Ere I Forget
Scene Title Ere I Forget
Synopsis The stone Angel brings together more dreamers, and asks the question: What color horse would Survival ride?
Date November 27, 2020


The rush of water fills his senses. The air is cool with the ever-present mist that comes off of the Falls, a contrast to the warm hand that holds his. He doesn’t have to look over to see who it belongs to — this is memory, not just a dream. Some people’s hands fit together like puzzle pieces clicking into place. He would know who it was no matter how long it had been since he felt it. A decade. A hundred years.

Still, Corbin does look, and finds Daphne at his side — his Daphne, Daphne as she was ten years ago, with her bright platinum hair, brightly colored sneakers… and her ability.

“Where did you go?” she asks, looking up at him as they turn away from the crowds and the falls to walk in the direction of the cabins. “You’re a million miles away.”

It had been so long since Corbin last stood here— or maybe it had been minutes, because it certainly felt like minutes. Daphne didn’t look any different, and while he couldn’t exactly see himself, he didn’t feel different. But why did it feel like they shouldn’t be here? Why did it feel like he should be finding her a place to sit? She hadn’t been sick in a long time, she didn’t need somewhere to sit down or lean. They could enjoy the view as long as they wanted—

But part of him felt like he needed to be somewhere, but he couldn’t quite put his finger on where that was. Or maybe he just didn’t want to. “I was— thinking. Sorry. It’s easy to get distracted looking at the falls,” he adds after a moment, because the sound almost seemed to drown out any attempt at thought. It certainly blocked out the world outside in some ways.

Every time they came here he didn’t want to leave.

“Which side is this? I forget. Are we in Canada now?” She could move them back and forth so quickly when she wanted to. Passing through customs had never been much of a worry for them, so he often forgot what side was what.

“Um. We’re in Queens?” Daphne says, giving him an odd look like he’s being a bit dumb. “Well, between Manhattan and Queens, but we’re closer to the Queens end, if you want to be technical.”

When he looks around, he sees they are no longer at Niagara Falls, but instead on the Roosevelt Island Bridge. The roar of the cascading water is gone — it’s so quiet, more quiet than New York City ever is, even in the middle of the night. Only one car shares the bridge with them — his own, pulled over with the two doors wide open.

They both stand on the rail, looking down in the water. Her hand is cold in his.

This isn’t right.

She’s supposed to save him, not go with him.

The bridge begins to crack.

You should come with me.” It’s not Daphne’s voice now but the ghostly voice of Moira, rising from the water below. “You can bring both of them with you.”

A slim, cool hand slips into his on the other side. Hokuto.

Moira. It’s almost like when Corbin had heard his mom’s voice again after decades, it had been as if it were yesterday, even if part of him knew he shouldn’t really remember the sound of his mother’s voice, nor his sister’s, but he did. Somehow. He recognized it. As is the way of dreams, it’s hard to question when everything slips away, when everything changes and alters and flows into something else. Where were they? Why were they here?

How could he feel Hokuto’s hand?

Why were they so cold?

This was something that he’d done before, so very long ago—

It was so similar. It felt like a memory of a memory…

He had blamed himself for so long, for having been working so much, for putting the Company first in a lot of ways. But now he knew their mother had been Company. Maybe one of them was always going to get pulled into it. Maybe he was just the one who had the skills that they needed at the time. “It wasn’t my fault, Moira,” he says quietly, even as the bridge starts to break.

While Hokuto’s hand is cool, Daphne’s feels warm. Feverishly warm. He knows without looking she’s ill — with the virus that stripped her of her power, that separated them, that made her feel he’d betrayed her, handing her off to the Ferry for safekeeping. They had barely survived that — only to be separated again. That time, they wouldn’t recover.

When he looks, she’s almost a ghost already, pale, too-thin, sweaty from the high fever raging through her body. “Go ahead and leave me,” she murmurs, turning away. She doesn’t get far before she cries out, crumpling to the ground as her legs give out beneath her, traitors to her own will and mind.

The bridge between them continues to split, the divide growing between Daphne and himself, Hokuto at his side.

Why does everyone who loves you die or suffer, then?” Moira’s voice asks.

Corbin’s now-empty hand suddenly feels full with the familiar weight of his firearm. When Corbin looks to Hokuto, it isn’t her, but the statue form of the Nightmare Man.

“Do your job, Corbie.”

This wasn’t how it happened. This wasn’t how things were supposed to go. Corbin knew something was wrong, but at the same time part of him wanted to just accept it, as was the nature of nightmares. He calls out after Daphne as she falls, trying to reach after her— only to find the weight of his weapon in his hand. His side arm. Not one one he uses as a SESA Agent, but the one he’d used years ago as a Company Agent. The same weapon he’d shot Hokuto’s father with.

When he’d done his job.

Glancing over his shoulder, he looks at the statue, the figure of the Nightmare Man, the statue that had haunted his dreams once and almost killed him a couple times. The figure that had used him to fight for him. Because it had been Hokuto the whole time, under that statue, when the stone had crumbled away.

Was it again?

But he already knew the answer, even at the request of his sister, the memory of a ghost of a young woman he wished he could have seen grow up. He bets she would have been a wonderful aunt to Christopher… But he didn’t even look as he let the weapon drop, even as the bridge crumbled.

“No. Not this time.”

