Betwixt and Between
Part Two: Chapter One
"You are here, alone again, in your sweet insanity,
All too calm, you hide yourself from reality."
They paused in the tale to start dinner; it was a long sort of story, even though Tavarez was a good listener and didn't interrupt, just sat and stroked his unnamed pet, nodding to show he was still paying attention. While they pulled a loaf of bread out of the cupboard and soup out of the ice box to heat up, however, he seemed to think it a good time to ask a question or two he'd been saving up.
"So until then Vagrant had seemed fairly comfortable with his two worlds?" was his first one.
"He told me once he thought it seemed more real, here, now," she answered.
"Because of Lament?"
"Because of Lament. He goes with him, somehow, into the dreams...." Yula shook her head. "I don't know how, and Lament can't seem to explain it very well. Nightling just says it's like he hears a song, and that song is Lament. Somehow. And since Lament was introduced here, but manages to go with him there, he thinks here must be the real one."
"Comforting, since we're all in this one," Tavarez said dryly.
Yula just laughed, putting the soup on to reheat. "Get out some bowls, would you? They're in that top cupboard."
As he stood on his toes to reach them, flit clinging to his tunic for balance, Tavarez asked, "But then Lament said he thought it was real?"
"Not exactly... not then. It's kind of hard to explain, though Lament did try...."
It took half an hour to calm his bond down, after a pronouncement like that, and Lament almost regretted saying it. Almost, because he thought it was true, and he thought it needed to be addressed. But he hated seeing his bond so worked up.... Maybe there could've been a better way to say it. He'd thought up a dozen different ways to approach the subject, over the past weeks since he'd made the realization, but it was the simplest and most blunt was what had come out of his mouth when he finally decided to say something. And, of course, his bond hadn't reacted well.
"Not real, as in, you go there," Lament tried to explain, once his bond was actually listening again, rather than pacing wildly around the garden. He was still moving restlessly, but at least he was listening. "You stay right here and you dream. But... it doesn't feel like a lot of other people's dreams."
"How would you know that? What do you mean, doesn't feel like?"
Lament looked down at his paws, feeling obscurely embarrassed and guilty, like he had violated some unspoken trust between them. But he'd wanted to test his ability, especially once he realized just what he was doing and what it meant to his bond. He hadn't told his bond, though, and he thought he should have... he just felt guilty for even doing it. "I've been in other people's dreams... just to see what it was like. To compare them to yours, and see what I could do. And... it didn't feel the same. Not quite."
No matter how Lament felt, his bond didn't seem to share it. He stopped pacing and stood looking up at him; it still felt strange, after his last growth spurt, to be looking down on his bonded. "How was it different?" he asked urgently.
"It was...." Lament tried to think of how to explain. "It felt made up. There might've been bits and pieces of real things-- a person they knew, a room in a house they knew-- but not the whole house, and the person was always a little different, or a little unclear, or something. Their point of view changed all the time, and all sorts of strange things happen."
"All sorts of strange things happen to me," his bond protested.
"But not the rest," Lament pointed out. "And usually they're always the same strange things. And always in the same setting, with the same people. It's-- different. If I were gonna say what it felt like, it felt like somebody dreaming about a memory-- sometimes people do that, too, usually bad memories. I think that maybe that place exists somewhere, and you've seen it, so you can dream about it."
His bond sat down under the tree he'd fallen asleep under, pressing the heels of his hands into his eyes. "I don't remember seeing anything like that," he said after a long pause.
"I know... if you'd remembered it, you wouldn't think being there was a whole 'nother world, right?" He didn't have an answer for that, so Lament continued awkwardly, "I don't know how it works, if maybe you've forgotten it, or been made to forget it, or what. But I think it exists somewhere." He took a deep breath, dreading what he wanted to say next, but he'd been putting it off for weeks now.... "And I think you should probably find it."
This time his bond didn't launch into a panic; instead, he just stared disbelievingly. Lament put his ears back nervously. "I'm sorry, forget I said anything--"
"Why would I want to go back?" his bond interrupted. "It was-- I'm never happy when I'm there. I don't think. Am I?"
