Shaun Gilmore is dying, he knows it by the smell of smoke and charred flesh smothering him. This wasn’t how he imagined it. He feels feverish, beads of sweat trailing down his torn body. This wasn’t the comforting heat of home back in Marquet. His mother’s and father’s cooking. His magic thrumming in the palm of his hand. No, this was suffocating.
He can feel him, he ponders foggily, those hands of his anxiously stroking his neck. He can hear him too, those sweet whispered words reaching his ears. How fitting this is what his brain would conjure. His last moments in the comforting embrace of the man he loves.
Inky black tresses cascading over pointed ears, illuminating his pale complexion. He was the night sky, Shaun thinks hazily. Sweet Vax’ildan, his moon, and stars.
A new warmth suddenly fills his chest, calm and freeing. He’s floating instead of drowning. The blood that was once thumping in his head, accompanied with pain and fire and death, is different now. He considers it for a moment. It’s now a comfortable thrumming, filled with softness and love and Vax’ildan.
“Hey. Hey,” Vax murmurs, his hands hesitantly caressing Shaun’s hair. I love you Shaun hears.
The beat of silence that follows seems painfully long before a tired groan escapes Shaun’s blood-soaked lips. Shaun lets his head loll back, subtly seeking the comforting gestures Vax’ildan is offering. Shaun was not a selfish man, but he wasn’t going to turn down such comforts. Real or not. He can’t help the instinctual grin that spreads across his face at the familiar sight of Vax’s. He resists the urge to return the favour and run his fingers through Vax’ildan’s own. It wasn’t his right. You weren’t supposed to reach for these types of stars.
He clings to his arm instead, fingers trembling as he tilts his head up further. Vax’s furrowed brow and weary expression transform into an achingly painful smile. Shaun stares longingly, entranced by his grey eyes. They were the ashes after the fire. After the pain, there was Vax, soft and looking back at him. He blinks back the tears that threaten to overflow.
“Well,” Shaun pauses savouring Vax’s gentleness, “It's always what I assumed I'd see in my last moments,” he finishes with a hoarse chuckle. This was enough for him.
“Bad day, huh?” Vax chokes out, grin curling up the corner of his face.
“Ah, strangely enough, I'm pretty sure I've had worse,” Shaun replies absently.
“No offense, darling, but you look like shit,” a feminine voice rings out.
Reluctantly, Shaun turns his gaze away from Vax’ildan, instead meeting his sisters’ face. It’s then he notices that they’re all here, all Vox Machina crowded around him. A choked off laugh sounds from his lips as he attempts to gather himself. Please don’t let them be dead too, Shaun thinks.
“We can't have that, can we?” He gestures his hand stiffly, arcane whirling and sputtering in his palm. The pain that wracks his body is immediate and Shaun flinches, another violent cough escaping with it.
“Gilmore no,” Vex’ahlia pleads. He can’t take it; he has to look away from their worried expressions.
“Give it time,” Vax begs, pulling Shaun closer in his arms. He can’t help but melt into the soothing embrace. Eyes never leaving Vax’s, he allows himself to linger a while longer in this fantasy.
“You need to rest.” Keyleth chimes in anxiously. He breathes in deeply for a while, enjoying the moment of peace.
“So…either we're all dead or we're all alive,” Shaun falters, “I'd like an answer.” He jokes with a high-pitched, hollow laugh that sounds wrong in his mouth. His heart flutters in his chest as he tensely looks at the group.
“Alive,” Vex grinned.
Here in Vax’s arms, he decided. This was enough for now.