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The Dream-eater

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 The sun shines but I don’t
A silver rain will wash away
And you can’t tell, it’s just as well
Goodnight, my love, to every hour in every day
Goodnight, always, to all that’s pure that's in your heart

Farewell and Goodnight, The Smashing Pumpkins

His dreams were almost always pleasant, and, to his chagrin, almost always cut short.

Tonight, he was dreaming about his father again. Father was always tall and silent and strong in his dreams—not like the broken, slumped figure that he was in the photographs—Miles Edgeworth shook his head and looked up at the person he loved the most in the world. His hand was so solid and large and warm, and just beyond the hazy horizon he was sure he can see the outline of a dream-courthouse. No, he told himself firmly, I am in a pleasant memory. Let me enjoy this for as long as I can, not marred by reality, because any minute now—


He was suddenly staring at the dusty canopy over his head. Miles’s eyebrows drew together, fuming with a childish irritation. Why do I always wake up after one-and-a-half hours? he wondered with a resigned groan, sitting up and flicking the bedside lamp on. He had never had such irregular sleeping hours like this before his father’s death and his subsequent adoption by Mr. von Karma. Actually, he prided himself on how rigid his biological clock was for someone of his age—back in his old house, he always dropped off to sleep at nine-thirty sharp and always woke up at six in the morning, just in time to get up and be ready for school in just short of an hour.

Now, he can’t even fall asleep for more than one-and-a-half hours. And for some reason, that figure was really precise, even down to the last minute—more precisely, he can sleep for eighty-nine minutes straight before his eyes and brain would inevitably betray him and snap him out of his sleep, however deep it might have been. Miles knew the count, because he had personally checked it once against the clock now ticking away before his face, telling him that it was now ten-twenty-nine in the evening, and that he has to either try to sleep again (which he knew would be quite a feat, now that he was too perturbed by his condition to blank his mind sufficiently) or else occupy his time with something more productive.

Sighing, he fumbled for the German-language book that was stuffed in his nightstand, and flicked to his bookmark to diligently study. It was as well—he couldn’t study the new language fast enough, and the master, his daughters, and the servants always converse in it, effectively keeping him out of the loop. If anything, learning what they were all talking about would make him much more at home, so Miles was also slightly thankful for the extra study time his annoying sleep cycle afforded him. However, his slight irritation still outstripped his gratefulness for the legitimate excuses this pseudo-insomnia will give him for being awake at this time of night.

He was trying to fruitlessly mouth the words, his tongue feeling as if he had somehow twisted it in a knot, when he heard the rustling at the foot of his overly-huge bed. His head shooting up warily, he sighed in relief when it turned out to be nothing. Don’t be such a baby, Miles, he chided himself, and looked back at his book—

“That looks really difficult.”

Miles’s scream was cut short by a hasty hand clapping over his straining mouth, and Miles struggled for a bit before realizing that he’d probably wake up the master down the hall and be in for a punishment. His eyes screwed up in fear, he stopped shouting and tugged tentatively at the hand clamped tightly against his lips. “Don’t yell, people’ll come rushing in,” the voice behind him—it was distinctly boyish—whispered, and he nodded frantically and sucked in a breath of air when he was finally released.

“Who are you?” he demanded furiously when he had mustered enough grit to confront the grinning boy-creature who had now moved on the bedcovers to look back at him, a sheepish smile tugging at the corners of his lips. “What… what are you?” he added, because even though this boy looked human at first glance, he had an indefinable aura around him—something that unsettled Miles the longer he stared into the depths of those huge blue eyes. Or—wait. He didn’t notice it at first because of the shadowy conditions of the room, but when the lamplight flickered over the boy’s left eye, it seemed like it was more brown than blue.

“Phoenix,” the boy finally said, the sheepish grin still on his face, as if he had just made a blunder and was trying to convince Miles to bail him out of it.

“You don’t look anything like a bird,” Miles deadpanned.

“N-No!” the boy shook his head quickly, his voice still barely a whisper even in his nervousness. “It’s my name.”

“What a weird name. What kind of parents would name their kid after a mythological creature?”

“Except that I named myself, and I am a mythological creature,” Phoenix smugly said. Miles fixed him with an unblinking glare.

“I’m guessing you’re not a phoenix, though,” he said, wryly.