"You don't seem like it there, no," Lament answered miserably, "but I think... I think it might make them stop, if you go. And see it. Maybe."
The incredulous stare only intensified.
"Never mind, forget it," Lament said hurriedly. "I'm just guessing, that's all."
He didn't forget it, though. That evening, when they met Yula for dinner-- his bond felt the same kind of vague embarrassment and guilt whenever he thought about Yula, as Lament did when he thought about his furtive explorations in other people's dreams-- his bond himself brought it up again, to Lament's great surprise.
"I don't know," Yula said thoughtfully, taking a break from watching his bond with that hopeful, longing expression that seemed to make him even more embarrassed and guilty. Now she was frowning slightly, pensive. "It's a better explanation than anyone else's, isn't it? Actually, isn't it the only explanation anyone's been able to give, that actually makes sense?"
"But what about the part about actually going there?" his bond asked, glancing around as if he could actually see the echoing caves and strange Others in them over his shoulder.
Yula shared a glance with Lament-- who was on the verge of no longer fitting inside the strictly human-sized apartment set she'd been given-- as if trying to judge whether he had been being serious. Then she shrugged. "Nobody else has had a better suggestion for getting rid of the dreams. --I mean, you do want to be rid of them, don't you?"
"I've never even thought about it. They've just always been there."
"I don't see why you wouldn't want to at least try," Yula pressed, apparently seeing some kind of advantage in him "at least trying".
"I don't even know where to start," he protested. "It could be anywhere-- it's not like anything else I've ever seen."
Again, Yula looked at Lament, but this time her gaze was expectant. He shrank a little, ducking his head, at her determined look. "You've been learning how to teleport, haven't you?"
"Well, yes, but--"
"You've seen the place he goes, right?"
"Well, yes, but--"
"You could take him there, right?"
"Why not?" she demanded. His bond's expression was also vaguely hopeful, and Lament sighed.
"Because it's so small-- I'm not that good, what if I reappeared with half of me stuck inside a wall? Besides, if I'm wrong, I don't know what will happen."
Yula slumped a little in disappointment, and his bond went back to trying to finish his dinner before she could look at him sadly some more. He came here for dinner a few times a week, apparently out of guilt and a vague desire for the normalcy that she seemed to symbolize, and spend the night on much rarer occasions, usually when his dreaming mind was elsewhere and his wandering body interested in desires of its own. Lament usually didn't intrude on either part of him, at those times. But he usually wound up trying to to keep the former meals together brief, and the latter occasions usually brought him back to his own set of rooms in the middle of the night, muttering darkly to himself.
That night, though, before they both bedded down for the night, Lament's bond came to find him. He usually didn't bother, not since he was just hatched and still wanting bedtime stories-- it had been a while since he was that young. A simple "good night" said across their bond was usually enough, especially since Lament usually kept him company while he slept, anyway.
"Do you think there could be a way?" he asked, sitting on the edge of the well-blanketed niche carved into the wall that Lament called a bed. "To go there, to those caves I dream about?"
"I don't know," Lament answered apologetically. "I've been thinking about it... but I can't think of anywhere in them that I'd feel comfortably teleporting to." At his disappointed expression, Lament voiced a half-formed thought, in the hopes of raising his hopes again: "We could-- maybe go back to Mythicalae and look, the normal way. Just... follow your instincts, maybe."
"But my instincts say I've never been there before...."
Lament shared his bond's sigh. "Well, maybe if you saw what it was like outside those caves, it would help...." They both paused, sharing a held breath and a memory of that afternoon's dream. It was Lament who voiced the thought they also shared: "The sunlight. If you can get back there...."
"Maybe we could see it. Outside."
"It's worth a try."
"Yes." He took Lament's cheeks in his hand, pressing their foreheads together briefly in a rare sign of affection. "I'll try. Good night, Lament."
"Good night. Good luck."
Song borrowed from the OST for Hack//Sign, the song "The World"
Draclin'geyar are the Creative Property of Silver Midnight; Fleshshifters are the Creative Property of Drakiera