Art: hisapyon (tumblr)
Fractured (Shattered Dreams I)
Remnants (Shattered Dreams II)
Author's Note: Most of this fic is fairly light and fluffy; most chapters could easily have T or below rating, however, the fic does also deal with some from very dark themes, namely death, mental illness, self-harm, and suicide. For suspense and spoiler type reasons, I will not be tagging the top of each chapter with warnings. So consider this an umbrella warning for the fic. If you're concerned about any of these triggers but still want to read the story, feel free to PM me for more specific information.
Part I | Rise and Fall
It should have been raining.
Clouds were so often a ubiquitous part of life in Insomnia; grey skies rolling above the grey skyline. Usually it was raining when it ought to have been sunny and cheerful.
Today the sun was out, warm and bright, mocking him. It was too late in autumn for weather like that; mockery was the only possible reason.
Maybe if it had been raining someone would have dragged him back up to the Citadel, by that time. It was hard to say just how long he had been standing there, staring at the newly-engraved name. His feet were numb but his legs were full of lead. He couldn't turn away, couldn't take a step forward or back. And he couldn't shed a tear. Not now, when dozens—if not hundreds—of eyes followed his every move even when he made none.
If it was raining someone might have come; there would have been an excuse to send an attendant to steer him back inside on the pretense of getting him out of the cold mausoleum. But it wasn't wet or cold. It was bright and insultingly hot for November. And so all his staff remained just out of earshot, exchanging uneasy looks and wondering if it wouldn't be better to bring the king inside, but none of them were willing to take that first step and risk the repercussions.
In the end it took someone who wasn't afraid of getting yelled at or of shouting in return.
He blinked and the block lettering on the metal plaque came back into focus. He wished it hadn't.
706 - 735
Too young. Gods damn, she was too young.
He was only able to look away because his view was interrupted when someone stepped in front of him. Firm hands grasped his shoulders and he lifted his eyes to find a familiar face.
There weren't any words in his head, so he just stared at his friend, mute. Clarus' face was the first thing he had really looked at besides those terrible letters since… he didn't know how long. The light was orange, somehow. He looked around, feeling as if he had just surfaced from a dark dream to find his nightmare a reality. Through the open windows he could see the sky turning shades of gold and red. Hadn't it been morning when they buried her?
"Come on. We are going back."
Clarus didn't ask if he wanted to go; in all likelihood it was better that way. Regis wasn't sure what he would have said. How could he ever want to leave? But if he didn't stop fixating on those letters, they would be all he could see—all he ever saw again. He would go mad.
And there was no space in his life for losing his mind.
He didn't respond, but Clarus took his silence for assent; he turned the king around and, with one arm thrown across the younger man's shoulders, guided him back toward the Citadel.
It was a numb walk, through a black fog and facilitated only by automatic motions. When he was sitting down in his study, he couldn't remember how he had gotten there.
Clarus' face was hanging in front of him once more. Had he been speaking? Regis couldn't recall; distantly he registered having heard his friend's voice, but no words presented themselves in his memory. There was a short glass of amber liquid in his hand, put there—no doubt—by Clarus.
"Mourn her. But do it sensibly; you cannot afford to lose yourself." Clarus straightened, his voice just sharp enough to cut through the fog. "Now drink. You need it."
Regis looked down at the glass in his hand, lifting it and considering for a moment. Then he drained it in one mouthful, wincing as it hit the back of his throat like molten fire. When he could breathe again he did so with relief, setting the empty glass down on the end table beside his chair.
It did help. At least enough that words started filtering through his brain, again, thoughts put in enough order to be spoken.
"I know, Clarus," Regis rasped, his voice hoarse from disuse and burning alcohol. He ran his hands over his face and smoothed his hair back. "I just keep chasing myself around and circles and returning to this: I shall never be able to do it without her."
He folded his hands in front of him, his eyes fixing on the black gemmed ring that he wore. Clarus, sensing he wasn't through, took a seat in the armchair across from him and remained silent.
"She kept me sane, you know, these last six years. Even before we were married. I may go mad without…" he didn't look at Clarus. In fact, he wasn't looking at anything at all, though his eyes were open, fixed blindly on his hands. "And our children—Noctis and Reina—that they should grow up without a mother, without having ever known her…."
He did look up, then, and Clarus met his gaze steadily.
"I cannot raise them. Not without her. Even if I knew the slightest thing about parenting, I have not the time. What am I to do? What makes a good father? And how are they to grow and learn—who will care for them—without a mother?"
"All you need do—the most important thing and the only thing no one else can do for you—is love them. For their care they will have a caretaker. For their education a governess. Many children have grown into competent adults with only one—or even no parents." Clarus spoke evenly, with self-assurance. It was the solidness that Regis needed to hear.
"Love them…" he repeated.
Could he love anything, ever again? It felt like every part of him that had ever held a happy thought or felt a happy feeling was missing. Could he even love his own children, anymore?
There was a knock at the door. Clarus rose to deal with whoever was on the other side. But instead of sending them away after brief discussion, as Regis had expected, he opened it wide and admitted them after a glance.
Regis looked up and beheld more familiar faces: Cor and Weskham entered, both with an infant in their arms.
"You give him Reina; I don't trust you holding a baby," Weskham said, his rolling voice turning the suggestion into a joke.
Cor didn't even spare the steward a glance, but he did push Reina into Regis' arms—in spite of the king's half-formed protests. Regis' eyes dropped to his daughter, who was fast asleep and only stirred briefly at the change of position.
The twins were just barely three months. Their eyes were still that deep, colorless blue with no hint of what true color would show through. Their hair was fine and sparse, their faces still round and indistinguishable. Regis brushed one finger over her soft cheek; his hand dwarfed her whole body. She was so tiny, so fragile—it was difficult to believe something so small could grow into whole person… or that something so beautiful had been born of his love for his queen.
His vision blurred with tears, unshed, but for the first time in days he smiled.
"Sweet Reina," he murmured to the sleeping baby, cradling her close, "You shall grow to look just like your mother."
He would love them. He did love them. How could he not? Each of his twins was a tiny piece of Aulea, left behind for him to nourish and care for. He would love them more than his own life.