“Well… that may be, uh, right. I just thought it would be cooler to be named after one. Like, like a trade name. Makes for good business.” Tilting, Phoenix scratched the back of his head. Miles could see that his hair had been styled into spikes. This guy is getting to be weirder and weirder by the second, he thought, disgruntled and eager to get back to his reading now that he was quite sure that this guy was harmless—and a little more than soft in the head. “I’m, um, a dream-eater, see?”

“Dream-eater.” Miles let the last “r” roll on his tongue, as if he was tasting the word. “I’ve never really heard of something like that.”

“Well, we weren’t really in the habit of popping up and introducing ourselves to people, you know.” Phoenix sat on his heels and leaned forward, an especially energetic look on his face that Miles was not at all in the mood to appreciate. “We usually only ever flit from person to person, but you’re kind of an exceptional case for me, I think.”

“…” Miles had been scowling at this statement, and said slowly, “Does that mean… you were the cause for all those times I woke up abruptly? Because you were eating a sizable portion of what would have been my dreams?”

“Wow, you catch on quick.” Phoenix’s dumb look had been replaced of one that was slightly less dumb, mixed with a little of what Miles would guess was relief. It pushed his annoyance up a notch. “I guess you are the sort of person who’d read that difficult-looking book, after all…”

“Anyone could have pieced it together,” Miles snapped, “seeing as you’ve styled yourself by the dubious job title of ‘dream-eater,’ mentioned that you’re not in the habit of staying at people’s homes, and claimed that I am somehow an ‘exceptional case,’ whatever might that mean. It stands to reason that you are somehow connected to my weirdly irregular sleep cycles, as far as I give you the benefit of the doubt.” He broke off, looking slightly nonplussed. “What does it mean? Why do you keep on waking me up?”

“I wasn’t trying to wake you up, honest. You waking up is just a side-effect of my dream-eating.” Phoenix rubbed his chin, probably trying to choose his next words. “Also… I usually eat away the parts of people’s dreams that might potentially kill them. That’s why I always bite off some of your dreams—and accidentally wake you up.”

Miles was officially lost. “What are you talking about? How can someone get killed by a dream?”

“Some people die because of nightmares, silly.” Phoenix held up a finger, the gesture slightly patronizing and quite charming at the same time when coupled by the concentration on his small face. His weird eyebrows were almost scrunched together in a single line, his scowl was so deep. Miles marveled at how someone can make serious thinking look so strenuous. “And I noticed that every time you try to sleep, you’re plagued by them. So I bite off the part when the nightmare begins, and once your subconscious realizes that the dream was lost, you’d wake up. I—I’m not actually supposed to wake you up, but I’m still training to be a full-fledged dream-eater, you see.” His serious look was replaced by a concerned one. “I promise that once my powers become more developed, I’ll be able to bite off the nightmare without alerting you— Um, are you okay?”

“I… More or less.” Miles rubbed the space between his eyebrows, trying to ease the headache that had suddenly popped up at this piece of information. “Are you sure I’m not actually dreaming right now?”

“B-But I can only eat dreams, not give them,” Phoenix said, confused.

“Never mind,” sighed Miles, knowing that he’d just baffle Phoenix even more if he bothered to elaborate. “Anyway…” He glanced at the clock, and noticed that it was already past eleven. “I should… try to sleep a bit, at least.” He leveled Phoenix with a glare. “Are you going to wake me up again?”

“Well…” Phoenix laughed uncertainly, and it was all the answer Miles needed.

Groaning, he let his head plop back down on the pillows and placed the book beside the clock. He hesitated, before flicking the lamp off.

“If it’s any consolation, I’ll be right here when you wake up,” Phoenix’s voice filtered from somewhere beyond Miles’s closing eyes, and with a grunt (appreciative? dismissive?) he was again fast asleep, the promise lingering at the back of his mind.

