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What Dreams May Come

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When Lilac altered Carabosse's spell, it was not a baby he saw in the cradle before him. Not one child, one girl, one woman, but the smallest trickle of a stream that had just begun to snake its way from the greater river. If the stream were to dry up, it itself would not be missed, but the stream is fed by the river, which has flourished for centuries. If the stream dries up, it is because the river is no longer feeding it, and without the river, the fragile world around it withers and fades.

Creation is not easy for their kind. Lilac sustains what is worth sustaining, and prunes what is unnecessary or harmful. He was not able to grant the King and Queen's wish, but now that Carabosse has, she has served her purpose.

The princess grows, fed by the river and the sun and the grass and the trees. She is lively, perhaps too lively for her own good. Lilac catches glimpses of her from time to time, but keeps his distance until her fated sixteenth birthday approaches.

He sends Leo to her then.

Leo is not Lilac's own, not yet. He comes from a peasant village under their protection, born under an ominous star. His fate was sealed when, as a child of ten or eleven, he plucked Lilac's flowers from the hill.

Desperate to avoid punishment for their son's misdeed, Leo's parents agreed to send him to work at the castle, though they might not see him ever again. As for Leo, Lilac had judged him correctly-- he was thrilled at the chance to expand his horizons.

With hard work and patience, Leo blossomed in the castle, right under the nose of the princess, who could not help but notice. She itched for a freer way of life, and he had little concern for authority, and so when spring arrived, they inevitably fell ardently in love.

Through Leo, Lilac had a window into the goings-on at the castle. He had judged it best after Carabosse's death to be less directly involved with the royal family so as not to build resentment on either side. Unfortunately, it seemed the King and Queen had taken his absence as a sign that Carabosse's curse had died with her, and the princess, blissfully ignorant, roamed through the rose gardens without a care.

"I don't see why she should worry," Leo said, interpreting Lilac's dark look in his own way. "She tears her stockings even when she's careful, and she's fallen out of trees more often than I care to remember. Aurora's all but immune to injury, I think."

Should he tell Leo, the consequences were difficult to imagine. It might put a distance between them that their newly budded love could not yet bridge. Leo might become consumed with worry until the princess found him tiresome. No, for now it was safer to let them remain light and playful.

"Still, take on some duties in the garden. Better that the thorns on the rosebushes are removed."

Leo questioned the order no further, and went about his way.

As preparations for the princess's sixteenth birthday celebration began, Lilac sent his own to discreetly inquire if there was anyone who might wish to carry on Carabosse's legacy. There were those among their kind that belonged to no particular court, but followed as the wind was blowing, and as it happened the wind had been blowing in Lilac's favor for the last fifteen years. Carabosse would find no friends in that company.

But there were also whispers.

No one seemed to have encountered Carabosse's son directly, but rumors of his existence came from too many varied sources to be dismissed out of hand.

Rather than waste time chasing phantoms, Lilac arranged to be in the vicinity of the castle on the day in question. He had hoped to plant a few suggestions of the kind of person Leo might want to be wary of, but Leo was already in poor spirits due to the impending arrival of well bred young men of the princess's milieu.

"What if Aurora becomes engaged to one of those stuffed shirts?" muttered Leo, pacing back and forth. "What if they make her act like a proper lady?"

Lilac had no patience for his angst. "Does she wish for such things?"

Leo shook his head. "I don't think so."

"Then have faith, and let her find her own way. She is no longer a child."

The safest thing would have been for Lilac to attend the proceedings himself, but they were scheduled for mid-day, when his powers were at their weakest. Under the hot sun, he would be of no more use than Leo. Fortunately, the same could be said for Carabosse, as well as any progeny she might have acquired. The most any of their kind would be able to do at such a time and place would be to trigger enchantments already laid in place.

So Lilac inhabited the shadows of a forest on the castle grounds, and went to sleep. He was jolted awake at twilight by the sharp sting of Carabosse's malice brought to fruition.

All was chaos in the gardens. Mortals wandered in disarray, their panic building off each other until Lilac unfurled the tightly wound spindle of his enchantment, slipped just under Carabosse's. They all stopped, so abruptly that objects fell from limp fingers.

"You remember how I said it would be," Lilac said, stepping between the princess and her parents. "You will go on while she slumbers, separated from her by a century."

"Can we not sleep alongside her?" the king said softly, the edge of a plea in his shaken voice.

Lilac shook his head. "It is still a curse. There is only so much I can do."

His thrall slipped around the king's throat before he could make further protest, and slowly all who had loved the princess made their way off the castle grounds. Most of them would forget her soon enough, though she would remember all of them when she woke.

The princess, breaths coming slowly as she drowsed, followed where Lilac led. She was dimly aware of the familiar rooms around her, moving a hair's breadth faster as they approached her bedroom. This level of consciousness would not do. She would go mad within a month.

