Dream a Little Dream of Me


devon5_icon.gif elliot_icon.gif

Scene Title Dream a Little Dream of Me
Synopsis Five people seek each other out after waking up from a shared nightmare.
Date November 21, 2020

The Bastion
Phoenix Heights

November 21, 2020
7:53 AM

It’s particularly windy when Elliot badges through the Bastion’s front door. He pulls it closed against the gust of wind, satisfied with the click of the lock engaging. He makes his way upstairs, rehearsing his question compulsively in his head. Intonation, percent seriousness, how to deflect if it gets awkward. I had a dream about you is right out. Any chance you had a dream about me is worse, clearly.

The Bastion is mostly quiet in the morning, though some lights are currently on, so somebody has to be up and about. Elliot heads to the kitchen to put on a pot of coffee. He listens carefully for sounds of foot traffic before unearthing his secret stash of the good stuff. Not the ‘good’ stuff which he leaves next to the coffee pot to convince his coworkers they’re always getting the good stuff too.

The good stuff is kept in a yellow cardboard can of baking powder, expired, at the back of the spice cabinet. After he’s used it it’s returned, delicately, behind the glass jar containing three dusty gray bay leaves and a grinder (a grinder) of pink Himalayan sea salt that almost certainly came out of a Christmas gift basket.

He taps his fingers against the countertop as the coffee coughs itself into the pot. So, I had a weird dream last night isn’t horrible, plenty of lee-way for jettisoning the conversation if this turns up nothing. He’s almost certain it’s not nothing. The details of the shared dream were too personalized. The quirks of people’s reactions were too genuine. "Did you have any luck finding the other Rue?"

The coffee is poured into two mugs, and he carries both from the kitchen. He’s banking on Devon being in his office already. Any chance you had a weird-ass dream last night is casual enough. It seems like a winner.

The light through the open doorway tells him Devon is in fact in his office. Elliot rounds the corner, prepared, waiting to catch Devon’s eye before segueing into, “Can I interest you in some dream?” Hard, full-body cringe. “Coffee. Jesus Horsefucking Christ. Do you want some coffee and did you have a weird dream last night.” All his planning for naught.

Illuminated by the pale orange glow of the lamp over his desk and the brighter white-blue cast by his computer screen, Devon looks like he's been up since well before dawn. Interrupted sleep sets a furrow across his brow, his face is drawn and rests in a hand. And while he ought to be working, concentration and focus are elusive. It's likely he'd look the same if the fluorescent ceiling light were turned on instead.

The arrival draws his attention. He sits upright, but leans back in his chair. Eyes on Elliot, he starts to form a greeting, although he's beaten to it as the other man speaks first. The botched question draws a single brow upward.

“Thanks,” he says casually, taking the offered mug, “but my dreams are reserved for my girlfriend.” Devon turns back to face the monitor. The corrected version of the other Hound’s question sets his jaw and shoulders with an uneasiness. The report displayed is barely started, with the easiest fields filled in first. He doesn't resume working though. He mulls over how best to answer, before slanting a guarded look in Elliot’s direction.

“Did you?”

Elliot shakes himself out of his embarrassment as Devon takes the offered coffee and chuckles at his response to his botched question. “Yeah,” he admits. “I’ve had dream crossover before when I was linked to someone while we were both sleeping, but this was different. I’ve never been able to purposefully act in a dream before, even a shared one.”

“This dream also felt too real, and too malicious.” He leans against the office wall and sips his coffee. Ahh, the good stuff. “If I said ‘A crying stone angel may have accidentally tried to drown us in a lake,’ would it ring any bells?”

“Yeah.” Resignation weighs in Devon’s tone. He sets the mug on his desk and turns, chair and all, to motion Elliot to a free seat.

“I was hoping it was just…” A fluke seems too mild a term for it, fuckery — which is what it is — is too crude. So he shakes his head rather than fill in the blank. He's too tired to find the polite adjective for what happened. “I've been up since. And I don't know what to make of it.” The last time he'd experienced manipulated, shared dreams was when the travelers from the future had come to end that timeline before it could begin.

“Yeah, this is kind of way outside my area of expertise,” Elliot says as he takes the offered seat. “Who do you call for this? Is there a bad dreams division at SESA?” He shakes his head with a brief huff of a laugh, though he doesn’t look amused. Very way outside.

“With the exception of the Ominous O, everyone there was someone I saw at the festival. It may be a huge coincidence, but.” He shrugs. “Maybe one of us manifested a new ability without knowing it, which is still happening. Maybe it was coincidental but random.”

“We could.” Call SESA, is why Devon means, though he's not entirely enthused by the idea. “Cooper’s an agent. Chances are they'll find out from him soon enough that something happened. I think we should talk to him too. And Seren.” He pauses to take a drink from his mug.

“I feel like I should recognize O.” But he obviously doesn't. Maybe she just has one of those faces that seems familiar, a similar enough mashup of features from random passers by. Maybe it wasn't even a real face — he looked like a younger version of himself and Coop was a kid. A hand rubs over his face and he sighs. Dream fuckery is almost as bad as telepathy.

