He can still taste Lothar in his mouth, even after all this time. Where once the taste would have sent shivers of pleasure down his spine, now all it tastes of is ash and pain. He can still smell Lothar’s scent drifting on the currents of air that surround him, and it makes him wish he couldn’t smell anything at all. He can still hear Lothar’s voice, whispering praises into his ears, whispering filth, whispering promises of forever. He knows those words are lies.
He doesn’t understand why he can’t shake the ghost of the man who had once been his entire world, can’t seem to understand why nothing he seems to do will make Lothar’s presence vanish, can’t understand why even after all this time his every waking thought is of Anduin Lothar. He pretends he’s fine, pretends that he doesn’t see Lothar’s face whenever he closes his eyes, pretends that every breath he takes doesn’t make him feel like he’s being crushed by the weight of the agony he feels.
He doesn’t even grieve anymore, this is far past that emotion, this overwhelming consumption of his very being. He feels like his spirit, his soul, his very essence has been ripped into tiny little shreds that can never be put back together. It’s been decades, decades since he buried Lothar, decades since his life crumbled apart like motes of sand blowing in the wind, decades since he’s felt whole.
Khadgar wishes he had the strength, the courage to end his own life, to end the constant misery he feels. He’s tried, Light knows he’s tried, more times than he wants to admit, and yet every time, every single time he chickens out at the last instant.
He almost understands how Medivh had fallen, how he was consumed by the Fel, how he became the enemy of what he had been. He prays every night when he falls asleep that he won’t wake back up again in the morning, and yet he cruelly wakes up. He hasn’t even gotten more than mildly sick in all these years. Khadgar throws himself into every battle he can, hoping that this one will be his last, and yet every time he comes out relatively unscathed.
He’s adrift, lost in his pain, and there is nothing, he thinks, that can ever make it right, ever make him whole again.
How long has it been now? Years, he thinks, years without his other half, years since he buried the best part of himself.
It wasn’t fair, it wasn’t right.
Khadgar had had so much life in front of him, so much more right to live than he did. He was already a worn out soldier by the time Khadgar had been born.
He spent his days fighting, and his nights drinking, trying to numb the constant ache he felt due to Khadgar’s death.
They’d had so little time together, and what they did have had been so fleeting. They’d come together in desperation, both of them needing to feel alive after what had happened. Less than two years later Lothar had buried him.
Lothar knew what he was doing, he was slowly and surely drinking himself to his grave.
While all those Lothar had lost had been painful, Khadgar’s death had destroyed him, ruined him in a way that not even Callan’s, his own son, death had. He’d lost everything when Khadgar died, any hope he still had that somehow there would be peace, his happiness, his reason for being.
“They’re so lost,” the figure said, its voice unheard by the mortals it watched over.
Varian stood by the gravestones, running his fingers sadly over his father’s name. It had been years, almost a decade and a half now, years since his father had died, since his father had been murdered, years since his uncle and the young mage who had somehow worked his way into all of their lives had both died, sacrificing themselves to stop the demonic being who was trying to destroy Azeroth, years since somehow, someway they had driven off the Orc invaders and had saved not only the kingdom of Stormwind but Azeroth itself.
He was an adult now, the rightful King of Stormwind, a father of a young child who he named after those four men, and yet he still longed for simpler times, when his family hadn’t been ripped in two, when his mother wasn’t a widow, when his cousin wasn’t an orphan. He wished he could go back, somehow, anyhow, and change things, fix things, make things right.
He sat in his tower, trying so hard to push back the dark force that tried time and again to get in. How many people had died, how many friends had he lost since this being began its seemingly endless onslaught?
He called upon his powers, reinforcing the shield he had wrapped so tightly around himself, protecting himself as the being slammed against him, trying to take him, trying to make him a part of itself.
Medivh knew he couldn’t rest, couldn’t lose his focus, couldn’t stop. If he dared even rest for a moment all would be lost.
“He doesn’t know his world is already gone,” the figure whispered sadly, watching as the last mortal being on Azeroth fought his endless, futile battle.
He didn’t know how he’d survived the battle. All his men had perished, all the prisoners had been killed, and yet he still lived. He clung onto the tiniest of threads of life, waiting once more for his captors to return to him.