Lilac laid her down in her own bed, pulling the sheet over her body, and carefully sped up her perception of time, sending her deeper into her own dreams. He was still aware of everything she felt and saw, but that was the only way to keep watch over her and see that once Carabosse's curse wore off, she was woken in safety.

He had not forgotten Leo, though judging by the despairing look on Leo's face, the boy believed he had.

"One hundred years! In one hundred years, everything she knows will be gone!" Leo shook his head. "It isn't fair. I can't let that happen to her, waking alone and afraid."

"She will not be alone," Lilac said softly. "The kiss of her true love will wake her. Your kiss, if you are willing."

Leo understood. He held out his wrist. "I want to be there when Aurora wakes up."

It was not the blood that satisfied Lilac so much as the pleasure of another piece sliding into the right place for his next move.

One hundred years is a long time.

Leo is afraid to leave the familiar now, wants nothing more than to sleep in front of the gates and guard his sleeping beauty, but he is Lilac's own and Lilac finds this behavior tiresome. She does not need two protectors, not yet, at least. Leo may venture forth without the princess's safety being compromised.

So Leo moves through the night, playing the part of the young apprentice though his heart lies elsewhere, and the princess dreams, running down corridors to leap into the arms of a shadow with Leo's face.

Aurora dances in her dreams, free of the tight clothing and uncomfortable shoes she wore in waking life. Free, too, of the burden of royal responsibilities and the fear of disappointing her beloved but distant parents. As the years fly by, Lilac becomes intimately familiar with every aspect of her psyche. So, too, does Aurora come to know him.

At first they simply walk side by side, in her dreams or his. Then, one day, she asks him if he's seen Leo.

Lilac nods. Leo works at a nightclub now, protecting jazz singers from their more overzealous fans. Jobs may be harder to come by these days, but his kind always seem to find gainful employment.

Aurora doesn't pretend to understand. It is enough for her that he is keeping himself busy and helping others.

Sometimes she wonders if she's dead.

In a way, it is true. But she won't always be.

"I think I should have died, sometimes," Leo says bitterly, when the world goes to war again. "I don't feel like I'm part of this world at all now."

"That's hardly uncommon." It's been longer than Lilac cares to remember since he felt that sort of cynical resignation. It is, ironically, a uniquely human malady. "If you prefer, you may journey underground. There a decade may pass in the span of a feast, and none will keep you at an uneasy distance."

Leo hesitates, but when enemy bombers are sighted in their skies, he follows Lilac down, down, to the summer lands where decadence is still taken for granted.

They eat, and drink, and make merry with the rest of Lilac's company, until the halls glow golden, the wine slides silken between their lips, and the hum of conversation swells to an aria.

It can be very pleasant to forget your cares, when someone very pleasant is at your side.

Leo curls against Lilac's side, and somewhere, Lilac hears Aurora's laughter.

Time grows, underground, in the shape of a newly blossomed tulip bulb, in the span of a darting dragonfly's wings, painted red by the life blood of those that dwell above. Leo does not see it yet, for he is young and cannot find for searching. He does not seem to mind.

In dreams, Lilac dances with Aurora, following the rhythm she sets with her heart. She does not ask after Leo, and this troubles Lilac until he asks.

She smiles, because she sees Leo through Lilac.

Still, he is troubled. Aurora's dreams seem different, though she does not seem to notice. It is as if there is another outside influence, not strong enough to break through Lilac's enchantment, more persistent than powerful.

Grass grows, even on land once thought to have been made barren by man's fearful creative destruction, snow falls and melts and is ground into the dirt, trickling through the layers of earth until it drips onto a golden table, landing on a fruit that is at once rotten and ripe.

Leo is curious again. "Is it raining? Above, I mean. I don't think it could rain here."

"Perhaps." The wind has changed again. Though Leo is willfully oblivious to the machinations of various factions, Lilac and his own are in the minority now. Caradoc wields considerable influence, and holds sway over an eclectic mob of chaos seekers. This, Lilac thinks, will be his undoing. Lilac has always chosen those close to him with care, while Caradoc, giddy with youthful triumph and delusions of invulnerability, accepts anyone to his service who seems useful. It is laughably easy to send some of Lilac's own into Caradoc's arms with carefully chosen words of deceptive deference.

Their kind cannot lie outright, but omitting truths and twisting phrases so one hears what one wishes to hear are long standing traditions. It is a popular game in the courts. Queens and persons of higher standing who are far older than Lilac are almost impossible to fool through words alone, but Caradoc is a child, scarcely older than Leo, and he has not had good examples set for him.

 "It is almost time," Lilac tells Leo, and Leo understands immediately. They return to the human world, emerging into a twilight that seems brighter than before.

Aurora will wake soon.