Disclaimer:Don't own anything.

Author's Note: Stylistically, this is taken from The Lazarus Pit by Necchan, one of my favorite Batman fics and I simply had to do it.

I have just found out that I'm going to Spain with three coworkers. Still trying to believe it.

The first book in my brother and I's original alternate history/fantasy series is up on authonomy. I would appreciate it if you guys would head over there, take a look.

authonomy / books / 47917 / sanctum - files - the - dragon - scroll /

Adversity is like a strong wind. I don't mean just that it holds us back from places we might otherwise go. It also tears away from us all but the things that cannot be torn, so that afterward, we see things as they really are and not as we might like them to be.
-Memoirs of a Geisha

Limbo doesn't drive you insane, like some say, or wear you thin. But perhaps that is preferable to the things it does do.

It makes you dream. But it's not a dream you can control or that you can ever really wake up from. Because the dream is real.

A real dream within its own dream that dreams of others and Selves until it loops around and perhaps it can make you drive yourself insane. Because those layers are all pieces of yourself that you've lost over the years. Fears and loves and passions and desires that mirror upon each other until all the broken shards reflect off each other in a horribly glorious image.

Because it's a dream of possibilities and truths.

A dream of Selves.

You dream a dream of your Self.

The horizon is little more than a fuzzy line, the winds bringing the taste of winter and frost. An old house out in the harvested fields and you see the dog sprawled on the porch and he raises his head as if about to bark, but he doesn't. You crouch down to scratch behind his ears and he rolls over, asking for his belly to be rubbed.

A surprised burst of laughter and you look up to see a man in a loud, worn shirt who smiles and says that the old dog has never liked anyone before. You stay for dinner. And then breakfast. You stay for a few nights more. The frost comes with a vengeance and you end up staying for the winter.

You think that perhaps, you can find a place to settle here. Away from the bustle of cities where the soldiers are still searching for devil-worshiping bookseller who'd cursed a lord's son.

The soldiers come in the spring, after you and the farmer have managed to come to some sort of compromise and rather like the way the farmer laughs and you think that perhaps it can be possible to have a different sort of life here, one with a shared bed and that laugh pressed into your skin until it's a part of you. But you don't press your luck; the city already believes you to be a devil-worshiper thanks to some of the books you used to sell. No need to add sodomy to the list.

But the soldiers come anyway. They burn the house and the fields, salt the earth that you've helped tend and you see when they shove the farmer back into the flames because fire is the only way to purge the devil from someone. After the screams die off, they toss you in there as well.

By that point, you almost welcome it.

But dying doesn't wake you from this dream. It only makes another part of the dream, another part of your Self, latch on and you see wooden beams and a prideful black Andalusian who only likes the green apples that you bring. A shadow slips behind you, the lightest touch on your shoulders making you jump because this is the one place you can forget the life in the castle and you whirl to face the shadow, but they're already running out to the short stretch of grass before the woods and you chase him.

You're faster than he is, but you're lighter, so you don't have the force to knock him to the ground like you want to. You make him lose his balance just as he turns back a bit and his arms wrap around your waist, a smile you can't see, but you can feel against your neck.

He tastes of apples and smoke and he smells of horses and hay, but it's a familiar scent because you've known him what feels like all your life. You are there every morning and whenever you can in the evenings.

You dream of leaving with him. You're not going to rule any time soon. Your brothers are above in station, despite the fact that one is nearly a cripple. But you love them, despite it all, because they are family. He agrees with the dream. After all, he has nothing here but the horses and a tiny room above the stables.

The week before you had planned to leave, your brother—frail and bird-fragile—gets the sickness. And it doesn't take long for it to take hold of him and suddenly, you're second in line and you can't leave because of responsibilities. Your father arranges a marriage—must be soon, he says, before catastrophe strikes again—and the shadow won't watch.

The last time you see him, he's on the back of a hay cart heading into town.

Your Self doesn't die so much as hurtle through space until it hits another life. And coming to when they drag you through the corridors is something of a shock. You manage to shake them off because you won't allow yourself to be treated as a prisoner. Not after years of service. Not during what is probably going to be the last time you see the sun, slanting through the high windows of the audience hall.

He is there, the other Self, the one that you recognize now, despite the slightly different features and the new name. (In this life, he called you 'darling' in the shared darkness…)He stands behind the Queen as you once did. This is all a lie, you want to tell him. The Crown is no longer in the right. But he believes in her and you won't be a part of this anymore. You want to out him, want to shove your shared secret out into the world because, by rule of the Church, it is enough for exile to love a man. But that is a bit too cruel, even for you.

So when the Queen asks, just once, if you repent, you look her straight in the eye and say proudly, no.

You are hanged the next morning for treason against the Crown. You're not surprised. You are a little surprised to still see him there, but then, he isn't always a coward.

It is a brief meeting, the next time. You see the merchant on his way into Constantinople and you dart past horsemen and guards changing shifts and as he is stopped in the line for inspection on the way in, you plant yourself beside him.

