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Everything (The Recovery Remix)

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Vanyel knew intellectually he was sitting safely in the warmth of a pool. He knew that Yfandes was a thought away, and Stefen close enough that he could easily go and find his love. But the warmth of the water felt far away, and Vanyel couldn’t help thinking of another time, a time of ice in his veins so thick it had become its own land inside of him.

Shame coursed through him for being so close to that memory and that fear. He knew that Stefen would be able to calm him if he was close enough, but he felt stuck in place, like he wouldn’t be able to coordinate getting to his quarters in his current state.

:Chosen?: Gentle and firm. Yfandes was showing him that she felt his distress and would be there with him through it. Intending to assist in any way that she could.

:It’s cold, ‘Fandes. I thought I left this behind. Stefen is going to be so-- He won’t want--:

:No, Vanyel. You know Stefen. You know he begrudges you nothing, and all he wants for you is peace. He’s defied the odds more than once to bring that to you. Do not fear him, or his reaction. It won’t stop the cold. Be here with me now and we’ll ride it out together.:

:It’s been so long. I didn’t know that I still felt this way.:

:And I would say with certainty, my dear one, that most of the time you do not at all. Your memories of that time are fewer and fewer, farther and farther apart. Don’t judge yourself because you’re in pain right now.:

:’Fandes, I need--: Vanyel felt as if even the thought went nowhere, as if words were stuck in his throat. He was rarely at a loss for what to say to his Companion, but he was so close to frozen.

:Remember the warmth, Vanyel. Focus on where you are right now.:

He imagined her tucking her body around him as she had in the early days, teaching him that he was wanted. As a Herald-Mage and as her own.

There was a distant voice--maybe more than one--asking him if he would be joining the others tonight, but Vanyel couldn’t concentrate on who it was or where the question was coming from. He could barely concentrate on maintaining his awareness of the connection to Yfandes.

:If he hadn’t come for me, ‘Fandes, I would have-- I’d be dead now.:

:Perhaps,: she allowed, and it was one of her most frank admissions of the seriousness of Vanyel’s circumstances then. :And yet he did, and we are able to remain together. We’re together now. Breathe, Chosen.:

:So cold.:

:You are in the warmth of the spring. You have my essence around you. Soon, when you have come back to yourself a bit, Stefen will be able to warm you. See him in front of you. Know he would do this for you.:

She was right. He did know Stefen would.

The stuck feeling evaporated slowly, as Vanyel’s anxiety began to ease. He kept an image of Yfandes and one of Stefen in the front of his mind and he gingerly climbed from the pool, feeling immense heat against his cold legs.

Slowly he put one foot in front of the other. He still struggled to move, but he imagined that the whole way back to his quarters Yfandes braced his body.

At the threshold of their quarters he stumbled, and Stefen saw him, rising to catch him. Vanyel knew from his dim awareness of Stefen’s expression that he knew Vanyel was cold to the bone, and he recognized what the cold meant.

“Oh, Van. I’m right here, ashke. I have you.”

Vanyel kept moving, stiffly. He tried not to pull back from Stefen, even though today he wasn't sure how he felt about the term of endearment he knew so well.

Stefen registered Vanyel's discomfort. "Too much right now?"

"No. I don't know. I can't--"

Vanyel winced, as he felt the words almost get stuck in his throat again.

“I’m sorry, Stef.”

“There’s no need.”

“I don't even know why this is happening and-- You always-- know what to do. Stefen, I--”

And then, before Vanyel could say any more, the tears came.

Vanyel took a shuddering breath and tried to push through them. "I can't get out of the cold."

Then, just like he did so many times recently and without a word, Stefen draped himself over his beloved to calm the rest of Vanyel’s pain.

Vanyel settled against him as if all of the fight suddenly went out of him and Stefen cradled him where he stood. Vanyel knew he was trying to give Vanyel the fullest sensation of being held, even where Stefen couldn’t reach.

“That’s right. Ease into it, love. We’ll get you warm.”

* * *

The warmth was in Stefen's arms. That night, they were completely focused on each other. Vanyel's spirit settled as he rested in Stefen's embrace. When calm descended at last, he slept a gentle sleep he never expected to find that night, but he knew the feeling well from the times he could spend recovering in Stefen's presence. When he woke, it was still long before dawn.

A sense of peace had finally returned to Vanyel. He recognized the renewed sense (so often renewed) that he owed Stefen his life--that Stefen had given his life back to him. He would give anything--he would--

He looked over his lover’s form and noticed so many things as if seeing them for the first time. The gentle shape of Stefen's body and also every bit of tension held within.

Vanyel realized he could finally do something about all of that. He was himself again and the relief was heady.

A different kind of heat spread through him.This time the intensity he felt was so comfortable and familiar. A sensation he welcomed. He leaned down over Stefen’s body and Stef woke in seconds, as if he had been waiting for the slightest change. Emotion filled Stefan's gaze as he took Vanyel in. There was longing there, tinged with emotional pain and a weariness that Van knew from the times Stefan used his Gift to help others who were in pain themselves.

Did Stefan think Van would--reject him? Tonight?

Vanyel felt rested, sure and ready now like he hadn’t felt in so long. He would not take this for granted. He would use every moment. He would give Stefen back anything he could. He hoped that Stefen knew. He hoped that all Stefen needed to know was clear on Van's face, and in the lines of his body, and how he moved over Stefen now.

“Thank you,” Vanyel said. "For today. For every day." He wanted to say more--how he was so often overcome, but Stefen never thought less of him. How Stefen always took it all in stride. But now he could see the need plain on Stefen’s face, and the starkness there took Vanyel out of his thoughts, leaving him aching for his lover. There was no denying Stefen's own pain.

He would not add any more misery for Stefen, even with his heart thudding in his chest.

His first instinct was that he needed to apologize to Stefen, but he wouldn't let himself be that indulgent; he couldn't. Doing so would only force Stefen to tell him everything was all right, making Stefen focus on Vanyel's needs. And things obviously weren't settled yet.

Stefen needed him now. Finally, Vanyel realized, he could see that plainly. Stefen had needed him for some time already.

"I'm here. I'm really here, I promise," Vanyel said, and the emotion on Stefen's face was only heightened at the words. "Let me show you."

Vanyel leaned down, turning so he could take Stefen in his arms and feeling Stefen melt into his embrace. He kissed Stefen fervently, relishing the way that Stefen kissed him back, as if he was ready for anything. As if nothing about Vanyel's condition had changed a thing, and Stefen needed him this much.

They kissed and kissed, sharing breaths and touching, holding on to each other everywhere they could reach. When their lips parted again he settled Stefen among the blankets, comfortably on his back and leaned down further, placing soft kisses in a long line down his younger lover's body. Determined, now that he had reached his place of calm, to repay the beauty and peace Stefen had given to him.

He matched Stefen's rhythm with ease, finally sinking into the feeling of being with Stefen--really being with him; fully engaged in every moment.

He would do anything, give Stefen all that he needed to make sure that his lover was secure in how very real this was. How much Vanyel saw him and all Stefen gave. How Vanyel planned to give so much back in return.

He would memorize every inch of Stefen’s skin. He would take Stefen’s urgent sounds inside of his own mouth and taste them, keeping them there to stay. He would relish the way Stefen quivered now underneath his touch. Knowing that Stefen was everything to him, the one person left on this earth who could always help Vanyel come back to himself.