He’d lost track of how long it had been. Days? Weeks? Months? Years? All he knew anymore was pain, and the terrifying times when he was left alone. He’d been so close to death over and over again and each time they’d heal him, bring him back from the brink of death and begin anew.
Llane heard the footsteps and prayed to the Light that this time they’d finally release him into the loving arms of death.
“I can’t stand by and not do anything,” the figure spoke, though no one else heard it, as there was no one else who could hear its words.
It drew its power around itself, plucking at the strands of fate, pulling the ones it watched out of their timestreams and depositing them in another.
Varian saw the flash of light, saw as first one, then another, then another, and finally another figure appeared before him.
He recognized all of their faces, even if they looked older, in one of their cases, more run down, in the second one’s case, gaunt and pale, the third man, and beaten and broken, the fourth and final figure. He knew those faces, faces he hadn’t seen in over a decade, faces of those who had died on that one horrible day.
He rushed to the fourth man, the one who needed the most assistance, calling for his guards to go and get healers.
Khadgar stared in shock at the figures before him. He thought he must have finally lost his mind, must have finally cracked under the pressure of his grief. Llane, Medivh, and Lothar, his Lothar, and yet not his Lothar, Khadgar could tell.
Lothar knew he was staring, and yet he couldn’t stop himself. The man who was watching him so closely was Khadgar, if much older looking, but still his Khadgar. He found himself walking towards the man with slow strides, his gaze never leaving those oh so familiar eyes. He didn’t know how this was possible, how it could be real, and yet it was. “Khadgar?”
Medivh heard the broken voice, falling to his knees in exhaustion with a broken sob. He’d failed, failed in his duty as Guardian, failed to protect his world. He’d never suspected, never imagined that Moroes had been hiding such a dark secret, one that had cost Medivh his entire world.
Callan rushed in with the healers, knowing his King wouldn’t have summoned them without good cause. He watched with a shocked gaze as his father, gone now for more than a decade, approached a man who was strangely familiar looking. And when he heard his father’s voice, broken, lost, ruined by drink, and yet full of hope, he knew just who the man he was walking towards was.
Callan had always suspected that there were growing feelings between them, but they had died, sacrificed themselves as heroes to save Azeroth. Medivh had been the one to tell them that, shortly before he too died.
Callan looked over to his King, his cousin, and saw that the man was kneeling next to a badly injured man. With a shock Callan realized that the man was none other than Varian’s own father, or at least another version of him, much like the other versions of his own father, Khadgar, and Medivh who were in the garden with them.
Khadgar’s full attention was on the man approaching him. It was Lothar, perhaps not the one he had lost oh so many years before, but Anduin Lothar nevertheless. He found himself walking, closing the gap between them, a feeling he had long since thought dead to him rising in his chest, hope.
“Khadgar,” Lothar whispered, his voice full of awe and hopefulness.
“Anduin,” Khadgar replied, trying to stop his voice from shaking. He felt this other Lothar’s hand cup his cheek and smiled, the first real and true smile he had smiled in decades.
“I know I’m not your Anduin, nor are you the Khadgar I lost, but...” Lothar trailed off, eyes searching Khadgar’s face.
Khadgar nodded, resting his forehead against Lothar’s, breathing in deeply. He could hardly believe this was happening, could hardly believe that Anduin Lothar was standing in front of him, alive and relatively well. He felt tears fall and Lothar’s thumb brushing them away, an act that was so familiar that Khadgar thought he might be dreaming this. “Are you real?” he asked, his voice barely a whisper.
“I’m as real as you are,” Lothar said, and his voice was raw with emotion, as if he could hardly believe his lost love was there.
“I’m an old man now, Anduin,” Khadgar said, feeling self-conscious in a way he hadn’t felt since he had met his original Lothar.
“But you’re still you. You’re still Khadgar,” and the way Lothar said his name was filled with such love and need that Khadgar felt fresh tears come to his eyes. Once more Lothar wiped them away, and wrapped his arms around Khadgar, embracing him tightly, never wanting to let go.
