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Jun 05, 2020 9:40 AM
Bruce Banner as Vanyel, from end of book 1 of "A Song for Two Voices"
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Savil follows. And follows him into the ground-floor room where he sleeps. She sits him down on the side of the bed with a little push, and feels his forehead. "...Are you feeling well, ke'chara? That was - you were really off your game tonight." 

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"I'm not--sick or anything. Just didn't sleep enough. Did it to myself. Sorry for being incompetent and pretending I wasn't." He wishes she would go away and let him sleep but he absolutely deserves to get an earful first.

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"Hey. I'm not here to yell at you, all right? That - could've gone better, but no damage was done. You're still learning your limits. And now's not the time to debrief, I can barely stay awake either. Get some rest, all right? We'll talk tonight or tomorrow." 

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It takes him a bit to figure out what she's likely to mean by "today or tomorrow" and he's still not sure he's got it right but he cannot put any more effort into figuring it out. "Okay. Thanks for--being good enough that everyone ended up okay." 

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Savil leans in and hugs him, briefly stroking his hair, and then gets up and leaves. 

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Then he will fall immediately back asleep. And since he has no sleep schedule to speak of and is not at all looking forward to having that conversation, he'll just . . . stay asleep. Whenever he starts waking up and would normally consider getting out of bed, he remembers what happened and rolls over and falls back asleep, and if left to his own devices he'll just keep doing that until he physically can't sleep anymore. That would probably take about 12 hours.

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Which will bring him to that evening. It’s already dark and has been for a while; the days are still short this soon after Midwinter, even though the Vale is in permanent summer.

Yfandes hovers nearby; Abras can feel her mind, receptive, not intruding by saying anything but right there whenever he wants to speak to her.

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The last hour or so of his sleep is fitful, full of dreams where Tylendel's been abducted and Abras can't help him, or where Abras has been abducted and a voice is telling him he could escape if only he could use magic. Waking all the way up and realizing he's wasted the day doesn't do anything for his mood. He lies there in silence for a while until he gives up on that as a means of improving anything.

 :Hello, Yfandes.: Whatever she wants to say to him, he might as well get it over with.

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:Want to come out here and snuggle while you have something to eat?: She sends a powerful waft of love and reassurance along with the words.

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He . . . does kind of need to eat. And use the privy. Not in that order. :Alright.: He joins her a few minutes later.

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Food and water have appeared on one of the tree-stump tables. Yfandes curls up next to him and doesn’t say anything until he’s had a bit to eat and drink. 

:How are you feeling?: she sends finally. :Tell me what’s on your mind?: Her mindvoice is gentle, without a hint of reprimand in it.

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Of course she's gentle. She always is. Hells, she's magically destined to love him, of course she's being nice about him sending her into a fight without his help. 

What he says is, :I'm sorry about last night. I . . .: Anything he could say would sound like an excuse. :I'm glad you weren't hurt.:

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:So am I: She settles her head in his lap, looks up at him. :We’re - going to have to talk about what happened last night, Chosen, but...: She breathes out a sigh. :I’m not angry. I’m - worried, and I do feel guilty that I didn’t notice how close you were running to your limits. It makes me nervous how neither of us noticed until, er, a particularly badly-timed moment. But, I love you and I’m here with you no matter what:

She’s silent for a few beats.

:Do you think you’re ready for that conversation with Savil?: 

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He's. Kind of really not, actually. :Can I maybe have that conversation with you first?:

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:Of course: Nuzzle. :So, can you talk me through what you think went wrong last night?:

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:I'm bad at doing things when I'm tired. I tried to pretend I was more capable than I actually was. I used up all my reserves fooling around and didn't save enough for emergencies. And I'm useless in a fight without magic. And I probably messed up some other ways I'm still missing.:

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Yfandes is silent for a bit, absorbing his words. 

:I’m not going to say any of that is false: she sends finally. :All those things did happen. Just - I think there’s an underlying reason, and it’s not that you’re useless and terrible. I really wish you would stop thinking that, but I know telling you that won’t change it: 

She nuzzles him while she thinks some more. 

