As if he were handling a delicate piece of filigree, Zevran unfolded the parchment and laid it carefully on the tabletop. It felt a little odd, as he smoothed down the battered edges, to have not spent a few minutes removing the oils from his hands first, but he supposed that didn't matter now. The creases where it had been folded were deep, worn thin; not unlike the lines that now framed his mouth; that were carved across his forehead; that marred the smoothness of his hands.
He took a slow breath in, feasting with his eyes on the perfect whorls of script that filled the page. With the tip of his finger—ignoring how much it trembled—Zevran started at the beginning and traced each character, each imperfect scratch of the quill. He paused at each place where the ink had pooled slightly at the bottom of a letter and imagined that the writer had stopped to think. He found the places where the words had come faster than they could be written; found the places where the penmanship was impeccable, expressing thoughts already spoken enough times that they could be transcribed without lingering. He didn't read the words themselves. Not yet.
Outside his window, the sun was beginning to set, washing the room in warm palette of orange and pink. The languid wind that was making the curtains dance tasted of salt and, in the distance, he could hear the cries of the seagulls as the tiny fishing vessels that dotted the waters began their slow migration back into the harbour. He sat, savouring, as the deep azure sea grew dark, as the lamp lighters made their rounds through the cobbled streets, as the rich tones of the evening bells rolled across the glassy surface of the water. The shadows in the corners lengthened, stretching like cats awoken from slumber, as the room fell into the half-light that comes before full darkness; the realm between waking and dreams.
As the first stars began to wink through the indigo that heralded the night's grand entrance, Zevran let himself read. It was too dark to see now, but he knew these words as surely as if they had been written on his heart.
How many years had it been now? He shook his head, never letting his fingers leave the page.
Closing his eyes, he inhaled the sweetness of the breeze and released the swell of emotion that was now too far gone to be contained.
His hair, the way it had curled around his ears.
His slender fingers, stained with ink.
The timbre of his voice, reading in the firelight.
The first tear rolled down his cheek and Zevran wiped it away with the back of his hand.
His laugh, so much louder that one would expect coming from the slightness of his build.
The first time they'd kissed, torturously slow, and sweet.
Zevran was weeping. How could there be any shame in it now, after the life he had had?
The hinges on the door sang a familiar chorus of discordant notes as it swung open. "Sorry I'm late, Vincenzo was—" The figure in the doorway paused, taking in the silhouette framed against the fading twilight. "Oh, love…"
Alim crossed the room with rushed steps to fold Zevran into his arms. "I'd forgotten it was today."
"I will never forget."
They held each other in silence for a few moments as Zevran composed himself; his breathing gradually losing its ragged edges as Alim stroked his hair and waited. Zevran raised his head from the other man's shoulder and kissed him gently, just the barest brush of lips at first. One of Alim's hands rested against his lower back, pulling him closer as he deepened the kiss; tasting the mulled wine that lingered on his tongue. They drew apart reluctantly, with Alim pressing one last kiss against his mouth.
"You don't need to do this to yourself." Alim smoothed away the traces of Zevran's tears with his thumb. "That letter was for if I didn't make it."
"I know." Zevran closed his eyes and spent a minute re-memorizing Alim's face with just his fingers before opening them again. "Sometimes, mi vida, it is good to look back." He reached for the parchment and refolded it carefully. "When I read this, I remember the taste of my fear as you lay wounded; the heavy sting of smoke as the rooftop burned. The agony in my heart when I thought you had died."
Alim looked at him thoughtfully. "That doesn't sound like something worth remembering."
The parchment disappeared into a hidden pocket in Zevran's vest. "Ah, but I also remember the joy that overwhelmed me when you began to breathe once more. The love I felt when my name was the first word you spoke upon waking. The peace I never thought I would have." He gestured towards the window where, below them, glowing lamps illuminated the twisting streets of the town near the shore. "This life we have shared… I never could have imagined it then."
Zevran stood at the window, looking out over the distant sea. He smiled as he felt Alim move to stand behind him; the warm ghost of his breath feathering over his neck.
"I am your man. Just as I promised," Zevran whispered.
"And I am yours. Always."
Zevran nodded. Smiled. Remembered. "Always."