Fai learns a little about dreaming, and maybe a little about himself and his king in the process. (mild Ashura x Fai, CELES SPOILERS)
The nightmares started a few weeks - maybe a month - after he came to Celes. It was funny, Fai would think later, that they waited so long to torment him. Before, sleep had been an uneasy oblivion, a solid blackness that would give him no peace of mind - but it wouldn't make him remember, either.
It was a fine line he walked, those first few weeks. He would give anything, do anything to forget, but, at the same time, he wouldn't allow himself the release of forgetting. There were still things he needed to do - his name was not his own, and he still had to give it away. His life was not his own - it belonged to the pale king and his people. And his fate...
The bearded man, with the pointed finger, his ominous words. Sometimes Fai remembered them. Usually, they hovered in the back of his mind, a promise too dreadful to be recalled.
That, and everything that had happened in Valeria - he knew it was his fault, but, at the same time, he desperately wanted to find somewhere else to place the blame. It was what his father had done, what his uncle told him. But they had placed the blame squarely on the shoulders of the twins.
And he still bore that guilt, even in another world, even though he found his circumstances miraculously changed. There was always that nagging feeling, the self-reproach that gnawed at his chest, the whispered voices of all the people... every person. Your fault. We're dead, and it's your fault. Twins. Twins of misfortune. Your fault.
He would fall asleep with those words echoing in his mind. Eventually, they gave substance to his nightmares.
The pit. It was deeper than he remembered. And dark. The blackness pressed on him, suffocated him; he wouldn't have known where he was if not for the slight give of the bodies piled beneath him, the pervasive smell of eternally halted corruption.
And a voice drifted down from the tower. And it was his voice - but not.
Fai? But Fai is- The thought remained half-formed in his mind. He didn't know. He couldn't know. And when he opened his mouth to call out in reply, there was no sound.
Another body dropped from above, landing with a sickening thunk. He shied away from it, stepped on an outstretched hand, fell against a leg and curled up, hugging his knees tightly to his chest. He didn't want- This couldn't be-
His father's voice - low, animalistic mutterings. Incomprehensible.
"No... no..." His voice croaked with disuse. His hair straggled on the ground. His arms were bare and it was cold, so cold, and suddenly he was more tired of the scent of death than he had ever been before.
The wall- He couldn't find the wall. It had always been there; he would lean against it sometimes and cry, back when he had cried... But there was nothing there anymore. Nothing anywhere, except the bodies and the smell and the faint cries of "Yuui!" and even as he listened, those grew further and further away so he was going to be left with the bodies and the smell and nothing and no one and-
Ashura's hair was tickling his face. Ashura's hand was gripping his shoulder, and it hurt. "Again?" he asked, in his warm and rich and soothing voice. His eyes were infinitely beautiful and infinitely sad. Fai hated it when his king was sad. "I have offered you a drug for the dreams, before."
Fai shook his head, ran a shaky hand through his hair. His voice croaked when he tried to use it, just like in the dream. "No, I..." He cleared his throat. "It's fine. I don't want it."
The sheets were all rucked up, and his pillow lay on the floor. It was cold in the castle - it was always cold - but Fai was uncomfortably warm. He wiped shaking hands against his mattress.
Slowly, Ashura transferred his grip from Fai's shoulder to his trembling hands. The king's eyes widened slightly in surprise. "They're cold," he murmured, chafing Fai's long fingers. And then, in a murmured aside almost to himself, "So cold."
"Ashura-ou?" Fai questioned unsteadily. He wanted to lean into Ashura's grip, to let himself relax into the king's cool arms, to entangle his fingers in that straight and perfect midnight hair. At the same time, he wanted to flop back against his pillows, curl up far away from any touch, and sob. So he compromised, sitting painfully upright and looking wistfully at the cushion by the side of his bed, letting Ashura bring him some warmth.
"You're not doing yourself any good, holding onto everything like this," the man murmured, a worried frown creasing the skin between his brows. It marred his perfect, icy beauty. Fai removed a hand from his grip, brought up his fingers to smooth Ashura's forehead.
"You'll get wrinkles," he warned.
Ashura gave one of his peculiar half-smiles. "Wrinkles are the last things I'm worried about," he replied, pushing Fai back onto the down mattress. "Go back to sleep. You need your rest."
Fai smiled, or at least tried hard to paste something resembling a smile on his face. "Stay with me?" he asked softly, pleadingly, as Ashura picked up his pillow and smoothed his blankets. A comforting weight settled on the other side of his bed with a sigh, and cool fingers smoothed back his hair.
Fai's smile was almost genuine now as he curled up and closed his eyes. And when he slept, he didn't dream of death.
They were atop a hill, green grass waving in a cool spring breeze. The wan sun reminded Fai of Celes's too-short summers, the only respite from the biting cold. A few flowers waved with the grass - snow daisies, the first and last flowers to bloom.
Ashura was next to him, looking up and the fast-moving clouds with a look of contemplation. "Do you like this dream, Fai?" he asked softly, golden eyes half closed.
"Dream?" Fai looked around again. Beyond the hill were spindly, snow-covered mountains. He could see the palace in the distance, floating like it had been gouged out of the land and glued to the pale blue sky. When he turned the other way, he shuddered. A tall tower marred the landscape, pointing up like an accusing finger. He knew, somehow, that at the base of the tower was the pit.
"This is your new dream," the dark-haired man said. "You can change it. It's yours."
Fai frowned. Dreaming, on the whole, was an experience that was new to him. He had only previously known oblivion - and nightmares. For a moment, he closed his eyes and concentrated.
He obliterated the tower and pit and grew more grass on the hills, taking the clouds out of the sky and making the sun higher. It warmed his shoulders and his upturned face. A tree sprouted on the hilltop and contorted into a throne for Ashura, its blossoms falling and crowning his night-black hair. Fai gave himself a garland also, and seated himself in the shade by Ashura's feet. He plucked a snow daisy.
Ashura looked around from his seat, approval evident in his face. "This is very nice," he complimented Fai.
The magician smiled and offered him the flower. "Thank you."
"Just remember how this place looks," the king continued, taking the daisy and tucking it into his robes. "And if you find yourself dreaming, just come back." He leaned against the tree trunk with his eyes half closed, one hand resting on the flower over his heart, the other tracing lazy circles in the grain of the wood.
Fai turned, so he could gaze into Ashura's solemn face. There was something he had to ask, before the dream was over. "How did you- Will I see you in my dreams again?"
Instead of answering, Ashura placed his hand under Fai's chin and tilted up his face. "Your eyes..." he breathed.
Fai moistened his lips, found his gaze caught and held by Ashura's hypnotic eyes. They were like the sun, pure and gold and deep and he was falling... "Yes?" he managed to whisper.
"They're the same color as the sky."
For the first time in years and years, Fai slept peacefully. But when awoke again, he was alone. Again. He realized he was tired of sleeping alone, and waking alone. He was yearning for... something, intangible and indefinable. And when he thought of what he wanted he only saw gold like the sun and black like the night.
It hurt, deep down... but not as much as it had hurt before. He wasn't so terrified of sleeping, or dreaming.
He still felt the echoes of Ashura's fingers in his hair.
Reviews? Constructive criticism is always appreciated.