Just once, they'd made love before even saying hello. It had been an unrepeatably happy accident.
Out on the border, Vanyel pared down to as little of himself as he needed to survive. By the time he headed home, he had lost any appreciation for Valdemar's regions of bounty or of wild, striking beauty. He had battlefield eyes. His surroundings were only of interest insofar as he could read the magical traces of his targets - he found them, he casted, he killed. The stars above lost all their divine properties, gave him only direction. He had a minute grasp on his magical reserves, the state of his shields, the reach of his blade. He'd not tasted the food he'd eaten in months, and there hadn't been much of it. He had perfect awareness of the position of his body in space, but could feel little of anything inside of it. Missing emotions sometimes reappeared with stinging force at the sight of a thumbprint-sealed letter; they were rarely sufficient to craft a reply. Even when there was paper and ink. Which often there wasn't.
The truth was, there wasn't much of him left when he set out to ride the last hours to home. As so often, once he passed through the gates of Haven, his mind turned hazy. The riot of voices, scents, colours agglomerated into the sense that he was safe; no danger signals, blessedly nothing that needed his attention. He noticed nothing inside the city walls.
It was high summer, and he felt as if he creaked like some insect, the road sticking to him like a carapace. Vanyel visited his room only to snatch a robe before drawing a bath. And the steam and the salts and much missed comforts drew him deeper into that haze, but he clung to one imperative; he mustn't fall asleep. Not where he might be found. He was too tired and hurt to be near anyone. A clamouring part of him longed to see Stef, but such thoughts had become easier to ignore than to indulge.
So he dragged himself from his bath, sore and exhausted but blessedly clean, and followed his own feet to a safe nest, to home, to somewhere he knew he'd find peace and comfort.
Even stumbling up the stairs, nothing about his path had struck him as wrong. All he needed was a familiar bed and some warm blankets, and a few hours of quiet.
While he rested, that inner clamourer seemed to haunt him through dreams. He was trapped in a theatre, sensing Stef somewhere beyond the curtain - and he stepped to the stage only to be caught up in the drama, of Windrider and Sunsinger, and he tried to argue them out of their worst errors, only becoming more entangled every time he tried to leave them be.
It was silence, the dissolution of all the songs and stories in his mind, that awakened him. He opened his eyes and saw Stefen's ceiling illuminated by the last light of evening. His legs were tangled in Stefen's blankets. Stef lay beside him. Fully dressed, curled on his side and staring straight at Vanyel's face, so close that his relief and longing were brighter than the sky.
Their whole situation unfurled in his mind as if it were some battle that Vanyel had happened upon and he wanted to laugh at himself, at his perfect inner compass. What must Stef have thought? To wait every day for news of his return, then to come home, perhaps to slip off his shoes and settle at his writing-desk, and to rise only to get his warm socks, or some essential book, and find his long absent lover in his bed? Or had he known as soon as he walked through the door? Perhaps he had not been alone - had he returned with a friend at his side, sharing a song or some chatter only to somehow discover, mid-conversation, that Vanyel was asleep in his bed?
(He later learned that Stef had returned from Court early and distracted, and then worked furiously at a new song for about a candlemark before noticing Vanyel's slippers under his settee. He had already known, but took his certainty that Van was in his presence as a mad and divine inspiration, throes of a lovesong that was singing itself into being).
In Vanyel's blinkered, mechanical mind he instantly knew his resources, his capabilities, and he recognised his opposite. If his mind was at war, Stef's was on stage, poised between two roles with which Vanyel was well familiar; his most steadfast friend, and his passionate and voracious lover. Stef would play either. He would play both. And their savant player had dreamed his dearest wish into being, knew himself a god astep this temporary stage of sunset and linen sheets. For how many hours had Stef watched, and sang, and watched? Subject in his world, Van marvelled at him, missed him, adored and craved him.
These possibilities coiled within a body that remembered only how to attack.
Vanyel seized a kiss, kicking a leg free to fling across Stefen's body. Stef gasped into him, and his lips yielded in welcome. He knew what to be, now, and Van felt that resolution as his fingers hunted out weaknesses, gaps in Stef's clothes. Ways to make him more vulnerable. Van did not touch his mere friend. All of Stef's dramatic tension dissolved into sex and the heat of his tongue was fit to melt Vanyel from the inside, so gently and giving way beneath him like a perfect ambush.
Vanyel pressed his hands hard against Stef's shoulders, rolling him under his body, and he opened his lover's shirt-laces with vicious efficiency. He dipped his head to Stef's collarbone and tasted him, felt the warm hunger in his skin. He needed this closeness. He had killed the last three humans he'd been this close to. He desperately needed to be different, to be more. His own erection was pressed against Stef's thigh, and even knowing, so perfectly in this warrior's body, his own reach and feel and intent, his own arousal shocked him. Months since it had been more than ugly pointless cravings, dreams that became nightmares. I need you.
He let Stef wriggle out of his clothing and pull Van back into his arms. Clinging, tracing hands over his ribs - looking for damage. His touch a reminder that humans could touch to heal, to make whole, and Van's body arched into him, stretched thin from what he was, what he could be. Make me yours again. Make me your lover, your plaything. Take me again. Stef was hard against him, and he reached down Van's body to touch - fingers running down Van's cock, over his balls, lower, reaching, reminding and testing. Please fuck me. He nipped hungrily at Stef's shoulder, and he gripped Stef's wrist tight between his thighs.
