A/N: Thanks to everyone who reviewed the first chapter! Comments are always welcome.
Solona climbed the stone steps to the entrance of the keep, the sodden hem of her robes gathered in her fists to prevent her from tripping. She had taken to wearing light armor in recent months, but today she found the familiarity of the old robes comforting. There was something about the leather armor that always reminded her of him – the remembered feel of it, smooth and cool over his strong shoulders, the faint rasping sound as her hands dragged across it…the smell. "If I only had a prostitute and some fish chowder," she murmured. The guard who had hurried to open the door for her fumbled in surprise, and she laughed softly.
By the time she arrived at her room, a trail of puddles left in her wake, she was shivering. After struggling out of her robes, she sank into a chair, dressed only in her smallclothes and too exhausted to search for something dry. She rested her elbows on the pile of correspondence that littered her desk, frowning as she noticed that it had grown larger since that morning. The ceaseless requests for aid and advice were more tiring and considerably less enjoyable than fighting darkspawn, and she frequently found herself missing the Blight. She had been raised in a stone tower; what did she know of solving squabbles among farmers? In a sudden fit of ire, she swept an arm across the desk, sending the letters cascading to the floor.
A knock came at her door, and she jumped to her feet, skidding a little on the wet floor, but the door was already swinging open. "Hey, Commander, I – Oh." Anders stopped short, grinning as he noticed her state of undress. "Am I interrupting something?" He raised his eyebrows suggestively as he closed the door behind him, and Solona rolled her eyes, moving to search for clean robes.
"Nothing fun," she said, pulling the dry garment over her head and collapsing onto her bed.
Anders picked his way through the damp sheets of vellum scattered across the floor and came to sprawl beside her. "I suppose those letters did something to deserve it," he said. "Insult your honor, maybe, or look at you funny? Forget to do the washing up after dinner?"
Solona turned to glare at him, but he was giving her his best look of wide-eyed innocence, and she ended up smothering a giggle. "I'm just so tired of all this," she admitted. "Arlessa. Really, how ridiculous is that? When I first got here, it was all fighting darkspawn and finding out who wanted to have me assassinated, and I knew how to deal with those things. Now I'm expected to figure out how to budget the money and settle everyone's disputes, and I just want to kill something, already."
Anders burst out laughing, and Solona shoved him halfheartedly. "You know what I mean."
"And I suppose it has nothing to do with the fact that it's storming outside?" Anders asked, gesturing to the window as a flash of lightning illuminated the misty grounds of the keep.
Solona looked at him in surprise, and he shrugged. "What? You might have managed to resist my devilish charm so far, but we're friends, and I notice things. You always get upset when it's raining, and you put on your old robes and mope around all day muttering weird things under your breath."
Solona covered her face in embarrassment. "Am I that obvious?"
"Only to keenly observant, rakishly handsome apostates."
"Right," Solona said. "I'll remember that, in case I meet any."
"Hey!" Anders protested. "You can't just insult me and expect to change the subject. I have ways of making you talk, you know." He wiggled his fingers at her threateningly, and she giggled when a few snowflakes drifted down to land on her nose. "Um. Right, maybe that would've been more effective with fire."
"You set my bed on fire and I'll have you shipped to Weisshaupt," Solona said, yawning.
"Come on," Anders whined. "Just tell me."
Solona sighed, realizing that he wasn't going to let the subject drop. She rolled onto her side to study him while she gathered her thoughts, and wished – not for the first time – that things could be different. He was handsome, and he could be charming when he wanted, and he always made her laugh. Seeing him stretched out on her bed, his long hair down for once and somehow looking perfectly mussed, should have had her blood boiling. The problem was, she had loved and been betrayed by two men in her life, and he reminded her too much of both of them.
Anders began to squirm under her scrutiny. "What? Do I have something on my face?"
"No," she said, forcing herself to return to the present. "It's nothing. I was just remembering another life. But it doesn't matter now. What's in the past should stay there, right?"
Zevran sat with his feet propped on a small table, his chair tilted precariously, as he stared at one of the more interestingly shaped stains on the ceiling. The room was not the worst he had stayed in – there was, at least, a reassuring lack of rodents sharing the space with him – but neither would he recommend it to visiting dignitaries. All in all, the perfect sort of place to remain unnoticed. He was well and truly drunk now, and the storm was tapering off – an excellent time to slip out into the night and see what adventures awaited him. He could find a woman, perhaps…one with long, soft hair and kind eyes, who stood just a little taller than him, so he would have to stand on his toes to meet her kiss….
He pushed away from the table, conflicted and irrationally angry, sending the chair crashing to the floor. He staggered to the chest in the corner, a bottle of wine still clutched in one hand, and threw open the lid. He sank to his knees, haphazardly tossing aside his meager belongings until he found what he was looking for. He could not say why he had kept the gloves for so long; they were the first gift he had ever received, yes, but he was not one to give in to such foolish sentimentality. They were merely useful, that was all. They were warm, and fit him well, and though they had been frozen, burned, and drenched in darkspawn blood, they were still in excellent condition. She had enchanted them somehow, preserving them for him…a thoughtful act on top of what was already a surprising kindness. He set aside the wine and pulled on a glove, then, after a moment's hesitation, raised his fingers to his cheek. He could almost imagine that he felt the magic, her magic, emanating from the glove and dancing across his skin. It had been a faint tingle, something that he might never have noticed if not for his training, his ability to perceive those small changes in the air that alerted him to the presence of danger. She would gather her power, whether to attack or heal or simply light a fire, and he would feel it prickle the back of his neck, making all of the tiny hairs stand on end and, invariably, arousing him greatly. And then, he thought bitterly, he would slink off to his tent, alone, with nothing but the memory of her deadly beauty to keep him company.
He climbed to his feet and peeled off the glove, tossing it back into the chest and slamming the lid, as though blocking it from view would also shut out his memories.