Over the days after being acquainted with the young dream-eater, he slowly became accustomed to the sight of Phoenix fondly beaming down at him when he woke up from his short, disappointing, eighty-nine-minute naps. Even while annoyed at this otherworldly being who was always in the way between him and a nice real sleep, the young Miles had to admit that Phoenix’s affable (if dubious) presence was welcome in a house where the servants did nothing but snipe at him when he did something that they judged to be bad etiquette; where learning his lessons wrong earned him Mr. von Karma’s cane against his thighs; where Franziska, the only other being who was remotely civil to him whapped him with a whip every time he did something to annoy or please her—and baby Franziska was annoyed and pleased at the littlest things, like when Miles had finally started to understand bits of what she was telling her and she was so happy that she accidentally struck his knee—which was already bad from an earlier whipping he had that morning. Phoenix had been reassuringly worried when he saw Miles limp back into his room, his legs in bad shape and his pride even worse.

“That looks bad,” he had remarked, frowning, and Miles felt that he could have slapped Phoenix’s forehead with a label that had “Understatement of the Century” written on it. Nevertheless, his concern was refreshing after the beatings that he had received, and he was ready to plop down on his bed to have another nap.

“Wake me up later, Phoenix,” he mumbled into his pillows, and he knew that the dream-eater had grinned.

“Sure thing,” Phoenix promised, soothingly. “I’ll be here, like always.”

Phoenix preferred remaining in the shadows of Miles’s bedroom, claiming that the sunlight didn’t do him favors because of his transient nature as a being that lives on food that can only grow during the nighttime, and while Miles scoffed at that extremely unnecessary way to tell him that he was a nocturnal creature, he tried to be considerate to his friend by leaving the curtains closed so that only very minimal light can come in. When Miles finally asked him why he even bothered to stay in the house even during the daylight instead of going somewhere else to feed on longer and more substantial nightmares, Phoenix only shook his head and beamed. “I think it’s better to stay here and try to train by eating your nightmares,” he said. “At least I’m ensured a steady supply here. Nightmares are quite hard to find with all those other, older dream-eaters prowling around too, and you get to always enjoy a nightmare-free existence with someone like me constantly around, right? It’s a symbolic relationship.”

Symbiotic,” Miles had corrected him, but a smile had been blossoming on his lips at Phoenix’s declaration.

The evenings became less irritating and much more fun with Phoenix, Miles had observed. Enclosed in the warm shadows of the canopy bed, with only the bedside lamp illuminating their round faces, Miles would often read out some of the passages in his German book to Phoenix, claiming that it helped him learn better when there was someone who’d listen. However, Phoenix wasn’t entirely convinced by that. “How can you learn when I don’t really know how it’s supposed to sound like?” he’d say, a reasonable observation, and Miles would flush red and stutter something to the effect of “Shut up and let me continue.” Realizing that his attention-starved friend only wanted to show off the fruits of his studies to someone friendly, Phoenix gradually learned to just go with Miles’s wishes and tried to look interested in the language that his friend was learning.

Sometimes, it was Phoenix’s turn to try and amuse Miles, and usually he did so by regaling him with tales of what he had seen in his travels over the world of the nighttime, both the physical and the mythological. He also elaborated a bit on dream-eaters—“We age really slowly, you know, ’cuz our nourishment is so scarce with all this competition around”—and seemed really happy when Miles expressed interest in his welfare. “Our relationship isn’t really forbidden,” he’d assured Miles when he had asked anxiously one night, while a storm crashed outside and they snuggled companionably beneath the blankets, a warm bundle of childhood friendship. “I don’t think there’s any sort of law for dream-eaters like that human laws you keep on telling me about, but it is implicitly forbidden that we eat anything other than bad dreams.”

“What happens when you eat good dreams?” Miles had dutifully asked, curious.

“We get stomachaches,” Phoenix answered with a straight face.

It was a testament to how long Phoenix has already been with him when he awoke one day and smiled up at the dream-eater and stood up, and Phoenix had simply remarked,

“Whoa! I think you’re now taller than me.”