“Avi should probably be told. Two of his officers get pulled into someone else’s dream?” Keeping the major in the dark about that is only going to spell trouble later on. Devon takes another sip of coffee then sets the mug aside.

“What do you think the Angel was going on about? All that talk of snakes?”

“That’s assuming Cooper takes this seriously enough to consider it a real danger. My few brief interactions with him suggest it’s not a guarantee. And we should tell Avi, though I’m flexible on the when of that.” He taps the tips of his fingers against his thumb in a ripple back and forth as his eyes flicker over the far wall.

“As for snakes?” He shakes his head. “I really don’t know. Maybe an allusion to an outside bad actor that was initially responsible for drawing us all in. She did draw me out of a very effective nightmare, so I’m inclined to be grateful to her. But she didn’t seem to be fully present from what I recall. Half somewhere else.”

He’s frustrated, but the emergency anti-anxiety medication he took before heading here keeps him level. With his familiarity with shared dreams and his own brand of telepathy, he feels like he should have more ideas. “I’m really not familiar with any dream-manipulating SLC expressions. That seems like an important baseline to establish.”

“Same,” Devon interjects about the nightmare. The worst tend to involve the robots, and have for most of ten years.

“I've got limited experience.” Extremely limited. He shakes his head slowly. “I don't even know for sure if that dream was… like this one? It had to do with a possible future which… requires a lot more coffee and wiser people than me to explain. But unlike this one, I didn't know I was dreaming until I woke up.”

“We should reach out to Cooper and Seren at the very least. Maybe they have more to work with than we do.” He pauses, eyes turning to Devon. "Did you have any luck finding the other Rue?"

“You seemed to be familiar with Seren. I only met them on the bus the one time, and I’d rather not put the introduction on Rue.” He doesn’t mention the Other Rue portion of that connection. Staying on task.

“Seren.” Devon sounds thoughtful, in the way of one trying to describe a curiosity. He's met them, twice officially, but only the second time was him. “They work at Raytech.” Which could explain how he knows them, given his own connections to Raytech. “I've got their contact information. Could probably find Cooper’s easily enough.”

Elliot nods. “If you reach out to Seren, I’ll find Agent Cooper. Last I knew they were both immobile, so I’m taking suggestions for the what, where, and when of a meet-up.”

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To: moc.hcetyar|snaves#moc.hcetyar|snaves
From: moc.hcetyar|edirpo#moc.hcetyar|edirpo
Subject: Overactive Imagination?

Mx. Evans,

Sorry for the strange subject line. I was hoping I could pick your brain about an issue I ran into last night. Given your ability, you seemed my best resource for this particular situation. I’m on campus today to observe one of my projects. I can meet you at your apartment if that would be most convenient to you. I believe the sooner I can meet with you, the better.

Thank you for your time,
Ourania Pride
Sent from my Awasu

The e-mail had been sent from the car on the way to the office. Yes, she’d had to assure her partner, she’d be quite fine. And since she’s in the waking world, she’s certain she will be. It was important that she have the chance to touch base with Seren to confirm what she saw, to know if it was even real.

Of course it wasn’t real. That’s the nature of nightmares. The question is if it was a shared experience, and thus an Expressive one.

Ourania holds her phone in her hand, tapping her nail against the back of the case restlessly as she checks the clock for the 85th time.

Raytech Industries Campus
Jackson Heights

8:57 AM

When their phone buzzes on the nightstand, Seren stirs slowly. One eye opens slowly, their hand shifting through the sheets. Through the… grass on the sheets. Past the growth of flowers. To the mossy rock that— oh. No, that's their phone.

"Baird, what time is it…"

With a groan as a yet-unseen creature stands on their shoulder, they barely hear what he rumbles out. Sighing, they grumble in return, "I know it's too early… those were some nightmares last night." Squinting, they blink hard to focus their eyes. When they flop back on their back on the bed where green growth is slowly receding to nothing, Baird is sent scampering to find a more comfortable spot. "I'm glad you didn't go through that with me."

Time aside, the notification on their phone is what makes them blink. Overactive imagination? The grey in Seren's eyes shift, a deep metallic shade of silver ringing their irises as their mind wanders to a dark place. Their thumb hovers over the unread email, all but the subject line obscured until they press.

Had their nightmare traveled the walls? Interfered with others' sleep by creating terrible apparitions? The range of what they could do had only expanded since the spring…

Or was this something else entirely? An…? They can so clearly envision a displeased sneer behind the subject line, especially with the nightmare they suffered last night.

Baird bumps his forehead against the side of their face, black fur rippling like flame. Seren blinks rapidly, the darkness around their eye flickering out. With a swipe the rest of the message appears, and with it, some of their anxiety abates. They message a quick reply.

Sure, I called in today anyway. Stop by at any point.


Dropping the phone back on their chest, their eyes close again. They might doze. They might not.

Time's weird when you're this tired.

Any point is only about ten minutes after Seren’s e-mail was sent. Ourania only took the time to put away her coat and her bag before heading over to the corporate housing structure via the back way, which allows her to bypass the lobby with her access key. It means she doesn’t buzz to be let in, but rather that she knocks on the door to Seren’s apartment. A short rap of knuckles.

