Erwin sits up in bed and shakes Levi gently by the shoulder.
“Hey, Levi, wake up.”
Levi wakes with a half strangled gasp, grasping at Erwin’s shoulder, struggling to surface from the fearful dream, desperately seeking something solid to hold on to, to anchor him in the present.
“Shhh, hush darling,” Erwin soothes, holding him close and rocking him in the cradle of his arms. “I’ve got you, you’re safe. Shhh, I’ve got you.”
“Another dream?” he asks, smoothing sweat slicked hair off Levi’s brow, as he lies shuddering and exhausted in his arms.
Levi has always been prey to odd dreams, but recently they have been increasing in frequency and peculiarity. They’re always the same, always different; always words, always stories. Stories about them, about their lives, but not this life, other lives, other worlds, other loves. Occasionally they’re happy, mostly they’re not. Often they suffer. Often they die.
“What was is this time? Was it bad?”
“It was…not good.”
Levi’s voice, muffled against Erwin’s chest, sounds thick and hoarse.
Well that at least is a blessed relief. Some of Levi’s dreams, some of these stories, go on and on, night after night.
“Just a couple of paragraphs, but it was fucked up, it was so fucked up Erwin.”
He’s trembling in Erwin’s arms though whether from the fearful memory of the dream, or from suppressed emotion, Erwin can not say. He holds Levi close, running his fingers gently through his hair. This is his part, this is how it goes. He knows that Levi must tell the story to exorcise the spectre of the dream. His role is to keep the ghosts at bay.
“You were happy Erwin,” Levi starts hesitantly, “and successful and married…”
“No. To some woman. And you had these beautiful children. But I knew you were meant to be with me. You just didn’t remember.”
“Oh, Levi, I’d never forget you, you know that don’t you?”
Levi doesn’t answer the question.
“I wanted you so badly Erwin, so fucking badly. I did a terrible thing. I tried to split you from your wife, break up your family, just so you’d remember. So you’d remember me.”
“And…?” Erwin asked hesitantly. He really doesn’t want to hear the answer, but he owes it to Levi to listen, to share the burden of these fearful nightmares.
“It didn’t work, you never remembered, and you hated me for it, detested me for ruining your life. You never remembered. You never remembered me Erwin. I just keep loosing you over and over again.
Levi’s voice drops to a low whisper.
“I ended up alone. Dying alone. Filled with bitterness and loneliness and regret.”
Erwin fears his heart might break with sorrow.
“Levi, Levi, Levi, I could never forget you, never, not in this life or any other. You know that don’t you? It’s just a dream. Just a terrible dream. No one would ever write something like that. Why would anyone want to do that? I’m here with you, right where I belong. Okay?”
Levi releases a long shuddering breath and Erwin feels the smallest nod of his head against his chest.
“Okay?” Erwin repeats, tilting Levi’s chin up and kissing his eyelids gently.
“Yeah,” Levi replies, shaking his head to dispel the last shreds of the dream. “Oh,” his brow furrows again, “there was a frog….. something about a frog that needed help…”
“A frog?” Erwin repeats slowly, concerned for the first time that Levi’s peculiar dreams may be a symptom of some deeper underlying problem.
“Yeah I know…” Levi shakes his head again and exhales a short laugh, “told you it was fucked up.”
They lie still in the darkness, Erwin cradling Levi in his arms. He’s drifting off to sleep when Levi speaks again.
“There was a bird too. Or a birb. What the fuck’s a birb Erwin?”
“You need to give yourself a break,” Dita said when he saw it was only Levi coming down the stairs into the dungeon. He propped his feet back onto the desk and resumed unwrapping his lunch, watching the other man make his way down the corridor towards the distant sound of muffled cries of pain.