"Can you help me with it?"
"Of course. I'll explain as much as I know and—"
"No, I mean—can you show me?" Bran searched Jojen's eyes, hoping he understood. "Can we…dream together? It might be the only way I'll learn it completely."
The other boy hesitated, his eyes darting away. After a moment he spoke.
"It can be done. But…"
"It's a very…intimate thing. Or so I've heard. Because, when two people dream together, it's like…like they're sharing a piece of their souls. I've never done it because of that reason." Jojen met his gaze again, a new resolve in his eyes. "But you are the one, Bran; for you, I will. You are the only thing that matters."
Jojen looked back at Bran, a thought occurring to him, and suddenly he seemed almost shy. "That is—now that you know about it—if you like me enough to want to try it."
Bran ran it all over in his mind. The idea of it at first had seemed scary. But he was going to have to face much scarier things in his life. And this time he was going to have Jojen's help. And more, have a new closeness with the boy. His heart skipped at the thought.
"Yes. I want it. Please, Jojen."
The older boy nodded and came to sit in front of him, close, and brought their foreheads together. He closed his eyes and Bran felt compelled to do the same, feeling a shiver run through him when he felt one of Jojen's hands come to rest on his face and the other entwine with his.
The wolf's yellow eyes flew open, and Bran blinked, the familiar green-tinged view coming into focus. This was the part he knew. He knew how to see as the wolf, and ride with the wolf, but not how to keep the dream from shredding in his mind whenever it so pleased. Keeping it was like trying to keep water in your hands.
A fuzzy presence on the fringes of his mind caught his attention. It was familiar and he drew towards it, even as Summer caught the scent of a stag nearby. The stag came into view then, and Bran saw his familiar eyes. Jojen bounded off and Bran was instantly caught up, running beside him.
The dream shifted and then it was Bran, not Summer, and Jojen, in the flesh. They were running still—Bran was running!—and it was like he was flying with happiness.
But the edges were unraveling. Bran stopped and spun in panic and dismay, reaching out as if he could actually stop it if he could grab the ends and pull.
But then it changed again. Jojen was in front of him, holding his face, like a mirror of them in the real world. And it blurred, and Bran saw his own face, as if he were looking through Jojen's eyes. He held his own gaze with a fierce intensity that was most unlike him, and he shivered, because he knew it was Jojen looking at him this way.
"Hold on, Bran. Concentrate. Focus on me."
And he did. He closed his eyes and bent his every thought on the other boy, and all of his dream thoughts as well. He knew somehow that Jojen was doing the same thing with him, and the fabric of their dream began to mend, the un-reality of it feeding on the combined reality of both of them. It began to strengthen with the double dream energy, and then, like a pressurized release of steam, their view shot far into the sky and kept going until they could see for miles and miles.
"My gods," Bran breathed. This was ten times at least as far as either of their sights had stretched before.
But it was too much too fast. Both boys were feeling the strain of the untrained dream-sharing, and Jojen turned to Bran.
"We have to end this Bran. But at least we'll end it on our own terms."
They were so in sync; more than Bran had ever felt with another person, and more than he ever believed was possible to feel again. Together they pulled each other toward the edges and, with an effort, like making your way through a strong headwind, they broke out.
With a gasp they pulled apart. But the pull was like ripping off a limb. The distance created between them in that split second was excruciating. Bran cried out and lunged back toward Jojen, landing against his chest as the older boy did the same thing, clashing them together like magnets. They gasped and clung to each other, feeling the strange new sensations deep in their chests. Almost as if their souls really had swapped pieces, Bran thought. How were they to function without the new puzzle pieces of their souls? Instinctively Bran knew now that he couldn't be away from Jojen. Even physical distance would be painful.
Was this permanent? Jojen had warned him about this: that something like this might happen. He had been right. But it had also been worth it. The dream had been more controlled than any he'd had, and they both knew that it had been so much more powerful.
"Bran…" Jojen was murmuring into his hair. It sounded like a sob.
"It's okay. Don't be sorry." Bran didn't know how he knew the other boy had been apologizing. He just did, now that they were connected like this.
Bran was about to say something when crashing footsteps interrupted. Meera slid to a stop, catching her breath, and looked at them.
"Jojen—Bran—are you alright? I heard a gasp." Her eyes widened as she took in the situation. She looked at her brother. "Did you…?"