She isn’t sure what she wants to be true, honestly. If somehow Ourania simply dreamed faces she knew, then maybe that’s not so bad. But then how screwed up is that? What would make her think of those people in particular? Seren would make enough sense, given she sees them fairly often. But the DoEA SESA agent? The Hound? And the other one…

Ourania shoves her hands into the pockets of her short black and white checkered skirt briefly, then fusses instead with the buttons of her sunny yellow cardigan, fastening the lowest one, then pushing it back through the buttonhole to let the garment hang open.

The knocks jolt them awake, this time on the couch. That's as far as they've made it out of bed— from one to the other. That has to count for something, right? But it also means that when they trudge to the door, lift up on their tiptoes to peer through the peephole, pajama pants swish on the ground, and they swim in an overly large black shirt. Seren shuffles back on bare feet as they turn the deadbolt, managing a small smile as they open the door.

There's circles from poor rest under their eyes. "Hi there, miss Ourania," they murmur their greeting, sweeping an arm for her to come inside. "I'm not exactly sure what you think I can help with, but I'll do my best." Seren looks back behind them into the apartment, squinting to see where Baird's run off to and not immediately finding him. "You want tea, coffee…?" It only seems polite. They need it desperately.

Seren shuts the door behind them both, bolting the door ahead before heading down the hall to the kitchen and living space, one hand ruffling through the thickening, bedheaded mess of hair on their head. The shuffle of their step favors one side over the other abruptly, but they right it out quickly, taking their time in putting one foot in front of the other after that.

“Oh, I am so sorry,” Ourania apologizes when she realizes she’s woken them. Still, she doesn’t ask if they’d like her to leave, instead accepting the invitation to come inside. “Thanks. I’ll have whatever you’re having.” She didn’t stop for her usual coffee on the way over. “I feel like—” I feel like you look is not a flattering thing to say, O. “Like I didn’t sleep at all last night.” Nice save.

And she probably would look a bit more like Seren does this morning if she hadn’t spent time in front of the mirror with her full make-up kit, hiding the evidence of the night’s disruptions. But even a pack of ice couldn’t relieve all the puffiness incurred by tears born of both anger and fear.

“I had some really terrible nightmare last night.” It’s an easy kind of small talk thing to say, isn’t it? Ourania flashes a brief, nervous sort of smile. “Thing is… You were there.”

In the kitchen, teapot halfway lifted to begin running water into it, Seren stops midaction. "Oh," they say softly, then proceed to slowly place it down in the sink, flipping on the water. "That's… um…" They lean hard against the side of the counter with one hand, trying to decide just what that is. Rolling their bottom lip against their teeth, they glance back to Ourania in a way that indicates they're trying not to stare, but without much luck in it.

“It’s okay,” Ourania says quietly, making her way further into the apartment. Granting permission to be stared at, to be studied. “I thought… maybe I was just having a dream and my brain decided to… populate it with familiar faces. Oh look, let’s use one of your co-workers!” One hand splays out near her face to demonstrate how zany the dreaming mind can be before dropping to her side again.

"You didn't look like you, did you?" they ask cautiously, carefully.

That brings her to sigh and shake her head slowly. When she smiles, it’s a strained thing, colored by sorrow. “No… No, I didn’t.” Ourania looks down at her feet, swinging her cane back and forth at her side idly, careful not to drag the tip of it over the floors. “I haven’t looked like myself for a long time now.” Her brow furrows. She knew she was going to have to address this, but she hadn’t been prepared for the honest version of the answer to hit her square in the chest like it has. “There’s a bit of a mind-body disconnect there between what my brain thinks I should look like and the reality of me.”

Ourania doesn’t look up when she finally gives it a name that she doesn’t normally say out loud beyond the walls of her therapist’s office. “I, ah… I suffer from dysmorphia. But sometimes I dream that I look like me again.” She winces. “Sorry. That doesn’t make any sense, does it?”

"It does," Seren reassures immediately, gently. "You wouldn't believe it, but… that's what my nightmare was about. I had to be a me who wasn't myself. I didn't look or feel like myself. I felt… trapped."

"I try to tell myself all the time that it doesn't matter what I look like or dress like, that I'm still me, that my identity is valid no matter what or who I look like, but…" A brief pain passes over Seren's face, not related to their stiff hip. "And I know that's the not quite the same but not quite different as the difficulty in how you see yourself."

When they shut off the water to pick up the teapot and take it to the stove, a blob-like blur shifts across the back of their shoulder. In the middle of their shoulderblade, amber eyes open, staring out at Ourania curiously. It seems like the creature hiding in Seren's shadow might want to step out, becoming a three-dimensional hump on their shoulder, before sheepishly retreating back into two-dimensional hiding save for those visible eyes.

Seren turns, setting the pot on the stove and flicking on the element before facing Ourania properly again. "I'm sorry if that's a painful subject for you. I shouldn't have been as blunt as I was." Their arms slowly pull into a fold before them, brow beginning to furrow. "But… if you're here… that means Ange is still out there, too. That she still needs our help somewhere."

