Bryn took a deep breath, then rose smoothly into the air. Flying took a lot of concentration—flying slowly and hovering were even harder. These were impossible feats in the real world, and undertaking the impossible in Somnus required a dreamwalker to achieve a complete disconnection from his real-world self. It took huge mental effort, and that was not something Bryn had ever really excelled in. While he had a certain natural ability that had put him ahead of other new dreamwalkers when he’d first arrived in Somnus, he’d later found it difficult to develop those natural abilities to the higher level Dylan and Finn had achieved.
Today, though, Bryn’s elevation was smooth, and he managed a controlled glide over the treetops as he carefully scanned the ground below.
At last he came upon Laszlo, sitting on the ground in the middle of a clearing, his head bowed, his hand worrying at something round his neck. The man was like no dreamwalker Bryn had ever seen, nor any drone. He sat there, alone, seemingly without purpose, without desire. He looked to be all at sea, at the mercy of tides he could not control and didn’t understand.
Bryn had just been telling Dylan he’d been an emotional, impulsive kid, and the truth was he was still like that, still lacking in control. His impulsiveness hadn’t come to an end that day with the dogs. No, he’d continued to make stupid decisions all through his adult years, both here and in the real world. The only difference now was that, these days, he was more consumed by regret afterwards.
Now that stupidity came on him again, and instead of shifting away when he saw the man who’d tried more than once to capture him in Somnus, he lowered his body a few feet from above the treetops to a lower elevation, coming to a halt on one of the stout upper branches of a sturdy tree.
Sitting himself down on that broad wooden limb, Bryn waited for Laszlo to notice him.
At first, Laszlo didn’t react to his presence at all, but after a while, his dark head lifted, in the way a dog’s head lifts when it scents something, and in one fluid movement, he stood up, unfolding his long limbs, and looked around.
When he spotted Bryn, his expression transformed. One moment it was no more than vaguely curious, the next it was intensely yearning.
“It’s you!” he said, and his voice cracked on the words.
“Hello, Laszlo,” Bryn said, mouth dry, heart thudding with fear and something else—anticipation, maybe. “Do you remember me today?”
Laszlo Grimm regarded him unhappily. Then he shook his head.
“No,” he said. “Do I know you? I feel as though, perhaps—”
His gaze locked with Bryn’s, and something flickered in his eyes. The next instant, his expression went strangely flat and he was launching himself at the tree, grabbing the lowest branch and swinging himself up before reaching for the next one, climbing so quickly that panic sent Bryn soaring upwards again, scratching himself on the branches above in his hurry to get way.
He only slowed when he was well above the canopy, wondering sickly if Laszlo could fly too, and if he did, how fast he would be.
He knew he should shift away now, be done with the man.
Instead he watched Laszlo climb ever higher, swallowing against his own dread but helpless to avert his gaze as the man balanced on a branch that looked far too flimsy for his bulk, then bent his knees with the plain intention of launching himself into the air at Bryn.
Shit, he’s actually going to do it!
And he did.
Laszlo leapt into the ether, his vivid blue gaze fixed on Bryn, electric bright with determination. For the briefest instant, Bryn thought the man was going to succeed. His body rose far beyond what any drone could ever manage, and for an instant, he hovered, reaching his hand towards Bryn, who floated ten or more feet above him.
Then he dropped.
He fell backwards, his face morphing from triumph to shock in the moment before it disappeared into the canopy of leaves, and then there was only the thwap and crack of branches as he crashed through the upper boughs, and the final sickening thud as he hit the ground.
In the eerie silence that followed, Bryn could only hear his own panicked breaths.
He knew he should shift away right now, while Laszlo was incapacitated, but he couldn’t bring himself to do it. Slowly, carefully, he lowered himself through the trees, stopping a few feet from the ground to hover anxiously above Laszlo, who lay very still on his back, his eyes open but unfocused.
“Laszlo,” Bryn murmured. The other man stirred a little, then moaned as though in pain, and Bryn had to suppress the urge to move closer. Instead he forced himself to stay where he was and watched, his anxiety only beginning to ease when, eventually, Laszlo slowly sat up. When he spotted Bryn, he tried to rise, only to fall back with a groan.
“Do you recognise me now?” Bryn asked. “Do you know who I am?”
Laszlo frowned, thinking hard, but didn’t answer immediately. “I think I’ve been waiting for you,” he said at last. “For a long time, maybe.” He struggled to his knees.
“We’ve met before,” Bryn said, his voice a little pleading.
“I don’t remember,” Laszlo replied. He was back on his feet now and looking up, his vivid gaze growing determined. He’d leap again, Bryn knew. And again and again. He would just keep coming.
Time to go.
The waves began to shush in Bryn’s ears.
“I wish you could remember me,” he said, barely able to hear his own voice.
He saw Laszlo’s mouth move as he answered, but the waves drowned out the words…