As he denies Hokuto — The Nightmare Man — the statue too begins to crumble like the bridge beneath their feet. Bits and pieces of the concrete break away, floating off in the wind. It’s then he realizes the same is happening to Hokuto and Daphne as well. Reaching out both hands, he tries to grasp either — both — but their fingertips disintegrate as his brush them, and he realizes he can save neither of them.

Within seconds, he stands on the dilapidated bridge alone, reaching out into the empty air. The roar of a waterfall somewhere fills his ears — it’s not Niagara. He knows that sound like he knows the beating of his own heart.

Suddenly a hand catches his, and it’s cool, slim, inhumanly hard but not unfriendly. “This way,” a feminine voice says, turning him away from the split in the bridge. Instead of concrete and steel, he sees a path into a forest, a cabin in the distance. “The choices are easier this way.”


Snow falls through the holes in the ceiling in the ruins of the ruins that she once called home. It’s February, or it feels like February, that bleakest of months.

There’s no one else here. Somewhere, a loon cries out its mournful, keening cry. The sound resonates with the grief Megan feels as she stares at the empty beds where children once lay, sick and feverish. She feels utterly alone with the burden of their memory as she remembers the names of the lost.

Eric. Lucy. Mala.

There were other deaths, but those weigh upon her the most — the lives of the innocents taken too soon. She murmurs each name. Each of their names are so tiny — just two syllables, just four letters each. So small, like the children themselves, and yet they take up so much space in her memory. In her heart.

Snowflakes fall on Megan’s cheeks like freezing tears.

“Why didn’t you help us?” The voice too is small, and she knows without looking it belongs to Mala. The room feels even colder. The snow falls harder.

The redhead rubs her hands up and down her arms, trying to get warm. "I did everything I could, sweetheart," Meg whispers with an ache in her heart. She did. She knows she did. It doesn't stop the guilt over not doing more despite the reality that there was nothing more.

"Mala, please … you should go on to heaven. There's nothing for you here. It'll be beautiful there. Don't … don't stay here." Looking around the ruins, Megan can't help feeling the weight of those months. As she picks her way across what uses to be the courtyard, she remembers the faces of the people she couldn't help, the little ones she cradled in the middle of the night and sang softly to or told stories to while the virus took them. Anything she could think of in her exhaustion of those days where she'd been catching combat naps instead of real sleep.

Snow crunches as she moves. There was no sneaking when the top layer of snow crystallized. She reaches up to her face to wipe tears that mix with the falling snow, shivering. She's only wearing her tac pants and a long-sleeved shirt out here, but in the way of dreams that makes total sense. As does the fact that she can hear the children.

"You should go… you'll be so happy there," she whispers.

There are footfalls in crunching snow, but Megan feels a second presence, a chill running through her that cuts even sharper than the frigid air and snow swirling around her.

“There’s nothing there,” the voice says. This, she knows, belongs to Eric. The sweetness is gone from his voice; it sounds hollow, empty, and despite its quiet nature, it echoes around the stone walls and floors. Megan can feel its thrum against her chest.

“There’s no heaven. There’s only here,” he continues.

When she dares to look, she will see them, two little ghosts standing barefoot in the snow holding hands. Pale and lifeless, but corporeal enough that it’s not a trick of the light.

It's enough to horrify even the staunchest of spirits. Megan turns to look at them and drops to her knees in the snow. "No." She shakes her head vehemently in denial, tears slipping down her face. Sitting on her heels, she slumps forward with her arms wrapped around her middle. "No, please don't say that. There has to be more."

She doesn't know if she's ever felt such despair. This can't be all there is. Something beautiful, something better. Sometimes faith in that is the only thing that keeps her going.

"I'm so sorry," she whispers. "I tried so hard to save you." Megan covers her face with her trembling hands, silent sobs shaking her body.

“Why didn’t you try harder?”

The question is asked not in anger, but in an earnest, plaintive tone of a child trying to understand. The voice belongs to Lucy, who appears at Mala’s side after Megan covers her face, blocking her view of the two children for a moment’s reprieve, denied. “You should have helped us,” she adds, her tone admonishing.

“We’re not supposed to lie,” Mala says, a little loftily in her childish voice. “We wouldn’t say it if it wasn’t true. Lighthouse doesn’t lie. We’re good kids.” She looks to Eric for his reassurance on that matter.

The small boy nods, taking Mala’s hand, and she in turn takes Lucy’s — a small unified front. “I heard someone say that we died because we were too good for this world,” he tells Mala, his tone full of confidence that what he heard spoken by that grieving adult must be true.

“But there’s no world but this one,” Lucy protests. “And we can never grow up and do anything in it. We’re stuck here forever, forgotten.”

The word echoes around the stone walls. Forgotten.

"No!" Megan whips her face up out of her hands and denies vehemently, "You are never forgotten." The horror of seeing them here, like this, makes her sick to her stomach. But she can't let them believe that. "I can't forget any of you. There was nothing more I could do, sweetheart." Her voice is choked with grief and with guilt that she really couldn't have done more. "I fought as hard as I knew how. It just wasn't enough. Please…" Forgive me?

She can't even ask that. Megan has learned to live with the failures because she has no choice — death is as much a part of life as living. But she always wishes she could have done more.

The area grows colder, in painful increments that she can feel, the iciness of the air surrounding her frigid in her throat as she sobs out her apologies to the children. She can feel someone watching her from behind and from each side. She doesn’t want to look, to see who else have joined these three, but something on the periphery catches her eye, and she turns to look.