“I think I’ve been taller than you for quite a while,” Miles said with a roll of his eyes and a laugh, and Phoenix smiled after Miles as he padded to the bathroom sleepily, not noticing that his sleep was much longer than was usual. “Training’s going well,” Phoenix remarked to himself, happy that Miles was getting more and more rest as he got better and better in eating the bad dreams off from the good dreams without waking the dreamer up, and yet sad that Miles’s nightmares didn’t seem to show any indication of wanting to go away. I guess it’s giving me a steady supply of nourishment, so I shouldn’t complain, he thought, but…

Miles had also gotten better and better at his studies, so he was now less likely to run up in the middle of the day and complain to Phoenix before dropping on the bed to nap his hurts away. Franziska gradually became more of a rival rather than an annoyance, and he even told his friend one evening, “I like her dedication to her lessons. It keeps me motivated to study, too.” He was less likely to read German to Phoenix during the evenings, instead immediately dropping off to sleep with a garbled “Good night” at the smiling dream-eater. “I don’t mind,” Phoenix would tell him every time when he awoke the next morning and apologized—he was just so, so tired last evening and had wished more than anything to go straight to sleep. “I understand how hard your mentor is on you.” However, Miles still kept the curtains closed, half as a consideration to his friend, and half as a token of thanks for having never breaking that promise of remaining with him ever since that first evening, already years ago.

A gesture like this is probably the closest that cold, rigid Miles Edgeworth will ever get to telling you that he still wants me by his side, the dream-eater thought, amused and a bit touched. Although, when Miles started forgetting to close the curtains, he had shrugged it off and still remained by crouching by the darkest corner of the room. It also gradually became apparent that Miles will never be able to keep up with Phoenix during the evenings, as his workload piled up over the days. Dutifully, however, the dream-eater ate the bad dreams away. “Keep away from his one-and-only time to rest, you pesky buggers,” he joked to himself once, and lovingly brushed a stray strand of hair from his friend’s pale forehead as Miles’s breathing returned to normal. His eyes flicked to the ornate coat that hung ready on the dresser, ready for tomorrow. “It’s his first, what do you call it, court, um, appearance,” he supplied, to no one in particular, and Miles made a soft, sleepy noise. Satisfied at his work, Phoenix knew that his friend was getting a good, dreamless sleep.

What Phoenix wanted to do was no question when Miles had finally decided to move out of the house to live on his own, now being a full-fledged prosecutor. However, it was quite disquieting to see that Miles’s nightmares had only intensified when he went out of the shadows of the dusty manor to a lighter apartment, although Phoenix still did his best to whittle away the nightmares as quickly as he can. Some nights, however, some extra-slippery remnants would slip from his grasp, and Phoenix would murmur apologies as he stroked Miles’s sweaty forehead, locked in a nightmare that, to the dream-eater, seemed to taste of gunpowder and blood.

It was weird how sorrowful it was even after thirteen years of looking after this forgetful boy, Phoenix considered one day when Miles’s eyes slid open and seemed to look past Phoenix’s usual morning greeting, not even acknowledging his presence, to be reminded that humans’ perception and their memories are so… fragile.

When he finally awoke, he felt strangely refreshed. The cold morning light streamed through the small space between the curtains.

Miles slowly stood up and swept the curtains away, blinking slightly at the light that hit his face. Fingering the light stubble on his cheek, he clicked his tongue and stood up to go to the bathroom, the back of the legs of his silk pajamas dragging across the carpet as he shuffled his feet. I really am not a morning person, he thought with a grumble as he methodically started washing and shaving his face, the healthy twenty-three-year-old Miles staring back at him from the mirror vastly different from the insomniac little boy he had been years ago.

Thankfully, the sleepless nights eventually stopped when I was almost thirteen. I don’t really recall… how… they just faded over time, I guess.

As he studied his rested eyes, freed from the shadows that he frequently donned when he was younger, he realized that he had been locked in a glaring competition with his own reflection, having lost himself in the fruitless attempt to remember how he had coped with his childhood sleeplessness. It doesn’t matter anymore, he thought, with a strange pang of nostalgia, but whatever it was that helped me cope… I should probably give it my thanks.

Quickly putting away his toothbrush and the razor, he turned around and went out to the kitchen to start breakfast. The door closed behind him with a decisive click.

If one who had extrasensory perception were to remain in that room, bating their breath, they would have caught a slight figure move somewhere from the shadowy corner beside the large bed. But it was only just half-a-shadow, a weak illusion, maybe, that could have passed for a trick of the light—

It seemed to have smiled, slowly. A smile full of… sadness. A smile that an abandoned and a half-forgotten toy might have had if it could smile as the shadow just did. And then, it said something, something so out of place with the sunlight streaming into the room to illuminate everything in the glory of the morning, but it was so weak, one could not have possibly heard it.