Curiouser and curiouser. Ourania tilts her head and peers at the shadow-like form at Seren’s back. She’s seen the imaginarian’s familiar before, certainly, so this isn’t the shock it could be, but given that she’s never quite sure what form he’ll take, there’s still a moment of quiet surprise, however mild.

Her eyes are back up and on Seren again by the time they’re turning around. “No, it’s okay. It’s… I’m sorry you deal with it, too, and I know it’s for very different reasons.” And she feels guilty for having mentioned it at all, but how else was she going to explain why she was the only one who didn’t look like herself? Agent Cooper at least was only younger. “It’s nice to talk to someone who gets it, though,” Ourania admits with a sad smile. “I had an accident a little over ten years ago. My face got messed up pretty bad and I haven’t really recognized myself since.”

Ourania makes a sound of disgust in the back of her throat. “Sorry. That’s not what we’re here to talk about. Ignore my little pity party, please.” The topic is waved away and she taps the nail of her index finger restlessly against the crystal ball set into the top of her cane. “You’re right. We are all real people, so she must be real, too.”

Seren gives Ourania a small smile while she explains her situation, makes her apology. They grant her a serene shake of their head to prove it's really nothing. Their arms, however, remain tightly folded to brace themself against the reality of the situation. "I recognized a few of the others… one is a member of Wolfhound, the other is someone I met on the bus a few months back." They shake their head once more, wondering.

"I've— to tell you the truth, I've never dealt with something like this before," Seren's brow pinches together with those words. "I said I wanted to help, that I would, but I… I've not got the foggiest idea where to set out for that."

Ourania lets out a heavy sigh. “There’s no roadmap for this sort of situation. The first step, for me, was coming to you, because you were the easiest one for me to connect with. And… I trust you to understand my…” She waves her free hand in front of her face. This.

“From here, we find the others. You mentioned the boy from Wolfhound. Who did you meet on the bus? The teenager or the other one?” There’s only one of those two that Ourania knows how to find, so she hopes Seren might be able to handle the other.

"The— the other one. The man who didn't look like his kid-at-heart." With a shake of their head, Seren comes back to the moment. "I don't know how to get in touch with Elliot, I just know a little about him. He might be a paramedic or something? He talked about getting back out there jobwise, and he knew I was injured because of Xpress and wished he could have done more… I don't know, though."

Forcing a small smile, they suggest, "But Devon, though— I've got his contact info. I could…"

“That’s a great place to start,” Dr. Pride is quick to assure. “Devon seemed not entirely unfamiliar with Elliot, don’t you think? Perhaps he’ll be able to help us piece together where to find him.” It’s as good a place to start as any, at least.

The names seem to roll easily off Ourania’s tongue, without hesitation or second-guessing of which name belongs to which face. “I may be able to get in touch with our inner-child’s outer-adult.” Having a direct line to his boss helps.

Seren hadn't seen the observation Ourania had in the moment, so they simply blink. There had been a lot going on in such a short period of time, all in the slippery realm of dreams, too. "That… honestly sounds like a great plan," they admit, moving to pull down mugs for them both before opening the cabinet even wider to show off their selection of teas.

"What would you like?" they ask, and when they turn back to look to Ourania, the rough outline of an animal head peeks from their back, amber eyes curious on her.

Clearly this is a question of import, that he would make himself apparent again.

“Whatever you’ve got.” A wave of her hand dismisses the matter as not being overly important to her. “As long as it’s got caffeine after the night I had?” The night they both had. “I’ll be content.”

Ourania smirks faintly. “Is your friend shy today?” she asks, pointing her finger to where those owlish eyes blink at her.

When the creature is pointed out behind them, Seren shifts their shoulder down to peer over it, catching enough sight of their shadow to sigh. "There you are! And here I thought—" Grumbling, they reach up for a box of breakfast tea, pulling out multiple bags to drape into retrieved mugs. "Baird, you can't hide like that all day, you're gonna give someone a heart attack…"

Possibly them.

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The Book and Nook
Jackson Heights

11:55 AM

The Book and Nook has everything one could need from a cafe bookstore. Books used and newer line unfinished pine shelves along the walls and interspersed between tables to make semi-private areas. The furniture is all salvaged, no two chairs or tables alike, and all of them comfortably worn. Elliot has procured a Formica-topped diner booth table, a booth on one side and two kitchen chairs on the other. Elliot himself is seated in the booth, as it’s the only position with line of sight of both the countertop and entryway.

While there’s a small espresso bar, most of the coffee here is serve-yourself, tall silver air pots lining the counter. The coffee is passable, and the aroma mingles with the surprisingly delightful scents of food rising from the business’s panini grill. Elliot can smell his own order being prepared: fresh mozzarella, pesto, and greenhouse tomato and basil on a hearty bread made at the owner’s home. The owners themselves are behind the bar, talking with the quiet familiarity of a middle-aged couple long married and, to this day, happy.

A few people mill about, or talk and discuss in tones distinctly unlike a library. Elliot is glad about that, as one of those gathering will be doing so via speakerphone. Getting in touch with Cooper via SESA had been an ordeal, though that’s to be expected as he apparently only woke from a coma last night. Passing along the words Funerary Angel Lake House had been enough to get the Agent to reach out and agree to this meeting.

