Vanyel lifts his head from that comforting embrace, has cried himself out, and finds the Shadow-Lover's head bowed over his; his lips touch Vanyel's. The longing that sinks into him is so deep and shaking that he realizes he hasn't felt it since the last time 'Lendel was alive; since he was kissing someone he was lifebonded to.
The thought is sobering, but the feeling is undeniable; he kisses back, sliding fingers into those thick curls, closing his eyes to the brilliant, depthless eyes looking into his. It feels almost impossible to resist. He thinks, with some amusement, that it's, perhaps, how things must be with this particular Power.
The kiss breaks, and Death strokes his cheek again, gentle. "Beloved," Death murmurs to him, and there's a slight tremble to his voice. "My heart aches for you."
Even as he says it, Vanyel knows it's true. Death wouldn't lie. Just that nearly starts the tears all over again. That Death hurts for him, sympathizes...
But it makes sense, just like the strange sensation of being lifebonded does.
For twelve years, he's belonged to death but has been living regardless. His other half died and he himself was saved from the brink of death over and over. Vanyel looks into those searing, gentle eyes, and thinks of the number of times the Shadow-Lover must have been holding a hand out to him, waiting. Observing the agony Vanyel went through to live, to keep living, to continue on despite it all. Thinks of those times, when he was younger, when he felt like there was no hope in life. Now, there's hope again. Friends, family, his Companion, people who rely on him, things to live for and the desire to live up to all of that. But under all that, the emptiness of loss still, the loneliness.
Perhaps he's never been alone. Death has always been at his side.
"Should I have made a different choice?" Vanyel whispers to him.
Death shakes his head slowly, smiling softly, hair swaying around his shadowed face. "The choices you make are who you are," he says.
Vanyel kisses him again, and Death meets him eagerly. It takes a strange sort of courage to start to undo the fastenings to Death's Heraldic whites, to spread hands against a perfectly unmarked chest, but the Shadow-Lover doesn't rebuff him. Instead, he's met with a brilliantly bright smile, relieved and pleased, as though Death himself had been longing for Vanyel and only holding himself back because Vanyel hasn't wanted him.
Vanyel thinks of the life he's lived and thinks it must be true.
They kiss again, and Vanyel pulls at Death's arms, his hands, helps Death embrace him; moves up against him demandingly until Death laughs and lays him back. He hasn't felt so relaxed, so comfortable, since 'Lendel; the weight and warmth of Death on top of him feels like coming home, like finally finding his equilibrium after all these years.
"I love you," Vanyel whispers to Death, and Death's incandescent eyes gaze at him with a sense of what really looks like awe. It's a humbling thought, that Death might be awed by his love. Loving Death has been the simplest thing to him.
(But perhaps most people's love for Death isn't so intense, so devoted, so forbidden, so star-crossed, he thinks. Maybe it tends to be less healthy—not that he can truly think of this as healthy; he's not sure he's ever had a good image of that. But he wants Death's happiness more than he wants an end to his own suffering, and wants Death's understanding more than that.)
"I love you too," Death says, and cups his cheek.
They make love there, close, kissing throughout. Vanyel holds Death to him like a lifeline, relaxed under him, opening to him, feeling Death inside him, Death on top of him, Death around him, feeling Death moving in him until he clutches Death tightly, desperately, reaching a sharp point of pleasure where nothing matters but this: him and Death and this feeling of being one—
And then he comes down from it, and is just Vanyel again, ready to keep trying. He doesn't know if Death came as well or not; can't feel that. But he can Feel Death's satiation. Death radiates relaxation and contentment, lying against him, stroking his cheek, kissing his neck. So he must have.
Vanyel rests on Death's shoulder, and prepares to live again.