She’s surrounded — by every face and broken body she feels she failed, who slipped out of her grasp and into death’s under her vigil. Everyone who chooses the life she’s led has these ghosts — but usually they’re more metaphorical.

“When you think you’re beaten, there’s always something more you can do — that’s what my dad used to say,” murmurs a child near Megan’s arm.

A hand lands on her shoulder — it’s cold and firm, but somehow gentle, soothing despite its strength. “This is no place for the living,” a feminine voice says. The stone beneath Megan’s feet becomes softer, a mossy carpet of sorts. Looking up, Megan sees a path through the arch of the castle, leading through a forest toward a cottage with golden light aglow in the windows. “Others await.”


Below her, she can feel unrelenting concrete so cold, it feels like ice beneath her, cutting through her thin clothing and chilling her through skin, below skin, to bone. When her eyes open to stare straight up, she sees huge black clouds against an even blacker sky. There’s no light from the moon, and only here and there does a rare star manage to send its shine, its brethren all blotted out by the clouds.

Am I dead?

Finch scrambles up immediately at that thought. She’s had it before. She’s been here before. A silvery mist floats around her legs and she looks for signs of others — the other witnesses from the last time she dreamed this particular dream. Only it wasn’t a dream, was it? It was a visit.

Two words leave Finch in a whisper of a plea, weak and thin: "Not again."

She wraps her arms around herself, shivering, eyebrows crumpling toward each other once it sinks it just how alone she is. For a moment, she just stands - looking back up to the sky, as if the occasional blink of brightness might provide answers.

A shuddering breath later, she hikes up her shoulders, and pushes her soles more steadily against the ground- one foot sliding to the side, widening her stance. "Not again." Still a whisper, still terrified, but determination serves to steady it, if only a little. "Not this time."

With that, she whips around, and calls, as loudly as she can, panic tightening her throat and widening her eyes, "Hello?!"

As she looks around, she sees she’s in an enclosure, walled in by concrete slabs the same dark gray as the clouds seem to be in the night sky. They seem small from a distance, easy enough to scale, but it’s hard to gauge distance; everything is the same color and there’s not enough light to give objects any sort of dimension.

Finch begins to walk toward the nearest of the walls, and her stomach sinks when it doesn’t seem to get much nearer after several steps. It’s farther away than it seems.

Which means those walls are taller than they seem, too — if the laws of physics work here in this plane she doesn’t think exists in the real world.

Her walk quickens, then becomes a run.

What little certainty she'd found begins slipping as her gait becomes more frantic, more desperate just to find something other than the cold. Her breath catches in her throat, eyes welling with tears. But she has no wipe nor blink to spare — she's too busy looking for a way out, looking for a new potential focus point with every flying step.

"Hello!" She tries again, only gaining speed while her gaze turns once again upward. "Please! Did I do something?!" She persists, swallowing back as much anxiety as she can in order to try and find some purpose in this.

Not that it keeps the audible sadness out of an addition spoken quietly in between steps. "I don't," step, "want to keep," step, "doing this."

Eventually the walls seem to grow taller — it’s the only indication that she’s closer, given the relentless dary grays and blacks of the environment. They are far too tall to climb over, unless she can find something that will give her a foothold. So far there seems to be nothing but Finch, ground, wall, sky. Forever.

Is this what death is like?

But eventually she sees something, a deviation in that flat gray-black of the wall towering in front of her. Not a change in color so much as a change in texture, almost imperceptible. But the closer she draws, the more she’s sure: within the wall’s surface, there’s a large rectangle that’s different. Sleek, where the surrounding wall is slab. There’s the merest hint that it’s a reflective surface. A mirror?

As Finch contemplates this, a sudden, echoing click and buzz of electricity foretells by a split second the blinding glow from floodlights set at the very top of the wall, all shining down on her.

When her eyes adjust, she can see what’s behind that rectangle — it’s an observation window, with a hundred faces looking out at her from behind its safety.

A voice roars from the sky.


Finch exhales with a forcible start, as if it might somehow lessen the pressure in her head and lungs both. Her gait slows, both of her arms coming up — one to lift toward the lights to block them, and the other to quickly swipe a sleeve across her eyes.

New tears almost immediately replace the old, chest rising and falling rapidly as she catches her breath, looking desperately for the source of the voice. But when she aims her focus back to the audience she's been awarded with, her expression shifts quickly to something more than just despair - the faces are fixed with a look of judgement, her hands balling into fists as she takes another bold few steps forward.

But only just, and shakily. And when she opens her mouth to say something courageous, something to match the intensity of her stare and her fury, she only manages to say, "Help me."

There’s no response from any of those silent silhouettes in the mirror, just a hundred pairs of eyes staring at her, preparing to watch whatever they’ve been asked to witness.

A murder, her mind whispers to her. Her murder.

A genocide of one.

She feels the prickle of heat beneath her skin. How many times can she die like this, she wonders? But before she feels the pain of her body bubbling and burning, a hand touches her shoulder, firmly. Cold, but somehow soothing. It turns Finch away from that mirror and back to what were, just moments ago, her gray confines.

“My place has a better view,” says the voice from behind her, pushing her forward.

What was gray slab is now a forest path leading up to a cabin. The sky’s dark clouds gone, the firmament sparkles above her with the light of a million stars. There’s no heat or pain, only cool air, redolent with pine and balsam.



It is the first sensation he recognizes, cold on the outside, even if there is a mercurial warmth on the inside. His blue eyes open to the gray of clouded skies, and then blue eyes belonging to the thin Frenchman hunched over Nick's prone, unclothed form.