Elliot double-taps the screen of his phone to display the clock, and relaxes. His urge to always be at his destination early had been perfectly timed. All there was to do now is wait for the others to arrive.

"I had a feeling I'd need to call off work today," Seren jokes as they approach. Their gait is sure, even if their steps are slow. They walk unassisted, at least, which is nothing short of a miracle given everything they went through not long ago. When they set their hand on the back of one of the chairs before beginning to pull it out, they flash a sheepish smile. "Hey again."

The black fabric of the fleece-lined zip-up they wear ripples at the shoulder, golden eyes lifting along with a flicker of something that roils like flame the color of pitch. "I'm sorry in advance about Baird today," Seren intones as they come to a sit. "He's been having a rough morning, too."

A black wing slowly drapes off of Seren's shoulder and arm as the curious creation briefly entertains the idea of stepping out of their shadow, featureless animal head perking up just a little while the edges of his form continue to shift. When the grinder next to the espresso bar fires up, though, he recedes instantly back whence he came, the only sight of him being that subtly rippling pauldron of black off of Seren's shoulder.

While Seren approached their fellow dreamer, the woman they arrived with hung back. Part of that is because she, unlike the conjurer, does require aid to walk. Once they’d finished holding the door for her, however, the blonde had waved them off. “Go sit. I’ll get our coffees.” It’s the least she could do for having gotten them out of bed so damn early.

A mug is set down in front of Seren first, a hand held up to indicate she’ll be right back, because with one hand wrapped around the crystal ball set into the pommel of her cane, the blonde can’t exactly carry two mugs to the table with her. But after another moment, she’s placing a cup in front of the empty seat next to Seren. The cane is propped against the table and she takes a moment to admire the formica in that way that only someone who’s into that sort of aesthetic can, all while she shrugs out of her coat and drapes it over the chairback.

With a relieved little sigh, she settles in and finally offers a smile across the table. “You must be Elliot,” she says.

This is the point where if this had been a tinder date, Elliot might respond that the woman who must be O looks nothing like her picture.

Even though he’d arrived when Elliot had, Devon approaches the table last and from the direction of the counter. A look that way would show the younger Hound disengaging from interrupting the owners at work with a vague smile and what’s likely a word of thanks. He bypasses the coffee as he weaves past tables and patronage, making his way to the end booth already occupied by the others.

“Sorry,” he says as he drops into the booth beside Elliot. “They like to talk. Hey, Seren.” He knows them, and so they're greeted first. The rippling appearance that must belong to Baird is considered, but he decides to not interrupt right now. Maybe later, if the creature can be persuaded to be social.

Dev looks at Ourania next. One brow ticks upward in an unspoken question that goes to Seren in a look. That vague glimmer of recognition he'd had for the woman in the dream doesn't manifest seeing her in person. It makes him more cautious.

Elliot’s phone vibrates on the table, the screen illuminating to display a phone number he hasn’t added to his contacts yet. There’s only one person it could be though. He swipes to accept the call and taps the speaker button. “Agent Cooper,” he says, “Thanks for joining us, I have you on speaker.”

“Hey guys,” the voice of Cooper on the phone sounds a lot older than the kid they saw. “No more wet dreams?” there is a pause… cause get it? Wet… water. They almost drowned? There is only the short pause to let that sink in (while Ourania groans into her hands) before he continues, “Anyhow… Seriously, thank you for including me, though the nurses complained a bit. Something about… resting and blah blah. I stopped listening after like 20 seconds…” This is quickly followed up with…

Wow. Dude.. you guys should really try these drugs… pretty sure I can't feel my face, much less my legs.”

There is a shuffling of paper near the phone, before Cooper speaks up again. “Seriously, though. I honestly thought I was glad you called, I wondered if I was the only one. Never had a dreamwalker experience before, but I’ve read and heard about them before. Pretty wicked cool, huh? Except for the almost drowning part. Poor kid.”

With the phone call interrupting Elliot’s greeting of Seren and the person who only kind of looks like the mysterious O, Elliot settles for a wave of greeting to the first and a nod yes to the second. He certainly didn’t notice O at the festival, though there were enough people there it would be easy to miss even if she had been. He mostly abandons his earlier theory.

The table fills up as Cooper sounds off from the center of the table. The dream joke gets Elliot to cringe for the second time today, though he’s thankful the agent is invested if not businesslike.

“This was a fairly new experience for me as well,” he admits, though he leaves out any comment on the strange effect that the telepathic network has on dreams for now. “I honestly don’t know where to begin with this.”

Seren folds their arms on the table to lean in. "Hey. Seren here. This is going to sound crazy, but it turns out I kind of know you. We had a hospital room adjacent to each other for a while. I'm glad to hear you woke up finally." They glance up after saying as much to lift several fingers off their forearm, waggling them in hello to Devon silently.

They hope dear Cooper is okay enough to really be involved here. After all, some of those drugs are a familiar thing to them.

"Whatever happened to Ange, it's traumatic. I would be worried she's in a coma like you were, Cooper, or… worse, if she can't even remember who she was." More carefully, verging on hesitantly, Seren points out, "Stone angels brings to mind images of graveyards and mausoleums. Ange began to break down when confronted with the thought of a potential betrayer … and her nightmare was drowning at the bottom of a lake, even if her safe place was the house nearby that lake."

