"Julian," Emma murmurs, the word soft as the wind that ruffles the curtains. She rarely calls him that, instead usually opting for that old childhood nickname, Jules. They are not children anymore, and these days the nickname leaves a foul taste in Julian's mouth. He remembers the pain he feels whenever Emma receives an injury- I bleed when you bleed- and sometimes wonders if that taste is a phantom imprint of Emma's experiences as she says the name, but he always dismisses those thoughts as quickly as they come.
She doesn't feel the same way, he knows- she looks at him and sees her beloved parabatai. He looks at her and sees his heart.
"Julian." Emma's voice is more insistent now, and she scoots closer to him beneath the covers. Julian hadn't registered the fact that they are in bed together until now, and his heart twists at the sight of Emma's bare shoulders. She kisses his cheek, the touch light enough that it feels almost non-existent. "You have to wake up."
"I don't want to." The honesty in his voice startles him; only Emma could ever bring forth such plain emotion from him, he knows.
"I know," Emma says; her voice seems tinged with real sadness, as though the thought of Julian leaving saddens her too. And yet her eyes still urge him to leave. Suffering is inevitable; both of them have accepted that to the point where they are willing to bring the pain upon themselves if only to outsmart fate.
Julian's heart twists again. "Can I kiss you?" he asks, lips loosened by the promise that this isn't real and will end soon anyway.
For once in his life, he has nothing to lose.
Julian has never experienced the light of Emma's smile in this way before. He's rarely seen her this happy- this open- and for a moment he wonders just how idealised this image of her is.
And then she speaks, and her voice is the surest he has ever heard it. "Of course." All doubts fly out of the window, and for a moment he hangs on the precipice of something huge-
Emma tilts her head, and Julian leans down, and for one gut-wrenching, heart-stopping moment, their lips brush together-
And then the precipice gives way and he falls, and he returns to the land of waking, where the real Emma will never look at him the way Dream Emma does.
The day drags on and on, and Julian longs for nightfall for every miserable second of it. His only relief is in sleep.