The frigid breath of air feels razor sharp as it enters those lungs, and Nick coughs weakly, even as strength returns to his body as he is healed — lungs, skull, arm. It takes him a moment to make sense of his surroundings — staring up, he could believe this is heaven. Staring into the face of Francois is more confusing. Angelic of face, perhaps, he's just a bit too mundane and too real to be celestial. And finally his eyes drop to the pile of bodies from which he's pulled.

Hell, then.

His teeth begin to chatter and he gives a shake of his head, confused, even as he tries to pull away, getting his feet under him and crouching like a frightened animal. "Czemu… Po prostu pozwól mi umrzeć…" he mutters in a raw voice.

This isn’t a dream but a memory, Nick tells himself, forcing himself to turn away from the bodies, from the chimney, from the faces of German officers, including Kazimir Volken, and the kinder face of the man he now knows is Francois Allegre.

It’s a memory, but Nick can change it. He doesn’t have to relive these moments, relive the feeling of betrayal at having his life given back to him. He isn’t Delia, but he can control his own dreams, if he tries hard enough; she’s taught him that much in their years of dreaming together.

But when he turns around, he finds himself not in Treblinka and 1941, and not in some happier dreamscape of his own devise. Instead Nick stands with Avi on the docks outside the Angry Pelican, just in time to feel a .30 caliber round blasting through though his shoulder. Stumbling back with the blast, Nick drops a gun from his now useless right hand as pain wracks everything from his chest down to his fingertips on that side. Avi's rolling from under him sends him rolling, and his dive for cover is an inadvertent roll into the dirty water of Staten Island.

The sudden shock of cool water actually shakes him out of the stunned pain a touch, and he's able to back up and keep his head low against the creaking dock, just above the water line, eyes peering up to try to keep tabs on the fight above. Unfortunately, he can grip the dock with his good hand, but that means he can't put pressure on his wound, bleeding from both sides. It gets more difficult to keep his eyes open with each passing second; his fingers' grip on the dock begins to slip as his blood flows into the dark waters.

This time, after he passes out from pain and blood loss, it’s not Avi, Raith, Abby or Eileen who he finds tending him when his eyes open again.

Nick looks up at the familiar face of Francois Allegre, and that familiar internal sensation of eddying warmth is one that fills him with dread rather than hope. Not again.

Pourquoi … laissez-moi mourir,” he says, this time in French, turning his head away.

The scene shifts again, faster this time, and Nick finds himself in a bed, sweating and shivering, losing his will to live with every moment, with every nightmare his delirium brings him. The room smells like death, acrid with his sweat and worse. His head is in Eileen’s lap as she smoothes his damp hair from his brow. She knows he’s dying and it’s not a peaceful death.

She's crying again, which is this time something like forgiveness without exoneration.

His eyes open suddenly, red and bleary eyes tearing up and sending streams down his cheeks. Delirious from fever, he stares up at her, brows knitting in confusion. His hand comes up, shaky, to touch her cheek, thumb sliding over the damp skin before it drops again.

“Don’t cry for me,” Nick whispers, in a moment of lucidity that may be gone in seconds. “I don’t deserve it. Just…”

Just what? He doesn’t deserve forgiveness, and won’t ask for it. Not even now.

A hand moves to curl around the medallion at his neck. “Pray for me… after I die. I’m so sorry,” he manages weakly, voice little more than a breath, the rattle in his chest louder than the words. His eyes close again, his fist loosening around the silver at his neck.

This time, when his eyes open again, following on Francois’ angelic face leaning above him, he groans aloud, the words angrily torn from his mouth. “Just,” he growls, each word emphasized sharply, “let me die.”

The world spins again, faster this time, and he stumbles out into the dining room at d’Sarthe’s wearing an ill-fitting tux and he knows, though no one else does yet, not even in the dream, a bomb beneath the shirt. That Christmas Eve, he fought to try to save everyone there by martyring himself, but in this dream he knows it’s no use. He lets the dream run its course, knowing with every tick of the clock that this time Warren and Lene’s efforts to disarm the explosive device attached to him will fail, will kill everyone in the building who didn’t evacuate when Nick pleaded.

“This is the way the world ends,” Nick murmurs, as the bomb goes off. It’s worse than he could have imagined, and he’s imagined it many terrible times.

When his eyes open again, Nick curls into a ball, shrinking away from Francois’ touch, his own hands covering his face as he sobs for breath.

This time when he’s helped to his feet, the hands are cool, hard yet gentle. “Let’s break this pattern,” a feminine voice says softly, turning him onto a new path at last.

There sits the cottage, lit-up like a Christmas tree, promising warmth and respite — beyond that, the trail leads to a deck that looks out over a lake aglow with the reflection of a rose-gold-and-peach sunset, the colors fading into pale blue that grows darker as one looks eastward. Already, the eastern sky sparkles with far more stars than one could ever see in New York, even without all the lights it had before the Civil War.

The door to the cottage is visible, inviting, but on the deck stands a lone figure, a dark silhouette against the rainbow-sherbet glow of the sky beyond. Finch, Megan, Corbin, Nick all seem to suddenly stand side by side on the path that a moment later held only each of them — and is somehow that trail is wide enough for four of them, when moments before it seemed a narrow path for one.