Their shoulders sag a bit in sadness over that, the creature hidden in the dark of their shoulder emerging just by face only, the curve of his nose tilted up to peer at his summoner.

“This wouldn’t be the first time a disembodied dreamwalker has invaded the minds of others,” O posits without identifying herself for the man on the phone. “It’s possible if her body is dead, that her mind… hitched a ride with someone. Someone who may not even be aware of her presence. Even if they are, the outcome is the same.”

If she’s freaked out by literally any of this, it doesn’t show. But maybe that stands to reason, given how oddly calm she was while they were dreaming, too. Right up until the water started to rise. But for all her cool exterior, she avoids meeting Devon’s gaze, her face angled down to the cell phone on the table, letting the curtain of her hair obscure her features.

“I haven't heard of dead dreamwalkers hitching rides,” Devon chimes in, but in a tone that says he isn't discounting it either. He's seen a lot of weird stuff. “But dreamwalkers themselves can… send out dreams on a delay? Sometimes without being there, I think.” Or maybe that was just his experience.

“Whatever it was, we should decide what to do about it.”

“Don’t know many, just know what I’ve come across in my time in law enforcement,” Cooper admits over the line, “but from what I understand, they can live on even when their bodies are gone, much like other psychic abilities.”

There is a paper shuffling sound again, “Whatever happened to her, pretty sure she’s still haunted by them. Not sure if whoever did this to her… or has her… also has a psychic ability. Um..” Cooper is clearly reading over notes. “But… they are possibly possessive. When I touched her hand, she acted like whoever it was would see it… looking at the door. She was scared or nervous. A little fuzz—”

A door opens on the other end and Cooper greets someone, “Hey, important call… I just need…”

The second voice belonging to an older woman comments coolly. “I don’t care what you need, Agent Cooper, my board says I take your vitals every half hour… I’m taking them every half hour. Period.”

“Okay.. whatever… Anyhow… what was I saying?” Cooper goes quiet for a moment, “Oh! Possessive. Yes. I’ve got some inquiries going out on missing or unexplained deaths of children or young adults… just in case. Maybe from around lake communities… we’ll see what I get back.”

There is a pause, before Cooper asks, “Anyone had a chance to look at lake pictures to see if they are familiar?”

“I didn’t take the opportunity to look,” Elliot admits, “Though I was still reeling from my own nightmare and it took a while for the… reality of the situation to sink in.” His nightmare had already done its work when the Angel pulled him free. He’d already receded into that place of hopeless acceptance. How much longer would it have taken before he was an amnesiac like Ange? He suppresses most of a shiver of revulsion. He closes his eyes and can’t help but turn his attention to the Palace to reassure himself that nothing has really been altered, as it had been in his nightmare.

“If the icy lake can be used as a measure of time, we may try digging for drownings or related hospitalizations in the past month or so. If it was a different winter…” Then they’d have little to work with. “The other thought I had was that perhaps Ange doesn’t see herself as a funerary angel, but possibly that she took strength from the memory of a real-world protector who had died while Ange still remembered who she was. That it’s metaphorical armor, not acceptance of her own death. And if that inspiration comes from an actual angel statue, there may be records of recent commissions. Most people don’t opt for more than an engraved headstone.”

In the face of the detective instinct of Cooper and Elliot both, Seren's eyes widen slowly. Okay.

The one thing they know is: "We should definitely try to help her. Whoever she is, whereever she is … she seemed to be making the best of her situation, trying to find purpose, but it's clearly not a good place she's in."

Beyond that, Seren seems uncertain, not having enough information to disprove or add to either theory that's been put forward. The most they can do is chime, "I could try to look up photographs of nearby lakes, see if any end up looking similar. I've got a pretty good memory for detail. Maybe we get lucky."

"I admit," O begins, "if she's dead, then Ange is the most benevolent deceased dreamwalker I've heard of. The dead so often seem vengeful." Blue eyes glance around briefly, but she doesn't lift her head.

"Obviously, I don't see myself in dreams as I present in reality either. It's not a stretch that the statue is a comfort. Armor, like Elliot said." Frowning thoughtfully, O turns her attention back to the phone. "I sensed it too, Agent Cooper. There's a specter looming over her. I… I hope we aren't too late to save her from whatever is haunting her…" O finally lifts her head and looks to the others at the table in turn properly. Her brow knits with her concern.

"…before she's the one doing the haunting."

“Not specifically,” Devon admits to Cooper’s question. He'd been rattled into distraction by the experience up until he'd seen Elliot earlier that morning. “Honestly, it was a bit overwhelming to even know where to begin right after waking up.” But now, knowing the others who were in the dream too were actually in the dream too, that's somehow comforting. And it aids in breaking down the mental barrier.

He drags a hand through his hair, looking from the phone to the others at the table. Seren is nodded to. “Good idea. We can cross reference death reports on drowning victims… Cooper, can you get details on registered dreamers? Maybe check the pre-war records too.” He knows it's a shot in the dark, especially now that registration isn't compulsory, but it's somewhere to start.

