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The dream is not a rerun, but a distorted reflection, a lie.

It shows not something that did happen, but something that could’ve, maybe, happened.

It makes EQUINOX sick to her stomach, waking up from that. A scream is in her throat when she jerks from the dream, feeling cold sweat on her back, tears in her eyes. She sits there for a moment, panting, even though she doesn’t need to breathe, her body tense, heart pounding. Instantly, she knows it was a dream, but the world around her is no less alien. In that dream, she expected to wake up in hell again, seeing the trappings of her and SOLSTICE’s home.

But it’s not her and SOLSTICE’s home, it’s her and Kyarne’s. Kyarne is awake, EQUINOX knows, looking at her with concern but saying nothing. It’s dark, but EQUINOX feels everything. Their clothing, the blankets, the carpet, the walls, the book on her nightstand. Closing her eyes, EQUINOX breathes it all in, taking in the reality around her, and then she lets her eyes open again. And she slides back down into bed.

Kyarne’s arms are around her in a moment, and EQUINOX turns, unconsciously shoving her face into her chest. Soft. Without saying anything, Kyarne strokes her hair, fingers working their way into her locks. The touch is awkward, and EQUINOX, for a second, feels SOLSTICE, in bruises and cuts and stolen breaths. But SOLSTICE is not there, and there are no bruises or cuts or stolen breaths. There is Kyarne, warm, gentle, and soft. SOLSTICE is gone, SOLSTICE is dead, and SOLSTICE is no longer important.

The embrace is short, as EQUINOX pulls herself back and runs a hand over her face. She’s not crying. The tears have receded. It’s comforting, and it feels safer to escape the tears. “Do you want tea, dear?” Kyarne’s voice is quiet, barely legible, and EQUINOX nods, hand still covering her face. She feels Kyarne’s weight slide off the bed, and hears her step away out of their room, to the kitchen. A light flicks on, and through the open door, EQUINOX, her bedroom, is illuminated.

Compared to her room with SOLSTICE, which was so agonizingly curated, her and Kyarne’s bedroom is homely. Sure, there’s clothing on the floor, but the room smells like love, like safety. It’s warm. Lived-in. EQUINOX closes her eyes, and takes another deep breath. She’s okay. She’s fine. She’s safe. Kyarne hums in the distance, and EQUINOX straightens out the loose, faded band shirt she had worn to bed. Then, she yawns, and lies back down, crawling over to Kyarne’s side of the mattress. It’s warmer than her half, because Kyarne’s just warmer, physically.

Which is really good for Kyarne, because EQUINOX hogs the blankets. She pulls them with her, swaddled up inside of them, and settles back down. The kettle whistles, and within the minute, Kyarne is back in the room, gently setting a mug of warm tea on her nightstand, now stolen by EQUINOX. “Thief,” Kyarne murmurs, voice teasing, as she crawls into bed beside her and wraps her arms around her waist.

EQUINOX breathes her in, sits up a few times for a few sips of tea, and falls asleep in Kyarne’s spooning embrace. Her dreams are a bit better, a bit fainter, a bit more abstract, and do not wake her, this time. But the feeling of bruises, of cuts, and of stolen breath comes back to haunt her throughout the day. A phantom pain, where what was lost was not a limb, but something else. Something less tangible, but just as vital. Something that won’t grow back, at least not the same.

But EQUINOX is alive.

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