Dream A Little Dream

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Terri tells me this takes place in the late night/wee hours of June 6th and 7th, en route to Angel--Maer

Music plays. There is laughter, and she too is happy. Dancing. She's breathless, pausing in a circle dance and slipping away for a breath of cool air outside. A man's arm curls around her shoulders and there's a kiss dropped on her temple. He stands a mere inch or two taller than her own six-foot frame. Looking up at the stars, they stand yards from the barn in silence. Nika turns restlessly in her bunk. Her heartbeat picks up speed, anxiety already disturbing her slumber. She knows what's coming. She's lived this moment before. And there's nothing to be done to stop it.

A glint in the clear sky is the only warning. One neither of them caught. And then suddenly fire is raining down from the heavens. Their ship is parked in a sheltered canyon half a klik away, but the ship is not the target. The barn is. The barn where Josie and Billy Mitchell just tied the knot. The blast wave of several missiles is enough to throw them to the ground. And warning enough that people in the barn begin screaming and trying to get out. No.Nonono! God, she doesn't want to see this again! No! Her body is sheened in sweat but Nika cannot force herself awake.

She turns to look at her companion and Rick's expression is grim. "Gotta get 'em out!" He scrambles to his feet, running for the burning structure. She scrambles to her feet, shouting "Go! Get clear!" as she runs. Shyla stumbles out of the barn with her arm thrown around Rina.

Something strange. He can hear Nika shouting and people screaming, but distant, like it was hundreds of miles away. Joshua looks into the distance and sees a single point of light off in the complete blackness that surrounds and immediately knows it to be a barn despite it being no more than a glint off in the corner of his eye. And instinctively, he knows that it's where the shouting and screaming is coming from. And as if in acknowledgment of that understanding, the pinprick of light shot toward him at unholy speed until he was standing a few hundred yards away from the burning structure, the void around him replaced with greenery and stars in the night sky. Nika is running, her intentions unclear.

This is a dream. Something else he knows to be true. He feels like an observer rather than the main actor. A detachment from the scene that is never there in his own dreams. All there was to do was to watch and hope that soon, she would let him go from this nightmare she found herself in.

Fighters scream overhead. As Joshua arrives on the scene, Rina stumbles out of the fire with Shyla Kramer's help. Rick bolts into the flaming doorway while Nika moves to help a teenaged boy lying on the ground, ripped nearly in half by the explosion. He is crying for his mother, and the blonde wraps her arms around him. The only thing she can give him is comfort. He's already cold to the touch, there's too much blood pooling on the ground for him to survive. The dreamscape is strange -- the flames burn higher.

It didn't happen this way, she thinks within the dream. And in the way of the sleeping mind the landscape changes around her, the sun just barely peeking in spectacular colors over the blackened shell of the barn. She looks down to her hands, still covered in blood, but the boy has vanished. Clean-up progresses around them and Nika turns to look around, despair in her expression. From the rubble of the barn Brian carries a tiny bundle, wrapped in a singed blanket. Another casualty of a war gone all wrong. She turns her back on the sight, unable to watch. The memory of that moment was vivid enough to jar the dream and she seems to look right at Joshua. "You know that so many more are going to die, right? We can't stop it.

That was different. If he was in her dream, how was she interacting with him? And if it was his dream, how could he be so aware that it was, in fact, a dream? He shakes his head for a minute. Only one way to test, he thinks. "Nika," he says, "this isn't real. It's just a dream.”

I am probably supposed to be arguing with her, trying to convince that it is all going to be right. But even in a dream, Joshua could not bear the idea of having another argument with Nika, an argument whose end result would be just as unmovable as the paths of a dream.

"I know," Nika says quietly. "It didn't happen this way," she explains, looking back toward the man crying over the tiny, broken form in his hands. "That part did. But the barn wasn't blown up by fighters. It was an Alliance mole. We'd dropped a cargo here and just about the time we landed the wagon train was coming through. They were on their way to the far coast."

Her voice is thoughtful. When she looks back at him, she looks like the old Nika -- her eyes their original icy blue. "They needed to take a break and we had some extra supplies. So we figured on taking the evening to celebrate a wedding." Her faint smile was brief. "They were nice people. Had no idea we'd been delivering arms for the Independents. Just assumed we were merchants." Her expression went sad. "Even back then they were willing to kill kids just to try to score points in some game. Near the end of the party the mole set off the explosives that were hidden in the barn." She clenches her jaw tight. "He's lucky the explosion killed him. As it was, Harry kicked his dead body like it was a can in a street game."

Although the carnage continues around them, Nika seems inured to the effects. She crosses her arms. "It couldn't have happened this way anyway, cuz you're all here together. And the only place that's ever happened was Miranda, really, for any length of time. And of course... if it were real, I'd feel like I needed to get in there." She looks toward the sky. "So mostly I'm figuring this is my brain trying to make sense of things."

Joshua knows the whole situation shouldn't make any sense, but yet it does. So he just goes along with it.

"Good. That's work it needs to be doing desperately." Joshua's dream self, much to his surprise, seemed to be all business. He looked over the fiery mess with some detachment. "So, what do you think it is trying to tell you?"

"Kiera commented that maybe it was time to stop trying to leave the past behind me. With war coming again, maybe I should embrace the fact that I know some people pretty high up in the rankings." Nika pauses and says softly as she looks over toward where Arden is trying to save someone's life with Faria's help, "Maybe this is what that looks like."