“What about that song that was being sung? Anyone get anything from that?”

“I’m not sure of the song… just that it was a kid singing it…” Cooper offers Devon's question.

There had been silence on the phone while they were talking. “Hey.” Cooper says quietly. “What if…” The voice on the line is quiet for a moment longer. “What if, I’m looking at this wrong. That child… do you remember floating when we were about to drown?” There is a rustle of paper as he picks it up, “What if this dreamer’s situation is abuse… maybe spousal… parental abuse. I know she didn’t seem aware… but that child might be hers? What a better shape than a stone angel to look down on her and protect her. I don’t like that thought, but… it's another angle.” He doesn’t mention his thought of a dead child.

Either way, Cooper just sounds like he’s babbling, this may be how he works.

“I need pieces,” growls Cooper’s voice, an unusual sound from him. “There are just not enough and I’m stuck here. Too many metaphors.. The ice cold water… Could be what she’s feeling. Cold. Snakes. Words are snakes. Could mean a silver-tongued son of a biscuit is at fault for what’s going on. Using well placed lies to get her where she is?”

There is a frustrated sigh from Cooper, before he says sounding a bit defeated. “But yeah, I can see if we have any registered dreamers. Didn’t seem like she had a lot of control, so might be a new one from after all that Detroit stuff. I should put out a call to hospitals for women in a coma, too.”

“The song is another thing we can dig into,” Elliot says. “If everyone can write down what they remember of the lyrics we can see if that turns up anything. Anything at all would be better than nothing.” He taps his fingers quietly on the tabletop, eyes flickering absently over the spines of the books on the nearest shelf.

“Agent Cooper, if you want to run this up your command structure you might get us more resources than we currently have on our own. It wouldn’t hurt to log this as a possible SLC-E attack either way. Maybe other people were scooped up before us and reported it, or possibly someone didn’t get brought to the cabin with us but was involved in the same instance of the ability. You can feel free to pass on my contact information.”

Uncertain what else could be said at the moment, Seren thumbs the side of their drink and leans back in their chair. The shadow over their shoulder shifts, head lifting a little further up to make sure he gets a good enough look at those present again.

He peers especially long at Elliot, stare carrying with it a curiosity his summoner otherwise is not acting on.

O frowns faintly at the mention of running this through SESA. “Should we be doing that? I mean… Is it abuse of the system to just find anyone registered as a dreamwalker and investigating them?” She’s a fine one to talk, but perhaps she’s also demonstrated a capacity to learn. For once in her life.

“But on the other hand… If it helps someone who’s in trouble, is that so bad?” The blonde shakes her head with a frown. “Agent Cooper, you seem to be a good man. I’m sure you’ll do what’s best.” Which might be an odd thing for someone who’s supposedly never met him in person to say.

“It's a gray area,” Devon admits with a glance at O. Meaning they need to tread carefully so it doesn't become an abuse of the system. “Information pre-war is mostly on public record. Anything current…” He tips his head toward the phone as an indication of it being in Cooper’s court. “We get through the right channels. Besides, if Cooper tells his command, Elliot and I tell ours, that should give us some wiggle room before we need to file anything official.” Hopefully.

What they can’t see on their end is the gamut of expressions that Cooper runs through as first Elliot and then the mysterious ‘O’ talk. “You all for serious?” He waves a hand to brush it off, before giving a humorless laugh. “Nevermind, guys. First thing I did when I woke up was submit a report and asked for several searches for similar incidents, missing persons, and so on. Don’t worry. I’ve been in law enforcement since I got out of highschool. I’m more than a pretty face over here.”

He doesn’t truly believe he has a pretty face.

“Pretty is ‘O’s job,” Thomas adds, remembering the piano playing woman. “Unless she looks nothing like her dreamself and is swipe left material. Why women can’t just be themselves, I dunno.” And he is rambling and by the way he stumbles to a stop, he knows it.

“What I’m saying is I’m way ahead of you, Hombres,” Cooper says reassuringly. “Still appreciate the suggestions, keep them coming. I’ve got Agent Ayers assisting me and with hope we can get some leads for us all.”

O instantly blushes and looks away from the phone as if Cooper could actually see her through the line. Then, she looks a little self-conscious. Like what if she is swipe left material? Her posture sags and she keeps her gaze away from the others.

When Elliot spots Baird’s lingering gaze, he squints at the shadow as if to say, I see you there, but he smiles. He looks then to Seren to give a polite nod. He feels compelled to say something about their social connection through Rue, but now is certainly not the time. He’ll have to talk to Rue about it soon, though. It feels bad to keep this from them if they’re going to be interacting further due to this nightmare.

He spends a moment eating a bite of his sandwich while others talk. Cooper’s comment on O’s appearance makes him close his eyes in something almost but not quite a cringe. Today seems like the day for it. “For the record,” Elliot says, “I wasn’t suggesting we search the registry for suspects, just that we do what Agent Cooper has already done, it seems.”

“Another possible route of investigation would be locality,” he offers. “Considering how fast everyone got here I feel it’s safe to say we were all in the Safe Zone last night?” He leaves it open for correction. “If so we may be able to judge an epicenter to the event. Especially if this isn’t a one-off.”