He looks over, surprised and you flash a smile, Turkish flowing from your lips easily. At most, he understands perhaps a third of it, but in his scramble to understand you, he doesn't see your hands going for the silk scarves he keeps draped just inside his wagon. You snatch them in a sudden movement and he is staring wide-eyed at you as you sprint up to the rooftops, scarves wrapped around your neck. You wave once and with a mocking bow, you're gone.

It is your turn to see him be dragged inside, to see him tossed inside a cell. He is intelligent, you know this, intelligent enough to be a good face for a framing of a murder of the boy king. You call his name—known by most everyone in the kingdom for he is something of both a black sheep and not of the royal family—and it isn't Eames, but it sounds like it when it echoes on stone.

He doesn't trust you at first and it takes a good few weeks of being trapped down there for him to believe you about your plan. You help him escape—not difficult. The guards are half-drunk most of the time and you had been a thief before the church picked you up. It's been a long time, but not long enough to forget how to steal a key from a guard.

You escape out through the dungeons, an old way out that few people even knew anymore. Once you're free, he looks over at you and laughs a little. You're more than you seem, priest, and he is a handsome man who you feel like you know, but you know you don't for when have you ever met a prince? But your heart thuds all the same and you remind yourself that it's a sin and you'd chosen your path.

You part on a country road, with his voice echoing back to you a thousand names that all sound like Eames.

You don't meet for many lives after that and you know the ache in your chest. You have wives and children and you love them, but you do not love those women as lovers, but as wives. (Have you ever been a lover, a half of a whole?) And you fight in wars and travel the world and you still don't find him and you know what it is to sit at the end of a life and stare out at the sky and not know who it is that you miss, but only that you do.

The next time you see him, it's in a little girl's eyes. A precise shade of gray like rainy skies that belongs to neither you nor your wife. You love her though, and chase her through the courtyards, kiss her scraped knees and chase her nightmares away.

But she is not yours. She is his, the other Self, and is that not so appropriate? That this child is both of yours, in a way? He says a name and it sounds like Arthur, but isn't. Your daughter that isn't yours hides behind your legs, letting her lovely brown curls fall forward.

You let him visit her; you're not a monster and you know what it is to love a child. But the assassins come for her and you can't keep them away. You die looking at where he's holding her, hiding her face, and you know that their eyes are the same precise shade of gray.

And the gray returns and spreads into the gray of the ocean in the dawn and Boston is falling. You duck out from behind the shipping crates, sprinting to the city. You hide from a cannon blast by throwing yourself in an alley and your pulse is racing, thudding in your ears. Then you hear someone else's breathing, someone else's shifting and you turn and all you see is red.

The musket is up before you think about it and he's backing up, dropping the gun, hands up. But that doesn't stop you; they're murderers and terrorists. But you've never seen a redcoat back down like this, looking afraid.

So you ask one thing—Why?—and that's such a full, loaded question that neither of you is quite sure how to answer it. But he does say one thing. I got scared; I was wrong.

And there's a sudden jolt because you know each other in those words that sound like everything they've ever known and ever been and ever can be.

He's there before you see him moving, pressed against you with that damned smell of smoke and he tastes like tea and ashes with a copper tang of blood and you don't fight him. If anything, you bring him closer and the name you say isn't Eames, but it tastes like it. The dream cracks and you see a farmer, a stableboy, a guard, a merchant, a prince, a soldier, a thief before you and you see a million and one emotion flash through those eyes because he doesn't remember if he should curse you for stealing his daughter, for betraying all that the two of you had stood for, but you are still all the men he remembers loving and there's a certainty that, this time, things aren't going to work again so you feel it when he goes for the knife, but you don't stop him. You let him kiss you and kill you and even as you feel yourself dying (It was a familiar feeling now), you tell him, See you in the next life and the next thing you see is a world of mirrors falling and breaking and reflecting lives everywhere, lives with countless Selves with their loves who look a bit like Eames and always taste like him, who is always gray as rain and warm like laughter and maybe this next time will be the time you two get it right.

Limbo doesn't drive you insane, like some say, or wear you thin. But perhaps that is preferable to the things it does do.

It makes you dream. But it's not a dream you can control or that you can ever really wake up from. Because the dream is real.

Because it's a dream of possibilities and truths.

A dream of Selves where voices echo in between bouts of laughter mixed with the salty feel of tears. The voices are all different pitches and accents and ages and they're all saying different things that taste like one thing, smoky and spicy.

You shouldn't remember them when you wake. They should become dim things. But they remain clear in your mind, as sharp as your true memories of this life. They haunt you and you stay away from Eames because of it. You don't need to deal with him while still trying to figure out what you want to do.

Because you can run. You can keep avoiding him and you'll never be more than you are now.

But that thought leaves a bad taste in your mouth because you have all the variables. You know him and you know yourself and this shouldn't be difficult. In this life, there is no reason to be afraid.

You know what he's done. Because of you, against you, for you.

And you know what you've done to him and for him.

For the first time, you know all of this.

And you won't give this up without a fight.

Not again.

That's the thing about heart wishes. You might have to travel through several landscape and spend time in each one, living and learning and changing inside, before you're ready for the palce you truly belong, the place your heart recognizes as 'home'.
-Lee (Glorianna by Anne Bishop)