What is Mine
~ Ten ~


He could feel his strength begin to ebb. Still, some instinct deep inside him would not allow him to surrender to his body's frailty. Or perhaps it was pure arrogance that drove him. Or it was his unwavering belief that the very basic thing that made him who he was would always triumph.

He marshaled his strength and made one last Herculean effort to break free of the smothering darkness. With excruciating deliberation, he managed to open his eyelids. They felt unnaturally heavy and strangely resistant to his commands.

“Welcome back among us.”

The male voice from somewhere off to his left drew Stefan from the haze in which he wandered. He slowly angled his head that direction. Stefan blinked several times, bringing a face into focus.

The man was dark of hair and eye. His aquiline features held a sense of wealth and privilege that Stefan easily recognized from experience. He opened his mouth to speak, but merely coughed weakly.

At the other man's curt gesture, a servant hastened to gently place tiny ice chips upon Stefan's tongue. “Arise, Lazarus,” the now familiar voice intoned.

“Surely…” Stefan rasped with difficulty, “you do not… delude yourself… that you hold the power of life… and death?”

The weak attempt at humor was met with silence as the irony of Stefan's words struck the other man. “You have always believed I was indeed that arrogant,” he replied into the silence. “Just as I have believed all this time that you were too arrogant to succumb to death.”

“All this time?”

“You have been here, comatose, for six months. I engaged around the clock medical personnel to see to your every need. Physical therapists have exercised your muscles every two hours without fail. Nutritionists have seen to the care of your body.” He shrugged. “I knew that you would recover.”

Stefan's gaze flicked weakly over at the servant standing near the foot of the bed. Without prompting, the young woman backed from the room, leaving the two men in privacy.

“And what of my family?” Stefan asked. The words were uttered so softly that they could have been mistaken for thoughts.

Dimitri Marrick – Count Andrasy – did not flinch as he met his friend's gaze. “They did not survive,” he replied, confirming what Stefan already feared.