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A Birthday He Wants to Remember

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They were flying. Gavin held Em in his arms, a princess carry for the girl he treasured more than anything. They were flying over the city, hurrying for some nebulous reason Gavin couldn’t hold onto, but he knew they needed to get to the edge of town. As he flew, the wind became more and more turbulent, the clouds gathering, lightning flashing around them. He dodged a particularly close bolt of lightning, and Em shrieked, a small sound, as if she had tried to muffle it, but a sound full of fear and pain nonetheless.

“Gavin? Gavin!” Em’s voice was overwhelmed with panic. The Em in his arms tumbled away and suddenly his Evol wasn’t working, they’d triggered some sort of anti-Evol device, she was falling and he couldn’t save her and then he was tumbling right after her. He stretched out his hand, trying desperately to catch her. Then at least when they fell, they’d fall together. If only they were together, he could hope that somehow at least she would live. He would do his best to make sure she survived, even at the cost of his own life.

“Gavin! Gavin!” she kept crying, even though Gavin could no longer see her. His body jostled with the wind and rain as he fell.

“Gavin!”

One last shout and Gavin shot up, knocking into Em, who had practically climbed on top of him in her struggle to wake him. Instinctively he reached out and caught her before she toppled off the bed.

“Gavin, were you dreaming?” Em asked, clasping her arms around his neck, staring up at him.

The soft moonlight streaming through the windows accentuated the soft curve of her lips, the nape of her neck. Words left Gavin’s head almost immediately.

He gathered her up, holding her close to himself, listening to her breathing, steadying his own frantic breaths and slowing his pulse.

“It was a nightmare,” he murmured into her neck as he calmed down, “I thought I’d lost you.”

“Oh, Gavin,” Em said, stroking his hair, “I’m here. We won’t ever be apart again.”

She couldn’t make those promises. Gavin appreciated the sentiment, but they’d gone through hell and back to get here, sharing one bed, Em in his arms every night. He didn’t quite understand everything she’d told him about the other universes, the other “hers” but he’d understood one thing quite clearly. He had forgotten she ever existed. He hadn’t recognized her. He’d let her down.

Sometimes he dreamt of the other “hims,” the ones who’d forgotten Em, betrayed her, hurt her, killed her. He would never know for sure if they were ever events that had happened in other universes, or just nightmarish figments of his imagination, but his gut told him the truth. He’d done all of those things to Em, whether he remembered it or not.

She knew, but she’d never tell him.  

He got out of bed and opened the window, letting the slightly chill wind blow over him in an attempt to block out the nightmares, to take his mind off of the undeniable fact that he was responsible for causing her pain. Em came up behind him, laying one hand on his back.

“Do you want to go out, clear your head?”

“I’m sorry,” he said, voice loaded with the repressed emotion, “I’m sorry.”

“It was just a dream,” Em said, voice soothing and calm, “It wasn’t your fault.”

“It was though, I hurt you, I didn’t remember you.”

“Blame the Queen. She created that world. It had nothing to do with you.”

Gavin shook his head violently, knocking Em’s hand off of him, and grabbing it tightly before it could drop back to her side.

“I should have remembered,” he murmured, “No matter what. Shaw remembered.”

Her hand trembled at the mention of his brother.

“Shaw is a special case.”

“Regardless. Em, I’ve loved you my whole life. I shouldn’t have forgotten you.”

“I don’t know that you ever really did. You were always there for me, even if you didn’t consciously remember me Gavin, which is something I will forever be grateful about.”

Gavin pressed the back of her hand into his lips, kissing it, kissing each fingertip, her palm, and finally the ring on her finger before entwining their fingers. The wind rustled through the open window, sweeping her hair across her face. Gavin pulled her into him.

“Let’s fly,” he murmured, using the wind to lift them into the open air, the night sky filled with stars.

Em clung to him, not scared, but wanting the contact, her hands entwined in his hair. They slowly rotated in the air, their own little dance among the stars performing their nightly routine.

Her hands moved down, from his hair to one hand rubbing his back.

He grabbed the free hand and pressed it to his chest.

“As long as my heart beats, Em, I’ll do my best to stay by your side.”

“Mmm.” Em pressed herself closer to Gavin, trapping her hand between their bodies. She tilted her head toward him.

“Kiss me, Gavin,” Em said, voice hoarse, “Kiss me to forget your nightmares, those other selves. They don’t matter anymore because we’re together.”

Gavin looked at Em, encircled in his arms. The stars reflected in her eyes, somehow brighter than they were in the sky.

She stared at him, lips parted, gazing at him with all the wonder of the first time they’d gone flying together. Her expression was so different from the last few months. The pain and fear were gone, replaced by wonder and joy. He felt guilty that he had caused so much of the pain, but as she reached out and caressed his cheek his guilt melted away.

Em was here now, and he knew more than ever before, that he needed to cherish these moments with her. Just in case he forgot again.

“I won’t kiss you to forget, Em,” Gavin said, lowering his head, “I don’t want to forget anything relating to you ever again.”

Their lips met, breaths entwined, and the only witnesses were the stars above and the city lights below.

But Gavin would never forget. He would cling to the memories for the rest of his life, and as the sun rose over the horizon, Em whispered three words to him.

“Happy Birthday, Gavin.”