Somewhere in the distance, a child’s reedy voice singsongs:

I shall forget you presently, my dear,

So make the most of this, your little day,

Your little month, your little half a year,

Ere I forget, or die, or break away,

In the way of dreaming, this transition makes complete sense. As she looks at her companions, the only one Megan recognizes is from years ago. The brother of a woman who earned Megan's staunch loyalty with her actions in the months on Pollepel, though she cannot at this moment remember his name. She didn't interact with him back then much, if at all.

Here in this place, the woman is a younger vision of herself — in life, her hair has gone a pale strawberry blonde on its way to match the bold pure white swathe that cuts through above her eyebrow. Here, though it retains that lock of pure white, it's once again the rich coppery red of her youth. Megan's face is streaked with tears as she looks toward the cabin. Her hands wipe at her face to try to hide that and shove into the pockets of a black jacket that tops her tactical pants.

"Anyone else dying for a drink?" she asks roughly. Her footsteps are heavy as she trudges toward the silhouette on the deck.

Finch, meanwhile, stands shellshocked, with her hands clasped in front of her as she stares in wordless wonder at the cabin. Her frame is always light, but looks somehow lighter still than usual, in loose, faded orange t-shirt and jeans.

But not for long - when the view ahead registers fully and it allows her to breathe again, it is just in time for the sound of a new voice to draw her attention to her sides.

"Oh!" She cries, with gladness on her voice. She, too, reaches up to press a palm to her face to wipe at wet, wide eyes, but already her expression is one of bright excitement as she moves to fall in line with Megan and throws an encouraging look over her shoulder at the others as she skips forward. This, despite the fact that none of them are familiar to her.

"Good idea!" She announces cheerfully, even if something still slants her brows when she looks ahead of her again so she can throw an arm up as high as it'll go to wave at the figure on the deck. "Hello! Do you have hot chocolate?!"

For a very long moment that feels longer than it really is, Corbin is staring down at his own hands as if wondering why they are empty. It’s Megan’s sudden words that jolt him out of his thoughts and cause him to look up startled and finally see where he suddenly is. Dreams always did have a strange way about them, but this… He doesn’t look younger than himself, not like Megan, he looks much as he usually would in the waking world, if anyone knew him. In a simple suit and rather plain looking really, except for the eyes. The eyes stand out a little. His smile would too, if he were smiling.

But he most definitely is not. Not right now. He looks stunned, confused, and—


The child singing draws his attention, looking off into the distance as if trying to figure out where it was coming from, but he doesn’t get drawn too far away because, well, there’s talk of hot chocolate or something to drink. “A coffee would be nice, but I don’t think that’s going to wake us up.”

Cause if there’s one thing that Corbin Ayers is familiar with— it’s being in a dream.

Nick stumbles forward, then down to his knees. Dreams are familiar to him, as well, but this one felt too vivid, too close, and he’s still caught in it, in whatever horrors he faced down the path he alone has walked. Muddy hand reach up to cover his face, and he ignores the others and their talk of drinks.

The figure on the beach turns at Finch’s voice — there’s something regal and deliberate in the motion, though the figure’s expression is still in shadow. It begins to move closer, and they can begin to see the details take shape — a robe, long hair, a feminine figure. By the time she reaches them, they can see it isn’t a person at all, but a statue of a woman like one might find in a cemetery. An angel.


“Whatever you like,” she says, turning her pale eyes devoid of detail on Finch. “Come in. It’s nicer inside, though the view is quite lovely tonight.” She touches Nick’s shoulder to get him to follow as she leads her way into the little cottage. The warmth promised from within is realized, thanks to a crackling fire. A kettle already on the stove begins to keen.

Pictures on a piano give no clue as to their hostess’ real identity in the world — nothing but people with blank faces in yellowed photographs look out from the frames.

The windows all seem to face the lake, despite being on each of the four walls of the cottage’s first floor, a study on one side and the small kitchen on the other.

Despite entering the cottage, that child’s voice is just as clear, just as loud, though no louder, continuing its recitation:

And we are done forever; by and by

I shall forget you, as I repeat, but now,

If you entreat me with your loveliest lie

I will abjure you with my favorite vow.

The ease of acceptance that Megan projects is slowly shifting a little bit. Is she dreaming? Has she ever had dreams like this? She's had visions of things before… and it randomly occurs to her that she must be dreaming. But now she knows she's dreaming and it's kind of weird feeling.

She helps Nick to his feet and walks on his other side while everyone shuffles their way into the cabin. Her eyes shift to the other two people, puzzled. She's dreaming of people she doesn't know. And she's still trembling herself at whatever was happening just before she blinked and was here.

"Where is this place?" The question is asked quietly as the nurse looks around at the somewhat generic cabin in the woods. "Is this… real?" It's been many years since a dream of the future scared the piss out of her. Is this another one of those?"

Corbin's words 'wake us up' provide the first blow to Finch's smile, and it wavers more with every step she takes. Her fingers are intertwined in front of her all the way until Nick stumbles - she begins to reach in order to help, but finds herself frozen in place when she locks eyes with the actual angel that's approaching, seemingly forgetting most everything else around her in an instant.

When the invitation comes, she attempts in a cheerful response, "… Okay!" But shocked confusion yet rides piggyback on her tone. Still, the stars, the cottage, the fire, the lake - it's perfect, and despite others' questions, she does exactly as she's told. Maybe it's wonderment that has her ignore logic, if only for a moment longer, so she can approach the fire to warm her hands, like a slightly glassy-eyed moth drawn to a flame.

She does have one question, though, posited a little late, while throwing a hopeful look over her shoulder. "Who is that, singing?"