For a moment -- or for eternity, it's hard to tell in dreamtime -- Nika scans the devastation and then she looks at Joshua, a rueful smile on her face. In her mind's eye she still sees the woman Shyla and Harry and the others knew. She is younger here than Joshua knows her. "And you, being the person I usually rely on to be... my True North as it were... well, kind of seems to me that having you outside of the fray would mean I'm supposed to be learning something, right?"

"I think that is a fair assumption," Joshua states firmly. "You've been approaching breaking point for a while. Brain has been figuring it all out below the surface and is showing it to you now." Like a proud child, he thinks as he looks at the elaborate scene playing out before them, people from all stages of her life all in a single moment in time. "I have plenty of interpretations, but none of them matter. What matters is what you see, what you think, what you believe you should be learning. That's only way you'll heal - from the inside out."

"Ffft," Nika retorts with an indelicate snort. "Damn, Joshua, for a part of my brain that's supposed to be the compass, that's crappy answer." She grins at him, though. "Even in dreams I gotta make my own damn life difficult." She sighs. "I think I've run from everything in my life that had the potential to be hard," she admits, looking at them. "War ... I understood that. I understood what we were fighting for. It was pretty simple. But the harder stuff... the stuff that came after... I've never stuck with anything. I don't seem to do well with things that... have the potential to be messy. Relationships, the new war. But there's nowhere left to run. Been feelin' a little... trapped."

She hesitates and confesses, "I thought broke what Arden and I might have had before it even got off the ground because I didn't want the responsibility of being the next woman to hurt him. But I didn't. I broke it because he could hurt me. I didn't want him to see me." There's a shift of the land again, this time to darkness. Pure dark aside from the light that they stand in and a spot twenty feet or so from them where there is a woman curled down in the corner of what might be a wall/floor. Her hair is loose but tangled and matted, filthy, and she is covering her head. All around the spot there is a persistent humming noise recognizable as the ship's engine pulsing, and the woman in the corner raises her head. She looks toward them and she is ... disfigured. Her eyes are gouged out and healed over, her face scarred with scratches that were obviously put there a while ago as well. "Back then it wasn't really about my eyes. I just.... that's who I feel like inside. A monster who's done really horrible things, a coward. Someone who deserved to be blind."

"You've never deserved any of that, Nika." Joshua steps forward and puts a hand out to the disfigured woman. When she takes his hand, there is a shining light. Her hair starts to come clean until it is a beautiful blond. Her scratches heal over and her eyes open, clear and visible. The light fades until it is just a halo around the other Nika.

Joshua nods his head towards the radiant figure. "You may have seen yourself as a monster, but that's how I've always seen you. The truth probably lies somewhere in-between, but the only way to find out is to let yourself be free from the prison you've put yourself in." As he says that, the darkness around them coalesces into prison bars and a door with a large, ominous looking lock. The halo around the alternate Nika fades into her hands, now a single key made of light. She stands there, holding it forward in a giving gesture.

"Take the key, Nika," Joshua smiles. "True north is through the door. It isn't all sunshine and rainbows on the other side, but it's a damn sight better than this endless darkness."

Nika watches the changes as they are wrought in her dream, seeming to have no concern over how the dream is progressing. She is, after all, sleeping. This is the first dream she's ever had where she's aware that she's dreaming as she does it... it's kind of strange. But she watches the image that he creates, and she says softly, "No pressure or anything, right?"

There's a faint smile. "I wish you actually realized how hard it is to be that person. You see her... and because of you, I thought I could be her. Be... better." Nika looks at him and tells him, "The truth is somewhere in the middle. I've done things I'm not proud of. I've done things I am proud of. And I've put some of the ghosts to rest. But I am not her. I can't be her. I've tried to tell you that, but you've persisted in seeing her. I ... just want to be seen for me. Good, bad, and even ugly." She shrugs and slowly reaches out to take the key. "I've shot myself in the foot a few times already, chasing away people who could see beyond that idol that you've built in your head, but well.... I guess that's just as much a part of me as the darkness." She smiles slightly. "I can't be her. And I'm tired of trying."

"I did try and tell you that you don't have to be perfect. I think all the dream is saying is to let yourself free." Joshua looks over at Nika. "I said it before and I'm saying it now, only person that can control your happiness is you. None of us want you to be perfect. We just want you to be happy."

He reaches over and puts a hand on the other Nika and she disappears in a series of sparkling lights. "See? Just you and me and no expectations. Well, and a big honking door, but you've got the key for that.

"All I've ever tried to tell you, Nika, was that you deserve better than what you've been giving yourself. Not perfection or anything like that. Just that you've shorted yourself some. And now I'm going to shut up and let you hopefully open that metaphorical door."

"Wish you had no expectations when I'm awake," Nika murmurs. "But I guess changing what you expect of me will come." There's a wry smile on her lips, and the blonde kisses him on the cheek. It would have had a strange kind of dream quality if that had been followed by fireworks, but it's not ....

Geez, Nika thought as she surfaced from sleep. It's pretty bad when you're talking to yourself when you sleep, girl. But the smile plays around her lips and she rolls over to hug her pillow tightly, feeling a little better.

Joshua woke uneasily, Rina at his side still quietly sleeping. All the dream details were still in his head, another indication that he hadn't been dreaming his own dream. He didn't like the idea of wandering around in other people's dreams. He thought about telling Nika and then quickly dismissed the idea. She got something positive out of the dream...no point in borking it up by making her feel like her private dream space had been invaded.

He extracted himself from the bed and started getting his clothes together. As he pulled things from drawers, he wondered to himself what other surprises his messed up brain had in store.

Go to Nika's Crew Page or Joshua's Crew Page
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