Stef leaned away from him, and the sight of him - his skin flushed, his cock swollen hard and his green eyes shining with joy, and purpose, and desire - made Van want to devour him, and he sprang close again and wrapped his lips around one flushed nipple. He felt Stef's moan. That voice had guided him through dreams. He belonged to it and there he was tearing it from Stefen with the tips of his teeth. He slipped down Stef's body, wrapped a hand tight around his cock as he took the head in his lips. Oh gods, but he'd missed feeling this. The slip of Stef's foreskin, the warmth of his length as Van's mouth descended over him. But mostly the sheer freedom of wanting something and doing exactly what he wanted to do, and to hells if it was wanton - I am wanton for you - and every filthy thing I shouldn't be - and gods, but with his lips and his tongue working up, down again, deep again, up to sweep Stef's head with his tonguetip, down til it brushed the back of his mouth - he felt close to human again.
Stef's hands curled in Van's hair and for a moment, Van fought him, keeping his lips drawn tight around Stef's cock. Resisting was a game, their game, because Stef would deny him nothing and Van would do whatever Stef demanded. He released Stef with his lips, and Stef turned, reached over to his nightstand without taking his piercing eyes off Vanyel's face, Oh gods, please.
At but a glance from Stefen he turned obediently on his back. Half his instincts rebelled at being so vulnerable, at feeling Stef's rough fingers slip inside him, oiled and twisting. The other half were awakened as if from the dead, and they staggered newborn and drunk to find his body wanted as something other than a gods damned weapon. And gods, why was Stef so careful? Van knew he didn't want to be. And you know I've enough of the Healing Gift that you won't break me. But he was tired, his Gifts were all tired, and the gentle shift of Stef's hand wasn't so unwelcome.
Stef held his eyes again, and Van knew that all he wanted was honesty. I may be only half human right now. I know I'm not usually capable of being so forward when I haven't seen you in months. But stars, I've missed being more than this.
Stef made sure Vanyel was watching as he slowly oiled up his cock, because Stef liked nothing more than to have his attention. He lined himself up when he was good and ready, and as he slid slowly into Vanyel's body his hands gripped Van's hips tight enough to bruise. Soon enough, Stef reached that place inside of him, and he cried out because he remembered he could cry out with pleasure.
Stef began to move in him, a steady rhythm that carried Vanyel from its peak to its trough and back again. He felt numbed emotions reviving, feelings of being vulnerable and loved and fundamentally not alone in his body, not defined perfectly or even at all, belonging elsewhere, with no edge to any part of him. There was only so in control he could feel with a cock inside of him and moving and using him for its own delighted pleasure, and to willingly give himself - to Stef, in love and because I want to - was to be someone far other than who he had been only hours ago. And he wanted it. He was so near to the edge of wanting it, every stroke carrying him higher. His body arched, and he reached for his own cock - only for Stef to bat his hand away. Oh gods, but he wouldn't resist that. He took one last, low-lidded look at Stefen thrusting into him and he closed his eyes, feeling every movement carry him nearer to a place he'd near forgotten was real. And he wasn't alone there. He knew Stef's closeness, how they belonged together. What was obscene was only how far away from himself he'd been gone. Stef leaned close against him, straining, Van's cock trapped between them and incensed by even the light touch of skin. So close, so near. Stef's head dipped against his as he moved, and for one still moment their lips met again.
Van's head slipped back and he curled against Stef, his legs wrapping hard around Stef's hips. He felt Stef's pleasure building - easier to feel than his own, but it was there in every inch of him, weary places and forgotten places, coming back together in Stef's arms. Tightening around Stef's cock. Being fucked without so much as a hello - oh he'd slept through hours of greetings, he knew, but he indulged the thought - Stef's hunger through his skin, needing his body, wanting him - wanting more than he knew he could be - and he came hard and tight against his lover. It jolted all through him, and he heard himself cry out, felt his spent seed against Stef's skin, and then Stef was there too, deep in him, a moan torn from his throat by Van's own shaking. "Oh great gods," Stef whispered, and he rolled onto his back, his head resting on Van's arm.
Van ached, inside and out. If he'd had time to think about it, he wouldn't have dared - which described several of his deeds these last months. Other people called it bravery. It was only knowing he hadn't time to think. And Stef understood that machinery, honoured the unexpected gift before anything more complicated could get in its way.
Stef turned, and pressed his face against Vanyel's chest. Van could feel his lover's eyelashes damp against his ribs. Stef was never ashamed to cry - that might be the loveliest and strongest thing about him. His love and hope ran gentle over Vanyel's desiccated feelings. Stef always told him that sex wouldn't be the answer to their troubles - it could only be shared for its own joyful sake - but still he hoped, with all the immeasurable might that had sung Vanyel into being here, in his lover's bed.
"We have tonight," Stef whispered, as if their thoughts had mingled through their skin. "We have tonight. Hello," and he looked up at Van and smiled, more bright than the moon.