At first, Corbin had wondered if he was dealing with another fracturing of Hokuto’s soul— she had been a statue before, briefly, but this one felt different. Then again, the Nightmare Man had felt different too. Perhaps the Angel was different as well. A piece hidden under the surface. He looked down at his hands again, as if trying to remember those classes that they had taken decades ago, to fight the Nightmare Man— but he had never been able to manage his dream avatar like so many others. Daphne had a scarecrow, but he hadn’t really had anything.

Or at least nothing that he could see. He couldn’t see the little white hand brushing his shoulders. But it didn’t seem like they needed that right now. Not now. This wasn’t a nightmare anymore. This felt more like…

Moving toward the house slowly, hesitantly, he looks at the angelic form, at each of the people brought with them. He doesn’t really know any of them. “Are you here to help us?” he adds on a question to the mix, before adding on another one. “Or are we here to help you?”

Nick nods his thanks to Megan but seems less interested in unraveling the mystery of the dream than the others. Once inside, he stumbles to the sofa, leaning on his knees and raking his hands through his hair until his fingers interlace at the back of his neck.

“It’s not Delia or Benji,” he says definitively. Who else it is, he doesn’t seem offer a guess.

“What singing, dearheart?” the angel asks, tipping her head curiously at Finch’s question. The statue’s face is expressive, despite being made from stone. “You wanted hot chocolate, didn’t you?” she asks, moving toward the kitchen, but turning to look at Corbin.

His question is considered for a long, slow moment. Somewhere a grandfather clock chimes three times.
“Yes,” she finally decides is the answer, a bright smile blooming as she nods solemnly, before reaching for the tea kettle and looking at her guests.

“Tea or chocolate?” Angel asks, though she knows Finch’s answer. .”Help yourself to anything else.” Megan’s desire for a harder drink can be answered at a little sideboard table with a few bottles of alcohol — whiskey, vodka, gin from the looks of it. There are no labels.

I would indeed that trust were longer-lived,

And vows were not so shallow as they are,

But so it is, and nature has contrived

To struggle on without a break thus far

The sound of the child’s voice surrounds them.

The nurse remains at Nick's side, a hand on the back of his shoulder just as a steadying influence until he's seated. Considering where she just was and how she's feeling, she can only imagine something equally horrible in his experience. Megan pulls her breath in slowly and moves to that sideboard, pouring two doses of whiskey into glasses and then moving back to the man on the couch to proffer one of them to him silently.

"If it were Delia, she'd be standing here," Megan agrees. Benji she doesn't have experience with. As she studies Finch and Corbin, though, she tries to find her balance. The 'angel's' response brings her blue eyes back over. Instead of bombarding their host with more questions, she simply perches her hip on the arm of the couch and takes a long swallow of the liquid in her glass.

If there's one thing she's learned, it's that these things proceed only as fast as the host wants them to. So… she waits to see what other information they'll be offered.

Finch, having turned halfway around from the fire upon healing Delia's name, offers only an affirmative hum and nod in response to the angel's question about her drink of choice.

She smiles gently, but it's not truly in her eyes when she scans the room again, face by face. Once she finds a lull between both singing and comments, the youngest of the visitors by far says somewhat timidly,

"Maybe this is just… nice? Like, a nice dream."

She looks to Nick, urging carefully, "We're okay."

“For the moment we’re fine. I don’t think we’re in any immediate danger,” Corbin agrees, quietly, even if he might still be concerned. “Dreams, in general, can’t hurt you.” In general. Unless they were sleep-walking and acting out something they were dreaming. Then, well— then all bets were off. They could be sitting down to drink some drain cleaner for all they knew.

But why would the Angel have pulled him from where he had been prior, to bring him here for a drink?

“Doesn’t feel like the dreamer I know, either.” He leaves out that sometimes she hadn’t felt like herself, but— why would she do something like this again? Surely she wasn’t that jealous of Daphne’s return…

Glancing in the direction of the voice, which the Angel doesn’t seem to hear, he frowns, trying to pay attention. It sounds like a song, or a poem, but he doesn’t recognize it, nor does he know exactly what part might be important really, so he just grasps onto one of the lines and asks another question, to go with his— partially answered one. “What are we struggling against?”

The kettle in hand, the Angel pours what should be water into a mug, but seems to be hot chocolate itself for the youngest of her visitors. This, she presses into Finch’s hand and stands among the foursome, head tipping curiously as they question and wonder.

NIck takes the glass given to him by Megan, giving her a nod before he tosses it back — does liquid courage work in a dream? At least it can’t hurt.

Unless they’re sleepwalking and drinking bleach.

Sitting back up, his bleary blue eyes scan the faces of those in the room. Megan, he knows, despite her younger-looking self, in the way of dreams where a person often represents themselves despite looking like someone else entirely. Corbin, he recognizes. Finch is a new face, and he smiles at her attempt to buoy him with her encouragement.

“We are,” okay that is, he agrees, looking around, gaze falling on the Angel. “Better than I was a few minutes ago, anyway.”

The statue too receives a nod of thanks, but his eyes narrow slightly, like he might suspect her of being responsible for whatever tortures he’s endured before this waystation.

Whether or not we keep what we are seeking

Is idle, biologically speaking.

At the sound of the child’s voice finishing, it seems, the poem or song, Nick looks around. “Like a bloody horror movie, little kids singing nursery rhymes. Crap meter on that last line, at that.”

