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both sides of now & then

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In the beginning─

There is a dream that is not yet a Dream. It settles, a heavy weight under his tongue. Lyon wants for a lot of things. He wants for friendship, he wants for love; he wants to spend forever at Eirika and Ephraim’s sides because even then he’d known they were the end for him. Ephraim will walk on ahead, Eirika at his side. Lyon will follow─he is the shadow, the mirror, the foil to their goodness.

There are a hundred thousand things concealed with sleep. When Lyon Dreams, or when he dreams, sometimes he finds that he can envision them.

There is the earthquake, of course: Grado in ruin, torn apart by the very earth trembling beneath her people, the taste of his own absence (his own indifference, perhaps?) bitter and warm, Grado’s people, his people, suffering. He despairs with them, for he is not helping, and what prince is one who abandons their people?

That dream often remains─a sharp, hollow reminder that when his people need him most Lyon will fail. Has already failed. A hundred thousand times for a hundred thousand dreams. He swallows and tastes the memory of it. Even now, when the dream has died, it remains ashy and acidic, a weight in the back of his throat. He cannot forget it.

But there are other dreams, too. 

Lyon closes his eyes and sees Eirika. One of her hands is curling over his chin; her nails dig into his jaw, and the pain is sharp and refreshing and ever so real that Lyon could cry into her hand. She presses into bone until she feels the tears gather in the corner of his eyes.

“Does this make you happy?” She asks, and it is not Eirika who speaks but a monster that wears her face. “Are you happy, knowing that you have killed us?”

“I am,” says Lyon; he does not cry, because this is a dream. The words feel hazy, soft─undetermined, almost. This is a reality that has yet to come true. This is a future that he can shape. The earthquake is one he cannot. “I am,” says the monster under Lyon’s skin. “I have always hated you.”

Her sword fits neatly in the pocket of space between two ribs. Lyon gasps out, instinctual, though there is no pain in dreams. Only the pain of the heart’s wishes. Because this closeness (this fragility, this forever, preserved in a memory) could never have been real, not in any of the hundred thousand worlds Lyon has seen.

Eirika’s blade is slick with blood. Her eyes are sharp when she looks up at him─no, it is when she forces him to look at her. “I could forgive you hurting me,” says this Eirika, the Eirika he will never know. “But then you hurt Ephraim.”

And there is something to be said of that, Lyon thinks. There is a fairytale to be made: a prince loves a prince loves a princess, and the ending they deserve is not a happy ever after. There never has been, with them.

So that is how the dream goes. A prince loves a prince loves a princess. The prince tries searching for a happy ending, and just as the audience thinks he will be triumphant in his quest, he fails. He fails and his country and his people burn with him. The prince still loves the prince, who still loves the princess, even as he dies by her unbloodied hands.

In the Dream, Ephraim has a smear of blood over his cheek. It accentuates the high line of his cheekbones, the sharp set of his jaw, the quiet resignation in his eyes. “Lyon,” he says, quiet. Everything is so quiet, here─the perpetual ringing that accompanies everything is gone, gone, gone. Ephraim says nothing more. They have never needed words. He raises a hand. Drops it.

A silent question: why? Except Ephraim has no questions and Lyon has no answers. This is a Dream, after all.

Lyon’s limbs don’t agree with his mind, here. His tongue is a heavy weight in his mouth; when he looks down there is a bloodstain over his robes. Ephraim, he thinks, Ephraim, Ephraim, I love you I love you I love you and there is silence. And there is Ephraim.

“Lyon,” he repeats, frantic. Desperate. For what? This is nothing, in the end, this does not matter. “I don’t─ I─”

“Ephraim,” he sighs out. Breath comes slowly. The gentle waves of in, out, in, pause, out. He swallows and tastes blood. “You’re here.”

And Ephraim is crying. And Ephraim says he is going to live, even though they can both sense death’s claim over him. And Lyon is going to die. “I,” one of them starts. Lyon’s vision is unclear. “Don’t go─”

And Lyon wakes.

There is the earthquake, as there always is: buildings crumbling into rubble, the young lovers immortalised in death, himself absent as he always is. So many of his dreams feature the dying, the dead. There is the earthquake and there is the destruction left in its wake. There is a bloody smile and Eirika’s laughter in the distance.

I love you, says a distant voice. Lyon doesn’t know who it belongs to. It mustn’t be important, but it’s the only thing he can hear amidst ruins. I love you, don’t go, don’t go. I love you and I can’t lose you. But the wounds are too deep. The destruction has spread too thick across Grado’s horizons.

One by one the people leave. One by one the people live, or they die. Lyon knows, in some deep, deep part of himself, that this is inevitable─but he can still try, can’t he? He can still prevent this from happening.

(It seems that in every life Lyon is absent, or he is dead. Eirika kissed him once; she killed him twice, thrice, and at some point he lost count of how many times it happened. Ephraim always soothed him whenever he was close to death. He always apologised, too. No matter which life it was or which path he seemed to choose─

Lyon breathes.)

 

In the end─

Breathing does not come easy. His lungs are choked, there is a deep wound biting against his stomach. The earthquake has yet to arrive. One day it will, but that moment is not now. Not here.

There is no Eirika. For a brief moment, Lyon contemplates hating her, that deep well of emotion spilling out between his ribs (the slide of a sword into the pocket of resistance), but he never has been able to. There is Ephraim’s lance, slick with his blood. There is a smear of blood across his cheek.

Each moment feels brief, now. Fleeting. He wonders what it would have been like to kiss them, any of them, even though it’s a feeling he’s known a hundred thousand times. There is a certainty to it, almost like his magic beneath his skin. It hasn’t been Lyon’s magic for a long time.

The Dream says, see? you were not there at grado for you were already dead.

I think I have been dead for a long time, says Lyon. His magic─and it is truly him, not the demon within─has come alive. That fleeting, desperate thought remains. Perhaps he could have changed this outcome. Perhaps he could have lived.

(Perhaps this was how it was always going to happen.)

Lyon breathes in, and lets go.