After the healers left, carrying both Llane and Medivh out of the garden and taking them to the infirmary, Varian watched Lothar and Khadgar embrace, knowing without a single doubt that while these two might not have come from the same worlds that destiny had wanted them together. He looked over at Callan, noticing the way his dear cousin had his gaze locked onto this other version of his father. He understood all too well what the other man must be thinking, he himself had wondered if his father would even recognize him when he came to.
He watched Callan run a hand through his long, dark-blond hair, darker and longer than it had been when he had last laid eyes on his father. A small smirk formed on Varian’s face when he saw Lothar look over and notice just who stood at his side.
Khadgar stepped out of Lothar’s embrace, nodding at him to go to Callan, for the man standing next to Varian was undoubtedly Lothar’s son. Where last they had seen Callan he had been young, barely out of his teen years, this version of him was a full adult. He felt no jealousy when he heard Lothar give a joyous laugh and engulf Callan in his arms with tears in his eyes, why would he have any reason to, Callan was Lothar’s son, and while this was not the exact same version of him who had been killed, it was still Callan Lothar.
By the time the four of them left the garden and made their way to the infirmary Taria Wrynn was already there. She sat at Llane’s side, brushing dark, matted locks of hair off his bruised and scarred face. She knew that this wasn’t her Llane, he’d been dead for many years, his body burned on a funeral pyre, but she couldn’t help but feel love for this man. He was still Llane Wrynn. She would stay by his side no matter what the cost.
Medivh had been put under via a spell, as he’d been so lost, so grief stricken, so full of self-pity and blame that he had been a danger to both himself and those around him. Everyone knew that he’d need time to deal with what had happened in his own world. From what Varian found out from one of the healers Medivh had been ranting about how stupid he had been for ignoring what had been going on until it was too late to stop Sargeras, the being who had been possessing Moroes, from destroying his world, that he had been blinded by his own feelings to see the truth.
Varian knew they’d have to find out the truth of what happened in his world eventually. He turned his attention back towards Lothar and Khadgar, and noticed that they both had sad smiles on their faces. He partially understood those looks. They were happy for this second chance, and yet they still mourned all they had lost. He too felt that same way. He looked back at his mother, who sat with her usual regal air, and knew she would not leave Llane’s side. He nodded, telling one of the guards to bring her whatever she needed, to take care of her and his father, and the man in the bed was his father, even if he had arrived from another world, another time and place.
Varian motioned for Lothar and Khadgar to follow him, smiling a little as Callan fell into place at his side. If there was one thing that Varian could count on more than anything it was Callan’s complete and utter loyalty and support. He led them back to the castle, immediately ordering a set of rooms to be made ready for Lothar and Khadgar.
Khadgar looked around the rooms he and Lothar had been given, remembering with fondness all the times he had shared back in his original world in Stormwind with his original Lothar. This wasn’t the same, and he knew Lothar knew that too. It was a fresh start for both of them, a new beginning with someone so dear to their hearts.
Lothar came up behind him, wrapping his arms around Khadgar’s torso, leaning his chin on the mage’s shoulder and followed his gaze out the window. Even though this Khadgar was so different, so changed from the young mage who had stolen Lothar’s heart, he knew that he already loved this version of him, just as completely and truly.
Khadgar relaxed into Lothar’s arms, feeling hope, feeling alive once more. He turned his head to face Lothar’s, and smiled. “Thank you.”
“Thank you,” Lothar replied, not letting go of the man who held his heart. He knew now that no matter what happened he’d find his peace with Khadgar at his side.
They were silent as they got ready for bed, everything that had occurred exhausting them both. Khadgar found himself slipping into place in Lothar’s arms, head resting on the other man’s chest as it had done so so many times in years long past. He’d almost forgotten how at peace he could feel.
And for the first time in years Lothar fell asleep completely sober and had no nightmares creep into his unconscious mind.
“It’s all as it should be,” it said, watching as Khadgar and Lothar slumbered, watching as Llane woke in the infirmary with Taria’s face his first sight. It watched over Varian and his family, watched over Callan and his own, and then went and watched Medivh. Medivh would take much watching over, it thought to itself, he, of all of them, would need the most healing, the most reassurance, the most time. But it had time, it had all the time it needed.
It used its power, sealing this world from any who would try and invade it, sealing this world, this timestream from its dark-self, its fallen doppelganger. Sargeras would wait, watching over these ones it had saved.