It had been days since the archdemon had been defeated, and the air in the Denerim alienage still smelled like smoke. Zevran carefully stepped across the stones, the rain having done nothing but turn the ground muddy and leave the cobblestones slippery. For a moment, he remembered himself as a child, skipping across the cobblestones in Antiva, careful not to fall and scrape his knees for the thousandth time. Of climbing up trees and the neighboring buildings surrounding the brothel despite being told not to.
As he approached the ramshackle house before him, a haggard looking elf stepped out, stretching their arm. The only evidence of any injury was the telltale rips in their sleeve and the slight scar that told him his beloved was working herself ragged.
She didn’t like to leave scars.
The elf gave Zevran a nod, one that Zevran returned with a weak smile before making his way inside. It was… odd, to have these elves look at him as if he had done anything worthy of their respect. Especially when he had never felt like one of them.
“Mi amor,” he said softly, locking up the door with the single bolt it had, not because he had to but, after so many months of sleeping under the night sky, a door with a lock was a luxury. “I’m here.”
He heard a sigh and looked across the room to see the love of his life washing her hands in the basin. Her hair was coming undone from its bun and the shadows beneath her eyes did not sit well with him. Even the soft glow of the candlelight did nothing to hide her exhaustion.
“Hello,” she said, giving him a smile. “How is are dear king?”
Zevran grinned. “He hates you.”
Leliel snorted. “I’ve only been away a few days. He can survive a few days more.”
“Can you blame him?” Zevran asked as he approached her. “I couldn’t bear the thought of being apart from you.”
Leliel dried her hands and Zevran walked around the table to hug her from behind. He pressed a kiss to her cheek, feeling her lean back into him.
“I’ve missed you today,” Zevran whispered and Leliel turned around in his hold and wrapped her arms around him.
“I missed you, too.”
They remained that way until a knock came upon the front door.
“I’ll get it.”
“No,” Leliel said as they pulled away. “I’ll get it.”
The smile she gave him was not convincing but he merely nodded and watched her approach the door. To his relief, it was merely Shianni, bringing them a basket of food. After a quick thanks and wish goodnight, Leliel locked the door and carried the basket to the table. It was a simple meal, but by the end, their bellies were full and Leliel looked content.
“They asked me to stay,” Leliel said as she sipped her wine, the last dregs of the bottle they’d brought from the castle. She looked at him almost expectantly.
“What did you say?”
She shrugged. “I want to help but… it feels wrong. To stay here. Besides, the healer will be here soon. They won’t need me.”
“Wherever you go, amor, I will follow.”
“I know,” she said with a blush. “It’s not that.”
Zevran considered her for a moment, noting how uncertain she seemed.
“You feel as though you do not belong here.”
Leliel breathed out and nodded, setting her cup down.
“We look the same but… I’m not a city elf. I’m not Dalish.”
“You say that as though this were a shortcoming of yours.”
Her bashful expression tugged on his heart.
“You cannot be blamed for being torn from your family as a child and raised up in that tower.”
“But you feel guilty all the same.”
“I wish sometimes that-” She stopped and sighed, shaking her head. “It doesn’t matter.”
Zevran watched her pull the pin out of her hair, allowing it to cascade over her shoulders before she began the attempt at winding it back up.
“Amor. If I may…”
Leliel paused, watching him stand and approach her. He held out his hand and she gave him the pin which he pocketed. He ran his fingers through her hair, enjoying the way she sighed.
“My mother was Dalish,” he began. “But you know this.”
“Mhm. And you’re Antivan.”
He didn’t have to look to see that she was smirking.
“I’ve never found myself to have anything in common with the Dalish or the elves of the alienages besides our ears.” He chuckled. “I admire what you do for them, mi amor.”
“It’s not enough,” she murmured.
He noticed the way she tensed and said nothing, choosing instead to use her pin to evenly part her hair down the middle. He twisted one half into a bun before beginning to braid the other.
“Do you know the Antivan word for braid, amor?” he asked.
“No. What is it?”
He playfully tugged on her hair and she giggled.
“Perfect on the first try!”
“Shut up, Zevran,” Leliel said with a laugh.
“Yes, yes. La trenza. One of the very few memories I have of my mother is of her braiding my hair. The other women liked to do the same, and they would tell me stories or sing a song. As if they could leave their memories in every trenza they wove.”
“That’s… that’s very sweet.”
“Trenzas are as simple or as intricate as you wish them to be. You remember the warriors we met amongst the Dalish, who braided their hair as the elders wove their stories by the fire? ”
“And here, the elves do the same, even if they believe themselves so far removed from the Dalish.”
Zevran had to step back to reach the end of her braid before securing it with a leather cord. He moved on to the second one as Leliel brought the finished braid over her shoulder and began to play with the end of it.
“When you are raised as I am, as you were, being told who we are does not always agree with what we see in the mirror.”
“No… it doesn’t.” Her voice was quiet.
“But then I would braid my hair and remember my mother… remember the others who looked like us and think that perhaps we were not so different after all.”
Zevran reached the end of the braid and began to tie it.
“Mi amor?” Leliel asked softly.
“I used to wish that I had somewhere to call home… somewhere I belonged.”
He gently placed the braid over her shoulder and watched her turn in her seat to face him. Leliel was blushing, her grey eyes so bright with hope he felt his chest tighten.
“But then I met you and… I belong with you, wherever you are. You’re my home, Zevran.”
He held out his hand to her and helped her to her feet, pulling her into his arms. There were tears in his eyes, tears that she got on her tip toes to kiss as they fell.
“I love you,” she said and kissed him, Zevran bringing his arms around her and holding her close.
“I may be Antivan,” he said with a smile, “But I am yours.”
Leliel laughed. “Oh gods, Zevran.”
“Not how I expected to hear you saying that today, but I’ll take it.”
“You’re terrible,” she managed to say between laughs and brought her arms around his neck. “And I love you for it.”
Perhaps, they may never belong amongst other elves, but he knew that as long as he was with her, he was home. And that was more than he had ever dared hope for.