He doesn’t offer an opinion on why they’re there, but takes another swallow of the whiskey.

The angel tips her head, eyes following Nick’s gaze up and around the room, though she seems bemused by the comments about the voice. She looks over to Corbin to respond to his question. “We all have our own struggles, though not as different as they might be.”

She holds a pale, stony hand out on either side, indicating Finch and Nick, and then turns, hands moving to indicate Corbin and Megan. “Death. Survival. Opposite sides of the same coin.”

She shivers suddenly, and the room seems to drop in temperature by several degrees. A plume of vapor rises like silver smoke from each of their mouths, except the Angel’s.

“If Death rides a pale horse, what color horse does Survival ride?” she wonders.

"All who lose people traumatically have survivor's guilt," Megan replies with a forced calm, aided by a drink from her own glass. "Survival rides the Horse With No Name." The one in the desert of an old song, a metaphor for escape. "I always thought it would be a rich brown." Apropos of absolutely nothing. She rests her glass on her thigh.

"It's been a long time since I've done this, but… as I recall, people don't usually summon others to a dreamscape unless they need those particular people," the redhead offers. The sip of her own glass, even here, has fortified the pragmatic nurse enough to now wonder aloud, "So… you either need us or want us to do something. What is it?"

She's not offering rudeness, but neither is she offering deference. Lucifer was one of God's most trusted angels, after all. She's disinclined just to take the angelic appearance at face value — the one in control of the dreamscape may, in fact, see themselves as an angel, but well… we'll just see what they want first.

Finch holds her hot chocolate, taken with a nod of gratitude and without question. With the mug held in both hands and the fire still behind her, she can at least pretend to be warm, even if her shoulders creeping upward tell a different story.

Megan's words don't seem to instill much more confidence - if anything, she seems taken aback and confused by the other woman's notion on needing them. Finch turns her eyes on the angel.

"I don't understand." She admits, her smile skewing apologetic. "… Something dark?"

“Horses are more my nephew’s thing,” Corbin says quietly, breathing unsteadily at the sudden chill in the air. It reminded him of the night that Hokuto had died, in the snow, while the ambulances could not get to the island quick enough. Because the Blizzard had covered the city. She likely would have died even if they got there quickly, he often reminded himself, it had been a terrible wound. But it had felt like forever that he’d held her as she bled out in the cold.

“Survival wouldn’t get a horse,” is his answer to the riddle, if it were a riddle. He doesn’t think it actually is, but that’s still his answer. “Survival would walk, or crawl, or drag themselves if they had to.” But either way, he doesn’t seem to think there would be a horse for that side of the coin.

Nick stares out the window rather than offering his own opinion on what sort of horse Survival would ride, but he shakes his head at the suggestion he is needed by whoever the dreamwalker is. “Stay out of my mind,” he says in a low voice toward their carved hostess, pushing himself off the sofa to go to the window, putting more distance between herself and him.

“Delia, if you’re sleeping, wake me up,” he murmurs mostly under his breath, his knuckles turning white as he leans against the window sill.

The angel watches him, then turns to look at the others. “That sounds right,” she tells Corbin with a smile, and she nods to Finch pointing to her like she’s come up with the correct answer in a parlor game. “Dark, dark and gleaming, with red eyes — too many eyes, I think.”

She frowns, arms wrapping around herself as the temperature seems to dip again, the air frigid enough to sting the lungs when it’s breathed in. Her eyes find Megan and she murmurs, “Names are hard. Words are hard. There’s a name I can’t reach. Survival has a name, even if his horse does not.”

A slanted look toward Nick is what Megan offers — they've already agreed this isn't Delia. Although if he can reach Ben's daughter, maybe that's a good thing. She shivers as everything turns colder in spite of the fire. Her gaze slides back to the angel/host.

"Are you struggling to reach someone in particular that you can't get to?" the redhead asks quietly.
Though Finch initially perks up when she's pointed at - like she's glad to have gotten an imaginary point in this game - her smile rapidly vanishes with the rest of what she's told.

She holds her drink close, like it may offer the warmth she needs, but looks otherwise already nearly frozen. Not in fear, but in thought, her glances between unfamiliar faces growing frantic, her eyebrows lowering resolutely. The only thing she can think to offer after Megan's question leaves her quieter than she means for it to, subdued by the cold. "And how can we help?"

So a black horse with many eyes. “Many eyes so it can see more, I suppose?” Corbin responds with a frown, not bothering to drink or even grab said drink, but he glances at Nick for a moment at the mention of Delia and the request for her to wake him up. He may not recognize anyone present, really, but the dreamers mentioned, at least that one, he did recognize. That he doesn’t immediately vanish tells him something. And he closes his own eyes for a moment and tries to feel for—

No. He doesn’t think Hokuto was there with them either.

And as he opened his eyes and looked back at the statue, he couldn’t help but hope she wasn’t, even if he still thought the statue didn’t feel like her. The song’s gone. They still don’t know what it meant. He’s trying to remember pieces of it, trying to recall if he recognized any of it… How had it started? He needed to remember… “I will… forget you… presently?” He shook his head. He needed to try to hold onto it until they woke up. Maybe he could look it up and find something in the text. “We’ll try to help you, but I’m not sure we can help you here.”

“’S a sonnet.” Nick’s voice comes, gruff staccato, and if anyone expects him to elaborate on that revelation, they’re sorely disappointed, for that’s all he has to say about it.

