quite attractive about his earnestness. The company of men was something that he enjoyed well enough when the job called for it, but not something he routinely sought out. It occurred to him more than once in the past few days that he might have sought it out more if men in Antiva were more like Alistair.
Which, of course, was *not* helping the current situation any. Particularly not when he could hear their voices, talking and laughing, though the words were muffled beyond recognition.
He had just flopped over on his back in resignation that he was not going to get any sleep tonight, when he heard the flap of their tent open, and then footsteps over to his.
"Zevran... are you awake?" it was the Grey Warden, her voice pitched low enough that if he hadn't been, she wouldn't have woke him. He smiled, always the considerate one, her. She was quite a woman.
"I am. You may come in, if you wish, though I warn you, in Antiva, travelers do not often sleep clothed." A soft giggle was his answer to that,
"Well, I would presume you'd cover up somewhat in this cold, lest I get the wrong impression of you," she slipped through the tentflap and unhooded her lantern. Zevran blinked. He'd seen her out of her plated armor before, around the campfire, but never in something like this. It was some kind of robe, he supposed, in a dark, creamy satin that, while modest enough, left enough of her legs bare to be a little scandalous, particularly in some man's tent at night. He raised a pleased, but confused eyebrow,
"And what might be bringing you from your beau's warm bed at this time of night to see *me*? I'm sure if it's advice on what position is best for achieving your own pleasure, it could wait until an hour less... cold," he teased, making a big show of shivering slightly. She laughed, her voice warm, and bit her lip slightly, hesitant. She was so rarely hesitant about anything. The incongruousness of the gesture was oddly endearing, he thought, particularly combined with the allure of her gown. If he didn't know better, he'd say she was doing it on purpose. But though there were many things, such as ruthless, that the Grey Warden was, she was not usually known to be cruel.
"No, no, I know well enough about those things to suffice" she smiled, a hint of mischief there, before shaking her head. "I wanted to ask you... I know you flirt with a lot of our group, even Wynne, though I never know how serious you are about that--"
"Wynne is a lovely woman. Perhaps in Ferelden, age dampens the lusts of your men, but in Antiva... Well, let's just say, unless it was for a job, I would never toy with a woman's heart in that manner."
"What about a man's?" That brought Zevran up short, his eye widening. Surely, surely she didn't know about Alistair. They'd been very careful about the whole thing and Alistair could be dense sometimes, but he couldn't possibly be THAT much of an idiot. He fumbled around for words for a moment, not used to being flustered,
"Why... why do you ask?" oh, very smooth and totally unsuspicious.
"Zevran," her voice was stern, "Alistair told me everything. I was coming here to ask you if your... time with him was... genuine." Zevran had not become a member of the Antivan Crows without being able to react through shock,
"If I say yes, will it hurt less when you kill me?" he was only half teasing. He actually did rather expect that she was going to.
"Zevran. Be serious."
"Oh, I am serious. Very, very serious." The Grey Warden sighed softly and rolled her eyes heavenward,
"Alright, Alistair, I tried it your way. Now I'm going to do what I should have done to start with," she took a step forward, almost on top of him and he had a very, very lovely view a rather long way up her robe, which he really ought not to be thinking about when he was probably about to die but, as last sights went, it wasn't a bad one. The Warden had lovely legs. The Warden held out her other hand, the lantern still in the other, empty, "Are you going to keep sleeping in the cold in here, or are you going to come back to Alistair's tent with me and show me why he thinks I ought to be impressed with you?"
"Do you suddenly not speak the same language?" her tone was harsh but she was grinning, "The middle layer in a Grey Warden trifle. Making it up to the both of us for trying to kill us? Show both of you boys how to polish my armor? By the Maker, do I need to spell it out for you?" His brain was still spinning around too many new developments at once to get it right away, but when he did...
"Alistair," he said, a grin spreading on his face as he took her hand and let her pull him to his feet, "is going to faint dead away when he sees how beautiful we look tangled together."
"Alistair, I think, may surprise you." Zevran laughed,
"I think he already has."