Only then noting that Baird's made a reappearance, Seren follows Elliot's gaze over to the blurred shape over their shoulder and lifts a hand to brush it against the side of his head. It lets them note right when Ourania's mood dips, and brings them to frown. Baird parts entirely from Seren's shadow, still a blurred, blackish thing even as he noses his head and shoulder out of hiding, nudging her shoulder.

"Why men can't keep their mouth shut about women's appearances is a thing I don't know either, Agent Cooper, but thankfully it's a question I don't go around airing uninvited," they offer up airily. It's off-topic, for sure. But it's where they're at.

Tongue passing over their teeth, Seren finally sips from the drink they were brought, eyes demuring into the lid. Anyway. They sip and set it aside to take their phone in hand. "The song— In the spring of the year, I walked beside the brook, my dear. The trees were black, the bark was wet…"

"It's a poem," they announce, the words finding root in the internet where they started to type them. "From a book called 'The Harp-Weaver and Other Poems' by Edna St. Vincent Millay." Their nose wrinkles as they read on. They'd gotten the words partly wrong. Thank goodness the search engine didn't seem to mind.

Lifting her head as if startled, O levels a look at Seren and their familiar. There’s a moment that passes where she’s clearly not quite sure what to make of that, or maybe she’s just still processing through the fog of her diffidence. Finally, she flashes a small, grateful smile, reaching up tentatively to let Baird sniff her hand. If… that’s what Bairds do? O doesn’t have a ton of experience with him.

Her attention shifts to Elliot, staring at him for a long moment with something like sympathy in her expression. “Ah, yes. Everybody here resides in the Safe Zone,” she says with certainty. “The chances of our dreamer also being within the city limit is high.” She seems to be assuaged by the promises that no one’s just going to dig through the registry to harass anyone with the right ability for creating this situation, so she’s lost some of that stormy quality about her.

Back to Seren again, she glances down, then up again at their face as she thinks. “It’s about heartache. Loss, right? A love decayed. I remember kind of thinking about that at the time, but I… I guess I had other things on my mind.” O’s mouth twists into a wry smile.

Devon simply shakes his head at Cooper’s ramblings, then turns his attention to Seren with the poem. “Could be just something she liked, unrelated to whatever horror show she took us to. Something she remembers hearing… wherever. But let's earmark it, see if there's some correlation anyway and not just the ones we perceived. It was her dreamscape, so…” He glances around at all the faces and shrugs. “I mean it could be everything was what it seemed on the surface, but whoever took us there was also in control of things.”

One might think Cooper has turned off the phone, but then comes the sound of him whispering the book name over and over as he writes it down. “I’ll have to… HEY!” The phone sounds like it’s being picked up and partially muffed. “I’m in an important meeting for a cas—”

“And you Agent Cooper have had enough excitement for one day,” says a gruff feminine voice. “You’re pushing yourself too hard, cause clearly you’re not thinking straight calling a woman out like that. Shame on you.” The words are muffed, but clear enough to understand. “You haven’t even eaten your food.”

“I’m not hungry,” is a muffled pout from Thomas.

There is a sound of rubbing fabric, before that same voice come over the line, the gruff voice is far more pleasant to them. “My apologies, but Agent Cooper needs his rest now. I’m sure whatever little thing-”


“Yes little… “ The phone goes dead before the nurse finishes, the line cut short on the sound of a ramping argument.

Elliot picks up his phone to end the call on his end before locking the screen. “My apologies,” he says to O. “I should have addressed that immediately.” He slides the phone into his jacket pocket and pulls out a wallet. He removes two business cards bearing only a printed phone number and slides one each to Seren and O.

“Feel free to reach out if you have any ideas. Or if this happens again,” he says. He gestures at himself and Devon. “We’ll work with Agent Cooper and keep you up to date, if you like.” He glances at a wall clock to determine the time remaining until the next bus stop. He’d like to put in a bit of research before he inevitably falls asleep at his desk.

"Thanks," Seren indicates, lifting up the card to show they have it. On their shoulder, the amorphous Baird sniffs at Ourania's hand before having to cling onto Seren's form more tightly as they scoot back in their chair. "For now, I'm going to head back home, though. I'm still a little…" Splayed-fingered, they gesture with a wobble of their palm toward the side of their head as they come to their feet. "Still dealing with a lot. I'll text you here in a bit so you've got my number."

The smile they wear is small, apologetic. "It's been good to see you again," Seren says between Elliot and Devon both.

O shakes her head quickly to Elliot’s apology. “It’s fine.” It isn’t, but that isn’t his fault. She’ll own her insecurity. That’s not anyone else’s responsibility. She accepts the business card with a small smile and a nod. “Yes, please keep us informed. I’ll shoot you a text so you have my line, too.”

With Baird’s withdrawal and Seren getting up from the table, Ourania follows suit. “Let’s share a ride,” she suggests. “I have some appointments in the office today.” Taking up her cane, she offers a nod to the men at the table. “Take care,” she offers in farewell before heading for the door at Seren’s side, troubled by what they’ve all seen.

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