“The clouds are snakes,” he says instead, nodding to the sinuous shapes in the dark sky, dark ghostly looking clouds that reflect in the water of the lake below. They do look like snakes, especially in the water where the ripples seem to distort them, make them appear to move more than they do above head.

At Nick's announcement, Angel backs away from the window, bumping into Finch, her cold, stone back against the soft flesh hands of the girl holding the mug. It’s the statue that cracks, though, thin fissures running from the point of impact near the center of her back, up toward her shoulders and down toward her legs.

“No contact. No contact,” she shouts, but not at Finch. Her eyes fall on Megan and her head shakes vehemently, despite the offer to try to help her. Stone fingers curl and rip at stone hair.

With each crack in her form that appears, another splits the ground beneath their feet, the walls surrounding them, each sounding like the cracking of ice on a lake. By Nick, the window spiderwebs as if a rock hit it, and he jumps back, his whiskey glass falling to the floor and breaking into a thousand shards of glass.

Yyeeeaaaaaahhhhhh. Why's it always gotta be a fuckin' crazy mess? Megan moves fast, dropping her own glass on the floor as she darts to Finch's side and tries to make sure the girl is clear if the angel explodes. It's instinct to try to keep people out of the line of fire, and obviously touching it is Bad <™>. "Watch out!" is the only warning she can give as she hauls Finch sideways by her arm.

Nope, she totally doesn't care that the girl might drop her cup and other stuff! She just wants people out of range!

And drop the drink she does, any previous train of thought detailed as the mug shattering on the floor at the same time Finch yelps the words, "I'm sorry I'm sorry!"

She lifts her now free hands up by her mouth, drawing shallow breaths with shock clear on her face as she steps over a widening crack in the floor. "I'm really confused, I keep dying in these, or like, almost, so maybe I—" Maybe she's the problem? But she interrupts herself, before her fingers splay out in the wake of an idea! "Oh!" She gasps, wincing, but quickly announces, "I'm Eloise Finch! If you wanna find me find the Ammi Evangelical Baptist Church!"

The kid had a good thought there, and Corbin immediately chided himself on not having immediately introduced himself. He’ll excuse it by being literally asleep. While still trying to hold on to at least that single first line of the — sonnet? — he responds quickly, wondering how much longer they have in this dream space as he tries to brace himself, “Corbin Ayers, Special Agent with SESA and Assistant to the Deputy Director. Go to one of our branch offices and have them contact me. Corbin Ayers.” He repeats his name again, in case all the parts of his title had drowned out his name. Something in there should at least stick, though.

Even if all they remember is SESA, he will put out a note in the system that if anyone comes in having experienced strange dreams involving an Angel statue to contact him.

But just in case, he tries to remember the name of the church— along with the poem.

“Nick Ruskin,” Nick manages as he backs away from the window as it continues to splinter, the sound seeming to come from everywhere — around them, within them — rather than just the glass window.

“The clouds are horses,” he says in a wondering voice, a reprise of what he’d just said. Through the broken window and all the others — also broken — the others can see those dark masses in the sky have shifted, melded together to form nightmarish equine beasts instead of the serpentine shapes they had been mere moments before.

Five of them. All dark with red eyes.

A lightning bolt streaking across the sky that flashes through the cottage followed almost immediately by the roll of thunder. Everything white — teeth, sclerae, bits of clothing — all gleam a bright fluorescent in the bright flare of light; the angel herself is illuminated, the brightest spot in the room. Her mouth is open in a silent scream.

The thunder continues, long and rolling, until it is no longer thunder but hooves.

“Run,” the angel whispers.

"Sweet Mother of God," Megan breathes out, her eyes going wide. Nothing, nothing in this dream is taken for granted by Megan — she has no idea if it might be deadly in the real world too. With her hand still wrapped around Finch's forearm, she pivots on her heel to race back out of the cabin. Hopefully Corbin and Nick will be able to keep up!

"Go! Go! Go!" The redhead urges speed even as they're all scrambling.

There is no more hesitation from Finch, who - when she feels her arm being pulled - stumbles only for a single step before she's joined Megan in running.

In hastily drawn breaths, she repeats the names she's heard to herself in a desperate attempt to remember them, to have something to hold onto in the face of the panic that's written clear in her expression.

Well, Corbin had theorized that survival didn’t get a horse— and neither would they.

It’s only a dream, he keeps telling himself, as he starts to run for it, in enough shape for that thankfully, and suddenly wishing they did have a horse. “Not entirely sure where we’re running, so now would be a wonderful time for us to wake up!” he yells as they run, partly to himself, partly to everyone running with them, partly to the dreamers who may or may not be listening— Cause really, it would be a wonderful time to wake up safe in their beds.

And hopefully not sleep-running somewhere.

The pounding of hooves is felt everywhere — under their feet and in their ribcage and in their pulse, as if it were beneath them, over them, around them, and within them.

Nick doesn't follow the others. The angel doesn't either. The last look they get of her, cracks begin to fissure through her stone surface. She covers her face, the epitome of a weeping angel, and bits and pieces of her fingers crumble to dust.

Outside, the door opens to the lake and that dark sky full of stallions bearing down on them. They grow larger, giant beasts, with every galloping step, and there's nowhere to go, nowhere to possibly hide from them, no way they can outrun them.

Soon, there is no sky left, only the grotesque dark shapes of the nightmare things bearing down on them. Their world turns to nothing but a pounding, galloping darkness.

When their eyes open, they find themselves each in their own bed, their hearts pounding to the same cadence of the hooves.

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