:...I think we all misjudged how well you were coping: she sends finally. :You, me, Savil, Moondance - I think maybe you’ve been putting up a front, to everyone including yourself, that things are a lot more fine than they really are. But an awful thing happened to you, and you’re hurting, and I think you were trying to...outrun that. Not leave any room for the grief and pain you’re feeling. Does that seem true to you, Chosen?:

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:Yeah. Putting up a front sounds about right.: He somehow managed to convince everyone that he was functional, was the sort of person they could rely on, and now they know he isn't. And that's for the best, he shouldn't want to deceive anyone, but he had sort of been hoping that if he pretended long enough it would become the truth, and, no.

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Yfandes senses the overtones and the edges of thoughts behind the words. :Abras, no - it's not - I didn't–: She pushes affection through the bond while she thinks. :You're not - this isn't about your fundamental nature as a person, all right? I'm not disappointed in you, that's completely not the feeling I'm having. And - even it if was, that wouldn't mean you were - inherently useless? The work you did was real. You've saved a lot of lives, starting with that family about to get eaten by a colddrake. Last night didn't go perfectly, but it was still your Farsight that let Savil plan a rescue where the mage didn't have time to murder one or both of them:

She pauses, trying to frame exactly the right words. :Just - none of that was fake? And you can't pretend to be competent, that's not how it works – if you did those things, then you're the sort of person who can do those things, that's a tautology: 

Nuzzle. :Ultimately, you're very new to all this, you've had your mage-gift for less than three months, and - we let our expectations get ahead of the reality. A lot of that is on Savil and I. Some of it was your mistake, pushing yourself too hard, not accurately assessing your own fatigue and communicating it to us. And, yes, staying up too late practicing and spending down your reserves, but no one told you not to? You're a trainee, you're supposed to practice: 

She stops, thinks, then just looks up at him. :I love you. We'll figure it out from here, I promise: 

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:I love you too,: he answers, because that at least is unambiguous truth. Everything else is more complicated.

"I'm not disappointed in you" and "we let our expectations get ahead of the reality" don't really seem to add up. It's clear that Yfandes loves him, and thinks he has . . . value or potential or something, but that doesn't actually make him less disappointed in himself. If anything, knowing how much she wants him to succeed and be happy is its own source of pain. And underneath all of it is the constant awareness that nothing he can do will fix the fundamental wrongness in his life that is not having Tylendel in it. No amount of achievement will get him the one thing he really wants. He can distract himself, make himself--not forget, exactly, but have other thoughts on top of it, but he can't actually make things not be broken. 

:I want to figure this out. But I don't even know what that would mean.:

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:...Neither do I: Yfandes admits. :You're the first person we know of to survive a broken lifebond. It - shouldn't be surprising, that you feel like the world is broken, because for you it is. And we don't know whether it's going to hurt less with time, how you'll feel in a year, or ten. I think it'll get easier. But I can't promise that: 

She curls up closer to him; she's enough in his mind that he can feel her uncertainty and confusion as she tries to sort through his feelings, her own feelings, and find words. 

:I just - want you to recognize where the problem actually is: she sends finally. :You're hurting because Tylendel is dead. Not because you're worthless or a disappointment to everyone. What you're feeling right now, love – I don't think it's actually about the mission last night. If it was, you'd have an easier time recognizing that 'disappointment' is an emotion I could feel toward you and don't, and 'misplaced expectations' are a mistake that made, not you: 

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:I still think you expecting too much of me is the same as me not being as good as you expected. But I agree that the worst thing is . . . the thing you said. He runs his fingers through her mane. :I just don't know where to go from there. It's like I've forgotten, not "what matters", but how to react to things mattering.:

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:That sounds hard. I'm sorry, love: Another deep horse-sigh. :I think - this might be something that happens to someone when they really wear themselves out? It's not just your body or your reserves that are depleted, but your...you. You need to give yourself some space to recover without it feeling like a failure or punishment: 

She snuffles at his shirt. :But, we ought to speak with Savil – tomorrow, if tonight feels too hard, but soon. And, hmm, Moondance might be a good person to talk to? I bet he'll understand how you're feeling right now, better than I do: 

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Oh gods, more conversations. But it's still probably a good idea. :I know I need to talk to Savil. But I want to wait until tomorrow. And, um. Can you be there when I do?:

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:Of course! I was planning to. Abras, I'm there for anything you need, anytime. I promise. Even if I can't be in the room, I can be in your mind: 

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