Jojen just nodded. Bran suspected the siblings had discussed the dream sharing before; perhaps talked about whether or not Bran was worth the risk to Jojen. He wondered whether Jojen thought he was. But suddenly he knew the answer to that as if his own mind had supplied it: Of course, my prince.
Meera walked with Osha at the back of their little troupe.
"Tell me exactly what happened. What did he do to the little lord?" Osha gave the girl a cold look. It was clear her frail trust in the siblings had been severely shaken.
"It's called dream sharing. What it is, is what it sounds like. But what it does, is…well it's mostly just legend. But it's said that it creates a very strong bond between the two…"
"Well that's obvious!" Osha glared at Bran and Jojen, where the two traveled ahead of them.
Bran was lying in his cart, as usual, but Jojen walked right beside him, always touching. It had been like this for the past two days, though it had gotten better. At first the two couldn't be more than a foot apart from each other, clinging like dew on leaves, but now they could act normally, as long as they were touching. At least, that's as best as Osha had figured it out. Maybe the touching wasn't really necessary… she wasn't exactly an expert on this sort of thing, and she was also worldly enough not to overlook the possibility that it was just their preference now.
"Aye. Well, they don't seem to mind." Meera hid a smile that she knew would just anger Osha more. Indeed her brother had seemed almost lovesick over the smaller boy, doting at his side not because he had to, but because there was no place he'd rather be.
"And at any rate, I don't think it's permanent. Look at how far they've separated in a couple days. At this rate it should only be a week or so before they're back to normal."
Osha just growled and stalked ahead, muttering in a language Meera didn't know. She made a show of checking on Rickon and the wolves, since it was obvious she wasn't needed to check on Bran.
As it turned out, Meera had been right: it did wear off as time went by, and a little over a week later, Bran sat alone with Summer around a deserted campfire. It wasn't really deserted, he reminded himself. Osha wasn't far, lurking out of sight somewhere, but close enough to keep a watchful eye. But Jojen was gone; off hunting with his sister, who had jumped at the opportunity for some sibling privacy after the last few days.
Bran looked down at his hand, and felt the missing weight, the close presence that had become so constant, that was now just…gone. It didn't hurt anymore, to be away from him, but it was like searching for something you knew was missing, and peace eluded him. But at the same time, he knew that if he tried even in the slightest, he could find Jojen. As if their minds where compasses, honed in on the other, and all Bran had to do was glance at it, and he would know.
He ran his fingers through the wolf's wiry fur, and Summer looked up. Shaggydog and Rickon came trotting into the clearing then, and the boy sat down by his brother with a grin, as the wolves nuzzled.
"Rick, where have you been?" Bran gave his best mask smile, hoping Rickon wouldn't see anything beyond it.
"Shaggydog was scaring up grouse for me to shoot, in that glen," he pointed.
"Ah. And did you get any?"
"Nah." The boy shrugged off his bow without a care in the world. "Where's Jojen?"
"Off hunting somewhere. I'm sure they're not far."
Rickon hummed thoughtfully and leaned against the wolf. "You mean you know he's not far. You know where he is, don't you? You two are so close."
Bran shifted uncomfortably. When had his baby brother become so perceptive? "I suppose."
"But you're not actually staying close anymore. Do you miss that? Is that why you're sad?"
"I—I'm not sad, Rick. Just tried probably."
"But you miss it?" Rickon was gazing at him with intense eyes that were beyond his ten years. Bran was a little startled by it. The boy always seemed to be in his own world, not talking much, but he saw everything. He would be a powerful ally someday, maybe even a good Hand, if he ever got the chance.
But he had hit the nail on the head. Bran did miss the connection. Maybe just because it provided an excuse to keep Jojen near. He didn't really know what that meant, and he was afraid to look too closely. He didn't really think Jojen was relieved to be released from him, but he did wonder how the other boy was really feeling. Their connection had faded well enough that they couldn't read each other like they could at first.
"I miss…him." Bran said softly.
To his shock, Rickon laughed. "He's not gone, Bran! Don't look so down; for once, no one's died. Maybe you'll have to be close to someone the same way the rest of us have to."
"What…do you mean?"
"As in, without magic! Good old-fashioned falling in love."
((Possibly TBC, I honestly don't know! Thanks for reading! Please let me know what you thought!))