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The sun was a pale orb in the sky and there was a hint of a breeze, Lyner noted as he stood atop a hill, looking down at a field of wild flowers and the greenest grass he had ever seen. A small stream snaked through the flowers, trickling quietly, adding to the serenity of the lush land. Not a sound was heard, not a twitter of a bird or a cry of a monster.

All was quiet.

“It’s so peaceful,” Lyner thought to himself, the cool breeze caressing his hair to dance before his eyes.

Sweeping his gaze across the fields before him, Lyner saw that his travelling companions, those who have been brought into this strange world along with himself, were gathered at the very bottom of the hill. And they were looking up at him expectantly.

Lyner wondered if they were waiting for him. He hadn’t meant to delay them in their travels with...whatever it was that he was doing up here. Hmm, how strange...

Suddenly, Lyner felt an arm encircle his waist and a hand latch onto his arm. Although the arm around him felt familiar, comfortable and warm, he was also startled. Ayatane was never really the one to show off his love for him in such a public display. True, it seemed pointless in hiding their love for one another as often people questioned their ‘extremely good friends’ status, but they had never wished to announce their ‘not just friends’ relationship for the fear that they could hurt their friends Aurica, Misha and Lady Shurelia.

He could be a bit of a ditz sometimes, but even he realised that Misha and Aurica held some romantic fantasies toward him. However, he felt nothing more than brotherly feelings for them. They were his sisters. He would do anything for them. He just couldn’t return their feelings.

When he looked down at their friends, new and old, and noted that none of them seemed surprised by Ayatane holding him. They were, however, still looking up expectantly at him.

They also looked distressed.

Lyner felt concern touch his heart. Did something happen?

Turning toward Ayatane to question him of what was wrong, he instead found Ayatane looking at him with eyes so intense that he took in a sharp intake of air.

“I love you,” Ayatane said, his voice curiously insistent.

Lyner blushed lightly at his words, but smiled warmly in return. “I know. I love you, too.”

“Time to head back to the others,” Ayatane said.

A frown slipped across Lyner’s lips when he noted the mild tone of urgency in his partner’s voice. He had known Ayatane for so long that he could detect the littlest changes in his voice.

“What’s wrong?” he asked as he turned around in Ayatane’s arms, placing his hands on the chest plate of his armour, looking at him straight in the eyes. He suddenly felt drowsy and wished that he could sleep here, in Ayatane’s arms, something he had not done for so long...

...Although, he could not fully remember, he knew it was quite awhile as his body and heart remembered the warmth and security he felt in these arms.

“The others are waiting for you.”

“Not yet.” Just let him stay like this for a little bit longer.

“Please, if you love me.”

There was that note again in Ayatane’s voice. Removing his arms from around him, Ayatane instead snared his wrist and guided him a little way down the hillside. His hand was tight around his, and even through his gloves and Ayatane’s armour, he could feel that his hand was warm and comforting.

And Lyner followed him, confusion and weariness suddenly overwhelming him. Something was wrong, so every wrong for Ayatane to act so...urgent.

Ayatane stopped when they reached the small stream. Letting go of his hand, Ayatane effortlessly jumped across the small stream and looked back at him. “Come on,” he urged.

Lyner looked down at the swirling waters and he unexpectedly felt a sense of fear wash over him, almost as though he wouldn’t be able to do it. He had no idea why he felt so afraid right now. The stream was small, a mere trickle compared to those he had encountered previously. And yet he couldn’t help but imagine what would happen if he fell in; the water enclosing around him, sweeping him out of Ayatane’s reach.

“Why aren’t there stepping stones here?” Lyner asked.

“Too deep,” Ayatane replied tersely, dismissively.

Lyner couldn’t help but furrow his brow at him. Why didn’t he help him instead of just standing there?

As if he’d sensed his thoughts, Ayatane held out his hands. “I can’t do it for you,” he said, beckoning to him.

Lyner looked at his hand and wished he could reach them with his own. But he was still too far away for that. The stream seemed wider now, the waters murkier and dangerous.

“You go,” he said. “I’ll cross where it’s shallower.”

“No.” Ayatane’s voice was sharp, urgent...almost desperate. “Please, Lyner. Come over to me. Please.”

