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lay me down in golden dandelions

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You were meant to be a light-bringer, you think. There is light in you, a burning, scorching light, but that is not what He wants. He wants darkness, wants you to shine so brightly you are consumed by the shadows. You never objected, never complained, just burned and burned until you felt empty. Anything to make Him happy, even when those around you begged for you to stop. You have devotion and loyalty and it's—hard to change who that belongs to. Even when you think you want to.

When you're young, you sat on your bed with your lantern in front of you. This was whenever He was asleep, of course. You never liked to see Him angry. But you were young and foolish, and there was something aching in you. Something that meant you were wrong, you were trapped, but you didn't know how. But you sat on your bed with your teeth still growing in, and you looked at your lantern. It was an odd thing, even then; white and square-shaped, with a handle that would fit only your hands. But it was bright, with a flame flickering inside of it, and you had to think—

This is my heart.

You never tell Him of that, though. There is a cold certainty sitting heavy in your chest that if He knew he would snuff it out. Even though you know it's impossible when you still have hope, when you still love. You love Him, you think. But you love other people and you know you do, and it isn't this all-consuming feeling, like you're drowning, like you can't breathe, like you're being crushed. It is a softer thing with the others, a gentle thing, and you sometimes hate the difference. You don't want to be hurting all the time.

You don't know other light-bringers. You know they exist, because they have always existed, because you can feel them, because they are a part of you but not. All light-bringers are part of a whole, a protector of the human race, but they are individuals as well. There is no hive mind like some believe; it only means that they know each other, know who each other are at a glance. It is not what He thinks, but you don't know how to explain it to a man who has always been alone in his mind, who hasn't ever felt that warmth from his heart from the other light-bringers. Light-bringers aren't human for all they play at being ones; you know this instinctively. But they are human nonetheless and it is a confusing existence, because they (you) are stuck in this limbo of having human flesh, of having a human mind, but not having a human heart.

His heart beats steady in his chest. Thump-thump-tha-thump. Your's is silent. What is the difference, you wonder more than once. You never find the answer, no matter how much time you think on it.

When you're sixteen, you meet a man with a lantern. His was made of metal and shaped like a ring and, oh, how it shined. He was your target, though, because he wanted another lantern. And it was—easy, to you, to take it. Your own is under lock and key and you rarely ever get to see it; you don't even know what shape it has now, if it has even changed after so many months (eight months, thirteen days, seven minutes, twenty-nine seconds and it hurts to go without it for so long) and so it was easy. It was not your heart but it was a heart so you held it tight and curled around it and almost wept.

In the end you didn't take it. You pushed it back at the other light-bringer and scrambled away because that was weakness, that was attachment, that was longing, and those were almost never allowed.

That was the first mission you failed. You fail every single one that involves other light-bringers. They are a part of you, even if you are alone, and you will never harm them. You get punished after the fact but this is a truth every light-bringer has; they will never harm each other.

There is a boy not long after that. He has golden hair and clever eyes and clever fingers and you hate him and he hates you. You love him, though, and you don't know how to say it. He is harsh but not like Him and he is so very smart. He says his name is Mikuni but you only hear beloved, darling, my heart. He makes you feel, makes you wish you had your heart just so you can give it to him. You love him, you love him, you love him, and you will never stop loving him.

With his clever fingers he makes you shake apart and cry out and with his lips he makes you feel alive. He hates you but he doesn't know what true hate is, and you know he loves you back. You know love, know loyalty, and he has that for you. You have it for him, too, and one day when you're both curled up in bed, him a warm and steady weight that holds you together, you tell him.

You tell him you are a light-bringer. You tell him you don't have your heart. You tell him that you don't know what to do because you love Him, you think, but you don't know anymore. He presses a kiss to your hair and doesn't say anything but you feel so, so safe. It's ridiculous, because you are stronger than him, stronger than he will ever be, but you feel as though nothing can ever hurt you when he has his arms around you like this.

The next day, he leaves. He never comes back. It hurts, but then you realize your heart isn't nearby. He took it and ran and you laugh until you cry, until you're screaming, because he took your heart but not you. All anyone wants is your heart and not you, never you, and without him to keep the shattered shards of you together, you break. You are a light-bringer without your lantern, without your heart, your light, and without it you are worthless.

You only want your heart. It has been so long since you've held it, since you had that comforting warmth between your hands. You know the fire is still burning. You would be dead otherwise. You know the fire is still burning but you wish it didn't. It will always burn as long as you have hope, have love, but you don't know if you have hope anymore. You used to but it's gone. Dissipated. Died the moment he left with your heart.

And yet you still love. And yet you still love.

Then, a couple years after Mikuni left, someone interrupts the monotony of your life. It's not Mikuni, no matter how much you wish it was, but a boy. A boy with brown hair and brown eyes and a lantern and he is another light-bringer, a proper one, and with a heart so near you feel less empty.

He says his name is Mahiru. He says he's here to save you.

You don't want to leave Him but you are tired. You want your heart. You don't put up a fight, just allow the boy to hold you and carry you away, and then Mikuni is there. He's like the sun, like a vision of everything you can't have, and you hate him but, oh, you love him.

He gives you a necklace. It burns and you realize, suddenly, that it is your heart, it is your heart, and you don't know how you've ever gone without it now that you have it.

Mikuni talks like he always does, big words and phrases that mean nothing to you, nothing, because your heart knows how carefully he took care of it, took care of you, and you wrap your arms around his neck and kiss him.

You love him. You love him. You love him.

He gave you heart back. He gave you your light back. He gave you your lantern back. You love him, you love him, you love him.

He doesn't hate you and you love him, and you will guide him, will protect him for the rest of your life.

You know devotion. This is devotion, this is loyalty, this is not empty obedience. This is devotion, but nothing at all like how you were devoted to Him, but you—

You find you don't mind.

You are a light-bringer, meant to guide and protect and you can finally, finally do that. It's like coming home, like you've been doing it your whole life, and you get to return home to Mikuni and even though He is after you, you wouldn't change a thing.