Lyner heard it in his voice, his love for him all mixed up with his need to have him there with him. And he wanted to be there with him, so very much. The clouds were drawing in now, covering the sun, darkening the area and the breeze was cooler now on his exposed skin. He looked at Ayatane’s hands, concentrated on them. He had to trust him. Ayatane loved him and he in return.

Gathering up his courage, he moved forward and then jumped. For a moment he felt he wouldn’t make it. He saw Ayatane’s hands reaching for him, grasping him, pulling him to safety. Then he was on the other side of the stream and Ayatane was holding him as if he’d never let go.

“I knew you could do it.”

Lyner heard such deep emotion in his voice and his eyes opened in surprise.

But he was even more surprised to realise that he wasn’t on a hillside at all. He was on a thin bed, in a makeshift tent of some kind, surrounded by multiple empty potion bottles and bloodied cloths. There were murmuring voices; high-pitched and frantic.

But that didn’t give him much concern, surprising. He felt tired, his body burning with a numbing ache and his eyes felt gritty. But, nevertheless, first person he saw clearly was Ayatane, the slightly older man sitting by his side at the bed, holding his glove-free hand in his. In the corners of his eyes he could see tears were beginning to well up, yet the relief in his powerful gaze was enormous.

Beyond Ayatane he made out the blurry image of Marie, a smear of red on her pale cheek. “He’s awake!” she cried aloud. “It worked!”

A mere moment after that, a gentle face surrounded by green hair filled his vision and he realized Miko was leaning over him, blatant concern on her face. “Don’t try to move,” she practically ordered. “Stay still for a little longer.”

Soon, more voices were heard, though he couldn’t really decipher who was saying what. But he heard the distinct sound of sobbing and the words “Thank goodness” repeated over and over again.

“Is he really ok?”

“Did it actually work?”

“How? What happened?”

“I didn’t know you could do that, Morrigan!”

“Hmm, it was all Ayatane’s doing.”

“Can you enter everyone’s dreams?”

“Oh, I’m so glad!”

“Ah, don’t cry! You’ll set me off, too!”

“Oh, Mr. Lyner, we’re so glad you’re ok!”

“Come on, don’t back out now! You were as worried as the rest of us!”

“Hey, give the guy some space, would ya!”

Squeezing his eyes tightly shut before blinking them open in effort to ward away the blurriness, Lyner allowed his head to loll to the side. He quickly noted that his travelling companions, his friends had all gathered round, looking at him. Misha and Aurcia were crying, being comforted by a sniffling Whim and a trying-hard-not-to-cry Lily. Lady Shurelia was rubbing daintily at her eyes with a piece of cloth as Felicia wrapped her paws around her other arm, a bright smile on her face. Raze stood back with York, the two guys looking unsure and uneasy about the whole thing. Raze’s face was pale and yet there was the emotion of relief in his eyes. York too, he noted, though the red head would soon shoot himself then admit it. Near the open entrance of the tent was Meu, tugging relentlessly on Zelos’ arm, telling him to get back inside and that he’ll be happy to see that he was worried too.

Worried?

“What happened?” His voice sounded so harsh, as though he hadn’t used it for a while.

“You were injured in a surprise battle,” Ayatane explained to him, his voice soothing as he threaded his fingers through his hair in a comforting manner.

A battle?

“But don’t think about it right now,” Ayatane’s voice cut in before he could get his thoughts together. “You’re going to be fine now.”

“Get some rest, sweetie,” Morrigan purred into his ear, sounding surprisingly motherly. “You’re not going anyway now.”

Injured in a battle. Their worried faces. Not going anywhere. Did he...was he...?

He must have been closed to death, huh? It was more peaceful than he had imagined.

Fleetingly, he thought back to that peaceful place he’d left; the wild flowers, the endless blue sky. He felt a moment of regret, but it quickly dissipated; this was where he belonged right now, here in this strange world, helping in the freeing of Souls and with Ayatane and the others.

He didn’t know what exactly happened, but he did know that Ayatane had something to do with it. How? Well, simple actually. If something happened to Ayatane, he would do anything to help him. They’ve always been like that.

“Thank you, Ayatane,” Lyner whispered as he tightened his grip around Ayatane’s hand as his eyes slowly drifted shut. “For bringing me back.”